Women's right and dignity in Islam
Mamun Ali Khan
TRAVELLING through the Islamic world, visitors notice that the status of women changes drastically from country to country. The westerners question why women in many Middle Eastern countries cover their heads and most of their bodies. They question the nature of freedom where women have very little political power or social clout.
In many cases the differences are based on local custom only. Wearing veils (meaning covering head to foot) for example is not required by the Qur'an, but in some places it is a local custom. Other than Islam's requirement that women dress modestly, most Muslim women are free to dress or free to behave like women of any other religion.
Historians note that before the rise of Islamic culture in the 7th century, women in much of the world had few rights and were considered little more than chattel. Against that background the Qumran and Islamic tradition were positively revolutionary in teaching that men and women are spiritually equal and that women have the right to own and inherit property, seek divorce, have education, retain one's family name after marriage and the right to vote.
Women enjoy all-important rights in Islam. As for example: 1. Islam has given her the right to own property. She is the owner of her earnings. She can dispose of her earnings and property as she wishes, within the parameters of halal and haram.
2. Islam has given her the right to inheritance. She is entitled to inherit
from her dead father, husband or childless brother.
3. She has a right to choose her husband. No one can impose a decision on her against her will. Any marital contract without her consent is simply null and void as far as Islamic law is concerned.
Women's status in Islam: 1. Allah has created every living being in pairs, male and female (Al-Qur'an 51:49). So the relation between man and woman is one of cooperation and not of antagonism.
2. Allah has honoured the children of Adam both male and female.
3. Men and women, who believe, are protectors of one another. They protect one another from any deviations.
4. Allah will reward both men and women in the life to come fully and without making any sort of distinction between man and woman.
5. The Qur'an asks the Muslims to treat women kindly. It makes Muslim husbands responsible for their wives' maintenance. The women in return are expected to remain obedient and chaste.
Significance of creation of women: Hajrat Muhammad (SAWS) our prophet said, "In your world there are three things which I prefer most. One is fragrance, one is woman and another is prayer." From these words it is proven that women's dignity in Islam is very high. Our prophet also said "When a man gets married half of his religious duty is fulfilled. Hereafter with a view to keeping up the rest of the religion they should be afraid of Allah. In the holy Qur'an it is said, "Women are your dress and you are also dress of them". Here women have given equal dignity of man. Hajrat Muhammad (SAWS) also said, "
Everything of this world are wealth or assets, among these assets women are the best assets." Hajrat Muhammad (SAWS) said' "The woman who gives birth a daughter, it is a sign of good luck in her life.
Woman as a daughter: Islam teaches us that virtue or piety is insisted on bringing up a daughter. Hajrat Muhammad (SAWS) said, "The man who has brought up two daughters up to a certain age, he and I would be very close at the time of resurrection. He also said "The man who brought up three daughters or sisters as well as taught them manner, heaven is fixed for him.
Woman as a mother: One prophetic tradition will suffice to clearly establish the unique position of the Mother in Islam. That Prophet (SAWS) said, "Paradise lies under the feet of mother". Another Hadith is they're stating the preponderant honour of mother over father. Once a man asked the Prophet (SAWS): O Messenger of Allah! Who deserves best care from me?" The Prophet (SAWS) replied: "Your mother". Again the man asked "who then: The Prophet (SAWS) said " Your mother". For the third time the man asked the Prophet (SAWS "Who then: The Prophet replied "Your mother". And the man asked for the fourth time "who then": The Prophet replied "Your Father" (Bukhari
Woman as a wife: In his farewell speech at Arafah on the tenth of Hijrah the Prophet (SAWS) said "O people, your wives have certain rights over you as you have certain rights over them. Treat them well and be kind to them for they are your partners and are committed helpers." In Islam the rights and status of a wife is described preciously in the Qu'ran and Sunnah. In fact only Islam gives her the worthy and glorious position. A woman becomes wife through marriage. She has the right to select her partner. As marriage is a sacred contract, the man and the woman must consider the selection process before marriage carefully. Our Prophet (SAWS) said "Do not marry even for the sake of wealth, may the wealth becomes the reason of disobedience; marry rather on the ground of religious devotion and piety."
Prophet (SAWS) urged to consider four points before selecting a spouse.
They are beauty, wealth, family status and piety. Piety should come before all other considerations.
