Women’s rights in Islam: e-book
Women’s rights in Islam
- The Status of Women in Islam
- Woman and Freedom
- Woman And Hijab(Vail)
- Limits of Hijab (Vail)
- The Philosophy of Hijab(Vail)
- Marriage and its benefits.
- Rights and Duties of Husband and Wife.
- The Dower (Mehr) and its Philosophy.
- Maintenance and its Philosophy.
- The Inheritance of Woman in Islam..
- Islam and Polygamy.
- Divorce in Islam..
- Philosophy of the Legislation of Divorce.
The Status of Woman in Islam
The status of woman in Islam is the same eminent position of human beings; as in human beings there is no difference between man and woman. The holy Qur’an introduces the human being as the substitute of Allah on earth, and states that they are great. It says about them:
We have dignified the Children of Adam and transported them around on land and at sea. We have provided them with wholesome things and favored them especially over many of those whom We have created. Qur’an (17:70).
Adam (a.s.) reached the stage that he was prostrated by all the angels, as the Qur’an says:
When I have finished with him and breathed from My spirit into him then drop down on your knee before him. Qur’an (15:29).
All this was because he was a human being, and there is no difference between a man and a woman.
He taught Adam all the names of everything; then presented them to the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if you are so truthful.” They said: “Glory be to you; we have no knowledge except whatever you have taught us. You are the Aware, the Wise!” He said: “Adam, tell them their names.” Once he had told them their names, He said: “Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen in Heaven and Earth? I know whatever you disclose and whatever you have been hiding.” So We told the angels: “Bow down before Adam.” They (all) knelt down except for Diabolis. He refused and acted proudly, and became a disbeliever. Qur’an (2:31-34).
If Adam (a.s.) was competent to understand those names and was competent to answer them, it was due to his special creation as a human being, and in this creation man and woman are equal. On the whole every virtue and exaltation, which has come in the Qur’an about human beings; man and woman are equal in it.
You will not find a single verse in Qur’an that degrades woman.
On this basis man and woman, from the viewpoint of Islam and Qur’an, are two human beings and there is no difference in them, and both are equally involved in managing the social responsibilities, some of which are as follow:
۱) Man and woman are equal in their birth, reproduction, and the survival of humanity.
O mankind, We have created you from a male and female, and set you up as nations and tribes so you may recognize [and cooperate with] one another. The noblest among you with God is that one of you who best performs his duty; God is Aware, Informed. Qur’an (49:13).
Mankind, heed your Lord Who has created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and propagated so many men and women from them both. Heed God through Whom you hold one another responsible, as well as nay ties of kinship. God is Watching over you. Qur’an (4:1).
In the above verse both male and female are introduced as equally responsible for birth and continuing the generation of human beings, and they are the two main pillars of society. And fear of Allah is the standard, and the one who is more pious is superior among men and women.
۲) According to Qur’an, the only facility for the happiness of mankind is faith in Allah, purifying one’s soul, self-discipline against evil, fearing Allah and doing good deeds; and in these things there is no difference between men and women. Both are capable to acquire spiritual perfection and gain proximity to Allah.
The Qur’an says:
We shall let anyone who acts honorably. Whether it is a man or a woman, provided he is a believer, live a happy life and reward them with their earnings for the finest deeds they have been doing. Qur’an (۴:۹۷).
And Qur’an says:
So their Lord responded to them; “I shall never waste the work of any worker among you, whether it is a man or a woman. Some of you [have sprung] from others..” Qur’an (۳:۱۹۵).
Qur’an praises equally the men and women, those who are pious and do good deeds, and says:
Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, reverent men and reverent women, charitable men and charitable women, fasting men and fasting women, and men who safeguard their private parts and women who safeguard [theirs], and men who remember God often and women who remember [Him] for [all of] them God has prepared forgiveness and a splendid wage. Qur’an (33:35).
As Qur’an has pointed to some good and pious men and has praised them, it has also mentioned some pious women and has praised them. For example:
It says about Mary:
Her Lord accepted her in a handsome manner and caused her to grow like a lovely plant and told Zachariach to take care of her. Every time Zachariah entered the shrine to [see] her, he founf she had already been supplied with food. He said: “Mary, how can this be meant for you?” She said: “It comes from God, for God provides for anyone He wishes without any reckoning.” Qur’an (3:37).
