“Oh! I’m undone! Woe is to me for a daughter like her!”. The woman was crying uncontrollably. She was the mother of one of the underprivileged girls who I taught basic literacy and life skills. I asked her what happened. She said her daughter had left her husband and come to live with them. She had ruined the family’s respect in the community. She refuses to go back and says, “If Princess Diana can leave a prince and a castle then why can’t I leave an unemployed husband who lives in a hut, makes me toil for a living and then beats me up.” Wow! This was the year 1996, and Diana’s story was making headlines in the news.
This episode came to my mind yesterday, and aptly as it’s Diana’s 20th death anniversary, when I read an article in a website where a young woman from an elite background wrote that a woman is the epitome of sacrifice. She has no identity and no rights; she loses her own self to enhance the lives of her family. She is meant to obey and serve her whole life; first her parents, then her husband, then her children. At the end, the house that she’s meant to manage and look after is also not hers; she lives in her parents’ house, then her husband’s house and finally, if she’s lucky and not sent to an old people’s home, her son’s house. This was the crux of the post.
Then again, a young working woman who is highly qualified requested my coaching services. She is going through a bad marriage. Her husband lied to her on many accounts before marriage which she found out later. Now she finds it hard to trust him on any account. He doesn’t want her to work anymore even though she is passionate about her career. She can’t spend her own money as she wishes, etc. As we discussed and tried to focus on what she wants, it seemed that she is at a breaking point and cannot bear the unhappy marriage anymore; and yet, the thought of separation or divorce was most fearful to her. She said she feels she will be insecure as a divorcee and afraid that she might be sinning and God will not forgive her.
Third example is of a young educated woman belonging to a middle class family whose parents bought a house for her, fully furnished, as her husband to be was from a lower status and couldn’t afford accommodation. After marriage, the husband and in laws started demanding more stuff from her parents and ultimately, when they couldn’t comply, sent her back saying to come if her parents agree to bow down to their demands. After many months passed and the husband didn’t contact this woman, her parents decided to go and talk to the boy and his family through a mutual friend. She called me in desperation, seeking counsel. We did a few sessions and, even though she was sure she would have a tough life ahead, decided to agree to her parents’ decision to go back as they were respectable people and she felt duty bound to respect their wishes.
All these situations are unique in their own way, each reflecting a different mindset which manifests itself as different issues, from the moral code a society sets on women to be ‘sacrificing’, or the concepts of ‘ new found liberalism’ , ‘infidelity’ in a marriage or greed and harrassment in the name of ‘customs’; And I am left wondering if a woman is as helpless and as weak as often made out to be.
I firmly believe it’s time women came out of the dependent and powerless mindset. Nothing will change till the change isn’t implemented from within. As Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Verily, God does not change people’s condition unless they change their inner selves. (13:11)
A woman has been endowed with intellectual and physical strength just as powerful as any man, even though the dimensions may be different. History is replete with amazing women in every era and culture who left their mark. Human life is a gift and is meant to be lived to the fullest, whether man, woman or child. To achieve to the fullest potential and to live with courage requires honesty and integrity to oneself, and understanding one’s relationship with the Creator and the creation. Weakness comes with insincerity to one’s own self and others. The closer we are to our self and make progress spiritually, the more we are able to explore our true power and understand our purpose on this earth.
Dr Allama Iqbal, the visionary Urdu poet, says it in the most authentic, beautiful style of his:
Khudi ko kar bulund itna ke har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.
Develop the self to such loftiness that before every decree
God Himself asks the slave: “Say, what is your wish?”
Maqame guftugu kya hai agar main keemiya gar hun
Yehi souz e nafs hai aur meri keemiya kya hai
What’s to talk about if I’m an alchemist changing things to gold,
This passion of my soul is the only alchemy I know.
~Pause to Reflect~