Islam's View on Domestic Violence
In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur'an 4:19).
If the problem relates to the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and expresses contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure then a punitive one.
Following is the related Qur'anic text:
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. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) do not share their beds, (and last) beat (tap) them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (4:34)
Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a. It must be seen as A RARE EXCEPTION TO THE REPEATED EXHORTATION OF MUTUAL RESPECT, KINDNESS AND GOOD TREATMENT, discussed earlier. Based on the Qur'an and hadith this measure may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.
b. As defined by hadith, it is NOT PERMISSIBLE TO STRIKE ANYONE'S FACE, CAUSE ANY BODILY HARM OR EVEN BE HARSH. What the hadith qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih, or light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of miswak (a small natural toothbrush)! They further qualified permissible striking" as that which leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen-centuries-old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort, and "lesser of the two evils" measure that may save a marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence, " or "wife battering" in the 20th century law in liberal democracies, where such extremes are so commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.
c. The permissibility of such symbolic expression of the seriousness of continued refraction DOES NOT IMPLY ITS DESIRABILITY. In several ahadith, Prophet Muhammad (P) discouraged this measure. Among his sayings are the following: "Do not beat the female servants of Allah;" "Some (women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you; and"[It is not a shame that] one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at the end of the day. (See Riyadh Al-Saliheen, op.cit,p.p. 137-140). In another hadith the Prophet(P) said
How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her? (Sahih Al-Bukhari,op.cit., vol.8.hadith 68,pp.42-43).
d. True following of the sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (P), who NEVER RESORTED TO THAT MEASURE, regardless of the circumstances.
e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures and circumstances. Some measures may work in some cases and cultures or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. by definition, a ""permissible"" act is neither required, encouraged or forbidden. In fact it may be BETTER TO SPELL OUT THE EXTENT of permissibility, such as in the issue at hand, rather than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified, or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way, which can lead to excesses and real abuse.
f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an or hadith). Such EXCESSES AND VIOLATIONS ARE TO BE BLAMED ON THE PERSON(S) HIMSELF, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet (P).
Wife Abuse in the Muslim Community
Wife abuse has hurt many Muslim women, destroyed many Muslim families, and weakened the entire Muslim community. How much longer can Muslims afford to look the other way?
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) Qu'ran 30:21I recommend that you treat women with goodness. The best of you are those who treat their wives the best. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him)
Wife-abuse, which stretches across all ethnic, racial, educational, and socio-economic lines in the Muslim community, results in severe emotional and physical pain for many Muslim women, a stacking up of sins for many Muslim men, and many weak, unhappy Muslim families that fail to contribute adequately to the development of the Muslim community and the rest of North American society.
Despite the severity of the problem, the Muslim community has largely closed its eyes and devoted very few resources to helping the victims and stopping the abusers.
FORMS OF ABUSE OF MUSLIM WOMEN
Domestic violence is an ongoing, debilitating experience of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse in the home," says the American Medical Association.
Although Islam promises women protection from such problems, the reality in many Muslim homes is different.
The most common form of abuse is emotional and mental abuse. In Muslim homes, this includes verbal threats to divorce the wife, to remarry, or to take the kids away if she does not do exactly as she is told; intimidation and threats of harm; degradation, humiliation, insults, ridicule, name-calling, and criticism; false accusations and blaming her for everything; ignoring, dismissing, or ridiculing her needs; neglect and the silent treatment; spying on her; telling her she is a failure and will go to hell; twisting Islamic teachings to make her feel worthless because she is a woman; restricting her access to transportation, health care, food, clothing, money, friends, or social services; physical and social isolation; extreme jealousy and possessiveness; lying, breaking promises, destroying trust; etc. Emotional abuse can take place in public or at home.
Although it's completely contrary to the example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the Muslim community nonetheless tends to dismiss the seriousness of mental abuse, rationalizing it as a petty argument between husband and wife, and saying it's not serious unless he hits her. In reality, mental abuse does severe psychological harm to many Muslim women. It destroys their self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth; some have mental breakdowns and go insane.
Furthermore, psychological abuse can lead to physical abuse.
Physical abuseincludes pushing, shoving, choking, slapping, punching, kicking, and beating; assault with a weapon; tying up; refusing to help her when she is sick or injured; physically throwing her out of the house; etc. Physical abuse escalates in frequency and severity.
The third form of abuse is sexual abuse, involving forced, violent sex. For example, a wife may not want to have sex for health reasons, but the husband may force her anyway.
These three forms of abuse are usually related and occur of a long period of time. Muslim men, just like non-Muslims, often start with mental abuse and work their way up. Muslim women need to recognize the signs of escalating abuse.
WHY DO SOME MUSLIM MEN ABUSE THEIR WIVES?
There are a number of factors that make some Muslim men abusive.
Abusers are often part of a cycle, picking up the habit after watching their own fathers abuse their mothers in North America or in Muslim countries. And their own children learn this abusive behavior and abuse their wives. (This is an important point because the longer the Muslim community tolerates abuse, the longer it will be passed on from father to son, from generation to generation.)
For cultural reasons, some Muslim men accept the idea that it's normal for a man to hit his wife and that she is no more than a piece of his property.
Some Muslim husbands abuse their wives as a result of frustration resulting from economic hardship, political oppression experienced outside the U.S., problems with the children, or an inferiority complex.
Some abuse their wives because they want them to be more ""modern"" and less Islamic by removing their hijab (Islamic dress), while others are abusive because they want the opposite.
Some Muslims with superficial ties to Islam don't know that abuse is unacceptable due to their weak faith, poor Islamic knowledge, and lack of interaction with the Muslim community.
Tragically, some Muslim men actually use Islam to ""justify"" their abusive behavior. Focusing on rituals, considering themselves to be Islamically knowledgeable, and disregarding the spirit of Islam, they wrongly use the Qur'anic verse that says men are the protectors and maintainers of women to go on power trips, demand total obedience, and order their wives around. They disregard the Islamic requirement for the head of the household to consult with other members of the family when making decisions.
Then, if their wives dare to speak up or question their orders, these men misinterpret a Qur'anic verse that talks about how to treat a disobedient wife and use it as a license for abuse.QURAN AND SUNNAH
In reality, the Qur'an and Sunnah provide clear instructions on what procedures a husband must use in conflict situations where the husband is innocent and the wife is rebellious and at fault.
1. The first step is a peaceful discussion between the two of them about the problem and solutions. This is intended to soften hearts and eliminate misunderstandings.
2. If this doesn't work, the next step is for the husband to tell his wife his expectations in a firm, decisive manner.
3. If the rebelliousness and disobedience continues, the husband is supposed to leave the bed, which is really a punishment for both of them for not being able to resolve their differences.
4. If that fails to solve the problem, representatives of both sides meet to try and arbitrate.
5. As a last resort, if he thinks it will prevent divorce by letting the wife know how serious he is, the husband can use a light slap on the hand or shoulder but not on any other part of the body, and it shouldn't leave a mark or scar.
Anything beyond this is Islamically prohibited.
This procedure is to be followed _only_ when the wife is the cause of a serious problem and the husband is innocent, compassionate, and well-behaved. If the husband is the cause of the problem, he has _no right_ to do any of this.
Unfortunately, Muslim wives often accept un-Islamic treatment from their husbands because they don't know their Islamic rights, and they don't realize their husbands are crossing the Islamic line.
Abusive men are completely disregarding the Islamic teachings of kindness, mercy, gentleness, and forgiveness, just as they are disregarding the example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who never hit a woman and was extremely gentle and compassionate with his family.
WHY IS HELP SO SCARCE?
One problem is that many Muslims don't want to get involved in the ""private"" family affairs of other Muslims. Rather than enjoining good and forbidding evil, rather than trying to stop abuse in a friend's or neighbor's family by offering to mediate between the husband and wife or by encouraging them to speak to Muslim counsellors, many irresponsible Muslims close their eyes and pretend they don't know there's a problem. So the abuse goes on.
