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Women’s Day, Tuesday 8th March, 2016

This Women’s Day we gather to mark our collective actions towards creating a world free of violence, injustice and oppression. Together we inspire each other by celebrating the gains of our women’s movements. We re-energise ourselves to continue resisting and challenging patriarchal, casteist, communal and regressive forces.

As in the past years before, there have been a shocking number of incidents of violence against women all over the country, including incidents of rape, dis-honour, killings and acid attacks. Nobody can forget the horrific attacks on the young girls from Badayun to Bhagana, or the violence on women from Muzaffarnagar to Bilaspur and other parts of India. Sexual assaults on Dalit women and girls have increased in numbers and in degrees of cruelty. Delhi itself has seen increasing levels of ethnic violence, harassment and homophobia.

We live in highly communalised times where our freedoms and safety are further threatened by dangerous ideas likes ‘love jehad’ and ‘ghar-vapsi’. It has taken several attacks on Christians, Muslims and their places of worship for the official silence to be broken. ‘Fringe’ elements have taken the centre-stage and their strident voices can be heard inside the Parliament, in the corridors of power and of course, in the media. When elected representatives talk about Hindu women having “4 children (and not 40 puppies)”, it threatens the democratic fabric of the country… and is an affront to all women!

This Women’s Day, we re-imagine a world of equality and diversity, free from economic exploitation and social discrimination. We reiterate our commitment towards drawing a new blueprint of development that is inclusive and helps build a democratic, secular and just society. We assert our commitment to the creation of a world that respects women as equal citizens of this country. We invite men comrades to be a part of the ongoing struggles against violence and gender inequalities.

We saw a two face in our society

What Does Islam Say About Women

 The  actual teachings of Islam regarding the rights, roles, and responsibilities of women, with a special focus on gender equality in Islam.

At a time when female children were buried alive in Arabia and women were considered transferable property, Islam honoured women in society by elevating them and protecting them with unprecedented rights. Islam gave women the right to education, to marry someone of their choice, to retain their identity after marriage, to divorce, to work, to own and sell property, to seek protection by the law, to vote, and to participate in civic and political engagement.

God devotes an entire chapter of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, to women. In addition, God directly addresses women repeatedly throughout the Quran. Islam proclaims that all human beings, men and women, are born in a pure state. The goal of every Muslim is to preserve this purity by shunning evil tendencies and beautifying their inner being with virtuous traits.

Islam further confirms that both men and women are equal in the sight of God. In the Quran, God declares, “…Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you…” (49:13) At another place in the Quran, God clearly states that all humans are equal: “To whoever, male or female, does good deeds and has faith, We shall give a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions.” (16:97)

Education

Back in the 7th century, Muhammad (PBUH) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim – male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history. One of the most influential scholars of Islam was Muhammad’s wife, Aisha. After his death, men and women would travel to learn from her because she was considered a great scholar of Islam. The recognition of female scholarship and women’s participation in academia has been encouraged and practiced throughout the majority of Islamic history. For instance, al-Qarawiyin Mosque and University, the oldest running university, was funded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Morocco in 859 C.E.

Motherhood

In Islam, God clearly gives mothers a high status and elevates their position in the family. In the Quran, God mentions all the sacrifices mothers make in bearing children to remind people to treat their mothers with love, respect, and care. Emphasizing the importance of mothers, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.”

On another occasion, a man repeatedly asked Muhammad (pbuh), “Who amongst the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?” Each time, the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Your mother.”

Politics and Social Services

Among the early Muslims, women were active participants in the cohesive functioning of the society. Women expressed their opinions freely and their advice was actively sought. Women nursed the wounded during battles, and some even participated on the battlefield. Women traded openly in the marketplace, so much so that the second caliph, Umar, appointed a woman, Shaffa bint Abdullah, as the supervisor of the bazaar.

In Islamic history, women participated in government, public affairs, lawmaking, scholarship, and teaching.  To continue to uphold this tradition, women are encouraged to actively participate in improving, serving, and leading the different aspects of the community.

 Inheritance

Before Islam, women all across the globe were deprived of inheritance and were themselves considered property to be inherited by men. Islam gave women the right to own property and inherit from relatives, which was a revolutionary concept in the seventh century.

Whether a woman is a wife, mother, sister, or daughter, she receives a certain share of her deceased relative’s property. This share depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. While many societies around the world denied women inheritance, Islam assured women this right, illustrating the universal justice of Islam’s divine law.

Financial Responsibilities

In Islam, women are not obligated to earn or spend any money on housing, food, or general expenses. If a woman is married, her husband must fully support her financially and if she’s not married, that responsibility belongs to her closest male relative (father, brother, uncle, etc).

She also has the right to work and spend the money she earns as she wishes. She has no obligation to share her money with her husband or any other family members, although she may choose to do so out of good will. For instance, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was one of the most successful businesswomen of Mecca, and she freely spent from her wealth to support her husband and the cause of Islam.

At the time of marriage, a woman is entitled to a financial gift (dowry) from her husband. This dowry is legally owned by her and cannot be used by anyone else. In the case of divorce, she has the right to keep whatever she owned before the divorce and anything she personally earned after marriage. The former husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. This ensures a woman’s financial security and independence, allowing her to support herself in the case of divorce.

Marriage

A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals and her approval is required to complete the marriage contract. She cannot be forced to marry someone against her will and if this occurs for cultural reasons, it is in direct opposition of Islam. By the same principle, women also have the right to seek divorce if they are dissatisfied with their marriage.

In Islam, marriage is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion. God says about Himself, “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy…” (Quran 30:21) Muhammad (pbuh) embodied the best character and is a role model for all Muslims. His example of being helpful around the household and treating his family with compassion and love is a tradition that Muslims strive to implement in their daily lives. Muhammad (pbuh) treated his wives with the utmost respect and honor and was never abusive towards them. One of his traditions clearly states, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.”

Dignity and Protection from Harm

Any form of emotional, physical, or psychological abuse is prohibited in Islam and the improper treatment of women is no exception to this rule. Indeed, there is no teaching in Islam, when studied in its complete context, which condones any kind of domestic violence. Islam clearly disallows any form of oppression or abuse, according to Dr. Zainab Alwani, a leading female Muslim scholar. It cannot be stated enough times that anyone who exercises unjust authority in the name of Islam is actually doing so to uphold their own cultural influences or personal interests. All of God’s creation is dignified and protected under Islamic law.

Modesty

In an environment which constantly emphasizes the physical form through various media, women are constantly faced with an unattainable standard of beauty. Although Muslim women are falsely classified as oppressed based on their modest dress, they are in fact liberated from such objectification by the society around them. This modest appearance, which includes veiling, highlights a woman’s personality and character instead of her physical figure and promotes a deeper appreciation for who she is as a person. In this regard, Muslim women identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh), who is known for her piety and modesty.

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In conclusion, Islam has an extensive tradition of protecting the civil liberties of women based on the guidelines set forth by God and His Prophet. Women are empowered with many rights and protections under Islamic law and are honored with a dignified stature in society.

 Islam takes very seriously the honor and protection of women. The Quran repeatedly reminds men to treat women with kindness and fairness. Rape is completely forbid en in Islam, and is a crime punishable by death.

Dr. Rehana
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5 Responses to Women’s Day, Tuesday 8th March, 2016

  1. Saima

    Absolutely write

  2. M. Altaf Khan

    Really good article and good knowledge about Muslim Women’s contribution in our society

  3. Abdul Rashid Agwan

    Dr Rehana!

    You have written a very good article, giving true message about the status of women in Islam. Congratulations.

    I think, it should be presented in some program of local women and discussed.

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