Knowledge, Humanity, Religion, Culture, Tolerance, Peace

15.Women Status

Objective Rebuttal



A woman is in a thoroughly subordinate position. This idea really helps support other ideas in the collection. If women had too much influence, they'd try to curb the warring. Women in general don't like to send their husbands and sons off to war. But if women have no say in the matter, then the rest of the ideas can express themselves without interference. By subordinating women, the idea-collection prevents their effective vote against war, violence, and conquest. The rules and laws within Islam that keep women subordinate are numerous. For example

1)      She is not allowed to leave her house unless she is accompanied by a male relative.

2)      Under Islamic law, a woman is forbidden to be a head of state or a judge.

3)      She can only inherit half of what a man can inherit. In court, her testimony is only worth half of a man's.

4)      She is not allowed to choose where she will live or who she will marry.

5)      She is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim or divorce her husband.

6)      He, however, can divorce her with a wave of his hand. And according to Shari'a, he can (and should) beat her if she disobeys him.

All of these ideas keep her subordinate, which helps keep the war machine going unimpeded by domestic rebellion.


Status of Women in Islam:

The myth of lower status of women in Islamic society is based upon lack of knowledge of Islam. The local cultural traditions followed in some Muslim societies have nothing to do with Islam. While criticizing Islam for subjugating women it should be remembered that before the advent of Islam the status of women in earlier civilizations was very low to the extent that they were denied basic human dignity. The women were degraded and were denied all rights under the Babylonian law. If a man murdered a woman, instead of him being punished, his wife was put to death. In the Greek Civilization, women were deprived of all rights and were looked down upon. In Greek mythology, an ‘imaginary woman’ called ‘Pandora’ is the root cause of misfortune of human beings. The Greeks considered women to be subhuman to the extent that they were considered impure, and they were bought and sold in marketplaces. A woman could not refuse a husband chosen by her guardian and she could not disobey her husband in anyway. Later, they acquired a somewhat batter status, but they remained inferior to men. Though chastity of women was precious, and women were held in high esteem, the Greeks were later overwhelmed by ego and sexual perversions. Prostitution became a regular practice amongst all classes of Greek society. When Roman Civilization was at the zenith of its ‘glory’, a man even had the right to take the life of his wife. Prostitution and nudity were common amongst the Romans. Under the Roman Empire, women did not have the right to own anything. If a woman had any property of her own, it was automatically transferred to the ownership of the head of the family. Later, in the reign of Justinian (483-565 C.E), women were given the right to retain what they earned through their own work, but money from other sources (gift etc) remained with the head of family.

Christian Europe was influenced by notions that prevailed in the days of paganism about the status of women. Eve is considered responsible for the fall of Adam from grace indicated by word “Evil”.  As recently as 1805, the English law allowed the man to sell his wife. In the year 586 C.E that is when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was still a young man, the French elegies organized a convention in which they discussed whether women were human or not. They concluded that a woman was a human being created only to serve men. Even after the French Revolution, in the late 18th century, the French law continued to consider that an unmarried woman was totally unqualified to enter into any contract without the consent of her guardian. The French law of the time stipulated that those who did not have legal status were "young boys, idiots and women.” The Egyptian considered women evil and as a sign of a devil. Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs looked down upon women and very often when a female child was born, she was buried alive. Islam uplifted the status of women and granted them their just rights 1400 years ago. The perception in Islam the women are mistreated, their status is lower than men and they do not enjoy equal rights has been created by the ignorant under prejudice, after having failed in the ideological front,  however the cultural treatment meted to the women in some of the Muslim societies has provided the basis for such perception. If certain rights of woman are being ignored, restricted, or denied in present-day Islamic societies, it is the responsibility of the society which is not enforcing them, Islam cannot be blamed for it. The status of women in Islam is evident form the privileges granted to her.

