The status of women in Islam
Fellow of the Islamic academy of sciences
Generally speaking, females represent the physically, psychologically and emotionally weaker half of the human race. This physical weakness is compensated by numerous instinctive powers in the form of super-sensual conceptions that are usually lacking in males. Nevertheless, this render half of humanity has always been dominated, maltreated, oppressed and exploited by the stronger half in the absence of the proper form of divine guidance. This fact can be clearly demonstrated by a fair review of the status of women throughout history.
Women in pre-Islamic civilizations and traditions:-
1) In the ancient Chinese civilization, women were regarded as disqualified minors; nothing was considered inferior to a woman. The Chinese rule presumed that "women were created and placed at the most inferior point of human race, and should be given the meanest work". Stemming from this, women had no rights what so ever (cf. Wil Durant, Chinese civilization).
2) In the ancient Indian civilization, the Manu law emphasized the subjection of women as a cardinal principle, that women are unclean and that they must be excluded from inheritance. In one of its articles (# 148) it reads that: "in childhood, a female must be subject to her father, and later to her husband. When her lord dies, she will be subject to his sons or his next of kin, for a woman must never be independent". It adds "there is no creature more sinful than woman".
The "Rite of sati" which stipulates that a Hindu widow should burn herself on the pyre of her deceased husband was in practice until lake in the 18th century and in parts of
is still practiced up fill now. India
Recently, it was reported that more than five million widows are homeless, through expulsion by their late husbands' families or their own families.
3) In the ancient Greek civilization women were considered as minors, subject to some male control, her name as well as her body should be concealed behind the doors of her home and her consent on marriage was generally thought to be unnecessary.
4) In ancient
, women were considered to have no rights, no powers and no will. A Roman wife was described as : " a babe , a minor , a ward , a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste , a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband (cf. Allen , 1889 , v. 3 , p. 550). Women were generally looked down upon as chattels that were trafficked in, and were treated as slaves or housemaids. Considered as inferior to man, a wife had to sit on the ground in the presence of her husband, and follow a foot while he rode (cf. Wil Durant, history of the world). In the ancient Roman law, a woman was completely dependent on some man. If married, she and her property would pass into the power of her husband. The wife was considered a purchased property of her husband, and like a slave, is only acquired for his benefit. A woman could never exercise any civil or public office …, she could never be a witness, a surety, a tutor, or a curator; she could never make a will or sign a contract. Rome
In the Roman law, women were looked down upon as incapacitated beings, as children or insane persons. Age minority, insanity and womanhood were the main reasons for disqualifying any person. Both female children and wives had no independent status throughout the life of their guardians, who had full authority on them, including the right to sell, expel, torture imprison and even kill.
5) In the old Scandinavian law, women were under perpetual tutelage, whether unmarried or married. If a woman were to marry without the consent of her tutor, he was given the right to administer and usufruct her property during her life (cf. encyclopedia Britannica, v. 28, p. 783).
6) According to the old English common law: "… all real property which a wife held at the time of her marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land, and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband's transferring of real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife's personal property, the husband's power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit".
Only by the late 19th century the " married women's property act " which came out in 1870 C.e. and was amended in 1882 C.e. and 1887 C.e. gave married women the right to own property and to enter contracts on a par with spinsters , widows and divorcees (cf. encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition , 1968 , v. 23 , p. 624) .
Under the title of "the subjection of women", John Stuart mill wrote: " … meanwhile, the wife is the actual bondservant of her husband; no less so than slaves ".
7) The encyclopedia biblical (1902, v. 3, pp. 2942-2947) states that: " to betroth a wife to oneself meant simply to acquire possession of her by payment of the purchase money; the betrothed is a bought girl for whom the purchase money has been paid … the girl's consent is unnecessary, and the need for it is nowhere suggested in the law … the woman, being man's property, his right to divorce her follows as a matter of course … ".
8) In the Jewish tradition, women were given a very inferior status, being considered unclean and untouchable during their periods. Whether daughter or wife a woman had no right of inheritance as long as there were male off springs to inherit the deceased father or husband.
Moreover, the woman herself could be inherited by either the father, brother, husband or any male in the family. Following the book of exodus, Egyptian Jews have the following article in their civil status law (article # 36) which states that "in the absence of a male offspring, the widow shall marry the brother of her dead man, and shall be to nobody but himself, unless he dissolves this wedlock".
9) The new testament is completely devoid of any injunction on the family life , but the early Christian traditions did not only follow the Jews in affirming the inferior status of women , but also deprived them of a number of legal rights they had previously enjoyed .
