the rights of women in islam
the rights of women in islam have been fully detailed in the glorious qur'an and in the traditions of prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) so that no muslim male could try to get around them, out selfishness or personal greed. these female rights can be briefly summarized as follows:
a) spiritual equality between men and women in islam:
the noble qur'an reads:
"o mankind! be dutiful to your lord, who created you from a single person (adam), and from him (adam) he created his wife (hawwa (eve)), and from them both he created many men and women and fear allah through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). surely, allah is ever an allwatcher over you." ( surat an-nisâ' (the women): 1).
the address here "o mankind!" includes both men and women. their creation from a single soul testifies for the fact that men and women are equal halves of the human race, and hence are equal in their human nature, intellectual capabilities, rights and obligations. this divine declaration nullifies all discriminatory practices introduced by man in the absence of the true form of divine guidance. heeding our creator implies listening to his instructions and obeying them, including this equality between the sexes being " heedful of the wombs " draws our attention to the biological fact of this sex equality, and reminds us of the origin of our existence in the mother's womb, and the rights and obligations this fact implies. equality between men and women is not only a human right and a pre-requisite for social justice, hut it is above all an act of worship following this divine decree, any violation of which will necessitate the punishment in this world and in the world to come.
the glorious qur'an emphasizes the fact that the only means of distinction between human beings is their degree of piety and heedfulness of allah as it reads:
"o mankind! we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. verily, the most honourable of you with allah is that (believer) who has at-taqwa (i.e. one of the muttaqoon (pious). verily, allah is all-knowing, all-aware." ( surat al-hujurât (the dwellings): 13).
the noble qur'an also emphasizes that it is one's deeds (not one's gender) that counts as it reads:
"every person is a pledge for what he has earned, ( surat al-muddaththir (the one enveloped): 38).
the qur'an stipulates that believing men and women are supporters of one another in enjoining what is just and in forbidding what is evil and in worshipping allah in the way he has prescribed, as it reads:
"the believers, men and women, are auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) al-maroof (i.e. islamic monotheism and all that islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from al-munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that islam has forbidden); they perform as-salat (iqamat-as-salat) and give the zakat, and obey allah and his messenger. allah will have his mercy on them. surely allah is all-mighty, all-wise. 71. " allah has promised to the believers -men and women, - gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in gardens of adn (eden paradise). but the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of allah. that is the supreme success. 72. ( surat at-taubah (the repentance): 71-72).
the word " nas " (= mankind) which includes both men and women is mentioned in the glorious qur'an 242 times, which clearly testify to the unity of the human race and the equality of both men and women as two facets of the same soul .
b) religious equality between men and women in obligation and reward:
the glorious qur'an reads:
"so their lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), "never will i allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. you are (members) one of another, so those who emigrated and were driven out from their homes, and suffered harm in my cause, and who fought, and were killed (in my cause), verily, i will remit from them their evil deeds and admit them into gardens under which rivers flow (in paradise); a reward from allah, and with allah is the best of rewards." ( surat al-imran (the family of imran): 195).
the noble qur'an also reads:
"and whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a true believer in the oneness of allah (muslim), such will enter paradise and not the least injustice, even to the size of a naqeera (speck on the back of a datestone), will be done to them." ( surat an-nisâ' (the women): 124).
the same meaning is repeated once more (16: 97) where the qur'an reads:
"whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of islamic monotheism) verily, to him we will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and we shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. paradise in the hereafter)." ( surat an-nahl (the bees): 97).
despite the fact that the general address in the qur'an uses the masculine gender, it is equally applicable to both men and women. this has been spelled out in many qur'anic verses which literally address both males and females.
the noble qur'an stipulates that both man and woman are equally obliged to practice their islam in full and that their deeds are equally regarded. in practicing their religious obligations such as uttering the islamic declaration (the shahadah) , offering the prayers, giving alms, fasting the month of ramadan and performing pilgrimage by whoever can afford it, the qur'an calls upon both male and female muslims with the same address. in carrying out such religious obligations there is no difference whatsoever between men and women except for the limited time of the females' monthly period, when they are exempted from both daily prayers and fasting. females are also exempted from fasting during their pregnancy and nursing periods if there is any threat to their health or to the life of their babies. missed obligatory fasting days can be made-up for whenever the woman can, but missed prayers are forgiven.
the glorious qur'an reads:
"verily, the muslims (those who submit to allah in islam) men and women, the believers men and women (who believe in islamic monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their lord allah), the men and the women who give sadaqat (i.e. zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe saum (fast) (the obligatory fasting during the month of ramadan, and the optional nawafil fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember allah much with their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc. for more than 300 times extra over the remembrance of allah during the five compulsory congregational prayers) or praying extra additional nawafil prayers of night in the last part of night, etc.) allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. paradise ). 35 . it is not for a believer, man or woman, when allah and his messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. and whoever disobeys allah and his messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error." 36. ( surat al-ahzâb (the confederates): 35, 36).
