Muslim Women's Rights?
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ISLAM NEWSROOM: UPDATE May 11, 2015
Muslim Women Under Media/Politcal Attack World Wide
THE FUNNY PART IS - "It's Not Funny - AT ALL"
Much Discussed ~ Much Misunderstood
The issue of women in Islam, is topic of great misunderstanding and distortion due partly to a lack of understanding, but also partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims which has been taken to represent the teachings of Islam.
We speak here about what Islam teaches, and that is that standard according to which Muslims are to be judged. As such, my basis and source is the Quran--the words of Allah, and the sayings of the Prophet, his deeds and his confirmation.
Islamic laws are derived from these sources. To facilitate our discussion we can discuss the position of women from a spiritual, economic, social, and political standpoint.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS GUARANTEED IN ISLAM
Quran & Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, have guaranteed all rights for all women.
From the spiritual side, her are 7 points to keep in mind:
According to the Quran, men and women have the same spirit, there is no superiority in the spiritual sense between men and women. [Noble Quran 4:1, 7:189, 42:11]
"...breathed some of My spirit into him by divine touch. When God created him" (or her in this case).
Quran 15:29 - See also 32:9
There are many references in Islam prove this.
God's spirit here is not intended to me "God within humans", means not in the incarnational sense, but the pure, innate spiritual nature that God has given to both men and women.
~ STATUS OF WOMEN in the Bible ~
Now let's put things in perspective when it comes to religious teachings.
First, think about the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible.
BIBLE STORY ~ OF ADAM & EVE
[Taken from the Holy Bible, Book of Genesis, chapter 3]
And the man said, 'The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat'.
Unto the woman (God) said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Then it goes on to curse all women in their monthly period and in the pains of birth, all due to this women and her mistake.
It even goes so far as to curse all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve for generations to come.
~ STATUS OF WOMEN in Islam ~
QURAN ~ Now compare the Quran's clear presentation but in a totally different spirit.
Yes, Adam and Eve both ate the fruit.
Both of them had disobeyed God.
Both realized their mistake.
Both repented sincerely to God - and BOTH WERE FORGIVEN.
No blame for either of them!
No blame on their children.
No stigma assigned to women of Islam for the fall of man or the cause of the so-called "original sin".
The story is narrated in chapter 7, in verses 19-27.
We discover a totally opposite presentation of women's suffering during pregancy and child birth.
Quran speaks of women during the period of pregnancy and childbirth in a completely different manner, presenting us with reasons to adore and love our mothers and wives for their sacrifices and suffering.
Islam does it connect this precious miracle of birth with the concept of original sin. In fact, there is NO ORIGINAL SIN in Islam.
Quran states clearly in chapter 31, verse 14 and chapter 46, verse 15 - that God commands all humans to be kind, loving, respectful and obedient to our parents.
It goes on to instruct us all, the importance of our mother's sacrifice and our obligation to her for her suffering:
"His mother bore him in difficulty or suffering upon suffering."
[Noble Quran 31:14, 46:15]
Quran makes it clear again to remove any notion of superiority and I refer you again to 49:13.
We caution anyone not familiar with Arabic, that there are some mistaken translations. However, if you go to the original Arabic, there is no question of gender being involved.
In terms of moral, spiritual duties, acts of worship, the requirements of men and women are the same, except in some cases when women have certain concessions because of their feminine nature, or their health or the health of their babies.
The Quran explicitly, in more than one verse in chapter 3, verse 195, and in chapter 4, verse 124, specified that whoever does good deeds, and is a believer and then specifies "male or female" God will give them an abundant reward.
First of all, When it comes to economic rights, keep in mind that in Europe until the 19th century, women did not have the right to own their own property.
When they were married, either it would transfer to the husband or she would not be able to dispense of it without permission of her husband. In Britain, perhaps the first country to give women some property rights, laws were passed in the 1860's known as "Married Women Property Act."
More than 1300 years BEFORE, this right was clearly established in Islamic law.
"Whatever men earn, they have a share of that and whatever women earn, they have a share in that." [Noble Quran 4:32]
RIGHT TO HER OWN CAREER
Second, there is no restriction in Islamic law that says a woman cannot work or have a profession, that her only place is in the home.
In fact, by definition, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women physicians, women nurses, women teachers, because it's preferable also to separate teenagers in the volatile years in high school education.
And if she chooses to work, or if she's married with the consent of her husband, she's entitled to equal pay, not for equal work, not just based on work but for equal worth.
Third, when it comes to financial security, Islamic law is more tilted in many respects towards women. These are seven examples:
1. Rights to Gifts When Engaged
During the period of engagement, a woman is to be on the receiving side of gifts.
2. Rights to Dowry & Marriage Gifts
At the time of marriage, it is the duty of the husband, not the bride's family. He is supposed to pay for a marital gift. The Quran called it a gift, and it is exclusively the right of the woman. She doesn't have to spend it on the household, she doesn't have to give it to her father or anyone else.