And again it says about Mary:
so the angels said: “Mary, God has selected you and purified you. He has selected you over [all] the women in the Universe.” Qur’an (3: 42)
And says about the wife of Pharaoh:
They will acknowledge their offence, so away with the inmates of the Blaze!. Qur’an (66:11)
Fatima Zahra (s.a.) the daughter of the holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is also from the praised women, that the Verse of Purification was revealed for her, her husband, father and sons.
The holy Qur’an says:
Remain in your homes and do not dress up fancily the way they used to dress during [the time of] primitive Ignorance. Keep up prayer and pay the welfare tax, and obey God and His messenger. God merely wants to remove any blight from you [since you are] People of the [prophet’s] House, and to cleanse you thoroughly. Qur’an (33:33).
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said about them that there are four great ladies of Paradise: Mary – daughter of Imran, Fatimah – daughter of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), Khadija daughter of Khuwailad, and Aasiya daughter of Muzahim and wife of Pharaoh.
As you observe, Qur’an doesn’t prevent women’s progress, growth, and acquiring the virtues of humanity. It acknowledges them to be fit for acquiring human values, in the same way as men, and points out their example.
Although some women are mentioned in Qur’an who had bad morals, like the wife of Prophets Noah and Lut; and wife of the infidel Abu Lahab (uncle of the Prophet) Qur’an (66:10).
But it is not because they were women; it was due to their bad character (manners). Some men are also criticized like Pharaoh, Namrood, and Abu Lahab.
۳) Islam considers men and women as two main pillars of society; who have equal role in creating a beneficial society. Men and woman who live in society are equally affected by its good, as well as, bad influences. Due to this, it is also a common responsibility of both men and women to seek the improvement of the society.
The Qur’an says:
Believers, whether men or women, must [act as] friends to one another, they should command decency and forbid wickedness, keep up prayer, and pay the welfare tax as well as obey God and His messenger. Those God will grant mercy to; God is powerful, Wise! Qur’an (9:71).
It is true that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not make it incumbent for women to go to the battlefields and fight the enemies, but all the responsibility of the society is not taken away from them like inviting towards good and refraining from evil, defending the religion, and its introduction, propagation, and spreading Islam, opposing the enemies, defending the rights of the depressed and oppressed, co-operating in good work, helping the needy and poor, nursing the ill, handicapped and old people, fighting against social evils, training and teaching the children, to develop the society, encouraging the justice of Islamic government, defending Islamic values, helping in the economy of the family and country, and tens of other responsibilities which are carried out by men and women equally.
۴) The fourth similar role of women and men is acquiring knowledge and discovering the secrets of the world, acquiring benefits from it, for comfort and happiness in life. For the acquisition of knowledge and getting benefit from it, there is no difference in Islam between female and male, both are human beings, and have ability and responsibility.
Islam emphasizes a lot for acquiring knowledge and introduces it as one of the duties. For example, Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said:
Acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on every muslim. Know that Allah loves those who acquire knowledge. Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, P. 30.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) said:
The scholar who is useful to people with his knowledge, is better than 70,000 worshippers. Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, P. 33.
There are hundreds of traditions on this topic that do not discriminate between men and women in this matter. Women also have the duty to acquire knowledge, so that they become self-independent, especially for the skills which are for their own need like: medicine, dentistry, psychology, nursing, gynecology, pathology, education, ecology, chemistry, management, accounting, theology, exegeses, jurisprudence, history, grammar, arts, languages, law, economics and many other fields.
Women form half of the society and may have their share in its management. They should be specialists and experts in different fields, and should be self-independent, and get as many seats as are allocated to their male counterparts.
It is necessary that half of the seats and positions be allocated to women in hospitals, clinics, universities, high schools, primary schools, pharmacies, laboratories, schools for religious education, training of propagators, and centers of Islamic propagation. And there should have been equal number of female scholars and experts. But actually it is not like this. This may be due to two reasons:
۱) Selfishness and injustice of men during the centuries, that denied the natural rights of women, and kept them away from power.
