Human Rights In Islam

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  • Human Rights In Islam

  • 4. Equality between Men and Women in Islam


            The Faith of Islam abolished the principle of discrimination between men and women as human beings. It also abolished any discrimination between them before the law and in civil rights, and Islam ordained tht men and women be equal in that respect. Islam declared that men and women are equal as human beings in this world and in the Hereafter. This is expressed in the following Quranic verses : "And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female ye are members one of another .[1] "... to men is alloted what they earn, and to women what they earn "[2]


           "We have honoured the sons of Adam..."[3]By the "sons of Adam", is meant the offspring of Adam, namely the human race with its men and women.

            The Faith of Islam not only permitted the Muslim woman to acquire knowledge, but also commanded her to do so in so far as it would assist her in her life in this world and in the Hereafter. The Prophet Muhammad - blessings and peace be upon him - said that the quest for knowledge is the obligation of every Muslim man and woman.


            Before the advent of Islam, Hafsa, the daughter of `Omar ben Al Khattab had beentaught the fundamentals of writing by a woman called Al Shifaa' Al `Adawiya and after the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, married Hafsa, he asked Al Shifaa' Al Adawiya to continue teaching her how to improve her handwriting.


            The Faith of Islam permits the Muslim woman to hold any post outside her home, provided that she assumes it in a respectable dignified manner that does not in any way subject her to any embarrassing situation that does not observe the teachings of Islam. Her employment must not harm her reputation in any way, nor must it prevent her from carrying out her duties as a wife and a mother.

            Islam permits the working woman to associate with the male sex in public according to the rulings and teachings of the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.

            Islam grants the Muslim woman equal civil rights and grants her the right to manage her own business affairs such as participating in legal contracts that deal with the sale or the purchase of any property or goods, in addition to her legal right to grant gifts and to contract a will. Islam also grants her the right to personally manage her wealth and supervise all her financial affairs. These rights naturally necessitate associating with the male sex and it is a well-known historical fact that `Aisha daughter of Talha - the granddaughter of Abu Bakr Al Siddiq fought side by side with men in the battles against the infidels and that she fought bravely with spears and arrows.

            The Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, led men and women together into battle and granted Sa'eeda, daughter of Ka'b, the same share of the spoils as the men in the Battle of Khaybar. He also seated Umaya, daughter of Qays Al Ghafiriya, behind him on his camel on their way to the Battle of Khaybar after the battle was won, awarded her a medal for her outstanding courage in battle, in the same way that heroes are awarded medals today. Umaya wore this medal all her life and according to her desire, the medal was buried with her when she died.


            Another example of courageous womanhood is Um Hakim, daughter of Al Harith who Participated in the battle against the Romans while she was still a newly-wed bride. Her husband had been martyred before her eyes, but instead of wailing over his dead body, she seized the pole of the tent in which her marriage had been consumated and killed Seven of the enemy at the archway which is still known as the Archway of Um Hakim.


            From the above mentioned incidents, it is clear that Islam Permits the association of the two sexes, provided that no immorality ensues. In order to Preserve a moral and chaste community, Islam ordains certain rulings and terms and prohibits certain matters. Islam prohibits a man and a woman from being alone together unless, according to Islamic laws, they are religiously prohibited from marrying one another, such as a brother and sister or a maternal aunt or uncle or a paternal aunt or uncle or a father and mother or a grandfather or a grandmother or a grandchild.


            A Muslim woman's apparel must clothe her completely except for her face and hands. Islam also ordains that she must not ostentatiously display her beauty, and her conduct and speech should be dignified, So as not to arouse any temptation in those with whom she is conducting her business. This is expressed in the following Quranic verses "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty ; that will make for greater purity for them and God is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof ; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex ; and that they Should not Strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers I turn ye all together towards God that ye may attain Bliss.''[4]


            Also "O Prophet ! Tell thy wives and daughters and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad)."[5]

            The following Quranic verses are addressed to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him "O Consorts of the Prophet ! Ye are not like any of the (other)women if ye do fear (God), be not too complaisant of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire but speak ye a speech (that is) just. And stay quietly in your houses and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance "[6]"be not too complaisant of speech..." means not to speak to men in a soft voice which might arouse temptation.