In their book entitled "marriage east and west", David and Vera Mace (1960 p. 80, 81) wrote:
"It would be hard to find anywhere a collection of more degrading references to the female sex than the early church fathers provide". These two authors (op. cit.) quote Lecky, the famous historian, where he speaks of "these fierce incentives which form so conspicuous and so grotesque a portion of the writing of the fathers" in his own words as follows:
"… The woman was represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is a woman.
She should live in continual penance on account of the curses she has brought upon the world. She should be ashamed of her dress, for it is the memorial of her fall. She should be especially ashamed of her beauty, for it is the most potent instrument of the devil".
David and Vera Mace (op. cit.) also quote Tertulian in his most scathing attack on women where he wrote addressing them: " do you know that you are each an eve? The sentence of God on the sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must – of necessity – live too.
You are the devil's gateway; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserters of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.
You destroyed so easily God's image, man …"
10) In pagan
Arabia women had no rights at all. They used to be looked upon as commodities to be bought and inherited. Because of such very low value assigned to women, the ugly habit of burying baby girls alive was widespread in some tribes for fear of shame. This female infant side is a cruel, murdering crime that reflects the attitudes of some parents who detested and rejected their female infants, and portrays an image for the status of woman in these days of ignorance (jahiliyyah). Among other bad habits of the pagan Arabs was that a widow was herself subject to be inherited along with the property of her dead husband.
Women in Islam:
The Glorious Qur'an was revealed more than fourteen centuries ago with the clear emphasis that both the fore-parents of the human race Adam and eve (may Allah be pleased with them both) had been created from one single soul ["O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Hawwa (Eve)), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an AllWatcher over you." (
An-Nisâ' (The Women):1). Surat
"It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and (then) He has created from him his wife (Hawwa (Eve)), in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her. When he had sexual relation with her, she became pregnant and she carried it about lightly. Then when it became heavy, they both invoked Allah, their Lord (saying): "If You give us a Salih (good in every aspect) child, we shall indeed be among the grateful." (
Al-A'râf (The Heights): 189). Surat
"And Allah has made for you wives of your own kind, and has made for you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has bestowed on you good provision. Do they then believe in false deities and deny the Favour of Allah (by not worshipping Allah Alone)." (
An-Nahl (The Bees): 72). Surat
"The Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you mates from yourselves, and for the cattle (also) mates. By this means He creates you (in the wombs). There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer." (
Ash-Shûra (The Consultation): 11). etc.]. Surat
The Noble Qur'an also came down with the emphasis that our fore-mother eve (may Allah be pleased with her) is not alone blamed for Adam's first sin. Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to the divine order, both recognized their mistake and repented, and both were forgiven " Then the Shaitan (Satan) made them slip therefrom (the
Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: "Get you down, all, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time." (Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 36), " Then Shaitan (Satan) whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: "Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals." 20. " And he (Shaitan (Satan)) swore by Allah to them both (saying): "Verily, I am one of the sincere wellwishers for you both." 21. "So he misled them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to stick together the leaves of Paradise over themselves (in order to cover their shame). And their Lord called out to them (saying): "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: Verily, Shaitan (Satan) is an open enemy unto you?" 22. "They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers." 23. "(Allah) said: "Get down, one of you an enemy to the other (i.e. Adam, Hawwa (Eve), and Shaitan (Satan), etc.). On earth will be a dwellingplace for you and an enjoyment, - for a time." 24." ( Al-A'râf (The Heights): 20-24). Indeed, Adam was specifically blamed alone in one Qur'anic verse at least "Then they both ate of the tree, and so their private parts appeared to them, and they began to stick on themselves the leaves from Surat Paradise for their covering. Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray." ( Tâ-Hâ): 121). Surat
The Qur'anic guidance declares in numerous verses the fact that men and women are integrating, equal halves of the human race. They are equal in their humanitarian nature, rights and obligations, despite their physical, physiological, psychological and emotional differences which integrate and are essential for the making and continuity of a balanced life for the human race. These marked and indisputable differences between men and women, do not imply any supremacy of one of the sexes over the other, as they only reflect their integral and complementary roles in life.
Indeed , both the Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) have emphasized the spiritual, religious, intellectual, social, economic and political equality between men and women, raising women to their natural position in the human society and returning to them their honour and dignity which have always been lost in the absence of the true form of divine guidance .
Enough to mention that one of the lengthiest chapters (Suras) in the Holy Qur'an (Chapter # 4) is entitled An-Nisâ' (the women). this Qur'anic chapter covers social parameters such as women , their relationship to the other sex , marriage , family rights for and obligations on each member , orphans , inheritance , dealing with family disputes and the recalcitrant in the larger family and in the society at large . It emphasizes the necessity of divine guidance in such matters where man alone can never give a fair judgment.
