Women in Islam are thought to be subjugated, degraded, oppressed – but are they really? Are millions of Muslims oppressive or are these misconceptions fabricated by a biased media?
To answer these very critical questions, we will have a look first on how women are treated in ancient and recent societies.
The Roman civilizationdecreed that women are slaves belonging to man and they have no rights at all. In Rome, a large assembly was held to discuss the issue of women and decided that women are spiritless creature, therefore they will not inherit the afterlife, and moreover they are considered filth.
Likewise, women inAthenswere considered abandoned luggage and were bought and sold, and were considered an abomination of Satan.
The ancient Indiancodes decided that epidemic, death, hell, poison of snakes, and fire are better than women. Furthermore, their right of life ends by the decease of their husbands who are their masters, so when they see the burning of their husbands’ corpses, they have to throw themselves into fire otherwise they shall be cursed.
As for women inJudaism, they were judged as follows in the Old Testament: “I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. And I find something better than death: the woman whose heart is snare and net, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her.” [Ecclesiastes Chapter 7: 25 – 26].
It is understood that the Jews and the Christians venerate and believe in the Old Testament.
That was the status of women in ancient times, whereas their conditions in middle and modern times are explained by the following facts:
The Danish writer explained the Catholic Church trend towards women by saying: “During the Middle Ages, European care for women was very limited depending on the trend of the Catholic doctrine that counted women a second rank creature.
InFrance,a meeting was held in 586 AD to discuss the issue of women’s nature and whether they are human or not. After lengthy discussion, they decided that women are human but they were created for the service of men.
Article 217 of the French law states that a married woman, even if her marriage is based on the separation of her properties from the properties of her husband, has no right to donate, transfer her property, mortgage, or own something either for money or for free without the involvement of her husband in the contract or at least his written consent.
InEngland, Henry the 8th prohibited English women from reading the Bible. Until 1850 AD, women were not counted among citizens and continued until 1882 to have no personal rights. [The series of Comparative religions by Dr. Ahmad Shalaby, vol. 3: P. 210 – 213].
As for modern women inEurope,America, and otherindustrial countries, they are mean creature who are used for commercial purposes where they are an essential part of advertising campaigns propaganda and deteriorated to the extent that they strip naked to advertise for a commodity; furthermore the display of their bodies have been regulated to be a pleasure for men everywhere. As long as they can serve and offer either from their money, bodies, or minds, they are the place of care, but when they grow old or lose their basic elements of giving, the entire society will abandon them and they spend the rest of their lives alone or in psychiatric hospitals.
As for Islam,first, you may compare this with what have been mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, where Allah says: “The believers, men and women, are Auliya’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another.”[Surat At-Tawbah: 71].
As a matter of fact Islam grants woman rights that other societies failed to do.
Of these rights are:
The Right to receive Education:
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, once said: “Acquiring knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim.”(At-Tabarani)
The Right to Worship:
Both men and women are the slaves of Allah and have a duty to worship and obey Him. Men and women have to pray, fast, give charity, go on pilgrimage, refrain from adultery, avoid the prohibited, enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and so on.
The Right to give Charity:
Men and women are both encouraged to give charity, and there is nothing to stop a woman giving charity from her husband’s income.
Aishah reported that the Messenger of Allah said:“A woman will receive reward (from Allah) even when she gives charity from her husband’s earnings. The husband and the treasurer (who keeps the money on the husband’s behalf) will also be rewarded, without the reward of any of them decreasing.”Asmaa once said to the Prophet “O Messenger of Allah, I have nothing except what Zubair (her husband) brings home.”
The Right to Own Wealth and Property:
A woman has the right to keep her property or wealth, whether earned or inherited, and spend it as she may please.
The Right to Express Her Opinion:
This freedom of expression is aptly demonstrated by a famous incident involving Omar, the second Rightly- Guided Caliph. Omar was once standing on the pulpit, severely reprimanding the people and ordering them not to set excessive amounts of dower at the time of marriage.
A woman got up and shouted, “Omar, you have no right to intervene in a matter which Allah the All-Mighty has already decreed in Quran:
“But if you intend to replace a wife by another and you have given one of them a Qintar (of gold, i.e., a great amount as Mahr bridal money), take not the least bit of it back; would you take it wrongfully without a right and (with) a manifest sin?”(V.4:20)
After being reminded of this Verse, Omar withdrew his order, saying, “I am in the wrong and she is correct.”
The Right to Choose Her Husband:
Guardian of the girl; be her father, brother, or uncle plays an important role in her marriage, such as finding a suitable match for her. But under no circumstance does this allow him to force his choice on her against her wishes. She is free to accept or reject his choice, or make her own choice. A woman named Khansa Bint Khidam once came to the Prophet and complained:
“My father has forced me to marry my cousin in order to raise his own status (in the eyes of the people).” The Prophet told her that she was free to dissolve this marriage and choose whomever she wished to marry. She replied, “I accept my father’s choice, but my aim was to let women know that fathers have no right to interfere in the marriage.” (Ahmad, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)
The Right to Seek Employment:
While Islam does not prohibit women working outside home, it does stipulate that the following restrictions be followed to safeguard the dignity and honor of women and the purity and stability of the Islamic society, (the conduct of women, after all, is the “backbone” of any society):
1. Outside employment should not come before, or seriously interfere with her responsibilities as wife and mother.
2. Her work should not be a source of friction within the family, and the husband’s consent is required in order to eliminate later disagreements. If she is not married, she must have her guardian’s consent.
3. Her appearance, manner and tone of speech and overall behavior should follow Islamic guidelines. These include: restraining her glances in relation to any men near the work place, wearing correct Islamic dress, avoiding men, not walking in a provocative manner, and not using make-up or perfume in public.
4. Her job should not be one which causes moral corruption in society, or involve any prohibited trade or activity, affect her own religion, morals, dignity and good behavior, or subject her to temptations.
5. Her job should not be one which is mixing and associating with men.
6. A woman should try to seek employment in positions which require a woman’s special skills, or which relate to the needs of women and children, such as teaching, nursing other women, midwifery, medicine with specialization’s like pediatric or obstetrics-gynecology.
In a nutshell, it’s quite clear that Islam granted women rights that are not found in any other “civilized” society, as alleged.