3. Rights to Keep Her Name & Property
If the woman happened to own any property prior to marriage, she retains that property after marriage. It remains under her control. Also, in most Muslim countries, the woman keeps her own last name, and her own identity.
4. Rights to 100% of Her Wealth & Earnings
If the woman has any earnings during her marital life, by way of investments of her property or as a result of work, she doesn't have to spend one penny of that income on the household, it is entirely hers.
5. Rights of Support in Marriage
The full maintenance and support of a married woman is the entire responsibility of her husband, even though she might be richer than he is. She doesn't have to spend a penny.
6. Rights of Support After Divorce
At the time of divorce, there are certain guarantees during the waiting period and even beyond for a woman's support.
7. Rights for Children of Widows or Divorcees
If a widow or divorcee has children, she's entitled to child support.
Men do receive a larger share of inheritance than women. However, his holdings and wealth are exposed to the entire expences of the women. While women retain 100% of their wealth, property, holdings and inheritance.
~ DAUGHTERS RIGHTS ~
We must include the rights of daughters here as well. Females are to be on equal level with males even from birth.
Islam stopped the horrible practice of female infanticide. Arab men considered it a shame to have a daughter born, and the only remedy for this shame was to take the newborn infant girl to the burning sands of the desert and bury her there - ALIVE!
QURAN forbid the practice of killing innocent baby girls and made it a crime, the same as murder. [chapter 81]
QURAN also forbade chauvinistic treatment and attitudes of those who used to celebrate the birth of a boy, while demonstrating remorse at the birth of a baby girl.
RIGHTS OF EDUCATION
Education is a DUTY, not just the right.
The Prophet (p) said, "Education is a duty for all Muslims, male and female"
As far as treatment of daughters is concerned, Prophet Muhammad (p) said, "Anyone who has two daughters, and did not bury them, did not insult them and brought them up properly, he and I will be like this," holding his two fingers close together. Another version adds, "And also did not favor his sons over daughters."
The Prophet (p) was seated with a companion close to him. The companion's son came. He kissed his son and put him on his lap. Then his daughter came, and he just sat her by his side. The Prophet told the man, "You did not do Justice"
We understand from this, a man should treat his daughter equally, giving her the same attention and affection.
Certainly, when the Prophet's daughter, Fatimah came to him, in front of everyone, he stood up, kissed her and let her sit in his favorite place where he'd been sitting.
RIGHTS IN MARRIAGE
From the marital standpoint, the Quran clearly indicates in Surahs 30:20 and 42:11 that marriage is not an inevitable evil, marriage is not someone marrying their master or slave, but rather a marriage with their partner.
"Among His Signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that they may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect." [Noble Quran 30:21]
There are numerous verses in the Quran to the same effect.
Secondly, the approval and consent of the girl to marriage is a prerequisite for the validity of marriage in Islam. She has the right to say yes or no.
Husbands' and wives' duties are mutual responsibilities. They might not be identical duties, but the totality of rights and responsibilities are balanced. The Quran says:
"Women have the same rights (in relation to their husbands) as are expected in all decency from them, while men stand a step above them." [Noble Quran 2:228]
This only specifies the degree of responsibility, not privilege, in man's role as provider, protector, maintainer, and leader of the family. The same Surah speaks about divorce, about consultation between husband and wife, even in the case of divorce. When there are family disputes, first the Quran appeals to reason and the consideration of positive aspects of one's spouse,
"Dwell with your wives in kindness for even if you hate them, you might be hating someone in whom God has placed so much good." [Noble Quran 4:19]
If that appeal does not succeed, and problems between the husband and wife continue, there are measures that can be applied. Some of these measures are done privately between husband and wife. Some of them might appear harsh, but there are qualifications to restrict excessive or abusive use of these measures. These measures are considered an attempt to save a marriage rather than break a family apart. If the situation does not improve, even with the limitation and prevention of excesses, the next step is a family council. One arbiter from his family and one from her family should sit together with the couple and try to resolve the problems.
If a divorce becomes necessary, there are many detailed procedures in Islamic law that really knock down the common notion that divorce in Islam is very easy and that it is the sole right of man. It is not the sole right of man alone and neither is it true that all you have to say is: "I divorce you three times," and that's it. Islam also has laws regarding custody of children. I was very surprised to see newspapers making the false claim that in all cases custody goes to the father. Custody involves the interest of the child, and laws often favor the mother of young children.
Polygamy has become so mythical in the minds of many people that they assume being Muslim means having four wives. This is a false notion, of course. A very renowned anthropologist, Edward Westermarck, in his two-volume work, "History of Human Marriage," notes that there has been polygamy in virtually every culture and religion, including Judaism and Christianity. But the point here is not to say, "Why blame Islam?" Actually, Islam is the only religion even among Abrahamic faiths, that specifically limited the practice of polygamy that existed before Islam and established very strict conditions for guidance. The question, "How could any man have two wives? That's terrible!" reflects ethnocentrism. We assume that because we're living in the West and it seems strange, and we assume it must apply to all cultures, all times, under all circumstances. This simply isn't true. Let me give you one current-day example. In the savage attack on Afghanistan, genocide was committed on the Afghani people. It is estimated that 1-1.5 million people lost their lives, a great majority of whom were men of a marriageable age. Now, with a great shortage of men, what will happen to their widows, their orphans and their daughters of marriageable age? Is it better to leave them in a camp, with a handout? Or better a man is willing to take care of his fallen comrade's wife and children?
