One concern I’ve heard from parents with daughters is the need to protect their girls. Sometimes the girls are limited in their activities. Often they’re required to go to college in their hometown. The parents may even play a very active role in the daughter’s choice of a husband and, unfortunately, too many girls are told to marry men they haven’t chosen.
The same concern, however, doesn’t usually extend to sons. Boys are generally allowed to go around freely, travel without worry, and be less accountable to their parents. The parents may still try to have a hand in arranging the son’s marriage, but more often sons seem to make their own decisions on that issue too.
As the mother of only sons, and a feminist in my own way, this whole system of double standards has bothered me. What bothers me the most, really, is that in the Muslim communities men even have greater sexual freedom. As a college student I cringed at the thought of some of the guys I knew going back home to marry virgins. Those poor girls.
This is addressed very clearly in the Qur’an: “Impure women are for impure men and impure men are for impure women. Pure women are for pure men and pure men are for pure women.” (Quran, 24:26) Because of this verse, I knew early on that my future daughters-in-law deserved to have husbands who were only for them.
So I have been stricter than probably most mothers of sons, and sometimes they may have resented me for it. But I hope they’ve understood as they’ve grown older. I wanted the best wives for them. But in order to have that, they needed to learn to be the best husbands.
I often wondered what I would do if I had a daughter and she wanted to go away to school. Would I let her go, or would I hold on to her? I’ll never have a daughter, but I do better understand the need for a girl to be with her mahrem based on the experience of my oldest son. He met his wife at an Islamic college in France. Her brother was also studying at that same school. When I knew that, I felt relieved that my son had someone to remind him and keep him in line, along with the girl herself. I’m not sure how much my daughter-in-law’s brother protected her, but I know I felt my son was more protected from his “nafs” by having her brother there. (If my daughter-in-law reads this, I hope you understand what I mean. It’s all good.)
Non-Muslims wonder why Muslim men have so much more freedom than Muslim women do. But do they? Should they? Don’t Muslim men have a dress code? Don’t Muslim men have a code of conduct? I’ve tried to raise my sons to go out into the world with proper behavior in all situations. How can we do otherwise?