Dr. Farida Khanam has been a professor at the Department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. A Study of World's Major Religions, A Simple Guide to Sufism are two of the books amongst others, of which she is the author. She has also translated many books on Islam authored by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. Currently, the chairperson of Centre for Peace and Spirituality (CPS International), an organization founded by her father Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, she is a regular contributor of articles to journals, newspapers and magazines. Dr. Khanam has edited Maulana’s English translation of the Quran and has also translated his Urdu commentary of the Quran into English. Under Maulana Wahiduddin Khan Peace Foundation, along with the CPS team, she has designed a series of courses on peace-building, countering extremism and conflict resolution.


EMPOWERMENT of women cannot be achieved by encouraging them to make their entry into every field of life. A better approach would be to increase their knowledge, skills, alertness and awareness in their own sphere of activity. The more a woman is endowed with these qualities, the more effective will be the part she plays in the activities of daily life. An intellectual woman can perform the greatest of services, whereas, if she is left ignorant and untutored, she will never—even if she is brought to the forefront of things—be able to play a role of any significance.

There have been many women in history who never emerged from their homes, but who exerted a great influence upon the outside world. The allegation that women cannot perform great services when confined to the home is refuted by Islamic history. Home management is also undoubtedly great work, but the work which concerns the outside world can also certainly be performed by women, without putting themselves into uncongenial surroundings, or forcing themselves to play unfamiliar roles for which neither training nor biology has fitted them.

It is a little understood fact that the role a woman plays does not depend upon her physical environment, but rather on the degree to which her intellect has been cultivated. In order to progress, it is not binding that she has to put herself into all kinds of unsafe situations in the outside world. We can understand this from the following argument. If it were put to a writer that he could serve humanity better by stepping out of his study and jumping into the boxing ring, he would surely retort that there is more to solving the problems of the world than just punching people on the nose. He would, indeed, point out that the intellectual can best operate in his own chosen sphere and that it is not physical brashness which counts in this life, but the sharpening of the intellect. Imagine a reversal of the social structure which entails a surgeon working in a butcher’s shop, a teacher selling vegetables etc. In each case, the change of workplace and role would render useless and irrelevant the innate and acquired skills, the knowledge and the moral excellence of these highly qualified and experienced professionals. Their competence and effectiveness would moreover, be eroded by the sense of frustration and discrimination engendered by surroundings which clearly were unsuitable for them.

It is a little understood fact that the role a woman plays does not depend upon her physical environment, but rather on the degree to which her intellect has been cultivated.

Studies in biology and psychology have shown that the two genders are different in nature, each being designed for a different purpose. They are endowed by nature with different capacities so that they may play their respective roles in life with greater ease and effectiveness.

Difference of biological function does not imply inequality. In fact differences are meant to make both genders play complementary roles and endure the challenges of life by supporting each other with their constructive capacities for which each is best suited. It should not be looked upon as a matter of superiority or inferiority. Looked at with the right perspective, these differences are blessings of God.

What the world perceives as a problem of inequality when it comes to oppression and degradation of women is actually a phenomenon of evil perpetrated by humans upon other humans due to the misuse of freedom. It has nothing to do with the role accorded to each gender by nature. Such evil is a part of every society.

The phenomena of oppression exist between the rich and the poor, men and women, an adult and a child, people in power and the common man, the educated and the illiterate, etc. The solution to this problem of backwardness of women due to lack of opportunity for progress lies in helping people to change their mindset. To this effect there should be tremendous efforts to raise the thinking levels of the individual to overcome such negative behaviour in society.

Dr. Farida Khanam
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