“Islam is a Special Blessing for Women”
By Muhammad Ali
President “Wahdat Youth Gilgit Division”
The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to those of men but they are not necessarily identical. This difference is understandable because men and women are different, in their physiological and psychological make-up.
There does exist a gap between the rights of women outlined in the Qur’an, and the prevalent reality in the Muslim world. However, images of Muslim women as ignorant, oppressed and submissive are conventional.
They do no justice to the large number of Muslim women whose conviction in Islamic concepts of family cohesiveness, happiness and individuality ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.
“Prior to Islam,” write the authors of The Cultural Atlas of Islam, “a woman was regarded by her parents as a threat to family honor and hence worthy of burial alive at infancy. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought, sold and inherited. From this position of inferiority and legal incapacity, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in family and society.”
There is no room for a Muslim to imagine that women are inferior to men. Thus it is perhaps more apt to refer to the Islamic approach on gender relations, as one of “equity” rather than the commonly used word “equality”, which could be misunderstood to mean equality in every minute aspect of life, rather than overall equality.
Ø THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT
The sacred text of the Glorious Qur’an and the history of early Muslims bear witness to the fact that women are considered as vital to life as men. Islam refuted the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God, and thus caused his downfall. The Qur’an says that they both disobeyed, and negates the idea that women are a source of evil. In a world where women were no more than objects of sexual gratification for men, and at a time when the religious circles argued over whether women were human or not, possessing souls, Islam proclaimed:“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) ofa male and a female.” [Al-Qur’an 49:13]
Men and women are of the same family, and as such have similar rights and duties, and their Lord promises them in the Glorious Qur’an:“Never will I waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other.” [Al-Qur’an 3:195]
Ø THE SOCIAL ASPECT
Women have as much right to education as men do. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (p) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history. Islam elevated the position of women in society and treated them on an equal footing with men, and in
Some cases, as a mother for instance, clearly gave them precedence over men. Thus when a man asked Prophet Muhammad (p): “Who is most entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” the Prophet (p) replied, “Your mother.”The man asked, “Who is next?” The Prophet (p) said, “Your mother.” Again the man asked, “Who is next?”The Prophet (p) repeated, “Your mother.”The man asked for a fourth time, “Who is next?”The Prophet (p) then replied, “Your father.”
On another occasion, when a man came to the Prophet (p), and expressed the desire to join a military expedition, the Prophet (p) asked him if he had a mother. When he replied that he had, the Prophet (p) advised him, “Stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.”
As daughters, women have a right to just and equitable treatment from their parents. The Prophet (p) gave glad tidings to those who did not insult their daughters or favored sons over daughters.
Ø THE ECONOMIC ASPECT
Islam grants women equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. A woman’s life, her property and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of a man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position would get. Islam has given women a share of inheritance. Before Islam, women were not only deprived of that share, but were themselves considered as property to be inherited by men. Out of that transferable property Islam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent individuality of women. Whether the woman is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kin’s property, a share that depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favor of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so. Women are exempt from all financial liabilities. As a wife, a woman is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded. It is thus clear that the status of women in Islam is very high. Islam has granted them rights that match beautifully with their duties. What Islam has established for women is that which suits their nature, gives them full security and protects them against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life.
1. Al-Qur’an, 2:178; 4:45, 92-93
The status of women in Islam is a relevant issue due to cultural practices in the Muslim world and the Western perception that Islam subjugates women. However, a dispassionate study of primary Islamic sources and the position of women in societies where Islam was implemented prove that Islam elevated the position of women in society and treated them on an equal footing with men. Women have the same rights and responsibilities as men but they are not necessarily identical due to differences in their physiological and psychological makeup. Women have the right to education, independent identity, and are responsible for their moral and spiritual obligations. Women are entitled to just and equitable treatment from their parents and have the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Islam promotes mutual peace, love, and compassion in marriage, and both husband and wife are responsible for maintaining their family through consultation and kindness. Overall, Islam provides women with a special Lessing rather than subjugating them.