Women's Rights in Islaam

The Muslim woman has been bestowed with many rights by Allaah Almighty, and it is of great importance in Da'wah that she - the Muslim woman - familiarises herself with the rights that Islaam has blessed her with. Not only will she, herself, then appreciate Islaam more, but in the eyes of those people who think she is 'oppressed' and without rights, she will be able to effectively prove their views wrong. So much so that many of their women, when realising the rights Islaam has given the Muslim woman, will feel envious of her dignified position in Islaam.

Hayaa' itself is derived from the word Hayaat which means life. This term covers a wide number of concepts. In English it may be translated as: modesty, shyness, self-respect, bashfulness, shame, honour, humility, etc. The original meaning of Hayaa' according to a believer's nature, refers to a bad and uneasy feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one's fear of being exposed or censured for some unworthy or indecent conduct which is displeasing to Allaah [s].

Islamically Hayaa' is an attribute which pushes the believer to avoid anything distasteful or abominable. It keeps him/her from being neglectful in giving everyone what is due upon them, and if for any reason he/she is not able to keep up with a commitment then they will feel extremely uncomfortable and ashamed about this. The reason being that Allaah will be displeased by this. Hayaa' plays a huge role in the lives of Muslims because it is a very important part of our Imaan (faith/belief). If we do not have any form of Hayaa' within us then it is most likely that our Imaan is very weak. The Prophet [p] said:

"Faith (belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Hayaa' is a part of faith." (Al-Bukhari)

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waterfall scenery-1753The horrific and heartbreaking news from India is tragic enough on its own: two alleged victims of gang rape have died, one a 23-year-old woman who succumbed to her wounds and a 17-year-old girl who took her own life after being pressured to marry one of her alleged attackers.

These stories are awful enough on their own, but sadly they also bring to mind other similar cases we saw during 2012.

These cases include the 16-year-old Moroccan girl who took her life after being ordered by the court (albeit without relying on Islamic law) to marry the man who allegedly raped her, and similar cases in Jordan involving 14- and 15-year-old girls. In these and other cases, the societies involved -- and their legal systems -- advocated pardoning rapists if a deal could be struck for them to marry their victim. Morocco has its clause 457 (the origins of which go back to French law and is said to be intended only for cases of consensual premarital sex), and Jordan has its article 308. Similar laws exist in other countries where, apparently, the honor of a woman reflects on her family in a perverse way where, where the stigma of rape outweighs the sanctity of that woman's life and dignity.

When I read of these cases I am always left baffled at how a minority of Muslims can support allowing a rapist to obtain a pardon by marrying his victim, often by pressuring their victims and their families to cooperate. As a specialist in Islamic law, I know that these cases are egregious violations of what Islam teaches on the rights of victims, the definition of justice and the meaning of marriage.

The Islamic worldview is clear concerning the rights and obligations of self-defense and defending others from attacks against person and dignity. This is especially the case for sexual assault, where a woman is obligated to fend off her attacker and bystanders are obligated to come to her assistance. Obviously, the fulfillment of such an obligation depends greatly on the circumstances she finds herself in, her state of mind, her ability to fend him off, and so forth. Regardless of whether or not she manages to even attempt to do so, it is still rape, and must be treated as such. Some scholars advocate that a woman's self-defense extends even to the after-effects of an attack, including restoring their feeling of security, treating the emotional trauma, and aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape. Advocates of this position argue that this is consistent with the noble purposes of the sacred law that place protection of the life and the intellect of the woman above protection of lineage, property and reputation. The sacred law is also clear that marriage is a relationship based on affection, mutual respect, intimacy, trust, kindness and a refuge from uncontrolled carnal lust.

Compelling a rape victim to marry her rapist (alleged or convicted) denies her the opportunity to defend herself and exposes her to additional attacks against her person, intellect and dignity. It also forces her to live in a relationship that is based upon hatred, alienation, violation and abuse, and it rewards her attacker for his violence.

Exhortations to mercy are ingrained in Islam. Pardoning rapists who agree to marry their victim and compelling their victims to do so are mercy's antithesis.

We have already seen that compelling victims to marry their rapists has the potential to lead to suicide. Forcing victims to marry in such a way places family dignity above her own life, intellect and dignity, which is opposite the order of priorities assigned by the sacred law. How can one reconcile this inversion of priorities with the Islamic worldview which views spreading corruption and the wrongful taking of a single life each as akin to slaying mankind in its entirety, and the saving of a single life akin to saving mankind in its entirety (Quran 5:32)?

Some advocates do so on the grounds that it is cultural and falls within Islam's flexibility toward local culture and custom, and that local culture places such a great shame on rape (whether alleged or proven) that the victim is better off married to her rapist (alleged or convicted) or better off dead. While it is true that the sacred law does include a degree of flexibility regarding local culture and custom, it is limited to those that do not contradict the sacred law or subvert its noble purposes. In short, the sacred law affirms practices that agree but rejects practices that contract or subvert it.

Other advocates suggest that the laws are intended to apply only in cases of consensual sex, such as when couples do so in hopes of forcing their families to allow them to marry, and that when reported, the act is recorded as rape. Using this term to somehow protect society from the shame of admitting that women engage in consensual premarital sex opens a life-destroying door of forcing women who were already wronged to an even greater wrong, often leading them to take their own life out of anguish and desperation.

There is something deeply wrong when even a small part of a Muslim society views the shame of a single rape to outweigh facilitating the spread of corruption and the wrongful taking of life.

The earliest generation of Muslims took pride in their compliance to the Quran's injunction to abandon female infanticide, an act that was often done to prevent shame to the family. Thus for centuries, Muslims have taken pride in their contributions to the rising status of women. But what pride is there in abandoning burying one's young daughters in the sand only for them to grow to adulthood wishing that they had been? These tragically frequent stories of women violated over and over again can only be described as the perversion of Islam. Unfortunately, by Muslims themselves.

Source: This was first published in the Washington Post.

hijabmaroonI am grateful that I married a traditional woman.

I don't sacrifice any freedom for love. I am in charge. My wife is comfortable with that. I am twice as free as when I was single.

My wife is passive by nature. Passivity is the natural female principle. The marriage of active (male) and passive (female) is the basis of heterosexuality.

But it is heresy to say so.

Women are actually ashamed to want to be homemakers. How did this happen? How did motherhood go from being honored to being stigmatized? This change in attitude is the trajectory of Illuminist subversion of America. Obviously, the Illuminists prefer women to be corporate widgets rather than wives and mothers.

A woman needs a man to love her. The notion that she should be "independent" and career oriented is absurd. As if pounding a mail route is superior to making a home and caring for loved ones. As if obeying a boss is superior to assisting the man she chose to love and marry.

There is no greater blessing than a woman whose grace, beauty and love warms a home like sunshine. There is no greater gift than the precious love she gives husband and children.

THE PASSIVE (FEMALE) PRINCIPLE

The passive principle is the earth principle. The earth receives sunshine, water and seed and produces life. A woman receives a man's love and seed and performs the miracle of giving birth to a human being.

A healthy woman in love wants to recreate her husband in her children.

Carrying and nurturing the young is the essence of female psychology. The denial of this reveals the Illuminists' desire to override nature and control all human life.

Being a wife and mother is what makes a woman tick. She needs to be intensely needed and loved by her husband and children.

These roles are passive by nature. They involve a great deal of adaptation and self sacrifice. But they also require that she is not taken for granted. A wife and mother must be cherished and honored for her priceless contribution.

A woman is not going to be loved permanently for her appearance which is transitory, or for her accomplishments. Love is not like that. We love the people who sacrifice for us.

Men also sacrifice by supporting their families and providing leadership and love. Happiness can only be found in love, not self-seeking. Love is self-sacrifice. Human beings were designed to look after each other.

In contrast, Illuminism sees "freedom" as self indulgence. This is not the "truth that will make you free."

The model I am describing used to be second nature. It has become esoteric knowledge. It is not for everyone. I offer it to those looking for an alternative to feminist dysfunction. You will find your own balance.

Marriage is under constant assault. This formula has worked for centuries and still works today.

THE ACTIVE (MALE) PRINCIPLE

The Male Principle is the God Principle – energy, form and direction.

Women want to look up to their husbands. They tend to seek men who are older and more successful. Why? They want their husband to be like their father was (or should have been), strong, capable, reliable, protective and nurturing.

More than anything, they are seeking emotional and physical security. They feel most secure when they feel possessed by a strong, loving man.

A man should prepare himself for this role. He should have a clear vision of what he wants to do with his life. If he is lost, he might ask God how he can serve Him. What was I born to do?

A man's work should be his first priority and source of challenge and self-confidence. In contrast, a woman was not designed to get meaning from career. For her, career is secondary to being loved and needed.

Despite what feminists say, a man should never show weakness. The essence of masculinity is power. If he is weak, he loses a woman's respect. If he lacks confidence, he should gain it by setting goals and achieving them.

A man should never think of any woman as a sine qua non. That puts him in a position of weakness. (She has to pass your test, not vice-versa.)

A man should never succumb to emotional blackmail. If a woman is withholding love or sulking, he should give her time to get over it.

A man should know what role he wants his wife to play. A man usually chooses on the basis of sexual attraction. What else does he want? I appreciate my wife's reasonableness, intelligence, competence, and sense of humor. Think of the long haul. You need someone who is easy to live with.

Most women were meant to be wives and mothers. A man should think about becoming a father and the responsibility this entails. He is not only providing for his offspring, but also teaching them how to be human beings. He is creating a new world, a family.

A man will not care about something that doesn't belong to him. He should find a woman who is prepared to surrender power in exchange for love. A creature with two heads is a monster. A family with two heads will go in two directions. The man is the head; the woman is the heart.

Marriage is about dependence, not independence. It is about union, two people becoming one. For women, surrender of power is the essence of love. If a woman can't trust a man with her life, she doesn't love him and shouldn't marry him.

Marriage is about possession and being possessed, which most men and women crave. A successful union is the only thing that satisfies the spiritual hunger underlying the sex drive, and prevents wander lust.

The heterosexual contract is this. The husband has the power and he does his best within reason to make his wife happy. A man cannot love a woman if he doesn't have the power to grant her wishes.

But a man must keep his end of the contract, or the marriage is off. He must be loyal, and show every day how much he appreciates her.

CUTTING THROUGH THE FOG: THE STALINIZATION OF LOVE

The vast majority of people find their identity and values in family. Destroy the family and the state is in control.

Incredible as it sounds, the Illuminists are building a world police state. The international bankers finagled the right to create money out of nothing and collect interest on it. They need a police state to protect this racket and make sure no country defaults. They own the mass media, politicians, and dominate big business.

Feminism is the cover for a sophisticated illuminist propaganda program. We have been brainwashed.

Nobody has a problem with treating women as equal to men. Feminism treats women as though they were men. It portrays heterosexuality as pathology and discriminates against men. Women are favored for jobs so they will have careers instead of children and men can't support their families.

Society is being sabotaged. Alas, this is what the "war on terror" is really about, enslaving the world, not protecting it.

Bella Dodd, a former leader of the American Communist Party revealed:

"The bourgeois family as a social unit was to be made obsolete."

The aim was to:

"create a new type of human being that would conform to the world they confidently expected to control."

The bankers use Communism is to overthrow the Christian foundations of Western civilization and put themselves in charge. This is the true meaning of revolution.

The Rockefeller Foundation funds feminism. I searched RF and "Women's Studies" in Google and got 137,000 entries. They have funded population control and eugenics research for decades, here, in the USSR and in Nazi Germany.

With women usurping the male role, we are becoming a homosexual society. There is a difference between accepting homosexuals as human beings, which I do, and allowing society as a whole to become homosexual.

Sound extreme? Consider this.

Homosexuality is the inability to form a permanent bond with a member of the opposite sex. It is commonly characterized by an obsession with sex and promiscuity. Sex becomes a surrogate for love. Doesn't this describe society today?

Homosexuals generally have sex but no families or children. The bankers want us to have fewer children, and indeed the birth rate has plummeted since the 1960′s.

The Illuminists aren't afraid of gays, single mothers or children. They are afraid of proud strong men who have families to protect. This is behind the degradation of men.

An ad for Swanson's TV Dinners goes like this. Working mom asked for a big bowl she can eat on the run. Swanson responded. Kids wanted something for after school. Swanson responded. "Dad wanted to wear mom's frilly under things!" Picture father with a goofy smile. "We didn't know how to respond." This is an example of the ongoing corporate attack on masculinity. The Whiskas cat food ads are another. They would never portray women as cats.

"First You Get the Women, Then You've Got the Children, So Follow the Men" -Adolph Hitler

CONCLUSION

We can fight the New World Order by having strong male-led families.

After many marital mishaps, I now have a frictionless marriage. My wife and I complement each other. She doesn't compete, criticize, complain or try to control, the four C's. She tells me if something is wrong. I try to make her happy. She's part of me.

Because of her passive nature, I don't feel like I must constantly anticipate and meet her expectations. Rather she allows me to propose. Usually, she assents. When she doesn't, we compromise. Her acquiescence empowers and completes me.

I love her. She commits the unpardonable crime. She is good to a man.

flowerspinkelegantDivorce rates are far higher among "modern" couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion's share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.

In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

"What we've seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn't necessarily contribute to contentment," said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled "Equality in the Home".

