Women Liberation through Islam

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Today peo­ple think that wom­en are lib­er­at­ed in the West and that the Women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment began in the 20th cen­tu­ry.  Actu­al­ly, the women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment was not begun by wom­en, but was revealed by God to a man in the sev­en­th cen­tu­ry by the name of Muham­mad, may the mer­cy and bless­ings of God be upon him, the last Prophet of God.  The Quran and the Sun­nah of the Prophet are the sources from which every Mus­lim wom­an derives her rights and duties.

Human Rights

Islam, four­teen cen­turies ago, made wom­en equal­ly account­able to God in glo­ri­fy­ing and wor­ship­ping Him – set­ting no lim­its on her moral pro­gress.  Also, Islam estab­lished a woman’s equal­i­ty in her human­i­ty with men.  In the Quran, in the first verse of the chap­ter enti­tled “Wom­en”, God says:

O mankind!  Be care­ful of your duty toward your Lord who cre­at­ed you from a sin­gle soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a mul­ti­tude of men and wom­en.  Be care­ful of your duty toward God in Whom you claim (your rights) of one anoth­er, and towards the wombs (that bore you).  Lo!  God has been a Watcher over you.” (Quran 4:1)

Since men and wom­en both came from the same essence, they are equal in their human­i­ty.  Wom­en can­not be by nature evil (as some reli­gions teach) or then men would be evil also.  Sim­i­lar­ly, nei­ther gen­der can be supe­ri­or because it would be a con­tra­dic­tion to equal­i­ty.

Civil Rights

In Islam, a wom­an has the basic free­doms of choice and expres­sion based on recog­ni­tion of her indi­vid­u­al per­son­al­i­ty.  First, a non-Mus­lim wom­an can not be forced to con­vert for mar­riage, or upon the con­ver­sion of par­ents.  The Quran states:

There is no com­pul­sion in reli­gion.  Right has been made dis­tinct from error.” (Quran 2:256)

Wom­en are encour­aged in Islam to con­tribute their opin­ions and ideas.  There are many tra­di­tions of the Prophet which indi­cate that wom­en would pose ques­tions direct­ly to him and offer their opin­ions con­cern­ing reli­gion, eco­nom­ics and social mat­ters.

A Mus­lim wom­an has full right to approve or deny a pro­pos­al of mar­riage, and her name is to be kept after mar­riage.  A Mus­lim woman’s tes­ti­mony is valid in legal dis­putes.  In fact, where wom­en are more famil­iar, their evi­dence is con­clu­sive.

Social Rights

The Prophet said:

Seek­ing knowl­edge is a man­date for every Mus­lim (male and female).” (At-Tir­mid­hi)

This includes knowl­edge of the Quran and the Hadeeth as well as oth­er types of knowl­edge.  Men and wom­en both have the capac­i­ty for learn­ing and under­stand­ing.  Since it is also their oblig­a­tion to pro­mote good behav­ior and con­demn bad behav­ior in all spheres of life, Mus­lim wom­en must acquire the appro­pri­ate edu­ca­tion to per­form this duty in accor­dance with their own nat­u­ral tal­ents and inter­ests.

While bear­ing, rais­ing and teach­ing of chil­dren, and pro­vid­ing sup­port to her hus­band and main­te­nance of a home are among the first, and very high­ly regard­ed, roles for a wom­an, if she has the skills to work out­side the home for the good of the com­mu­ni­ty, she may do, so as long as her fam­i­ly oblig­a­tions are met.

Islam rec­og­nizes and fos­ters the nat­u­ral dif­fer­ences between men and wom­en despite their equal­i­ty.  Some types of work are more suit­able for men and oth­er types for wom­en.  This in no way dimin­ish­es either’s efforts or ben­e­fits.  God will reward both sex­es equal­ly for the val­ue of their work, through, it may not nec­es­sar­i­ly be the same activ­i­ty.

Con­cern­ing moth­er­hood, the Prophet said:

Heav­en lies under her feet.” (An-Nasai)

This implies that the suc­cess of a soci­ety can be traced to the moth­ers who raised it.  The first and great­est influ­ence on a per­son comes from the sense of secu­ri­ty, affec­tion, and train­ing received from the moth­er.  There­fore, a wom­an hav­ing chil­dren must be edu­cat­ed and con­sci­en­tious in order to be a skill­ful par­ent.

Political Rights

A right given to Mus­lim wom­en by God 1400 years ago is the right to voice her opin­ion on social issues.  On any pub­lic mat­ter, a wom­an may voice her opin­ion and par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics.  Also, Islam does not for­bid a wom­an from hold­ing impor­tant posi­tions in gov­ern­ment which suit her role as a wom­an.  Abdur­rah­man Ibn Awf con­sult­ed many wom­en before he rec­om­mend­ed Uth­man Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.

