Islam guides us to the path of righteousness. It is a complete code of life and it is not only concerned with religious matters but also gives direction; Islam was revealed to shed light on everything, religious as well as worldly. This is confirmed in the Holy Quran, “… and we have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and glad tidings to Muslims.” (16:89)
One of the significant issues that is given special attention in Islam is the personality of woman, her rights, duties, and responsibilities. A woman is the first brick in the foundation of a righteous society. In pre-Islamic times, women were considered inferior to men. They had little respect in the society, many referred to a woman as a ‘beautiful beast’ and an ‘agent of Satan’, others thought of her as a symbol of misfortune. Islam altered this altogether and accorded them the same status as men before Allah.
Islam obliterates discrimination between men and women and clarifies to humanity that the basis of the creation of man and woman is the same; both come from the same origin, so no one is superior to another by birth and origin. Even in the field of faith and action, Allah has declared equality of virtues and rewards for both men and women. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran: “Whoever does good, whether male or female, while he or she is a believer, We will surely reward him or her to live a good life.” (16:97). Discrimination between genders is bound to cause chaos in the society, which is evident in pre-Islamic times. The advent of Islam brought freedom for women from the shackles of slavery, objectification, oppression, and exploitation.
Islam has enabled women to seek education and has given them rights to participate in all spheres of life. It has recognized women as a legal entity and given her the right to vote. Women were granted the right to vote in 1928 in Britain, 1944 in France, 1945 in Italy, 1962 in Australia and 1960 in the United States, but Islam furnished this right fourteen hundred years ago. Besides this, women were also granted the right to be a part of decision-making. The Khilafah system clearly states that women were also present at the Majlis-e-Shura. On one occasion, Hazrat Umar (RA) asked Majlis-e-Shura to settle between a man and woman. A woman present at the time said, “You do not have the right and authority to do so because Allah has commanded, But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount [in gifts], do not take [back] from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?” (4:20). Upon this, Hazrat Umar (RA) withdrew his proposal and said, “The woman was right and Umar is wrong.” This incident proves that Hazrat Umar (RA) was not resolving the issue in a public meeting but the issue was under consideration in the Majlis-e-Shura and the objection of a woman on the issue is an indication that women were also part of the Shura. The withdrawal of the amendment on the objection is proof that men and women had equal political rights.
The Prophet (PBUH) consulted his wife Hazrat Khadijah (RA) after the first revelation. On the occasion of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, when the Muslims became anxious about the terms of the treaty, Prophet (PBUH) consulted his wife Umm-e-Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya (RA) on the issue. After concluding the treaty, the Prophet (PBUH) told the followers to slaughter sacrificial animals at the same place and get their head shaved to come out of ihram. But the people were so dejected that they delayed compliance. The Prophet (PBUH) felt it and entered the tent and told his wife, about their reluctance. She politely proposed; “The people are in shock to lose their Umrah and entry into the holy city. You do as planned. They will follow you.” The Prophet (PBUH) then came out, slaughtered his camels and shaved his head. Subsequently, the people followed him and they all set out towards Madinah. Thus, the wisdom of Umm-e-Salama solved a tedious problem.
Women were also given administrative responsibilities in the society. Hazrat Umar (RA) appointed Al-Shifa' bint Abdullah as the custodian of the market. She was in charge of the Accountability Court and Market Administration.
The result of Islam's confidence in the role of women in diplomatic affairs was that Hazrat Usman (RA) during his caliphate, sent Hazrat Umm-e-Kulsum bint Ali on a diplomatic mission to the court of Queen of Rome in 28 AH, and Hurqal’s wife came to receive her. Women were also given the right to be represented in the defence of the state. In the time of the Prophet (PBUH), women used to take equal part in Jihad. Islam did not prevent the participation of women in invasions and battles, but often their role was to provide logistical and medical support. They often treated the wounded, prepared food and gave water to the thirsty on the battlefield. Some women who took part in battles are Hazrat Ayesha (RA), Umm-e-Salim (RA), Umm-e-Ammara (RA) and Umm-e-Saleet. Safiyya bint Abd al-Muttalib killed a Jew in the Battle of Trench. Umm-e-Atiya al-Ansar (RA) participated in seven battles with Holy Prophet (PBUH). It was Abdullah bin Abbas who wrote that the Prophet (PBUH) brought women along during battles to treat the wounded and take from the spoils. Rufaida Al-Aslamia became the first nurse in Islam, when she treated the wounds of Sa'ad ibn Mu'adh. Nusseibeh bint Ka'ab (Umm-e-Ammara) carried water and aid to the fighters and even took part in the defence of the Prophet (PBUH). It could be argued that Umm-e-Ammara was the first female fighter in Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) once said: “Whenever I looked to the right or left I saw her fighting in front of me.” Asma bint Yazid ibn Al-Sakan accompanied the Prophet (PBUH) in the Battle of Khyber and participated with Muslims in their war against the Romans during the Battle of Yarmuk.
Islam also provides economic security to women and gives them financial rights. In addition, by making the man the protector of a woman, Islam frees her from financial hardship. The first of the economic rights that Islam has given to women is the right of sponsorship. The responsibility of livelihood has been imposed on the man and the woman has been freed from this worry. Before marriage, it is the responsibility of father and brother to provide for the women of their household. After marriage, a husband is responsible for his wife and after the death of the husband a son is responsible for her sustenance. The Holy Quran says: “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard.” (4:34)
On the occasion of marriage, a woman also receives a gift in the form of Mehr, which includes both honor and financial benefit for the woman. “And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.” (4:4)
In addition, Islam gives women complete freedom to own and sell property. It also gives women complete freedom to work and earn a living. But that work should be permissible and a woman should work keeping in view the Shariah laws. Islam also grants rights to women during divorce, Iddah and breastfeeding and forbids men from taking back the property and gifts given to the ex-wife in case of divorce. If a woman gets divorced during the period of breastfeeding, the ex-husband will be obliged to provide for his wife and child. Islam also determines a woman's share in inheritance and no one can deprive her of this right. “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much — an obligatory share.” (4:7)
The right to testify is also given in Islam. Allah said in the Quran: “… And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses …” (2:282). Some Quranic references to (witness) testimony do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and females; however, verse 2:282 instructs that as far as financial transactions are concerned, it is necessary to provide either two male witnesses or one male and two females.
Islam gives equal rights to both women and men and has presented an unparalleled social system with a balance of rights. In this way, the woman has been given respect in the society. Islam does not confine women and make them mamluks, nor does it give them such chaotic freedom that moral values in society are violated. Islam ended the tradition of repressing women and teaches everyone to treat a woman with respect and care, far from the rough and violent way, which was once a common practice. Islam defines the scope for women so that a righteous society can come into being and set an example for the rest of the world. HH
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