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.

"One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite," he said.

The figures clearly show that: "the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate," he went on.

The reasons, Mr Hansen said, lay only partially with the chores themselves.

"Maybe it's sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity ... where one person is not stepping on the other's toes," he suggested.

"There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight."

But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of "modern" couples rather than the chores they shared.

"Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage" as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said.

"In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce," he said. Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as "happy" those in "modern" couples.

Dr Frank Furedi, Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, said the study made sense as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high.

"These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"The more you organise your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one.

"That tends to encourage a conflict of interest rather than finding harmonious resolutions." He said while the survey applied to Norway, he was confident the results would be the same in the UK.

"In a good relationship people simply don't know who does what and don't particularly care.

"Unless marriage is a relationship above anything else, then whenever there are tensions or contradictions things come to a head. You have less capacity to forgive and absorb the bad stuff."

The survey appeared to contradict another recent one across seven countries including Britain that found that men who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance.

The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women's happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.

Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.

Experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life.

Source: The Telegraph.

coupleIt should be noted that it is the wife’s right for the husband to teach her about matters of her religion that she does not know about and of which she cannot afford to remain ignorant.

It was narrated from Abu Moosa Al-Ash’ari (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “There are three who will have a double reward...A man who Has a slave woman and he trains Her well and teaches her well, then he sets her free and marries her. He will have a double reward." (A Saheeh Hadith. It was narrated by Al-Bukhari (1/29), Muslim (1/134), Al-Tirmidhi (1116), Al-Nasaa’i (6/115), Ibn Maajah (1956) via Al-Sha’bi from Abu Burdah from Abu Moosa)

In his Saheeh, Al-Bukhaari narrated this hadeeth in a chanter entitled: “A man teaching his slave woman and his wife.”

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Al-Fath (1/229):

"This Hadeeth refers to a slave woman, but may be extended by analogy to one’s wife, because it is more important to teach a free wife about her duties towards Allaah and the Sunnahs of His Messenger than one’s slave woman."

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (ra) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock the man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for them...” (A Saheeh Hadeeth narrated by Muslim (3/1459), Al-Tirmidhi (1705) via Al-Layth ibn Sa’d, from Naafi’, from Ibn ‘Umar)

A man’s caring for his family does not only involve providing food, drink and clothing, rather he must also teach them about their religion, because attention to religious matters takes precedence over attention to worldly matters.

If the husband is not able to teach his wife, or he does not have the knowledge that she needs of religious matters, then he may go out and ask knowledgeable people on her behalf.

If he does not do that, then he has to allow her to go out in order to ask questions and learn. It is not permissible for him to prevent her from taking steps to learn how to practice her religion properly, which is obligatory upon her. If he does that then he is sinning. If she cannot find anyone to go out on her behalf, then she may go out to the extent that is necessary.

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shineflowerFirst of all, it is to be stressed that Islam does not encourage interfaith marriages. The general rule of Islam is that Muslims should marry Muslims. A Muslim male or female should not marry a non-Muslim male or female. The only exception is given to Muslim men who are allowed to marry the chaste girls from among the People of the Book.

However, a Muslim woman is better suited to a Muslim man than a woman of Christian or Jewish faith, regardless of her merits. This is because marriage is not based on fulfilling one’s sexual desires; rather, it is an institution. It aims to establish a home on the bases of tranquility, faith and Islamic morals. To fulfil this task, the whole family must apply Allah’s course and try to convey His message.

It is obvious that Islam made it impermissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim with aim of keeping her away from things that may jeopardize her faith. In fact, Islam aims at protecting religion. To achieve this goal, it prohibits a Muslim from being involved in something that represents a threat to his religion. A Muslim woman will not feel that her religion is secure while being with a Jewish or a Christian husband especially as the majority of the People of the Book do not show due respect to our Prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Allah Almighty says: “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! The guidance of Allah (Himself) is Guidance. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, then wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” (Al-Baqarah: 120)

Given the fact that the husband is generally the head of the household, it's not far-fetched for a non-Muslim husband to prevent his Muslim wife from performing some Islamic rituals which may seem a nuisance to him, for example fasting, or even refraining from marital relations during the fast. As a result, he might force her to change her religion, and if she refuses, the situation may culminate in divorce.

As for why Islam allows a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, it's clear that every Muslim believes in Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) and he holds all the Prophets of Allah in high esteem. Thus a Muslim finds no harm in his wife’s being a Christian or a Jew, for the spirit of tolerance Islam holds for other religions is ingrained in him.

In his response to the question you raised, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council, states:

"If Allah is the one who prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim, then we as Muslims are supposed to believe it and to take it. As a matter of faith, you cannot become a Muslim unless you accept everything when it is ordained by Allah or carried out by his Messenger. The Qur'an says, "O Ye who believe! Put not yourselves forward before Allah and His Messenger…" (Al-Hujurat: )
If you ask about the benefits of not marrying a non-Muslim, we can count you many reasons. A man is the manager of his household... Moreover, marriage is an institution for elevating our levels of having a good Islamic life. Pleasing Allah is our number one goal. If a woman is married to a non-Muslim, maybe the only thing she will accomplish in her marital life is what is good for livestock."

Therefore, it is haraam for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, regardless of whether he is of the People of the Book or not. Allah (Almighty) says: "...and do not marry (your girls) to idolaters until they believe..." (Al-Baqarah: 221)

And He said concerning the immigrant Muslim women: "Then if you know them to be Believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are not lawful for them (as wives), nor are they lawful for them (as husbands)." (Al-Mumtahanah: 10)

No text exists which makes exceptions for the People of the Book. Hence, on the basis of the above verses, there is a consensus among Muslims concerning this prohibition.

Thus, while a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man. There are many sound reasons for this difference. First, the man is the head of the household, the one who maintains the family, and he is responsible for his wife.

And while Islam guarantees freedom of belief and practice to the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim, safeguarding her rights according to her own faith, other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, do not guarantee the wife of a different faith freedom of belief and practice, nor do they safeguard her rights. Since this is the case, how can Islam take chances on the future of its daughters by giving them into the hands of people who neither honor their religion nor are concerned to protect their rights?

A marriage between a man and woman of different faiths can be based only on the husband's respect for his wife's beliefs; otherwise a good relationship can never develop. Now, the Muslim believes that both Judaism and Christianity originated in divine revelation, although later distortions were introduced into them. He also believes that God revealed the Tawrah to Moses and the Injeel to Jesus, and that both Moses and Jesus (peace be on them) were among the Messengers of Allah who were distinguished by their steadfast determination. Accordingly, the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim lives under the protection of a man who respects the basic tenets of her faith, her Scripture, and her Prophets, while in contrast to this the Jew or Christian recognizes neither the Divine origin of Islam, its Book, or its Prophet (peace be on him).

How then could a Muslim woman live with such a man, while her religion requires of her the observance of certain worships, duties, and obligations, as well as certain prohibitions. It would be impossible for the Muslim woman to retain her respect for her beliefs as well as to practice her religion properly if she were opposed in this regard by the master of the house at every step.

It will be realized from this that Islam is consistent with itself in prohibiting the Muslim man to marry a mushrik (polytheist) woman, for since Islam is absolutely opposed to shirk (polytheism), it would obviously be impossible for two such people to live together in harmony and love.

jilbaab1555The one question all the non-Muslims, who had read an earlier version of this study, had in common was: do Muslim women in the Muslim world today receive this noble treatment described here? The answer, unfortunately, is: No. Since this question is inevitable in any discussion concerning the status of women in Islam, we have to elaborate on the answer in order to provide the reader with the complete picture.

It has to be made clear first that the vast differences among Muslim societies make most generalizations too simplistic. There is a wide spectrum of attitudes towards women in the Muslim world today. These attitudes differ from one society to another and within each individual society. Nevertheless, certain general trends are discernible. Almost all Muslim societies have, to one degree or another, deviated from the ideals of Islam with respect to the status of women. These deviations have, for the most part, been in one of two opposite directions. The first direction is more conservative, restrictive, and traditions-oriented, while the second is more liberal and Western-oriented.

The societies that have digressed in the first direction treat women according to the customs and traditions inherited from their forebears. These traditions usually deprive women of many rights granted to them by Islam. Besides, women are treated according to standards far different from those applied to men. This discrimination pervades the life of any female: she is received with less joy at birth than a boy; she is less likely to go to school; she might be deprived any share of her family's inheritance; she is under continuous surveillance in order not to behave immodestly while her brother's immodest acts are tolerated; she might even be killed for committing what her male family members usually boast of doing; she has very little say in family affairs or community interests; she might not have full control over her property and her marriage gifts; and finally as a mother she herself would prefer to produce boys so that she can attain a higher status in her community.

On the other hand, there are Muslim societies (or certain classes within some societies) that have been swept over by the Western culture and way of life. These societies often imitate unthinkingly whatever they receive from the West and usually end up adopting the worst fruits of Western civilization. In these societies, a typical "modern" woman's top priority in life is to enhance her physical beauty. Therefore, she is often obsessed with her body's shape, size, and weight. She tends to care more about her body than her mind and more about her charms than her intellect. Her ability to charm, attract, and excite is more valued in the society than her educational achievements, intellectual pursuits, and social work. One is not expected to find a copy of the Qur'an in her purse since it is full of cosmetics that accompany her wherever she goes. Her spirituality has no room in a society preoccupied with her attractiveness. Therefore, she would spend her life striving more to realize her femininity than to fulfil her humanity.

Why did Muslim societies deviate from the ideals of Islam? There is no easy answer. A penetrating explanation of the reasons why Muslims have not adhered to the Qur'anic guidance with respect to women would be beyond the scope of this study. It has to be made clear, however, that Muslim societies have deviated from the Islamic precepts concerning so many aspects of their lives for so long. There is a wide gap between what Muslims are supposed to believe in and what they actually practice. This gap is not a recent phenomenon. It has been there for centuries and has been widening day after day. This ever widening gap has had disastrous consequences on the Muslim world manifested in almost all aspects of life: political tyranny and fragmentation, economic backwardness, social injustice, scientific bankruptcy, intellectual stagnation, etc. The non-Islamic status of women in the Muslim world today is merely a symptom of a deeper malady. Any reform in the current status of Muslim women is not expected to be fruitful if not accompanied with more comprehensive reforms of the Muslim societies' whole way of life. The Muslim world is in need for a renaissance that will bring it closer to the ideals of Islam and not further from them. To sum up, the notion that the poor status of Muslim women today is because of Islam is an utter misconception. The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, they are the culmination of a long and deep detachment from it.

It has, also, to be re-emphasized that the purpose behind this comparative study is not, by any means, to defame Judaism or Christianity. The position of women in the Judaeo-Christian tradition might seem frightening by our late twentieth century standards. Nevertheless, it has to be viewed within the proper historical context. In other words, any objective assessment of the position of women in the Judaeo-Christian tradition has to take into account the historical circumstances in which this tradition developed. There can be no doubt that the views of the Rabbis and the Church Fathers regarding women were influenced by the prevalent attitudes towards women in their societies. The Bible itself was written by different authors at different times. These authors could not have been impervious to the values and the way of life of the people around them. For example, the adultery laws of the Old Testament are so biased against women that they defy rational explanation by our mentality. However, if we consider the fact that the early Jewish tribes were obsessed with their genetic homogeneity and extremely eager to define themselves apart from the surrounding tribes and that only sexual misconduct by the married females of the tribes could threaten these cherished aspirations, we should then be able to understand, but not necessarily sympathize with, the reasons for this bias. Also, the diatribes of the Church Fathers against women should not be detached from the context of the misogynist Greco-Roman culture in which they lived. It would be unfair to evaluate the Judaeo-Christian legacy without giving any consideration to the relevant historical context.

In fact, a proper understanding of the Judaeo-Christian historical context is also crucial for understanding the significance of the contributions of Islam to world history and human civilization. The Judaeo-Christian tradition had been influenced and shaped by the environments, conditions, and cultures in which it had existed. By the seventh century C.E., this influence had distorted the original divine message revealed to Moses and Jesus beyond recognition. The poor status of women in the Judaeo-Christian world by the seventh century is just one case in point. Therefore, there was a great need for a new divine message that would guide humanity back to the straight path. The Qur'an described the mission of the new Messenger as a release for Jews and Christians from the heavy burdens that had been upon them:

"Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures - in the Law and the Gospel - For he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good and prohibits them from what is bad; He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them." [Al-Qur'an 7:157]

Therefore, Islam should not be viewed as a rival tradition to Judaism or Christianity. It has to be regarded as the consummation, completion, and perfection of the divine messages that had been revealed before it.

At the end of this study, I would like to offer the following advice to the global Muslim community. So many Muslim women have been denied their basic Islamic rights for so long. The mistakes of the past have to be corrected. To do that is not a favor, it is a duty incumbent upon all Muslims. The worldwide Muslim community have to issue a charter of Muslim women's rights based on the instructions of the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet of Islam. This charter must give Muslim women all the rights endowed to them by their Creator. Then, all the necessary means have to be developed in order to ensure the proper implementation of the charter. This charter is long overdue, but it is better late than never. If Muslims worldwide will not guarantee the full Islamic rights of their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, who else will?