Another reason why abuse isn't stopped is that many abused Muslim women simply don't seek out help. They're afraid that if their situation becomes public they will lose their privacy because Muslims gossip so much, and they fear the abusers will become more hostile when the negative publicity gets back to them. Furthermore, many abused Muslim women remain silent because they lack confidence in themselves and believe that they somehow deserve the abuse. Abused Muslim women also keep quiet out of a feeling of hopelessness and a belief that no one will help them, out of financial dependence on their husbands, out of a desire to keep homes together for the children's sake, or out of love for the abusive husbands. Other Muslim women accept the abuse as a fact of life and learn to live with it.
Of those who reach a breaking point and seek help, many Muslim women turn to imams but often find them unhelpful. Imams often tell these women to be patient and pray for the abuse to end. Some imams make the abused Muslim women feel guilty, telling them they have brought the abuse upon themselves and instructing them to go home and please their husbands.
Other imams, who are sincerely but mistakenly misinterpreting Islam by putting the importance of family privacy above any harm that might come to the individual woman, tell the women it is wrong for them to discuss their problems with anyone other than their husbands. The imams's reactions stem from ignorance, cowardice, or friend-ship or blood relationship with the abusive husbands. Relatively few imams have had the wisdom and courage to tackle the problem head-on. As a result of this, many abused women don't bother turning to imams for help.
Looking for other sources of help, many abused Muslim women have turned to relatives only to be told to accept the abuse because making a big deal out of it could hurt the relatives' family honor and reputation.
Finding many imams and relatives to be more cruel than Islamic, abused Muslim women often turn to Muslim female activists and Muslim women's organizations for help. While these activists are often untrained in crisis intervention, they are getting the abused women out of their houses and hiding them until Muslim men can be sent to try to reason with the husbands. They often collect money from other women to give to the abused women until it's safe for them to go back home. When continued attempts to salvage the marriages have proven futile, these activists counsel the abused women on how to get out of their marriages.
As for national Islamic organizations, most have largely ignored the issue of wife abuse, neglecting to highlight the problem and solutions during national conferences or to devote resources to helping abused Muslim women.
Overall, the services provided by the Muslim community for abused Muslim women take care of one-quarter of the need, according to Muslim activists.
Because the Muslim community often leaves them to suffer, many abused Muslim women turn to shelters run by non-Muslims for help. Seeing abused Muslim women at shelters leaves non-Muslim social workers with an ugly picture of Islam. As far as many of them are concerned, Islam is no more just and compassionate than Christianity or Judaism because the Muslim community tolerates wife abuse too. Going to a non-Muslim shelter can result social workers taking children away from troubled Muslim homes if they think it is better for them to be in a more stable environment, which often ends up being a non-Muslim home.
Many women go even further, leaving Islam altogether because the Muslim community fails to live up to the Islamic promise of protection, brotherhood, and sisterhood.
THE COMMUNITY'S ROLE
The Muslim community has clearly failed in its obligations to protect many Muslim women and to bring many cruel Muslim men to justice. The community needs to deal much more effectively with wife abuse in order to stop the immediate suffering of people in abusive situations and to help build healthy Muslim families.
First, the community must accept the fact that there is a problem and that it doesn't know how to deal with it.
Then a core group of trusted, active Muslim men and women in each North American city, who are committed to ending wife abuse in the Muslim community and to strengthening Muslim families, must become knowledgeable about Islamic guidelines on the family and be trained in crisis intervention and counseling. Unfortunately, some community ""leaders"" will be too ignorant or arrogant to seek such training; but they must not be allowed to get in the way.
Since there aren't yet many Muslims qualified to teach crisis intervention and counseling, several Muslim women throughout North America have started learning these techniques from non-Muslim social service agencies (listed in the phone book under wife abuse, domestic violence, or crisis intervention). Other Muslim women and men need to follow suit. Whatever they learn from these agencies should be cast in the light of their Islamic knowledge of properly functioning Muslim families.
Once they know what they're doing, members of core groups across the continent should recruit and train others in their communities in crisis intervention and the Islamic perspective on the family. There should be a network of at least 100 trained counselors in every major North American city.
A list of trained Muslims and their phone numbers (or one Muslim hotline number) should be circulated throughout the community in each city so that abused women know whom they can turn to for meaningful help.
Most of women approaching the network initially will be physically abused Muslims. Victims of mental abuse will less likely to reach out at first because many have become accustomed to the abuse and accept it as a way of life. But educational programs at community gatherings -- explaining what Islamic family life should be like and explaining that there is help available for abused women -- will let emotionally abused Muslim women know they have a way to stop the pain.
These trained Muslims should give abused women shelter (at people's homes or at community facilities, such as a rented apartment) for periods ranging from several days to several months depending on the extent of the abuse, while counseling them.
Beyond this, taking into account the fact that many Muslim women will still turn to non-Muslim shelters because they don't want to deal with the Muslim community or because the community program is not big enough to help them, the Muslim community should sensitize people running non-Muslim shelters to the particular needs of Muslim women; and trained Muslims should visit the shelters regularly and constantly remind shelter operators that they are available to help whenever a Muslim woman comes in.
While caring for the abused women, the trained Muslims should counsel the abusers separately, making them aware of the reasons they abuse, of the fact that their actions are truly harming their wives, that such behavior is completely un-Islamic, and that God will hold them accountable.
After separate counselling, the next step would be joint counselling for the husband and wife, and then counselling for the entire family.
The objective should be to heal the family, but divorce may be necessary.
Another option, that some Muslims in New York have tried, is to punish Muslim men for their abusive actions. A ""security force"" warns, and then beats up, if necessary, Muslim men who continue beating their wives. Usually the abusers get the message; this is the only language many of them understand. Some men have to be beaten before they wake up and are ready to listen to rational, Islamic arguments.
Police and psychiatrists may have to be involved in severe cases of chronic abuse.
Community education is an indispensable factor on top of all this. Starting today, throughout the process outlined above, community leaders and other concerned Muslims need to educate people -- about the problem and about efforts to help victims and prevent future abuse -- through Friday khutbahs (sermons), educational seminars, and workshops. These educational programs can themselves reduce abuse by letting people know the community isn't going to tolerate it anymore. The community isn't going to tolerate it anymore.
Furthermore, the community needs to extablish classes to teach Muslim men, young and old, how to be proper husbands and fathers and to teach Muslim women, young and old, how to be proper wives and mothers. Many Muslims don't know their rights and obligations in these roles.
In addition, in order to prevent future family problems, parents and community leaders must teach children and young adults to be compassionate, to value the family, and to resolve problems in an Islamic, non-violent manner.
It's also important for Muslims to go into fields like psychiatry, women's issues law, social work,and counselling.
No Muslim community in any North American city has taken all these steps. Unfortunately, the entire plan could take years to implement. (Of course, that makes it all the more necissary to start immediately.) But when theses steps are taken, abuse should decrease if not stop in the Muslim community, according to Muslim social workers and activists.
If, once all these steps are taken, there are more abused Muslim women in specific communities than these networks can adequately help, then Muslims should establish good quality, properly staffed, and well funded Muslim shelters. Many communities may not need to go this far, but some may.
DO YOU REALLY CARE?
It sounds like a lot of work, but the problem is serious enough to warrant a lot of work.
The Muslim community has shamefully tolerated abuse for a long time. How much longer will Muslim families (and therefore the Muslim community) be weakened by abuse? How much longer will abusers be allowed to run free and unpunished in the community? How much more abuse will Muslim women have to endure before the community decides that enough is enough?"
An Islamic Perspective on Violence Against Women
While women in many parts of the world have made advances in areas previously closed to them, the problem of violence against women remains pervasive. Unfortunately, this violence takes many forms and occurs across national, cultural, racial, and religious borders.
Islam condemns all forms of violence against women. The basic Islamic premise of equality between women and men cannot be achieved so long as violence against women persists.
