Worth and Rights of women in Islam
Islam is the second largest religion in the world today. Islam regards women as equal to men in many aspects and that women have a unique place in Islam.
In the pre-Islamic Arabian society a females were seen as a burden and many were the victims of infanticide because they were in need of protection from capture and were seen as a drain on the family’s meager resources.
Women were in a humiliated state; they led a painful, wretched life with no rights and obligations that surpassed their abilities. A woman would spend her entire life, from her cradle to the grave, in misery and suffering. If she happened to escape being a victim of female infanticide, as was the custom of the times, her life ahead was certain to be degrading, as women were often treated as worthless objects.
Indeed, if females were not even guaranteed their birthright to live, what kind of life did they lead? The most common form of ridding the family of an unwanted girl was to “bury her in the dust” which was done while the child was still alive. Once established, Islam condemned this practice and required that “…those who had killed their daughters in the time of the jahiliyyah make expiation for their heinous act.” The Prophet said, “Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, [Allah] will enter him into paradise.” The words of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) sharply contrast with the commonly accepted portrayal of women’s importance in Islamic society. The search for the truth behind the stereotypes and misinterpreted ideas is an eye-opening voyage into the lives of Muslim women.
With the advent of Islam, the darkness of that era vanished and Allah enjoined kindness, love and compassion towards girls. Taking good care of girls was encouraged, as was giving them special attention in the process of their upbringing. In fact, Islam has designated a special reward for raising them that is not granted for raising sons.
Anas (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “He who raises two daughters until their puberty will be with me in Paradise like this”(Muslim). Islam emerged and raised women from their appalling and disgraceful reality to a respectable life. In Islam, women are beloved, whether as pampered young daughters, endeared sisters, adored wives or honoured mothers.
According to the Islamic law, men and women are equal with respect to responsibilities and rights. Men and women are both expected to fulfill certain roles but none of these diminishes the importance of women. An increasingly higher number of Muslim women are now as educated as their male counterparts. Allah created men and women for a purpose and revealed their responsibilities in the Qur’an. Men and women are required to lead the moral life prescribed by Allah, worship and serve Him, and to win His pleasure. In Islam there is no distinction or separation between the sacred and the secular. For Muslims, Islam covers every aspect of life: religion and society.
Even the minutest details of public and private life are ventured to, such as the family, business, food, personal etiquette and hygiene. As a result Islam has its prying eyes targeted into the private and public life of her members, especially the life of her female members. Allah has revealed the steps that women need to take to ensure their protection and respect within society, and for them to find the love and dignity that they deserve. All of these measures benefit women and seek to prevent damage to their interests or any form of oppression and unnecessary stress.
All men and women were created by Allah without being subjected to one another. In every aspect of their lives, Islam has ensured gender equality and women’s rights. Islam is the faith that liberated women by granting them equal rights to their male counterparts. To comprehend the rights, honor, dignity of women in Islam we can infer it from Hazrat Khadija (RA), the first wife of Prophet Mohammad(SAW). Hazrat Khadija is a shining example of a strong, independent Muslim woman with an entrepreneurial spirit, successful in business, spirituality; she also defies and refutes the stereotypes of women in Islam that people hold today. The Prophet (SAW) treated women with respect. “Fear Allah in respect of women. The best of you are those who treat their wives the best,” He admonished Muslims.
Thus, it is very much necessary for each one of us to understand the worth and right of women concerning Islam and create a harmonious world breaking off all stereotypes so that the world knows that Muslim women are not slaves or animals, they can do wonders too like other independent women of the world. They have their rights and duties. Islam does not allow men to dominate women; rather, it protects women’s rights, dignity, honour, and position by promoting gender equality and equal rights for both men and women in all aspects of life.
