Status of women in Islam

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by Spirit_Soul, Oct 22, 2003.

  1. Spirit_Soul

    Spirit_Soul Guest

    From: Muslim
    Subject: Re: THE KORAN & WOMEN.


    The status of woman in Islam is something unique, something
    novel, something that has no similarity in any other system. If we
    look to the Eastern Communist world or to the democratic nations, we
    find that woman is not really in a happy position. Her status is not
    enviable. She has to work so hard to live, and sometimes she may be
    doing the same job that a man does but her wage is less than his. She
    enjoys a kind of liberty which in some cases amounts to
    libertinism. To get to where she is nowadays, woman struggled hard for
    decades and centuries. To gain the right of learning and the freedom
    of work and earning, she had to offer painful sacrifices and give up
    many of her natural rights. To establish her status as a human being
    possessing a soul, she paid heavily. Yet in spite of all these costly
    sacrificeqs and painful struggles, she has not acquired what Islam has
    established by a Divine decree for the Muslim woman.
    The rights of woman of modern times were not granted volun-
    tarily or out of kindness to the female. Modern woman reached her
    present position by force, and not through natural processes or mutual
    consent or Divine teachings. She had to force her way, and various
    circumstances came to her aid. Shortage of manpower during wars,
    pressure of economic needs and requirements of industrial developments
    forced woman to get out of her home - to work, to learn, to struggle
    for her livelihood, to appear as an equal to man, to run her race in
    the course of life side by side with him. She was forced by
    circumstances and in turn she forced herself through and acquired her
    new status. Whether all women were pleased with these circumstances
    being on their side, and whether they are happy and satisfied with the
    results of this course is a different matter. But the fact remains
    that whatever rights modern woman enjoys fall short of those of her
    Muslim counterpart. What Islam has established for woman is that which
    suits her nature, gives her full security and protects her against
    disgraceful circum- stances and uncertain channels of life. We do not
    need here to elaborate on the status of modern woman and the risks she
    runs to make her living or establish herself. We do not even need to
    explore the miseries and setbacks that encircle her as a result of the
    so-called rights of woman. Nor do we intend to manipulate the
    situation of many unhappy homes which break because of the very
    "freedom" and "rights" of which modern woman is proud. Most women
    today exercise the right of freedom to go out independently, to work
    and earn, to pretend to be equal to man, but this, sadly enough, is at
    the expense of their families. This all known and obvious. What is not
    known is the status of woman in Islam. An attempt will be made in the
    following passages to sum up the attitude of Islam with regard to

    1. Woman is recognized by Islam as a full and equal partner of man in
    the procreation of humankind. He is the father; she is the mother, and
    both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By
    this partnership she has an equal share in every aspect; she is
    entitled to equal rights; she undertakes equal responsibilities, and
    in her there are as many qualities and as much humanity as there are
    in her partner. To this equal partner- ship in the reproduction of
    human kind God says:
    O mankind! Verily We have created your from a single (pair) of
    a male and a female,m and made you into nations and tribes
    that you may know each other... (Qur'an, 49:13; cf. 4:1).

    2. She is equal to man in bearing personal and common responsi-
    bilities and in receiving rewards for her deeds. She is acknowledged
    as an independent personality, in possession of human qualities and
    worthy of spiritual aspirations. Her human nature is neither inferior
    to nor deviant from that of man. Both are members of one another. God
    And their Lord has accepted (their prayers) and answered them
    (saying): 'Never will I cause to be lost the work of any of
    you, be he male or female; you are members, one of another...
    (3:195; cf 9:71;33:35-36;66:19-21).

    3. She is equal to man in the pursuit of education and knowledge.
    When Islam enjoins the seeking of knowledge upon Muslims, it makes no
    distinction between man and woman. Almost fourteen centuries ago,
    Muhammad declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every
    Muslim male and female. This declaration was very clear and was
    implemented by Muslims throughout history.

    4. She is entitled to freedom of expression as much as man is. Her
    sound opinions are taken into consideration and cannot be disregarded
    just because she happen to belong to the female sex. It is reported in
    the Qur'an and history that woman not only expressed her opinion
    freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with
    the Prophet himself as well as with other Muslim leaders (Qur'an,
    58:1-4; 60:10-12). Besides there were occasions when Muslim women
    expressed their views on legislative matters of public interest, and
    stood in opposition to the Caliphs, who then accepted the sound
    arguments of these women. A specific example took place during the
    Califate of Umar Ibn al-Khattab.

    5. Historical records show that women participated in public life
    with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies. Women used
    to accompany the Muslim armies engaged in battles to nurse the
    wounded, prepare supplies, serve the warriors, and so on. They were
    not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless creatures and
    deprived of souls.

