#MeToo has been doing the rounds on social media, highlighting a shocking number of female (and a significant number of male) victims of of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Seemingly blind to culture, race, religion and class, it exists at all levels. Many of the stories recounted are harrowing; in fact some I, personally, could not even read. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg: for each hashtag there are many other victims who choose to remain silent fearing some sort of recrimination, or for whom the experience is too traumatic to relive.
I was reminded of the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in which he said, “(By) Allah! I warn you against violating the rights of the two vulnerable ones in any way: the orphan and the woman.” (Ibn Majah)
Throughout history we find that there are certain categories of people who are exploited and treated unfairly, abused and mistreated because they are vulnerable and weak, or perceived to be so. Two of the most common are women and orphans. The Prophet (SAW) is emphasising here that they too are human beings, they have their rights and those rights should never be violated. It is never OK to treat women (and anyone else for that matter) as mere objects devoid of rights, freedoms and justice.
It happened, it shouldn’t have, and most certainly can not be allowed to keep happening.
But what is the solution? How does this stop? It is difficult, but not impossible. Difficult because it involves a paradigm shift at all levels – individual and societal, driven by the need of being aware of the different contexts in which we operate, and acting responsibly and humanely therein. All of this built upon a value quickly being forgotten, but strongly emphasised in the teachings of our Prophet (SAW): that of futuwwa* or chivalry and virtue.
Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “All of you are guardians and all of you will be questioned about your areas of responsibility.” (Bukhari)
*or placed under the rubric of furusiyya by some Muslim scholars.