God’s rules apply to both genders, but in diverse ways. For example, god commanded women to cover certain parts of their body, including their hair, to preserve their modesty. Men are also required to cover parts of their body out of modesty, but not in the same way as women. Therefore, god commanded both men and women to be modest; yet, the manner in which they observe it is different.
Similarly, the rights, roles, and responsibilities of women are evenly balanced with those of men but are not necessarily the same. As Islam has granted individual identities to men and women, a constant comparison between the two is futile. Each player a unique role to mutually uphold social morality and societal balance.
The following overview details a wide range of women’s rights in islam. It addresses some common misconceptions and provides insight into the diverse roles and responsibilities women fulfill in society. It must also be mentioned here that Muslims are not always representative of Islam and may follow their cultural influences or personal interests. In doing so, they not only disenfranchise women, they also go against the clear guidelines laid out in Islam regarding the treatment of women. Therefore, their practices go against the liberties and entitlements which Islam empowers women with, as shown below.
Back in the 7th century, Muhammad(pbuh) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim - male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history. One of the most influential scholars of Islam was Muhammad’s wife, Aisha. After his death, men and women would travel to learn from her because she was considered a great scholar of Islam. The recognition of female scholarship and women’s participation in academia has been encouraged and practiced throughout the majority of Islamic history. For instance, al-Qarawiyin Mosque and University, the oldest running university, was founded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Morocco in 859 C.E.
In Islam, God clearly gives mothers high status and elevates their position in the family. In the Quran, God mentions all the sacrifices mothers make in bearing children to remind people to treat their mothers with love, respect, and care. On another occasion, a man repeatedly asked Muhammad(pbuh). “ Who amongst the people in the most worthy of my good companionship? “ Each time, the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Your mother.” When the man asked for the fourth time, he replied, “Your father.”
Politics and Social Services
Among the early Muslims, women were active participants in the cohesive functioning of the society. Women expressed their opinions freely and their advice was actively sought. Women nursed the wounded during battles, and some even participated on the battlefield. Women traded openly in the marketplace, so much so that the second caliph(ruler), Umar, appointed a woman, Shaffa bint Abdullah, as the supervisor of the bazaar. In Islamic history, women participated in government, public affairs, lawmaking, scholarship, and teaching. To continue to uphold this tradition, women are encouraged to actively participate in improving, serving, and leading the different aspects of the community.
Before Islam, women all across the globe were deprived of inheritance and were themselves considered property to be inherited by men. Islam gave women the right to own property and inherit from relatives, which was a revolutionary concept in the seventh century. Whether a woman is a wife, mother, sister, or daughters, she receives a certain share of her deceased relative's property. This share depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. While many societies around the world denied women inheritance, Islam assured women this right, illustrating the universal justice of Islam’s divine law.
In Islam, women are not obligated to earn or spend any money on housing, food, or general expenses. If a woman is married, her husband must fully support her financially and if she’s not married, that responsibility belongs to her closest male relative(father, brother, uncle, etc). She also has the right to work and spend the money she earns as she wishes. She has no obligation to share her money with her husband or any other family members, although she may choose to do so out of good will. For instance, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), was one of the most successful businesswomen of Mecca, and she freely spent from her wealth to support her husband and the cause of Islam. At that time of marriage, a woman is entitled to a financial gift (dowry) from her husband. This dowry is legally owned by her and cannot be used by anyone else. In the case of divorce, she has the right to keep whatever she owned before the divorce and anything she personally earned after marriage. The former husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. This ensures her to support herself in the case of divorce.
A woman has to right to accept or reject marriage proposals and her approval is required to complete the marriage contract. She cannot be forced to marry someone against her will and if this occurs for cultural reasons, it is in direct opposition of Islam. By the same principle, women also have the right to seek divorce if they are dissatisfied with their marriage. In Islam, marriage is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion. God says about Himself, “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy..”(Quran, 30:21) Muhammad(pbuh) embodied the best character and is a role model for all Muslims. His example of being helpful around the household and treating his family with compassion and love is a tradition that Muslims strive to implement in their daily lives. Muhammad (pbuh) treated his wives with the utmost respect and honor and was never abusive towards them. One of his traditions clearly states, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.”
Dignity & Protection From Harm
A form of emotional, physical, or psychological abuse is prohibited in Islam and the improper treatment of women is no exception to this rule. Indeed, there is no teaching in Islam, when studied in its complete context, which condones any kind of domestic violence. Islam clearly disallows any form of oppression or abuse, according to Dr. Zainab Alwani, a leading female Muslim scholar. It cannot be stated enough times that anyone who exercises unjust authority in the name of Islam is actually doing so to uphold their own cultural influences or personal interests. All of God’s creation is dignified and protected under Islamic law.
In an environment which constant emphasizes the physical form through various media, women are constantly faced with an attainable standard of beauty. Although Muslim women are falsely classified as oppressed based on their modest dress, they are in fact liberated from such objection by the society around them. This modest appearance, which includes veiling, highlights a woman's appearance, which includes veiling, highlights a woman’s personality and character instead of her physical figure and promotes a deeper appreciation for who she is as a person. In this regard, Muslim identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus(pbuh), who is known for her piety and modesty.
In conclusion, Islam has an extensive tradition of protecting the civil liberties of women based on the guidelines set forth by God and His Prophet. Women are empowered with many rights and protections under Islamic law and are honored with a dignified stature in society.
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