Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Islam ordains equality between men and women

The Faith of Islam ordains equality 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 unto 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, and 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.

Islam has secured for the woman every human right. This includes her intellectual, religious, social, economic and political rights.

 Rights in Islam

We should point out that human rights in Islam are not merely rights but are religious obligations. This means that it is obligatory for every person to protect them and restore them if they are taken away. It is equally obligatory upon society to make sure that every individual can enjoy his or her rights to the fullest.

Islam has secured for the woman every human right. This includes her intellectual, religious, social, economic and political rights.
Intellectual and Religious Rights

Islam has guaranteed every man and woman the right to think and believe as they choose. It considers thinking and investigating to be an obligation upon every human being. There are numerous verses in the Quran that encourage people to think about and investigate the phenomena both in the world around them and in the wonder of life itself. Allah says:
Do they not look in the dominion of the heavens and the Earth and all the things that Allah has created?”
Say (O Muhammad): “Behold all that is in the Heavens and the Earth.’ But neither signs nor warners benefit those who do not believe.”
Say: “‘Travel in the land and see how Allah originated Creation.”
Say (O Muhammad): “I exhort you to one thing only: that you stand up for Allah’s sake together and individually and reflect: there is no madness in your companion (Muhammad).”

As for the right to one’s own belief, Islam has guaranteed it and forbidden anyone to compel another to change his or her belief. Allah says:
There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the true path is clearly distinct from error.
So, will you (O Muhammad) then compel mankind so they will become believers?
You (O Muhammad) are merely a Warner. You are not a dictator over them.
The Quran threatens those who persecute believing men and women in order to turn them from their faith:
Verily those who persecute the believing men and women and then do not turn to Allah in repentance, they will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Fire.

From all of these texts, the independent religious identity of the woman becomes quite clear. No one else can impose upon her what she should believe. She must, of her own free will, decide what to believe. Allah says:
O you, who believe, if believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them. Allah knows best their faith. Then, if you ascertain that they are true believers, do not send them back to the disbelievers.
O Prophet, if believing women come to you to give you their pledge that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah, nor steal, nor commit fornication, nor kill their children, nor commit slander, nor forge falsehood (to making illegitimate children belong to their husbands), nor disobey you in goodness, then accept their pledge and ask Allah to forgive them. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits manifest lewdness will have a double punishment. This is easy for Allah. And whoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Messenger and works righteous deeds will be given a double reward.

When Islam came, women accepted Islam and made the emigration to Madinah, even though their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their male relatives remained disbelievers. Umm Habîbah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, accepted Islam and emigrated in spite of the fact that her father was one of the leaders of the disbelievers. Even when her husband abandoned Islam, she remained steadfast in her belief.

Fatima, the daughter of al-Khattab, became Muslim before her brother `Umar did and was the cause for him accepting Islam, because of her faith and because she stood up to him when he found out about her becoming a Muslim and wanted to abuse her.

Umm Kulthûm the daughter of `Uqbah bin. Abi Mu`ît. Accepted Islam and emigrated in spite of the fact that every member of her family remained polytheists.

There were many women who accepted Islam and were the reasons for their husbands accepting Islam. Umm Sulaym – the wife of Abu Talha al-Ansari – and Umm Hakim bint Huzam, the wife of `Ikrimah b. Abi Jahl, – were among these women.

[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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