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Muslim Lifestyle New Muslims

Women’s Rights and Status in Islam

Women’s rights, responsibilities, and choices have been the subject of books, articles, essays, and lectures. Sadly however, convincing the world that Muslim women are not oppressed by Islam is a message that is just not getting through.

Women’s rights

Islam raised the level of women, they were no longer chattels being passed from father to husband.

Media headlines scream oppression and the words Muslim, women, and oppression seem to have become inextricably linked. Fourteen hundred years ago Islam gave women’s rights; rights that could not have been imagined by European counterparts. Bold words!

It’s the words that have been spoken repeatedly, especially in the last two or three decades by Muslim converts, and Islamic writers, academics and educators across the globe.

No matter what Muslim women do or say to try to convince the world otherwise, words like hijab (veil), burqa, polygamy, and Shari`ah (Islamic Law) seem to do little but convince people that Islam oppresses women. Even educated, articulate women fulfilling the modest conditions of hijab can do little to dispel the myths.

Women who conduct themselves with decorum and grace and function effortlessly in the modern world have their achievements and successes celebrated. However, if a woman wears a scarf that covers her hair or puts her religion above worldly pursuits she is immediately labeled oppressed.

One wonders if this is the case for women of other religious persuasions. Are modest religious women of all faiths labeled oppressed? Alternatively, is it just Islam?

The most visible sign of a Muslim woman’s faith is the headscarf or hijab; it is also the garment that leads people to believe that Islam oppresses women. Although Islamic scholars unanimously agree that modest dress and head coverings are obligatory in Islam, for the majority of Muslim women around the world, to cover, or not to cover, is a freely made choice.

The women who chose to wear hijab view it as a right, not a burden and many describe wearing hijab as liberation from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media.

Against Oppression

What exactly do Muslim women say about themselves in relation to the issue of oppression? In 2005, a World Gallup Organization Poll, entitled ‘What women Want’:

‘Listening to the voices of Muslim Woman, revealed that the majority of women polled, in predominantly Muslim countries resented lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption. The headscarf or hijab, or any garment covering the face and body, often depicted as a tool of oppression was not even mentioned.’

The report concluded that ’…most women in the Muslim world are well aware that they have the same capabilities and deserve the same fundamental rights as men.  Majorities of females in each of the eight countries surveyed said they believe women are able to make their own voting decisions, to work at any job for which they are qualified, and even to serve in the highest levels of government.’

Islam raised the level of women, they were no longer chattels being passed from father to husband. They became equal to men, with rights and responsibilities that take into account the nature of humankind. Unfortunately across the globe, Muslim women are victims of cultural aberrations that have no place in Islam. Powerful individuals and groups claim to be Muslim yet fail to practice the true principles of Islam.

Whenever the media reveals unconscionable stories about honour killings, genital mutilation, forced marriage, the punishment of rape victims, women being confined to their homes or women being denied education they are revealing a tale of men and women who are ignorant about the status of women in Islam.

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the bridal money you have given them. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and God brings a great deal of good through it. (An-Nisaa’ 4:19)

Honoring-women Religion

women's rights

The women who chose to wear hijab view it as a right, not a burden.

The religion of Islam demands that women be treated with respect, honour, and justice. It condemns oppression of any kind. In Islam women, like men, are commanded to believe in God and to worship Him. Women are equal to men in terms of reward in the Hereafter.

And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a true believer in the Oneness of God, such will enter paradise; and not the least injustice, even to the size of a speck on the back of a date stone, will be done to them. (An-Nisaa’ 4:124)

Women in Islam have the right to own property, to control their own money to buy and sell, and to give gifts and charity. It is not permissible for anyone to take a woman’s wealth without her consent. Islam gave women’s formal rights of inheritance. Women in Islam have the right to an education; seeking and acquiring knowledge is an obligation on all Muslims, male or female.

Muslim women have the right to accept or refuse marriage proposals as they see fit, and married women are completely free from the obligation of supporting and maintaining the family. Working married women are free to contribute to the household expenses, or not, as they see fit. Women have the right to seek divorce if it becomes necessary.

The Prophet &  Women’s rights

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked: “O God’s messenger!  How can we know her permission?” He said: “Her silence (indicates her permission).” (Al-Bukhari)

A women was given by her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to God’s Messenger and he declared that marriage invalid. (Al-Bukhari)

The religion of Islam declares that women are worthy human beings deserving of respect, and the right to be free from oppression. Women have the right to a decent life, without facing aggression or abuse of any kind. They have the right to pursue a life that is pleasing to them within Islamic boundaries. Nobody has the right to force women to be less then they want to be. The true teachings of Islam, declare that women should be held in a position of high regard.

Sadly, it is true that some Muslim women are oppressed, but across the globe, some women are treated badly by some men, of all religious persuasions and ethnicities. It is possible to say that such and such a government oppresses women, or that Muslim men in such and such a country think it is acceptable to beat women, however, it is not correct to say that Islam oppresses women.

If women were given their God given rights, as set out in the religion of Islam, the global oppression of women could be trampled into oblivion.

Prophet Muhammad said: “None but a noble man treats women in an honourable manner. And none but an ignoble treats women disgracefully.” (At-Tirmidhi)

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Source: islamreligion.com

 

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Categories
Family New Muslims

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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