Founder’s Address


Assalamu ‘alaykum.

This is a day of achievement for us all and a very special delight because it opens a possibility that we will appreciate in some years, when we see the results in the girls who have attended this college.

One must first say a word about Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha, radiallahu ‘anha. Any ‘alim in any place in the world has to say, when her name is mentioned, the famous saying “Half the Deen is from ‘Aisha.” But that is an amazing statement. What it means is that half the Shari’ah, half the legal orientation of Islam, is from ‘Aisha. Sayyiduna ‘Umar, when he was Amir al-Mumineen, if there was any matter on which he had doubt, he would immediately send for Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha to get her judgement.

Now, she has a particular position in Islam, because she is exalted by mention in the Qur’an. And we may take it that the wahabbis are unaware of their own Deen when they discuss whether a woman in Arabia should have a licence to drive or not, because they are saying that if a woman is alone in the car, she is going to have some sexual adventure. But the event of ‘Aisha, the Revelation, clearing the name of ‘Aisha’s honour was precisely that the accusation was that because she was with the camel alone with a man, that something happened. Therefore, that is surely fatwa in itself that a woman can drive her own car; because ‘Aisha was cleared from any implication that because a woman was alone travelling, she was then going to betray. And therefore it cannot be imputed against the modern woman that she is not a daughter of ‘Aisha.

Now, the Shi’a curse Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha. Very recently, one important ayatollah cursed Sayyidatuna ‘Aisha, and in doing so he is actually separating himself from Islam, because of the ayat exonerating Aisha in the Qur’an, which means he does not accept the Divine Revelation, because to them the price of accepting the Divine Revelation is accepting the honour and integrity of women. And that is so crucial to our situation.

Now, in my youth there was very powerful movement in the 50’s and 60’s. It was called the Women’s Movement. And I knew some of the most interesting and intellectually brilliant women involved in it. But I was brought up short when I met a young American New Yorker who said, “I am totally for women’s liberation.” I said, “Oh, excellent!” He went on saying, “Don’t you realise that up until now, I could only sleep with married women. Now I can sleep with all women!” So, he had a different viewpoint on the matter.
So, what one has to realise is that if this is an age where it is difficult for men to survive, it is more difficult for women.

Now, I was reflecting as we came here that, in a way, the most evil man now in the world today is the president of Syria, Assad. Not because he has killed and tortured and wiped out a whole community of people, but because he is so weak, that he cannot avoid taking on the name of doing it on behalf of very powerful men who are working in the shadows. But by the same token the second and third most evil people in the world today are the two women governing Bangladesh who are supervising the enslavement of their total population ruthlessly and with a cruelty unequalled by any except the Assad regime.

So one has to realise that power is responsibility and pretending that women do not have power is a lie against natural life. Because domestically and in the household one knows that that simply is not true. Also for men it is difficult to deal with the fact that one of the instruments of power of the woman is that she can play being helpless. She can, in other words, adopt roles which allow her to manipulate, so the man does not know what is happening. Therefore, in fact, when you examine the world’s literature, whether it is classical China or European literature, you find that there is a recognised reality that there is an enmity between men and women, there is a war between men and women. And the Qur’an tells of Sayyiduna Adam and Hawa and Allah saying “Get down, each an enemy to each.” Now, if you take that as the conflictual reality between men and women, then you have to realise at the same time, it is dealing with that, which is what makes life itself happen. In other words, you could say that the relationship between man and woman is a series of agreed contractual peace treaties. And marriage, in that sense, is a contract, a peace treaty. But the foundation of marriage, with very rare exceptions, is not based on love, because love is a word that can be played to a thousand songs.