Furthermore, we must have the courage to confront our past and reject outright the traditions and customs of our forefathers whenever they contravene the precepts of Islam. Did the Qur'an not severely criticize the pagan Arabs for blindly following the traditions of their ancestors? On the other hand, we have to develop a critical attitude towards whatever we receive from the West or from any other culture. Interaction with and learning from other cultures is an invaluable experience. The Qur'an has succinctly considered this interaction as one of the purposes of creation:

"O mankind We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other." [Al-Qur'an49:13]

It goes without saying, however, that blind imitation of others is a sure sign of an utter lack of self-esteem.

It is to the non-Muslim reader, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise, that these final words are dedicated. It is bewildering why the religion that had revolutionized the status of women is being singled out and denigrated as so repressive of women. This perception about Islam is one of the most widespread myths in our world today. This myth is being perpetuated by a ceaseless barrage of sensational books, articles, media images, and Hollywood movies. The inevitable outcome of these incessant misleading images has been total misunderstanding and fear of anything related to Islam. This negative portrayal of Islam in the world media has to end if we are to live in a world free from all traces of discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Non-Muslims ought to realize the existence of a wide gap between Muslims' beliefs and practices and the simple fact that the actions of Muslims do not necessarily represent Islam. To label the status of women in the Muslim world today as "Islamic" is as far from the truth as labelling the position of women in the West today as "Judaeo-Christian". With this understanding in mind, Muslims and non-Muslims should start a process of communication and dialogue in order to remove all misconceptions, suspicions, and fears. A peaceful future for the human family necessitates such a dialogue.

Islam should be viewed as a religion that had immensely improved the status of women and had granted them many rights that the modern world has recognized only this century. Islam still has so much to offer today's woman: dignity, respect, and protection in all aspects and all stages of her life from birth until death in addition to the recognition, the balance, and means for the fulfilment of all her spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional needs. No wonder most of those who choose to become Muslims in a country like Britain are women. In the U.S. women converts to Islam outnumber male converts 4 to 1. [The Times, Nov. 18, 1993]

Islam has so much to offer our world which is in great need of moral guidance and leadership. Ambassador Herman Eilts, in a testimony in front of the committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress on June 24th, 1985, said:

"The Muslim community of the globe today is in the neighbourhood of one billion. That is an impressive figure. But what to me is equally impressive is that Islam today is the fastest growing monotheistic religion. This is something we have to take into account. Something is right about Islam. It is attracting a good many people."

Yes, something is right about Islam and it is time to find that out. I hope this study is a step towards this direction.

flowersniqabFinally, let us shed some light on what is considered in the West as the greatest symbol of women's oppression and servitude, the veil or the head cover. Is it true that there is no such thing as the veil in the Judaeo-Christian tradition? Let us set the record straight. According to Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University) in his book, The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature, it was the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free. [Menachem M. Brayer, The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature: A Psychosocial Perspective, Hoboken, N.J: Ktav Publishing House, 1986, p. 239]

He quotes some famous ancient Rabbis saying,

"It is not like the daughters of Israel to walk out with heads uncovered" and "Cursed be the man who lets the hair of his wife be seen....a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment brings poverty."

Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of blessings or prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering the woman's hair is considered "nudity". [Ibid., pp. 316-317. Also see Swidler, op. cit., pp. 121-123]

Dr. Brayer also mentions that

"During the Tannaitic period the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offense."

Dr. Brayer also explains that veil of the Jewish woman was not always considered a sign of modesty. Sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction and luxury rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority of noble women. It also represented a woman's inaccessibility as a sanctified possession of her husband. [Ibid., p. 139]

The veil signified a woman's self-respect and social status. Women of lower classes would often wear the veil to give the impression of a higher standing. The fact that the veil was the sign of nobility was the reason why prostitutes were not permitted to cover their hair in the old Jewish society. However, prostitutes often wore a special headscarf in order to look respectable. Jewish women in Europe continued to wear veils until the nineteenth century when their lives became more intermingled with the surrounding secular culture. The external pressures of the European life in the nineteenth century forced many of them to go out bare-headed. Some Jewish women found it more convenient to replace their traditional veil with a wig as another form of hair covering. Today, most pious Jewish women do not cover their hair except in the synagogue. [Susan W. Schneider, Jewish and Female, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984, pp. 237-239]

Some of them, such as the Hasidic sects, still use the wig. [Alexandra Wright, Judaism, in Holm and Bowker, ed., op. cit., pp. 128-129]

What about the Christian tradition? It is well known that Catholic Nuns have been covering their heads for hundreds of years, but that is not all. St. Paul in the New Testament made some very interesting statements about the veil:

"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head." [I Corinthians 11:3-10]

St. Paul's rationale for veiling women is that the veil represents a sign of the authority of the man, who is the image and glory of God, over the woman who was created from and for man. St. Tertullian in his famous treatise 'On The Veiling Of Virgins' wrote,

"Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church, you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..."

Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a law that requires women to cover their heads in church. [Clara M. Henning, Cannon Law and the Battle of the Sexes, in Rosemary R. Ruether, ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974, p. 272]

Some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil, as offered by their Church leaders, is that "The head covering is a symbol of woman's subjection to the man and to God", which is the same logic introduced by St. Paul in the New Testament. [Donald B. Kraybill, The Riddle of the Amish Culture, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, p. 56]

From all the above evidence, it is obvious that Islam did not invent the head cover. However, Islam did endorse it. The Qur'an urges the believing men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and then urges the believing women to extend their head covers to cover the neck and the bosom:

"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty ... And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms ... " [Al-Qur'an 24:30-31]

The Qur'an is quite clear that the veil is essential for modesty, but why is modesty important? The Qur'an is still clear:

"O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that they should be known and not molested." (33:59)

This is the whole point, modesty is prescribed to protect women from molestation or simply, modesty is protection. Thus, the only purpose of the veil in Islam is protection. The Islamic veil, unlike the veil of the Christian tradition, is not a sign of man's authority over woman nor is it a sign of woman's subjection to man. The Islamic veil, unlike the veil in the Jewish tradition, is not a sign of luxury and distinction of some noble married women. The Islamic veil is only a sign of modesty with the purpose of protecting women, all women. The Islamic philosophy is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. In fact, the Qur'an is so concerned with protecting women's bodies and women's reputation that a man who dares to falsely accuse a woman of being unchaste will be severely punished:

"And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations) - Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors." [Al-Qur'an 24:4]

Compare this strict Qur'anic attitude with the extremely lax punishment for rape in the Bible:

"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives." [Deut. 22:28-30]

One must ask a simple question here, who is really punished? The man who only paid a fine for rape, or the girl who is forced to marry the man who raped her and live with him until he dies? Another question that also should be asked is this: which is more protective of women, the Qur'anic strict attitude or the Biblical lax attitude?

Some people, especially in the West, would tend to ridicule the whole argument of modesty for protection. Their argument is that the best protection is the spread of education, civilised behaviour, and self restraint. We would say: fine but not enough. If 'civilization' is enough protection, then why is it that women in North America dare not walk alone in a dark street - or even across an empty parking lot ? If Education is the solution, then why is it that a respected university like Queen's has a 'walk home service' mainly for female students on campus? If self restraint is the answer, then why are cases of sexual harassment in the workplace reported on the news media every day? A sample of those accused of sexual harassment, in the last few years, includes: Navy officers, Managers, University professors, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, and the President of the United States! I could not believe my eyes when I read the following statistics, written in a pamphlet issued by the Dean of Women's office at Queen's University:

In Canada, a woman is sexually assaulted every 6 minutes,

  • 1 in 3 women in Canada will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lives,
  • 1 in 4 women are at the risk of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime,
  • 1 in 8 women will be sexually assaulted while attending college or university, and

A study found 60% of Canadian university-aged males said they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn't get caught.

Something is fundamentally wrong in the society we live in. A radical change in the society's life style and culture is absolutely necessary. A culture of modesty is badly needed, modesty in dress, in speech, and in manners of both men and women. Otherwise, the grim statistics will grow even worse day after day and, unfortunately, women alone will be paying the price. Actually, we all suffer but as K. Gibran has said:

" ... for the person who receives the blows is not like the one who counts them." [Khalil Gibran, Thoughts and Meditations, New York: Bantam Books, 1960, p. 28]

Therefore, a society like France which expels young women from schools because of their modest dress is, in the end, simply harming itself.

It is one of the great ironies of our world today that the very same headscarf revered as a sign of 'holiness' when worn for the purpose of showing the authority of man by Catholic Nuns, is reviled as a sign of 'oppression' when worn for the purpose of protection by Muslim women.

jilbabhead2toeLet us now tackle the important question of polygamy. Polygamy is a very ancient practice found in many human societies. The Bible did not condemn polygamy. To the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy. King Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Also, King David is said to have had many wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). The Old Testament does have some injunctions on how to distribute the property of a man among his sons from different wives (Deut. 22:7). The only restriction on polygamy is a ban on taking a wife's sister as a rival wife (Lev. 18:18). The Talmud advises a maximum of four wives. [Swidler, op. cit., pp. 144-148]

European Jews continued to practice polygamy until the sixteenth century. Oriental Jews regularly practiced polygamy until they arrived in Israel where it is forbidden under civil law. However, under religious law which overrides civil law in such cases, it is permissible. [Hazleton, op. cit., pp 44-45]

What about the New Testament? According to Father Eugene Hillman in his insightful book, Polygamy Reconsidered:

"Nowhere in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy." [Eugene Hillman, Polygamy Reconsidered: African Plural Marriage and the Christian Churches, New York: Orbis Books, 1975, p. 140]

Moreover, Jesus has not spoken against polygamy though it was practiced by the Jews of his society. Father Hillman stresses the fact that the Church in Rome banned polygamy in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture (which prescribed only one legal wife while tolerating concubines and prostitution). He cited St. Augustine:

"Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife." [Ibid., p. 17]

African churches and African Christians often remind their European brothers that the Church's ban on polygamy is a cultural tradition and not an authentic Christian injunction.

The Qur'an, too, allowed polygamy, but not without restrictions:

"If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one." [Al-Qur'an 4:3]

The Qur'an, contrary to the Bible, limited the maximum number of wives to four under the strict condition of treating the wives equally and justly. It should not be understood that the Qur'an is exhorting the believers to practice polygamy, or that polygamy is considered as an ideal. In other words, the Qur'an has "tolerated" or "allowed" polygamy, and no more, but why? Why is polygamy permissible? The answer is simple: there are places and times in which there are compelling social and moral reasons for polygamy. As the above Qur'anic verse indicates, the issue of polygamy in Islam cannot be understood apart from community obligations towards orphans and widows. Islam as a universal religion suitable for all places and all times could not ignore these compelling obligations.

In most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U.S. there are, at least, eight million more women than men. In a country like Guinea there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there are 95.1 males per 100 females. What should a society do towards such unbalanced sex ratios? There are various solutions, some might suggest celibacy, others would prefer female infanticide (which does happen in some societies in the world today!). Others may think the only outlet is that the society should tolerate all manners of sexual permissiveness: prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality, etc. For other societies , like most African societies today, the most honorable outlet is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and socially respected institution. The point that is often misunderstood in the West is that women in other cultures do not necessarily look at polygamy as a sign of women's degradation. For example, many young African brides, whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise, would prefer to marry a married man who has already proved himself to be a responsible husband. Many African wives urge their husbands to get a second wife so that they do not feel lonely. [Ibid., pp. 88-97]

A survey of over six thousand women, ranging in age from 15 to 59, conducted in the second largest city in Nigeria showed that 60 percent of these women would be pleased if their husbands took another wife. Only 23 percent expressed anger at the idea of sharing with another wife. Seventy-six percent of the women in a survey conducted in Kenya viewed polygamy positively. In a survey undertaken in rural Kenya, 25 out of 27 women considered polygamy to be better than monogamy. These women felt polygamy can be a happy and beneficial experience if the co-wives cooperate with each other. [Philip L. Kilbride, Plural Marriage For Our Times, Westport, Conn.: Bergin & Garvey, 1994, pp. 108-109]

Polygamy in most African societies is such a respectable institution that some Protestant churches are becoming more tolerant of it. A bishop of the Anglican Church in Kenya declared that:

"Although monogamy may be ideal for the expression of love between husband and wife, the church should consider that in certain cultures polygyny is socially acceptable and that the belief that polygyny is contrary to Christianity is no longer tenable." [The Weekly Review, Aug. 1, 1987]

After a careful study of African polygamy, Reverend David Gitari of the Anglican Church has concluded that polygamy, as ideally practiced, is more Christian than divorce and remarriage as far as the abandoned wives and children are concerned. [Kilbride, op. cit., p. 126]

I personally know of some highly educated African wives who, despite having lived in the West for many years, do not have any objections against polygamy. One of them, who lives in the U.S., solemnly exhorts her husband to get a second wife to help her in raising the kids.

