The Role of Women in Islam

The issue of the emancipation & liberation of women is something that has occupied the minds of many of the Western and Eastern people since the 19th century, and is still occupying the minds of those people today.  Entire organizations have been set up and many debates have been ignited.  Many people supported it and many others opposed it.  As Muslims, it is a major concern for us to present the truth of our view on the subject based on the lights and the guidance of the rules of the religion of Islam.  That is, what conforms to the rules of the religion and does not negate it. The  ignorant people have endeavored to present the religion of Islam as an enemy for the women, a religion that would degrade their status to its lowest and would consider them an object or a piece of worthless luggage. Of course, this is entirely untrue, and probably, this is one of the methods that the enemies of Islam implement to distract the people away from studying and learning the essentials of Islam. Therefore, we decided to discuss that subject for two reasons. First, to protect the Muslims from the ill ideas of the atheists which contradict the methodologies of the believers.  Secondly, to remove the barrier of suspicion and misunderstanding of the rules of Islam that exists in many non-Muslims.  We do that because we are certain that it is right for the human being to believe truthfully in the message of our prophet Muhammad and accept the consequences of the rules revealed to him, whether on subjects that relate to women or other subjects.


The issue of the woman, her role, situation, and social relations are among the major differences that exist between the Muslim communities in Muslim countries and the Western non-Muslim communities, in previous times or in recent times.  Previously, the burden of the culture inheritance of the Greeks and the Romans used to be on the shoulders of the European women. To the earlier Europeans, women had no value, and there was no  consideration for their opinion.  Many times, they wondered whether women had a human soul or an animal soul.  They thought it was sufficient to teach women matters of cooking and sewing and the like.  What a woman owned was under the disposal of her husband.   According to theseearly Europeans, the woman was the source of sins and the one who drove Adam to a great sin[1] from which humans are still suffering the consequences until today.   So, according to their methodology, to become a great monk or priest, the man has to abstain from marriage and would not attain the position of the Pope if he was married.  This is aside from the fact that some of these men may have had  many mistresses and may have  had children from them in fornication or Adultery. Therefore, the few examples of the past, which is contrary to this rule, of some of the women who managed to attain positions of ruler-ship, were not initiated by men’s convictions that women have high status in general, but rather by the purpose to preserve the ruling pertaining to inheritance in those countries, irrespective of whether the person (man or woman) was capable for that position or not.


This occurred at a time when the Muslim woman was working jointly with the man in establishing the welfare or the well being of the society at large.   She enjoys both rights and responsibilities.  She would earn the rewards for her good deeds and would be punished for her sins.  She is entitled to ownerships and trading, and her husband can only access her money by her own good will, even if that money came from him originally. As Allah said in the Qur’an in Surat,,,,,,, Ayah……..:


وآتيتم إحداهن قنطارا فلا تأخذوا منه شيئا


This Ayah means if the husband gives his wife a large sum of money, it is not permissible for him to take back any of it (unless she allows it out of her own good will).  Even if the man was in financial difficulties and the wife is wealthy, he is still not to take a penny from his wife’s wealth without her good will.


One day the Prophet preached to the women and advised them to give in charity.  One of the companions was well-off but her husband was poor.   When she told the Prophet about their situation, the Prophet advised her that she would have an additional reward for giving her money to her husband as charity.  Although her husband was in a tight financial situation, he did not lay a hand unrightfully on his wife’s money.


The Muslim woman’s dowry, which could be any agreed amount of money given to her in a marriage contract, is her right and not the right of her father or her family.  Her femininity would not stop her from acquiring knowledge or teaching it.  As a result, she could achieve very high religious position, status, and knowledge that few men would acquire.  Men and women alike would come to her seeking knowledge from her.  She would be the teacher and they would be the students.   Few of such ladies were, Lady ^A’isha who has attained the status of ijtihad.  The Scholars used to come to her seeking knowledge.  As well, Ummud -Darda’, who was one of the companions, used to also teach men.   Also, the famous scholar of ash-Sham, Ibn ^ Asakir, had about 90 female teachers from whom he had acquired his knowledge. This was over and above the number of male shaykhs that taught him as well.  Like ibn^Asakir, there were many among the scholars of Islam who had female teachers.


 Muslim women were seen at schools, in the factory, in the field, in the shop, in the house, and even in the battlefield


The Muslim woman was  allowed to take her case to the Muslim judge if an injustice was done to her.  The judge would listen to her and would discuss her case, even if she was complaining about her husband.  A woman among the companions went to the Prophet and complained about her husband.  She told him: ‘ O Messenger of Allah, my husband does not pray the Fajr(dawn prayer ) till after sunrise, and he would order me to break my fast and sometimes he would suddenly faint.’  The prophet did not ignore her grievance.  He did not tell her that because she was a woman, nothing she said can be considered.    Rather, the Prophet showed interest in the matter and asked her husband about the situation.  The husband said:  ‘As far as not praying Fajr on time, it is because at home, we do not wake up until after sunrise.  As for ordering my wife to break her fast, I do so because she elects to fast the optional fasting without taking my permission and I am a young man who has a desire for women (my wife).  As to my fainting suddenly, this is because of a matter that happened to me before I became a Muslim.  I was present when the blasphemers crucified and killed Khubayb the son of ^Adiyy.  Now each time I recall witnessing that incident, and that I was blasphemous at the time and not a Muslim, I faint.’   When the Prophet heard all of that from him, he accepted his excuse.


