The Status Of Women In Islam
1 Woman – as vital to life as man himself
2 Islam gives women, rights & privileges, never grated before
3 Qur’an addresses men & women jointly
4 Modern women seeks rights by force
5 Woman has equal share in every aspect of life
6 She is equal in responsibilities
7 She is equal in pursuit in knowledge
8 She is entitled to equal freedom of expression
9 Islam determines her share in inheritance I r
10 A misconception regarding this share & her witness to civil contract
11 Some advantages woman enjoys more than the man
12 Veil — not a hindrance rather a blessing for women
The status of woman in Islam constitutes no problem. The attitude of The Qur’an and the early Muslims bear witness to the fact that Woman is, at least, as vital to life as man himself, and that she is Not inferior to him nor is she one of the lower species. Had it not been for the impact of foreign cultures and alien inﬂuences, this question would have -never arisen among the Muslims. The status of woman was taken for granted to be equal to that of man. It was a matter of course, a matter of fact, and no one, then, considered it as a problem at all.
In order to understand what Islam has established for woman, there is no need to deplore her plight in the pre-Islamic era or in the modern world of today. Islam has given woman rights and privileges which she has never enjoyed under other religious or constitutional systems. This can be understood when the matter is studied as a whole in a comparative manner, rather than partially. The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two quite different things. This difference is understandable because man and woman are not identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, There is no problem. It is almost impossible to ﬁnd even two identical men or women.
This distinction between equality and sameness is of paramount A importance. Equality is desirable, just, fair; but sameness is not. People are not created identical but they are created equals. With this distinctionin mind, there is no room to imagine that woman is inferior to man. There
is no ground to assume that she is less important than he just because her rights are not identically the same as his. Had her status been identical with his, she would have been simply a duplicate of him, which she is not. The fact that Islam gives her equal rights – but not identical – shows that it takes her into due consideration, acknowledges her, and recognizes her independent personality.
It is not the tone of Islam that brands woman as the product of the devil or the seed of evil. Nor does the Qur’an placeman as the dominant lord of woman who has no choice but to surrender to his dominance. Nor was it Islam that introduced the question of whether or not woman has any soul in her. Never in the history of Islam has any Muslim doubted the human status of woman or her possession of soul and other ﬁne spiritual qualities. Unlike other popular beliefs, Islam does not blame Eve alone for the First Sin. The Qur’an makes it very clear that both Adam and Eve were tempted; that they both sinned; that God’s pardon was granted to both after their repentance; and that God addressed them jointly.(2:35-36;7:19, 27; 202117-123). In fact the Qur’an gives the impression that Adam was more to blame for that First Sin from which emerged prejudice against woman and suspicion of her deeds. But Islam does not justify such prejudice or suspicion because both Adam and Eve were equally in error, and if we are to blame Eve we should blame Adam as much or even more.
The status of woman in Islam is something unique, something novel, something that has no similarity in any other system. If we look to the Eastern Communist world or to the democratic nations, we ﬁnd that woman is not really in a happy position. Her status is not enviable. She has to work so hard to live, and sometimes she may be doing the same job that a man does but her wage is less than his. She enjoys a kind of liberty which in some cases amounts to libertinism. To get to where she is nowadays, woman struggled hard for decades and centuries. To gain the right of learning and the freedom of work and earning, she had to offer painful sacriﬁces and give up many of her natural rights. To establish her status as a human being possessing a soul, she paid heavily. Yet in spite of all these costly sacriﬁces and painful struggles, she has not acquired what Islam has established by a Divine decree for the Muslim woman.
The rights of woman of modern times~ were not granted voluntarily or out of kindness to the female. Modern woman reached her present position by force, and not through natural processes or mutual consent or Divine teachings. She had to force her way, and various circumstances came to her aid. Shortage of manpower during wars, pressure of economic needs and requirements of industrial developments forced woman to get out of her home – to work, to learn, to struggle for her livelihood, to appear as an equal to man, to run her race in the course of life side by~ side with him. She was forced by circumstances and in turn she forced herself through and acquired her new status. Whether all women were pleased with _these circumstances
being on their side, and whether they are happy and satisﬁed with the results of this course is a different matter. But the fact remains that whatever rights modern woman enjoys fall short of those of her Muslim counterpart.
What Islam has established for woman is that which suits her nature, gives her full security and protects her against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life. We do not need here to elaborate on the status of modern woman and the risks she runs to make her living or establish herself. We do not even need to explore the miseries and setbacks that encircle her as a result of the so-called rights of woman. Nor do we intend to manipulate the situation of many unhappy homes which break because of the very “freedom” and “rights” of which modern woman is proud. Most women today exercise the right of freedom to go out independently, to work and earn, to pretend to be equal to man, but this, sadly enough, is at the expense of their families. This all is known and obvious. What is not known is the status of woman in Islam. An attempt will be made in the following passages to sum up the attitude of Islam with regard to woman.
Woman is recognized by Islam as a full and equal partner of man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father; she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By this partnership she has an equal share in every aspect; she is entitled to equal rights; she undertakes equal responsibilities, and in her there are as many qualities and as much humanity as there are in her partner.
She is equal to man in bearing personal and common responsibilities and in receiving rewards for her deeds. She is acknowledged as an independent personality, in possession of human qualities and worthy of spiritual aspirations. Her human nature is neither inferior to nor deviant from that of man.
She is equal to man in the pursuit of education and knowledge. When Islam enjoins the seeking of knowledge upon Muslims, it makes no distinction between man and woman. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Muhammad declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim male and female. This declaration was very clear and was implemented by Muslims throughout history.
