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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 17 Apr 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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What does Islam Say About Gender Equity and Social Injustice towards Women?

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

17 April 2019

When talking about gender in Islam, the adequate term to use is equity not equality. This is because equality is often understood to mean absolute equivalence in everything. Equity in Islam is utilized to establish justice and equality in all responsibilities and rights of both genders. It retains the possibility of differences in some ways within the overall balance and equality. 

The Quran explains this meaning of ‘equity’ in the following verse;

“Whoever performs pious works, man or woman, provided he or she is a believer, We will surely let such a person live a life of purity, and will indeed reward them (as well) their wage of the righteous works which they used to do” (16:97)

We can understand Islamic concept of gender equity though various aspects like spiritual equity, social equity, right to education, right to choosing a husband, right to seek divorce and economic equity etc.

Spiritual Equity

God Almighty says;

 “Surely, the submissive men and the submissive women, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obedient men and the obedient women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the steadfast men and the steadfast women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the men who give alms and the women who give alms, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who remember Allah abundantly and the women who remember Allah very much—Allah has prepared for all of them forgiveness and a mighty reward.” (33:35)

In this verse (above), God Almighty addresses the believers by using the words “believing men and women” and lays emphasis on equity between both genders with regard to virtues and merits. Both males and females are equal before God as regards to acts of worship and reward and thus equally require spiritual nourishment.

 “Surely, the most honourable amongst you in the sight of Allah is he who fears Allah the most. Certainly, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (49:13)

It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Surely, in the body there is a small piece of flesh; if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted, and that is surely the heart” (Bukhari)

This saying of the holy Prophet teaches all of us that every person, male or female, needs to work hard to meet their God with a sound heart.

Social Equity

In the pre-Islamic era, the people of some tribes in the Arabian Peninsula used to regard their girls and women as a source of poverty and shame. Some fathers would bury their daughters alive in order to avoid shameful situation in the future. Allah Almighty says in the Quran,

“And when the news (of the birth) of a daughter is disclosed to any of them, his face turns dark and he gets pent up with anger.” (16:58)

When Islam came, it established social equity of both genders and considered them equal fellows in humanity. Allah says in the Quran;

“O people! We created you from a male and a female, and (divided) you into (large) peoples and tribes, so that you might recognize one another. Surely, the most honourable amongst you in the sight of Allah is he who fears Allah the most. Certainly, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (49:13)

Islam makes both males and females deserve social equity that includes rights to good education, participation in business and job and choosing a spouse in order to lead a happy life, mutual respect and understanding. 

However women are denied of such social rights in today’s communities. Women as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters are confronted with social injustice which makes them feel inferiority and kills their skills and talents.

The Right to Education

Both males and females are equally encouraged to seek knowledge. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon) is reported to have said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim male and female.”

Even in this age which is much concerned about education and awareness, women in some societies, particularly in rural areas, are denied of their right to education. It is often assumed that the main job of females in life is to take care of housework and children, which of course is a great job itself.

There were some ulema in the past who prohibited Muslim women to learn writing because of some reasons but the Ulama of this age have now started campaigns for educating female sections of their communities and for that matter they have founded many schools and madrasas as well. This is a very effective move but women participation does not last longer than 10+2 or sometimes 10th class. 

When we study the era of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) we find that there were women from among his family who were scholars of their time. Prominent among them was Hazrat Aisha, the Prophet’s wife through whom, it is reported,  a large number of Islamic rulings have been transmitted. Other females of that time were scholars of jurisprudence.

The Right to Choosing a Spouse

Allah Almighty says,

 “And (also) of His signs is that He created for you mates of your own kind so that you acquire peace from them, and He created between you love and mercy. Verily, in this (system of creation) there are signs for those who meditate.” (30:21)

Islam gives every woman right to choose her husband and forbids her guardian to get her married against her will. This right, Islam gives, to both males and females.

The Right to Seek a Divorce

God Almighty also gave both males and females right to seek a divorce when their marital life becomes extremely impossible owing to any valid legal reason. It should be noted that divorce is the most hated of lawful things before God.

It goes without saying that divorced women have to face hardships and extremely unbearable situations. Moreover they are often regarded as the only party to be blamed for divorce, whether or not she was the reason for it.

The problem of divorce will take place if the Muslims start following the Quran and Sunnah. But this is problematic in some societies that the males remembers their being “Qawwamah” over females and forget the beautiful teachings in which they are asked to treat their women well. It is another problem that some of the males misinterpret “Qawwama” to prove their wrong perception of superiority.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged men to treat their spouses in the best way. One Hadith reads, “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 3895; Ibn Maajah, 1977)

Allah Almighty says, “And among His signs is that He created or you wives amongst yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them; and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Surely in this are Signs for people who reflect.” (30:21)

Additionally women should also be very humble and caretaking of their spouses. It is another problem that most of women in the name of women rights have forgotten those values which can make their spouses happy.

Financial Advantage for Women

Islam assures greater financial advantage for women. Women are gifted marital gifts (Mehr). Islam does not impose on them to spend from her income on the household. Muslim women are ensured support in all walks of life, as a daughter, wife, sister or wife. Unlike males who inherit more but have to take financial responsibility of other family members: daughters, wives, sisters, parents, the females who inherit less but save it for investment and financial security as it is not their obligation to spend any part of it, even for her own means of livelihood (housing, food, clothing, medication etc).

Position of Mothers in Islam

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“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.” (46:15)

It is narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: A man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, who is most deserving of my good company?” He said: “Your mother.” He said: “Then who?” He said: “Your mother.” He said: “Then who?” He said: “Your mother.” He said: “Then who?” He said: “Then your father.” (Al-Bukhaari (5971) and Muslim (2548))

Reward is not restricted to good and kind treatment towards mothers. Islam has also designated a special reward for those who raise their daughters;

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever Allah has given two daughters and is kind towards them; they will be a reason for him entering Paradise.”

In another Hadith, “Whoever takes care of two girls until they reach adulthood, he and I will come like this on the Day of Resurrection,” and he held his fingers together. (Narrated by Muslim, 2631)

The prophet (peace be upon him) is also reported to have said, “Whoever has three daughters and is patient towards them, and feeds them, gives them to drink and clothes them from his riches, they will be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Saheeh Ibn Maajah)

The aforementioned passages are few examples to prove that equity between both genders does exist in Islamic teachings. However, the cultural practice and misinterpretation of religious texts have played a major role in creating this social imbalance in relationship between both genders.


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