    6. Islam grants woman equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to
    earn and possess independently. Her life, her property, her honor are
    as sacred as those of man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is
    no less or more than of man's in a similar case. If she is wronged or
    harmed, she gets due compensations equal to what a man in her position
    would get (2:178;4:45, 92-93).

    7. Islam does not state these rights in a statistical form and then
    relax. It has taken all measures to safeguard them and put them into
    practice as integral articles of Faith. It never tolerates those who
    are inclined to prejudice against woman or discrimination between man
    and woman. Time and again, the Qur'an reproaches those who used to
    believe woman to be inferior to man (16:57-59, 62; 42:47-59; 43:15-19;

    8. Apart from recognition of woman as an independent human being
    acknowledged as equally essential for the survival of humanity, Islam
    has given her a share of inheritance. Before Islam, she was not only
    deprived of that share but was herself considered as property to be
    inherited by man. Out of that transferable property Islam made an
    heir, acknowledging the inherent human qualifies in woman. Whether she
    is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain
    share of the deceased kin's property, a share which depends on her
    degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This
    share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if
    the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations
    or in favor of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do
    so. Any proprietor is permitted to make his will within the limit of
    one-third of his property, so he may not affect the rights of his
    heirs, men and women. In the case of inheritance, the question of
    quality and sameness is fully applicable. In principle, both man and
    woman are equally entitled to inherit the property of the deceased
    relations but the portions they get may vary. In some instances man
    receives two shares whereas woman gets one only. This no sign of
    giving preference or supremacy to man over woman.The reasons why man
    gets more in these particular instances may be classified as follows:
    First man, is the person solely responsible for the complete
    maintenance of his wife, his family and any other needy relations.
    It is his duty by Law to assume all financial responsibilities and
    maintain his dependents adequately. It is also his duty to
    contribute financially to all good causes in his society. All
    financial burdens are borne by him alone.
    Secondly, in contrast, woman has no financial responsibilities
    whatsoever except very little of her personal expenses, the high
    luxurious things that she likes to have. She is financially secure and
    provided for. If she is a wife, her husband is the provider; if she is
    a mother, it is the son; if she is a daughter, it is the father; if
    she is a sister; it is the brother, and so on. If she has no relations
    on whom she can depend, then there is no question of inheritance
    because there is nothing to inherit and there is no one to bequeath
    anything to her. However, she will not be left to starve, maintenance
    of such a woman is the responsibility of the society as a whole, the
    state. She may be given aid or a job to earn her living, and whatever
    money she makes will be hers. She is not responsible for the
    maintenance of anybody else besides herself. If there is a man in her
    position, he would still be responsible for his family and possibly
    any of his relations who need his help. So, in the hardest situation
    her financial responsi- bility is limited, while his is unlimited.
    Thirdly, when a woman gets less than a man does, she is not
    actually deprived of anything that she has worked for. The property
    inherited is not the result of her earning or her endeavors. It is
    something coming to them from a neutral source, something addition-
    al or extra. It is something that neither man or woman struggled
    for. It is a sort of aid, and any aid has to be distributed
    according to the urgent needs and responsibilities especially when
    the distribution is regulated by the Law of God.
  2. Spirit_Soul

    Spirit_Soul Guest

    Now, we have a male heir, on one side, burdened with all kinds of
    financial responsibilities and liabilities. We have, on the other
    side, a female heir with no financial responsibilities at all or at
    most with very little of it. In between we have some property and aid
    to redistribute by way of inheritance. If we deprive the female
    completely, it would be unjust to her because she is related to the
    deceased. Likewise, if we always give her a share equal to the man's,
    it would be unjust to him. So, instead of doing injustice to either
    side, Islam gives the man a larger portion of the inherited property
    to help him to meet his family needs and social responsibilities. At
    the same time, Islam has not forgotten her altogether, but has given
    her a portion to satisfy her very personal needs. In fact, Islam in
    this respect is being more kind to her than to him. Here we can say
    that when taken as a whole the rights of woman are equal to those of
    man although not necessarily identical (see Qur'an, 4:11-14, 176).

    9. In some instances of bearing witness to certain civil con- tracts,
    two men are required or one man and two women. Again, this is no
    indication of the woman being inferior to man. It is a measure of
    securing the rights of the contracting parties, because woman as a
    rule, is not so experienced in practical life as man. This lack of
    experience may cause a loss to any party in a given contract. So the
    Law requires that at least two women should bear witness with one
    man. if a woman of the witness forgets something, the other one would
    remind her. Or if she makes an error, due to lack of experience, the
    other would help to correct her. This is a precautionary measure to
    guarantee honest transactions and proper dealings between people. In
    fact, it gives woman a role to play in civil life and helps to
    establish justice. At any rate, lack of experience in civil life does
    not necessarily mean that women is inferior to man in her
    status. Every human being lacks one thing or another, yet no one
    questions their human status (2:282).