It is obvious that monogamy is the norm for Muslims. If we assume that having four wives is the norm, then we assume a population of 80% female and 20% male, which is an impossibility on the aggregate level. The only verse in the Quran that speaks about polygamy, speaks about limiting not instituting polygamy. The verse was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which many Muslims were martyred, leaving behind wives and children in need of support. This verse shows the spirit and reason of the revelation.
RIGHTS OF MOTHERS
The Quran placed obedience to parents immediately after worship of God.
"We commanded mankind to be kind to his parents" [Noble Quran 31:14]
A beautiful statement of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as he said:
"Paradise is at the feet of mothers."
Once a man came to him and asked, "O, Messenger, who among mankind is worthy of my kindness and love?"
The Prophet answered,
The man asked,
Only after the third time he said,
"And your father."
As a sister in faith, in blood, we find the Quran speaks about men and women, that they should cooperate and collaborate in goodness. Surah 9:71 speaks about men and women as supporters and helpers of each other, ordaining the good and forbidding the evil, establishing prayers and doing charity. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) echoed what the Quran said, "I command you to be kind to women." In one of his last commands in his farewell pilgrimage before his death, he kept repeating, "I command you to be kind and considerate to women." In another hadith, he said, "It is only the generous in character who is good to women, and only the evil one who insults them."
On the question of attire, the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet did not say women must adopt a particular dress of a particular country. It only gives basic boundaries, and for a committed Muslim woman, she doesn't follow this simply because her father or husband tells her, but because Allah already stated that as a requirement in the Quran, and was explained through revelation given to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that this was not to restrict woman, but to provide a virtuous society where sexual attraction is not the main obsession of everyone. This forces everyone to respect the woman for what she is as a human being, as an intellectual and a spiritual being, rather than being diverted to her sexuality.
Finally, a few words about political involvement. The verse quoted earlier, Surah 9:71, which speaks about men and women being supporters and helpers of each other was taken by some jurists to mean that it involves also public life. How could they ordain the good and forbid the evil without women being active in the affairs of their society? According to the Quran, I'm not talking about the practices of Muslims, in Surah 60:12, we read about Muslim women making "bayy'ah" to the Prophet. Bayy'ah as an Islamic term is somewhat analogous, to a degree, to what we would call an election, or oath of allegiance. And that was given in his capacity not only as a Prophet, but as a head of state, as he was already the head of state in Medina.
During the rein of 'Umar, women participated in law making. 'Umar made a proposal of a certain regulation concerning marriage. A woman in the mosque stood up and said, "'Umar, you can't do that." 'Umar did not tell her, "Shut up, you are a woman, you have nothing to do with politics, etc." He asked, "Why?" She made her argument on the basis of Quran. In front of everybody, he stood up and said, "The woman is right and 'Umar is wrong," and he withdrew his proposal. That was the spirit in the early days of Islam.
In the most authentic collection of Hadith, Hadith Bukhari, a section is devoted to the participation of women, not only in public affairs, but in the battlefield, too, and not only as logistical support. Women carried arms, and when there was great danger to the Muslims, they volunteered to participate even in the battlefield.
The problems presented here are not the problems of Islam. They are problems of a lack of commitment, lack of application, or misapplication of Islamic teachings by Muslims themselves. The topics I have tried to cover here represent and exemplify the big gap that exists between the true teachings of Islam as derived from its original sources and its projected image in the West and the way some Muslims behave in the disregard of those noble teachings.
There's no question that the Western media has played an important role in perpetuating these misconceptions. But in fairness, we should not blame the media alone. Western culture, in writings about other religions, in particular Islam, have distorted images. From books, novels, even in the academic circle, and sermons from the pulpit in places of worship, these kinds of prejudices are perpetuated.
There are fair and honorable people in the media who are receptive to correction of inaccuracies, and who present the facts, when the facts become manifest, as we sometimes see in the coverage of the cruel treatment of the Muslim women, children and innocent Muslims in different countries.
We suggest to the media - instead of depending on the distorted information about Islam, they should keep in touch with educated Muslims.
Keep in mind, there are over 10 million Muslim living in the U.S. and Canada.
Only by having our own media: TV, radio and websites working together as a network in open communication with all Muslims in a network across America and sharing with the mainstream media to demonstrate what Islam really offers and provides for all people, can we expect them to come on board and deal fairly with these and other issues. The world needs to know what true Islam has to offer.
American Muslims must have their own voice in America
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