this same address to believers, men and women is repeated several times throughout the noble qur'an [e.g. "the believers, men and women, are auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) al-maroof (i.e. islamic monotheism and all that islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from al-munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that islam has forbidden); they perform as-salat (iqamat-as-salat) and give the zakat, and obey allah and his messenger. allah will have his mercy on them. surely allah is all-mighty, all-wise. 71 . allah has promised to the believers -men and women, - gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in gardens of adn (eden paradise). but the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of allah. that is the supreme success. "72. ( surat at-taubah (the repentance): 71, 72);
"and tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers or their brothers sons, or their sisters sons, or their (muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. and let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. and all of you beg allah to forgive you all, o believers, that you may be successful. ( surat an-nûr (the light):31);
"and those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin." ( surat al-ahzâb (the confederates): 58);
"so know (o muhammad saw) that la ilaha ill-allah (none has the right to be worshipped but allah), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women. and allah knows well your moving about, and your place of rest (in your homes). "( surat muhammad: 19);
"that he may admit the believing men and the believing women to gardens under which rivers flow (i.e. paradise ), to abide therein forever, and to expiate from them their sins, and that is with allah, a supreme success," (surat al-fath (the victory):5)
"they are the ones who disbelieved (in the oneness of allah islamic monotheism), and hindered you from almasjidalharam (the sacred mosque of makkah) and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. had there not been believing men and believing women whom you did not know, that you may kill them, and on whose account a sin would have been committed by you without (your) knowledge, that allah might bring into his mercy whom he will, if they (the believers and the disbelievers) should have been apart, we verily had punished those of them who disbelieved, with painful torment. ( surat al-fath (the victory): 25);
"o you who believe! when believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them, allah knows best as to their faith, then if you ascertain that they are true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them. but give the disbelievers that (amount of money) which they have spent (as their mahr) to them. and there will be no sin on you to marry them if you have paid their mahr to them. likewise hold not the disbelieving women as wives, and ask for (the return of) that which you have spent (as mahr) and let them (the disbelievers, etc.) ask back for that which they have spent. that is the judgement of allah. he judges between you. and allah is all-knowing, all-wise." 10. " and if any of your wives have gone from you to the disbelievers, and you have an accession (by the coming over of a woman from the other side), then pay to those whose wives have gone, the equivalent of what they had spent (on their mahr). and fear allah in whom you believe." 11. "o prophet! when believing women come to you to give you the baia (pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood (i.e. by making illegal children belonging to their husbands), and that they will not disobey you in any maroof (islamic monotheism and all that which islam ordains) then accept their baia (pledge), and ask allah to forgive them, verily, allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful." 12. (surat al-mumtahanah (the woman to be examined): 10-12);
"my lord! forgive me, and my parents, and him who enters my home as a believer, and all the believing men and women. and to the zalimoon (polytheists, wrong-doers, and disbelievers, etc.) grant you no increase but destruction!" ( surat nûh (noah): 28);
"verily, those who put into trial the believing men and believing women (by torturing them and burning them), and then do not turn in repentance, (to allah), will have the torment of hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning fire." ( surat al-burûj (the big stars): 10), etc.] .
this testifies to the absolute equality between men and women in islam, despite their (natural differences physical, physiological, psychological and emotional differences) which have to be taken into account without the slightest infringement on the rights and obligations of each gender.
the equality between men and women in islam stems from the basic purpose of their creation : to worship their creator in the way he has prescribed and to play their role on earth as successful vice-gerents who are not only constructive elements , but witnesses and conveyors of truth to all mankind and protectors of the divine justice . through their sincere efforts for the implementation of the divine code of life, muslim men and women can fulfill their goal on earth and achieve the pleasure of their creator. this noble goal cannot be reached through the single efforts of one gender, as it needs the combined and collective efforts of both men and women.
c) intellectual equality between males and females in islam:
with the clear recognition of the physical, physiological, psychological and emotional differences between males and females, islam emphasizes their intellectual equality. both men and women are exhorted to seek knowledge, cherish it, preserve it and propagate it to the best of their abilities. both are credited with their capacity to learn and to gain both knowledge and wisdom. their spiritual and religious equality in both obligations and reward confirm their intellectual equality.
this equalitarian judgment for the two human genders is explicitly stated in the glorious qur'an and expelled in the traditions of prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.).
enough to mention that the very firstly revealed verses from the noble qur'an came down with the divine instruction (åþñã) to read and write , and with the honoring of the tool of writing (the pen) by which allah has taught mankind (males and females) all what they never knew before.
these were followed by hundreds of other verses that exhort humanity at large (males and females alike) to seek knowledge and wisdom in both their revealed and acquired forms. revealed knowledge come down to man as a divine guidance in areas that cannot possibly be correctly addressed by the human intellect, while acquired knowledge is gained by man through a continued process of observation and conclusion and for experimentation, observation and conclusion.
the glorious qur'an invites all human beings (males and females) to think deeply about themselves, their creation and the creation of other living beings around themselves; about the earth they live on, and the rest of the universe they live in, its creation, structure, composition, phenomena and governing laws; about the history of mankind on earth, and the reasons behind the rise and fall of human civilizations.
the qur'anic address here is always to mankind (with both its male and female components) because such knowledge is essential to the various members of humanity to play their role successfully as vicegerents on earth and to become move conscious of their creator.
the glorious qur'an reads:
"and of men and addawab (moving living creatures, beasts, etc.), and cattle, in like manner of various colours. it is only those who have knowledge among his slaves that fear allah. verily, allah is al-lmighty, oft-forgiving." ( surat fâtir (the originator of creation): 28)
the qur'an also reads:
"is one who is obedient to allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his lord (like one who disbelieves)? say: "are those who know equal to those who know not?" it is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from allahs signs and verses)." ( surat az-zumar (the groups): 9)
the qur'an adds:
"o you who believe! when you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. allah will give you (ample) room (from his mercy). and when you are told to rise up (for prayers, jihad (holy fighting in allahs cause), or for any other good deed), rise up. allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. and allah is well-acquainted with what you do." ( surat al-mujâdilah (the woman who disputes): 11)
and allah (s. w. t.) advises his blessed prophet to ask for knowledge as the qur'an reads:
"then high above all be allah, the true king. and be not in haste (o muhammad saw) with the quran before its revelation is completed to you, and say: "my lord! increase me in knowledge." ( surat tâ-hâ : 114)