Men and women are absolutely equal with regard to their human status.(Qur’an;33:35;4:1).Although man and woman have been created equal, but they are not identical. The Judeo-Christian traditions put all the blame for man's fall from heaven on women, conception of the creation of Adam and Eve is narrated in detail in Genesis, chapters 2 &3 . God is quoted to address the women (Genesis; 3:16). Islam repudiates that and makes Adam and Eve equally responsible for their actions (Qur’an;2:36. According to Bible, the period of un-cleanliness of women upon birth of girl child is double than the male child(Leviticus’12:2-5). Islam treats the children and their mother with equity whether the child is male or female. Prior to Islam, several Arabian tribes used to bury newborn girls alive. Islam not only forbade that practice but also denounced it in clearest of terms. Prophet (peace be upon him), says: "He who looks after two young girls until they attain puberty will on the Day of Judgment be with me like these two (and he pointed with his two fingers). His companions say that they understood that this also applies to a man with one daughter." A woman is liable to reward or punishment like men according her faith, worship and deeds. The same standard of justice applies to both men and women.(Qur’an;16:97. 3:195).

Modesty: The status of women in Islam is often the target of attacks in the Western media. The veil (Hijaab) worn by Muslim women is considered by many as an example of the ‘subjugation’ of women in Islamic law. Hijaab (veil) is a type of cloth worn by women over the head, shoulders, and bosoms (excluding the face; however some cover the face as well). The Muslim women are dressed up modestly which not only enhances their status to a respectable position but also help in controlling indecencies,(Qur’an;7:33). It may be kept in view that modest dress for women has always been a part of biblical traditions, but now Christians are themselves defying Bible: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”(Deuteronomy;22:5); “also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire.”(1Timothy;2:9). Veil, as a covering for the head was usually worn by Jewish women (Genesis;38:14). It was worn, as a token of modesty (Genesis;24:65), as a token of subjection (Corinthians;11:3,6-7,10) and for concealment (Genesis;38:14). The removing of veil was considered rude and insolent (Song of Solomon;5:7) and  threatened as a punishment to ungodly women (Isaiah;3:23). It is also mentioned: “but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head -- it is the same as if her head were shaven”.(1 Corinthians;11:5).

Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University) in his book, ‘The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature’ writes; it was the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free. He quotes some famous ancient Rabbis saying," It is not like the daughters of Israel to walk out with heads uncovered" and "Cursed be the man who lets the hair of his wife be seen....a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment brings poverty." Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of blessings or prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering the woman's hair is considered "nudity". Dr. Brayer also mentions that "During the Tannaitic period the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred ‘zuzim’ for this offense." Dr. Brayer also explains that sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction and luxury rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority of noble women. It also represented a woman's inaccessibility as a sanctified possession of her husband. The veil signified a woman's self-respect and social status. The fact that the veil was the sign of nobility was the reason that the prostitutes were not permitted to cover their hair in the old Jewish society.  Jewish women in Europe continued to wear veils, till their lives became more intermingled with the surrounding secular culture. The external pressures of the European life in the nineteenth century forced many of them to go out bare-headed. Some Jewish women found it more convenient to replace their traditional veil with a wig as another form of hair covering. Today, most pious Jewish women do not cover their hair except in the synagogue. Some of them, such as the Hasidic sects, still use the wig.

In the Christian tradition, it is well known that Catholic Nuns have been covering their heads for hundreds of years, but that is not all. St. Paul in the New Testament made some very interesting statements about the veil: St. Paul's rationale for veiling women is that the veil represents a sign of the authority of the man, who is the image and glory of God, over the woman who was created from and for man. St.Tertullian in his famous treatise 'On The Veiling of Virgins' wrote, "Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church, you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..." Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a law that requires women to cover their heads in church. Some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil, as offered by their Church leaders is that, "The head covering is a symbol of woman's subjugation to the man and to God”, the same logic is introduced by St. Paul in the New Testament. Jesus said: “But I say to you, that every one looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. (Mathew;5:28). This implies that while, the men should lower their gaze, the women should not display their beauty.

