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Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam

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Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah.

Some who do not know basic truths about Islam; whether, pseudo scholars, Orientalists or enemies of Islam, claim that Islam does not respect the legal rights of non-Muslims in the Islamic state.

Reply to the Misconception about Rights of Non-Muslims

The Islamic Shari`ah provides a different set of obligations and rights of the non-Muslim residents in the Islamic society. It may be sufficient in rebuttal of this misconception to quote the general ruling mentioned in the books of Islamic jurisprudence:

“Non-Muslims are entitled for that which Muslims are entitled. They are also obligated to do that which Muslims are obligated.” This is the general rule and from it emanates the just and equitable laws giving the non-Muslim residents in an Islamic state their rights to security, private property, religious observance, etc.

Islam permits religious discussions and dialogues with non-Muslims, commanding Muslims to adhere to the best methodology in any discussions and dialogues with the non-Muslims. Allah (the Exalted and Majestic) states in the Qur’an:

And dispute you not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’. (Al-`Ankabut 29:46)

Allah (Exalted be He) addresses those of other faiths and religions, saying in the Qur’an:

Say: ‘Do you see what it is you invoke besides Allah? Show me what it is they have created on earth, or have they a share in the heavens bring me a book (revealed) before this, or any remnant of knowledge (you may have), if you are telling the truth! (Al-Ahqaf 46:4)

Islam forbids forceful measures to convert people from other faiths, as stated in the verse of the Qur’an:

If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! (Yunus 10:99)

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, (prophetic traditions of the Prophet) illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah. Muslim history has numerous examples of the tolerance shown to non-Muslim subjects, while many other societies were intolerant towards Muslims and even their own people.

Muslims must deal justly with all other humans who have not begun any hostilities with the Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)

Those who wage war against Islam, show enmity and force the Muslims into exile, have a different treatment according to Islam. Allah states in the Qur’an:

Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:9)

Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims are based on cordial and just manners. Commercial transactions are permitted with resident and non-resident non-Muslims of the Islamic society. A Muslim may eat the food of Jews and Christians. A male Muslim may marry a Jewish or a Christian woman as will be explained below. We must remember that Islam gives special attention and importance on raising a family. Allah states in the Qur’an:

This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Misconceptions on Human Rights in Islam”.

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New Muslims Society

The Islamic Judicial System and Human Rights

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

The judiciary is an independent administrative system in the Islamic government oriented to resolve all types of legal disputes among various claimants. The Judicial system is structured to preserve individual rights; assure the establishment of justice among people, stop oppression, and punish the oppressors. The Islamic system follows the directives of Allah and the Prophet  from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (traditions).

The Islamic Judicial System and Human Rights

Every individual in the Islamic society, regardless of his faith or religious affiliation, position or social status, has certain immutable rights.

There are specific criteria for a judge applying for a position in the Islamic judicial system. The applicant must be a mature, sane, mentally capable and healthy in order to surmount the difficulties and challenges of his job. He must be well educated and informed about the Shari`ah (Islamic rulings and the principles of lawful and unlawful in Islam), as well as be well aware of mundane affairs so not to be deceived or misinformed.

He should have the ability to give verdicts in both worldly and religious spheres. He must be honorable, dignified, honest and with high moral character. He should be a man of upright conduct so that his judgments are well accepted by the parties in dispute.

Islam prescribes a specific code of conduct for judges that should be observed. The following letter sent by the second Caliph, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) to one of the assigned judges provides the guidelines for all Muslim judges:

“From the second Caliph, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the slave of Allah to `Abdullah ibn Qays, As salamu `alayikum. Judgment among (disputing) people is a precise and obligatory act that should be followed and executed properly. You should (try your best to) understand the people present before you.