In pre-Islamic Arabia violence against women began at birth in the form of female infanticide. Islam prohibited the practice of female infanticide. Not only did the Quran prohibit this practice, it also mocks those who view the birth of a girl child with contempt. (Quran 16:58-59).Another common form of violence against women is that committed by husbands on their wives. Islam requires that husbands treat their wives with respect and it prohibits any form of physical or emotional abuse. The Quran requires that spouses treat each other with love and mercy. (Quran 30:21). Moreover, the Quran repeatedly warns against the use of injurious statements by a husband against his wife. (Quran 58:2-4). Rape, unfortunately, remains a common form of violence against women. In addition, the woman is often blamed for being the victim of rape. Islam views rape as a violent crime against the victim, against society, and against God. The perpetrator has committed a crime and hence is morally and legally responsible. The victim is an unwilling partner in the sex act and thus bears neither blame nor stigma. To either ostracize or condemn the victim because she was compelled to engage in sexual intercourse is against the laws of Islam as the victim was an unwilling, and therefore, a blameless participant.
In addition to the violence that women are subjected to during times of peace, women are particularly vulnerable during times of war. Islam condemns violence against women no matter what the circumstances. War is no exception. Prophet Muhammad was strict in ensuring that noncombatants, primarily women and children, were not harmed during war time.
Female genital mutilation, another form of violence against women, has no basis in Islam. Rather, it is a cultural practice which must be eliminated through education and the empowerment of women.
Likewise, forced prostitution is another form of violence against women with no basis in Islam and which must be eradicated through the empowerment of women.
Islam's mandate of equality between women and men necessitates that all forms of violence against women be eradicated, for so long as women suffer abuses, women cannot achieve their full potential as free and equal members of society.
Gender Equity in Islam
Introduction and Methodology
When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them. The focus of this paper is the normative teachings of Islam as the criteria to judge Muslim practices and evaluate their compliance with Islam. In identifying what is "Islamic" it is necessary to make a distinction between the primary sources of Islam (the Qur'an and the Sunnah) and legal opinions of scholars on specific issues, which may vary and be influenced by their times, circumstances, and cultures. Such opinions and verdicts do not enjoy the infallibility accorded to the primary and revelatory sources. Furthermore, interpretation of the primary sources should consider, among other things:
The context of any text in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This includes the general context of Islam, its teachings, its world view, and the context of the surah and section thereof. The occasion of the revelation, which may shed light on its meanings. The role of the Sunnah in explaining and defining the meaning of the Qur'anic text.
This paper is a brief review of the position and role of woman in society from an Islamic perspective. The topic is divided into spiritual, economic, social, and political aspects.
I. The Spiritual Aspect
1. According to the Qur'an, men and women have the same spiritual human nature:
O mankind: Reverence your Guardian Lord Who created you from a single person created of like nature his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.(Qur'an 4:1)
It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): "If You give us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful." (Qur'an 7:189)
(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 Her is the One that hears and sees (all things.) (Qur'an 42:11)
2. Both genders are recipients of the "divine breath" since they are created with the same human and spiritual nature (nafsin-waahidah): But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks do you give. (Qur'an 15:29)
3. Both genders are dignified and are trustees of Allah on earth.We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (Qur'an 17:70) Behold your Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you do not." (Qur'an 2:30)
4. According to the Qur'an, woman is not blamed for the "fall of man." Pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as punishments for "eating from the for bidden tree." On the contrary, the Qur'an considers them to be grounds for love and respect due to mothers. In narrating the story of Adam and Eve, the Qur'an frequently refers to both of them, never singling out Eve for the blame:
O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you [both] wish: but approach not this tree or you [both] run into harm and transgression. Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said "Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you [both] should become angels or such beings as live for ever." And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?" They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy we shall certainly be lost." (Allah) said: "Get you [both] down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time." He said: "Therein shall you [both] live and therein shall you [both] die; and from it shall you [both] be taken out (at last)." O you children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you but the raiment of righteousness that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah that they may receive admonition! O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith. (Qur'an 7:19 27)
On the question of pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur'an states:And We have enjoined on the person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear his/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal. (Qur'an 31:14)
We have enjoined on the person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in paid did she give him/her birth. The carrying of the (child) to his/her weaning is( a period of) thirty months. At length when he/she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years he/she says "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam [submission]." (Qur'an 46:15)
5. Men and women have the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities. They both face the consequences of their deeds: And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you be it male or female: you are members of one another ..." (Qur'an 3:195)
If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them. (Qur'an 4:124)
For Muslim men and women and for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Qur'an 33:35)
One Day shall you see the believing men and the believing women how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): "Good news for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for ever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!" (Qur'an 57:12)
6. Nowhere does the Qur'an state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate "qiwamah" or responsibility for the family as superiority. The Qur'an makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness not gender, color, or nationality:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).(Qur'an 49:13)
7. The absence of women as prophets or "Messengers of Allah" in prophetic history is due to the demands and physical suffering associated with the role of messengers and prophets and not because of any spiritual inferiority.
II. The Economic Aspect
1. The Islamic Shari'ah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. A married woman may keep her maiden name.
2. Greater financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive marital gifts, to keep present and future properties and income for their own security. No married woman is required to spend a penny from her property and income on the household. She is entitled to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period ('iddah) in case of divorce. She is also entitled to child support. Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in all stages of her life, as a daughter, wife, mother, or sister. These additional advantages of women over men are somewhat balanced by the provisions of the inheritance which allow the male, in most cases, to inherit twice as much as the female. This means that the male inherits more but is responsible financially for other females: daughters, wives, mother, and sister, while the female (i.e., a wife) inherits less but can keep it all for investment and financial security without any legal obligation so spend any part of it even for her own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, etc.).
III. The Social Aspect
First: As a Daughter
1. The Qur'an effectively ended the cruel pre Islamic practice of female infanticide (wa'd): When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed. (Qur'an 81 89)
2. The Qur'an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitudes among 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 does he hide 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! (Qur'an 16:58 59)
3. Parents are duty bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whosoever has a daughter and he 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 till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)." [Ahmad]
4. Education is not only a right but also a responsibility of all males and females. Prophet Muhammad said: "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim." ("Muslim" is used here in the generic meaning which includes both males and females).
Second: As a Wife
1. Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion, not just the satisfaction of man's needs: And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may well in tranquility with them and He has put live and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Qur'an 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). (Qur'an 42:11)
2. The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract according to the Prophet's teaching. It follows that if by "arranged marriage" is meant marrying the girl without her consent, then such a marriage is nullifiable if she so wished.
"Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, 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, Hadeeth no. 2469). In another version, 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 headship of the family (qiwamah) within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutual dependency and complementary of the roles of males and females does not mean "subservience" by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped in household chores in spite of his busy schedule.
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. An 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. (Qur'an 2:233)
4. The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to heir wives even if they do not like them.
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 where 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 and Allah brings about though it a great deal of good. (Qur'an 4:19)
Prophet Muhammad taught:
"I command you to be kind to women"
"The best of you is the best to his family (wife)"
5. Marital disputes are to be handled privately between the parties whenever possible, in steps (without excesses or cruelty). If disputes are not resolved then family mediation can be resorted to.
Divorce is seen as the last resort, which is permissible but not encouraged. Under no circumstances does the Qur'an encourage, allow or condone family violence or physical abuse and cruelty. The maximum allowed in extreme cases is a gentle tap that does not even leave a mark on the body while saving the marriage from collapsing.
Forms of marriage dissolution include mutual agreement, the husband's initiative, the wife's initiative (if part of her marital contract, court decision on the wife's initiative (for a cause), and the wife's initiative without a "cause" provided that she returns the marital gift to her husband (khul' [divestiture]).
Priority for custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later chooses between his mother and father (for custody purposes). Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and well being of the child.
The Question of Polygyny (Polygamy)
1. One of the common myths is to associate polygyny with Islam as if it were introduced by Islam or is the norm according to its teachings. While no text in the Qur'an or Sunnah states that either monogamy or polygyny is the norm, demographic data indicates that monogamy is the norm and polygyny is the exception. In almost all countries and on the global level the numbers of men and women are almost even, with women's numbers slightly more than men.
