Women Share in Real Equity [Archives:1998/17/Culture]

April 27 1998

The idea of this article came to my mind after I read a history book, documenting the behavior and acts practiced towards woman in past eras, especially in Roman times. Simultaneously, what I had studied in the university reminded me of the English literature and its various references to women and the reactions attributed to them.
The West grievously criticizes Islam in its treatment of women, alleging that it ill-treated them and repudiated their rights. This assertion is baseless, contrary to this, Islam reveres women as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. This can be distinctly affirmed through an objective historical review of women and their position in society.
Judaism, for instance, disrespected women and attributed the human misery to Eve when she abetted Adam to eat from the forbidden tree and caused him to descend form Paradise. Unsurprisingly, Judaism refused a woman’s heirdom if she had a brother.
The Christian communities towards the end of the Middle Ages were reviewing and discussing women’s humanity out of scorn for them.
As for the heathen Brahmanism, it foolishly advocated abandoning women as a condition to enter Paradise and absolutely believed that women are indecent creatures who must be stripped of their rights. Therefore, a woman must burn herself on the death of her husband. The British colonialists in India found it impossible to abolish this custom. The Roman law oppressed woman, considering feminism a cause for interdiction like insanity and immaturity. Even the age of Chivalry which was called the age of woman, was really the age of the horse as John L. Davis described it in his book “The Concise History of Woman.”
Some pre-Islamic Arab communities gave women a meager consideration although they kept on treating them in a similar way as their contemporary nations. Some Arab tribes perpetuated infanticide against their baby daughters to ward off scandals, banned women to inherit anything and treated them as a bequest to the parents of the dead man. Women were often held captive and this was common place in these uncivilized communities.
Beyond all the aforesaid injustices which crippled the identity of women, Islam became so articulate as to enact the complete equity of woman, sharing rights and duties with men. It also respects a woman as a part and parcel of man’s life as they perform joint responsibilities in this existence. The Holy Quran is copious of examples of these social values, versing and emphasizing the unity of the creation of man and woman:-
“Who created you from a single person.
Created of like nature,
his mate.” [Surrat Al-Nisa’a (Women), verse 1]
In this respect, the Quran always refers to the duties of men and women in regard to responsibilities, reward and punishment:
“And their Lord have accepted
of them, and answered them:
“Never will I suffer to be lost
The work of any of you
Be he male or female
Ye are members, one of another,” [Surrat (the children of Imran) verse 195]
Many direct references can be seen elsewhere in the Quran, such as Surrat Al-Ahzab (the confederates) verse 35:
“For Muslims men and women”
“Devout men and women”These verses affirm the will of the all-wise God to enact equitable laws for men and women, as opposed to the above mentioned earthly social laws. Furthermore, Islam rejects any injustices practiced on women, raising them above the pre-Islamic era conventions and rescinding the acts of captivity, disrespect and equitably giving them the right of heirdom on equal par with men.
The references are exuberant in Islam “Quran & Sunnah,” e.g., Surrat Al-Nisa’a (Women) which comes as evidence of such respect, comprising heirdom systems. The heirdom division starts from verse 6 and follows on to the middle of the Surrah.
In addition to that, God shows the best outlet from argument and discord which occur in the family. Islam also gave women full serious rights, including freedom of selling and buying independently from men’s authority. This cannot be seen in any man-made laws from Europe to date. The French civil law which was being applied until 1939 did not allow a woman to use her properties outside the authority of her husband. Then, it was amended to some extent, showing partial freedom to women’s rights and submitting to certain conventions. Another example of this injustice towards women is in the German Civil law, which did not show flexibility towards women’s freedom of possessing any property before 1957.
Prophet Mohammed (P) recommended his nation to treat women fairly as men’s life partners, placing the importance of the mother even before the father. We know Islam cares so much about the community and its members in a full-scale equity. Thereupon, rights and duties are properly entitled and classified to every member in regard to his or her capacities. Therefore, women share in this just position appropriate to their nature, not on the basis of social differences. Many activities are better performed by women than men, such as household work, child care, as the famous dictum goes:
“Mother is like a school, if well-prepared, noble generations succeed on.”
Habeeb Ibraheem,
Member of the International Federation of Translators