Imam Suheib Webb, a Muslim leader from California, spoke yesterday to an audience of over 75 at Hutchins Hall about his perspective on the comprehensive role of women in Islam.
In his lecture, titled “Women in Islam: Oppression or Liberation?” Webb discussed the rights given to women in the Qur’an and their roles as mothers, educators, leaders and advisors, using text-based examples from the Qur’an and scholarly writings to illustrate his points and show the positive treatment of women in Islam as a sustained pattern of behavior.
As Muslims, women share the responsibility of worship with their male counterparts. “Her primary role is to be a worshipper of her creator and to live a life which dictates the tenants of her religion and faith,” Webb said.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about women in Islam,” said LSA junior Lena Masri, an organizer of last night’s event.
“The situations of women in Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia … their situation is used as a representation of what Islam really is, but their situation is not representative of what Islam is really about, and we brought this speaker in to help correct these misconceptions,” Masri said.
LSA junior Mike Medow said he attended last night’s event to achieve a better understanding of the role of women within Islamic society.
“I took away a desire to learn more about the topic because I think it’s really crucial that those of us outside of the Islamic community get a better understanding of how gender relations exist within Islam. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions and we have to open up some more space for dialogue,” he said.
Medow added that he found the event very informative but found some of the textual references rather difficult to follow.
“It provided a lot of textual evidence for how Islam views the position of women as far as referencing different parts of the Qu’ran, but for myself who’s not a student of Islam, it was hard to understand because there was a lot of Arabic used,” he said.
LSA freshman Wajeeha Shuttari said she enjoyed hearing about the rights women have in Islam and how they can make a difference. She said she was glad the event was open to the whole community because it gave people a chance to “see what Muslims are about firsthand.”
“I think it’s a good idea for people outside the Muslim community to visit because it’s a really beneficial way for people to learn about Islam,” she said. “You’ll get a totally different perspective about Islam if you come see it for yourself.”
She added that women in Islam are given rights, and that those rights are clearly stated in Islamic law. For people who wonder what Muslim women think about their roles in Islamic society, she said “I think they have to come and talk to a Muslim women about how she participates in society, what her duties are as a Muslim woman and I think they’d be surprised.”
The chance to learn more about issues of oppression and freedom for women in Islam and Muslim culture brought RC junior Jenny Lee to hear Webb teach last night.
Lee said she feels more acquainted with some of the basis for gender relations in the Quran as a result of attending the event, but said she would also be interested in hearing about these issues from a woman’s perspective.
“Tonight reinforced for me that there’s a lot of depth and complexity to the Quran and the religion of Islam and the Western feminist perspective towards women shouldn’t necessarily be applied to women in Islam without an understanding of the contexts and cultural differences,” she said.