Another lengthy Surah (Chapter) in the Qur'an is called Al-Imran or (the family of Imran) the father of Mary, mother of Jesus (may Allah be pleased with them both). the 19th chapter in the Qur'an is entitled Maryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus; the 58th Qur'anic chapter is named Al-Mujadilah (the pleading woman); the 60th chapter is entitled Al-Mumtahanah (the tested woman); both chapters # 65 and 66 which are named Al-Talaq (the divorce) and Al-Tahreem (the act of forbidding), respectively, deal with family and social matters including divorce, its necessity as a last resort, when all forms of reconciliation fail to preserve the family bondage (as Islam does not compel unhappy couples to stay together) and the necessary precautions the Qur'an prescribes against the abuse of such license, which – out of all things – is the most hateful to Allah, but permitted by Him. Indeed, the incompatibility of certain individuals and the weaknesses of human nature require certain outlets and safeguards if the sanctity of marriage is not to be made into a fetish at the expense of human life. These two Qur'anic chapters explain how far can the opposition of one sex against the other, or the lack of harmony between the two sexes, the turning away from sex in general, or the perversion of this divinely granted relation ship can be highly injurious to the higher interests of the individuals, their families and the society at large.
Enough to mention that two of the most highly praised figures in the Glorious Qur'an are Maryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus (peace be upon them both) and (
Asia) the wife of the Pharoe of Moses (p.b.u.h.).
Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"The most generous (in character) amongst you is the one who is kind to women, and the wicked of you is the one who insults them".
In his farewell pilgrimage speech Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"I enjoin upon you to deal with women in a fair and a just way as they are the twin half of men ".
The rights of women in Islam
The rights of women in Islam have been fully detailed in the Glorious Qur'an and in the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) so that no Muslim male could try to get around them, out selfishness or personal greed. These female rights can be briefly summarized as follows:
a) Spiritual equality between men and women in Islam:
The Noble Qur'an reads:
"O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Hawwa (Eve)), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an AllWatcher over you." (
An-Nisâ' (The Women): 1). Surat
The address here "O mankind!" includes both men and women. Their creation from a single soul testifies for the fact that men and women are equal halves of the human race, and hence are equal in their human nature, intellectual capabilities, rights and obligations. This divine declaration nullifies all discriminatory practices introduced by man in the absence of the true form of divine guidance. Heeding our Creator implies listening to His instructions and obeying them, including this equality between the ……… sexes being " heedful of the wombs " draws our attention to the biological fact of this sex equality, and reminds us of the origin of our existence in the mother's womb, and the rights and obligations this fact implies. Equality between men and women is not only a human right and a pre-requisite for social justice, hut it is above all an act of worship following this divine decree, any violation of which will necessitate the ………. punishment in this world and in the world to come.
The Glorious Qur'an emphasizes the fact that the only means of distinction between human beings is their degree of piety and heedfulness of Allah as it reads:
"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (i.e. one of the Muttaqoon (pious). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (
Al-Hujurât (The Dwellings): 13). Surat
The Noble Qur'an also emphasizes that it is one's deeds (not one's gender) that counts as it reads:
"Every person is a pledge for what he has earned, (
Al-Muddaththir (The One Enveloped): 38). Surat
The Qur'an stipulates that believing men and women are supporters of one another in enjoining what is just and in forbidding what is evil and in worshipping Allah in the way He Has prescribed, as it reads:
"The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Maroof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. 71. " Allah has promised to the believers -men and women, - Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Adn (
Eden Paradise). But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success. 72. ( At-Taubah (The Repentance): 71-72). Surat
The word " Nas " (= Mankind) which includes both men and women is mentioned in the Glorious Qur'an 242 times, which clearly testify to the unity of the human race and the equality of both men and women as two facets of the same soul .
b) Religious equality between men and women in obligation and reward:
The Glorious Qur'an reads:
"So their Lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), "Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another, so those who emigrated and were driven out from their homes, and suffered harm in My Cause, and who fought, and were killed (in My Cause), verily, I will remit from them their evil deeds and admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise); a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards." (
Al-Imran (The Family of Imran): 195). Surat
The Noble Qur'an also reads:
"And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a true believer in the Oneness of Allah (Muslim), such will enter Paradise and not the least injustice, even to the size of a Naqeera (speck on the back of a datestone), will be done to them." (
An-Nisâ' (The Women): 124). Surat
The same meaning is repeated once more (16: 97) where the Qur'an reads:
"Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter)." (
An-Nahl (The Bees): 97). Surat
Despite the fact that the general address in the Qur'an uses the masculine gender, it is equally applicable to both men and women. This has been spelled out in many Qur'anic verses which literally address both males and females.
