Role of Women in Islam Past and Present

Mariam Abrar, GEND 341, Paula Humfrey, May 25, 2006. My selected topic is: Role of Women in Islam Past and Present In this paper I will argue that the position of women in Islam according to the Qur’an and Hadiths (tradition) of the Prophet differs vastly from Islam in practice, currentely. It is not the Islamic ideologies that determine the position of women in the Islamic societies; it is rather the pre-Islamic patriarchal ideologies existing in a particular society, combined with the lack of education and ignorance, which construct the Muslim women’s position.In the early days of Islam, women enjoyed more freedom than many Muslim women today. Women were protected by laws concerning such areas as inheritance, divorce, and property. Also, women and men were considered religiously equal, according to one interpretation of the Qu’ran, the Islamic holy book.

As Islam spread from Arabia into Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and farther east into the Indian subcontinent, it began taking on cultural aspects of those areas, through the normal process of diffusion. Examples of this are the seclusion of women and the covering of a woman’s face in public.The role of Islamic women began to be relegated to the order of the household, while men handled all public affairs.

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Many of these practices remain in varying degrees throughout the modern Islamic world. Working Women: Islamic law makes no demand that women should confine themselves to household duties. In fact the early Muslim women were found in all walks of life.

The first wife of the Prophet, mother of all his surviving children, was a businesswoman who hired him as an employee, and proposed marriage to him through a third party. Women traded in the marketplace, and the Khalifah Umar, not normally noted for his liberal attitude to women, appointed a woman, Shaff’a Bint Abdullah, to supervise the market. Other women, like Laila al-Ghifariah, took part in battles, carrying water and nursing the wounded, some, like Suffiah bint Abdul Muttalib even fought and killed the enemies to protect themselves and the Prophet* and like Umm Dhahhak bint Masoud were rewarded with booty in the same way as the men. Ibn Jarir and l-Tabari siad that women can be appointed to a judicial position to adjudicate in all matters, although Abu Hanifah excluded them from such weighty decisions as those involving the heavy hadd and qisas punishments, and other jurists said that women could not be judges at all. The Qur’an even speaks favorably of the Queen of Sheba and the way she consulted her advisors, who deferred to her good judgment on how to deal with the threat of invasion by the armies of Solomon. (Qur’an 27:32-35): Women can do work like men, but they do not have to do it to earn a living.They are allowed and encouraged to take the duties of marriage and motherhood seriously and are provided with the means to stay at home and do it properly.

Women are thus well provided for: their husbands support them, and they inherit from all their relations. They are allowed to engage in business or work at home or outside the house, so long as the family does not suffer, and the money they make is their own, with no calls on it from other people until their death. Nor are women expected to do the housework.If they have not been used to doing it, the husband is obliged to provide domestic help within his means, and to make sure that the food gets to his wife and children, already cooked. The Prophet* himself used to help with the domestic work, and mended his own shoes. Women are not even obliged in all cases to breast feed their own children. If a divorcing couple mutually agree, they can send the baby to a wet-nurse and the husband must pay for the suckling.

If the mother decides to keep the baby and suckle it herself, he must pay her for her trouble! Qur’an, (2:233):Relationships: When people talk about Islam, the stereotype belief is always presented that these women are veiled and emotionally abused by their caretakers, but this is not the case. We are unfortunately mixing customs with Islam. Women can do work like men, but they do not have to do it to earn a living.

They are allowed and encouraged to take the duties of marriage and motherhood seriously and are provided with the means to stay at home and do it properly. The majority of people try to blame the problem on religion however the real problem is cause by tribal customs.Religion does not play a big part on the status of women but it is tribal customs that play the big role in the status of women. Women’s views were listened to, respected, and usually supported, by the Prophet* as we have seen. Women have sometimes headed Islamic provinces, like Arwa bint Ahmad, who served as governor of Yemen under the Fatimid Khalifahs in the late fifth and early sixth century. Women are also entitled to respect as mothers: Allah says in the Qur’an (31:14): “And we have enjoined on man (to be good to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him.

.. According to The Prophet* “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”..

. and in another hadith the Prophet* told a man that his mother above all other people, even his father, was worthy of his highest respect and compassion. Hadiths are the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (May Peace Be Upon Him). Marriages in Islam: Marriage in Islam does not mean that the man takes over the woman’s property, nor does she automatically have the right to all his property if he dies intestate.Both are still regarded as individual people with responsibilities to other members of their family – parents, brothers, sisters etc. and inheritance rights illustrate this.

