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Status of Women in Islam Essay

STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM, Rights of Women in lslam and
Duties of a woman in lslam

1. STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM

Women have a very important place in Islamic society. Unlike a number of other religions, Islam holds a women in high esteem. Her importance as an other and a wife has been clearly stated by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).The prophet said, “Paradise lies at the feet of your mothers.” Once a person asked the Prophet, “Who deserves the best care from me?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother (he repeated this three times), then your father and then your nearest relatives.”

In his farewell speech at ‘Arafat in the tenth year of the Hijrah, the Prophet said,”O people, your wives have certain rights over you and you have certain rights over them. Treat them well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers.” The Prophet also said, “The best among you is the one who is the best towards his wife.”

These sayings clearly prove the important position given to women in Islam but there are still people, especially in the West, who have misgivings about the status of women in Islam. To these people, the Muslim women is seen as ‘Prisoner in the four walls of the house’, a non-person’, and ‘someone who has no rights and is living always under the domination of a man’. These notions are totally wrong and are based on ignorance rather than knowledge of Islam. One of the rites of Hajj is the fast walk between As-Safa and Al-Marwah, which is observed to remember the event of Hajar (Hagar), mother of Prophet Ismail, who ran between these two hills to find water. This is another proof of the importance given to women by Islam. In order to Judge these false ideas held by western people, it would be useful to survey the attitudes to women in different societies in the past. During the Roman civilization, for example, a woman was regarded as a slave.

The Greeks considered her a commodity to be bought and sold. Early Christianity regarded women as temptresses, responsible for the fall of Adam. In India, the Hindus until recently, considered their women worse then death, pests, serpents or even Hell. A wife’s life ended with the death of her husband. In the past, a widow had to jump into the flames of her husband’s funeral pyre.

In the pre-Islamic state of Arabia, a woman was regarded is a cause for grief and unhappiness and baby girls were sometimes buried alive after birth.

In France, in 587 CE, a meeting was held to study the status of women and to determine whether a woman could truly be considered a human being or not!. Henry VIII in England forbade the reading of the Bible by women and throughout the Middle Ages the Catholic Church treated women as second-class citizens. In the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, male and female students were not given the same rights until 1964. Before 1850, women were not counted as citizen in England and English women had no personal rights until 1882′.

If we keep this picture in mind and look into the position of the women inIslam, we must conclude that lslam liberated women from the dark age ofobscurity fourteen hundred years ago!

Islam is a religion of common sense and is in line with human nature. It recognises the realities of life. This does not mean it has recognised equality of man and woman in every respect. Rather, it has defined their duties in keeping with their different biological make-up (2:228). Allah has not made man and woman identical, so it would be against nature to try to have total equality between a man and a woman.

That would destroy the social balance. Society would not prosper but would instead have insoluble problems such as broken marriages, illegitimate children and the break-up of family life. These problems are already rife in western society. Schoolgirl pregnancies, an increase in abortions, divorce and many other problems have cropped up because of a permissive outlook and the so-called freedom of women.

2. Rights of Women in lslam

Allah has created every living being in pairs – male and female (51:49) -including mankind. Allah has honoured the children of Adam – both male and female (17:70). Men and women who believe are protectors of one another (9:71). Allah will reward both men and women in the life after death (3:195). In lslam a woman has a distinct and separate identity. Islam has given her the right to own property. She is the owner of her earnings. No-one (father, husband or brother) has a right over them. She can dispose of her earnings and property as she wishes, within the bounds of Halal (lawful) and Haram(unlawful).

lslam has given women a right to inheritance. She has a claim on the property of her dead father, husband or childless brother (4:7, 32,176). A woman has the right to choose her husband. No-one can impose a decision on her against her will. She has a right to seek separation (Khula’) from her husband if their marriage becomes impossible to sustain.

If any man falsely questions a woman’s chastity, that man is declared unfit forgiving evidence (24:4). This shows how a woman’s honour is safeguarded from false accusations.

The Quran asks the Muslims to treat women kindly (4:19). It makes Muslim husbands responsible for their wife’s maintenance. The women in return, are expected to remain obedient and chaste (4:34).

A woman has a right to develop her talents and to work within the Limits of Islam. Islam allows a non-Muslim married woman to retain their religion and her husband cannot interfere in this freedom. This applies to Christian and Jewish women with Muslim husbands.

Duties of a woman in lslam

Islam is a fair and balanced system of life. While it specifies the rights of women it also lays down duties. A Muslim is expected to observe the
following:

1. Belief in Tawhid and the practice of lslam come first. A Muslim woman must perform her Salah, observe Sawm, pay Zakah on her own wealth (If it is applicable) and go on Hajj if she can afford it. She is exempted from Salahand can defer Sawm during her period, but she must make up the days lost afterwards. Friday prayer (Jumu’ah) is optional for women.

2. She is required to maintain her chastity all the time. She must not have any extra-marital relationships. The same is the case with men.

3. It is her duty to bring up children according to the needs of lslam. She has to look after the family and has almost absolute control over domestic affairs, although the family is run by mutual consultation and co-operation. She is the queen of the family and in charge of domestic life.

4. She should dress modestly and should put on Hijab (covering cloak) while going out and meeting adult males beyond her close relatives (33:59,24:30-31). She should not wear man’s clothing.

5. She is her husband’s help-mate. A faithful wife is like a garment, a Source of peace, happiness and contentment for her husband (30:21,2:187).

6. If she is asked to go against the commands of Allah, she must defy even her husband, father or brother.

7. She is expected to protect her husband’s property and belongings in his absence.

Islam views a husband and wife as complementary to each other. Neither dominates the other. Each has his or her own individual rights and duties – together they form a peaceful and happy family which is the basis for a sound and prosperous society.

Man and woman are not exactly equal in lslam. They have different physical and biological features. Islam recognizes the leadership of a man over a woman (4:34, 2:228) but that does not mean domination.

An average man is stronger, heavier, harder in muscles and taller than an average woman. Women can become pregnant and bear children but men cannot. Women tend to be sensitive, emotional and tender while man is comparatively less emotional and more practical.

Throughout history, men and women have never been treated the same. Islam has given women the right position and has not attempted to violate divine laws. Other religions and philosophies have been unable to visualize the exact and right role of women. In the West, women have been reduced almost to a commodity of enjoyment and fancy. Women have tended to degrade themselves unwittingly in modern times for, in the name of equality, they have become the objects of exploitation by men and the slogans of liberty and equality have virtually reduced them to playful commodities. They haven either gained liberty or achieved equality; rather they have lost their natural place in the home.


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