As such, it is a practical impossibility to regard polygyny as the norm since it assumes a demographic structure of at least two thirds females, and one third males (or 80 percent females and 20 percent males if four wives per male is the norm!). No Islamic "norm" is based on an impossible assumption.
2. Like many peoples and religions, however, Islam did not out law polygyny but regulated it and restricted it. It is neither required nor encouraged, but simply permitted and not outlawed. Edward Westermarck gives numerous examples of the sanctioning of polygyny among Jews, Christians, and others.
3. The only passage in the Qur'an (4:3) which explicitly mentioned polygyny and restricted its practice in terms of the number of wives permitted and the requirement of justice between them was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which dozens of Muslims were martyred leaving behind widows and orphans. This seems to indicate that the intent of its continued permissibility is to deal with individual and collective contingencies that may arise from time to time (i.e., imbalances between the number of males and females created by wars). This provides a moral, practical, and humane solution to the problems of widows and orphans who are likely to be more vulnerable in the absence of a husband/father figure to look after their needs: financial, companions, proper rearing, and other needs.
If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans marry women of your choice two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one ... (Qur'an 4:3)
4. All parties involved have options: to reject marriage proposals as in the case of a proposed second wife or to seek divorce or khul' (divestiture) as in the case of a present wife who cannot accept to live with a polygynous husband.
While the Qur'an allowed polygyny, it did not allow polyandry (multiple husbands of the same woman). Anthropologically speaking, polyandry is quite rare. Its practice raises thorny problems related to the lineal identity of children, and incompatibility of polyandry with feminine nature.
Third: As a Mother
1. Kindness to parents (especially mothers) is next to worship of Allah: Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in you life say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor. (Qur'an 17:23)
And We have enjoined on the human (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her waning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) destiny." (Qur'an 31:14)
2. Mothers are accorded a special place of honor in Hadeeth too: A man came to the Prophet Muhammad asking: O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said, your mother. The man said then who is next: the Prophet said, Your mother. The man further asked, Then who is next? Only then did the Prophet say, Your father. (al Bukhari)Fourth: As a Sister in Faith (Generally) According to the Prophet Muhammad's saying: "Women are but sisters (or the other half) of men (shaqa'iq)." Prophet Muhammad taught kindness, care, and respect of women in general: "I command you to be kind to women" Fifth: Issue of Modesty and Social Interaction
1. There exists, among Muslims a big gap between the ideal of the real. Cultural practices on both extremes do exist. Some Muslims emulate non Islamic cultures and adopt the modes of dress, unrestricted mixing and behavior resulting in corrupting influences of Muslims and endangering the family's integrity and strength. On the other hand, in some Muslim cultural undue and excessive restrictions is not seclusion are believed to be the ideal. Both extremes seem to contradict the normative teachings of Islam and are not consistent with the virtuous yet participative nature of the society at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
2. Parameters of proper modesty for males and females (dress and behavior) are based on revelatory sources (the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah) and as such are seen by believing men and women as divinely based guidelines with legitimate aims, and divine wisdom behind them. They are not male imposed or socially imposed restrictions.
3. The notion of near total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period. Interpretation problems in justifying seclusion reflect, in part, cultural influences and circumstances in different Muslim countries.
IV. The Legal/Political Aspect
1. Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless.
Most references to testimony (witness) in the Qur'an do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and female. And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a life. But it would avert the punishment from the wife is she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself is (her accuser) is telling the truth. (Qur'an 24:69)
One reference in the Qur'an distinguishes between the witness of a male and a female. It is useful to quote this reference and explain it in its own context and in the context of other references to testimony in the Qur'an.
O you who believe! When you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate but let him fear his Lord Allah and not diminish aught of what he owes. If the party liable is mentally deficient or weak or unable himself to dictate let his guardian dictate faithfully. And get two witnesses out of your own men and if there are not two men then a man and two women such as you choose for witnesses so that if one of them errs the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period whether it be small or big: it is just in the sight of Allah more suitable as evidence and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves; but if it be a transaction which you carry out on the spot among yourselves there is no blame on you if you reduce it not to writing. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. (If you do (such harm) it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. Qur'an 2:282)
A few comments on this text are essential in order to prevent common misinterpretations:
It cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur'an that the worth of a female's witness is only half the male's. This presumed "rule" is voided by the earlier reference (24:69) which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders in the issue at hand. The context of this passage (ayah) relates to the testimony on financial transactions which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization which would otherwise contradict 24:69 cited earlier. The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference was made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender's witness or the other's. The only reason given is to corroborate the female's witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage (tadhilla) means literally "loses the way," "gets confused or errs." But are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony. Definitely not, and this is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses even if they are both males. This leaves us with only one reasonable interpretation that in an ideal Islamic society as envisioned by Islamic teachings the female members will give priority to their feminine functions as wives, mothers, and pioneers of charitable works. This emphasis, while making them more experienced in the inner function of the family and social life, may not give them enough exposure and experience to business transactions and terminology, as such a typical Muslim woman in a truly Islamic society will not normally be present when business dealings are negotiated and if may present may not fully understand the dealings. In such a case, corroboration by two women witnesses helps them remind one another and as such give an accurate account of what happened.
It is useful to remember that it is the duty of a fair judge, in a particular case, to evaluate the credibility, knowledge and experience of any witness and the specific circumstances of the case at hand.
2. The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and female in public affairs:
The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur'an 9:71)
3. Now there is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was done without losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue.
4. There is no text in the Qur'an or the Sunnah that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer due to the format of prayer as explained earlier and the headship of state (based on the common and reasonable interpretation of Hadeeth).
The head of state in Islam is not a ceremonial head. He leads public prayers in some occasions, constantly travels and negotiates with officials of other states (who are mostly males). He may be involved in confidential meetings with them. Such heavy involvement and its necessary format may not be consistent with Islamic guidelines related to the interaction between the genders and the priority of feminine functions and their value to society. Furthermore, the conceptual and philosophical background of the critics of this limited exclusion is that of individualism, ego satisfaction, and the rejection of the validity of divine guidance in favor of other man-made philosophies, values, or "ism." The ultimate objective of a Muslim man or woman is to selflessly serve Allah and the ummah in whatever appropriate capacity.
1. Textual injunctions on gender equity and the Prophetic model are sometimes disregarded by some if not most Muslims individually and collectively. Revision of practices (not divine injunctions) is needed. It is not the revelatory Qur'an and the Sunnah that need any editing or revision. What needs to be reexamined are fallible human interpretations and practices.
2. Diverse practice in Muslim countries often reflect cultural influences (local or foreign), more so than the letter or spirit of the Shariiah.
3. Fortunately, there is an emerging trend for the betterment of our understanding of gender equity, based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, not on alien and imported un-Islamic or non-Islamic values and not on the basis of the existing oppressive and unjust status quo in many parts of the Muslim world.
1. The term equity is used instead of the common expression 'equality" which is sometimes mistakenly understood to mean absolute equality in each and every detailed item of comparison rather than the overall equality. Equity is used here to mean justice and overall equality of the totality of rights and responsibilities of both genders. It does allow for the possibility of variations in specific items within the overall balance and equality. It is analogous to two persons possessing diverse currencies amounting, for each person to the equivalence of US$1000. While each of the two persons may possess more of one currency than the other, the total value still comes to US$1000 in each case. It should be added that from an Islamic perspective, the roles of men and women are complementary and cooperative rather than competitive.
2. The Sunnah refers to the words, actions, and confirmations (consent) of the Prophet Muhammad in matters pertaining to the meaning and practice of Islam. Another common term which some authorities consider to be equivalent to the Sunnah is the Hadeeth (plural: Ahadeeth) which literally means "sayings."
3. In both Qur'anic references, 15:29 and 32:99, the Arabic terms used are basharan and al Insaun both mean a human being or a person. English translations do not usually convey this meaning and commonly use the terms "man" or the pronoun" him" to refer to "person" without a particular gender identification. Equally erroneous is the common translation of Bani Adam into "sons of Adam" or "men" instead of a more accurate term "children of Adam."
