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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

International Day of the Girl Child: Islam established the rights of the girl child

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By Alieu Fatty

Student of International Ahmadiyya University of Theology and Scholastic Sciences, Ghana

The 77th UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) was into full scale in the last two weeks, in New York. Most of us saw, member states made unwavering commitments to endorsing and supporting women’s empowerment in all sectors of life in their various states. Well, that is the resolve several people and human right watchdogs have been asking and expecting from all members states of United Nations for several decades now.

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Intrinsically, in this 21st century, it is just bizarre and unfathomable that we still lobby for some of the most basic fundamental human rights. One such example is the right of the girl child. This week on October 11, this year marks a decade struggle by various associations around the world to end all forms of violence against girls and women.

This day is yearly, commemorated by different people, societies and in different parts of the world, all with almost the same outcry to diverse governments and organizations that, they must recognize and protect the rights of girls and women generally. The UN (United Nations) acknowledged this day as the international Day of the Girl Child.

According to the United Nations, ‘International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girl’s face and to promote girls’ empowerment to both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Celebrations are held to raise awareness of the situation of girls around the world.’ (The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2012 resolution A/RES/66/170.)

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Another study by the United Nations has it that one third of women and girls suffer physical or sexual violations in their life, usually by an intimate partner. Seventy-five percent of the world’s human trafficking victims are women and girls, 75% of them are sexually mistreated.

Despite our advancement as societies and the endless efforts of many organizations, institutions and human right watch firms, little has changed concerning the protection and recognition of girls’ and women’s rights. There are overwhelming reports that in this 21st century, there has been an increase in horrendous abduction, sexual harassment, physically or cyber bullying and rape against young teenagers today than ever in any given generation.

For example, a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has it that, ‘One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15. This included having received unwanted and/or offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages or offensive and/or inappropriate advances on social networking sites’

The fundamental rights that contemporarily, many countries and institutions take pride of conferring to girls and women were wittingly centuries ago incessantly denied to them by many western countries whereas Islam and the Holy Prophet (saw) granted these fundamental human rights to them 1400 years ago.

For example, the Holy Prophet (sa) laid a simple principle that ‘It is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge.’

The literacy of girls is a paramount teaching of Islam since the girls and women of today are the up bringers of the good leaders of tomorrow. Hence, if their education is lacking, there will be a serious problem of good leadership in the future. Regarding the education of girls and women has been an epicentre of the teachings of the true Islam. The worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the firth successor to the Promised Messiah (as) who is the guide of the time, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), during the concluding session of the National WAQFI-E-NAU (girls) Ijtema UK on 25 February 2017 gave the following charming and beautiful explanation.

His holiness, states:

‘Similarly, in terms of both secular and religious knowledge, very few Muslim girls had the opportunity to pursue secular or to learn about their faith and to increase their religious knowledge. This is quite astounding and deeply regrettable, given that the Holy Prophet (sa) placed great importance and value upon the education and moral training of women and girls. Yet, over time, this instruction of the Holy Prophet (sa) was increasingly ignored amongst Muslims and so Muslim women became far less educated than men.’

His holiness, further states:

‘A major cause of this unfortunate trend was the fact that many so-called religious scholars from amongst the so-called Ulema (religious scholars) did not want religious knowledge to be shared or spread, either amongst men, but especially amongst women. In contravention of Islamic teachings, they desired for women to be confined solely within the four walls of their home and did not permit them to gain a basic education. Such attitudes were extremely harmful to the long-term progress of Islam, because it was not possible for Muslim women to do the moral training of their children when they themselves had no knowledge of their faith. Yet this extremely selfish attitude prevailed across the ages and continued until Allah the Almighty sent Promised Messiah (as), for the sake of the revival and rejuvenation of the true teachings of Islam.’

Before the advent of Islam, there was no reverence awarded to the right of the girl child. Her community didn’t grant her even the basic right to life. Instead, the unlettered people of Arabia cruelly snatched away the lives of girls at infancy.  History has it that in Arabia, when parents gave birth and the child was a female, they perceived it to be a misfortune and shame on themselves and their families. Many would go so far as to heartlessly bury their own female children alive without feeling the smallest sense of remorse or empathy for their daughters in the aftermath, although, this practice isn’t commonly found in all tribes in Arabia.

There is a narration that a man once came to the Holy Prophet (saw) and said to him that before his conversion into the religion of Islam, he had once buried his daughter alive. Whilst he was doing so, his daughter kept begging for mercy, but he won’t stop. When this man finished narrating the story, he looked up at the Prophet of Islam (saw), who could not hold back his emotions. It is said that the Holy Prophet (saw) wept so bitterly that his attire was all soaked with tears. After the man narrated the entire story, the Holy Prophet (saw) could not help but asked him: ‘O cruel man, did you not have any mercy for her?’

He (saw) abolishes all these horrendous practice in Arabia that was practised with arrogance and transformed of their ignorance by teaching men to respect, honour women and value their daughters.

The Holy Prophet will always admonish his companions that daughters are a blessing from God Almighty and honour for men. He proclaimed, ‘if a man has daughters and he makes arrangements to have them educated and take pains with their upbringing, God will save him from the torment of Hell’.

In another narration, the Holy Prophet (saw) said, ‘He who gives the best upbringing and education to his daughters shall enter paradise.’

In fact, it is also narrated that while the Holy Prophet (saw) was preaching the message of Islam, some Meccans were reluctant to accept his message on the sole basis that it gave girls and women too many rights.

Islam and the Holy Prophet (saw) are the true liberator of girls and women in Arabia and the world at large. He (sa) emancipated them from the cruelties of the male patriarchy societies who pompously and ignorantly trample on the rights of girls and women.

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