Furthermore, none will benefit from a right that is not executed. Give equal consideration and seating arrangements to people in your court so as an influential person may not think to take advantage because of his status. Moreover, a weak person will not lose hope of justice in your court. The plaintiff must present a proof of evidence. A defendant must take an oath if he rejected and denied the claim of the plaintiff. Disputing people may choose to compromise between one another. However, no compromise is acceptable if it renders an unlawful item lawful or vice versa. If you pass a judgment one day, but upon reviewing it on the next, you discover that you made a mistake and the right sentence is not what you passed as a verdict, then (reopen the case) and pass the right sentence. You should realize that returning to the right sentence and judgment is (much) better than indulging deeper in falsehood. Try to understand the confusing matters that have no text of scripture to support them either from the Qur’an or the Sunnah (way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) and study the resembling rulings, sentences and cases, and after obtaining the proper knowledge assess your cases. Then choose the most beloved judgment to Allah and closest to the truth in your eyes. Offer a chance to a plaintiff who claims a matter that is not currently present by setting a definite time for him to prove it. If such a plaintiff produces his proof of evidence, adjudicate the case in his favor. If not, then judge against his case. All Muslims are trustworthy insofar as the testimony is concerned except for a person who has been lashed for committing any shameful act in the Islamic society, or a person who is known for false testimonies, or a person who is either a relative or distantly related to the plaintiff. Allah takes care of all hidden secrets of people and helps you (to judge) by providing evidence. Furthermore, you must not worry, become intolerant, or complain about disputing people in the rightful matters where Allah rewards you for being patient and is pleased with the results. If a person has a good and pure soul with Allah, Allah will (surely) improve the relations of that man with the public.” (At-Tirmithi)

Immutable Rights

Every individual in the Islamic society, regardless of his faith or religious affiliation, position or social status, has certain immutable rights, which include the following:

1- The right to seek judgment against oppressors. An individual may sue his oppressor in the judicial court.

2- The right to have an equal hearing before the judge. This is based on the hadith Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), instructing `Ali (may Allah be pleases with him) when he commissioned him as a judge, saying:

“Surely, Allah shall guide your heart and fasten your tongue (to the truth). When the plaintiff and the defendant sit before you, do not issue a verdict for one until you hear the statement of the other as you heard the first.” (Abu Dawud)

3- The right to be considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Messenger of Allah said:

“If people are given (judgments) based on their claims, you will see people claiming for the blood of others and their wealth. However, the defendant must offer an oath.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

And in Bayhaqi version of the hadith, it ends:

“The evidence must be produced by the plaintiff and an oath must be offered by the defendant.”

4- The right that mere suspicion does not deprive the suspect from his due process of law and specific rights. For instance, a suspect must not be tortured by any means, nor subjected to violence, cruelty or hardship in order to force him to give any confession. Allah’s Messenger forbade this, by extension, when he said:

Allah absolves my Ummah (nation) from the following: error, forgetfulness and whatever they are forced to do.” (Ibn Majah)

The second caliph, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab stated, “A person would not be responsible for his confession, if you inflicted pain upon him or scared him or imprisoned him (to obtain the confession).” (Abu Yusuf in his book Al-Kharaj)

5- The right that only the guilty will be punished for what is within their personal responsibility. This means that no one is to be held responsible for the faults of others.

Accusation, suspicion, and punishment must be confined to the guilty person and not extended to his family members.

Allah, the Just, says in the Qur’an:

Whoever does righteous deed, benefits his own self and whoever does evil, it is against his own self and Your Lord is never unjust to His Slaves. (Fussilat 41:46)

Allah’s Messenger said:

“No one should be taken (guilty) for the wrong doing of his brother of father.” (An-Nasa’i)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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Family New Muslims

The Rights of the Muslim Wife towards Her Husband

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

The rights of wives concerning their husbands are many and may be summarized as follows:

Dowry

A wife is entitled to receive a dowry from her husband which a marriage contract is void without it. The dowry is not to be forfeited but after the completion of a marriage contract she may forfeit her right as Allah says in the Qur’an:

And give to the women (whom you marry) their dowry with a good heart, but if they, of their own good will, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allah has made it lawful). (An-Nisaa’ 4:4)

Financial Support

A husband is required to provide, within his means and limits, all essential and basic requirements of his wife , children and entire household. Allah (Exalted be He) says in the Qur’an:

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. After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief. (At-Talaq 65:7)

To encourage generosity towards the wives, Islam has named this financial support as charity which is rewarded greatly by Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas:

“No amount you spend on your family seeking reward from Allah but that He will reward you even if it is a bite of food you put in your wife’s mouth.” (Al-Bukhari)

A wife has a right to take a reasonably required amount from her husband’s property for herself and her children without her husband’s knowledge if he spends miserly on them according to  the hadith wherein Hind bint `Utbah said: “ O Messenger of Allah: verily Abu Sufyan is a miser and doesn’t give me enough for myself and my child except that I take from his wealth without his knowledge, so he (peace be upon him) said:

“Take what is reasonably enough for you and your son.” (Al-Bukhari)

Companionship & Intimate Relationship

One of the most important rights of a wife is to secure from her husband a satisfactory level of intimate relationship and a fair amount of time with him.