The Prophet* also advised that couples should see one another before getting married, so there is no Islamic basis for the custom of marrying young couples who have never set eyes on one another. If a woman does find that she cannot bear the man she is married to, even because she finds him ugly, Islamic law makes it possible for a court to give her a divorce from him.It is only necessary to prove that she hates him irrevocably – the court does not need to probe into the reasons for the hatred. The Prophet* granted divorces to at least two women in such circumstances. One of them, Jamila, the sister of the hypocrite Abdullah Ibn Ubayy, told the Prophet* about her objection to her husband Thabit Ibn Qais: No-one is allowed, without permission, to invade their privacy in their houses (24:27-28) not even their husbands when they return from a long journey.

Men are not allowed to treat them with disrespect, to look at them more than once, or to touch them -even, some hadiths seem to show, to shake their hands – and if anyone spreads rumors about their chastity without the support of four eye witnesses to the act itself, they themselves are liable to punishment in this life and the hereafter (24:23)! To make this demand for respect abundantly clear to the men, the wives of the Prophet are asked in the Qur’an to be modest in their appearance, and behavior, to stay quietly in their houses and not make a reat display of themselves as some well-known people were (and still are) prone to do; not to speak too pleasantly to men for fear of `those in whose hearts is a disease’, and to be pious and virtuous and pure. Ordinary Muslim women too are urged to lower their gaze and wrap themselves closely in their outer garments, letting their head-coverings fall over their neck opening, so that they may be recognized as respectable women and not molested. The Prophet’s wives are also reported to have covered part of their faces with their cloaks when they were among strange men.Many Muslim women, from the Prophet’s wives onwards, have aspired to the same degree of modesty and virtue as these passages enjoin and yet managed to participate actively in society by doing good deeds, working to help support their families, and/or pursuing their education. Women figured prominently among the earliest scholars of Islam. The Prophet’s wife Aishah was one of the foremost transmitters of hadiths and, like other wives and Companions of the Prophet was often surrounded by students wanting to learn from her: one of her pupils.

The life of Aishah is proof that a woman can be far more learned than men and that she can be the teacher of scholars and experts. Her life is also proof that a woman can exert influence over men and women and provide them with inspiration and leadership. Her life is also proof that the same woman can be totally feminine and be a source of pleasure, joy and comfort to her husband. I have heard that women are forced to marry men without their consent. This in no way resembles the marriage system in Islam.In Islam the woman marries the man of her choice. She may even marry someone that her mother and/or father object to.

The point is that it is the woman who makes the final decision as to whom she will marry. Once the man and the woman decide that they are interested in one another for marriage, a dowry is decided upon. A dowry is not a bride’s price but, it is a gift from the groom to the bride.

They agree upon a gift that is affordable by the groom. In the time of the Prophet days, often things such as livestock and money were given.This is a wise decision in the event that a woman becomes divorced or widowed; she has some financial security to fall back on even if it is for a limited amount of time. Once the man and woman are married, the man is required to clothe, feed, shelter and educate her (or allow her to be educated) in the same manner as he does himself. In some countries different customs are followed which are creating these harsh images, but there are no such things in Islamic laws. Islam has the most humane and most just system of divorce that exists. Firstly, many options are taken and tried before coming to the decision of the divorce.

If the man and woman decide that they can no longer live together successfully as a husband and wife, the husband (in most cases, not always) pronounces the divorce by saying “I divorce you”. At this point the waiting period begins. The waiting period lasts for three menstrual cycles to assure the woman is not pregnant. This period allows the couple time to think about what they are doing and if this is what they really want to do. In the case that it is realized, that the woman is pregnant, the waiting period lasts the entire time she is pregnant.During the waiting period (whether the woman is pregnant or not) the man is obligated to provide food, clothing and shelter to the woman as he did before the divorce pronouncement. If the couple carries the divorce through to the birth of the child and the woman suckles the baby, the man is obligated to feed and clothe both his ex-wife for the time the woman suckles (the maximum being two years). After this weaning, the child will be provided for by the father until he/she is no longer in need of support.

Stereotyped belief:These are some of the misunderstanding which has been created and I will try to clear them up in the lights of Islamic laws and books I read and from my own cultural background I must say that the conditions for women are a lot better than in the past. Much of the practices and laws in “Islamic” countries have deviated from or are totally unrelated to the origins of Islam. Instead many of these practices are based on cultural or traditional customs which have been injected into these societies. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive by law.This rule, in a country which is supposed to derive its law from Islamic legislation, is completely an invention of the Saudi monarchy. This horrific rule as well as a host of others is residues of old pre-Islamic tribal traditions where women were not entitled to the same rights as men.

