Dr Nasser Mustapha, president of the Trinidad Muslim League (TML) and sociology lecturer at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, said, contrary to popular opinion, Islam advocates education for girls and women since it acts as a passport to social mobility and contributes to nation building.
Mustapha made the comment while delivering the Eid-ul-Fitr sermon to about 500 Muslims at Jinnah Memorial Mosque in St Joseph yesterday.
Among those present at the special Eid celebration were Sabrina Mohammed, president TML Ladies Association, and general secretary Azid Ali.
Imam Amzad Khan led the prayer in Arabic and Egyptian scholar Ata Mustapha led the supplication (duah) to Allah, asking him to relieve the suffering and oppression of people globally
“It is not Islamic to say women should not be educated,” said Mustapha. “Islam teaches men and women should have the same basic rights. There are rights for children. When you see what is happening (with Boko Haram abducting schoolgirls in Nigeria) then you would realise that is not happening. “They give the impression Islam is against education, science and technology. It is about promoting obscurantism. It is operating at a later date. The religion is perfect, it is we who are not perfect,” he added.
Making reference to the Qur’an, Mustapha said: “The first revelation was the command to read. God taught man the use of the pen. The emphasis was on reading and writing. The Prophet said the seeking of knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim male and female. Women are expected to be educated to the fullest. The wife of the Prophet Muhammed (Isha) was a scholar. She would memorise the entire Koran. She taught people in her time and she interacted with males.
“Some people feel women are not supposed to interact with males. Isha is a known transmitter of the sayings of the Prophet (Muhammed). From her time of the history of education, women were involved in education. There were many women scholars in Islam. The world’s first university was founded in Morocco. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records.”
Mustapha denounced the ideology that women and girls should not be educated as “a way of oppressing women”.
“They have a right to be educated. It is given by Allah. The only way they could perform that role is if they are educated. You can have women in any field of study and research. As long as they dress modestly and interact with dignity, there is no restriction in terms of their participation in society at all levels.”
He paid kudos to women who have made strides in fields like politics (Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar) and business (Chamber of Commerce CEO Katherine Kumar), but he reminded them that education was meant to uplift individuals and communities.
“The purpose of education is not to be proud and arrogant, but to understand and assist the communities. Islam is about positive development.”
Asked about education activist Malala Yousafzai, who is currently in T&T, Mustapha said: “What she stands for is supposed to be the norm for Muslim women. They are supposed to pursue education. There is no such thing as the ‘silent female’.
“...What has happened to her has shown how people in some societies have deviated from the true religion, but because of the patriarchal (male-dominated) situation it exists. I don’t think we have a problem in these parts. In our society, women are now educating themselves to the highest level.”