The Noble Qur'an stipulates that both man and woman are equally obliged to practice their Islam in full and that their deeds are equally regarded. In practicing their religious obligations such as uttering the Islamic declaration (the Shahadah) , offering the ……… prayers, giving alms, fasting the month of Ramadan and performing pilgrimage by whoever can afford it, the Qur'an calls upon both male and female Muslims with the same address. In carrying out such religious obligations there is no difference whatsoever between men and women except for the limited time of the females' monthly period, when they are exempted from both daily prayers and fasting. Females are also exempted from fasting during their pregnancy and nursing periods if there is any threat to their health or to the life of their babies. Missed obligatory fasting days can be made-up for whenever the woman can, but missed prayers are forgiven.
The Glorious Qur'an reads:
"Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam) men and women, the believers men and women (who believe in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast) (the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the optional Nawafil fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc. for more than 300 times extra over the remembrance of Allah during the five compulsory congregational prayers) or praying extra additional Nawafil prayers of night in the last part of night, etc.) Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e.
Paradise). 35. It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error." 36. ( Al-Ahzâb (The Confederates): 35, 36). Surat
This same address to believers, men and women is repeated several times throughout the Noble Qur'an [e.g. "The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Maroof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. 71. Allah has promised to the believers -men and women, - Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Adn (
Eden Paradise). But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success. "72. ( At-Taubah (The Repentance): 71, 72); Surat
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers or their brothers sons, or their sisters sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. (
An-Nûr (The Light):31); Surat
"And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin." (
Al-Ahzâb (The Confederates): 58); Surat
"So know (O Muhammad SAW) that La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women. And Allah knows well your moving about, and your place of rest (in your homes). "(
Muhammad: 19); Surat
"That He may admit the believing men and the believing women to Gardens under which rivers flow (i.e. Paradise), to abide therein forever, and to expiate from them their sins, and that is with Allah, a supreme success," (
Al-Fath (The Victory):5) Surat
"They are the ones who disbelieved (in the Oneness of Allah Islamic Monotheism), and hindered you from AlMasjidalHaram (the sacred mosque of Makkah) and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom you did not know, that you may kill them, and on whose account a sin would have been committed by you without (your) knowledge, that Allah might bring into His Mercy whom He will, if they (the believers and the disbelievers) should have been apart, We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved, with painful torment. (
Al-Fath (The Victory): 25); Surat
"O you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them, Allah knows best as to their Faith, then if you ascertain that they are true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them. But give the disbelievers that (amount of money) which they have spent (as their Mahr) to them. And there will be no sin on you to marry them if you have paid their Mahr to them. Likewise hold not the disbelieving women as wives, and ask for (the return of) that which you have spent (as Mahr) and let them (the disbelievers, etc.) ask back for that which they have spent. That is the Judgement of Allah. He judges between you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." 10. " And if any of your wives have gone from you to the disbelievers, and you have an accession (by the coming over of a woman from the other side), then pay to those whose wives have gone, the equivalent of what they had spent (on their Mahr). And fear Allah in Whom you believe." 11. "O Prophet! When believing women come to you to give you the Baia (pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood (i.e. by making illegal children belonging to their husbands), and that they will not disobey you in any Maroof (Islamic Monotheism and all that which Islam ordains) then accept their Baia (pledge), and ask Allah to forgive them, Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." 12. (
Al-Mumtahanah (The Woman to be examined): 10-12); Surat
"My Lord! Forgive me, and my parents, and him who enters my home as a believer, and all the believing men and women. And to the Zalimoon (polytheists, wrong-doers, and disbelievers, etc.) grant You no increase but destruction!" (
Nûh (Noah): 28); Surat
"Verily, those who put into trial the believing men and believing women (by torturing them and burning them), and then do not turn in repentance, (to Allah), will have the torment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning Fire." (
Al-Burûj (The Big Stars): 10), etc.] . Surat
This testifies to the absolute equality between men and women in Islam, despite their (natural differences physical, physiological, psychological and emotional differences) which have to be taken into account without the slightest infringement on the rights and obligations of each gender.
The equality between men and women in Islam stems from the basic purpose of their creation : to worship their creator in the way He has prescribed and to play their role on earth as successful vice-gerents who are not only constructive elements , but witnesses and conveyors of truth to all mankind and protectors of the divine justice . Through their sincere efforts for the implementation of the divine code of life, Muslim men and women can fulfill their goal on earth and achieve the pleasure of their Creator. This noble goal cannot be reached through the single efforts of one gentler, as it needs the combined and collective efforts of both men and women.
c) Intellectual equality between males and females in Islam:
With the clear recognition of the physical, physiological, psychological and emotional differences between males and females, Islam emphasizes their intellectual equality. Both men and women are exhorted to seek knowledge, cherish it, preserve it and propagate it to the best of their abilities. Both are credited with their capacity to learn and to gain both knowledge and wisdom. Their spiritual and religious equality in both obligations and reward confirm their intellectual equality.
