The Status of Women in Islam III
d) social equality between males and females in islam:
the islamic equality between males and females, spiritually, religiously and intellectually is reflected in their social equality at all levels. prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said: "women are the twin-halves of men", and consequently has rejected any form of discrimination between male and female children by saying: "if i should have to make any preference, it would be for women". accordingly, the jurisprudence of islam bounds men and women equally. injunctions of duties and obligations are addressed to women as they are to men, except in matters bearing on the physical differences specific to any of the two sexes.
the extra-care towards female children and adolescents, and the islamic emphasis on treating them with justice and kindness is explicit in the prophetic sayings:
"whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, allah will enter him into paradise ".
(ibn hanbal # 1957)
"whosoever supports two daughters (or two sisters), till them mature, he and i will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)".
(ibn hanbal # 2104)
these prophetic sayings came at a time when female infanticide was a common practice among many pagan tribes. the glorious qur'an came down with the definite instruction to stop this cruel, murderous crime as the qur'an reads:
"and when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan arabs used to do) shall be questioned." 8. "for what sin she was killed?" 9. ( surat at-takwir (the wound round and lost its light): 8, 9)
the noble qur'an also condemns the unfair rejection of female children by pagan parents as it reads:
"and when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief!" 58. he hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? certainly, evil is their decision." 59. ( surat an-nahl (the bees): 58, 59)
despite this qur'anic guidance , the preference to the male child still persists in many of the human societies, so much so that the termination of the life of a female fetus is currently practiced widely amidst both the hindus of modern india and the buddhists of modern china .
islam categorically condemns any form of discrimination between a male and a female foetus. the birth ratio of males and females is a divine decision that should never be interrupted man. it keeps an almost equal ratio of males to females, and any human interference may tilt that balance and hence can have many sad consequences. hence, the birth of a baby boy or a girl is equally important to the balance of the human society and a great gift from allah to the parents and to their society for which both have to be thankful.
islam, further inculcates a cheerful and positive feeling towards daughters and their good upbringing. prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"whoever is put to test by being given the custody of three daughters whom he treats generously, this act of his will shield him from hell-fire". a man in the audience asked: o messenger of allah even so if they were two? the prophet answered: "yes" and the man uttered: even if they were one, and the prophet's answer was in the affirmative.
islam enjoins upon muslim to provide their daughters with the best possible upbringing, education and training, and see them well-fitted in marriage with a fine, muslim match for each, and continue their concern about their proper existence even after marriage without too much interference with their private life unless needed. the prophet (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"whoever nourishes three daughters, educates and trains them, gets them married (and afterwards) offers kindness to them with have his place reserved in paradise ".
a part from the spiritual bondage between parents and their daughters, islam has made the proper maintenance of daughters a legal binding on her father (or her next in kin) until her marriage. after marriage, her maintenance is solely her husband's responsibility. if her husband dies or divorces her, and she lacks the adequate financial means, the responsibility goes to her children. if she has no children, this responsibility falls back on her nearest in kin starting by her father, grandfather, brothers, uncles, etc. if she remarries her full maintenance will be the responsibility of the new husband. prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"shall i not show you what is the greatest charity? (it is) to be grateful to your daughter who (after becoming widow or being divorced) is sent back to you and there is no one save you, who could be her financial supporter ".
as a wife, islam maintains for the woman her spiritual, religious and intellectual equality in an interdependent relationship with her husband, governed by love and mercy. this intimate relationship does not infringe on the dignity, honour and free will of the wife, with the acceptance of the husband as the head of the family.
both husband and wife have equal rights and claims to one another, but the family needs a leadership which is given to the husband in view of his physiological and psychological make-up.
the qur'an reads:
"and among his signs is this, that he created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and he has put between you affection and mercy. verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect." ( surat ar-rûm (the romans): 21)
in islam, a female cannot be forced to marry anyone without her consent. on accepting the marriage, the bride alone has the full right to her "mahre" which is a marriage gift symbolizing love and affection not a purchase money as used to be looked upon. it is given by the bridegroom and is included in the marriage contract.
the glorious qur'an also reads:
"men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husbands absence what allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husbands property, etc.). as to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). surely, allah is ever most high, most great." ( surat an-nisâ' (the women): 34)
the qur'an also adds:
"and divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in allah and the last day. and their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. and they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. and allah is all-mighty, all-wise." ( surat al-baqarah (the cow): 228)
this degree is described as (çáþæçãé) "quiwamah" which means the responsibility for maintenance and protection. it does not imply any superiority or advantage, but stems from the natural differences between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to care and protection. this does not – in any way – imply that the husband should dictate everything in the running of the family affairs, as islam emphasizes the importance of consultation and mutual agreement in family decisions. marriage in islam is a sharing process between husband and wife. its bases are love and mercy and among its many objectives are tranquility, emotional stability and well-being, spiritual harmony, good company and the perpetuation of human life. both husband and wife are expected to find tranquility in each other's company and be bound together by love and mercy. this comprises mutual care, consideration, respect and affection. even if a sense of disliking develops as a result of everyday contact, both the noble qur'an and the traditions of prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) strongly recommend kind treatment and decent companionship.
the qur'an reads:
"o you who believe! you are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the mahr you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. and live with them honourably. if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and allah brings through it a great deal of good." ( surat an-nisâ' (the women): 19)
prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"the best of you is the best to his family, and i am the best among you to my family".