This right of the wife and family members must be fully maintained since a wife needs an affectionate husband to take care of her and fulfill her basic needs. As related by Jabir when the Prophet said to Jabir: “Did you marry O Jabir?” I said: Yes. He said: “Virgin or matron (i.e. woman previously marries)?” I said: a matron. He said: “Why didn’t you marry a virgin so that you could play with her and she could play with you or you make her laugh and she makes you laugh?” (Al-Bukhari)

Protection of All the Secrets of the Wife

A husband must not disclose any of his wife’s deficiencies or shortcomings, keeping all what he sees and hears from his wife as a secret that should not ever be disclosed.

The intimate relationship between a husband and wife in Islam is cherished and protected.

Marital relationships are sacred relationships according to Islam, as we read in the instructions of Allah’s Messenger:

One of the worst positions in the sight of Allah on the Day of Requital is that of a man who will have an intimate relationship with his wife, and then spread the secrets of his spouse to the public.” (Muslim)

Equality and Fairness

The husband who is married to more than one wife must provide equally to all of his wives, offering them the same or comparable housing conditions and clothing.

He is to spend equal time with each one of them. Any injustice in this regard is strictly prohibited as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“He who has two wives and does not treat them both equally will appear on the Day of Requital while he is half paralyzed.” (An-Nasa’i)

Fair and Kind Treatment

A husband must extend just treatment to his wife and household. A husband must demonstrate care, kindness and solve any problem within his means, while forbearing the deficiencies and shortcomings of his wife seeking the Pleasure of Allah in both worlds.

A husband should consult with his wife concerning their life and future needs and plans. He is required to secure and provide for his wife and household all means of peaceful environment at home and outside. The Messenger of Allah said:

Those believers who have the most complete faith who possess the best of character, and the best among you are those who are the best to their wives.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Protection and Preservation

By all the abilities available, a husband must not place or expose his wife or family members to any immoral situation or evil environment. This is based on the instructions of the verse of the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded. (At-Tahrim 66:6)

He must protect the private wealth and property of his wife and must not use any of her personal funds or possessions without her prior approval. He must not engage in any transaction concerning his wife’s finances, without her consent.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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Muslim Lifestyle New Muslims

Peace, Security and Other Basic Human Rights in Islam

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

The right of security and protection to a person and all his family is the most basic of all human rights. All citizens in the Muslim society legally must not be frightened or threatened by words, actions or weapons of any type.

Peace, Security and Other Basic Human Rights in Islam

The right of security and protection to a person and all his family is the most basic of all human rights.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) says:

“It is not allowed for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim.” (Abu Dawud and Ahmad)

Feeling secure enables individuals of a society to have freedom of mobility and movement in order to work and earn an honest living. Corporal and capital punishment have been laid down and established in order to impose strict penalties on those who attempt to cause disruption to the peace, security and stability of a Muslim’s society. Allah’s Messenger stated in his farewell speech:

“Truly, your body, honor, and your wealth are unlawful to one another. They are unlawful to tamper with like it is unlawful to tamper with this (honorable and sacred) Day (the Day of `Arafah during Hajj), in this Sacred Month (the month of hajj “Dthul-Hijjah”), and in this Sacred Town (the city of Makkah). (Al-Bukhari)

Sustenance, Wholesome Food & Drink for All

Wholesome sustenance is to be secured for all people in an Islamic society by availing decent and suitable work opportunities for the work force in the society.

Availability of  suitable opportunities of trades and work is crucial for people in order to satisfy their basic needs. Those who cannot work due to old age, disabilities, chronic disease, or the lack of bread-earner in the family, become entitled to public aid from the Islamic government.

Zakah, (obligatory alms and charity) given by the wealthier people of the society, is to be made available to the needy that cannot earn a decent income because of legitimate reasons. Zakah is an obligatory charity that is taken from the rich and given to specific categories of the society.