She is entitled to freedom of expression as much as man is. Her sound opinions are taken into consideration and cannot be disregarded just because she happened to belong to the female sex. It is reported in the Qur’an and history that woman not only expressed her opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet himself as well as with other Muslim leaders. (Qur’an, 58:1-4; 60:10-12). Besides there were occasions when Muslim women expressed their views on legislative matters of public interest, and stood in opposition to the Caliphs, who then accepted the sound arguments of these women.
Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies. Women used to accompany the Muslim armies engaged in battles to nurse the wounded, prepare supplies, .serve the warriors, and soon. They were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless creatures and deprived of souls.
Islam grants woman equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. Her life, her property, her honour are as sacred as those of man. if she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensations equal to what “a man in her position would get. .
Apart from recognition of woman as an independent human being acknowledged as equally essential for the survival of humanity, Islam has given her a share of inheritance. Before Islam, she was not only deprived of that share but was herself considered as property to be inherited by man. Out of that transferable property lslam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent human qualiﬁes in woman. Whether she is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kin’s property, as hare which depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favour of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so. Any proprietor is permitted to make his will within the limit of one-third of his property, so he may not affect the rights of his heirs, mean and women. In the case of inheritance, the question of quality and sameness is fully applicable. In principle, both man and woman are equally entitled to inherit the property of the deceased relations but the portions they get may vary. In some instances man receives two shares whereas woman gets one only. This no sign of giving preference or supremacy to man over woman. The reasons why man gets more in these particular instances may be classiﬁed as follows:
First, man is the person solely responsible for the complete maintenance of his wife, his family and any other needy relations. it is his duty by Law to assume all ﬁnancial responsibilities and maintain his dependents adequately. It is also his duty to contribute ﬁnancially to all good causes in his society. All ﬁnancial burdens are borne by him alone.
Secondly, in contrast, woman has no ﬁnancial responsibilities whatsoever except very little of her personal expenses, the high luxurious things that she likes to have. She is ﬁnancially secure and provided for. If she is a wife, her husband is the provider; if she is a mother, it is the son; if she is a daughter, it is the father; if she is a sister; it is the brother, and so on. lf she has no relations on whom she can depend, then there is no question of inheritance because there is nothing to inherit and there is no one to bequeath anything to her. However, she
will not be left to starve; maintenance of such a woman is the responsibility of the society as a whole, the state. She may be given aid or a job to earn her living, and whatever money she makes will be hers. She is not responsible for the maintenance of anybody else besides herself. lf there is a man in her position, he would still be responsible for his family and possibly any of his relations who need his help. So, in the hardest situation her financial responsibility is limited, while his is unlimited,
Thirdly, when a woman gets less than a man does, she is not actually deprived of anything that she has worked for. The property inherited is not the result of her earning or her endeavours. lt is something coming to them from a neutral source, something additional or extra. lt is something that neither man nor woman struggled for. It is a sort of aid, and any aid has to be distributed according to the urgent needs and responsibilities especially when the distribution is regulated by the Law of God.
ln some instances of bearing witness to certain civil contracts, two men are required or one man and two women. Again, this is no indication of the woman being inferior to man. lt is a measure of securing the rights of the contracting parties, because woman as a rule is not as experienced in practical life as man. This lack of experience may cause a loss to any party in a given contract. So the Law requires that at least two women should bear witness with one man. lf a woman of the witness forgets something, the other one would remind her. Or if she makes an error, due to lack of experience, the other would help to correct. her. This is a precautionary measure to guarantee honest transactions and proper dealings between people. In fact, it gives woman a role to play in civil life and helps to establish justice. At any irate, lack of experience in civil life does not necessarily mean that woman is inferior to man in her status.
Woman enjoys certain privileges of which man is deprived. She is exempt from some religious duties, i.e., prayers and fasting, in her regular periods. and at times of confinement. She is exempt from all ﬁnancial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honour in the sight of God. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) acknowledged this honor when he declared that Paradise is under the feet of the mothers. She is entitled to three-fourths of the son’s love and kindness with one-fourth left for their father. As a wife she is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed be forfeit, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honour are safeguarded.
The Muslim woman is always associated with an old tradition known as the “veil”. lt is Islamic that the woman should beautify herself with the veil of honour, dignity, chastity, purity and integrity. She should refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of people other than her legitimate husband or cause evil suspicion of her morality. She is warned not to display her charms or expose her physical attractions before strangers. The veil which she must put on is one that can ‘save her soul from weakness, her mind from indulgence, her eyes from lustful looks, and her personality from demoralization. Islam is most concerned with the integrity of woman, with the safeguarding of her morals and morale and with the protection of her character and personality.
By now it is clear that the status of woman in Islam is unprecedentedly high and realistically suitable to her nature. Her rights and duties are equal to those of man but not necessarily or absolutely identical with them. If she is deprived of one thing in some aspect, she is fully compensated for it with more things in many other aspects. The fact that she belongs to the female sex has no bearing on her human status or independent personality, and it is no basis for justification of prejudice against her or injustice to her person. Islam gives her as much as is required of her. Her rights match beautifully with her duties. The balance between rights and duties is maintained, and no side over weighs the other. It is these extra responsibilities that give man a degree over woman in some economic aspects. It is not a higher degree in humanity or in character. Nor is it a dominance of one over the other or suppression of one by the other. It is a distribution of God’s abundance according to the needs of the nature of which God is the Maker. And He knows best what is good for woman and what is good for man.