Women in Islam
In Arabia, women used to live under conditions similar to that of the Ancient World. Men used to marry dozens of women and buried female children alive. With the arrival of Islam, such barbaric traditions were demolished and the status of women has risen to the extent that no any other social system could compete with it.
Islam views both men and women to be equal in the sight of Allah and equally responsible in their (religious) duties as outlined for them in the Qur’an. [4:124] In social context, however, “Islam fully recognizes the biological differences of men and women and the different demands these differences impose on the life course of believers.”
First of all, in an Islamic marriage, husband and wife co-operate with each other in kindness and peace (30:21) working hand in hand to better the society and bring up the next generation; violence, abuse and ill-treatment that used to be common cannot be tolerated. “They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also said: “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives.”
Mistakenly, non-Muslims (and Muslims) frequently raise the issue of guardianship (qawamah) of a husband over his wife in Islam and bring the Quranic verse (4:34) as proof: “Men are qawwam (the protectors and maintainers) of women…”
However, being qawwam over women actually means always being present, protecting and maintaining women in a proper manner; providing stability and constant source of support; being a guardian – features most wives certainly want in her husband. This also requires looking after women’s emotional and psychological needs as well, which is often more important for them than money and provision. In the sight of Allah, what makes one better is solely his or her level of taqwa. (49:13)
For 1400 years, Muslim women have enjoyed many rights women in other societies hardly possessed until recently. For example, brides can decide whom they wish to marry; a woman’s direct consent is actually one of the conditions of a valid marriage. Second, Islamic Law fully acknowledges the right of woman to her money, real estate, and other properties which does not transfer to the husband upon marriage. Muslim women have the right to seek divorce (khul’a), remarry and even inherit.
Although, Islam holds motherhood in the highest esteem (“Be dutiful to your mother, as Paradise is at her foot.”[Ahmed, Nasai] and Quran 46:15), Muslim women are respected as independent human beings; singles, widows, and infertile sisters are certainly not cast out in an Islamic society.
Women can perform many roles besides motherhood, if they wish, providing important contributions to the community while not worrying about the finances as even though they work, their guardian is still responsible for them and the family’s provision. We can have a glimpse at early Islamic history to ascertain. Khadijah, the successful trader and first wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), great scholars like Aisha bint Abu Bakr or Umm Al-Darda’, or Layla bint Abdullah, the first woman to hold public office are just some of the few great examples to mention.
Once, a woman argued with Caliph Umar ibn Khattab in the mosque when he wanted to limit the amount of a woman’s dowry. She proved her point and caused him to declare in the presence of people: “The woman is right and ‘Umar is wrong.” This occasion indicates that Muslim women are also involved in serious discussions along with men. As a matter of fact, even the Prophet (PBUH) would consult his wives in the most sensitive matters.
Hence, we can conclude that in the milieu of today’s value-free Western and oppressing Muslims societies, which practice cultural Islam rather than Islamic culture, we can clearly see that Islam is the only system that ensures justice between men and women by believing that God provides the best unbiased source of knowledge about how men and women should live their lives. Islam appreciates women, gives them equal rights, and encourages them to be productive members of the society – as mothers, wives, educators, or otherwise.
First published: March 2016
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