This is based on the hadith of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) in his advice to his Companion Mu`adh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) while sending him on the mission to call to Islam in Yemen saying,

“…Tell the people of Yemen … that Allah has prescribed a certain percentage of their wealth as zakah (obligatory charity) to be taken from the rich members among them and given to the poor and needy ones. (Muslim)

Other voluntary donations, gifts, financial commitments and the like are given in good cause to please the Almighty Allah, and extended willingly to the poor and needy members of the society. This is also based on many scriptures including the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him),

“One is not a believer who satisfies himself while his neighbor is hungry.” (Al-Bukhari)

These poor and needy people are also entitled to a fair right and share of the Islamic Treasury. This is also based on the hadith of the Prophet:

“Whoever leaves behind a legacy (wealth and estates), will become the right of his heirs. As for the person who leaves behind poor and needy members of his family, Allah, and His Messenger will take care of them.” (Al-Bukhari)

Proper & Adequate Health Facilities

Islam prohibits all such reasons that may cause detrimental effect to public health. Islam bans all types of harmful drugs and intoxicants. Islam bans eating blood, carrion, unclean animals, unwholesome meats like swine, and all their byproducts, etc.

Islam bans all immoral acts such as fornication, adultery, and homosexual activities. Islam imposes a quarantine in the time of plague for both incoming and outgoing traffic of people in order to make sure that no epidemic or harmful diseases are spread in the wider community. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“If you hear about an epidemic in a country, do not enter it, and if you are in a place that has an epidemic disease, do not leave it.” (Ahmad)

And he (peace be upon him) said:

“A sick person must not be brought to visit a recovering person.” (Al-Bukhari)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

 

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Islam and Preservation of Human Life

Physical Security and Protection

life nature-flower

One’s soul or own body is a sacred entity entrusted to him by God on a temporary basis.

Human life is sacred and a gift from Allah, the Creator. For the protection of human life Islam has legislated capital and corporal punishments and retribution unto those transgressing criminals who murder and physically harm others. Killing falls into three types: intentional and/or premeditated murder,manslaughter, and total mistake.

Islam commands the execution of anyone who commits premeditated murder of an innocent person, seeking to place as strong a deterrent as possible to eradicate the temptation of intentional murder.

Unintentional manslaughter and mistaken killings are separate categories with separate lesser sentences and blood money is paid to the close relatives of the victim. The family or the heirs of the killed victim are given a diyyah (blood money) unless they choose to forgive the killer. The killer must repent to Allah and make atonement by the freeing a Muslim slave, and if this is not possible, by fasting for two consecutive months.

All such penalties are for preservation of life. No one has the right to possessions or estate without legitimate cause. All oppressive or abusive must be warned against unjust killing, victimizing or harassing other innocent members of the Islamic society, and these strict punishments should be made clear. If the retaliation is not similar to the crime itself, criminals become emboldened in their criminal activities.

All other corporal punishments have the same rationale, wherein the punishment is proportionate to the crime with specific measurements of retribution predetermined to stop all arguments and confusion.

All capital and corporal punishments are oriented for the preservation of human life and property in an Islamic society. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

And there is (a saving of) life for you in al-qisas (the law of equality in punishment), O men of understanding,that you may become pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:179)

The penalty of the Hereafter for the intentional murderer who does not repent will be the wrath of Allah. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:9)

Prescribed Duties

Islam has imposed certain specific duties on everyone in respect to protection of human life. The following are some of these duties:

1-Man does not own his soul or his own body: rather it is a sacred entity entrusted to him on a temporary basis. It is not allowed for anyone to intentionally torture or harm himself, or carry-out any type of suicidal crime or reckless act leading to his destruction.

