Womens Liberation Through Islam
by Mary Ali and Anjum Ali
Today people think that women are liberated in the West and that the Womens liberation movement began in the 20th century. Actually, the womens liberation movement was not begun by women but was revealed by God to a man in the seventh century by the name of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who is known as the last Prophet of Islam. The Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet (Hadith or Sunnah) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties.
Islam, fourteen centuries ago, made women equally accountable to God in glorifying and worshipping Him setting no limits on her moral progress. Also, Islam established a womans equality in her humanity with men, In the Quran, in the first verse of the chapter entitled "Women", God says,
Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as some religions believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction to equality.
In Islam, a woman has the basic freedoms of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Quran states:
Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet(S) which indicate women would pose questions directly to him and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters.
A Muslim woman chooses her husband and keeps her name after marriage. A Muslim womans testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, where women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive.
The Prophet(S) said, "seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)". This includes knowledge of the Quran and the Hadith as well as other knowledge. Men and women both have the capacity for learning and understanding. Since it is also their obligation to promote good behavior and condemn bad behavior in all spheres of life, Muslim women must acquire the appropriate education to perform this duty in accordance with their own natural talents and interests.
While bearing, raising and teaching of children, providing support to her husband, and maintenance of a home are among the first and very highly regarded roles for a woman, if she has the skills to work outside the home for the good of the community, she may do so as long as her family obligations are met.
Islam recognizes and fosters the natural differences between men and women despite their equality. Some types of work are more suitable for men and other types for women. This in no way diminishes eithers efforts or benefits. God will reward both sexes equally for the value of their work, through, it may not necessarily be the same activity.
Concerning motherhood, the Prophet(S) said, "Heaven lies under the feet of mothers". This implies that the success of a society can be traced to the mothers who raised it. The first and greatest influence on a person comes from the sense of security, affection, and training received from the mother. Therefore, a woman having children must be educated and conscientious in order to be a skillful parent.
A right given to Muslim women by God 1400 years ago is the right to vote. On any public matter, a woman may voice her opinion and participate in politics. One example, as narrated in the Quran (60:12), Muhammad(S) is told that when the believing women come to him and swear their allegiance to Islam, he must accept their oath. This established the right of women to select their leader and publicly declare so. Finally, Islam does not forbid a woman from holding important positions in government. Abdurrahman Ibn Awf consulted many women before he recommended Uthman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.
The Quran states:
In these verses, God declares that He created men and women to be different, with unique roles, functions and skills. As in society, where there is a division of labor, so too in a family, each member has different responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds that women are entrusted with the nurturing role, and men, with the guardian role. Therefore, women are given the right of financial support.
The Quran an states:
This guardianship and greater financial responsibility given to men requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also physical protection and kind respectful treatment.
Muslim women have the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to mange all of her assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her earnings, including her husband.
The Quran states:
A woman inherits from her relatives. The Quran states:
Rights of a Wife
The Quran states:
Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity but, in fact, a sign from God! It is a relationship of mutual rights and obligations based on divine guidance. God created men and women with complimentary natures and, in the Quran, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes.
Clothing provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the other and hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of the spouse. To foster the love and security that comes with marriage, Muslim wives have various rights. The first of the wifes rights is to receive mahr, a gift from the husband, which is part of the marriage contract and required for the legality of the marriage.
The second right of a wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she may have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter and clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability and his wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. The Quran states
God tells us men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership in the family. His responsibility for obeying God extends to guiding his family to obey God at all times.
A wifes rights also extend beyond material needs. She has the right to kind treatment. The Prophet(S) said,
God tells us He created mates and put love, mercy and tranquility between them.
Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs and marriage is designed to fulfill those needs. For one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, the temptation exists to seek it elsewhere.
Duties of a Wife
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations to their husbands. The Quran states:
A wife is to keep her husbands secrets and protect their marital privacy. Issues of intimacy of faults of his that would dishonor him, are not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honor.
A wife must also guard her husbands property. She must safeguard his home and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft or damage. She should manage the household affairs wisely so as to prevent loss or waste. She should not allow anyone to enter the house whom her husband dislikes nor incur any expenses of which her husband disapproves.
A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate with her husband. There cannot, however, be cooperation with a man who is disobedient to God. She should not fulfill his requests if he wants her to do something unlawful. A husband also should not take advantage of his wife, but be considerate of her needs and happiness.
The Quran states:
The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are from God and are designed to keep balance in society; what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for or explained in another place. Islam is a complete way of life.