The injustice towards women in Islamic countries has been in my mind for a while, resurfacing from time to time. With the monoprints I created my intent is to emphasize the inequality that exists based on socio-cultural norms rather than Islamic principles, which regard men and women equal in humanity.
Currently women are deprived of even the most basic human rights that were advocated by Islam. The fairness and justice emphasized in the Quran and practiced in the early days of Islam is altered by the scholars and rulers who elaborate, implement and enforce them.
At the beginning of Islam, women were given freedom to develop their individuality and personality. They participated effectively in public life, took part in prayers in mosques together with men, acted as imams, joined their colleagues in military expeditions, devoted themselves to the study of theology, traveled widely and moved freely, mixed with men with self-respect and dignity. With the death of the Prophet Muhammad and the transformation of the community into an empire the rights that were granted to them were taken away and they were confined to their homes and were prevented from participating in public life and were excluded from public worship in mosques. This situation became worse with the penetration of foreign ideas and customs. First pre-Islamic customs reappeared during the Abbasid period, then various mores infiltrated Islamic culture through conquered people which were assimilated as norms and associated with Islam. The Mesopotamian, Persian, the Hellenic, Christian and finally Islamic cultures each contributed practices that both controlled and diminished women. These norms persisted until the present day throughout the Muslim world.
Each print speaks of a specific right a woman deserves and they are a result of an extensive study of literature on women’s rights in Islamic countries and the Quranic pretexts.
The monoprints included in this series are one of a kind and are manually printed on 22x30” paper.
Of a Single Soul
Islam denounced that Eve was the source of evil as the cause of original sin and the fall of humankind. According to Quran woman is not responsible for Adam’s first mistake. Both were equally wrong in disobeying God and both were forgiven.
Quran places identical spiritual and moral obligations on all individuals regardless of sex. It declares equalness in human biology and worth of labor.
In Forbidden, I wanted portray women that are confined to their homes. Hareem from the word haram meaning sacred or forbidden referred to women’s apartments that were forbidden to all men except the family. Most Saudi homes still have one entrance for men and another for women. There is no provision in the Quran that women should be physically restricted to the household. Arab women took part in the society just like the Jahilia women in Pre-Islamic cultures. Confinement of women was however observed before Islam in Mesopotamia, Iraq and Persia in addition to Byzantian culture. By time, Arabs adapted to the ways of the conquered people and the mores changed.
Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen, Danish author, 1805-1875
For Red Balloons I was inspired by the positive improvements in women’s education in some Islamic countries such as Afghanistan. The Quran strongly encourages the pursuit of knowledge and education for all Muslims regardless of gender. Both men and women are encouraged to acquire education as indicated by the Prophet as “from cradle to grave”. Unfortunately, highest illiteracy rates still exist in the Islamic world.