Marriage is basically a fiduciary arrangement. And the fiduciary arrangement is double because Rasul, salla Allah ‘alayhi wa sallam, had indicated that the highest aspect of Dunya itself is woman, because of her beauty and her capacity. So she is in herself a wealth. Then that wealth, can come with it inheritance, which is the added advantage and makes the fiduciary arrangement that is the foundation of the marriage. Now, divorce is very interesting, because – I think it is correct to say that – Rasul, salla Allah ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Of all the permitted things, what Allah hates most is divorce.” Now, what does that mean? It is not some moral assessment of divine disapproval. It is a recognition that divorce is a breaking of the contract. And the breaking of the contract is the thing that most of all should be avoided. But human beings, being human beings, permit among themselves that such a thing should happen. It is a negation of the very thing on which the life situation is based. With the abolition of law, which has happened in your lifetime, there are no rules between man and woman. In my youth, a woman who lived with a man not in marriage was considered a ‘fallen woman’. She had fallen, by the way, not him. But that is gone. It is now not only a norm, it is a sign of upward financial mobility for a woman to be living with a man. So what you find is that in the modern situation of the kuffar, who do not believe in anything, they still enter into contracts. The thing is they have to make up the rules as they go along. But there is a contract. And Colette, who was a very great woman and a great writer, and was married I think three times, she said to her third husband – she was then a woman in her fifties –, she said: “You can cheat on me, but do not betray me.” And in that sense she defined the enormous weakness of the modern woman. In other words, you can have another woman, but do not put your higher self under her spell and in connection with her so that that connection we have between us will go to her. So she said, “You can cheat on me, but do not betray me.” It is a kind of split of the personality. This is the age we live in. You could say that woman has to deal with us, the terrible men, and there are two extremities of how to deal with the men. On the one hand you have the burka and on the other hand you have the pantsuit and the ponytail. Ironically, the burka – horrific though it is and totally un-Islamic – is probably a better technical survival technique than the ponytail and the pantsuit. She is actually in a more vulnerable position because she is dressed as a man, but at night she can undo the ponytail and ‘Oops, surprise, surprise, she is a woman!’

I had unmasked to me a legal judgement on the burka in Dubai. I was going to visit someone in the Sheraton Hotel and I got into the elevator and a woman in complete – what we men have taken to calling the ‘ninja outfit’ –, got into the elevator with me, and the door shut. And the minute the door shut, she started to whip off her burka. And I suddenly – having seen too many bad movies – thought, “This is terrible, I am going to be in a scandal!” And she ripped off her burka, and underneath she was wearing a very elegant, short-skirted Yves Saint Laurent outfit. And then she grinned at me and I thought “My god, I’m finished, this is going to be trouble.” But then the doors opened and a young man who was waiting for her kissed her on the mouth and took her off to his apartment, and as the door shut again she turned around and waved to me, and I thought: “The Burka… Now I know exactly what it is about!” So in that sense, women always win and that is how it should be, because they have to deal with men, who are ‘the impossible other’.

The Lady Aisha College is simply a means for women to study how they can survive the appalling world that men have made for themselves and for us, how they can survive it without turning into them, as matriarchs, begums and dominant destroying forces of more terrible power than the men have. Because opposite Ibsen, who heroically defended the position of women in the bourgeois society, there was Strindberg who said “They are out to destroy us. They will not finish until there is a matriarchal society.” Now, in all of this the matter of love has been changed from something that is best seen in the model of nature that is something that begins like a seed, and slowly grows and over time develops. And love is something that moves from acceptance to affection, and from affection to extreme affection, and extreme affection flowers into love. And then love becomes the unspoken, unsaid thing between a man and a woman in their aloneness together.

There is an exception, this thing called falling in love. I have sitting next to me a lady, and I can tell you a story and I know she will not mind. She is one of the examples where falling in love was true, and then flourished into the real love of a man a woman that lasted a whole lifetime. But I was present on the King’s Road in London with the young Hajja Rabea and on the other side of the road there was a very handsome young man who turned out to be a great wali of Allah, Hajj Abdalaziz. Hajja Rabea turned to me and said, “Do you see that man over there?” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “That is the man I am going to marry.” And she decided there and then on the spot! And it was true, and it happened, and I can tell you that they lived happily ever after. So this is the exception; but it proves the rule.

So, the Lady Aisha College is to allow women the strategies of survival to maintain their self-dignity and to learn to make good treaties with men, ‘the impossible other’, the male species of the human race.

Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah.

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Download pdf of this address here

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