Hence, the woman was not a neglected subject neither a degraded entity.  In a sahih hadith narrated by al-bukhariyy, the Prophet said:


خَيركم لأهله وأنا خَيركم لأهله خَيركم


This means the best among you are those who are best to their wives, and I am the best among you to my wives.


However, it is not a secret from anyone the wave that prevails today and is falsely named as the defense of the rights of women. This is a matter which has prevailed lately in the Western countries and started to vigorously penetrate the Eastern countries, rocking the religious, cultural, and social foundations of those countries, and it is the main element in ruining and destroying that great structure that was built in Islamic countries.  The one who would look superficially to matters without analyzing, and without judging them by the scale of the Islamic religion, might think that the westeners in general have high regard and respect for women.  Because of their recent change of attitude towards women ,they might think they are the only ones who have rescued the woman from the injustice of the husband and from the negativity of the society so that she can be free to start heading towards freedom.  In reality, this is a false image that is eliminated as soon as a person thinks correctly and logically.


Naturally and generally, women have smaller and weaker body than men.  This physical characteristic allowed men to be the ones to lead the wars and manage them, and to be the workers and the laborers in moving heavy weights, in erecting buildings, and fulfilling all the tasks that require a great deal of physical strength.  On the other hand, and physically speaking, it is no secret that women menstruate every month and fall pregnant.  When women fall pregnant, they have the duty of caring for the health of their baby during the nine months of pregnancy, and of nursing their born babies for up to two years.   Motherhood is a very emotional and responsible task for women.  It requires a lot of energy and support.   Naturally, in these cases and others, the woman needs to rely on and trust in her husband who is expected to provide all the help and support for her.


This matter and others make the woman in need of the man unless she wants to go against nature to subdue her feelings and sentiments and live her life as a torn person on a route she is not equipped or qualified for – a route she will not be able to follow and cope with unless the man opens the way for her.


Obviously, it is a fact that this so –called “women’s liberation” of theirs is associated with a call to remove the hijab, to lay naked on the beaches, to dress indecently among strange men and to dance with them, to live with their partners unlawfully claiming to liberate oneself from the marriage bonds and contracts, and to escape the rewardable role of raising children thus weakening the bonds of the family.  This is a serious and tangible situation that prevails in the life of the western non-Muslim woman living in a western society, and unfortunately, in the life of many Muslim women living in a western society whomay follow the footpath of those women.


What is the effect of such movements?  Sadly, such movements changed the roles and the nature of both women and men.  Family bonds became weaker as did the bond between the parent and the child.  Mums and dads who choose to both work, are away from home and would be suffering and toiling as a result of this busy and stressful lifestyle.  Consequently, they do not have the time nor the energy required to take good care of their children who are pushed to spend a lot of time in daycare centers or leisure clubs.  There, the children may not grow up in the family bonding and loving atmosphere . Deprived from the special attention of their parents, these children become lesser affectionate & family loving . This definitely breaks, scatters, and eventually destroys the societies, and that is sadly what we are exactly experiencing and witnessing nowadays.  Surely this is not what we would like to see happening  to Muslim societies – the societies that were not originally built on man-made foundations, but rather on strong Islamic foundations according to the rules revealed by the creator, the One Who knows everything about His slaves, and Who revealed these matters to His Prophet who, in turn, delivered and spread that message in truthfulness to his nation.


Everyone who has lived in a Muslim society and experienced that lifestyle and who has also mixed with the western society, would immediately realize that  Muslims gave the woman her proper status.  The son respects his mother, kisses her hand, and is obedient to her. He makes sure she is (satisfied)cared for and does not shut her out of his life , nor would he leave her deserted in the hands of strangers in nursing homes when she becomes old and fragile.  The brother protects his sister and assists her.  He defends her dignity and honor.   He does not neglect her under the claim that she has her own personal life so that what she does doesn’t matter to him.


Similarly, the husband is truthfully interested and pays attention to his wife. He protects her during her presence and during her absence and does not cheat on her, just as she should preserve and protect him and does not cheat on him during his presence or absence.   The husband would trust in his wife and she would trust in him.  Both of them would endeavor in performing the orders of Allah and in raising their children accordingly.  Their relationship would not be based on exchanging worldly matters as it usually is the case in Western societies.   In such societies, the relationship loses balance quickly, and consequently the husband looks for another woman which he would live with as a mistress.


Our Muslim society is founded on being obedient to Allah and endeavoring together, seeking the reward from Allah.  Women, as men, would gain great rewards and have high status, if they were obedient to Allah.


Al bukhariyy and others related that a man asked the Prophet, Who has the most right for my companionship?”  The prophet said: “Your mother.” The man repeated the question and again the Prophet said: “Your mother.” The man asked the Prophet the same question for the third time and the Prophet answered: ”Your mother.”  The fourth time the man asked the same question and the Prophet answered: “Your father.”  This hadith alone is sufficient to highlight and expose the high and respectful status granted for women in Islam.


And Allah knows best and is most wise.

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