This equalitarian judgment for the two human genders is explicitly stated in the Glorious Qur'an and expelled in the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.).
Enough to mention that the very firstly revealed verses from the Noble Qur'an came down with the divine instruction (ÅÞÑÃ) to read and write , and with the honoring of the tool of writing (the pen) by which Allah has taught mankind (males and females) all what they never knew before.
These were followed by hundreds of other verses that exhort humanity at large (males and females alike) to seek knowledge and wisdom in both their revealed and acquired forms. Revealed knowledge come down to man as a divine guidance in areas that cannot possibly be correctly addressed by the human intellect, while acquired knowledge is gained by man through a continued process of observation and conclusion and for experimentation, observation and conclusion.
The Glorious Qur'an invites all human beings (males and females) to think deeply about themselves, their creation and the creation of other living beings around themselves; about the earth they live on, and the rest of the universe they live in, its creation, structure, composition, phenomena and governing laws; about the history of mankind on earth, and the reasons behind the rise and fall of human civilizations.
The Qur'anic address here is always to mankind (with both its male and female components) because such knowledge is essential to the various members of humanity to play their role successfully as vicegerents on earth and to become move conscious of their Creator.
The Glorious Qur'an reads:
"And of men and AdDawab (moving living creatures, beasts, etc.), and cattle, in like manner of various colours. It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Al-lMighty, Oft-Forgiving."(
Fâtir (The Originator of Creation): 28) Surat
The Qur'an also reads:
"Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: "Are those who know equal to those who know not?" It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allahs Signs and Verses)." (
Az-Zumar (The Groups): 9) Surat
The Qur'an adds:
"O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. Allah will give you (ample) room (from His Mercy). And when you are told to rise up (for prayers, Jihad (holy fighting in Allahs Cause), or for any other good deed), rise up. Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do." (
Al-Mujâdilah (The Woman Who Disputes): 11) Surat
And Allah (s. w. t.) advises His blessed Prophet to ask for knowledge as the Qur'an reads:
"Then High above all be Allah, the True King. And be not in haste (O Muhammad SAW) with the Quran before its revelation is completed to you, and say: "My Lord! Increase me in knowledge." (
Tâ-Hâ : 114) Surat
Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim (male and female).
In another authentic Hadith (saying), he (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave"
And he (p.b.u.h.) sums up his message in education by saying:
"I was only sent as an educator"
This drive for gaining knowledge has made the mosques real centers for learning and educating both Muslims (male and female). Muslim women used to have their own study circles with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in his own mosque, and with a large number of his successors thereafter.
The very first three universities in the whole world [Al-Zaytounah (79 A.h., 698 C.e.) Al-Qarawiyoun (245 A.h., 859 C.e.) and Al-Azhar (361 A.h., 970 C.e.)] Were established in mosques and are still functioning today. The university of Al-Qarawiyyoun was established by a Muslim lady with the name of "Fatimah Al-fihriyyah" (ÝÇØãÉ ÇáÝåÑíÉ).
Throughout the Islamic history, many learned women have left their distinguished impressions in many different disciplines of human knowledge. These were highly regarded for both their scholarly status and Islamic commitment. Of these, enough to mention our lady, "Aaishah", the Prophet's wife, who is considered one of the most reliable sources for "Hadith", lady "Nafeesah" (a descendant of Aly bin Abou Taleb) who was such a great authority on "Hadith" that imam Al-Shafiy sat in her study circle in the mosque of Umre bin Al-Aas, when he was at the height of his fame, and lady "Shuhdah" who lectured publicly in one of the principal mosques of Baghdad. Many other Muslim women were famous as religious scholars, teachers, poets, writers, philosophers, medical doctors, social workers and rulers in their own rights. Indeed, every encouragement has always been given to the Muslim woman to pursue her studies in any field that suites her nature and intellectual abilities, subject to certain religious and moral precepts laid down in the Holy Qur'an and in the traditions of prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.).
d) Social equality between males and females in Islam:
The Islamic equality between males and females, spiritually, religiously and intellectually is reflected in their social equality at all levels. Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said: "women are the twin-halves of men", and consequently has rejected any form of discrimination between male and female children by saying: "if I should have to make any preference, it would be for women". Accordingly, the jurisprudence of Islam bounds men and women equally. Injunctions of duties and obligations are addressed to women as they are to men, except in matters bearing on the physical differences specific to any of the two sexes.
The extra-care towards female children and adolescents, and the Islamic emphasis on treating them with justice and kindness is explicit in the Prophetic sayings:
"Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, Allah will enter him into paradise ".
(Ibn Hanbal # 1957)
"Whosoever supports two daughters (or two sisters), till them mature, he and I will come on the Day of Judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)".
