Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai shared the Nobel Peace prize with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi in 2014. Be proud to be a woman.

There is much hope that this year will be better with clearer and higher goals. What happened in previous years should be a lesson to everyone, including how women are treated and children are respected.

There were countless cases reported last year regarding sexual harassment, rape, incest and domestic violence.

These crimes are disgusting, and the cases show no sign of decreasing. But what about those that go unreported?

It’s embarrassing when most of the cases reported involved alleged Muslim perpetrators committing crimes against Muslim women and children. It is certainly heartbreaking to ask, “why Muslims?”.

In Islam, women are equal to men. Both have similar rights even though they may be different.

Islam improved the status of women. The Quran and Hadith contain loads of references acknowledging women’s rights and encourages being kind to women.

Prophet Muhammad said many times in the Hadith: “Treat women nicely.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).

He said: “Women are twin halves of men.” (Jami’ al-Tirmidhi). He emphasised treating women without harshness and violence.

Women have been described as fragile as glass and need to be treated gently.

Shaykh Mohammed Aslam, a Muslim scholar, described the importance of women in the life of the Prophet.

He said, “The Prophet was born in the lap of a woman. He was delicately wrapped up and nursed by a woman. The first person to see his beautiful and illuminated smile was a woman. When his mother died in Abwa, he tearfully returned to Makkah with a woman.

“When he returned from Hira, the first person who covered him was a woman and the first person he spoke to was a woman. A woman was the first to believe in him. A woman was the first to pray with him. A woman was the first to die for him.

“When he delivered his khutbah (sermon), a woman was the first to build a minbar (pulpit) for him. When he left this world, he left resting his head on a woman.

“His lineage continued through a woman; and his final words were, ‘I give you counsel that you be good to your women’.”

So it amazes me how some still don’t know the rank of Muslim women.

Each new year will come with new resolutions. This year, may we follow the Prophet’s way to respect women and act kindly towards them.

Start 2019 with a new gender mentality which means respecting each other and being kind to one another.

To all women, it’s time to fight for your rights. Speak out and stand up for yourself and others. Be a new you and be proud to be a woman.

To all men: a woman is not an object or toy to be oppressed. Respect yourself in order to be respected. Be a new you and be a proud man who respects women.

We must make the first move to change our selves.

The Quran says: “…Allah will never change a grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own selves.” (Al-Anfal, 8:53)

SAADAH KHAIR

Activist, International Women’s Alliance for Family and Quality Education

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