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Lesson 37

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Lesson - 37


"And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and men are a degree above them. And Allah is Mighty, Wise." Ch. 2:228

Condition of women in Arabia and the world before Islam

I have selected the sensitive issue of the rights and obligations of men and women towards each other for our discussion today. The human race is divided approximately equally between men and women. This is therefore, a very important and universal issue. From the beginning of creation, men because of their physical strength have been able to dominate women. Before the advent of Islam, the women had a very low status in the Arabian society. They were inherited like property by men and this included their own stepmothers. They could do as they wished with the women they inherited. They could take them to be their wives, gift them to others, or sell them in the market place. Birth of a female child was considered a disgrace. The father would be reluctant to show his face outside the house and would try quietly to bury his daughter alive. In the Hindu society also, women, like cows and buffaloes, were considered as legal property of men and the question of women rights did not even arise. According to the Jewish tradition, woman is the evil persona, who on the instigation of the devil tempted Adam and got him out of paradise, and forever accursed humanity to sin. That is why the Saint Paul the originator of present day Christian faith also condemns women.

Holy Quran predicts resurgence of women rights in the modern age

The revelation of the Holy Quran gave rights to women, which even to this day are non existent in the civilized western world, in the very same societies which boast of their women liberation movements. The Holy Quran has in fact predicted that a time will come:

"And when the one buried alive is asked. For what sin she was killed" (81: 8,9).
The commentators have applied this verse to the day of judgment. If God grants me a long enough life to do a commentary, I will, if Allah pleases (inshallah) show you clearly that this amazing chapter of the Holy Quran has made some surprising predictions about the modern age. These prophecies offer such a cogent proof in support of the truth of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the Holy Quran, that no honest minded person can ignore them. We are actually living in the times referred to in the above mentioned verses.

It is a common weakness of human nature, that it tends to follow extremes. For example, man can get so involved in pursuit of material wealth, and its acquisition that it becomes the sole purpose of his existence — a god that he worships. The opposite extreme to this is that a life of monasticism is considered the route to salvation. A similar analogy is applicable to the rights of women. For hundreds of years these rights were readily trampled upon. In the present times however, women aspire for supremacy over men, and long for political power. This environment creates doubts in the minds of many western oriented girls, and even more mature women, that perhaps Islam does not give women their rights, or equality with men.

Status of women in Islam

Let us see what is the status of women in Islam. Every human being male or female is made up of two elements, physical body, and the spirit or soul. The body is a temporary abode for the spirit. Physically man bears a resemblance to other animals, and many animals are stronger, and more powerful than man. If intelligence is what puts man in a higher class, then there are many animals who can be taught intelligent behavior to some degree. What really differentiates man from animals, and gives him superiority over them is the human spirit. This is something separate from his animal existence. The spirit is bestowed upon man during his creation, and breathed into him by Allah as stated in the following verse:

"So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down making obeisance to him" (15:29).
It is the human spirit which gives man the true distinction, and makes him superior to other animals. The spirit is capable of reflecting the Divine attributes, as is apparent from the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

"Create the moral characteristics of Allah within yourself,"
and, the verse of the Holy Quran:

"(We take) Allah's colour, and who is better than Allah at colouring, and we are His worshippers" (2:138).
After the demise of our bodies, the spirit moves on to the Hereafter, and acquires a new and everlasting existence.

Spiritual rights of women:

Let us see the status of man and woman in Islam, as far as this spirit is concerned. The following verse sheds light on this matter:

"O people, keep your duty to your Lord, Who created you from a single being, and created its mate of the same (kind), and spread from these two many men and women" (4:1).
As far as the spirit is concerned, men and women are, therefore on an equal footing. No other principle of equality of rights for men and women can provide a match for this, and because of it, both men and women can achieve similar degrees of spiritual progress. In support, I would like to quote one verse of the Holy Quran from many on the subject:

"Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the charitable men and the charitable women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember — Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward" (33:35).
Like men, women can also get revelation as stated in the Holy Quran about Mary and the mother of Moses. There being no higher degree of honor for any man or woman, than the gift of Divine revelation.

Material rights of women in Islam:

The Western culture, which has a strong influence on our younger generation, has lost its appreciation of moral and spiritual values and their growth. In fact, the values are frequently ridiculed. Wealth and money have taken the place of God. Let us further examine the issue from this standpoint. Holy Quran is the only revealed Book, which over fourteen hundred years ago, gave property rights, and right of inheritance to women at every level of society. These were the very same women, who were themselves considered as property. This was true whether she was a daughter, a sister, a wife, or a mother. Has any other nation, or religion ever given such legal rights in property and wealth to women? In the western society, if a man wishes, he may give something to a woman, but it is not her legal right. The Holy Quran fourteen hundred years ago, gave numerous rights to women, and fixed their share in the property, at a time when the rest of the world was not only oblivious of such rights, but actually regarded women as property. Western oriented women also object to why Islam gives women only half the property rights of men? The answer to this objection is given by the Holy Quran in the verse:

"Men are the maintainers of women, with what Allah has made some of them to excel others and with what they spend out of their wealth" (4:34).

Men are told that they are responsible for the protection, and provision of the physical sustenance of women, because Allah has given them physical strength superior to women. They are enjoined to spend out of their wealth for maintaining women. This is an obligatory command despite the fact that women are themselves allowed to earn by lawful means as stated in:

"For men is the benefit of what they earn. And for women is the benefit of what they earn" (4:32).
Regardless of this, man has been given the responsibility to provide sustenance for his wife and children. Although a woman may voluntarily participate in earning for the household, the responsibility for it falls on the shoulders of man. Man has also been enjoined to give mehr (obligatory donation of property, or wealth to the wife, at the time of marriage) in accordance with his means. For a rich person, this can be the equivalent of a pile of gold or silver (4:20). Women, on the other hand, have not been commanded to give mehr to men out of their property.

Based on his responsibility as a provider for his wife and children, it is justifiable for a man to receive double the woman's share of inherited property. Man is also enjoined not to take back any of the marriage gifts given in the form of jewelry or clothing, even in situations of divorce as stated in verse:

"And it is not lawful for you to take any part of what you have given them, unless ... for what she gives up to become free thereby" (2: 229).
It is, therefore unlawful for the husband to take anything back of what he has given to his wife, unless the wife seeks divorce, and of her own free will returns some portion back as a redemption.

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