In Islam, a woman is completely self-regulating who has a legal personality and who can enter into a contract or can make a bequest in her name. She is free to choose her husband and is also entitled to dower and maintenance. She has the right to perform any profession or business and has the authority to dispose of her property like men. She is entitled to inheritance in different capacities like as a mother, as a wife, as a sister, and as a daughter. In Islam, a mother is held in higher regard than any other person. Many verses in the holy Quran enjoin Muslims to show respect for their mothers and to serve them properly, even if they have abandoned Islam and are still unbelievers.
Women are most respected and honored in Islam: “If she is a wife, she is a life partner; if she is a mother, paradise is under her feet; if she is a daughter, it is Almighty Allah’s blessing. As one of the two important pillars of society in Islam, women, like men, have a variety of obligations to the family and community. Laziness, conceit, and those who do not work are not tolerated in Islam. In Islam, there is no distinction between men and women when it comes to employment, and both are required to work.
Women in Islam have the choice to choose their job, but they must keep in mind that they have some limits owing to their physical constitution because they are wonderful, sensitive, attractive individuals. In terms of property ownership, Islam accords women the same respect as men. She has the right to acquire property by legal ways and become its owner, as well as the right to dispose of it in whatever legal manner she sees fit. In Islam acquiring knowledge is obligatory for both men and women.
In this regard, an unmarried woman has full freedom to acquire knowledge and nobody can obstruct her from acquiring knowledge. A married woman also has the right of acquiring knowledge but she must observe the right of her husband and children. Islam ensured the political independence of men and women. She can participate in political conventions, street demonstrations, congregations, etc. A woman has the freedom to choose residence for herself.
Islam is the complete and comprehensive code of life which covers all aspects of human life from cradle to grave. Islam has guaranteed the rights of women in every sphere of life like men. Islam gives women social security in the form of Maher, maintenance and share of inheritance. Under Muslim Law, a woman has the unfettered right to Maher, maintenance, and share the Inheritance. This study examine and determine the actual position of Muslim women and the extent to which she is protected under Islamic law.
Islam encourages both men and women to learn and seek knowledge – according to one prophetic tradition, from the cradle to the grave. According to another tradition, “seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim.” Throughout Muslim history there have been notable Muslim women who excelled in their fields of knowledge, beginning with Aisha bint Abi Bakr who narrated over 2,000 hadith. They include such notable figures as Rabi’ah Bint Mu’awwad, a great scholar of law in Medina, Umm ‘Atiyyah, who taught male scholars Islamic law, and A’isha bint Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas who had many famous male scholars as her pupils.
A Muslim woman, Fatima al Fihri, is the founder of the school that the Guinness Book of World Records calls the oldest continuously operating institution of higher education in the world, al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco, established in 859. Nana Asma’u’s 19th century education for women makes her name still a popular choice for schools and women’s educational organizations in Northern Nigeria. Worldwide there are growing numbers of Muslim women in all levels and fields of education. There is an equal or higher ratio of women to men in Muslim majority countries such as Jordan, Algeria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, U.A.E., Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. In Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, there is a higher percentage of women in sciences than in some Western nations. The percentage of women with a post-secondary education, include 52% in Iran, 34% in Egypt, 32% in Saudi Arabia, and 37% in Lebanon. In the United States a Gallup Poll found that more American Muslim women (42%) have college degrees than both American Muslim men (39%).
The role and place of Women in Islam has changed drastically, in a positive way, over the past millennium: the changes can be greatly attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and the Qur’an. To understand the changes in women’s rights and freedoms, one must understand their role and place before Islam was created, which happened in the Arabia Peninsula, now Saudi Arabia. Before Islam was formed women lacked many of the basic human rights, and they were treated as more of a burden in their culture then someone who should be respected, but that is not the case today. Though women in Islam have gained many rights, there is still some controversy over whether or not women are still being oppressed and treated like second class citizens compared
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.”……….. (Qur’an 28:229)
“The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman.”………………..Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
(The author is an educationist and regularly contributes to ‘Kashmir Vision’)