            "And stay quietly in your houses..." means that they should not go out unless there be a specific reason for doing so "Make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance" means that they should not make an ostentations display of their ornaments as did the women of the Pre-Islamic era. Although these verses are addressed to the wives of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, Muslim women are encouraged to follow in their footsteps since they are the ideal of Muslim womanhood.


            The Faith of Islam ordains equlity between men and women before the law and in all civil rights. This applies to unmarried girls and to married women. The laws of marriage in Islam differ from the laws of Christianity in the Western World by preserving the Muslim woman's right to retain her surname after marriage. Her marriage does not cancel her civil rights or her capacity to participate in legal contracts or her right to possess property or wealth. Thus a Muslim woman retains her family's name after marriage in addition to being entitled to all the civil rights due to men. She owns property in her own name and her wealth belongs to her alone and cannot be appropriated by her husband. The following Quranic verses refer to the dowry which is a woman's legitimate right in the event of divorce "But if ye decide to take one wife in place of another, even if ye had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit. of it back : would ye take it by slander and a manifest wrong ? And how could ye take it when ye have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a solemn covenant ?"[7]


            Also : "It is not lawful for you (men), to take back any of your gifts (from your wives),.."[8]If a man is forbidden to claim what he had given to his wife as a gift, it is only logical that he cannot appropriate any of her own personal wealth or property or any possession of any kind. If a wife in the event of a divorce or during marriage, of her own free will, relinquishes her claim to her dowry which is her due, her husband is allowed to regain it. This is clear from the following Quranic verse "And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift ; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer." [9]A husband has no right to dispose of his wife's wealth or property without her consent or without being granted power of attorney to act on her behalf. It is also a wife's right to cancel the power of attorney granted to her husband and to grant it to whomever she wills.


            Most civilized modern democracies have not yet attained this elevated status of equality. In France, until recently, a French woman had no civil rights, since the French law denied her these rights. This is stated in the 217th clause of the French Civil Law "A married woman, even if her marriage is based upon the separation of her property from her husband's property, does not have the legal right to endow or dispose of her property or mortgage or exchange her property without her husband's written consent and participation in the contract."


            Although certain amendments were made later concerning this law, its negative bearing upon the legal status of the French woman exists upto this very day. When a woman marries in the Western World, she officially takes her husband's surname to be her surname and by so doing yields her individuality and is integrated into her husband's personality.


            The Faith of Islam does not discriminate between men and women except in matters when this discrimination is due to the nature of their sex, for their welfare and for the welfare of the community, the family and in particular for the welfare of women.


            There are five issues where discrimination between men and women is ordained by Islam, namely : financial responsibilities, inheritance, the custodianship of the family, testimony and divorce.


            During the next stage of a woman's life, namely during her marriage, the Faith of Islam charges the husband with the responsibility of supporting his wife and family and does not charge the wife with any financial responsibilities. Nevertheless, Islam preserves all the Muslim woman's civil rights which include her right to possess and dispose of her wealth and property without any intervention from her husband. A wife is not obliged to participate in the financial support of her family even if she is wealthy enough to do so, for supporting the family is the sole responsibility of her husband, this being his religious and legal duty.


            In the event of divorce, the husband is also charged by Islam with all the expenses that ensue. He is charged with paying the dowry agreed upon in the event of divorce, in addition to his divorced wife's financial support which includes her housing, food expenses and, apparel in addition to the children's expenses which include the wages of their wet nurses who breast feed them, their clothes and their education. The Muslim woman, on the other hand, is not charged with spending a single penny on herself or on her children.


            It is obvious from the aforementioned, Islamic rulings that Islam has raised the status of the Muslim woman and has preserved her dignity in her father's home before marriage, in her own home during her marriage, and even in the event of her divorce. This status has not been attained by any other religion in the past or in the modern world of to day.



    [1] Surah III, verse 195.

    [2] Surah IV, verse 32.

    [3] Surah XVII, verse 70.

    [4] Surah xxiv, verses 30-31

    [5] Surah XXXIII, verse 59.

    [6] Surah XXXIII, verses 32-33.

    [7] Surah IV, verses 2121.

    [8] Surah II, verse 229.

    [9] Surah IV, verse 4.

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