WOMEN IN ISLAM
WOMEN'S LIBERATION THROUGH ISLAM
Today people think that women are liberated in the West and that the
women's liberation movement began in the 20th century. Actually, the women's
liberation movement was not begun by women but was revealed by God to a man
in the seventh century by the name of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), who is
known as the last Prophet of Islam. The Qur'an and the Traditions of the
Prophet (Hadith or Sunnah) are the sources from which every Muslim woman
derives rights and duties.
I. Human Rights
Islam, fourteen centuries ago, made women equally accountable to God in
glorifying and worshipping Him - setting no limits on her moral progress.
Also, Islam established a woman's equality in her humanity with men.
In the Noble Qur'an, in the first verse of the chapter entitled "Women",
"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a
single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain has spread
abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in
Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and (do not cut the relations
of) the wombs (Kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you." (Qur'an,
4:1 ) .
Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their
humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as some religious believe) or then
men would be evil also.
Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a
contradiction of equality.
II. Civil Rights
In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on
recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her
religion. The Qur'an states:
"There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from
error." (Qur'an, 2:256 ) .
Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There
are many traditions of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) which indicate women would
pose questions directly to him and offer their opinions concerning religion,
economics and social matters.
A Muslim woman chooses her husband and keeps her name after marriage.
A Muslim woman's testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas in
which women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive.
III. Social Rights
Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim 'Male & Female'. This
includes knowledge of the Noble Qur'an and the Hadith as well as other
knowledge. Men and women both have the capacity for learning and
understanding. Since it is also their obligation to promote good behavior
and condemn bad behavior in all spheres of life, Muslim women must acquire
the appropriate education to perform this duty in accordance with their own
natural talents and interests.
While maintenance of a home, providing support to her husband, and bearing,
raising and teaching of children are among the first and very highly
regarded roles for a woman, if she has the skills to work outside the home
for the good of the community, she may do so as long as her family
obligations are met.
Islam recognizes and fosters the natural differences between men and women
despite their equality. Some types of work are more suitable for men and
other types for women. This in no way diminishes either's effort nor its
benefit. God will reward both sexes equally for the value of their work,
though it may not necessarily be the same activity.
Concerning motherhood, the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) said: "Heaven lies
under the feet of mothers." This implies that the success of a society can
be traced to the mothers that raised it. The first and greatest influence on
a person comes from the sense of security, affection, and training received
from the mother. Therefore, a woman having children must be educated and
conscientious in order to be a skillful parent.
IV. Political Rights
A right given to Muslim women by God 1400 years ago is the right to vote. On
any public matter, a woman may voice her opinion and participate in
politics. One example narrated in the Qur'an (60:12) is that Prophet
Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) is told that when the believing women come to him and
swear their allegiance to Islam, he must accept their oath. This established
the right of women to select their leader and publicly declare so.
Abdur-Rahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended Uthman Ibn
Affan to be the Caliph.
V. Economic Rights
The Noble Qur'an states:
"By Him Who created male and female; Verily, your efforts and deeds are
diverse (different in aims and purposes)." (Qur'an, 92:3-4 ) .
In these verses, God declares that He created men and women to be different,
with unique roles, functions and skills. As in society, where there is a
division of labour, so too in a family; each member has different
responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds that women are entrusted with the
nurturing role, and men, with the guardian role. Therefore, women are given
the right of financial support.
The Noble Qur'an states:
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made some
of them to excel others and because they spend of their wealth (for the
support of women)." (Qur'an, 4:34 ) .
This guardianship and greater financial responsibility that is given to men,
requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also
physical protection and kind and respectful treatment.
The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property,
to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her assets in any way she
pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her
earnings including her husband. The Qur'an states:
"And covet not the things in which Allah has made some of you excel others.
For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women
there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His Bounty.
Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything." (Qur'an, 4:32 ) .
A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur'an states:
"For men there is a share in what parents and relatives leave, and for women
there is a share of what parents and relatives leave, whether it be little
or much - a legal share." (Qur'an, 4:7 ) .
VI. Rights of a Wife
The Noble Qur'an states:
"And among His signs is that He created for you wives from among yourselves
that you may live in tranquility with them, and He has put between you
affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for people who
reflect." (Qur'an, 30:21 ) .
Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity, but in
fact, a sign from God! It is a relationship of mutual rights and obligations
based on divine guidance. God created men and women with complimentary
natures, and in the Qur'an, He laid out a system of laws to support
harmonious interaction between the sexes.
"...They are garments for your and you are garments for them." (Qur'an,
2:187 ) .
Clothing provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of
the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the other and
hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of the spouse.
To foster the love and security that comes with marriage, Muslim wives have
various rights. The first of the wife's rights is to receive mahr, a gift
from the husband that is part of the marriage contract and required for the
legality of the marriage.
The second right of the wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she may
have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter and
clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability and his
wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. The Qur'an states:
"Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose
resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given
him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah
will grant after hardship, ease."
( Qur'an, 65:7 ) .
God tells us men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership in
the family. His responsibility for obeying God extends to guiding his family
to obey God at all times.
A wife's rights also extend beyond material needs. She has the right to kind
treatment. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said: "The most perfect believers are the
best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are best to their wives." God tells us He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquility between
them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs, and
marriage is designed to fulfill those needs.
VII. Duties of a Wife
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations
to their husbands. The Qur'an states:
"The righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in the absence of
their husbands their rights as Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded." (Qur'an, 4:34 ) .
A wife is to keep her husband's secrets and protect their marital privacy.
Issues of intimacy or faults of his that would dishonor him, are not to be
disclosed by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honour.
A wife must also guard her husband's property. She must safeguard his home
and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft or damage. She
should manage the household affairs wisely so as to prevent loss or waste.
She should not allow anyone to enter the house whom her husband dislikes nor
incur any expenses of which her husband disapproves.
A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate with her husband. There cannot,
however, be cooperation with a man who is disobedient to God. She should not
fulfill his requests if he wants her to do something unlawful. A husband
also should not take advantage of his wife, but be considerate of her needs
The Qur'an states:
"And it is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger
have decreed a matter (for them), that they should (after that) have any
option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he
verily goes astray in error manifest." (Qur'an, 33:36 ) .
The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights 1400 years ago that
most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are from God and are
designed to keep balance in society; Islam is a complete way of life.
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