The problem of the unbalanced sex ratios becomes truly problematic at times of war. Native American Indian tribes used to suffer highly unbalanced sex ratios after wartime losses. Women in these tribes, who in fact enjoyed a fairly high status, accepted polygamy as the best protection against indulgence in indecent activities. European settlers, without offering any other alternative, condemned this Indian polygamy as 'uncivilised'. [John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988, p. 87]

After the Second World War, there were 7,300,000 more women than men in Germany (3.3 million of them were widows). There were 100 men aged 20 to 30 for every 167 women in that age group. Many of these women needed a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the household in a time of unprecedented misery and hardship. The soldiers of the victorious Allied Armies exploited these women's vulnerability. Many young girls and widows had liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many American and British soldiers paid for their pleasures in cigarettes, chocolate, and bread. Children were overjoyed at the gifts these strangers brought. A 10 year old boy on hearing of such gifts from other children wished from all his heart for an 'Englishman' for his mother so that she need not go hungry any longer. [Ute Frevert, Women in German History: from Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation, New York: Berg Publishers, 1988, pp. 263-264 & 257-258]

We have to ask our own conscience at this point: What is more dignifying to a woman? An accepted and respected second wife as in the native Indians' approach, or a virtual prostitute as in the 'civilised' Allies approach? In other words, what is more dignifying to a woman, the Qur'anic prescription or the theology based on the culture of the Roman Empire?

It is interesting to note that in an international youth conference held in Munich in 1948 the problem of the highly unbalanced sex ratio in Germany was discussed. When it became clear that no solution could be agreed upon, some participants suggested polygamy. The initial reaction of the gathering was a mixture of shock and disgust. However, after a careful study of the proposal, the participants agreed that it was the only possible solution. Consequently, polygamy was included among the conference final recommendations. [Sabiq, op. cit., p. 191]

The world today possesses more weapons of mass destruction than ever before and the European churches might, sooner or later, be obliged to accept polygamy as the only way out. Father Hillman has thoughtfully recognized this fact:

"It is quite conceivable that these genocidal techniques (nuclear, biological, chemical ... ) could produce so drastic an imbalance among the sexes that plural marriage would become a necessary means of survival ... Then contrary to previous custom and law, an overriding natural and moral inclination might arise in favour of polygamy. In such a situation, theologians and church leaders would quickly produce weighty reasons and biblical texts to justify a new conception of marriage." [Hillman, op. cit., p. 12]

To the present day, polygamy continues to be a viable solution to some of the social ills of modern societies. The communal obligations that the Qur'an mentions in association with the permission of polygamy are more visible at present in some Western societies than in Africa. For example, In the United States today, there is a severe gender crisis in the black community. One out of every twenty young black males may die before reaching the age of 21. For those between 20 and 35 years of age, homicide is the leading cause of death. Besides, many young black males are unemployed, in jail, or on dope. [Nathan Hare and Julie Hare, ed., Crisis in Black Sexual Politics, San Francisco: Black Think Tank, 1989, pp. 25-26]

As a result, one in four black women, at age 40, has never married, as compared with one in ten white women. Moreover, many young black females become single mothers before the age of 20 and find themselves in need of providers. The end result of these tragic circumstances is that an increasing number of black women are engaged in what is called 'man-sharing'. That is, many of these hapless single black women are involved in affairs with married men. The wives are often unaware of the fact that other women are 'sharing' their husbands with them. Some observers of the crisis of man-sharing in the African American community strongly recommend consensual polygamy as a temporary answer to the shortage of black males until more comprehensive reforms in the American society at large are undertaken. By consensual polygamy they mean a polygamy that is sanctioned by the community and to which all the parties involved have agreed, as opposed to the usually secret man-sharing which is detrimental both to the wife and to the community in general. The problem of man-sharing in the African American community was the topic of a panel discussion held at Temple University in Philadelphia on January 27, 1993. Some of the speakers recommended polygamy as one potential remedy for the crisis. They also suggested that polygamy should not be banned by law, particularly in a society that tolerates prostitution and mistresses. The comment of one woman from the audience that African Americans needed to learn from Africa where polygamy was responsibly practiced elicited enthusiastic applause. [Kilbride, op. cit., pp. 94-99]

Philip Kilbride, an American anthropologist of Roman Catholic heritage, in his provocative book, Plural marriage for our time, proposes polygamy as a solution to some of the ills of the American society at large. He argues that plural marriage may serve as a potential alternative for divorce in many cases in order to obviate the damaging impact of divorce on many children. He maintains that many divorces are caused by the rampant extramarital affairs in the American society. According to Kilbride, ending an extramarital affair in a polygamous marriage, rather than in a divorce, is better for the children,

"Children would be better served if family augmentation rather than only separation and dissolution were seen as options."

Moreover, he suggests that other groups will also benefit from plural marriage such as: elderly women who face a chronic shortage of men and the African Americans who are involved in man-sharing. [Ibid., p. 118]

In 1987, a poll conducted by the student newspaper at the university of California at Berkeley asked the students whether they agreed that men should be allowed by law to have more than one wife in response to a perceived shortage of male marriage candidates in California. Almost all of the students polled approved of the idea. One female student even stated that a polygamous marriage would fulfil her emotional and physical needs while giving her greater freedom than a monogamous union. [Lang, op. cit., p. 172]

In fact, this same argument is also used by the few remaining fundamentalist Mormon women who still practice polygamy in the U.S. They believe that polygamy is an ideal way for a woman to have both a career and children since the wives help each other care for the children. [Kilbride, op. cit., pp. 72-73]

It has to be added that polygamy in Islam is a matter of mutual consent. No one can force a woman to marry a married man. Besides, the wife has the right to stipulate that her husband must not marry any other woman as a second wife. [Sabiq, op. cit., pp. 187-188] The Bible, on the other hand, sometimes resorts to forcible polygamy. A childless widow must marry her husband's brother, even if he is already married (see the "Plight of Widows" section), regardless of her consent (Genesis 38:8-10).

It should be noted that in many Muslim societies today the practice of polygamy is rare since the gap between the numbers of both sexes is not huge. One can, safely, say that the rate of polygamous marriages in the Muslim world is much less than the rate of extramarital affairs in the West. In other words, men in the Muslim world today are far more strictly monogamous than men in the Western world.

Billy Graham, the eminent Christian evangelist has recognized this fact:

"Christianity cannot compromise on the question of polygamy. If present-day Christianity cannot do so, it is to its own detriment. Islam has permitted polygamy as a solution to social ills and has allowed a certain degree of latitude to human nature but only within the strictly defined framework of the law. Christian countries make a great show of monogamy, but actually they practice polygamy. No one is unaware of the part mistresses play in Western society. In this respect Islam is a fundamentally honest religion, and permits a Muslim to marry a second wife if he must, but strictly forbids all clandestine amatory associations in order to safeguard the moral probity of the community." [Abdul Rahman Doi, Woman in Shari'ah, London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1994, p. 76]

It is of interest to note that many, non-Muslim as well as Muslim, countries in the world today have outlawed polygamy. Taking a second wife, even with the free consent of the first wife, is a violation of the law. On the other hand, cheating on the wife, without her knowledge or consent, is perfectly legitimate as far as the law is concerned! What is the legal wisdom behind such a contradiction? Is the law designed to reward deception and punish honesty? It is one of the unfathomable paradoxes of our modern 'civilised' world.

Because of the fact that the Old Testament recognized no inheritance rights to them, widows were among the most vulnerable of the Jewish population. The male relatives who inherited all of a woman's deceased husband's estate were to provide for her from that estate. However, widows had no way to ensure this provision was carried out, and lived on the mercy of others. Therefore, widows were among the lowest classes in ancient Israel and widowhood was considered a symbol of great degradation (Isaiah 54:4). But the plight of a widow in the Biblical tradition extended even beyond her exclusion from her husband's property. According to Genesis 38, a childless widow must marry her husband's brother, even if he is already married, so that he can produce offspring for his dead brother, thus ensuring his brother's name will not die out.

"Then Judah said to Onan, 'Lie with your brother's wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.' " [Genesis 38:8]

The widow's consent to this marriage is not required. The widow is treated as part of her deceased husband's property whose main function is to ensure her husband's posterity. This Biblical law is still practiced in today's Israel. [Hazleton, op. cit., pp. 45-46]

quran_bxvmA childless widow in Israel is bequeathed to her husband's brother. If the brother is too young to marry, she has to wait until he comes of age. Should the deceased husband's brother refuse to marry her, she is set free and can then marry any man of her choice. It is not an uncommon phenomenon in Israel that widows are subjected to blackmail by their brothers-in-law in order to gain their freedom.

The pagan Arabs before Islam had similar practices. A widow was considered a part of her husband's property to be inherited by his male heirs and she was, usually, given in marriage to the deceased man's eldest son from another wife. The Qur'an scathingly attacked and abolished this degrading custom:

"And marry not women whom your fathers married - except what is past - it was shameful, odious, and abominable custom indeed." [Al-Qur'an 4:22]

Widows and divorced women were so looked down upon in the Biblical tradition that the high priest could not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a prostitute:

"The woman he (the high priest) marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, so he will not defile his offspring among his people." [Lev. 21:13-15]

In Israel today, a descendant of the Cohen caste (the high priests of the days of the Temple) cannot marry a divorcee, a widow, or a prostitute. In the Jewish legislation, a woman who has been widowed three times with all the three husbands dying of natural causes is considered 'fatal' and forbidden to marry again. [Ibid., pp. 47 & 49]

The Qur'an, on the other hand, recognizes neither castes nor fatal persons. Widows and divorcees have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. There is no stigma attached to divorce or widowhood in the Qur'an:

"When you divorce women and they fulfil their terms [three menstruation periods] either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; But do not take them back to injure them or to take undue advantage. If anyone does that, he wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah's signs as a jest." [Al-Qur'an 2:231]

"If any of you die and leave widows behind, they shall wait four months and ten days. When they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you if they dispose of themselves in a just manner." [Al-Qur'an 2:234]

"Those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year's maintenance and residence. But if they [the widows] leave (the residence) there is no blame on you for what they justly do with themselves." [Al-Qur'an 2:240]

One of the most important differences between the Qur'an and the Bible is their attitude towards female inheritance of the property of a deceased relative. The Biblical attitude has been succinctly described by Rabbi Epstein:

"The continuous and unbroken tradition since the Biblical days gives the female members of the household, wife and daughters, no right of succession to the family estate. In the more primitive scheme of succession, the female members of the family were considered part of the estate and as remote from the legal personality of an heir as the slave. Whereas by Mosaic enactment the daughters were admitted to succession in the event of no male issue remained, the wife was not recognized as heir even in such conditions." [Epstein, op. cit., p. 175]

Why were the female members of the family considered part of the family estate? Rabbi Epstein has the answer:

"They are owned - before marriage, by the father; after marriage, by the husband." [Ibid., p. 121]

The Biblical rules of inheritance are outlined in Numbers 27:1-11. A wife is given no share in her husband's estate, while he is her first heir, even before her sons. A daughter can inherit only if no male heirs exist. A mother is not an heir at all while the father is. Widows and daughters, in case male children remained, were at the mercy of the male heirs for provision. That is why widows and orphan girls were among the most destitute members of the Jewish society.

hijabmaroonpurple

Christianity has followed suit for long time. Both the ecclesiastical and civil laws of Christendom barred daughters from sharing with their brothers in the father's patrimony. Besides, wives were deprived of any inheritance rights. These iniquitous laws survived till late in the last century. [Gage, op. cit., p. 142]

Among the pagan Arabs before Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male relatives. The Qur'an abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the female relatives inheritance shares:

"From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large - a determinate share." [Al-Qur'an 4:7]

Muslim mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters had received inheritance rights thirteen hundred years before Europe recognized that these rights even existed. The division of inheritance is a vast subject with an enormous amount of details (4:7,11,12,176). The general rule is that the female share is half the male's except the cases in which the mother receives equal share to that of the father. This general rule if taken in isolation from other legislations concerning men and women may seem unfair. In order to understand the rationale behind this rule, one must take into account the fact that the financial obligations of men in Islam far exceed those of women (see the "Wife's property?" section). A bridegroom must provide his bride with a marriage gift. This gift becomes her exclusive property and remains so even if she is later divorced. The bride is under no obligation to present any gifts to her groom. Moreover, the Muslim husband is charged with the maintenance of his wife and children. The wife, on the other hand, is not obliged to help him in this regard. Her property and earnings are for her use alone except what she may voluntarily offer her husband. Besides, one has to realize that Islam vehemently advocates family life. It strongly encourages youth to get married, discourages divorce, and does not regard celibacy as a virtue.

Therefore, in a truly Islamic society, family life is the norm and single life is the rare exception. That is, almost all marriage-aged women and men are married in an Islamic society. In light of these facts, one would appreciate that Muslim men, in general, have greater financial burdens than Muslim women and thus inheritance rules are meant to offset this imbalance so that the society lives free of all gender or class wars. After a simple comparison between the financial rights and duties of Muslim women, one British Muslim woman has concluded that Islam has treated women not only fairly but generously. [B. Aisha Lemu and Fatima Heeren, Woman in Islam, London: Islamic Foundation, 1978, p. 23]

The Old Testament in several places commands kind and considerate treatment of the parents and condemns those who dishonor them. For example:

"If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death," [Lev. 20:9] and,
"A wise man brings joy to his father but a foolish man despises his mother." [Proverbs 15:20]

Although honoring the father alone is mentioned in some places, e.g.

