WOMEN’S LIBERATION THROUGH ISLAM
Today many 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 int he seventh century by the name of Mohammed (peace be upon him), who is known as the last Prophet of Islam. Islam raised the status of women, liberating them and freeing them from the many injustices wrongly imposed upon them. The status of the Muslim woman in Islam is avery noble and lofty one, and her effect is very great in the life of every Muslim and in society. Indeed, the Muslim woman is the initial teacher in the building of a righteous society. The great importance of Muslim women’s roles – whether as a wife, sister, daughter, and the rights that are due to her and the obligation due from her – have been explained in the Qur’an and Traditions of the Prophet (Sunnah), the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties.
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 Qur’an, in the first verse of the chapter entitled “Women,” God says, “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread a broad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you.” (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 believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither are superior over one another by their gender. God says, “Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has piety. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (49:12)
In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Qur’an states: “There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error.” (2:256)
Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which indicate women would pose questions directly to him and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters.
A Muslim woman chooses her husband and keeps her name after marriage. A Muslim woman’s testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas in which women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female).” This includes knowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith as well as other 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 maintenance of a home, providing support to her husband, and bearing, raising and teaching of children 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 effort nor its benefit. God will reward both sexes equally for the value of their work, though it may not necessarily be the same activity.
Concerning motherhood, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Heaven lies under the feet of mothers.” This implies that the success of a society can be traced to the mothers that 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.
A right given to Muslim women by God 1400 years ago is the right to vote. On any public matter, a woman may voice her opinion and participate in politics. One example, narrated in the Qur’an (60:12), is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is told that when the believing women come to him and swear their allegiance to Islam, he must accept their oath. This established the right of women to select their leader and publicly declare so. Finally, Islam does not forbid a woman from holding important positions in government. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended Uthman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.
The Qur’an states: “By the creation of the male and female; Verily, (the ends) ye strive for are diverse.” (92:3-4)
In these verses, God declares that He 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 Qur’an states: “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend of their wealth (for the support of women).” (4:34)
This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men, requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment.
The Muslim woman has 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 Qur’an states:
“And in no wise covet those things in which Allah 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 Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge of all things.” (4:32)
A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur’an 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.” (4:7)
Allah (SWT) said, “I am the Merciful (Ar-Rahman). As for the womb (Ar-Rahm), I have derived its name from one of My Names. Whoever keeps its ties, I shall keep his ties. And whoever cuts it off, I shall cut him off.” (At-Tirmithi)
The most important obligation upon a person after their duty to God is their duty and gratitude to their mother, and kindness and good companionship with her. Because of her innate nurturing qualities and the tremendous responsibility and hardship in bearing and raising children, she is to be given precedence over and above the father.
“And We have enjoined upon man to be dutiful and good to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness upon weakness and hardship upon hardship, and his weaning is in two years. Show gratitude and thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.” (31:14)
“And We have enjoined upon man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship, and she brings him forth with hardship.” (41:15)
A man came to Allah’s Messenger and said: O Messenger of Allah! Who from amongst mankind warrants the best companionship from me? He replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: Then who? So he replied: “Your mother”. The man then asked: Then who? So the Prophet replied again: “Your mother.” The man then asked: then who? So he replied: “Then your father.” (Bukhari 8/2, Muslim 7/2)
VII. RIGHTS OF A WIFE
The Qur’an 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.” (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 Qur’an, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes.
“…They are your garments and you are their garments.” (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 Qur’an states: “Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.” (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 (peace be upon him) said: “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are 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.
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations to their husbands. The Qur’an states: “The good women in the absence of their husbands guard their rights as Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded.” (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. Her duty is to her Lord first and foremost. 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.
The Qur’an states: “And it becomes not a believing man or a believing women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decided on an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest.” (33:36)
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, “The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman.” (Muslim 3465)
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, “A believing man should not hate a believing woman; it he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim 3469)
“The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends, protectors of one another, they enjoin on the people good, and forbid people from evil; they perform prayer) and give the poor-due, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (9:71)
“Allah has promised to the believers -men and women, – Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Adn (Eden Paradise). But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success.” (9:72)
“That He may admit the believing men and the believing women to Gardens under which rivers flow (i.e. Paradise), to abide therein forever, and to expiate from them their sins, and that is with Allah, a supreme success.” (48:5)
“Verily, those who accuse chaste women, who never even think of anything touching their chastity and are good believers, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter, and for them will be a great torment.” (24:23)
“Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam) men and women, the believers men and women, the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble, the men and the women who give charity, the men and the women who observe fasting, the men and the women who guard their chastity, and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” (33:35)