۲) carelessness, lack of self-confidence, going after comfort, embellishment and make-up, which prevented them to realize their rights, and they strayed to other ways. It is necessary that women be aware of their responsibilities and try hard to achieve independence, and take benefit from their legal rights.
Women and Freedom
Women, like men, are created free and like to be free, without the interference of others in their affairs. Desire for freedom is a natural instinct, and it is lawful. But is it possible for human beings to live free in the society? Persons are in need of other people, and should respect the rights and attitudes of other people, and should limit their freedom within the rules and regulations of the society. These limitations are not harmful to the human beings, they are for their benefit.
On the contrary, living quite freely and following the sexual desires, may be sometimes harmful to the society. In this situation, it is necessary to accept the limitations, as it is for our own benefit.
Although Islam respects the right of freedom, but does not allow unconditional freedom, as we are social human beings. And because of this, by considering the physical and spiritual aspects, and the personal and social aspects of people Islam has put some laws and duties, and this limits their freedom. It is possible that some of the religious limitations may not be accepted willingly, and we think they violate our freedom; but this conclusion is due to false recognizing the interests of human being. If he were properly aware about them, he would not think that religious limitations are hindrance to freedom and would accept them satisfactorily.
The same applies to the freedom of women. Although Islam respects the freedom of women, and in its legislation has considered it, but it should not be against the interests of the society. Where freedom was not according to the realties, limitations are preferred than freedom.
Here we will, briefly point some of the freedoms of women.
۱) Freedom of work
Islam considers women as one of the two pillars of society, and has given them responsibilities. Women cannot, and should not, be paralyzed, and should not be rendered a useless existence. Islam considers work as a duty, and one of the best worships to God, and warns its followers against remaining idle and useless. There are many traditions, from which we mention some, as examples.
The holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said:
Worship is divided into 70 parts, and acquiring halāl (lawful) sustenance is the best of them. Al-Kafi, Vol. 5 P. 78.
Imam Moosa Ibn Ja’far (a.s.) said:
God hates a servant who always sleeps and is idle. (Al-Kafi, Vol. 5, P. 84)
Everyone has the right to work, and according to Islam it is a duty. There is no difference between men and women. Women should act according to their duties in the society and they are free to choose a job. However, due to her creation, physical qualities, and her mental conditions she should not choose those professions which do not fit her, and which are not according to her capability. From this aspect she is a soft, beautiful, and a lofty creature, and due to this loftiness and beauty she is attractive to men. While choosing her profession, she must be sure that her beauty is not endangered.
Therefore, difficult and tiring work is not suitable for women. Driving heavy vehicles, night work, working in coal and iron mines, cement factories, automotive industry, other difficult works, and those jobs that tire her. Engaging in these professions is beyond the capacity of women, and there is a risk that her beauty, softness and loftiness would neither benefit them nor their husbands.
Here Islam advises men that they should not force women to perform difficult works.
Amirul Mo-mineen (a.s.) said to his son, Imam Hasan (a.s.):
Don’t force a woman for those jobs that are beyond her capacity. Because it is better for her condition, peaceful for her heart, and protects her beauty. Woman is a flower and is not a wrestle (Wasael, Vol. 14, P. 120).
Another important point for the women is that softness, beauty, and attractiveness are natural in women. In the same way, it is natural for men to get sexually aroused very soon. Therefore, for the well-being of women and society, they should accept those professions in which there is less interaction with men at the working place. So that they may be protected from the possible danger for their faith, self-esteem, and help the society to remain healthy and safe, especially the single youth.
It is also important to note that women are sentimental creatures and usually become emotional sooner than men. For this reason, the professions that require more firmness are not suitable for the well-being of women and society; like working in police, army, and judiciary.
The last point that women should pay attention to, is that while choosing a profession, they should also consider the condition of their children and protection of the family. When the woman marries and has children, she must note that she also has a heavy responsibility towards them; that is looking after the husband and giving the right training to children. This responsibility is especially given due to her nature. It is true that she is
free to choose a profession but she must only accept a profession, which does not harm the happiness of her family, and should not deprive the children from motherly love, affection, and right training.
In such cases there should be a co- understanding with her husband, and men also should keep away from bias, selfishness, and a dictatorial attitude, and by a fair decision allow the woman to take up an appropriate job.