    10. Woman enjoys certain privileges of which man is deprived. She is
    exempt from some religious duties, i.e., prayers and fasting, in her
    regular periods and at times of confinement. She is exempt from all
    financial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and
    higher honor in the sight of God (31:14-15;46:15). The Prophet
    acknowledged this honor when he declared that Paradise is under the
    feet of the mothers. She is entitled to three-fourths of the son's
    love and kindness with one-fourth left for their father. As a wife she
    is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that
    will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total
    maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with
    her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after
    marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no
    right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she
    is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother
    respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be
    self-supporting and participate in handling the family
    responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity
    and honor are safeguarded.

    11. The standing of woman in prayers behind man does not indicate in
    any sense that she is inferior to him. Woman, as already mentioned, is
    exempt from attending congregational prayers which are obligatory on
    man. But if she does attend she stands in separate lines made up of
    women exclusively . This is a regulation of discipline in prayers, and
    not a classification of importance. In men's rows the head of state
    stands shoulder to shoulder to the pauper. Men of the highest ranks in
    society stand in prayer side by side with other men of the lowest
    ranks. The order of lines in prayers is introduced to help every one
    to concentrate in his meditation. It is very important because Muslim
    prayers are not simply chanting or the sing-a-song type. They involve
    actions, motions, standing, bowing, prostration, etc. So if men mix
    with women in the same lines, it is possible that something disturbing
    or distracting may happen. The mind will become occupied by something
    alien to prayer and derailed from the clear path of mediation. The
    result will be a loss of the purpose of prayers, besides an offense of
    adultery committed by the eye, because the eye-by looking at forbidden
    things - can be guilty of adultery as much as the heart
    itself. Moreover, no Muslim man or woman is allowed during prayers to
    touch the body of another person of the opposite sex. If men and women
    stand side by side in prayer they cannot avoid touching each
    other. Furthermore, when a woman is praying in front of a man or
    beside him, it is very likely that any part of her dressed body may
    become uncovered after a certain motion of bowing or prostrating. The
    man's eye may happen to be looking at the uncovered part, with the
    result that she will be embarrassed and he will be exposed to
    distraction or possibly evil thoughts. So, to avoid any embarrassment
    and distraction to help concentrate on mediation and pure thoughts, to
    maintain harmony and order among worshippers, to fulfill the true
    purposes of prayers, Islam has ordained the organization of rows,
    whereby men stand in front lines, and women behind the children.Anyone
    with some knowledge of the nature and purpose of Muslim prayerscan
    readily understand the wisdom of organizing the lines of worshippers
    in this manner.

    12. The Muslim woman is always associated with an old tradition known
    as the "veil". It is Islamic that the woman should beautify herself
    with the veil of honor, dignity, chastity, purity and integrity. She
    should refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the
    passions of people other than her legitimate husband or cause evil
    suspicion of her morality. She is warned not to display her charms or
    expose her physical attractions before strangers. The veil which she
    must put on is one that can save her soul from weakness, her mind from
    indulgence, her eyes from lustful looks, and her personality from
    demoralization. Islam is most concerned with the integrity of woman,
    with the safeguarding of her morals and morale and with the protection
    of her character and personality (cf. Qur'an, 24:30-31).

    13. By now it is clear that the status of woman in Islam is
    unprecedentedly high and realistically suitable to her nature. Her
    rights and duties are equal to those of man but not necessarily or
    absolutely identical with them. If she is deprived of one thing in
    some aspect, she is fully compensated for it with more things in many
    other aspects. The fact that she belongs to the female sex has no
    bearing on her human status or independent personality, and it is no
    basis for justification of prejudice against her or injustice to her
    person. Islam gives her as much as is required of her. Her rights
    match beautifully with her duties. The balance between rights and
    duties is maintained, and no side overweighs the other. The whole
    status of woman is given clearly in the Qur'anic verse which may be
    translated as follows:
    And women shall have rights similar to the rights against
    them, according to what is equitable; but man have a degree
    (of advantage as in some cases of inheritance) over them
    This degree is not a title of supremacy or an authorization of
    dominance over her. It is to correspond with the extra responsibil-
    ities of man and give him some compensation for his unlimited
    liabilities. The above mentioned verse is always interpreted in the
    light of another (4:34).
    It is these extra responsibilities that give man a degree over
    woman in some economic aspects. It is not a higher degree in humanity
    or in character. Nor is it a dominance of one over the other or
    suppression of one by the other. It is a distribution of God's
    abundance according to the needs of the nature of which God is the
    Maker. And He knows best what is good for woman and what is good for
    man. God is absolutely true when He declares:

    O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you
    from a single person, and created of like nature his mate,
    and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and
    women (4:1).
  3. Aquarian

    Aquarian Member

    Oct 16, 2003
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    What an interesting post. I can't say I have the knowledge to argue against any of the points presented therein, but I did take exception to the line "But the fact remains that whatever rights modern woman enjoys fall short of those of her Muslim counterpart." It can't be true because a modern woman can choose to be a member of Islamic society while a woman in an Islamic society cannot choose to act in ways resembling western (if that's the right way to compare...) society. That's really what it comes down to, choice. Some of it also seems like rationalization, but that might just have been the poster's word choice rather than a clear picture of the ideals of islam. Also curious to what degree this representation meshes with the perceived implementation across the various Islamic nations...
  4. jimnyc

    jimnyc ...

    Aug 28, 2003
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    That alone says way too much about the author. Anyone who states opinion as fact is obviously a bit biased. I disagree 4000% with this statement, but nonetheless, that's only my opinion.

    American women, or lets say "free women" enjoy all the same things listed for the Muslim women above, and then some. The main freedom they enjoy that stands out the most is their choice to do what THEY want, not what society has planned out for them.

    Sounds like "woman is allowed to have sex with man and take care of family"

    She is acknowledged as much, but do they really get independence to seek out all their aspirations?

    This may be true in most cases, but I've read story after story about women who aren't even allowed to learn to read. I guess it all depends on where you live.

    And again, I believe the way the Qu'ran is written and the way Muslims are expected to treat the women is a bit different than the reality that exists. That reality is that the abuse and mistreatment of the Muslim women still exists today. There is no major effort to correct these issues other than the women fighting for themselves.

    I'm certain that the majority of Muslims lead peaceful lives and the women are as happy as possible, but that doesn't apply to a great many. The abuse and mistreatment of women exist in all walks of life, but in other places action is taken against those committing the acts.
  5. jimnyc

    jimnyc ...

    Aug 28, 2003
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    I see we thought alike in that respect.
  6. Aquarian

    Aquarian Member

    Oct 16, 2003
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    I know, kinda freaked me out when I saw that...:p
  7. Spirit_Soul

    Spirit_Soul Guest

    - I like this quote and also the smilie :p :p :p

    The society that Islam creates is with out a doubt a conservative one. However, I wanted to show some of the individuals here that it is a different type of system and there are good things as well as bad things about it just like the system by which we live in U.S.A today.

    From a modern point of view, one might say that the women in a conservative setting do not enjoy as many rights as they do in a more liberal way of life...

    But the more conservative society might argue that the women's entrance into workplace has not been entirely beneficial for women either, most women today have to sacrifice their personal lives for the professional ones and are unable to find the balance between the personal and professional life.

    In their community, Islam does not deny rights to women, but explains their duties to them, just as it explains men's duties for men for a more productive society.

    If Islam said "Women can't work" then there wouldn't be Islamic people in America , because then they would be excommunicated. The fact is that islamic women do work and practice their independence to an extent in many countries, while trying to be chaste in their ways.
  8. jimnyc

    jimnyc ...

    Aug 28, 2003
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    They can argue that if they like, but I disagree. Only a small percentage of women have "professional" lives today because they have no alternative. The majority do so because that is what they choose to do in life.

    Ok, they aren't denied anything. Can ANY Muslim woman living in the middle east just change her tune and decide she'd rather pursue her professional life than stay at home?

    You're right, they aren't being denied their rights, they just didn't have these rights to begin with!
  9. Holly

    Holly Guest

    The status of women acording to Islam is in understanding of her nature but we are still dependent upon men to behave as Muslims toward us. It is still a solitary world for muslim women who must make their own way even in America. And though in America a woman had access to any study material she would like, sexism still prevents her the same access to education in the Arabic language as her male counter part and she is constantly dealing with far more sexual advaces than most male students have to deal with. This, though not in keeping with Islams view toward the education of women, is the reality. Although the Prophet Muhammad said that women were not to be bared access to him when he was speaking or reciting from the Quran the mere fact that he had to say any thing about it shows that we are and were at a dissadvantage in accessing that kind or any kind of information that we must get from a man.
    It is also a sad reality that in many ummas women must pray in a seperate room cutting them off further from those who are most likely to be sincerely studying religion and providing a safe haven devoid of educated oversight for gosip about those women who buck convention in assertion of her islamic right to religous access. any way real islam beats chattel slavery or white slavery, but I have yet to see the rights it gives women in practice. It is however the best contract we have ever been offered and when muslim me take up their end of it and realize what they will get in return they will wonder why they tarried so long.

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