4. A common question raised in the West is whether a Muslim woman can be ordained as a priest as more "liberal" churches do? It should be remembered that there is no "church" or "priesthood" in Islam. The question of "ordaining" does not arise. However, most of the common "priestly" functions such as religious education, spiritual and social counseling are not forbidden to Muslim women in a proper Islamic context. A woman, however, may not lead prayers since Muslim prayers involve prostrations and body contact. Since the prayer leader is supposed to stand in front of the congregation and may move forward in the middle of crowded rows, it would be both inappropriate and uncomfortable for a female to be in such a position and prostrate, hands, knees and forehead on the ground with rows of men behind here. A Muslim woman may be an Islamic scholar, In the early days of Islam, there were several examples of female scholars who taught both genders.
5. Islamic Shariiah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. This contrast with the legal provisions in Europe which did not recognize the right until nearly 13 centuries after Islam. "By a series of acts starting with the Married Women's Property Act in 1879, amended in 1882 and 1997, married women achieved the right to won property and to enter into contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees." See Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, vol. 23, p. 624.
6. In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. If the problem relates to the wife's behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however where a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one. Following is the related Qur'anic text:
Men are the protectors and maintains 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. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, great( above you all). (Qur'an 4:34)Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a. It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect, kindness and good treatment discussed earlier. Based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, this measure may be used in the case of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then other measures such as exhortation should be tried first. b. As defined by the Hadeeth, it is not permissible to strike anyone's face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadeeth qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih or light beating was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolical) use of the miswak (a small natural toothbrush).
They further qualified permissible "beating" as beating that leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen centuries old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from "abuse" in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort and "lesser of the two evils" measure that may save the marriage does not meet the definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence," of "wife battering" in the twentieth century laws in liberal democracies, where such extremes are commonplace that they are seen as national concerns. c. Permissibility of such symbolical expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability. In several Ahadeeth, Prophet Muhammad discouraged this measure. Among his sayings: "Do not beat the female servants of Allah," "Some (women visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you," "[Is it not a shame that], one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at the end of the day." See Riyad Al Saliheen, op cit., pp. 130 140. In another Hadeeth, the Prophet said:
"How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?" Shaheeh Al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 8, Hadeeth no. 68, pp. 42 43. d. True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad, who never resorted to that measure regardless of the circumstances. e. Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures, and circumstances but unnecessary in others. Some measures may work in some cases, cultures, or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. By definition a "permissible" it is neither required encouraged, or forbidden. In fact, it may be better to spell out the extent of permissibility such as in the issue at hand, than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way lending to excesses and real abuse. f. Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an and Hadeeth). Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself as it shows that he is paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and is failing to follow the true sunnah of the Prophet.
The Honour Of The Woman
Every society embraces the particular values that it honours, respects, and protects. However, the subject that is given such honour varies according to the viewpoint that the society and the state are established upon. This attitude towards honour will then consequently spread to shape the opinions of the individuals within the society at large.
Within a capitalist state, empty rhetoric is often expressed regarding the honour, care and protection given to the wife, mother, daughter and career woman. However, behind such words, the reality is very clear: the only object worthy of honour, care and protection is money and the values of freedom and democracy. Hence, we observe a situation in Western societies where the use of pornography and images of naked women to sell products has become an acceptable means due to its ability to create massive revenue.
Under the guise of personal freedom that stipulates that an individual should live his life according to his own desires and under his own accountability, we see an epidemic of crimes against women ranging from sexual harassment and rape to domestic violence. Women are encouraged by the male-run fashion industries to wear as little clothing as possible to reveal their beauty to all. We also see that slanderous allegations against the reputation of women have become commonplace in the media and within society at large. It is clear that the view of the woman being an economic commodity for the man, or tool to simply fulfil the desires of man, affects all levels of the society from the politicians, police force, army and doctors, to the simple man on the street. Such is the result of the capitalist ideology.
The antithesis to this situation is the deen of Islam where the true preservation of the honour of the woman is viewed as a life and death matter to be given the utmost care and attention. This is exhibited by the society and state and at all stages within the Muslim woman's life as a daughter, wife, and mother. The Prophet (saw) said, "Whoever dies protecting his honour dies shaheed." The woman is one of those honours placed within the palm of the man as an amana (trust) from his Creator Allah (swt) to be protected at all times. This attitude within an Islamic State would also affect every level of the society from the ruler, army, Qadis and to the man on the street.
An international view that has been propagated as to how the woman can achieve respect and honour within the society is to adopt the Western lifestyle, dress and to become a successful career woman. Alongside this, women have been instructed to call for the values of liberation, freedom, and equality and to aid the transformation of the systems of ruling within their countries to become more in tune with the Democratic system of government that secures all freedoms of the capitalist West. In contrast, the image portrayed of Islam is that it dishonours the woman by forcing her to cover in the khimar and jilbab, by encouraging early marriage, by commanding obedience to the father as a daughter and to the husband as a wife and by allowing polygamy for the man. The Western media, as proofs for their claim, repeatedly cite the existent pseudo-Islamic states such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
The Western world calls for the Muslim woman to lock the Qur'an in the cupboard and disregard the rules and roles that emanate from Islam. It calls for her to uncover her beauty so she may be appreciated by men, to socialise freely with male friends and colleagues so as to elevate her status, to pursue her career at the expense of marriage and her marital duties and to call for further freedoms within her society.
Unfortunately, many of our dear sisters have taken this path, feeling that this will bring them the honour and protection that they desire as Muslim women within society. It is an attack that has been consistent over the past 150 years or so and this concept has corrupted the mentality of the rulers, scholars and intellectuals of this Ummah. Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge in the 19th century, wrote a book entitled, Al Mara'at al Jadida (Modern Woman). In this, he rebukes Egyptians for glorifying their Islamic past and taking pride in their Islamic culture. He advises the Muslim woman to take the Western woman as her role model in order to elevate her status and the status of Egyptian society. He writes, "This is our real ailment which needs to be eradicated first of all. The first way to get rid of it is that we should make our younger generations acquainted more and more with Western civilisation and its conditions and circumstances ... We will realise the value and importance of Western civilisation and see for ourselves that no reform is possible unless it is based on modern Western knowledge ... For this very reason we project the people of the West as a symbol of perfection, insist on their veneration as an ideal, and appeal to our countrymen to study the position and status of the Western woman."
With this in mind, it is important for us to examine the true reality of the status of the honour of the woman within the western capitalist states and the consequences of the call for ideas such as freedom and liberation. Has the achievement of a successful career, a free lifestyle, and a greater voice in the parliamentary process and democracy brought her the honour, status, protection and security that she desired?
The Capitalist Western States and the Dishonouring of the Woman
The greatest idol within the capitalist state is money. Consequently, the main question that plagues the minds of the individuals within the society is how to increase their material wealth. As a result, the woman is not viewed as a human being that has certain needs that require fulfilment, including the protection of her honour. Rather, she is viewed as an economic commodity to be exploited by whoever wishes to make money. In existence is a capitalist dominated world where the pornography industry generates $7 billion every year, a figure greater than the whole of the so-called ""legitimate film and music industries"" combined. In the US, pornography films gross $1 million every day, and in Britain 20 million copies of pornography magazines are sold every year, producing revenue of £500 million. It is therefore clear that men are encouraged to simply view women as objects to gratify their sexual desires.
Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks from the adoption of the idea of freedom?
