From honour killings and forced marriages to all forms of abuse and domestic violence, women constantly find themselves targeted and subject to lasting horrors. It is certainly heartbreaking to ask as to why womenfolk are being subject to these traumas and horrors in a state where majority proudly calls themselves Muslim. Although a generalization would be misleading, the heinous crimes that are being committed by a paltry few certainly do not do justice to the religion they claim to be the followers of and which raises the status of women to utmost dignity.
After the birth of Islam in Arabia, women were elevated to a status that was in stark contrast with their place in the society in pre-Islamic times. This elevation of women’s status with the introduction of Islam bears testimony to the Islamic emphasis on respecting women. The pre-Islamic times described as ‘the age of ignorance’ robbed women of their basic human rights, women had no say at all, they were treated as mere commodities, they were not only oppressed and persecuted but were even buried alive. Islam, on the other hand, condemned the ill practices of the pre-Islamic era and did not only prohibit the practice of burying the girl child but it also prohibited being upset upon the birth of a girl.
Sadly, today we see the same tendencies where such practices are carried out in the name of culture and traditions, and societal norms. Islam , however, transcends society and culture and its teachings override any such values.
In the pre-Islamic era, women were sold to beneficiaries and they were ineligible to inherit any property. However, Islam, in addition to according women with the right to inherit property to be solely spent on themselves, also made it compulsory for a woman’s financial needs to be met by the closest male relative be it her husband, father, uncle, brother or an adult son. Hence, in essence, women have been granted more in comparison to their male counterparts as opposed to the widespread belief based on the literal interpretation of the Holy Quran. This is a reflection of the respect and the distinctive dignity that has been granted to women in Islam; it has taken women out of the confines of pre-Islamic ideologies and given them the same status, importance and rights as men in the society. Islam spreads the message of peace that has given women shackles of slavery, humiliation, and oppression and has given them the freedom and rights to seek education and work for the development of their family and the society as a whole.
In a world of great preachers and philosophers, no one is as perfect a role model for humans as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His words and practice are a true reflection of the respect that has been granted to women in Islam. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) made it clear that a woman is also a creation of God Almighty just as a man is and so they have the same status as that of men. It was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who once said, that if not for Khadija, Islam would have never survived. Once the Prophet (PBUH) was invited to a dinner by his Persian neighbor. However, when upon inquiry, it was learned that the invitation had not been extended to his wife, Ayesha (RA), he (PBUH) refused. This same invitation was gladly accepted once his wife was also asked to accompany him (PBUH) for the dinner.
The Prophet (PBUH) had a special place in heart for Fatimah (RA), his daughter, of whom Hazrat Ayesha said, “When the Prophet (PBUH) saw her approaching, he would welcome her, stand up and kiss her, take her by the hand and ask her to sit in his place.” The Prophet (PBUH) showed his daughter great respect, teaching her as he (PBUH) would teach the men around him. This respect and affection is reflected in his saying, “Fatima is a part of me, and he who makes her angry makes me angry.” He is also recorded to have said that the birth of a girl child needs to be considered a blessing.
Above all, the Prophet’s (PBUH) saying, “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers,” best evidences the status to which women have been elevated in Islam. Once Halima Sadia came to visit the Prophet (PBUH), he showered her with immense respect and spread his shawl for her to sit on.
Today, in many countries despite being the most important, the most oppressed state of a woman is that of a wife’s. It is for this reason that the greatest benefactor of womankind, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had to lay special emphasis on kind treatment towards wives. Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have frequently counseled men on how women should be treated saying, “The best of you is the one whose treatment towards his wife is the best and my conduct towards my wives is the best from among you.” The Prophet (PBUH) would help and clean at home, see to his needs on his own rather than always demanding from his wives and consult his wives on sensitive matters. On the right of wives, Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whatever you eat, you should give her to eat as well. When you wear new clothes, make them for her as well. Never hit her on the face. Never say a bad word to her. Never separate from her.” He, himself, would often ask forgiveness for any unintentional leaning towards his wives.
The true concept of the status of women in Islam teaches us that she is in no way lesser than a man, not in her religion, not in her status, and certainly not in her ability to serve the community.
Only a few instances and sayings of Prophet (PBUH) have been touched upon above but there is a lot that can be learned from and implemented from the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) when it comes to treating women. HH
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