In Surah Baqarah (2:187) it is mentioned, "They (wives) are your garments and you are their garments". The inward meaning of garments is peace and security. Abdullah Yousef Ali comments on this verse: "Men and women are each other's garments i.e. they are for mutual support, mutual comfort and mutual protection, filling into each other as garments fits the body. Garment is also both for show and concealment".
A wife is entitled to have some financial and non-financial rights from her husband. They are as follows: 1. The husband should give his wife the marriage gift or Mohr and this will be her own property.
2. The wife will get full maintenance from her husband e.g. food, clothing, housing, education, recreation, medication etc.
3. Even if the wife is rich, she need not spend single penny for her husband or family. All these are the responsibilities of her husband.
4. The mutually agreed conditions signed during the marriage contract
become binding on both the spouse
5. She has also the right to divorce her husband if necessary.
6. She can go to the court if her husband fails to meet her basic requirements.
7. The husband and wife have mutual inheritance rights from the time of marriage.
Woman as a witness: Other religions do not give any value of witness of women. But Islam gives value. Women have the right to give evidence in front of Kazi. But women's memory is weaker than a man so a woman's avoidance has been considered as half of the man.
Women in education: Other religions have strictly prohibited female education, but Islam says it is Faraj for every woman to learn reading and writing. Hajrat Muhammad (SAWS) said "To learn Elm is Faraj for every Mumin man as well as Mumina woman."
Inheritance law in Islam and women: Inheritance is the transfer of legal possession of deceased persons to their descendants. It is really a very tough job to determine the justified quantity or ratio of assets to be distributed among the dependants and relatives. According to the Encyclopaedia Americana, in English Common law all the real property held by women at the time of her marriage became the property of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and any profit that might be made from managing it.During the time of Prophet (SAWS) women themselves were objects of inheritance and they were considered part of the possession of a man. At such a critical juncture of history, Islam brought about a revolution in the domain of human thought and outlook towards women and established the right of women to inherit and has distributed the inheritance in a very upright way. This determined share is calculated by Allah Himself and cannot be changed.
A woman's role in society: Woman is the architect of the domestic life and her proper position in an ideal Islamic society should be correctly realised. The duties of men and women in society should be well defined. And women should not be assigned with such duties that are injurious to her nor is it befitting for her to destroy the domestic life and take part in such activities, which may prove harmful to her own self and the family as well.
In the history of Islam we notice that women held an important and significant place. And in the recent history also, as in Iran, women are playing an important and significant role even in state affairs. Nowhere in the normative teachings of Islam and in the ideal Islamic society, women are regarded as inferior to men. But it is a matter of regret that the West has spread misinformation and misunderstanding about the position of women in Islam and has thus done a great disservice to the cause of women by distorting and misinterpreting the facts of the Islamic history.
Conclusion: An unbiased and comprehensive study of the status of women in Islam clearly shows that Islam liberated women from the dark age of obscurity fourteen hundred years ago. In some cases, differences in social system in Islam between Muslim man and woman such as allowing polygamy (having more than one wives to the maximum of four) but not polyandry (having more than one husband at a time by a women); allowing marriage with non-Muslim (Christian and Jewish) women, not men, etc., may be a source of misgivings.
Actually these are based on ignorance rather than knowledge. A person with a reasonable knowledge of Islam can easily understand the reasons behind these small differences between men and women. Islam prescribes what is best for us considering the areas of interrelated life. Any imprecise knowledge about Islam will create misunderstanding and confusion. We should look into the matter as a whole, and not in a fragmented way.
Allah has not made man and woman in an identical fashion. So it would be against nature to try to have total equality between man and woman. Islam has done the just thing; it has ensured equity between the sexes.
In any case equality in its literal sense would destroy the social balance. Society will not prosper but would instead have insoluble problems such as broken marriages, illegitimate children and the break up of family life. These problems are already rife in the western societies. In the West, the women have been reduced almost to the position of commodity and an object of carnal enjoyment. And women have tended to degrade themselves into objects of exploitation by men and the slogans of liberty and equality have virtually reduced them to the status of a plaything. Women have neither liberty nor equality, rather they have lost their natural place at home and in society.
Islam has given woman her right position without attempting to violate her natural dispositions. Other religions and philosophies have been unable to visualise the exact and correct role of women until today.
The writer is Finance Manager of Bangladesh Telecom Limited