Mohammad Ali Amouri and published in 2000 by the Al-Torath student newspaper, which he edited. He is one of five Ahwazi Arab cultural activists facing imminent execution. The Iranian regime has claimed that he and the Al-Hewar cultural organisation he was involved in are extremist Wahabis involved in a foreign plot to cause unrest and support violence. He has consistently denied the charges against him, in spite of torture and solitary confinement. This article proves that far from being an extremist, Amouri is a peaceful, moderate social reformer.
The issue of human rights in Islamic thought is raised in its different dimensions such as political, sexual and civil rights. In modern Iranian society, the slogan of human rights has become popular, attracting Iranian elites and students. However, in some of these debates, some human rights values have been less considered. An example is “women rights”, which is not challenged and is considered to be “prohibited thought” because this issue is mixed with some religious and morals taboos.
There are different understandings and interpretations in this regard and these change according to time and place. Any society builds laws and social organisation on existing political, economic and family systems.
If we look at the history we can see that social trends changed as society changed from hunting and farming to a modern and industrial society and these trends changed the relationship between men and women within the family.
Islamic theologians and scientists had different thoughts on the relationship between men and women. Jalaladdin Davani, the 15th century Iranian philosopher and theologian, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, an architect and astronomer, believed that the family is a “natural state” and the division of labour within and outside of home is part of this natural state. As such, all rights given or taken from men and women are following the natural state or rules. Motahhari believed that family system had constant rules and principles. The question raised here is whether this system can be applied to different societies according to their needs.
In contrast, modern thought states that human relations vary in all aspects of political, economical and family/social life.
In all societies, the economic system is the most important aspect of family relations. For instance, in tribal states the financial independence of woman and children is sidelined and they are all dependent on man/father, which creates patriarchy. This relationship is eliminated within modern societies. In modern societies each individual has his or her own financial independence and they develop skills, leading to the loss of the patriarchy role of the father/man in the family. All individuals seek education, skills and financial independence which result in more freedom and lessens the dominant role of the father/man in the family.
In the pre-Islamic era, there was a tribal system and people used to migrate from one place to another. When Prophet Mohammad brought Islam, he introduced justice and eliminated unfair principles that used to be practiced on women in that time. Islam also restricted polygamy and gave more value to women in the context of that period of time. Inequalities which had been practiced against women must be eradicated - this was the message of the Prophet.
In Egypt, the sociologist Ghasem Amin, who wrote “Freedom of Women” in 1899 and “New Woman” in 1900, created a flaring spark of feminism and an explosion within religious conservatism. He suggested education (but not as same level of men), freedom and equality (except polygamy) and the right of work for women for in order to secure greater freedom. After Ghasem Amin, who was described as “father of women's rights”, others such as Houda Shaarawi, Fatema Al-Marnisi and Nawal Al-Saadawi researched and advocated equality between men and women.
These feminists believed that patriarchy, which suppresses woman’s rights, is not Islamic. They believed that traditional interpretations are the result of traditional ideologies. There have been different interpretations within Shiaa, Mu'tazila and Ashari which have developed their own principles within Islam. It is therefore our right to criticise these interpretations and consider new suggestions and interpretations which assert the equality of man and woman.
For instance, the Quran states that a male witness is worth the same as two female witnesses, which was required to avoid any mistake or uncertainty. But are only women capable of making a mistake? Psychological studies show that men are as capable of making a mistake or forgetfulness as women. But the Quran states the nature and personality of women in the context of the time of the Prophet Mohammad.
Secondly, women receive half the inheritance of a woman. This was established in Arab tribes to avoid conflict between tribes in the event that a deceased man's wealth, such as his farmland, would pass to a different tribe. The logic was to prevent conflict within the tribal system.
Considering the above examples, we conclude that the basis of relationships and principles can be established according to the society’s needs.