۲) Freedom in owning property
Islam respects the right of ownership of the woman, in the same way as to man. A woman can acquire wealth through business, profession, dower, gifts, or any other legal way. She can benefit from their profits and no one, including her father, mother, husband and children, has the right to use her property without her permission.
The Qur’an says:
Do not envy the way that God has made some of you excel over others: men should have a portion of whatever they have earned, while women should have a portion of whatever they have earned. Ask God for some of His bounty; God is aware of everything.( Qur’an (4:33))
۳) Freedom In Marriage
Woman is free to choose her life partner. The marriage of girl without her permission is not allowed. No one, including her father, mother, grandparents, and brothers has the right to force a girl to marry a particular person.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said:
Take the permission and consent from daughters for the marriage, who are virgin or not, and without her consent the marriage is not correct. (Wasael, Vol. 14, P. 213)
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said that when a person wants to marry his daughter to a particular person, he should first take her consent, and if she is silent, her silence can be considered as her acceptance. But in any case, marriage is not correct without her consent.(Wasael, Vol. 14, P. 204). Therefore, for the marriage to be correct, it is necessary to take her permission, whether she is virgin or not.
But for a marriage to be valid along with the consent of the girl, is it necessary to get the permission of the father or grandfather? Details have been given in this matter, and it is said that when the girl is a maiden, there is no need for the permission of her father or grandfather in next marriage. And she can independently take the decision in this matter. This is clearly mentioned in traditions:
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said about the marriage of a woman who is not virgin, that she herself has more right, than any other person, in the situation where she had married earlier, to marry whoever she wants.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said:
A woman who is once married (a divorced or a widow) can marry again without the permission of her father, if there is no harm in her act. (Wasael, Vol. 14, P. 204)
But if the girl is virgin, many of the jurisprudents believe that the consent of the girl’s father is necessary. There are some traditions under this topic.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said, “without the consent of the virgin girl, the father cannot force her to marry” (Wasael, Vol.-14, P. 205)
Only the virgin girl has limited freedom in selecting a partner. She has to have the permission of her father (or paternal grandfather). But this limitation is not harming the girl, it is for her well-being. Because, a virgin has not married before and doesn’t have experience, and due to shyness, she is unable to make sufficient investigation. Therefore, she needs an advisor having sympathy, feelings, and experience, so that she benefits from his guidance. Father and grandfather are the best people who can help in deciding her future.
Taking permission and advice of the father has other benefit too. Due to this respect to the father, he becomes happy and this attracts his support. These things strengthen relations, and are a sort of safeguard for the future life of the daughter and son-in-law, in case they face problems.
It goes without saying that there are two exceptions: The first is when it is not possible to reach the father (or
grandfather), so permission cannot be taken. Secondly, when there is a girl who needs husband, and good man is also available. But father, without any reason, makes excuses and refuses all the prospective grooms. In these two situations Jurisprudents have given permission to the girl that, without the consent of the father, she can marry the man she likes, and fits her status.
۴) Freedom in getting knowledge
A woman who doesn’t have a husband can go in pursuit of knowledge and no one has the right to prevent her. But if she is married, she must consider the rights of her husband and children, and for continuing her studies should talk to her husband, and take his advice.
۵) Freedom to choose a residence
A woman who doesn’t have a husband is completely free to choose her house. But if she is married she will live with him in his house. Arranging for the house is the responsibility of the husband, and he has the choice. Although the home should be according to their status and within the budget of the man. The house should be suitable for rest and peace of the family. If it is a common house and the wife does not get peace, and demands a private one, and if the husband is capable, he should accept her demand. If their house is small, or there is disturbance and if the wife demands to change the house; and if the husband has the ability, he should act according to her desire. All these are briefly expressed in Qur’an.
The holy Qur’an says:
“And treat them kindly.” Qur’an (۴:۱۹)
And it says:
House women wherever you reside, according to your circumstances, and do not harass them in order to make life difficult for them. If they are pregnant, then provide for them until they give birth, while if they are nursing [any babies] for you, then give them their allowances. Discuss things among yourselves in all decency, while if you are hard on one another, then seek another wet nurse for (the father to pay). Qur’an (65:6)
Although the choose of home is the husband’s right the wife can put condition, and get the right about the area, or some special things, about the house.