By Amin Mohammadi
It is almost 400 days that girls above grade six have not attended school.
Rumours abound that universities will soon be closed or heavily restricted to girls and women as well. It’s only a matter of time that female university students numbers fade away if high schools are not reopened.
The Taliban’s statements on girls’ education never say it is banned. But keeping the schools closed amounts to as much. The Taliban say their agenda on education for girls and women is based in Islamic principles.
With this premise, it is worth noting that there exists no logical nor historical argument within Islam that bans education for girls or women. It is in no Islamic writing nor in any other holy books or references to Islam.
If the Taliban insist that the resistance to girl’s education is valid from a religious point of view, it should be known that such an adherence did not exist in the first era of Islam under the first person of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad was considered a serious scholar and is deeply respected by all Islamic scholars. According to these early teachings, men and women are considered equals in the affairs of life and work: both genders are the basis of human life.
Early Islam never considered gender an obstacle to knowledge. And a woman was welcome to work independently like any man, and also own the results of her work and efforts.
In all religious quotes in authentic historical books, these issues have been stated clearly. This alone is a strong reason to reject this idea that any girl does not have the right to an education or that girls of an older age do not have the right to continue their education.
The question of whether girls can receive an education is settled and is not even a matter for discussion in any other single Islamic country or jurisdiction.
And yet, the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban claim they are following Islamic principles.
There is not a single reliable historical, hadith, or jurisprudential source on Islam, in all its various sects, that will back up this prohibition of girls’ education.
The Taliban always claim they follow “Sharia law.” And yet Sharia law says: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on all Muslims.” It is recorded in “Sahih Bukhari and Muslim” hadith books which are the most accepted sources for the majority of Muslims.
The prophet of Islam even dedicated special days to the education of women. In another hadith, a group of women came to him and said: “O Prophet of God, men have taken all your time and we have been ignored by you. The prophet responded: “You women determine the day and I am willing to teach you what God has taught me.”
In early Islam, a large number of women were among the most educated and knowledgeable in society, not only in the religious theology but also in arts and sciences, such as literature and medicine.
Among these, we can mention writers and poets like Alia bint Al-Mahdi, Aisha bint Ahmad bin Qadem and Walada the daughter of Caliph “Mustakafi Balleh.” Among the doctors, we can mention “Zeinab,” a doctor from Bani Oud, who was known for treating eye diseases.
Let history be the proof of how educated women matter in Islam.
So why is the so-called Islam of the Taliban, who call themselves followers of Muhammad and the Sharia, against girls’ education as well as bringing in new restrictions on women every other day? What has happened that brings them to these conclusions? Does the interpretation and recitation of religion deviate to such an extent? Or are the religious teachings being taught in madrasas for so many decades transforming? Or perhaps still, are these restrictions simply a perverse front for some sort of political goal?
Well, whatever it is, it’s a grave injustice.
It’s an aberration that has no place in Umri’s justice, nor in Alavi’s justice. It’s an injustice of the ugliest type of cruelty. It’s an injustice of the most shamelessly primitive political mind. It’s a sign of petrification and a backwardness of ideas that today is slowly strangling the roots and future of Afghanistan, the heart and soul of our country. What a sickening goal and what a cruel decision.
Aside from all the rhetoric, the Taliban tried to claim they had practical reasons for the closure – that they had to work on separating boys and girls in schools in order for girls to attend school.
According to official statistics from the Ministry of Education, in the last 20 years, more than 80 percent of all schools in Afghanistan were single-gender schools or had gender-separated classes. Furthermore, girls wore uniforms that honoured the principles of Islam and mostly female teachers were teaching the girls.
No faithful Muslim with common sense would accept that Afghan girls have disrespected Islam during the past twenty years by going to school.
Girls at school learned about Islam, and the school environment was true Islam. But unfortunately, Afghanistan’s new rulers has snuffed this out. They seem to suffer from a disease of shaming others and glorifying themselves. Indeed, they publicly say that the people of Afghanistan and those who lived under the republic government in the last years are sinners and infidels.
Such misunderstandings of Islam and the Taliban’s absurd and harmful interpretation of it have cast long shadow, especially on the lives of girls.
A constant effort of enlightenment is needed to make this ignorant group understand that the road ahead of them does not end in heaven and is not right.