Economic Rights

Islam is clear in its teach­ings that God cre­at­ed men and wom­en to be dif­fer­ent, with unique roles, func­tions and skills.  As in soci­ety, where there is a divi­sion of labor, so too in a fam­i­ly, each mem­ber has dif­fer­ent respon­si­bil­i­ties.  Gen­er­al­ly, Islam upholds that wom­en are entrust­ed with the nur­tur­ing role, and men, with the guardian role.  There­fore, wom­en are given the right of finan­cial sup­port.

The Quran states:

Men are the main­tain­ers of wom­en because God has made some of them to excel oth­ers and because they spend of their wealth (for the sup­port of wom­en).” (Quran 4:34)

This guardian­ship and greater finan­cial respon­si­bil­i­ty given to men requires that they provide wom­en with not only mon­e­tary sup­port but also phys­i­cal pro­tec­tion and kind respect­ful treat­ment.

Mus­lim wom­en have the priv­i­lege to earn mon­ey, the right to own prop­er­ty, to enter into legal con­tracts and to man­age all of her assets in any way she pleas­es.  She can run her own busi­ness and no one has any claim on her earn­ings, includ­ing her hus­band.

The Quran states:

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

A wom­an inher­its from her rel­a­tives.  The Quran states:

For men there is a share in what par­ents and rel­a­tives leave, and for wom­en there is a share of what par­ents and rel­a­tives leave, whether it be lit­tle or much – an ordained share.” (Quran 4:7)

Rights of a Wife

The Quran states:

And among His signs is that He cre­at­ed for you mates from among your­selves that you may live in tran­quil­i­ty with them, and He has put love and mer­cy between you; Ver­i­ly, in that are signs for peo­ple who reflect.” (Quran 30:21)

Mar­riage is there­fore not just a phys­i­cal or emo­tion­al neces­si­ty but, in fact, a sign from God! It is a rela­tion­ship of mutu­al rights and oblig­a­tions based on divine guid­ance.  God cre­at­ed men and wom­en with com­pli­men­ta­ry natures and, in the Quran, He laid out a sys­tem of laws to sup­port har­mo­nious inter­ac­tion between the sex­es.

…They are your gar­ments and you are their gar­ments.…” (Quran 2:187)

Cloth­ing pro­vides phys­i­cal pro­tec­tion and cov­ers the beau­ty and faults of the body.

Like­wise, a spouse is viewed this way.  Each pro­tects the oth­er and hides the faults and com­pli­ments the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the spouse.  To fos­ter the love and secu­ri­ty that comes with mar­riage, Mus­lim wives have var­i­ous rights.  The first of the wife’s rights is to receive mahr, a gift from the hus­band, which is part of the mar­riage con­tract and required for the legal­i­ty of the mar­riage.

The sec­ond right of a wife is main­te­nance.  Despite any wealth she may have, her hus­band is oblig­at­ed to provide her with food, shel­ter and cloth­ing.  He is not forced, how­ev­er, to spend beyond his capa­bil­i­ty and his wife is not enti­tled to make unrea­son­able demands.  The Quran states:

Let the man of means spend accord­ing to his means, and the man whose resources are restrict­ed, let him spend accord­ing to what God has given him.  God puts no bur­den on any per­son beyond what He has given him.” (Quran 65:7)

God tells us men are guardians over wom­en and are afford­ed the lead­er­ship in the fam­i­ly.  His respon­si­bil­i­ty for obey­ing God extends to guid­ing his fam­i­ly to obey God at all times.

A wife’s rights also extend beyond mate­ri­al needs.  She has the right to kind treat­ment.  The Prophet said:

The most per­fect believ­ers are the best in con­duct.  And the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”

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

Duties of a Wife

With rights come respon­si­bil­i­ties.  There­fore, wives have cer­tain oblig­a­tions to their hus­bands.  The Quran states:

…The good wom­en in the absence of their hus­bands guard their rights as God has enjoined upon them to be guarded.…”(Quran 4:34)

A wife is to keep her husband’s secrets and pro­tect their mar­i­tal pri­va­cy.  Issues of inti­ma­cy or faults of his that would dis­hon­or him, are not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expect­ed to guard her hon­or.

A wife must also guard her husband’s prop­er­ty.  She must safe­guard his home and pos­ses­sions, to the best of her abil­i­ty, from theft or dam­age.  She should man­age the house­hold affairs wise­ly so as to pre­vent loss or waste.  She should not allow any­one to enter the house whom her hus­band dis­likes nor incur any expens­es of which her hus­band dis­ap­proves.

A Mus­lim wom­an must coop­er­ate and coor­di­nate with her hus­band.  There can­not, how­ev­er, be coop­er­a­tion with a man who is dis­obe­di­ent to God.  She should not ful­fill his requests if he wants her to do some­thing unlaw­ful.  A hus­band also should not take advan­tage of his wife, but be con­sid­er­ate of her needs and hap­pi­ness.

Conclusion

The Quran states:

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

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