"A wise man heeds his father's instruction" [Proverbs 13:1],

the mother alone is never mentioned. Moreover, there is no special emphasis on treating the mother kindly as a sign of appreciation of her great suffering in childbearing and suckling. Besides, mothers do not inherit at all from their children while fathers do. [Epstein, op. cit., p. 122]

It is difficult to speak of the New Testament as a scripture that calls for honoring the mother. To the contrary, one gets the impression that the New Testament considers kind treatment of mothers as an impediment on the way to God. According to the New Testament, one cannot become a good Christian worthy of becoming a disciple of Christ unless he hates his mother. It is attributed to Jesus to have said:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he can not be my disciple." [Luke 14:26]

Furthermore, the New Testament depicts a picture of Jesus as indifferent to, or even disrespectful of, his own mother. For example, when she had come looking for him while he was preaching to a crowd, he did not care to go out to see her:

"Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone to call him. A crowd was sitting around him and they told him, 'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.' 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,' Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.' " [Mark 3:31-35]

One might argue that Jesus was trying to teach his audience an important lesson that religious ties are no less important than family ties. However, he could have taught his listeners the same lesson without showing such absolute indifference to his mother. The same disrespectful attitude is depicted when he refused to endorse a statement made by a member of his audience blessing his mother's role in giving birth to him and nursing him:

"As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, 'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.' He replied, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.' " [Luke 11:27-28]

If a mother with the stature of the virgin Mary had been treated with such discourtesy, as depicted in the New Testament, by a son of the stature of Jesus Christ, then how should an average Christian mother be treated by her average Christian sons?

mumlov1In Islam, the honor, respect, and esteem attached to motherhood is unparalleled. The Qur'an places the importance of kindness to parents as second only to worshipping God Almighty:

"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, And that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, Say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, But address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, Lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Lord! bestow on them Your Mercy as they Cherished me in childhood.'" [Al-Qur'an 17:23-24]

The Qur'an in several other places puts special emphasis on the mother's great role in giving birth and nursing:

"And We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents: In travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents." [Al-Qur'an 31:14]

The very special place of mothers in Islam has been eloquently described by Prophet Muhammad:

"A man asked the Prophet: 'Whom should I honor most?' The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother!'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your father.'" [Agreed upon]

Among the few precepts of Islam which Muslims still faithfully observe to the present day is the considerate treatment of mothers. The honor that Muslim mothers receive from their sons and daughters is exemplary. The intensely warm relations between Muslim mothers and their children and the deep respect with which Muslim men approach their mothers usually amaze Westerners. [Armstrong, op. cit., p. 8]

The three religions have remarkable differences in their attitudes towards divorce. Christianity abhors divorce altogether. The New Testament unequivocally advocates the indissolubility of marriage. It is attributed to Jesus to have said:

"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." [Matthew 5:32]

This uncompromising ideal is, without a doubt, unrealistic. It assumes a state of moral perfection that human societies have never achieved. When a couple realizes that their married life is beyond repair, a ban on divorce will not do them any good. Forcing ill-mated couples to remain together against their wills is neither effective nor reasonable. No wonder the whole Christian world has been obliged to sanction divorce.

Judaism, on the other hand, allows divorce even without any cause. The Old Testament gives the husband the right to divorce his wife even if he just dislikes her:

"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled." [Deut. 24:1-4]

The above verses have caused some considerable debate among Jewish scholars because of their disagreement over the interpretation of the words "displeasing", "indecency", and "dislikes" mentioned in the verses. The Talmud records their different opinions:

"The school of Shammai held that a man should not divorce his wife unless he has found her guilty of some sexual misconduct, while the school of Hillel say he may divorce her even if she has merely spoiled a dish for him. Rabbi Akiba says he may divorce her even if he simply finds another woman more beautiful than she." [Gittin 90a-b]

The New Testament follows the Shammaites opinion while Jewish law has followed the opinion of the Hillelites and R. Akiba. [Epstein, op. cit., p. 196]

Since the Hillelites view prevailed, it became the unbroken tradition of Jewish law to give the husband freedom to divorce his wife without any cause at all. The Old Testament not only gives the husband the right to divorce his "displeasing" wife, it considers divorcing a "bad wife" an obligation:

"A bad wife brings humiliation, downcast looks, and a wounded heart. Slack of hand and weak of knee is the man whose wife fails to make him happy. Woman is the origin of sin, and it is through her that we all die. Do not leave a leaky cistern to drip or allow a bad wife to say what she likes. If she does not accept your control, divorce her and send her away." [Ecclesiasticus 25:25]

The Talmud has recorded several specific actions by wives which obliged their husbands to divorce them:

"If she ate in the street, if she drank greedily in the street, if she suckled in the street, in every case Rabbi Meir says that she must leave her husband." [Git. 89a]

The Talmud has also made it mandatory to divorce a barren wife (who bore no children in a period of ten years):

"Our Rabbis taught: If a man took a wife and lived with her for ten years and she bore no child, he shall divorce her." [Yeb. 64a]

redblackhouseWives, on the other hand, cannot initiate divorce under Jewish law. A Jewish wife, however, could claim the right to a divorce before a Jewish court provided that a strong reason exists. Very few grounds are provided for the wife to make a claim for a divorce. These grounds include: A husband with physical defects or skin disease, a husband not fulfilling his conjugal responsibilities, etc. The Court might support the wife's claim to a divorce but it cannot dissolve the marriage. Only the husband can dissolve the marriage by giving his wife a bill of divorce. The Court could scourge, fine, imprison, and excommunicate him to force him to deliver the necessary bill of divorce to his wife. However, if the husband is stubborn enough, he can refuse to grant his wife a divorce and keep her tied to him indefinitely. Worse still, he can desert her without granting her a divorce and leave her unmarried and undivorced. He can marry another woman or even live with any single woman out of wedlock and have children from her (these children are considered legitimate under Jewish law). The deserted wife, on the other hand, cannot marry any other man since she is still legally married and she cannot live with any other man because she will be considered an adulteress and her children from this union will be illegitimate for ten generations. A woman in such a position is called an agunah (chained woman, pl. agunot). [Swidler, op. cit., pp. 162-163]

In the United States today there are approximately 1000 to 1500 Jewish women who are agunot, while in Israel their number might be as high as 16000. Husbands may extort thousands of dollars from their trapped wives in exchange for a Jewish divorce. [The Toronto Star, Apr. 8, 1995]

Islam occupies the middle ground between Christianity and Judaism with respect to divorce. Marriage in Islam is a sanctified bond that should not be broken except for compelling reasons. Couples are instructed to pursue all possible remedies whenever their marriages are in danger. Divorce is not to be resorted to except when there is no other way out. In a nutshell, Islam recognizes divorce, yet it discourages it by all means. Let us focus on the recognition side first. Islam does recognize the right of both partners to end their matrimonial relationship. Islam gives the husband the right for talaq (divorce). Moreover, Islam, unlike Judaism, grants the wife the right to dissolve the marriage through what is known as khula' - if the husband dissolves the marriage by divorcing his wife, he cannot retrieve any of the marriage gifts he has given her. [Sabiq, op. cit., pp. 318-329. See also Muhammad al Ghazali, Qadaya al Mar'a bin al Taqalid al Rakida wal Wafida, Cairo: Dar al Shorooq, 4th edition, 1992, pp. 178-180]

quran-2154The Qur'an explicitly prohibits the divorcing husbands from taking back their marriage gifts no matter how expensive or valuable these gifts might be:

"But if you decide to take one wife in place of another, even if you had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back; Would you take it by slander and a manifest wrong?" [Al-Qur'an 4:20]

In the case of the wife choosing to end the marriage, she may return the marriage gifts to her husband. Returning the marriage gifts in this case is a fair compensation for the husband who is keen to keep his wife while she chooses to leave him. The Qur'an has instructed Muslim men not to take back any of the gifts they have given to their wives except in the case of the wife choosing to dissolve the marriage:

"It is not lawful for you (Men) to take back any of your gifts except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. There is no blame on either of them if she give something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by Allah so do not transgress them." [Al-Qur'an 2:229]

Also, a woman came to the Prophet Muhammad seeking the dissolution of her marriage, she told the Prophet that she did not have any complaints against her husband's character or manners. Her only problem was that she honestly did not like him to the extent of not being able to live with him any longer. The Prophet asked her: "Would you give him his garden (the marriage gift he had given her) back?" she said: "Yes". The Prophet then instructed the man to take back his garden and accept the dissolution of the marriage. [Recorded by Imam al-Bukhari]

In some cases, A Muslim wife might be willing to keep her marriage but find herself obliged to claim for a divorce because of some compelling reasons such as: Cruelty of the husband, desertion without a reason, a husband not fulfilling his conjugal responsibilities, etc. In these cases the Muslim court dissolves the marriage. [Ibid., pp. 313-318]

In short, Islam has offered the Muslim woman some unequalled rights: she can end the marriage through khula' and she can sue for a divorce. A Muslim wife can never become chained by a recalcitrant husband. It was these rights that enticed Jewish women who lived in the early Islamic societies of the seventh century C.E. to seek to obtain bills of divorce from their Jewish husbands in Muslim courts. The Rabbis declared these bills null and void. In order to end this practice, the Rabbis gave new rights and privileges to Jewish women in an attempt to weaken the appeal of the Muslim courts. Jewish women living in Christian countries were not offered any similar privileges since the Roman law of divorce practiced there was no more attractive than the Jewish law. [David W. Amram, The Jewish Law of Divorce According to Bible and Talmud, Philadelphia: Edward Stern & CO., Inc., 1896, pp. 125-126]

Let us now focus our attention on how Islam discourages divorce. The Prophet of Islam told the believers that:

" ... among all the permitted acts, divorce is the most hateful to God." [Abu Dawud]

A Muslim man should not divorce his wife just because he dislikes her. The Qur'an instructs Muslim men to be kind to their wives even in cases of lukewarm emotions or feelings of dislike:

"Live with them (your wives) on a footing of kindness and equity. If you dislike them it may be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed a great deal of good." [Al-Qur'an 4:19]

Prophet Muhammad gave a similar instruction:

"A believing man must not hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one of her traits he will be pleased with another." [Muslim]

The Prophet has also emphasized that the best Muslims are those who are best to their wives:

"The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives." [Tirmidhi]

However, Islam is a practical religion and it does recognize that there are circumstances in which a marriage becomes on the verge of collapsing. In such cases, a mere advice of kindness or self restraint is no viable solution. So, what to do in order to save a marriage in these cases? The Qur'an offers some practical advice for the spouse (husband or wife) whose partner (wife or husband) is the wrongdoer. For the husband whose wife's ill-conduct is threatening the marriage, the Qur'an gives four types of advice as detailed in the following verses:

"As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, (1) Admonish them, (2) refuse to share their beds, (3) beat them; but if they return to obedience seek not against them means of annoyance: For Allah is Most High, Great. (4) If you fear a break between them, appoint two arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation." [Al-Qur'an 4:34-35]

The first three are to be tried first. If they fail, then the help of the families concerned should be sought. It has to be noted, in the light of the above verses, that beating the rebellious wife is a temporary measure that is resorted to as third in line in cases of extreme necessity in hopes that it might remedy the wrongdoing of the wife. If it does, the husband is not allowed by any means to continue any annoyance to the wife as explicitly mentioned in the verse. If it does not, the husband is still not allowed to use this measure any longer and the final avenue of the family-assisted reconciliation has to be explored.

The Prophet Muhammad has instructed Muslim husbands that they should not have recourse to these measures except in extreme cases such as open lewdness committed by the wife. Even in these cases the punishment should be slight and if the wife desists, the husband is not permitted to irritate her:

"In case they are guilty of open lewdness you may leave them alone in their beds and inflict slight punishment. If they are obedient to you, do not seek against them any means of annoyance." [Tirmidhi]

Furthermore, the Prophet of Islam has condemned any unjustifiable beating. Some Muslim wives complained to him that their husbands had beaten them. Hearing that, the Prophet categorically stated that:

"Those who do so (beat their wives) are not the best among you." [Abu Dawud]

It has to be remembered at this point that the Prophet has also said:

"The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family." [Tirmidhi]

The Prophet advised one Muslim woman, whose name was Fatimah bint Qais, not to marry a man because the man was known for beating women:

"I went to the Prophet and said: 'Abul Jahm and Mu'awiah have proposed to marry me.' The Prophet (by way of advice) said: 'As to Mu'awiah he is very poor and Abul Jahm is accustomed to beating women.'" [Muslim]

It has to be noted that the Talmud sanctions wife beating as chastisement for the purpose of discipline. [Epstein, op. cit., p. 219]

The husband is not restricted to the extreme cases such as those of open lewdness. He is allowed to beat his wife even if she just refuses to do her house work. Moreover, he is not limited only to the use of light punishment. He is permitted to break his wife's stubbornness by the lash or by starving her. [Ibid, pp 156-157]

quran98For the wife whose husband's ill-conduct is the cause for the marriage's near collapse, the Qur'an offers the following advice:

"If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best." [Al-Qur'an 4:128]

In this case, the wife is advised to seek reconciliation with her husband (with or without family assistance). It is notable that the Qur'an is not advising the wife to resort to the two measures of abstention from sex and beating. The reason for this disparity might be to protect the wife from a violent physical reaction by her already misbehaving husband. Such a violent physical reaction will do both the wife and the marriage more harm than good. Some Muslim scholars have suggested that the court can apply these measures against the husband on the wife's behalf. That is, the court first admonishes the rebellious husband, then forbids him his wife's bed, and finally executes a symbolic beating. [Muhammad Abu Zahra, Usbu al Fiqh al Islami, Cairo: al Majlis al A'la li Ri'ayat al Funun, 1963, p. 66]

To sum up, Islam offers Muslim married couples much viable advice to save their marriages in cases of trouble and tension. If one of the partners is jeopardizing the matrimonial relationship, the other partner is advised by the Qur'an to do whatever possible and effective in order to save this sacred bond. If all the measures fail, Islam allows the partners to separate peacefully and amicably.

flowersniqabThe three religions share an unshakeable belief in the importance of marriage and family life. They also agree on the leadership of the husband over the family. Nevertheless, blatant differences do exist among the three religions with respect to the limits of this leadership. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, unlike Islam, virtually extends the leadership of the husband into ownership of his wife.