Could it be possible that the successful working woman is not seen in this light due to her material achievements and service within the society, such as the doctor, manager, engineer, secretary or teacher, and rather her male colleagues view her with respect and honour? It is naive to think that in a society that is drenched with the culture of personal freedom and opinion, that the workplace or office would be a haven from such degrading mentality and behaviour. If we examine the issue of sexual harassment in the Western states, within those institutions that should theoretically exemplify morality such as the governments that look after the affairs of the people and the police force and army, we see the true picture of the male view towards their female colleagues. In a survey conducted in the UK among the British Civil Service, 70% of the respondents claimed to have been sexually harassed at work. A survey in nine US states, examining a period of 5 years, stated that 60% of the female lawyers interviewed had been sexually harassed, a third by colleagues, 40% by clients, and 6% by judges. In the 1998 study by the Yale University School of Medical Researchers it was discovered that amongst the female soldiers of the American army serving in the Vietnam or Gulf war, 63% had experienced physical and sexual harassment during their military service, and 43% reported rape or attempted rape. If these are the professionals who claim to uphold the law, then what can be expected from the rest of the society? A successful career within the capitalist state has not given the woman the status that she dreamt of. Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks when she strives day and night to build her career and neglect her family, children, and other Islamic obligations?
Some may claim that Western women achieve harmony and honour in the home, if not in the public arena? This is a delusional idea. The BBC reported that nearly 25% of women in the UK face domestic violence at some stage in their life. Police are called to an incident of domestic violence every 60 seconds and receive 1,300 calls each day related to this. Domestic violence kills two women each week in the UK. Professor Betsy Stanke from University of London was quoted as saying, ""What this shows is that men in Britain, like men around the world, also beat their wives."" Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks by adopting the Western lifestyle and culture and by forsaking the Islamic culture?
If we study the ultimate form of dishonour that a woman can experience, that of rape, we find shocking statistics illustrating the reality. In the US, a rape occurs every minute, and in the UK, one-third of women have been sexually abused by the age of 18. Also, there was a 500% increase in the reporting of rape between 1996 and 1997. In addition, the sentence for rape can be as low as 180 hours community service. The recent case of a middle-aged woman raped by a group of youths along a canal in West London clearly illustrates how low the honour of the woman has become within this society. She was raped by a 15 year old and 18 year old, while others watched and encouraged the episode, the youngest being 11 years old. Perhaps more shocking than this was that a girl actually held down the victim while her friends raped the woman. It appears that even women no longer value their honour. It is not surprising that the majority of women in the West do not feel safe on the streets at any time of the day. Is this really the honour that the Muslim woman seeks by calling for the Western capitalist system, democracy and freedom to be implemented over her? The reason for this horrific reality is clear: the implementation of man-made law.
Allah (swt) says:
"If the truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay we have sent them their admonition but they turn away from their admonition" [TMQ Al-Mu'minun: 71].
Allah (swt) also says:
"Whoever follows My Guidance shall neither go astray, nor fall into distress and misery. But whoever turns away from My Reminder (That is, neither believes in the Qur'an nor acts on its orders) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection"" [TMQ Ta-Ha: 123-124].
The Current Reality of the Muslim World and the Dishonour of the Woman
However disgusting the statistics may prove, nothing can compare to the distress from understanding the reality of the Muslim world today. Our societies, if not mirroring the status of the Western picture, are rapidly approaching this. This is as a result of the domination of capitalism over our lands, the infiltration of the Western culture based upon freedom and democracy, and the absence of a true Islamic State, the Khilafah, to protect the honour of the Muslim woman.
In February this year, Reuters reported the case of three former Bosnian Serb commanders convicted by the United Nations War Crimes Court for rape and sexual enslavement of dozens of Muslim women in the area of Foca, in southeast Bosnia, during the Bosnian war. Prosecutors said the three men took women and girls as young as 12 to a variety of ""rape houses"" for brutal beatings and assaults. Many women were so forcibly abused that they suffered permanent harm. One woman, identified as ""witness 75"", was raped for three hours by 15 men. One 15-year-old girl described a knife wielding man who threatened to gouge her with a crucifix and forced her to drink alcohol. He made her assume a Serb name as he raped her. She described the horrific experience of being raped, "I remember he was very forceful. He wanted to hurt me. But he could never hurt me as much as my soul was hurting me."
Such realities are not few in number. Our sisters continue to suffer such humiliation worldwide from Kosovo, to Palestine to Kashmir, due to the absence of the protection of the Islamic State. The infiltration of freedom into our lands has brought with it rape, domestic violence, sexual perversion and prostitution engaged in by Muslim men. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours. In March 1998, a case came to the attention of the Pakistani courts of a 14 year old school girl named Naumana Tabbasum who was gang raped in a governmental building in Peshawar by the section officer of the local government department and three of his colleagues. They had threatened to kill her parents if she revealed the truth. Is it not the government that should be the protector of the people and not its enemy? There are numerous reports also of police in Pakistan stripping women naked and parading them in public.
Muslim women continue to suffer humiliation Muslim women continue to suffer
In Bangladesh, prostitution has been legalised, and it is said that the rate of abortion there of girls between 15 and 49 is 28/1000, almost the level of that within the US. Domestic violence is also reaching epidemic levels in the Muslim world. In Pakistan, there is a shocking statistic of domestic violence. It is said that 70% of women are subjected to violence in their homes. A new style is used in the Asian sub-continent called, ""stove burning"" where the woman is set on fire for reasons ranging from not bearing sons to not having added enough salt to the food. Lahore newspapers report over four cases of women injured per week from such treatment, and two hospitals in Pakistan stated that 500 women had burned to death as a result of such incidents in the past three years.
The reason for such problems is clear: the idea of personal freedom where the man can fulfil his desires and behave in any way he pleases. The consequences on others within society, and the honour of women, are dire. It is evident then that a call for the Western way of life, the adoption of the Western culture and the capitalist system can bring nothing but humiliation, dishonour, and insecurity for the Muslim woman.
The Organisations that Bring the Dishonour of the Muslim Woman to the Muslim Lands
The infiltration of Western culture and the introduction of the capitalist laws within the Muslim lands are not chance events. Calculated moves are taken by the Western states to constantly redefine the Islamic social system and attack the identity of the Muslim woman. They stand guilty of having exported the degradation of the woman within their societies to the sisters of the Muslim countries. The styles used include the Western media, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) functioning within Muslim lands and institutions such as the United Nations.
In June of last year, 188 nations from amongst Muslim and non-Muslim countries, and 1250 NGOs world-wide, gathered in New York for an International Women's Conference entitled "Beijing + 5". The objective was clear: to accelerate the standardisation of the relationship and roles of the men and women within society of all the nations of the world to be in line with the capitalist values. If we examine certain aims established through the discussions, this is openly apparent: "Ensure that women of all ages can fully realize their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, by developing legislation, disseminating information, and promoting accessible and affordable services." "Discourage, through media and other means, customary laws and practices, such as early marriage, polygamy ... " In Bangladesh, the NGOs aided the introduction of the legalisation of prostitution and continue to call for the freedom of the women within the society.
We should realise that the underhanded objectives behind such events is to drive the Muslim woman further away from her role and duties defined by Islam and to drive a wedge between her and the obedience to her Creator. Truly, we should understand the danger from taking our solutions from these institutions. It is a call for women to discard their honour and to lead them away from the beauties and rewards of Jannah.Allah (swt) warns us in the Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you..." [TMQ Ale-Imran: 118].
Allah (swt) also says:
"O you who believe! Follow not the footsteps of Shaytan. And whosoever follows the footsteps of Shaytan then verily he commands Al-Fahisha (indecency) and Al-Munkar (evil). And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure from sins" [TMQ An-Nur: 21].
Islam: Securing the Honour of the Woman
Having established that the call for the adoption of the Western woman's dress, lifestyle, goals and systems will bring nothing but humiliation to the Muslim woman and her society, it is crucial that we understand that Islam is the only way of life, and that the Khilafah is the only ruling system that brings the woman honour, protection and elevation in society. We can observe how Islam brings the honour, dignity and tranquillity to the woman in three ways: having a correct aim in life, honouring the Muslim woman in society and securing her honour under the Khilafah.
1. Having the Correct Aim in Life
There is no doubt that the greatest honour in life is to be a Muslim. The greatest honour that can be bestowed upon the human being is to be a servant of
Allah (swt)and to gain the pleasure and blessings of the Creator with every action performed in accordance with His command. Allah (swt) says: "But honour belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and to the believers but the hypocrites know not" [TMQ Al-Munafiqun: 8].