(Ibn Hanbal # 2104)
These Prophetic sayings came at a time when female infanticide was a common practice among many pagan tribes. The Glorious Qur'an came down with the definite instruction to stop this cruel, murderous crime as the Qur'an reads:
"And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned." 8. "For what sin she was killed?" 9. (
At-Takwir (The Wound Round and Lost its Light): 8, 9) Surat
The Noble Qur'an also condemns the unfair rejection of female children by pagan parents as it reads:
"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!" 58. 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." 59. (
An-Nahl (The Bees): 58, 59) Surat
Despite this Qur'anic guidance , the preference to the male child still persists in many of the human societies, so much so that the termination of the life of a female fetus is currently practiced widely amidst both the Hindus of modern India and the Buddhists of modern china .
Islam categorically condemns any form of discrimination between a male and a female foetus. The birth ratio of males and females is a divine decision that should never be interrupted man. It keeps an almost equal ratio of males to females, and any human interference may tilt that balance and hence can have many sad consequences. Hence, the birth of a baby boy or a girl is equally important to the balance of the human society and a great gift from Allah to the parents and to their society for which both have to be thankful.
Islam, further inculcates a cheerful and positive feeling towards daughters and their good upbringing. Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Whoever is put to test by being given the custody of three daughters whom he treats generously, this act of his will shield him from hell-fire". A man in the audience asked: O Messenger of Allah even so if they were two? The Prophet answered: "Yes" and the man uttered: even if they were one, and the Prophet's answer was in the affirmative.
Islam enjoins upon Muslim to provide their daughters with the best possible upbringing, education and training, and see them well-fitted in marriage with a fine, Muslim match for each, and continue their concern about their proper existence even after marriage without too much interference with their private life unless needed. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Whoever nourishes three daughters, educates and trains them, gets them married (and afterwards) offers kindness to them with have his place reserved in paradise ".
A part from the spiritual bondage between parents and their daughters, Islam has made the proper maintenance of daughters a legal binding on her father (or her next in kin) until her marriage. After marriage, her maintenance is solely her husband's responsibility. If her husband dies or divorces her, and she lacks the adequate financial means, the responsibility goes to her children. If she has no children, this responsibility falls back on her nearest in kin starting by her father, grandfather, brothers, uncles, etc. If she remarries her full maintenance will be the responsibility of the new husband. Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Shall I not show you what is the greatest charity? (it is) to be grateful to your daughter who (after becoming widow or being divorced) is sent back to you and there is no one save you, who could be her financial supporter ".
As a wife, Islam maintains for the woman her spiritual, religious and intellectual equality in an interdependent relationship with her husband, governed by love and mercy. This intimate relationship does not infringe on the dignity, honour and free will of the wife, with the acceptance of the husband as the head of the family.
Both husband and wife have equal rights and claims to one another, but the family needs a leadership which is given to the husband in view of his physiological and psychological make-up.
The Qur'an reads:
"And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect."(
Ar-Rûm (The Romans): 21) Surat
In Islam, a female cannot be forced to marry anyone without her consent. On accepting the marriage, the bride alone has the full right to her "mahre" which is a marriage gift symbolizing love and affection not a purchase money as used to be looked upon. It is given by the bridegroom and is included in the marriage contract.
The Glorious Qur'an also reads:
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husbands absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husbands property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great." (
An-Nisâ' (The Women): 34) Surat
The Qur'an also adds:
"And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (
Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 228) Surat
This degree is described as (ÇáÞæÇãÉ) "Quiwamah" which means the responsibility for maintenance and protection. It does not imply any superiority or advantage, but stems from the natural differences between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to care and protection. This does not – in any way – imply that the husband should dictate everything in the running of the family affairs, as Islam emphasizes the importance of consultation and mutual agreement in family decisions. Marriage in Islam is a sharing process between husband and wife. Its bases are love and mercy and among its many objectives are tranquility, emotional stability and well-being, spiritual harmony, good company and the perpetuation of human life. Both husband and wife are expected to find tranquility in each other's company and be bound together by love and mercy. This comprises mutual care, consideration, respect and affection. Even if a sense of disliking develops as a result of everyday contact, both the Noble Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) strongly recommend kind treatment and decent companionship.
The Qur'an reads:
"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 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-Nisâ' (The Women): 19) Surat
Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family".
"The most perfect believers are the best in conduct, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives".