The Jewish tradition regarding the husband's role towards his wife stems from the conception that he owns her as he owns his slave. [Louis M. Epstein, The Jewish Marriage Contract, New York: Arno Press, 1973, p. 149] This conception has been the reason behind the double standard in the laws of adultery and behind the husband's ability to annul his wife's vows. This conception has also been responsible for denying the wife any control over her property or her earnings. As soon as a Jewish woman got married, she completely lost any control over her property and earnings to her husband. Jewish Rabbis asserted the husband's right to his wife's property as a corollary of his possession of her:

"Since one has come into the possession of the woman does it not follow that he should come into the possession of her property too?", and "Since he has acquired the woman should he not acquire also her property?" [Swidler, op. cit., p. 142]

Thus, marriage caused the richest woman to become practically penniless. The Talmud describes the financial situation of a wife as follows:

"How can a woman have anything; whatever is hers belongs to her husband? What is his is his and what is hers is also his ... her earnings and what she may find in the streets are also his. The household articles, even the crumbs of bread on the table, are his. Should she invite a guest to her house and feed him, she would be stealing from her husband ... " [San. 71a, Git. 62a]

The fact of the matter is that the property of a Jewish female was meant to attract suitors. A Jewish family would assign their daughter a share of her father's estate to be used as a dowry in case of marriage. It was this dowry that made Jewish daughters an unwelcome burden to their fathers. The father had to raise his daughter for years and then prepare for her marriage by providing a large dowry. Thus, a girl in a Jewish family was a liability and no asset. [Epstein, op. cit., pp. 164-165]

This liability explains why the birth of a daughter was not celebrated with joy in the old Jewish society (see the "Shameful Daughters?" section). The dowry was the wedding gift presented to the groom under terms of tenancy. The husband would act as the practical owner of the dowry but he could not sell it. The bride would lose any control over the dowry at the moment of marriage. Moreover, she was expected to work after marriage and all her earnings had to go to her husband in return for her maintenance which was his obligation. She could regain her property only in two cases: divorce or her husband's death. Should she die first, he would inherit her property. In the case of the husband's death, the wife could regain her pre-marital property but she was not entitled to inherit any share in her deceased husband's own property. It has to be added that the groom also had to present a marriage gift to his bride, yet again he was the practical owner of this gift as long as they were married. [Ibid., pp. 112-113. See also Priesand, op. cit., p. 15]

Christianity, until recently, has followed the same Jewish tradition. Both religious and civil authorities in the Christian Roman Empire (after Constantine) required a property agreement as a condition for recognizing the marriage. Families offered their daughters increasing dowries and, as a result, men tended to marry earlier while families postponed their daughters' marriages until later than had been customary. [James A. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, p. 88]

Under Canon law, a wife was entitled to restitution of her dowry if the marriage was annulled unless she was guilty of adultery. In this case, she forfeited her right to the dowry which remained in her husband's hands. [Ibid., p. 480]

Under Canon and civil law a married woman in Christian Europe and America had lost her property rights until late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, women's rights under English law were compiled and published in 1632. These 'rights' included:

"That which the husband hath is his own. That which the wife hath is the husband's." [R. Thompson, Women in Stuart England and America, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974, p. 162]

The wife not only lost her property upon marriage, she lost her personality as well. No act of her was of legal value. Her husband could repudiate any sale or gift made by her as being of no binding legal value. The person with whom she had any contract was held as a criminal for participating in a fraud. Moreover, she could not sue or be sued in her own name, nor could she sue her own husband. [Mary Murray, The Law of the Father, London: Routledge, 1995, p. 67]

A married woman was practically treated as an infant in the eyes of the law. The wife simply belonged to her husband and therefore she lost her property, her legal personality, and her family name. [Gage, op. cit., p. 143]

Islam, since the seventh century C.E., has granted married women the independent personality which the Judaeo-Christian West had deprived them until very recently. In Islam, the bride and her family are under no obligation whatsoever to present a gift to the groom. The girl in a Muslim family is no liability. A woman is so dignified by Islam that she does not need to present gifts in order to attract potential husbands. It is the groom who must present the bride with a marriage gift. This gift is considered her property and neither the groom nor the bride's family have any share in or control over it. In some Muslim societies today, a marriage gift of a hundred thousand dollars in diamonds is not unusual (for example, see Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender, Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1994, p. 167) The bride retains her marriage gifts even if she is later divorced. The husband is not allowed any share in his wife's property except what she offers him with her free consent. [Elsayyed Sabiq, Fiqh al Sunnah, Cairo: Darul Fatah lile'lam Al-Arabi, 11th edition, 1994, vol. 2, pp. 218-229]

The Qur'an has stated its position on this issue quite clearly:

"And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, Of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer." (4:4)

The wife's property and earnings are under her full control and for her use alone since her, and the children's, maintenance is her husband's responsibility. [Abdel-Haleem Abu Shuqqa, Tahreer al Mar'aa fi Asr al Risala, Kuwait: Dar al Qalam, 1990, pp. 109-112]

No matter how rich the wife might be, she is not obliged to act as a co-provider for the family unless she herself voluntarily chooses to do so. Spouses do inherit from one another. Moreover, a married woman in Islam retains her independent legal personality and her family name. [Leila Badawi, "Islam", in Jean Holm and John Bowker, ed., Women in Religion, London: Pinter Publishers, 1994, p. 102]

An American judge once commented on the rights of Muslim women saying:

"A Muslim girl may marry ten times, but her individuality is not absorbed by that of her various husbands. She is a solar planet with a name and legal personality of her own." [Amir H. Siddiqi, Studies in Islamic History, Karachi: Jamiyatul Falah Publications, 3rd edition, 1967, p. 138]

According to the Bible, a man must fulfil any vows he might make to God. He must not break his word. On the other hand, a woman's vow is not necessarily binding on her. It has to be approved by her father, if she is living in his house, or by her husband, if she is married. If a father/husband does not endorse his daughter's/wife's vows, all pledges made by her become null and void:

"But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand ... Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself." [Num. 30:2-15]

Why is it that a woman's word is not binding per se? The answer is simple: because she is owned by her father, before marriage, or by her husband after marriage. The father's control over his daughter was absolute to the extent that, should he wish, he could sell her! It is indicated in the writings of the Rabbis that:

"The man may sell his daughter, but the woman may not sell her daughter; the man may betroth his daughter, but the woman may not betroth her daughter." [Swidler, op. cit., p. 141]

moondarknight

The Rabbinic literature also indicates that marriage represents the transfer of control from the father to the husband: "betrothal, making a woman the sacrosanct possession - the inviolable property - of the husband ... " Obviously, if the woman is considered to be the property of someone else, she cannot make any pledges that her owner does not approve of.

It is of interest to note that this Biblical instruction concerning women's vows has had negative repercussions on Judaeo-Christian women till early in this century. A married woman in the Western world had no legal status. No act of hers was of any legal value. Her husband could repudiate any contract, bargain, or deal she had made. Women in the West (the largest heir of the Judaeo-Christian legacy) were held unable to make a binding contract because they were practically owned by someone else. Western women had suffered for almost two thousand years because of the Biblical attitude towards women's position vis-à-vis their fathers and husbands. [Matilda J. Gage, Woman, Church, and State, New York: Truth Seeker Company, 1893, p. 141]

In Islam, the vow of every Muslim, male or female, is binding on him/her. No one has the power to repudiate the pledges of anyone else. Failure to keep a solemn oath, made by a man or a woman, has to be expiated as indicated in the Qur'an:

"He [God] will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; Or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. But keep your oaths." [Al-Qur'an 5:89]

Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, men and women, used to present their oath of allegiance to him personally. Women, as well as men, would independently come to him and pledge their oaths:

"O Prophet, When believing women come to you to make a covenant with you that they will not associate in worship anything with God, nor steal, nor fornicate, nor kill their own children, nor slander anyone, nor disobey you in any just matter, then make a covenant with them and pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins. Indeed God is Forgiving and most Merciful." [Al-Qur'an 60:12]

A man could not swear the oath on behalf of his daughter or his wife. Nor could a man repudiate the oath made by any of his female relatives.

photos-of-Lenticular-Clouds-Over-Mount-Drum-Alaska-picturesAdultery is considered a sin in all religions. The Bible decrees the death sentence for both the adulterer and the adulteress [Lev. 20:10]. Islam also equally punishes both the adulterer and the adulteress [24:2]. However, the Qur'anic definition of adultery is very different from the Biblical definition. Adultery, according to the Qur'an, is the involvement of a married man or a married woman in an extramarital affair. The Bible only considers the extramarital affair of a married woman as adultery [Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, Proverbs 6:20-7:27].

"If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel." [Deut. 22:22]
"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." [Lev. 20:10]

According to the Biblical definition, if a married man sleeps with an unmarried woman, this is not considered a crime at all. The married man who has extramarital affairs with unmarried women is not an adulterer and the unmarried women involved with him are not adulteresses. The crime of adultery is committed only when a man, whether married or single, sleeps with a married woman. In this case the man is considered adulterer, even if he is not married, and the woman is considered adulteress. In short, adultery is any illicit sexual intercourse involving a married woman. The extramarital affair of a married man is not per se a crime in the Bible. Why is the dual moral standard? According toEncyclopaedia Judaica, the wife was considered to be the husband's possession and adultery constituted a violation of the husband's exclusive right to her; the wife as the husband's possession had no such right to him. [Jeffrey H. Togay, "Adultery", Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. II, col. 313. Also, see Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1990, pp. 170-177] That is, if a man had sexual intercourse with a married woman, he would be violating the property of another man and, thus, he should be punished.

To the present day in Israel, if a married man indulges in an extramarital affair with an unmarried woman, his children by that woman are considered legitimate. But, if a married woman has an affair with another man, whether married or not married, her children by that man are not only illegitimate but they are considered bastards and are forbidden to marry any other Jews except converts and other bastards. This ban is handed down to the children's descendants for 10 generations until the taint of adultery is presumably weakened. [Hazleton, op. cit., pp. 41-42]

The Qur'an, on the other hand, never considers any woman to be the possession of any man. The Qur'an eloquently describes the relationship between the spouses by saying:

"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily in that are signs for those who reflect." [Al-Qur'an 30:21]

This is the Qur'anic conception of marriage: love, mercy, and tranquillity, not possession and double standards.

scenenew4Another issue in which the Qur'an and the Bible disagree is the issue of women bearing witness. It is true that the Qur'an has instructed the believers dealing in financial transactions to get two male witnesses or one male and two females [2:282]. However, it is also true that the Qur'an in other situations accepts the testimony of a woman as equal to that of a man. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the man's. If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, he is required by the Qur'an to solemnly swear five times as evidence of the wife's guilt. If the wife denies and swears similarly five times, she is not considered guilty and in either case the marriage is dissolved [24:6-11].

On the other hand, women were not allowed to bear witness in early Jewish society. [Swidler, op. cit., p. 115] The Rabbis counted women's not being able to bear witness among the nine curses inflicted upon all women because of the Fall (see the "Eve's Legacy" section). Women in today's Israel are not allowed to give evidence in Rabbinical courts. [Lesley Hazleton, Israeli Women The Reality Behind the Myths, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977, p. 41] The Rabbis justify why women cannot bear witness by citing Genesis 18:9-16, where it is stated that Sara, Abraham's wife had lied. The Rabbis use this incident as evidence that women are unqualified to bear witness. It should be noted here that this story narrated in Genesis 18:9-16 has been mentioned more than once in the Qur'an without any hint of any lies by Sara (11:69-74, 51:24-30). In the Christian West, both ecclesiastical and civil law debarred women from giving testimony until late last century. [Gage, op. cit. p. 142]

If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, her testimony will not be considered at all according to the Bible. The accused wife has to be subjected to a trial by ordeal. In this trial, the wife faces a complex and humiliating ritual which was supposed to prove her guilt or innocence [Num. 5:11-31]. If she is found guilty after this ordeal, she will be sentenced to death. If she is found not guilty, her husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Besides, if a man takes a woman as a wife and then accuses her of not being a virgin, her own testimony will not count. Her parents had to bring evidence of her virginity before the elders of the town. If the parents could not prove the innocence of their daughter, she would be stoned to death on her father's doorsteps. If the parents were able to prove her innocence, the husband would only be fined one hundred shekels of silver and he could not divorce his wife as long as he lived:

"If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, 'I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,' then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl's father will say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said I did not find your daughter to be a virgin. But here is the proof of my daughter's virginity.' Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of the town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you." [Deuteronomy 22:13-21]

Jewish laws and regulations concerning menstruating women are extremely restrictive. The Old Testament considers any menstruating woman as unclean and impure. Moreover, her impurity "infects" others as well. Anyone or anything she touches becomes unclean for a day:

"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening." [Lev. 15:19-23]

Due to her "contaminating" nature, a menstruating woman was sometimes "banished" in order to avoid any possibility of any contact with her. She was sent to a special house called "the house of uncleanness" for the whole period of her impurity. [Swidler, op. cit., p. 137]

The Talmud considers a menstruating woman "fatal" even without any physical contact:

"Our Rabbis taught: ... if a menstruating woman passes between two (men), if it is at the beginning of her menses she will slay one of them, and if it is at the end of her menses she will cause strife between them." [bPes. 111a.]

