Thursday, 16 June 2011

Women Liberation through Islam


Today people think that women are liberated in
the West and that the women's liberation movement began in the 20th
century. Actually, the women's liberation movement was not begun
by women but was revealed by God to a man in the seventh century
by the name of Muhammad (peace be upon him), who is known as the
last Prophet of Islam. The Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet
(Hadith or Sunnah) are the sources from which every Muslim woman
derives her rights and duties.


Islam, fourteen centuries ago, made women equally
accountable to God in glorifying and worshipping Him - setting no
limits on her moral progress. Also, Islam established a woman's
equality in her humanity with men. In the Qur'an, in the first verse
of the chapter entitled "Women," God says, "O mankind!
Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single
soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad
a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah
in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the
wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you."
(4:1) Since men and women both came from the same essence, they
are equal in their humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as
some religious believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly,
neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction
of equality.


In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression
based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is
free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states: "There is no
compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error."
(2:256) Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions
and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) which
indicate women would pose questions directly to him and offer their
opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters. A Muslim
woman chooses her husband and keeps her name after marriage. A Muslim
woman's testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas
in which women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive.


The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Seeking knowledge
is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)." This includes
knowledge of the Qur'an and the Hadith as well as other knowledge.
Men and women both have the capacity for learning and understanding.
Since it is also their obligation to promote good behavior and condemn
bad behavior in all spheres of life, Muslim women must acquire the
appropriate education to perform this duty in accordance with their
own natural talents and interests. While maintenance of a home,
providing support to her husband, and bearing, raising and teaching
of children are among the first and very highly regarded roles for
a woman, if she has the skills to work outside the home for the
good of the community, she may do so as long as her family obligations
are met. Islam recognizes and fosters the natural differences between
men and women despite their equality. Some types of work are more
suitable for men and other types for women. This in no way diminishes
either's effort nor its benefit. God will reward both sexes equally
for the value of their work, though it may not necessarily be the
same activity. Concerning motherhood, the Prophet (pbuh) said: "Heaven
lies under the feet of mothers." This implies that the success
of a society can be traced to the mothers that raised it. The first
and greatest influence on a person comes from the sense of security,
affection, and training received from the mother. Therefore, a woman
having children must be educated and conscientious in order to be
a skillful parent.


A right given to Muslim women by God 1400 years
ago is the right to vote. On any public matter, a woman may voice
her opinion and participate in politics. One example, narrated in
the Qur'an (60:12), is that Muhammad (pbuh) is told that when the
believing women come to him and swear their allegiance to Islam,
he must accept their oath. This established the right of women to
select their leader and publicly declare so. Finally, Islam does
not forbid a woman from holding important positions in government.
Abdur-Rahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended
Uthman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.


The Qur'an states: "By the creation of the
male and female; Verily, (the ends) ye strive for are diverse."
(92:3-4) In these verses, God declares that He created men and women
to be different, with unique roles, functions and skills. As in
society, where there is a division of labor, so too in a family;
each member has different responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds
that women are entrusted with the nurturing role, and men, with
the guardian role. Therefore, women are given the right of financial
support. The Qur'an states: "Men are the maintainers of women
because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because
they spend of their wealth (for the support of women)." (4:34)
This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given
to men, requires that they provide women with not only monetary
support but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment.
The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own
property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her
assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and
no one has any claim on her earnings including her husband. The
Qur'an states:

"And in no wise covet those things in which
Allah hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on
others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women, what they
earn; but ask Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge
of all things." (4:32)

A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur'an states: "For
men there is a share in what parents and relatives leave, and for
women there is a share of what parents and relatives leave, whether
it be little or much - an ordained share." (4:7)


The Qur'an states: "And among His signs is
that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may
live in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between
you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." (30:21)
Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity,
but in fact, a sign from God! It is a relationship of mutual rights
and obligations based on divine guidance. God created men and women
with complimentary natures, and in the Qur'an, He laid out a system
of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes. "...They
are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187) Clothing
provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of
the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the
other and hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of
the spouse. To foster the love and security that comes with marriage,
Muslim wives have various rights. The first of the wife's rights
is to receive mahr, a gift from the husband which is part of the
marriage contract and required for the legality of the marriage.
The second right of a wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she
may have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter
and clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability
and his wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. 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." (65:7)

God tells us men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership
in the family. His responsibility for obeying God extends to guiding
his family to obey God at all times. A wife's rights also extend
beyond material needs. She has the right to kind treatment.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "The most perfect
believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those
who are best to their wives."

God tells us He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquillity
between them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and
sexual needs, and marriage is designed to fulfill those needs. For
one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, temptation exists
to seek it elsewhere.


With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives
have certain obligations to their husbands. The Qur'an states: "The
good women in the absence of their husbands guard their rights as
Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded." (4:34) A wife
is to keep her husband's secrets and protect their marital privacy.
Issues of intimacy or faults of his that would dishonor him, are
not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her
honor. A wife must also guard her husband's property. She must safeguard
his home and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft
or damage. She should manage the household affairs wisely so as
to prevent loss or waste. he should not allow anyone to enter the
house whom her husband dislikes nor incur any expenses of which
her husband disapproves. A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate
with her husband. There cannot, however, be cooperation with a man
who is disobedient to God. She should not fulfill his requests if
he wants her to do something unlawful. A husband also should not
take advantage of his wife, but be considerate of her needs and


The Qur'an states:

"And it becomes not a believing man or a believing
women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decided on an
affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in
their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger,
he verily goes astray in error manifest." (33:36)

The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights
1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West.
These are from God and are designed to keep balance in society;
what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for
or explained in another place. Islam is a complete way of life.

Mary Ali and Anjum Ali

(published by The Institute of Islamic
Information and Education (III&E) and reproduced with permission)
The Institute of Islamic Information and Education (III&E) is
dedicated to the cause of Islam in North America through striving
to elevate the image of Islam and Muslims by providing the correct
information about Islamic beliefs, history and civilization from
the authentic sources. Enquiries are welcome. Islam-on-the-Phone
(312) 777-0767 Ask for a list of questions and codes.


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