The greatest honour in life is to be a Muslim
Success is ensuring that not one minute passes without securing the rewards of the Hereafter by the pursuance of the fulfilment of the obligations to Allah (swt) in every area of life. Whether in ibadat, as a wife, a mother, daughter, fulfilling the contract of a job, covering her awrah with the khimar and jilbab in the public arena, segregating from the men or carrying the da'wa to make Allah's (swt) word the highest by the work for the re-establishment of the Khilafah.Allah (swt) says:
"For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God's praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and a great reward" [TMQ Al-Ahzab: 35].
The greatest tranquillity is in the knowledge of the promise of Allah (swt) of the rewards of Jannah (paradise) for those men and women who restrict themselves to His limits and fulfil all of His obligations in life without discrimination. Truly, this is the greatest honour and success of all, to be in the company of the Prophets, the pure companions, and Insha'Allah to spend eternity in nearness to Allah (swt).Allah (swt) promises:
"The righteous (will be) amid gardens and fountains (of clear-flowing water). (Their greeting will be): 'Enter ye here in peace and security.' And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury: (They will be) brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity). There no sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever) be asked to leave" [TMQ Al-Hijr: 45-48].
We see then, for a Muslim woman, to fulfil the duties of wife and mother in Islam is a great honour. For her to obey her husband, or to serve him meals, or bring comfort to his life is not oppressive but an honour; for, she receives the pleasure and rewards of her Creator. The same can be said for the man fulfilling his role as a husband of providing for the family, consulting with the wife over affairs and being constantly observant over her physical and emotional welfare.
The Prophet (saw) said, "Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a 1000 martyrs..."
For the mother to nurture her children physically, emotionally and with the Islamic culture, by feeding them, bathing them, playing with them and smiling at them, is a great honour.
The Prophet (saw) has said, "When a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive a reward as if she had granted life to a being, and when she weans her child, the angels pat her on the back saying, 'Congratulations! All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again'" [Riyadh al Salihin].
He (saw) also said, "During pregnancy until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who is guarding the borders of Islam" [Al-Tabarani].2. The Honour of the Muslim Woman in Society
Allah (swt) has commanded the man to view the woman as an honour to be protected at all times, whether it is his mother, wife, daughter or any woman within society. The Prophet (saw) once told Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra), "Shall I not inform you about the best treasure a man can hoard? It is a virtuous wife who pleases him whenever he looks towards her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her."
On another occasion, he (saw) said, "The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman." In his last sermon to the Muslims, he reminded them, "O People, it is true that you have certain rights, with regards to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."
He (saw) has also said, "Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will enter him into paradise."
A man at the time of the Prophet (saw) came to him and asked, "I have carried my mother single handed around the Ka'ba seven times, does this repay the kindness she showed me as a child?" The Prophet replied, "It does not even repay one contraction of the womb." This is the way that Allah (swt) has described the honour of the woman.
Within an Islamic society, such an understanding will affect the men within the society at large, who will view the woman as an honour, regardless of whether she has a career or not. They will not belittle the position of the wife and mother but regard it with the highest of esteem. This can be illustrated by an example at the time of the Khilafah of Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) when a Jew was found killed. Umar asked the people if they knew about the matter, whereupon a Muslim called Bak'r bin Shad'dakh appeared before him and said, ""I have killed him."" Umar (ra) was astonished and asked him for the reason. The man explained that a Muslim brother had gone on Jihad and consigned his family members to him to look over in his absence. When he arrived at the house of the brother, he had found the Jew inside reciting poetry slandering the reputation of the brother's wife by implying that he had spent the night with her in his absence. As a result, he killed him to protect the honour of the woman who had been placed under his protection. On hearing all the details, Umar (ra) exempted him from paying any ransom.
3. Honour of the Muslim Woman Secured by the Khilafah
Having understood the command of Allah (swt) to ensure the honour and security of the Muslim woman within the society, we should ask ourselves why such a reality is not present today. The examples of how the woman faces shame and humiliation from pornography, to rape, to domestic violence every day in the Muslim lands and societies has already been detailed. The reason is clear, it is due to the absence of the Khilafah system. The question that now needs to be addressed is "How can this reality of the honour of the woman be secured once again within a society" The answer is simple; it can only be through the re-establishment of the Khilafah. Then, we will have the ability to propagate the correct viewpoint to the individuals within the society through the education system and the media, and we will have the authority to enforce the appropriate punishments upon those who dishonour women.
Let us examine two examples to illustrate how the honour of the Muslim woman was protected under the Khilafah of the past, compared to the reality of the world today.
The first example is that of slander against the reputation of an individual. Today, this is not seen as a severe crime, but Islam views this as a serious issue and has prescribed lashings as the punishment for such an action. During the Khilafah of Umar (ra), a slave girl complained to him, in his capacity as the Khalifah, against her master by saying, "My master has accused me of adultery and punished me by forcing me to sit on fire. Thus my private part is burnt." Umar (ra) asked, "Has your master seen you committing adultery?" She replied in the negative. Umar (ra) asked, "Have you made any confession before him?" She answered "No." Thereafter, Umar (ra) called that man and asked, "Do you punish like the punishment of Allah?" He said, " I had developed suspicion about the slave girl." Umar (ra) asked, "Have you seen her committing adultery?" The master denied to have seen her doing so. Umar (ra) asked, "Has she confessed about doing so?" The master again said "No!" Upon this, Umar (ra) said, "I swear by the one who holds my life that had I not heard the Prophet (saw) saying that a slave cannot take ransom from his master and a child from his father, I would have certainly taken revenge on you." Afterwards, Umar (ra) gave the master 100 lashes and freed the slave girl. Such is how the honour of the woman is protected under the Khilafah through its authority, which ensures the implementation of the hudud of Allah (swt).
The second example is also cited during the Khalifah of Umar (ra). While he was visiting Syria, a Jew came to him and complained that a Muslim had beaten him badly. Umar (ra) asked one of the companions, Suhaib (ra), to find out who was guilty of the action. The accused was Auf bin Malik Ashjai (ra) who was brought in front of Umar (ra) and asked to explain his actions. He replied, "Let it be known to you that the plaintiff was driving away a Muslim lady on his ass and on the way he gave her a jerk so that she would fall from the ass, but when she did not fall he pushed her. When she fell down, he mounted on the lady and lay with his face downward." The father and husband of the woman confirmed his story. Umar (ra) ordered for the Jew to be killed.
It can be seen clearly from such examples that in order to establish the rule of Allah (swt) in protecting the honour of the Muslims within the society, it requires the presence of the structures of the Khilafah. During the time when the earth was blessed with the cool breeze of the Islamic State, harmony was brought to societies and tranquillity to individuals in turmoil. Women felt secure in their homes and on the street. It is not a successful career in itself, financial independence or the fewer clothes that are worn, that brings a woman honour and success, but the abiding of the commands of her Creator and the establishment of the Islamic State over her.
The Islamic State brought true honour to the woman who had, for so many years, been viewed simply as a commodity and object to satisfy the desires of men. For 1400 years the woman remained protected, safe and valued. With the loss of her shield, the Khilafah, she has once again become an economic commodity in the palm of the capitalist and an object of desire within the capitalist way of life. The protection of the honour of the Muslim in the society is not an option but an obligation. The responsibility then is for the believing man and woman to work with all their efforts to re-install the body that will achieve the fulfilment of this obligation within the society: The Khilafah!"
Equality of Men and Women in all Three Levels of Islam
My brothers and sisters everywhere! Islamic law - that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) sent down to His Messenger Muhammad - came to announce that women are full human beings exactly as men are. Women, like men, are therefore required to follow the way appointed by Allah. A woman, like a man, is therefore obligated with all three degrees of this religion:
Islam (outward submission to Allah) Iman (inward faith in Allah) Ihsan (perfection of worship of Allah). It is thus required for every woman to testify that there is none deserving worship but Allah, and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger; to pray; to give charity; to fast; and to make a pilgrimage to Allah's House if she has the means.