Furthermore, the husband of a menstruating woman was forbidden to enter the synagogue if he had been made unclean by her even by the dust under her feet. A priest whose wife, daughter, or mother was menstruating could not recite priestly blessing in the synagogue. [Ibid., p. 138]

It is of no wonder that many Jewish women still refer to menstruation as "the curse." [Sally Priesand, Judaism and the New Woman (New York: Behrman House, Inc., 1975) p. 24]

Islam does not consider a menstruating woman to possess any kind of "contagious uncleanness". She is neither "untouchable" nor "cursed." She practises her normal life with only one restriction: A married couple are not allowed to have sexual intercourse during the period of menstruation. Any other physical contact between them is permissible. A menstruating woman is exempted from some rituals such as daily prayers and fasting during her period.

The difference between the Biblical and the Qur'anic conceptions of women is not limited to the newly born female, it extends far beyond that. Let us compare their attitudes towards a female trying to learn her religion. The heart of Judaism is the Torah, the law. However, according to the Talmud,

"women are exempt from the study of the Torah."

Some Jewish Rabbis firmly declared,

"let the words of Torah rather be destroyed by fire than imparted to women",

And:

"whoever teaches his daughter Torah is as though he taught her obscenity." [Denise L. Carmody, Judaism, in Arvind Sharma, ed., op. cit., p. 197]

The attitude of St. Paul in the New Testament is not brighter:

"As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." [I Corinthians 14:34-35]

How can a woman learn if she is not allowed to speak? How can a woman grow intellectually if she is obliged to be in a state of full submission? How can she broaden her horizons if her one and only source of information is her husband at home?

Now, to be fair, we should ask: is the Qur'anic position any different? One short story narrated in the Qur'an sums its position up concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws pronounced this statement at a moment of anger:

"You are to me as the back of my mother."

This was held by pagan Arabs to be a statement of divorce which freed the husband from any conjugal responsibility but did not leave the wife free to leave the husband's home or to marry another man. Having heard these words from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went straight to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The Prophet was of the opinion that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out. Khawla kept arguing with the Prophet in an attempt to save her suspended marriage. Shortly, the Qur'an intervened; Khawla's plea was accepted. The divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter (Chapter 58) of the Qur'an whose title is al-Mujadilah or "The woman who is arguing" was named after this incident:

"Allah has heard and accepted the statement of the woman who pleads with you (the Prophet) concerning her husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the arguments between both of you for Allah hears and sees all things ... " [Al-Qur'an 58:1]

A woman in the Qur'anic conception has the right to argue even with the Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her to be silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and only reference in matters of law and religion.

In fact, the difference between the Biblical and the Qur'anic attitude towards the female sex starts as soon as a female is born. For example, the Bible states that the period of the mother's ritual impurity is twice as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Lev. 12:2-5). The Catholic Bible states explicitly that:

"The birth of a daughter is a loss." [Ecclesiasticus 22:3]
In contrast to this shocking statement, boys receive special praise:
"A man who educates his son will be the envy of his enemy." [Ecclesiasticus 30:3]
Jewish Rabbis made it an obligation on Jewish men to produce offspring in order to propagate the race. At the same time, they did not hide their clear preference for male children:
"It is well for those whose children are male but ill for those whose are female",
"At the birth of a boy, all are joyful...at the birth of a girl all are sorrowful", and
"When a boy comes into the world, peace comes into the world ... When a girl comes, nothing comes." [Swidler, op. cit., p. 140]
A daughter is considered a painful burden, a potential source of shame to her father:
"Your daughter is headstrong? Keep a sharp look-out that she does not make you the laughing stock of your enemies, the talk of the town, the object of common gossip, and put you to public shame." [Ecclesiasticus 42:11]
"Keep a headstrong daughter under firm control, or she will abuse any indulgence she receives. Keep a strict watch on her shameless eye, do not be surprised if she disgraces you." [Ecclesiasticus 26:10-11]
It was this very same idea of treating daughters as sources of shame that led the pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice female infanticide. The Qur'an severely condemned this heinous practice: "When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?" [Al-Qur'an 16:59]
 
It has to be mentioned that this sinister crime would have never stopped in Arabia were it not for the power of the scathing terms the Qur'an used to condemn this practice [in verse 16:59, 43:17 and 81:8-9]. The Qur'an, moreover, makes no distinction between boys and girls. In contrast to the Bible, the Qur'an considers the birth of a female as a gift and a blessing from God, the same as the birth of a male. The Qur'an even mentions the gift of the female birth first: "To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female children to whomever He wills and bestows male children to whomever He wills" [Al-Qur'an 42:49]
 
In order to wipe out all the traces of female infanticide in the nascent Muslim society, Prophet Muhammad promised those who were blessed with daughters of a great reward if they would bring them up kindly: "He who is involved in bringing up daughters, and accords benevolent treatment towards them, they will be protection for him against Hell-Fire." [Agreed upon]
 
"Whoever maintains two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Resurrection Day like this; and he joined his fingers." [Recorded by Imam Muslim]

The three religions agree on one basic fact: Both women and men are created by God, The Creator of the whole universe. However, disagreement starts soon after the creation of the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. The Judaeo-Christian conception of the creation of Adam and Eve is narrated in detail in Genesis 2:4-3:24. God prohibited both of them from eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. The serpent seduced Eve to eat from it and Eve, in turn, seduced Adam to eat with her. When God rebuked Adam for what he did, he put all the blame on Eve,

"The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it."

Consequently, God said to Eve:

"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you."

To Adam He said:

"Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree .... Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life ... "

The Islamic conception of the first creation is found in several places in the Qur'an, for example:

"O Adam dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them and he said: 'Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.' And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: 'Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was your avowed enemy?' They said: 'Our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost' " [Al-Qur'an 7:19:23]

A careful look into the two accounts of the story of the Creation reveals some essential differences. The Qur'an, contrary to the Bible, places equal blame on both Adam and Eve for their mistake. Nowhere in the Qur'an can one find even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree or even that she had eaten before him. Eve in the Qur'an is no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. Moreover, Eve is not to be blamed for the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Qur'an, punishes no one for another's faults. Both Adam and Eve committed a sin and then asked God for forgiveness and He forgave them both.

EVE'S LEGACY

The image of Eve as temptress in the Bible has resulted in an extremely negative impact on women throughout the Judaeo-Christian tradition. All women were believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical Eve, both her guilt and her guile. Consequently, they were all untrustworthy, morally inferior, and wicked. Menstruation, pregnancy, and childbearing were considered the just punishment for the eternal guilt of the cursed female sex. In order to appreciate how negative the impact of the Biblical Eve was on all her female descendants we have to look at the writings of some of the most important Jews and Christians of all time. Let us start with the Old Testament and look at excerpts from what is called the Wisdom Literature in which we find:

"I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all." [Ecclesiastes 7:26-28]

In another part of the Hebrew literature which is found in the Catholic Bible we read:

"No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die." [Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24]

Jewish Rabbis listed nine curses inflicted on women as a result of the Fall:

"To the woman He gave nine curses and death: the burden of the blood of menstruation and the blood of virginity; the burden of pregnancy; the burden of childbirth; the burden of bringing up the children; her head is covered as one in mourning; she pierces her ear like a permanent slave or slave girl who serves her master; she is not to be believed as a witness; and after everything--death." [Leonard J. Swidler, Women in Judaism: the Status of Women in Formative Judaism, Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1976, p. 115]

To the present day, orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite:

"Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman."

The women, on the other hand, thank God every morning for,

"making me according to Thy will." [Thena Kendath, Memories of an Orthodox youth in Susannah Heschel, ed. On being a Jewish Feminist, New York: Schocken Books, 1983, pp. 96-97]

Another prayer found in many Jewish prayer books:

"Praised be God that he has not created me a gentile. Praised be God that he has not created me a woman. Praised be God that he has not created me an ignoramus." [Swidler, op. cit., pp. 80-81]

The Biblical Eve has played a far bigger role in Christianity than in Judaism. Her sin has been pivotal to the whole Christian faith because the Christian conception of the reason for the mission of Jesus Christ on Earth stems from Eve's disobedience to God. She had sinned and then seduced Adam to follow her suit. Consequently, God expelled both of them from Heaven to Earth, which had been cursed because of them. They bequeathed their sin, which had not been forgiven by God, to all their descendants and, thus, all humans are born in sin. In order to purify human beings from their 'original sin', God had to sacrifice Jesus, who is considered to be the Son of God, on the cross. Therefore, Eve is responsible for her own mistake, her husband's sin, the original sin of all humanity, and the death of the Son of God. In other words, one woman acting on her own caused the fall of humanity. [Rosemary R. Ruether, Christianity, in Arvind Sharma, ed., Women in World Religions, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987, p. 209] What about her daughters? They are sinners like her and have to be treated as such. Listen to the severe tone of St. Paul in the New Testament:

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." [I Timothy 2:11-14]

St. Tertullian was even more blunt than St. Paul, while he was talking to his 'best beloved sisters' in the faith, he said:

"Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die." [For all the sayings of the prominent Saints, see Karen Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman, London: Elm Tree Books, 1986, pp. 52-62. See also Nancy van Vuuren, The Subversion of Women as Practiced by Churches, Witch-Hunters, and Other Sexists, Philadelphia: Westminister Press, pp. 28-30]

St. Augustine was faithful to the legacy of his predecessors, he wrote to a friend:

"What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman ... I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children."

Centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective:

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."

Finally, the renowned reformer Martin Luther could not see any benefit from a woman but bringing into the world as many children as possible regardless of any side effects:

"If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there."

Again and again all women are denigrated because of the image of Eve the temptress, thanks to the Genesis account. To sum up, the Judaeo-Christian conception of women has been poisoned by the belief in the sinful nature of Eve and her female offspring.

If we now turn our attention to what the Qur'an has to say about women, we will soon realize that the Islamic conception of women is radically different from the Judaeo-Christian one. Let the Qur'an speak for itself:

"For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise. For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." [Al-Qur'an 33:35]

"The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise." [Al-Qur'an 9:71]

"And their Lord answered them: Truly I will never cause to be lost the work of any of you, Be you a male or female, you are members one of another." [Al-Qur'an 3:195]

"Whoever works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof, and whoever works a righteous deed -whether man or woman- and is a believer- such will enter the Garden of Bliss." [Al-Qur'an 40:40]

"Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him/her we will give a new life that is good and pure, and we will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions." [Al-Qur'an 16:97]

It is clear that the Qur'anic view of women is no different than that of men. They, both, are God's creatures whose sublime goal on earth is to worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and they, both, will be assessed accordingly. The Qur'an never mentions that the woman is the devil's gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. The Qur'an, also, never mentions that man is God's image; all men and all women are his creatures, that is all. According to the Qur'an, a woman's role on earth is not limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many good deeds as any other man is required to do. The Qur'an never says that no upright women have ever existed. To the contrary, the Qur'an has instructed all the believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those ideal women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharoah's wife:

"And Allah sets forth, As an example to those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: 'O my lord build for me, in nearness to you, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings and save me from those who do wrong.' And Mary the daughter of Imran who guarded her chastity and We breathed into her body of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His revelations and was one of the devout." [Al-Qur'an 66:11-13]

INTRODUCTION

Five years ago, I read in the Toronto Star issue of July 3, 1990 an article titled "Islam is not alone in patriarchal doctrines", by Gwynne Dyer. The article described the furious reactions of the participants of a conference on women and power held in Montreal to the comments of the famous Egyptian feminist Dr. Nawal Saadawi. Her "politically incorrect" statements included:
"the most restrictive elements towards women can be found first in Judaism in the Old Testament then in Christianity and then in the Qur'an"; "all religions are patriarchal because they stem from patriarchal societies"; and "veiling of women is not a specifically Islamic practice but an ancient cultural heritage with analogies in sister religions".
The participants could not bear sitting around while their faiths were being equated with Islam. Thus, Dr. Saadawi received a barrage of criticism.
"Dr. Saadawi's comments are unacceptable. Her answers reveal a lack of understanding about other people's faiths," declared Bernice Dubois of the World Movement of Mothers.