Again, in as much as the female's consent for marriage is mandatory in Islam, her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is also granted. However, due to the relatively more emotional nature of women, a convincing reason for divorce has to be presented. Not only this , but a wife can divorce herself if this right is stipulated in the nuptial certificate , or if she can do without her financial rights on her husband (Al-Khula) . In all cases, a gracious end for the marriage relationship is commanded in the Glorious Qur'an as it reads:
"The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. And it is not lawful for you (men) to take back (from your wives) any of your Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) which you have given them, except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah (e.g. to deal with each other on a fair basis). Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back (the Mahr or a part of it) for her Al-Khul (divorce). These are the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits ordained by Allah, then such are the Zalimoon (wrong-doers, etc.)." (
Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 229) Surat
"And when you have divorced women and they have fulfilled the term of their prescribed period, either take them back on reasonable basis or set them free on reasonable basis. But do not take them back to hurt them, and whoever does that, then he has wronged himself. And treat not the Verses (Laws) of Allah as a jest, but remember Allahs Favours on you (i.e. Islam), and that which He has sent down to you of the Book (i.e. the Quran) and Al-Hikmah (the Prophets Sunnah - legal ways - Islamic jurisprudence, etc.) whereby He instructs you. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is All-Aware of everything." (
Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 231) Surat
"O you who believe! When you marry believing women, and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no Iddah (divorce prescribed period, see (V.65:4)) have you to count in respect of them. So give them a present, and set them free i.e. divorce, in a handsome manner. "(
Al-Ahzâb (The Confederates): 49) Surat
As a mother, Islam assigns her the highest rank in the family. Despite excessive exhortations to be as kind as possible to one's parents, the mother usually comes before the father. The Noble Qur'an considers kindness to parents next to worshipping Allah. The Qur'an reads:
"And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour." 23. "And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small." 24. (
Al-Isrâ' (The Journey by Night): 23, 24) Surat
"And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination." 14. "But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do." 15. (
Luqmân: 14, 15) Surat
"And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty (30) months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: "My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds, such as please You, and make my off-spring good. Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am one of the Muslims (submitting to Your Will)." (
Al-Ahqâf (The Curved Sand-hills): 15) Surat
"And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents, but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do." (
Al-'Ankabût (The Spider): 8) Surat
A man came to Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) saying: O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company? The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) answered: "your mother"; the man added: then who else? The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "your mother"; the man uttered: then who else? The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) answered: "your mother"; the man asked: then who else? Only then did the prophet (p.b.u.h.) say: "your father".
(Al-Bukhary and Muslim)
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is also quoted to have repeatedly said:
Paradise is at the feet of mothers"
(Al-Aasaiy , Ibn Majah , Ahmad)
And to have said:
"I enjoin man about his mother, I enjoin man about his mother, I enjoin man about his mother"
(Bukhary and Muslim)
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was asked by his wife lady "Aaishah" (may Allah be pleased with her): o Messenger of Allah, who has the greatest right on man? The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) replied: "his mother" meaning that his mother has the greatest right on him.
Disobedience of and ungratefulness to one's parents is included in the category of major sins, as repeatedly mentioned by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). This is even more sinful if directed to mothers, as the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"Allah has forbidden you to be undutiful to mothers …"
e) Economic equality between men and women in Islam:
Islam stipulates the equal right of independent ownership for both males and females, a right from which women have been deprived under all other systems, past and present.
for example, the eligibility of women to contract was not granted until 1938 C.E. with this permission, a married woman was still required to secure her husband's permission before she could dispose with her own property. France
Contrary to this unjust stand, the Islamic law more than 14 centuries ago, has fully acknowledged the woman's right to her wealth (whether in the form of gold, silver and jewellary, cash money, real estate and other properties) and hex free will to dispose with it in the way she sees best to her (by selling, leasing, exchanging or donating part or … of it). This right does not change whether she is single or married, and is in force before and after marriage. In Islam, a woman cannot be considered as a minor, just because she is a female as has been wrongly practiced in many other constitutions.
As for a female's right to seek employment, Islam does not object to that whenever there is a necessity for it, and so long such employment suites her nature and does not force upon her situations forbidden by Allah. However, Islam puts the female's role in the society as a wife and a mother as her essential and most sacred obligation.
Islam, has (more than 14 centuries ago) restored to women the right of inheritance, after they themselves were an object of inheritance in a large number of societies and cultures.
The Qur'an reads:
" There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related, whether, the property be small or large - a legal share." (
An-Nisâ' (The Women): 7) Surat
Her share – in some cases – can be less than the share of her equivalent male, without the slightest implication of any inferiority. Such variation in the inheritance rights when it occurs between males and females is only consistent with their generation and financial responsibilities as detailed in the Islamic jurisprudence. This Islamic law holds man to be responsible for the maintenance of his wife and his children and in some cases of his needy relatives, especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived nor reduced under any circumstances.