It is obvious that Islam did not invent the head cover. However, Islam did endorse it as a symbol of modesty and respect not of subjugation. The Qur’an instructs:  "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty......And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms..." (Qur’an;24:30,31); “There is no blame on such elderly women who have no interest in getting married, if they lay aside their cloaks without displaying their adornment, but it is better for them if they do not discard. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”(Qur’an;24:60). The Qur’an is quite clear that the outer garments (Jalabib) is an essential part of a recipe designed for the purposes of modesty. Allah says in Qur’an: "O’ prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that they should be known and not molested" (Qur’an;33:59). Different methods were evolved with the expansion of Islam and intermixture with other cultures. The custom of veiling women as known at present (which originally arose as a sign of aristocracy but later served the purpose of segregating women from men; the pardah), was acquired in Iraq then under influence of Iranian culture. Much has been said about the synthesis of Hinduism and Islam in the period of Muslim dominance, but, as far as the Hindus were concerned, this was generally a matter of superficial observances. Thus, veiling (purdah), the strict seclusion of women, became commonplace among the Hindu upper classes of northern India.

The modesty is prescribed to protect women from molestation or simply, modesty is protection. According to Bible: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed (engaged), and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her; he may not put her away all his days.(Deuteronomy;22:28-29), “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall give the marriage present for her, and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equivalent to the marriage present for virgins.”(Exodus;22:16-17). The marriage of the victim of rape with the rapist is a punishment to her, she may not like to spend the rest of her life with such a criminal, payment of money equivalent to the marriage present will hardly deter such criminals. There is swear punishment for adultery and rape in Islam. The marriage is by choice and with mutual consent of the woman and man. The modestly and dignity of women is well guarded, leveling a false allegation (Qadhf) against chaste women is a hadd crime, having strict punishment mentioned in Qur’an;" And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations)- Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors"(Qur’an;24:4). Islam has laid down harsh punishments for such crimes, which strictly guards the modesty of women. 

While traveling long, the women are to be in the company of a Mehrarm [father, husband, brother], this is for their protection. Islam is for all times all cultures, presently with advancement of means of travel like airplane, modern scholars permit the travel of women in groups. 

Under Islamic law, a woman is not forbidden to be a head of state or a judge: Recently Muslim women had been heading Government as Prime Minister; Benazer Bhutto (late) twice in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and in Bangladesh Sheik Hasina Wajid and Khalida Zia. Megawati Sukarnoputri was elected to rule Indonesia, the biggest Islamic country in the world. There are many women appointed and working as judges in the courts all over the Muslim world. Arwa bint Ahmad bin Mohammad al-Sulayhi (born 1048 C.E) was the ruling queen of Yemen for 70 years (1067-1138 C.E). She is still remembered with a great deal of affection in Yemen as a marvelous queen. Her name was mentioned in the Friday sermons right after that of the Fatimid caliph in Cairo. She had good knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah. A university in Sana’a is named after her, and her mausoleum in Jibla continues to be a place of pilgrimage for Yemenis and others. The other eminent ladies who played important role in the affairs of state and philanthropy include, Buran the wife of Caliph Mamun. Among the Mughals Noor Jehan, Zaib un Nisa left their mark in Indian history. Razia Sultan was an other eminent women ruler in India. However jurists do have divergent opinions on the role of women in politics.

Freedom in Choice of Spouse but not Non Muslim: Islam grants freedom of choice to woman in selection of her spouse. When a woman told the Prophet (peace be upon him), that her father forced her into a marriage with a cousin of his, hoping to achieve a better social position for himself, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made it clear that this was wrong and nullified the marriage. The woman then declared that she approved what her father had done, but she wanted to make clear to all Muslims that men have no power over women. If a father marries his daughter to someone without her consent, a Muslim judge must nullify that marriage if she puts the case to him. In some rural tribal communities the custom of marriage of women with Qur’an for the purpose of keeping the property with in the family is not only sacrilegious but shameful, reminding the days of ignorance (jahliyah). Women are not allowed to marry non Muslim because, she may remain under pressure to freely practice her faith and other associated social problems and up keep of children.