As another example, in some “Islamic” countries, many civil laws remain those that were imposed upon them during European colonization. Much of the civil law that legislates personal and family matters in Egypt, for example, is directly based on old French law. As a result, an Egyptian man can divorce his wife uch more easily than the reverse. Consequently, women often have to suffer long and expensive court procedures and have to prove that they were mistreated by their husbands before being granted a divorce. Often times, laws in Middle Eastern countries, which are legislated and enforced by men, only take bits and pieces of Islamic law and combine them with concocted rules based upon some cultural or foreign practices. Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 70’s there has been a magnifying glass placed over the status of Muslim women. The western influenced media portrays our dress to be outdated and oppressive.Needless to say however, I differ with these adjectives.

Our dress code does not hinder us from doing anything productive in our lives. Muslim women maintain a variety of jobs under necessity, none of which are devalued nor hampered due to their dress code. And as for the timing of Muslims women’s dress during these contemporary times, it seems most appropriate due to decreasing morals in the world today. The status of women in Islam is one of equality and honor. Unfortunately, in the current day and age, though there are many societies in which the majority of citizens are Muslim, there are no Islamic nations.Some of the famous women who are well known in history are Fatimid Princess in Egypt, Sitt al – Mulk one such famous woman was Razia Sultana of India, who took power in Delhi in the year 1236 C. E.

Another queen bearing the title of sultana was Shajarat al-Durr, who gained power in Cairo in 1250 C. E. like any other military leader. In fact, she brought the Muslims a victory during the Crusades and captured the King of France, Louis IX  Muslim women are gaining more power in the world of politics today. Here are three Muslim women who were the Prime Ministers and are still leaders of their countries.Benazir Bhutto Prime Minister of Pakistan D.

Khaleda Zia – Primer Minister of Bangladesh (1991-1996) Sheikh Hasina Wajed, prime minister of Bangladesh Contemporary Muslim women around the world are engaged in politics, education, business ownership, engineering, medicine, and many other fields. They are actively contributing to the development of medical and technological advancements, improvements to our public education systems, awareness of the need for political and civic involvement, civil rights protection, and building interfaith relations.Shirin Ebadi – a lawyer, judge, writer, and activist – was not only the first female judge in Iran but was the first Iranian to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was awarded the prize in 2003 for her efforts on building democracy and improving human rights. Ebadi helped found the Society for Protecting Child’s Rights in Iran and wrote a book entitled “History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran. ” Muslim women reporters on Arab satellite stations, some wearing Islamic head scarves, interview international leaders, confront controversial subjects and openly debate current issues.Several women have been heads of state in Muslim nations. Merve Kavakci, a pioneer of the women’s political movement in Turkey, was elected to the Turkish Parliament but not allowed to take the oath of office because of her Islamic scarf.

After returning to the United States, she began lobbying for women’s rights in Turkey. On the local level, women are on the boards of mosques and Islamic organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). A woman heads the nation’s largest Muslim student group.

Strong and dynamic women are enhancing the effectiveness of these organizations by addressing a variety of issues in the local Muslim community. References Husain Shujaat, Womens’s Role under Islam: Anmol Publications New Delhi, 2004. In this book the writer wants to accomplish the fact that under Islam women are given equal rights in every aspect of life. Mahnaz Afkhami, Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World; Syracuse University Press, 1995.

In this book the writer is emphasizing that one must first separate the religion from the cultural norms and style of a society.E. g. Forced marriages may still take place in certain Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, but, Islam insists on the free consent of both bride and groom, so such marriages could even be deemed illegal under religious law.

Smith, Margaret, Muslim Women Mystics: the Life and Work of Rabia and Other Women Mystics in Islam; One world Publications; 2001This book revolves around the life of Rabi’a of Basra a great and well known personality in Muslim world. The Holy, Qur’an: Translation of verses is heavily based on A.Yusuf Ali’s translation, The Glorious Qur’an, text translation, and Commentary, The American Trust Publication, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1979. Whenever necessary, slight modifications of this translation were made by the author of this work in the interest of improved clarity and accuracy. http://www. islamfortoday.

com/ruqaiyyah. htm http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Women_in_Islam Women in Pakistan and other Islamic countries: a selected bibliography with annotations / researched and annotated by Nighat Ayub; edited by Aban Marker. [Karachi]: Women Resource Centre, 1978.



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