Status of Women in Islam Essay

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¶ … Status of Women in Islam:

The status of women in the Islamic religion is one of the most controversial and serious issues in the religion, especially in the modern times. This issue not only affects Muslim women but it's also debatable among people who represent these women's rights in the Islamic world and among fundamentalist Muslims. Actually, there have been numerous articles and books written to provide insights on this issue. However, the reader may be confused with this literature because they provide contradictory treatment of the subject. Some of these books and articles address the subject superficially while others treat it partially. Notably, some authors blame all disadvantages in the status of Muslim women on Islam whereas others refer to Islam's achievements through arguing that it's the religion that gave women their rights and honor (Dagher, 1997). Since this is a controversial subject that has been treated differently, the status of women in Islam can be understood through a careful examination of the divergent views presented in various articles and books.

Historical Perspectives:

During the period when the world was engulfed with darkness, the divine revelation repeated in the wide desert of Arabia came with a noble, fresh, and global message to humanity. The message basically referred to God's creation of mankind from a single soul that spread a multitude of both men and women (Badawi, n.d.). Scholars have argued that there is no single old or new text that deals with humanity of the woman across all aspects. In their analysis, they state that the divine message or decree deals with the humanity of women in every aspect including eloquence, originality, amazing brevity, and depth. This explanation is demonstrated in the Qur'an that stresses this noble and natural conception of the humanity of women. Some of the major portions in Qur'an that emphasize the subject include Qur'an 7:189; 42:11; and 16:72.

In the Qur'anic account of Creation, woman was not created from the man's rib as explained in Christianity and Judaism. Therefore, the first person i.e. indefinite gender was created and then the individual's companion was created (Husain, 2003, 21). In addition, Eve was not regarded as the cause of original sin since both Adam and Eve were equally responsible for disobedience and annoying God. During the pre-Islamic Arabia, there was a prevalent pagan practice of female infanticide. However, the Qur'an forbids this pagan practice that was common during the pre-Islamic Arabia era.

In the 6th Century of the Arabian Peninsula, women who survived to adulthood were treated like chattel through which they were sold into marriage by their fathers. They were also kidnapped, raped, and bought as concubines and members of huge harems. Women had a disadvantaged position in this era to an extent that some tribal chieftans married as many as fifty wives. Nonetheless, Islam gave women rights of inheritance in the 6th Century way before it became a common practice in the West. While women were offered half of the amount given to corresponding males, the inheritance rights was a major step forward in the Arabian society at that time. The provision of inheritance rights in Islam was a pace setter for many Western cultures, where daughters were not allowed to inherit anything if there were sons in their families, until several centuries ago. Actually, even though Britain is considered as pioneer of democracies, women in this country were only given the right to own property independent of their husbands in 1870 (Husain, 2003, 24).

As a result of the inheritance rights, dowry was no longer paid to the guardian but directly to the woman. Furthermore, a woman was granted the right to own property, manage it personally, and bestow it to a person of her choice. These rights also ensured that a woman could earn her living independently without any requirement to contribute her income to the husband or family.

The provision of inheritance rights to women can be traced to Prophet Muhammad's open-minded, feminist, and progressive attitudes toward women. Prophet Muhammad detested the practice of forced marriages that was arranged by the woman's guardian. Consequently, he transformed marriage into a legal agreement or civil contract between two consenting people. According to a Qur'anic revelation, the prophet restricted the number of women a man could marry to four. This was provided that these women could be treated equally by their husband. During this period, there were numerous tribal wars that resulted in several male fatalities and an over-abundance of orphans and widows. Prophet Muhammad considered marriage as a way of bringing together warring tribes and providing care for both widows and orphans. This concern was later added to the Qur'an (4:129) where it is stated that it was impossible for a man to do justice to more than a single wife.

According to the Islamic law, it is a criminal act to carry out any form of violence against women. This law was established during the life of Prophet Muhammad that was characterized with several complaints from women about their husbands' treatment towards them. The Prophet stated that men who hit their wives were not from Islam (Hammoud, n.d.). The Qur'an and Islamic Law stresses that the wife should live in equality, peacefully, harmoniously, and in justice with her husband and children (Qur'an 58:1).

Throughout the Message of Islam, Prophet Muhammad continued to emphasize the significance of women in the society. Therefore, Islam renders affectionate acts towards women and considers good deeds toward women as a way of approaching God. For instance, Islamic Law encourages husbands to provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support to their wives, which implies that the husband may employ a servant for his wife if necessary. The support from husbands is demonstrated through honor and respect for women within the frame of affection, love, and endearment (Adeel, 2010, 102). This is similar to the Prophetic hadiths, especially when they teach about the wife, mother, and the daughter.

Status of Women in Islam:

The Islamic Law and Qur'an consider both men and women equally humans and provide them with equal human rights. While they have relatively different tasks and functions, men and women have similar opportunities for achieving proximity to God and perfection (Adeel, 2010, 103). As the most important sources in Islamic thoughts and beliefs, the Qur'an and Sunnah provide a great message of universal equality for all mankind. Men and women have similar duties to carry out including prayer, fasting, rituals, to do good, and to prohibit evil. Some of the common moral virtues among men and women in Islam include honesty, tolerance, and truthfulness.

Therefore, personal superiority in the religion is only dependent on piety based on the Islamic Law. The status of women in Islam is not simply to give women a chance to survive among men in the society. Muslim men and Muslim women are required to seek knowledge and education and use the acquired knowledge to assist fellow humans. This is a highly esteemed duty that men and women will be questioned on Judgment Day.

From the Qur'anic perspective, there are four logical characteristics of equality i.e. equality in religious matters, equality in ethical obligations, equality in legal rights, and equality in education. In relation to equality in religious issues, the Qur'an commands equality for Muslim men and Muslim women on their religious obligations and rewards. In this case, for the men and women who remember God greatly, God holds forgiveness and great rewards for them. Secondly, the Qur'an shows to mankind the desired equality of both sexes through establishing similar ethical obligations and rewards for the two sexes. The two sexes are required to be faithful and to act righteously towards God, toward each other, and towards other people. The equal rights for the two sexes to seek for education is found… [END OF PREVIEW]

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