Islam and Women’s Rights
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Islam, it is said, is a synonym for humanity and the values associated with the welfare and well being of the human race. It is the only religion and set of laws which gives women their due honor and respect in society and safeguards their true identity.

Islam considers woman as the cornerstone of the family, and stresses that a virtuous woman helps build a virtuous household, which in turn contributes, to a healthy society. Mothers in Islam, thus, have a constructive role to play.

Is there a more lofty concept of women in society than the one offered by Islam? This is not a mere ideal and the best model of emulation for the daughters of Even in this regard is the lady Fatima az-Zahra (P), whose birth anniversary is celebrated as “Mother’s Day” and “Women’s Week” in Islamic Iran.

The Prophet’s (P) noble daughter was a paragon of virtue – in every sense of the term – a fact which should inspire Muslim women to greater heights in all spheres of life. Her ideal married life with Amir al-Mu’mineen Ali (P) provides an excellent lesson of the rights and duties of husband and wife. In Islam, the husband and wife have certain rights upon each other based on a just equation.

“…And they (women) have rights similar to those against them in a just manner “(Holy Quran 2:228).

“Lodge them where you dwell, according to your means, and harass them not so as to straiten life for them. And if they are pregnant then spend for them till they bring forth their burden. Then if they give suckle for you, give them their due payment and enjoin one another among you to do good. Let him who have abundance spend of his abundance, and he whose provision is measured, let him spend of that which Allah given him…” (Holy Quran 65:6-7)

The Quran revolutionized the status of women and released them from bondage in which they were held by the Arabs of Jahiliy[1] and other contemporary societies. The Romans, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese and all nations of antiquity had treated them as mere chattels. The Jews and the Christians regarded women to be the source of all evil.

To add to women’s misery, Christian law coined such unnatural absurdities like celibacy and monogamy, which was a definite infringement on the natural rights of the women and should explain the present extreme promiscuous reaction of Western culture to the Christian Church. It has thrown the women from the frying pan right into the fire.

At the same time when women enjoyed civil rights and rose to prominence in Islam, they were burned at stakes and torn to pieces by order of the Church in medieval Europe. An example of the denial of rights of the women as late as in the 19th century Europe could be gauged from the following English couplet:

“The dog, the woman and the walnut tree,

the more you head them the better they be.”

This same prejudice lingered on and even today continues to be a blot on the fabric of Western culture. Today in the west, despite so many charters and proclamations on the rights of women, wife bashing, exploitation of the woman as a commercial commodity and other such abuses, continue to be the order of the day. In fact the sprouting up of women liberation movements in the West is the result of the time-immemorial mistreatment of the female sex in those societies, and instead of doing justice to the women, it has unfortunately taken a perverse turn by creating tension in man-woman relations.

In a truly Islamic society, the question of women’s emancipation never arises, because Islam liberated woman the day it liberated man. It treats the two indispensable components that ensure the continuity of the human race with all respect and dignity, by defining their rights within the harmonious framework of their respective biological frameworks. It is not mere theory, but the holy Prophet (P) and his illustrious Ahl-ul-Bayt (P), have set practical examples in this connection, which has inspired faithful Muslims, both men and women, in all ages.

Today in some societies, women walk around scantily clad, frequent bars and clubs, drink, dance in disco joints and indulge in illicit and unnatural relations with anybody they feel like. They even promote business by using their bodies as a commercial commodity. And the irony is, such women, in the jargon of the West, are called liberated.

Is this the conception of women’s rights? No doubt, such a wanton exploitation of women in Western and similar societies has led to the breakdown of the family – that sacred structure which is so essential for a healthy civilization. In addition, it has bred social ills and diseases, instead of curbing them, as is evident in the psychological and spiritual vacuum and the spread of such dreaded diseases as AIDS.

In Islam, however, the liberation of women is far more superior, noble and dignified than that of the permissive societies. The West is quick to condemn Islamic laws which protect women from degradation especially those regarding modesty of dress and purity in action. But it should be borne in mind that equality does not mean aping, or behaving like, men or dancing to their carnal tunes, because that should be demeaning their femininity.

A truly liberated woman always dresses decently and modestly. No woman could be called truly liberated if she is the slave of her wayward psyche. Modesty and chastity form part of the Islamic faith. The Hijab and veil give an aura of freedom to women, facilitating their movement and protecting them from provocation, wolf whistles and other forms of immoral behavior in society. Absence of such highly sophisticated values as the Hijab and modesty is the principal cause of weak family bonds and social degradation in the West.

“O Prophet! Say to your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments, that they may be known and thus would not be troubled…”

(Holy Quran 33:59).

“And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess or the male servants not having need [of women], or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women…

(Holy Quran 24:31)

Thus, in an Islamic society, a woman enjoys a far more dignified status than that of their unfortunate sisters in the West. In Islam, a woman has the right to participate in public affairs, own property, marry the man of her choice, and if the case has gone beyond reconciliation, to divorce her husband. However, it should be noted that Islam considers divorce as the most detestable of sanctioned acts in the sight of Allah.

But the greatest duty of the woman is to lay to foundations of a virtuous society in her role as mother. It is the mother who with patience brings children into the world, and whose love and proper grooming is so essential for the society. The mothers have rights upon their children as children have their own rights upon parents.

“And We have commanded man to be kind towards his parents, with trouble did his mother bear him, with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months...”

(Holy Quran 46:15).

It was the reason, that the Prophet (P) said: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”.

The basics of life, whether good or bad, that children learn from their mothers, have a profound bearing on their further course of life. The Household of the Prophet (P) offers us the most brilliant examples in this regard. Fatima (P), grown up on the lap of the noble Khadija (P), the  “Mother of Believers,” turns out to be the most perfect woman that ever lived. Fatima’s (P) lap, in turn, is the cradle of Leaders of the Youth of Paradise, Imam Hassan (P) and Imam Hussayn (P).

Fatima also passed on many of her virtues to her daughter Zaynab, the heroine of Karbala. The Umayyad tyrants tried to stifle the freedom of Islam, but Zaynab (P) stood as a bulwark against such conspiracies. The lady who offered her two sons as sacrifices for the sake of Islam, endured imprisonment and in the courts of Damascus and Kufa challenged the claim of the authorities of the day to rule. In a classic display of the political and social rights of Islam, she carried the message of her martyred brother and refused allegiance to Yazid the accursed.

Thus as the lives of these exemplar women show, Islam gave political rights to women more than a millennium before world civilizations began to think of women in Islam are more comprehensive and more dignified and more compatible with the nature of women.                  













[1] Of or pertaining to the time preceding the revelation of Islam is known as the "Time of Ignorance

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