Consequently, females are far more secure financially, and are far less-burdened with any claims. A wife's possessions do not transfer to her husband, while she receives her endowment (Mahre) from him as a private possession of hers. She has no obligations to spend on her family. If she is divorced she is entitled to an alimony, and if she is widowed she inherits her deceased husband. If the inherited share is not enough to give her a decent life, his should be covered by her children if she has any, by her father if he is still alive, by her brothers if she have any or by the next male in kin.
f) Political equality between males and females in Islam:
The equality between men and women in their political rights and in their rights to participate in public offices is clearly demonstrated by many examples in the Glorious Qur'an, in the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) and in the history of the Muslim Ummah. This includes both the right of election and of nomination to political offices.
"Indeed Allah has heard the statement of her (Khaulah bint Thalabah) that disputes with you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning her husband (Aus bin AsSamit), and complains to Allah. And Allah hears the argument between you both. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer." 1. "Those among you who make their wives unlawful (Az-Zihar) to them by saying to them "You are like my mothers back." They cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie. And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving. " 2. " And those who make unlawful to them (their wives) (by Az-Zihar) and wish to free themselves from what they uttered, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch each other. That is an admonition to you (so that you may not return to such an ill thing). And Allah is All-Aware of what you do." 3. And he who finds not (the money for freeing a slave) must fast two successive months before they both touch each other. And for him who is unable to do so, he should feed sixty of Miskeen (poor). That is in order that you may have perfect Faith in Allah and His Messenger. These are the limits set by Allah. And for disbelievers, there is a painful torment.4. (
Al-Mujâdillah (The Woman Who Disputes) : 1-4) Surat
"O you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them, Allah knows best as to their Faith, then if you ascertain that they are true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them. But give the disbelievers that (amount of money) which they have spent (as their Mahr) to them. And there will be no sin on you to marry them if you have paid their Mahr to them. Likewise hold not the disbelieving women as wives, and ask for (the return of) that which you have spent (as Mahr) and let them (the disbelievers, etc.) ask back for that which they have spent. That is the Judgement of Allah. He judges between you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." 10. "And if any of your wives have gone from you to the disbelievers, and you have an accession (by the coming over of a woman from the other side), then pay to those whose wives have gone, the equivalent of what they had spent (on their Mahr). And fear Allah in Whom you believe." 11." O Prophet! When believing women come to you to give you the Baia (pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood (i.e. by making illegal children belonging to their husbands), and that they will not disobey you in any Maroof (Islamic Monotheism and all that which Islam ordains) then accept their Baia (pledge), and ask Allah to forgive them, Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." 12. (
Al-Mumtahanah (The Woman to be examined): 10-12) Surat
Summary and conclusions
This compassionate and dignified status of women in Islam is decreed by our Creator and detailed in both the Glorious Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.). If has been practiced throughout the Islamic history and has proved to be the remedy for the unduly heated battle between the two sexes, and the numerous injustices there from. Contrary to the divine guidance, females have been highly dominated, maltreated, oppressed and exploited by the stronger males.
This has always ……… place in the absence of the right form of divine guidance , but with the advent of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) more than 14 centuries ago, Islam returned women to their natural place in the human society , and returned to them their honour, dignity and human rights .
Throughout history, the role of Muslim women (as wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, professionals and nationals) has always been the subject of admiration by impartial observers. Their knowledge, Islamic commitment, chastity, modesty and reputable maternal roles are examples to be emulated by the women of our time. Today, hysteric calls for more emancipation of women and exploitation of their feminism are rising loudly day after day.
The observation of the compassionate and dignified status of women in Islam is in itself a religious obligation. Any deviation from it is an Islamic violation. It completely differs from the 20th century women liberation movements, which started as a response to the tremendous injustices and humiliations to which the female half of the human society has been subjected to throughout most of the human history in defiance to the divine guidance.
The divinely decreed rights for women as detailed in both the Glorious Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) cannot be touched by man in any attempt to reduce, distort or cancel such rights. These are completely different from what the 20th century women liberation movements have achieved through a long struggle and many sacrifices. The Islamic rights for women are granted willingly by man as an act of worship, while the other rights are snatched by women in a rivalry and challenging battle that man feels to have lost. One of the sad consequences of this battle between the two sexes is the rush of modern women to the other extreme under the wrong slogans of emancipation, liberation and total equality with men. The net results of these unbalanced calls are more exploitation and degradation of females in all forms of the media, more corruption of the younger generations, more disruption of the family institution and destruction of the family bondage and the replacement of marriage by cohabitation, more deviations and perversions in the behavior of both males and females (e.g. homo-sexuality) and more destruction of man.
These modern waves of human deviations necessitate the return to the divine judgment on female rights as detailed in the Glorious Qur'an and it the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) as the only form of divine guidance to man that is still preserved in the same language of revelation (the Arabic language) .