Life is only given in sacrifice for the cause of Allah. Allah says:

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly: but let there be among you trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful! (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)

2-Man must maintain proper nutritional care to satisfy the minimum requirements essential for decent health. He is not allowed to deprive himself of permissible food, drink, clothing, marriage and proper care under any pretexts, if that causes him harm. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah,which He has produced for His servants, and the things,clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?
Say, they are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Requital.
Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand.
(Al-A`raf 7:32)

flowers-nature

Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage

Halal in Moderation

Allah, the Exalted, admonished the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he abstained from eating honey in order to please one of his wives, and this became an eternal lesson for all Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Prophet! Why do you make forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to you? You seek to please your wives but Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (At-Tahrim 66:1)

Moderation is between stinginess and extravagance. Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Al-A`raf 7:31)

It is forbidden to neglect the physical needs of the body and cause harm through negligence or self-torture:

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than itcan bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

It is reported that Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that, “Three men came to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mosque to inquire about the worship of the Prophet. When they were informed, they considered their worship insignificant and said: ”Where are we in comparison with the Prophet while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins“. One of them said: ”As for me, I shall offer salah all night long.” Another said:”I shall observe sawm (fasting) continuously and shall not break it”. The third one said: ”I shall abstain from women and shall never marry.”

The Prophet came to them and said,“Are you the people who said such and such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am the most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fasting and break it; perform salah and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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Rights of the Muslim Woman: The Daughter and the Wife

By Dr. Jamal Badawi 

Woman as a Daughter

1- The Qur’an ended the cruel pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide(wa’d):

Rights of the Muslim Woman- The Daughter and the Wife

Parents are duty-bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters.

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed…. (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

The Qur’an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitude of some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame he hides himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on! (An-Nahl 16:58-59)

3- Parents are duty-bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) 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. (Ahmad)

Whosoever supports two daughters until they mature, he and I will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together). (Ahmad)

4- A crucial aspect in the upbringing of daughters that greatly influences their future is education. Education is not only a right but a responsibility for all males and females.

Prophet Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”. (Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn-Majah)

(The word “Muslim” here is inclusive of both males and females.)

As a Wife

1- Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love and compassion, and not the mere satisfying of human sexual desire.

And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Ar-Rum 30:21)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Ash-Shura 42:11)

Marriage and Divorce

2- The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals.

Her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the martial contract, according to the Prophets’ teaching. It follows that if an “arranged marriage” means the marrying of a female without her consent, then such a marriage may be annulled if the female so wishes:

Ibn `Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of Allah, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice… (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it. (Ahmad)

Another version of the report states that the girl said: “Actually, I accept this marriage, but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.” (Ibn-Majah)

3- The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection, and overall leadership (qiwamah) of the family, within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does not mean “subservience” by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped with household chores although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in his community were immense.

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear.  No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account of his child. A heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Al-Baqarah 2:233)

Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims regarding women,

“I commend you to be kind to women.” (Al-Bukhari) He said also, “The best of you is the best to his family (wife).” (An-Nawawi in his book Riyad As-Saliheen)

The Qur’an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband or disinclination for her arises within him. It also outlawed the pre-Islamic Arabian practice whereby the stepson of the deceased father was allowed to take possession of his father’s widow(s) (inherit them) as if they were part of the estate of the deceased:

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them, except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings about a great deal of good. (An-Nisaa’ 4:19)

4- Should marital disputes arise, the Qur’an encourages couples to resolve them privately in a spirit of fairness and probity. Under no circumstances does the Qur’an encourage, allow, or condone family violence or physical abuse.

In extreme cases, and whenever greater harm, such as divorce, is a likely option, it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat to his wife that causes no physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may serve, in some cases, to bring to the wife’s attention to the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behavior  (refraction), and may be resorted to only after exhausting other steps discussed in endnote.

If that mild measure is not likely to prevent a marriage from collapsing, as a last measure, it should not be resorted to. Indeed, the Qur’an outlines an enlightened step and a wise approach for the husband and wife to resolve persistent conflict in their martial life: In the event that disputes cannot be resolved equitably between husband and wife, the Qur’an prescribes mediation between the parties through family intervention on behalf of both spouses.

5- Divorce is a last resort, permissible but not encouraged, for the Qur’an esteems the preservation of faith and the individual’s right – male and female alike – to felicity. Forms of marriage dissolution include an enactment based upon mutual agreement, the husband’s initiative, the wife’s initiative (if part of her martial contract), the court’s decision on a wife’s initiative (for a legitimate reason) and the wife’s initiative without a “cause” provided that she returns her marital gift to her husband (khul` or divestiture).

6- Priority for the custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later may choose the mother or father as his or her custodian.

Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and the well-being of the child.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s “Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles”.

 

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