This is a very interesting and bold article sent to us by Ms Kiran Rizvi which gives female perspective on the male centric cultural narrative
By Kiran Rizvi
The story of the biblical character ‘Job’ or Ayyub, has intrigued me ever since I first heard it at the age of seven. Job was a wealthy man who had many wives and children and was the head of his clan. Apparently, one day Satan pointed out to God that the reason Job was so pious and thankful was because he had many things to thank for, at which God took some objections. God was determined to demonstrate to Satan that Job would be thankful under all circumstances. As a proof, God took away all the wealth of land and cattle and Job and his family had to live in poverty, yet Job remained thankful. Job’s wives and children died off, yet he remained thankful. Job himself was subjected to unspeakable diseases; it is said that as the worms would fall off of his open wounds, he’d put them back and offer thanks to God who had bestowed His blessings upon him. After having proved to Satan that Job was indeed a pious man with our without the favorable circumstances, God returned all the wealth and cattle to Job and he acquired new set of wives who bore him many more children than before. Job was well rewarded for his steadfastness and patience. The story ends here..or does it?
The first time I heard it, I was struck with despair. As soon as the story teller ended the story, my first question was, “what about the wives and children who died for the sake of this experiment?” The story-teller said that it was the will of God, they had to die. “The point of the story,” he added “is that Job was patient, thankful and steadfast in his faith. The story is not about his wives and children and cattle. You are missing the point.” Missing the point? Whose point? Am I missing the point or the point-of-view? I had so many questions. Why was only Job’s patience rewarded and why were his wives and children punished in the process? Did Satan effectively tricked God into making Job suffer, even if only temporarily? Why was God ‘conversing’ with the Satan in the first place? A child’s curiosity knows no bounds.
When I grew up I realized that Job was not the only person in Bible or history whose point-of-view happened to be more important than that of his peers. History was written from the point of view of winners or rulers or at least the writers of history. The losers, the subjects and the cultures without a writing system were treated like Job’s wives…collateral damage in the grand scheme of things. History is not the only thing affected by the plague of point-of-view. Religion is another major example.
Every religion sees the world from its point-of-view, which happens to be the most correct, of course. I remember watching a debate on TV recently over the Islamic law of apostasy. A Christian who converts to Islam should not be killed by Christians for his apostasy, but a Muslim does deserve to die if he converts to Christianity. The debating Islamic scholar on the TV was trying to defend this law because converting to Islam saves souls, something his opponent, a prominent Christian scholar, claimed to do as well. The real battle was whose point-of-view was valid. It was clear that if this apostasy happens in Pakistan, the mullah will get his way and if it happens in a Christian country, the bishop will get his.
The religious texts are almost always revealed through men, written down by men, interpreted by men and legislated by men. Whose point-of-view, do you think, is reflected in this process? A gross misconception is that “Islamic Law” is written by Allah Himself. People defend Islamic teachings, interpretations and legislations as if they are divine, nothing can be farther from the truth. A man can divorce his wife with or without reason in the blink of an eye, but a woman has to get a judge’s permission to divorce her husband. A judge, who can be bribed, threatened or manipulated. It is quite clear whose point-of-view is being catered here. There are other laws and interpretations that blatantly disregard women’s rights to safety and property etc. These laws and interpretations are not only defended by Muslim men, but also by Muslim women who are mislead into believing that challenging these interpretations is synonymous to challenging Allah Himself!
Time has come that we re-examine our stories not just from Job’s point-of-view but also from his wives’ perspective. Where we question why was God in counsel with Satan and why was Satan interested in Job’s piety? It will be a mistake to take the centuries old stories at their face value without investigating into the various point-of-views injected in them over the course of time.