Women Granted the Right to Divorce (Khula): Islam granted the right of divorce to women 1400 years ago, once no woman could dream of this freedom. In the procedure for divorce by man, it was ensured that sufficient checks and balances are in built to avoid impulsive decision which may have to be regretted later.(Qur’an;2:229). The women are free to marry any one else after divorce on completion of waiting period: “When you have divorced women and they have reached the end of their waiting period do not prevent them from marrying other men if they have come to an honorable agreement. This is enjoined on everyone amongst you who believes in Allah and the Last Day. This is more virtuous and chaste for you; Allah knows what you do not know.”(Qur’an;2:232).

Evidence: Women were not allowed to bear witness in early Jewish society. The Rabbis consider that the women can not bear witness due to the nine curses inflicted upon all women as Eve was blamed for the fall of Adam from heaven. Women in today's Israel are not allowed to give evidence in Rabbinical courts. The Rabbis justify why women cannot bear witness by citing Genesis;18:9-16. In the Christian West, both ecclesiastical and civil law debarred women from giving testimony until late last century. If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, her testimony will not be considered at all according to the Bible. The accused wife has to be subjected to a trial by ordeal. In this trial, the wife faces a complex and humiliating ritual which was supposed to prove her guilt or innocence (Numbers;5:11-31).

In Islam the testimony of a woman is accepted as equal to that of a man. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the man's. If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, he is required to solemnly swear five times as evidence of the wife's guilt. If the wife denies and swears similarly five times, she isn't considered guilty and in either case the marriage is dissolved, details are given in Qur’an (24:6-11) and exegesis. However in case of financial transactions two male witnesses or one male and two females are required so that if one of them errs the other can remind her (Qur’an;2:282). It does imply that, as a rule, women are less familiar with business and financial procedures than men and, therefore, more liable to commit mistakes in this respect, because in Islamic society the women is not required to work, the man is responsible to support the family, however there is no restriction on a women if she desires to work by her free will. The cultural traditions in the Eastern societies, tend to keep the women away, but with more education the trend is changing. 

Polygyny Permissible–Not Obligatory: It should not be appropriate to assume that the Qur’an is exhorting the believers to practice polygyny, or that polygyny is considered as an ideal. In other words, the Qur’an has "tolerated" or "allowed" polygyny, and no more. There are places and times in which there are compelling reasons for polygyny. In most human societies, females outnumber males. Islam as a universal religion suitable for all places and all times couldn't ignore these compelling reasons. It has to be added also that polygyny in Islam is a matter of mutual consent. No one can force a woman to marry a married man. The abuse of polygyny and repudiation of wife by the husband, even when her conduct is faultless, has recently led to the enactment of reformed family laws in most Muslim countries. The Qur'an repeatedly emphasizes the kind treatment of women.

Right of Inheritance: Qur’an and the Bible have divergent views on female inheritance of the property of a deceased relative. The Biblical attitude has been succinctly described by Rabbi Epstein: "The continuous and unbroken tradition since the Biblical days gives the female members of the household, wife and daughters, no right of succession to the family estate. In the more primitive scheme of succession, the female members of the family were considered part of the estate and as remote from the legal personality of an heir as the slave. Whereas by Mosaic enactment, the daughters were admitted to succession once no male issue remained, the wife was not recognized as heir even in such conditions." Why were the female members of the family considered part of the family estate? Rabbi Epstein has the answer: "They are owned --before marriage, by the father; after marriage, by the husband." The Biblical rules of inheritance are outlined in Book of Numbers;27:1-11. A wife is given no share in her husband's estate, while he is her first heir, even before her sons. A daughter can inherit only if no male heirs exist. A mother is not an heir at all while the father is. Widows and daughters, in case male children remained, were at the mercy of the male heirs for provision. That is why widows and orphan girls were among the most destitute members of the Jewish society.  Christianity has followed suit for long time. Both the ecclesiastical and civil laws of Christendom barred daughters from sharing with their brothers in the father's patrimony. Besides, wives were deprived of any inheritance rights. These iniquitous laws survived till late in the last century. Among the pagan Arabs before Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male relatives.

