I grew up in a loving home, but one that did not escape the South-Asian cultural preference for boys. As one of four sisters to a lone brother, this did none of us any favours. People would commiserate with my mother for having so many girls with “it is Allah’s will” (you have lost a loved one “it is Allah’s will”, your house burned down “it is Allah’s will”, you lost you job “it is Allah’s will” and daughters are in the same league?) I know that this always made her feel a little inferior in front of other women.
It annoyed the hell out of me and my sister’s, especially as people wouldn’t refrain from this behaviour right in front of us. It wasn’t good for my brother either, to have all of the pressure to achieve focussed solely on him – of course this backfired.
I recall my dad boasting to a friend about my A’level results and being told “that’s nice, but isn’t that enough now”.
It did make me adamant that I wouldn’t let anyone treat me or my child this way if Allah (SWT) ever blessed me with a daughter. I also promised myself that I would raise my daughter to make people forget sons – fighting words I know and although I have calmed down over time somewhat, that promise still speaks to me.
When I was expecting Little Lady, both better half and I were adamant that whether a boy or girl, we would be overjoyed and grateful. Deep in my heart though, I longed for a girl, a chance to put right all of the petty injustices a woman endures (plus I was terrified of having to get a boy circumcised).
Subhan’Allah, Little Lady has been a dream come true. I have wondered at my luck so many times, astonished at how someone like me could be so blessed. Little Lady is stubborn, irreverent, bossy and inquisitive she is also pretty, bright and loud. All of the qualities she needs to make her way through life in the manner that she deems fit.
Even now, I remember people’s surprise at us sending boxes of Indian sweets to friends and family at Little Lady’s birth (”but she is a girl, pariyah dhan” – someone else’s wealth). I see my mother-in-laws pride at having six sons and people’s approving looks when they see me with my two little boys. I think it’s about time that we reject this nonsensical and cruel thinking. Our Prophet (PBUH) set an example for us and also clearly explained to the Sahabah how a daughter should be treated. We often look back to the time before Islam we call Jahaliyyah (the period of ignorance) and the thing that stands out is the way daughters were often buried alive as sources of shame. Yet it is those same attitudes that remain. They are evident in the number of female foetus’ aborted every year (including in the UK), the girls kept at home whilst their brother’s study, the sideway glances at the news of the birth of a girl-baby, the ease with which a woman’s honour is considered impugned.
So what can we do about it? We can learn about the way the Prophet (PBUH) treated women and about how amazing some of the women of the Sahabah were. We can educate our children and ourselves. We can teach our daughters about the rights of women, but also our sons. Just as importantly we can teach them about their responsibilities as believers, daughters, sisters and neighbours. When they stand up as responsible and powerful women of worth in their communities and in the sight of Allah (WST), it will make it that much harder for people to feel disappointed that they have a daughter.
"And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision." ~ Al-Quran 16:58-59
"O You who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good." (An-Nisa 4:19)
Uqba ibn ‘Amir reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, “If someone has three daughters and is patient with them and clothes them from his wealth, they will be a shield against the Fire for him.” ~ Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari
Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who has three daughters and provides for them, clothes them and shows mercy to them will definitely enter the Garden.” A man from the people said, “And two daughters, Messenger of Allah?” He said, “And two.” ~ Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “No one has three daughters or three sisters and is good to them but that he will enter the Garden.” ~ Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If anyone has a female child, and does not bury her alive (a pre-Islamic practice), or slight her, or prefer his (male) children to her, God will bring him into Paradise." ~ Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 2443