The conflict of ideas related to religion in societies are something, which is not new. The talk of different ideologies and then relating them to religion or getting them endorsed by religious clerics is a fashion well developed into the sub continents society. The idea of education for women is a matter of debate in nearly every society and every culture. There are differences of age and time but nearly all the societies are developing themselves for this ever-changing world. Women are progressing in many societies while on the other hand many women are just rising up and realizing their space and rights. The question of education and it’s attachment to traditions and religions are wrong and proven wrong in nearly every religion and society. I firmly believe it is a matter of wrong circumstances or wrong surroundings, not religious teachings which are an obstacle for a Pakistani or eastern women to get education.
For me the religion has nothing to do with education. I believe that religion is the name of enlightenment and it encourages anyone to strengthen their beliefs and you can only do it by educating yourself by different means. We should not forget the different stages and forms of education. We should also understand the demands and conditions of these different stages.
Higher education is a very interesting topic and I find myself asking the question what is the worth of this. I think women should have all the rights as men have and they should be allowed to pursue their ambitions as much as men are allowed to. But the real obstacle is (I face this dilemma myself) the place of career-oriented women in our society or any society. I don’t want a woman in my home that prefers her career on anything and that includes children and her house. No matter how much we talk of broad mindedness we men are trapped in an old physical dilemma and that does no allow us to see things in real or right perspective.
The stereotypical man if I call myself for convenient is someone who has many conditions when my family or I steps out to find a match for me. I as a man would not like or want a woman who challenges my authority on any ground. I don’t want a woman who is more educated than me. I don’t want a woman who is more focused on finances and job that I feel she does not need me. I don’t want my life to be suffering from the insecurities of future or marital imbalances.
With these all don’ts I am laying down the mentality of men in our society and to some extent in any society. With the world moving towards more materialistic side we have a responsibility to save it. We don’t need to follow blindly the path of others while knowing that it is the route to destruction. Those of us who live in western countries like me see the decline in family life. It is all about sex and sleeping here and there. There is a lot of emphasis on the sizes of your body parts and shapes and less emphasis on the security of a place, which we can call home.
I can give millions of examples here but I would just lay down three to prove my point and leave the judgment to those of you who are wise enough to take it. It is always a choice between right and wrong and I accept there are exceptions in all societies in all cases.
Madeline Alright the first female to take the post of secretary of Sate for the United States the second highest rank in US. She was also US ambassador to UN, Advisor to people from Jimmy Carter, to senator Muskee and President Clinton. But if I would be able to show the flip side of the coin when she started her first foreign policy job at the State department she had to go through divorce from an ever assuring husband and a marriage of 25 years with three daughters. Her husband went for a younger woman and blamed her workaholic nature for that. It is also worth knowing that it might be the insecurity seeing her rising while he was the one who was from a noble family and a born American.
Another political example of Margaret Thatcher the first female prime minister of UK who lead a very successful marriage and yet managed a remarkable political career of eleven years in UK. Though she lost it at the end to her own back stabbers in my opinion. But the way Denise Thatcher stood by her is a remarkable thing to watch. He is there in every picture on every point of her life. You some time wonder how Denise managed all that for such a long time.
The third example is a domestic one of Begum Akram Kahtoon, the first female to head a bank in Pakistan. A career banker who was later made the president of the First women bank by Benazir Bhutto. She was never married and always remained single.
These three examples are here for the reason to elaborate my point that it is not the education only to blame their are a lot of other factor which heavily undermine women’s ambitions to pursue higher education and career.
The question arises to find out the reasons why someone seeks higher education. Is it just for the sake of education and will not be used practically and actively in future? Then the follow up question arises that what is the benefit of it? I am not denying the fact that education is for personal enlightenment. But is this the actual case on the ground? There is an ever-intriguing debate of the right and standard education, which is not the topic here.
This also leads to another question what do you take as higher education and not higher one? Metric/O levels are basic and FA/FSc/Intermediate/A levels are higher then? Or would you like to upgrade it to pave way for women’s entry into politics in Pakistan by declaring BA as higher enough?
So far I am with the plot and agree hundred percent but if you want to upgrade it further and think Masters is higher enough to be crowned as the higher education. Or you would take it further in the ever-changing circumstances and make it PHD level?
Or you would like to take the matter in a different way by measuring the level by Pakistani standards or material standards, high enough to earn, and get a good job with good money.
The questions I laid down in the previous text explain the complexity of the topic. It is not just religion and women’s’ education it is more than that. It is first of all women’s right to higher education? Then what is the higher education? Then what shariah says in response to this? Finally the possibilities of how it is possible in our social circumstances and what is ideal and what is real.
People would be happy with women getting education. But they would object on how much and would argue about the consequences. That is where the battle is lost in the words and you feel you are arguing without any reason.
In the real world everything is argued on the basis of its feasibility and you have to see the pros and cons of the matter. Rich parents can afford to get their daughters educated and afford if they fail in real life. But can a poor father with four or more children would priorities his choices on the basis of his funds and income. He can afford to pay until maybe BA or equivalent but not any further. He would like to spend the money somewhere else or maybe in realistic terms on the dowry of the girl. My personal experience is an interesting one. My elder sister was educated to the highest level but now she is not been able to do anything with that education and her higher qualification is the biggest problem in her marriage, which finally ended up in divorce. My second sister pursued higher education and she was a shining student with more prospects but we got a good proposal for her and she got married before she could even think of going for higher education.
It is worth mentioning that I don’t belong to a typical Pakistani hardcore family, but I consider myself to belong to one of the most liberal families in the country but yet we face these ground facts, which we cannot ignore.
As a matter of principle there is no harm in women getting higher education. But we have to see at what cost. At the cost of their future and happy marital life? We also need to get out of this fever of following west blindly and maybe need to open our eyes to see the realities or what I see as harsh realities and learn lessons.
We also need to see where we belong to and should never forget our religion Islam (what people term as Shariah) is the most open-minded religion and yet it keeps the ground realities into perspective. Islam has a benchmark teaching of “not putting extra strain on a soul what it can not bear”. An amazing statement, which embodies the whole dilemma, we face today. We need to identify the difference between what I call a horse and a donkey. This is a very important thing to identify and will help to resolve a lot of questions appropriately. I am not calling anyone names but pointing out the basic facts that one cannot ignore.
Donkeys don’t run races, as it is not made to do so. But horses do take burdens on their back. Donkeys never drew coaches but horses were used for that. It is always a matter of what something is made for.
In other words the main question is like “if my grand mother has wheels would she be a bicycle”. I think we all have to open our minds and take the decision keeping our own circumstances in mind. As a father and as a mother we need to see the real picture and see it with open eyes. No one would want to deprive his or her children from the right of education or higher education. We also need to see the right perspectives of higher education and what it is bringing with it. We would also see what we need to prioritize and what we need to sacrifice. Is it worth waiting for your daughter to finish education and be old enough to loose all the eligible bachelors or we should draw a line and say that is how far we can drag and then make our mind to be ready to accept any good offers. This is not demanding a full stop policy as after crossing the line the girl will sit and wait, but she can continue if needed while keeping an eye for good proposals for her. There is nothing to loose in this scenario.
We also need to ask this question to ourselves that are we scared of being considered as backward, conservative, orthodox or religious? What is the intention behind us educating our girls higher or average? If this is the reason than we should better find the right education for ourselves first.
This question will continue to arise forever for everyone who is unaware of his responsibilities or the responsibilities that come with the birth of girls in ones home. We will keep on asking the same questions to ourselves unless we have daughters and we ask these questions to ourselves. That will be the real answer until then nothing is wrong yet right.