Islam abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the female relatives inheritance shares: Man and woman have been given the right to inherit from the parents and the near relatives by Qur’an: “Men shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and women shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave...” (Qur’an;4:7). A woman’s right to inherit is as much protected by law as that of a man. However, it must be remembered that whereas the right to inherit of both man and woman is equal, their shares in the inheritance may differ. In certain cases, the share of woman in inheritance is equal to the man, according to Qur’an: “For parents a sixth share of the inheritance to each if the deceased left children”(Qur’an;4:11), however in certain cases the woman gets half of what a man in her position would get. The cause of this variation is the financial responsibilities and liabilities with which man has been burdened, not woman. As compared to Muslim man, Muslim woman is financially secure and provided for as a wife, mother, daughter or sister by her husband, son, father and brother respectively. "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard"(Qur’an;4:34). If a woman has no male relations, then it is the responsibility of the state to maintain her. Whereas, a man, except in one or two cases, is supposed to not only look after his family and other needy relations, but also to make financial contributions to good causes in society. Thus, a larger share in the inheritance does not depict the supremacy of man over woman, but it is rather a concession granted to him in lieu of his financial and other responsibilities. Regrettably it is observed that in most of Muslims communities, while men happily get the more share than the women in inheritance but mostly they do not meet this obligation, which they owe to the entitled women. Such men would be answerable to Allah for this sin.

Among many nations, including Arabs in the Days of Ignorance, the widow was considered a part of her husband's property to be inherited by his male heirs, a step-son or brother took possession of a dead man's widow or widows along with his goods and chattels. This shameful custom was forbidden by Islam, Allah says:” And marry not women whom your fathers married except what is past: it was shameful and odious an abominable custom indeed.”(Qur’an;4:22). The widows and divorcees have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. There is no stigma attached with divorce or widowhood in Islam (Qur’an;2:231,232, 234, 240). The western tradition of adoption of her husband's family name by a woman when she marries him is a token of her subjugation to him. If divorce takes place, she returns to her own family. It is very strange that in some Western countries, even after divorce, a woman may continue to be known by her husband's family name. Historically speaking, a woman in the Western society was in a position of total subordination to her husband. In Islam, she retains her own family name because she is allowed to retain her identity.

Violence against Women: Domestic violence is very old menace, Arabs were no exception, and their maltreatment to women is a well known historic fact. They used to beat their women on small matters as it is still vogue in all the underdeveloped as well as the most developed societies of the world, where special laws have been made to discourage it. In the year 1995 in USA alone the lawmakers showed a heightened awareness of and sensitivity to domestic violence, with several states increasing penalties for abusers. New York enacted the omnibus Family Protection and Domestic Violence Act, and Maryland passed three new domestic-violence laws. Colorado passed five domestic-violence bills, including one that mandated arrest for the violation of a restraining order and jail time for a second offense. Virginia passed a number of laws with stiffer penalties for domestic violence, while Michigan had 14 new laws that would help in prevention and prosecution.