"the most perfect believers are the best in conduct, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives".
again, in as much as the female's consent for marriage is mandatory in islam, her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is also granted. however, due to the relatively more emotional nature of women, a convincing reason for divorce has to be presented. not only this , but a wife can divorce herself if this right is stipulated in the nuptial certificate , or if she can do without her financial rights on her husband (al-khula) . in all cases, a gracious end for the marriage relationship is commanded in the glorious qur'an as it reads:
"the divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. and it is not lawful for you (men) to take back (from your wives) any of your mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) which you have given them, except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by allah (e.g. to deal with each other on a fair basis). then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back (the mahr or a part of it) for her al-khul (divorce). these are the limits ordained by allah, so do not transgress them. and whoever transgresses the limits ordained by allah, then such are the zalimoon (wrong-doers, etc.)." ( surat al-baqarah (the cow): 229)
"and when you have divorced women and they have fulfilled the term of their prescribed period, either take them back on reasonable basis or set them free on reasonable basis. but do not take them back to hurt them, and whoever does that, then he has wronged himself. and treat not the verses (laws) of allah as a jest, but remember allahs favours on you (i.e. islam), and that which he has sent down to you of the book (i.e. the quran) and al-hikmah (the prophets sunnah - legal ways - islamic jurisprudence, etc.) whereby he instructs you. and fear allah, and know that allah is all-aware of everything." ( surat al-baqarah (the cow): 231)
"o you who believe! when you marry believing women, and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no iddah (divorce prescribed period, see (v.65:4)) have you to count in respect of them. so give them a present, and set them free i.e. divorce, in a handsome manner. "( surat al-ahzâb (the confederates): 49)
as a mother, islam assigns her the highest rank in the family. despite excessive exhortations to be as kind as possible to one's parents, the mother usually comes before the father. the noble qur'an considers kindness to parents next to worshipping allah.
the qur'an reads:
"and your lord has decreed that you worship none but him. and that you be dutiful to your parents. if one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour." 23. "and lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: "my lord! bestow on them your mercy as they did bring me up when i was small." 24. ( surat al-isrâ' (the journey by night): 23, 24)
"and we have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. his mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to me and to your parents, unto me is the final destination." 14. "but if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to me in repentance and in obedience. then to me will be your return, and i shall tell you what you used to do." 15. ( surat luqmân: 14, 15)
"and we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. his mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty (30) months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: "my lord! grant me the power and ability that i may be grateful for your favour which you have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that i may do righteous good deeds, such as please you, and make my off-spring good. truly, i have turned to you in repentance, and truly, i am one of the muslims (submitting to your will)." ( surat al-ahqâf (the curved sand-hills): 15)
"and we have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents, but if they strive to make you join with me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. unto me is your return, and i shall tell you what you used to do." ( surat al-'ankabût (the spider): 8)
a man came to prophet mohammad (p.b.u.h.) saying: o messenger of allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company? the prophet (p.b.u.h.) answered: "your mother"; the man added: then who else? the prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "your mother"; the man uttered: then who else? the prophet (p.b.u.h.) answered: "your mother"; the man asked: then who else? only then did the prophet (p.b.u.h.) say: "your father".
(al-bukhary and muslim)
the prophet (p.b.u.h.) is also quoted to have repeatedly said:
" paradise is at the feet of mothers"
(al-aasaiy , ibn majah , ahmad)
"i enjoin man about his mother, i enjoin man about his mother, i enjoin man about his mother"
(bukhary and muslim)
the prophet (p.b.u.h.) was asked by his wife lady "aaishah" (may allah be pleased with her): o messenger of allah, who has the greatest right on man? the prophet (p.b.u.h.) replied: "his mother" meaning that his mother has the greatest right on him.
disobedience of and ungratefulness to one's parents is included in the category of major sins, as repeatedly mentioned by the prophet (p.b.u.h.). this is even more sinful if directed to mothers, as the prophet (p.b.u.h.) is quoted to have said:
"allah has forbidden you to be undutiful to mothers …"
e) economic equality between men and women in islam:
islam stipulates the equal right of independent ownership for both males and females, a right from which women have been deprived under all other systems, past and present.
in france for example, the eligibility of women to contract was not granted until 1938 c.e. with this permission, a married woman was still required to secure her husband's permission before she could dispose with her own property.
contrary to this unjust stand, the islamic law more than 14 centuries ago, has fully acknowledged the woman's right to her wealth (whether in the form of gold, silver and jewellary, cash money, real estate and other properties) and hex free will to dispose with it in the way she sees best to her (by selling, leasing, exchanging or donating part or … of it). this right does not change whether she is single or married, and is in force before and after marriage. in islam, a woman cannot be considered as a minor, just because she is a female as has been wrongly practiced in many other constitutions.
as for a female's right to seek employment, islam does not object to that whenever there is a necessity for it, and so long such employment suites her nature and does not force upon her situations forbidden by allah. however, islam puts the female's role in the society as a wife and a mother as her essential and most sacred obligation.
islam, has (more than 14 centuries ago) restored to women the right of inheritance, after they themselves were an object of inheritance in a large number of societies and cultures.
the qur'an reads:
" there is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related, whether, the