Status and Rights of Women in Islam

women-rights-in-islamIslam has given the women, rights and privileges, the likes of which she has never enjoyed under any other religious or constitutional systems. It is not the teaching of Islam to brand woman as the product of the devil or the seed of evil. Nor does the Quran place man as the dominant lord of women who has no choice but to surrender to his dominance. The rights of woman of modern times were not granted voluntarily or out of kindness to the female. Modern woman reached her present position by force, and do not through natural processes or mutual consent or divine teachings. Woman is recognized by Islam as a full and equal partner of man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father, she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect; she is entitled to equal rights; she undertakes equal responsibilities, and in her there are as many qualities and as much humanity as there are in her partner.

To this equal partnership in the reproduction of humankind. Allah says:

“O mankind! Verily We have created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other…” (Quran 49:13)

Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies. Women used to accompany the Muslim armies engaged in battles to nurse the wounded, prepare supplies, and serve the warriors, and so on. Muslim women were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless creatures and deprived of souls. She is equal to man in the pursuit of education and knowledge. When Islam enjoins the seeking of knowledge upon Muslims, it makes no distinction between man and woman. Over fourteen centuries ago, Muhammad PBUH declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim male and female. This declaration was very clear and should be implemented by Muslims.

In England, where the personality of the woman was wholly obscured in the personality of her husband, two laws, one in 1870, and the other in 1882, were passed under the name of the “The Married Woman’s Property Act” and thus the interdiction was raised from woman. In Italy in 1919 AD, a law removed woman from the category of interdicted persons. In the Civil Law of Germany after 1990, and in the Civil Law of Sweden after 190, a woman has the same legal capacity as her husband. It was the greed and covetousness of mill owners pushing them to make more profit and to pay less wages which caused them to put up the draft of the Act for the financial independence of women in the British Parliament and not for any moral considerations. This independence was however given to women over fourteen centuries ago in Islam:

“To the men a share from what they have earned, and to the women a share of what they have earned.” (Quran 4:32)

In another place, the Quran ordains:

“To the men a share of what parents and kinsmen leave, and to the women a share of what parents and kinsmen leave.” (Quran 4:7)
Time and again, the Quran reproaches those who used to believe woman to be inferior to man (Quran 16:57-59, 62; 42:47-59; 43:15-19; 53:21-23).

In pre-Islamic societies, woman was treated like an object of use and abuse, man could have as many has he desired. It was Islam that brought dignity to woman and gave her the rights to life, to her own legal identity, to be educated, to inherit from her family, to keep and manage her own wealth (including her wages), to offer, or agree to, or refuse an offer of marriage, to write and fulfill legal contracts, to vote, divorce, to earn her own way into heaven, to be provided for her by her family until marriage, thereafter by her husband and lastly to face the same reward or punishment as that of man. As some believe in the notion that Eve is to be ultimately responsible for original sin and the downfall of man, as such, an essentially inferior status for women somewhat got institutionalized. The Quran puts women and men on equal footing before God and thus equally, and innately, valuable to society.

Woman is exempt from some religious duties, i.e. prayers and fasting, in her regular periods or during any post-natal blood discharge. She is exempt from all financial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honor in the sight of God (Quran 31:14-15; 46:15).

The Prophet acknowledged this honor when he declared that Paradise is under the fee of the mothers. As a future wife she 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 Islamic that the woman should beautify herself in a way that reflects dignity, chastity, purity and integrity. The status of woman in Islam is unprecedented and realistically suitable to her nature.

“And women shall have rights to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them.” (Quran 2:228)

This degree is not a title of man’s supremacy or an authorization of dominance over the woman. It is correspond with the extra responsibilities of man and give him some compensation for his unlimited liabilities. The above-mentioned verse is always interpreted in the light of another. (Quran 4:34) It is these extra responsibilities that give man a degree over woman in some economic aspects. It is not a higher degree in humanity or in character. Nor is it a dominance of one over the other or suppression of one by the other. It is a distribution of God’s abundance according to the needs of nature of which God is the Maker, and He knows best what is good for woman and what is good for man. God is absolutely true when He declares:

“O mankind! Fear your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, and created of like nature his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women.” (Quran 4:1)

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