This menace was handled in Islam objectively, by formulating the guidelines where by men can not resort to use of force against their wives as per their wish every now and then on minor matters. Allah says in Qur’an: “Men are overseers over women because Allah has given the one more strength than other, and because men are required to spend their wealth for the maintenance of women. Honorable women are, therefore, devoutly obedient and guard in the husband's absence what Allah require them to guard their husband's property and their own honor. As to those women from whom you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, first admonish them, then refuse to share your bed with them, and (and last) if necessary beat them (lightly); Then if they obey you, take no further actions against them and do not make excuses to punish them. Allah is Supremely Great and is aware of your actions.”(Qur’an;4:34). It is evident from many authentic Traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one’s wife and said on more than one occasion, “Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?”(Sahih Bukhari;8.68 and Muslim). According to an other Tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with the words, “Never beat God’s handmaidens”(Abu Dawood, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad inn Hambal, Ibn Hibban and Hakim, on the authority Ilyas ibn ‘Abd Allah; ibn Hibban, on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn Abbas; and Bayhaqi, on the authority of Umm Kulthum). When the above Qur’anic verse, authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said: “I wanted one thing but God has willed another thing – and what God has willed must be best” (Manar V, 74). With all this, he stipulated in his sermon the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death that, beating should be resorted to only if the wife “has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct”, and that it should be done “in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayar mubarrih)”; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Nasa’I and Ibn Majah. On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this “beating”, if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic – “with a toothbrush (muswak), or some  such thing” (Tibri, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even “with a folded handkerchief” (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Safi’i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet’s personal feelings with regard to this problem. [Commentary by M.Asad]. In case all the efforts fail the family council is recommended in the next verse: “If you fear a breach of marriage between a man and his wife, appoint one arbiter from his family and another from hers; if they wish to reconcile, Allah will create a way of reconciliation between them. Allah is the Knowledgeable, Aware.”(Qur’an;4:35).

Allah says: “You have indeed, in the life of Messenger of Allah, the 'Best Model' for him whose hope is in Allah and the Day of the Hereafter, and who engages himself much in the remembrance of Allah.”(Qur’an;33:21), “Obey Allah and obey His messenger;” (Qur’an;64:12). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is not reported to have used force against his wives. In fact he has been very kind to them. Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Habibah daughter of Sahl was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays Shimmas. He beat her and broke some of her part. So she came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) after morning, and complained to him against her husband. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called on Thabit ibn Qays and said (to him): Take a part of her property and separate yourself from her. He asked: Is that right, Apostle of Allah? He said: Yes. He said: I have given her two gardens of mine as a dower, and they are already in her possession. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Take them and separate yourself from her. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 915). Narrated Laqit ibn Sabirah: Messenger of Allah, I have a wife who has something (wrong) in her tongue, i.e. she is insolent. He said: Then divorce her. I said: Messenger of Allah, she had company with me and I have children from her. He said: Then ask her (to obey you). If there is something good in her, she will do so (obey); and do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 72). Narrated Mu'awiyah ibn Haydah: I said: Apostle of Allah, how should we approach our wives and how should we leave them? He replied: Approach your tilth when or how you will, give her (your wife) food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 878). It may be reasonable to conclude that it is permissible (not compulsory,  undesirable) for the husband to use force lightly under extreme circumstance involving disloyalty and ill-conduct by his wife but only after fulfilling certain conditions i.e. first admonishing, then declining to share  bed with her. It is obvious that these are not abrupt or emotional acts but, rational and gradual actions which should result in corrective positive response from the wife. If she obeys, then it is forbidden to take any  further actions against her or to make excuses to punish, since the matter stands resolved. However if she does not improve her conduct, then the other option is divorce, but prior to it a light coercive action (just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided) may save the marriage. It is obvious that any pious and sane woman will not create such conditions; she may desist during first two steps. The killing of women on suspicion of ill-conduct termed as ‘Honor Killing’ (karokari) prevalent in many societies is totally against teachings of Islam.

Reconciliation: If the matter persists resulting to the breach of marriage, use of council by arbitrator form family of woman and man is to be arranged for reconciliation: “If a women fears cruelty or desertion from her husband, there is no blame if both of them agree to reconcile by means of a compromise, after all compromise is better. Human souls are prone to narrow- mindedness, but if you show generosity and fear Allah in your dealings, surely Allah is well aware of your actions.”(Qur’an;4:128). The lawful but most undesirable act is divorce (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 893). The doors of reconciliation remain open for some time. Allah says: “Divorced women must keep themselves waiting for three menstrual periods; it is not lawful for them to hide what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. In such cases their husbands have a right to take them back in that period if they desire reconciliation. Women have rights similar to those exercised against them in an equitable manner, although men have a status (degree of responsibility) above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise.”(Qur’an;2:228).

