Soldier of Allah 

Purdah and the Status of Women in Islam
by Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi
Translated and Edited by: Al-Ash’ari M.A. (English); M.A. (Philosophy)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Nature of the Problem

The first and foremost problem of man’s community life on whose fair and rational solution depends his real advancement and well-being is the proper adjustment of the mutual relationships between the husband and the wife. For it is these relationships which provide the real basis for man’s social life and on their strength and stability depends his future well being.

Important as the solution of this problem is, its intricate nature has baffled philosophers and sages from the earliest times. In fact, one cannot be expected to offer its just and fair solution unless one has acquired a complete and comprehensive view of the whole human nature. But this is not an easy thing for man is a world in himself. His physical and mental make-up, his energies end capabilities, his desires and demands, his emotions and feelings, and his active aid passive relationships with countless things outside him, these constitute a world in themselves. Man cannot be completely understood unless each nook and corner of this vast world is fully brought within a clear view. Conversely, the basic human problems cannot be solved unless man himself is first completely understood.

The enigma of human nature has defied solution by man since the earliest times and it still remains unsolved. The truth is that man has not yet been able to discover and explain all the facts and phenomena of this world. None of the sciences has so far attained that stage of perfection where it could claim to have encompassed all knowledge pertaining to its own particular sphere. Even those facts and phenomena that have been discovered and explained are so vast and complex in themselves that no man (or men) can have a complete view of all their facets simultaneously. If one tries to concentrate on one facet, the others recede into the background. Sometimes one is not able to give all one’s attention to it and sometimes personal inclinations and whims distort its view. On account of these inherent weaknesses, man with all has ingenuities has failed to solve the problems of his own life. His own growing experience brings out flaws in his best thought out solutions. Real solution is indeed impossible without attaining a balanced view of the whole human nature, and a balanced view of it is impossible unless all the aspects of the known facts at least, are kept in view at one and the same time. But when the field to be viewed is too vast, and one’s personal whims, likes and dislikes, too powerful to allow an unbiased picture, one cannot possibly attain a balanced view of things. Any solution under such conditions as these will naturally be based on one extreme or the other.

In order to illustrate this, let us go back to history. We come across various exaggerated notions based on the conflict of the two extremes. On the one hand, we find that the woman, who gives birth to man as mother and accompanies him in all the ups and downs of life as wife, has been reduced to the position of a maid, rather bondwoman. She is treated as other chattels, she is deprived of all rights of inheritance and ownership, she is regarded as an embodiment of sin and misfortune, and is refused all opportunities for developing and unfolding her personality. On the other hand, we find that the same woman is raised to prominence in a manner and with the result that a storm of immorality and licentiousness follows in her wake. She is made a plaything for carnal indulgence, she is actually reduced to the position of the Devil’s agent, and with her rise to “prominence” starts the degeneration of mankind in general.

These two extremes are not merely theoretical but they exist in practice as well, and it is because of their evil consequences in the practical life that we pronounce them as immoral extremes. History testifies that when a community shakes off barbarism and advances towards civilization, its woman follow its men as maids and bond-women. Initially the community gains momentum from the store of energies that accrue from the wild life of the desert, but at a later stage of development it begins to realize that it cannot go any further by keeping half of its population in a state of bondage. Thus, when the community finds the pace of advancement being retarded, the feeling of necessity compels it to enable the neglected half also to keep pace with the advanced half. But then it does not rest content with making amends only, it bestows undue freedom upon the fair sex with the result that the latter’s excessive freedom deals a fatal blow at the family life which is the very basis of civilization. More than that, the free intermingling of the sexes brings in its wake a flood of obscenity, licentiousness and sexual perversion, which ruin the morals of the whole community. Along with this moral depravity starts the gradual weakening of the intellectual, physical and material energies of the community, which eventually leads it to total collapse and destruction.


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