It is likewise required for every woman to believe in Allah, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in Allah's decree (and that the good and evil consequences thereof are from Allah).
These are the fundamentals of Islam and Iman.
It is likewise required for every woman to worship Allah as if she sees Him. For although she cannot see Allah, she must believe that He sees whatever she does in secret and in public.
Women (exactly like men) have been commanded with these three levels of the religion: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. Women are also obligated to command good and forbid evil; to wage jihad by saying that which is truthful; and to adhere to all noble behavior, like truthfulness, trustworthiness, courage, modesty, and self-respect.
Every Muslim woman is commanded to be steadfast in her religion and not to be negligent with her faith. It is impermissible for her - under any pressure or compulsion - to open her heart to accept the word of disbelief. Hence every Muslim woman falls under Allah's statement: "Whose disbelieves in Allah, after he has believed - excepting him who has been compelled, and his heart is still at rest with the Faith - but whosoever's breast is expanded in unbelief, upon them shall rest anger from Allah, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement."(Qur'an 16:106)
Clearly when Islam charged women with all these duties and in all these obligations made her equal to men, the intent was to honor her and permit her to reach the highest degree of perfection of her being. The duties that Allah has obligated humanity with are but a means to honor us. Prayer, as well as fasting, is an honor for the servant and a means to raise his rank. To adhere to Allah's straight path and the manners of Islam are, without doubt, a means to honor us and not to humiliate us as imagined by those who are ignorant of Allah and follow their desires.Such (ignorant) people think and imagine that a human being who does not believe in Allah, does not uphold the trust of these duties, and does not perform what Allah has commanded him is of a higher standing than the believer who adheres to the obligations of Islam. Such an idea is ignorance and renders human beings on a par with the animals. Humans have been created to be tried by Allah and have been charged with fulfilling these duties to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and His creatures. As for animals, while they have been created by Allah, they have not been charged with this trust. Whoever considers that a human being who does not uphold what Allah has obligated as equal to those who fulfill what Allah has obligated is like those who consider humans and animals to be equal. For this reason, Allah has said:
"Shall we treat that those who have surrendered (as Muslims) as We treat the guilty?"(Qur'an 68:35)
And He has said:
"We have crated for Hell many of the jinn and humanity; they have hearts, but understand not with them; they have eyes, but perceive not with them; and they have ears, but they hear not with them. These are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray! Those - they are the heedless." (Qur'an 7:126)
The disbeliever in Allah is a guilty criminal, for he does not accept whom He is to worship, i.e., his Creator, his Protector, his Lord, and He Who created this universe in which he lives. The disbeliever enjoys what Allah has blessed him with and yet ignores the One Who blessed and preferred him with such blessings. As for the believer, he is the honorable servant who knows His Lord and Creator, Allah, Whom he worships. He fulfills what Allah has obligated and travels upon the path that Allah has delineated for him."
Economic Independence of Women in Islam
Of the great faiths, Islam has been foremost in assigning to woman a position of economic independence. It is well known that in the United Kingdom till as late as 1882, when the first Married Women's Property Act was passed by Parliament, a married woman could hold no property of her own, independently of her husband. Any property that a femme sole (unmarried woman) held in her own right vested automatically in her husband on her marriage. A hundred years later traces still linger in certain aspects of British Law which illustrate a married woman's position of dependence upon her husband.
The Mahr (Dowry)
In Islam the independent economic position of woman has been established since the very beginning. Mention has been made of the obligation of the husband to make a settlement on the wife, in proportion to his means, at the time of marriage. This settlement is called dower (mehr). If at the time of the death of the husband the wife's dower should be still unpaid, it ranks as a debt to be discharged out of his estate, in priority to all his other debts. In addition, the widow is entitled to her share in the husband's estate, which is determined by law.
Any property that a woman might acquire by her own effort, or might inherit as an heir or receive as a legacy or gift, belongs to her independently of her husband. She may ask her husband to manage it, but if she chooses to manage or administer it herself, he cannot interfere in her management or administration of it.
Married Woman Is Not Responsible for Financial Upkeep of Home
A married woman who possesses means of her own may, and in most cases does, contribute a portion or the whole of her independent means towards the upkeep of the household, but is under no obligation to do so. The upkeep of the household is the entire responsibility of the husband, even when the wife is in her own right better off than her husband.
This is well illustrated by the following incident. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, on one occasion admonished women to spend in charity out of their own means also. Thereafter two women, both bearing the name of Zainab, one of them the wife of the well known companion Abdullah bin Masood, came to him and told him that their respective husbands were men of straitened means, but that they in their own rights were comparatively better off. Would it be an act of spiritual merit if they were to assist their husbands out of their own means?
The Holy Prophet assured them their spending on their husbands would be doubly meritorious, as it would rank both as charity and as graciousness towards kindred. The Holy Quran admonishes:
Covet not that whereby Allah has made some of you excel others. Men shall have a portion of that which they earn and women shall have a portion of that which they earn. Ask Allah alone of His bounty. Surely, Allah has perfect knowledge of all things. (4:33)
For everyone leaving an inheritance We have appointed heirs, parents and near relations, and also husbands and wives to whom you are bound by solemn covenants. So give all of them their appointed shares. Surely, Allah watches over all things. (4:34)Inheritance
The Islamic system of succession and inheritance, set out in 4:12-13 and 177, aims at a wide distribution of property. If a person should die leaving his or her surviving parents, wife or husband, sons and daughters, they all share in the inheritance; the general rule being that the share of a male is double that of a female in the same degree of relationship. In this there is no discrimination against female heirs in view of the obligation of the male to provide for his family, while the female has no such obligation. In practice the rule works out favorably for female heirs.
A Muslim may not dispose of more than one-third of his assets by testamentary directions. Legacies, whether for charity or in favor of non-heirs, must not exceed one-third of net assets; nor may the share of an heir be augmented or diminished by testamentary direction. There is no room for discrimination between the heirs under the Islamic system of inheritance, like, for instance, primogeniture, or exclusion of females.
A direction designed to secure the preservation of testimony relating to civil transactions, which requires that they must be reduced to writing, is sometime mistakenly seized upon as evidence of discrimination against females. The direction is as follows:
Procure two witnesses from among your men; and if two men be not available, then one man and two women, of such as you like as witnesses, so that if either of the two women should be in danger of forgetting, the other may refresh her memory. (2:283)
There is here not the slightest trace of discrimination. The normal rule is that women should be safeguarded against the contingency of having to appear as witnesses in judicial proceedings. Therefore, normally a woman should not be called upon to attest a document recording a transaction. This rule may be relaxed in an emergency. But then another difficulty would arise. In the case of male witnesses their memory of a transaction that they attest as witnesses would be refreshed when they met socially and the transaction was recalled for one reason or another. In the case of a document recording a transaction, which is attested by one male and one female witness, the female witness, under the Islamic social system, as will presently be appreciated, would not normally have frequent occasion to meet the male witness and talk to him, so that there would be little chance of her memory of the transaction being refreshed. To overcome this lack of opportunity of refreshing the memory, it is wisely provided that where only one male witness is available two female witnesses may be called upon so that, in the very words of the text, one may refresh the memory of the other.
This provision is concerned only with the preservation of evidence, and does not deal with the weight to be attached to the testimony of a male or female witness. An illustration may help to clear up any doubt on the matter. Assume that a transaction recorded in a document attested by one male and two female witnesses becomes the subject of a dispute which comes up for judicial determination. It is then discovered that one of the two female witnesses has in the meantime died. The male witness and the surviving female witness are examined in court and the judge finds that their respective accounts of the terms of the transaction are not entirely in harmony; but he feels very strongly that taking every relevant factor into consideration the testimony of the female witness is more reliable than that of the male witness. In such a case it would be his plain duty to rely on the testimony of the female witness in preference to that of the male witness. There could be no question of discrimination in favor of or against a woman."