Entrepreneurship: A woman in the Islamic system is not required to work for her living. Her husband or her guardian is responsible to look after her. If she has none to support her, the state is required to undertake that task. At the same time, a woman is fully entitled to work either as a free agent or an employee. A woman has equal rights to be entrepreneur, contract, earn, possess property and assets independently. From the Islamic point of view, there is no decent job, which is restricted to or made the absolute reserve of men. Provided that the Islamic standard of propriety and morality is maintained, a woman may have any respectable job. Women conducted trade and business even during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In fact, his first wife Khadija was a successful and famous business woman of Makkah. Parents have no right to force their daughters to marry against their will. Just as a woman has the right to choose her spouse, she also has the right to seek divorce (khula) from him.

Illustrious Role of Women in Muslim Society:

The main responsibility of women is to look after the household and children but it does not imply that the women have to confine herself to her house only. They have the right to participate in public life in dignified manner.(Sahih Muslim Hadith. 3535).

The women got exalted positions in the Muslim society. Woman is equal to man in the pursuit of education and knowledge. The Prophet declared: “Search for knowledge is a sacred duty imposed on every Muslim man and woman.” The life of Aysha (Mother of Believers,) is proof that a woman can be far more learned than men and that she can be the teacher of scholars and experts. Khadijah al-Kubra (the Great) and Fatima az-Zahra (the Resplendent), Aysha as-Siddiqah (the one who affirms the Truth) are regarded as highly respected woman in Islam. Her life also substantiates that a woman can exert influence over men and women and provide them with inspiration and leadership. The Second Caliph of Islam, Umar, appointed a woman, Shaffa Bint Abdullah, to supervise the market. He would often consult her and held her in high esteem. Sukayna (also “Sakina), the great granddaughter of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and daughter of Imam Hussein was the most brilliant most accomplished and virtuous women of her time. She grew up to be an outspoken critic of the Umayyads. She became a political activist, speaking against all kinds of tyranny and personal, social and political iniquities and injustice. She was a fiercely independent woman. She married more than once, and each time she stipulated assurance of her personal autonomy, and the condition of monogamy on the prospective husband’s part, in the marriage contract. She went about her business freely, attended and addressed meetings, received men of letters, thinkers, and other notables at her home, and debated issues with them. She was an exceedingly well-educated woman who would take no nonsense from anyone howsoever high and mighty he or she might be.

Conclusion: Islam has offered dignity, justice, and protection to women which, for long, have remained out of their reach. Although man and woman have been created equal, but they are not identical. Both have been fashioned differently from each other, so their roles and responsibilities are also different. The variation in their functions does not imply that one is inferior to the other. In Islam, both men and women can rise in spiritual eminence and knowledge. The Muslim women dressed modestly is in respectable position. Islam granted the right of divorce to women 1400 years ago, once no woman could dream of this freedom. Women were not allowed to bear witness in early Jewish society. In the Christian West, both ecclesiastical and civil law debarred women from giving testimony until late last century. In Islam the testimony of a woman is accepted as equal to that of a man except in financial cases. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the man's in certain cases. Inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male relatives; Islam abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the female relatives inheritance shares. Muslim woman is financially secure and provided for as a wife, mother, daughter or sister by her husband, son, father and brother respectively. Before the advent of Islam women were denied basic human dignity. Regrettably in some Muslim societies, the rights granted to the women by Islam are denied due to the local culture and traditions, for which Islam can not be blamed. The rights granted to women by Islam are unrivalled in the history of religion, evident form the fact that among the new coverts to Islam in the West are women because the in Islam the women are not subjugated but emancipated. Islam can not be blamed for the local cultural traditions which are found to be against women. There is no religious pressure upon women to create hindrance in the religious obligations of their adult sons, brothers or husbands if any chooses to participate in some military campaigns for the cause of Allah.  

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[Allah knows the best]


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