"I must protest" said panellist Alice Shalvi of Israel's women network, "there is no conception of the veil in Judaism."
The article attributed these furious protests to the strong tendency in the West to scapegoat Islam for practices that are just as much a part of the West's own cultural heritage.
"Christian and Jewish feminists were not going to sit around being discussed in the same category as those wicked Muslims," wrote Gwynne Dyer.
booksshelvesI was not surprised that the conference participants had held such a negative view of Islam, especially when women's issues were involved. In the West, Islam is believed to be the symbol of the subordination of women par excellence. In order to understand how firm this belief is, it is enough to mention that the Minister of Education in France, the land of Voltaire, has recently ordered the expulsion of all young Muslim women wearing the veil from French schools! [The Globe and Mail, Oct. 4, 1994.] A young Muslim student wearing a headscarf is denied her right of education in France, while a Catholic student wearing a cross or a Jewish student wearing a skullcap is not. The scene of French policemen preventing young Muslim women wearing headscarves from entering their high school is unforgettable. It inspires the memories of another equally disgraceful scene of Governor George Wallace of Alabama in 1962 standing in front of a school gate trying to block the entrance of black students in order to prevent the desegregation of Alabama's schools. The difference between the two scenes is that the black students had the sympathy of so many people in the U.S. and in the whole world. President Kennedy sent the U.S. National Guard to force the entry of the black students. The Muslim girls, on the other hand, received no help from any one. Their cause seems to have very little sympathy either inside or outside France. The reason is the widespread misunderstanding and fear of anything Islamic in the world today.
 
What intrigued me the most about the Montreal conference was one question: Were the statements made by Saadawi, or any of her critics, factual? In other words, do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have the same conception of women? Are they different in their conceptions? Do Judaism and Christianity, truly, offer women a better treatment than Islam does? What is the truth?
 
It is not easy to search for and find answers to these difficult questions. The first difficulty is that one has to be fair and objective or, at least, do one's utmost to be so. This is what Islam teaches. The Qur'an has instructed Muslims to say the truth even if those who are very close to them do not like it:
 
"Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned." [Al-Qur'an 6:152]
 
"O you who believe stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor." [Al-Qur'an 4:135]
 
The other great difficulty is the overwhelming breadth of the subject. Therefore, during the last few years, I have spent many hours reading the Bible, The Encyclopaedia of Religion, and the Encyclopaedia Judaica searching for answers. I have also read several books discussing the position of women in different religions written by scholars, apologists, and critics. The material presented in the following chapters represents the important findings of this humble research. I don't claim to be absolutely objective. This is beyond my limited capacity. All I can say is that I have been trying, throughout this research, to approach the Qur'anic ideal of "speaking justly".
 
I would like to emphasize in this introduction that my purpose for this study is not to denigrate Judaism or Christianity. As Muslims, we believe in the divine origins of both. No one can be a Muslim without believing in Moses and Jesus as great prophets of God. My goal is only to vindicate Islam and pay a tribute, long overdue in the West, to the final truthful Message from God to the human race. I would also like to emphasize that I concerned myself only with Doctrine. That is, my concern is, mainly, the position of women in the three religions as it appears in their original sources not as practised by their millions of followers in the world today. Therefore, most of the evidence cited comes from the Qur'an, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the Bible, the Talmud, and the sayings of some of the most influential Church Fathers whose views have contributed immeasurably to defining and shaping Christianity. This interest in the sources relates to the fact that understanding a certain religion from the attitudes and the behaviour of some of its nominal followers is misleading. Many people confuse culture with religion, many others do not know what their religious books are saying, and many others do not even care.

 

The Political Aspect

book56Any fair investigation of the teachings of Islam, and into the history of the Islamic civilization, will surely find a clear evidence of woman's equality with man in what we call today "political rights".

This includes woman's right to participate in public affairs. Both in the Qur'an and in Islamic history we find examples of women who participated in serious discussions and argued even with the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself, (see Qur'an 58: 14 ,60: 10-12). During the Caliphate of 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab, a woman argued with him in the mosque, proved her point, and caused him to declare in the presence of people,

"A woman is right and Omar is wrong."

Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, one Hadeeth of the Prophet is interpreted to make woman ineligible for the position of head of state. The Hadeeth referred to is roughly translated, "A people will not prosper if they let a woman be their leader." This limitation, however, has nothing to do with the dignity of woman or with her rights. It is rather, related to the natural differences in the biological and psychological make-up of men and women.

According to Islam, the head of the state is no mere figurehead. He leads people in the prayers, especially on Fridays and festivities; he is continuously engaged in the process of decision-making pertaining to the security and well-being of his people. This demanding position, or any similar one, such as the Commander of the Army, is generally inconsistent with the physiological and psychological make-up of woman in general. It is a medical fact that during their monthly periods and during their pregnancies, women undergo various physiological and psychological changes. Such changes may occur during an emergency situation, thus affecting her decision, without considering the excessive strain which is produced. Moreover, some decisions require a maximum of rationality and a minimum of emotionality - a requirement which does not coincide with the instinctive nature of women.

Even in modern times, and in the most developed countries, it is rare to find a woman in the position of a head of state acting as more than a figurehead, a woman commander of the armed services, or even a proportionate number of women representatives in parliaments, or similar bodies. One can not possibly ascribe this to backwardness of various nations or to any constitutional limitation on woman's right to be in such a position as a head of state or as a member of the parliament. It is more logical to explain the present situation in terms of the natural and indisputable differences between man and woman, a difference which does not imply any "supremacy" of one over the other. The difference implies rather the "complementary" roles of both the sexes in life.

Covering/veil/Hijaab/Khimaar

sisteronlaptopIt is to this religion's credit that not only does it point out the dangers of life, but it offers practical solutions to them. One such area is that of modesty, which in the broadest sense means humility, restraint in manner and conduct, avoiding excess and presenting an unpretentious appearance. This is the way of life taught by the Qur’an and exemplified by the Prophet. In humanity, the worst crime after murder is Zina (adultery), and the punishment dictated by Islam for adultery is equal to that meted out for murder. This indicates the enormity of illicit sexual conduct and the disgust with which Islam views this crime. The reason behind the prohibition of adultery is not to "spoil the fun" for people, but because Zina is the cause of much social chaos, upheaval and suffering for individuals, families, societies and nations. Zina destroys the moral fibre of a person, creates an atmosphere of mistrust and deceit, and leads to the birth of illegitimate children who must bear the stigma of their birth. Pornography, prostitution, rape, abortions, divorce and single-parent families are the by products of Zina, as is now all too evident in Britain and other Western societies. Families are torn apart, diseases are spread and people's characters become twisted and distorted.

To protect the moral well-being of mankind, Islam lays down laws which restrict, if not stop, the things that may lead to Zina,

{And say to the believing women that They should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that They should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that They should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small Children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that They should not strike their feet In order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain bliss.} [an-Noor [24].30-31]

The free mixing of men and women from the time they become sexually aware to the time they are no longer sexually active is prohibited. On the face of it, this may appear rather harsh, but if we examine the effects of unrestricted contact between the sexes, the person who is blessed with understanding and insight will soon see the wisdom behind this restriction. Today, in the Western world, every type of crime that results from free mixing of the sexes is on the increase, Islamic modesty encompasses not only behaviour, but also dress. It is well-known that appearances count, and that clothes can make a "statement" about the person.

Muslims are required to dress modestly and conceal their private parts. The Qur’an reminds us that after the error committed by Adam and Eve, they became aware of their nakedness and shame, so clothing was given as a means of concealing the body:

{O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, As well As to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that They may receive admonition!} [al-A'raf 7:26; also see 24:31, 33.59]. The main aim of Hijab is for the pleasure of Allah.

Secondly, restrain individuals of the opposite sex from being unduly attracted to one another. However, Hijab has numerous other advantages that bring benefits to women. It gives women their own identity and their own sphere, which exists parallel to that of men. Women are thus freed from the strain of Western-style social pressure in which women are expected to look impeccable and sexually attractive at all times, and they are relieved of the "necessity" of spending large amounts of time and money in visiting beauty parlours and applying chemicals, lotions, potions and scents to their bodies for the purposes of gratifying men. Above all, it allows Muslim women to have an identity, an ability to express their personality and intellect of their own, independently of men's whims and desires. It is not easy to find accurate figures on rape. Many incidents are not reported, and the police statistics do not include cases where the allegations have been withdrawn. It is safe to assume, therefore, that the official figures are an underestimate.

According to the British police, in 1984 there were over 20,000 cases of indecent assault and nearly 1,500 rape cases in Britain. The London Rape Crisis Centre estimates that there are between 5,000 - 6,000 rapes per year; the true figure may be much higher. Since 1984, the number of recorded sexual offences has risen at a slightly higher rate than recorded crime in general. By 1994, the number of recorded sexual offences had risen to 32,000. If we accept the higher figures, we may say that, on average, one rape occurs every hour in England. In other words, by the time you finish reading this chapter, someone, somewhere in the country, will have become yet another rape statistic. The USA, a country proclaiming the greatest freedom of rights has the World's highest rape rate. It is 4 times higher than Germany, 18 times higher than England and almost 20 times higher than Japan. In one state of Utah alone the rape rate is 44.6 per 100,000. In 1995, 2,071 Utah children under the age of 18 were sexually abused: 633 of these children were under the age of 6. In the USA, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That equates to 78 rapes each hour, 1,872 rapes each day, and 683,280 rapes each year.

Looking at such figures, the question springs to mind: who is committing these barbaric acts against women? Are these the acts of mentally disturbed characters roaming the streets? The popular stereotype could not be further from the truth. In 1980, only 2% of men convicted of rape were referred for psychiatric treatment. The reality is shocking and disturbing: over 75% of women who are raped have had some prior contact with the man who raped them.3 They are raped by acquaintances, people they know and probably trusted. A close friend or relative rapes 16%. A study carried out by the National Council for Civil Liberties showed that 38% of men use their power and position at work to rape women. A Retook survey found that 88% of respondents had experienced sexual harassment at work. In the UK, 86% of managers and 66% of employers had experienced such problems. The British Civil Service found that 70% of those surveyed had experienced sexual harassment. In Britain, even in that bastion of law and order, the Police service, the problem of sexual harassment is serious. Female officers with twenty-five years service in the force may be subjected to harassment. Examples of offensive incidents include being spied on while in police stations showers, being "casually" shown pornographic pictures, and being physically groped. One female officer said,

"You go into a room and three or four men will run their hands over you to see if you are wearing the 'full tackle,' i.e., suspenders. It happens frequently".

Rape has a devastating emotional, mental and psychological impact on the victims and their families. USA census reports, 1.3 million currently have a mental disorder due to rape, called Rape Related Post Traumatic Disorder (RR-PTSD). 3.8 million in USA have previously had RR-PTSD, and roughly 211,000 women will develop RR-PTSD each year.

Social Position of Western Women Today

alpenglowWomen with children are still casually abandoned, as in former centuries. Now the phenomenon is known as "single parent families". Instead of going to market to purchase a woman, men now resort to prostitution, or even rape. In by-gone times, men murdered women they had no more use for (consider the blood lust of Henry VIII, founder of the Church of England, and how he disposed of some of his wives); nowadays women are driven towards drugs and alcohol, and ultimately kill themselves. This is labelled as "suicide", and saves men from doing the dirty deed themselves. The old Spartan way of having women "inseminated" by strong men, is now replaced by genetic engineering and artificial insemination via the sperm banks, which achieve the same thing under the auspices of science and technology, the "gods" of their modern age. All of this is regarded as Progress. According to popular belief, the twentieth century has seen the greatest advancement in equality for women. In particular, the period after the Second World War, from the late 1940s until the present, is hailed as a golden era. But during this period, atrocities of all kinds against women have increased by more than 25%.

A survey into the world of government statistics reflect a true picture of the plight of women in today's world. HEALTH When it comes to health matters, women fare less well than men, especially when it comes to mental health. Single mothers, in particular, suffer poorer health than women in two parent households. General Health Survey data indicate that lone mothers are more likely to have both long standing and recent illness, and are less likely to assess their health over the last twelve months as good. In this survey, only 43% of single mothers described their health as "good" and nearly 39% reported a long standing illness. Women also suffer poorer psychological health than men. They see their GPs (family doctors) more often for mental health problems, and are more frequently prescribed drugs for anxiety and depression. Women are more unwell and unhappy than men because of the work they do and the conditions in which they do it created by the capitalist system for the acquiring of profit margins. If you were to question a randomly picked sample of the population and ask them, "Who suffers more from mentally-related disorders?" The majority will reply: women.

However, this has not always been the case. Studies from 1850 until the Second World War show that men used to be more prone to mental disorders than women. In the majority of studies prior to 1950 or the Second World War, the overall rates were higher for men. In the case of women's mental health, the findings differ sharply from the 1950s onwards, with the advent of so called equal status. A report by B P Dohrenwend in the American Journal of Sociology shows that while prior to 1950, for every 7 men diagnosed as mentally ill, only 2 women were similarly diagnosed, after 1950, the ratio changed to 22 women for every 2 men. This catastrophic reversal in mental illness statistics accompanied the rise of "women's liberation" in the West. This increased incidence of mental illness among Western women since the Second World War has occurred because "... women find their position in society to be more frustrating and less rewarding than do men .."5 The reason for this greater sense of frustration may be found in the unfair burden which is placed on the "liberated" women She is expected to display masculine traits in the workplace, but is also supposed to maintain her "femininity" - a dual burden that is too heavy for many women, who may eventually break down. Mental illness researchers have also discovered that single persons are more prone to mental illness than those who are married, and their prognosis is not as good. As early as the turn of the century, Durkheim noted that the severing of the marital tie is particularly dangerous for mental health, as indicated by a high suicide rate among the widowed and divorced. Since that time, all studies' comparing the mental health of those who are widowed or divorced with that of those who are married have also found that the rates of mental illness are higher among the former. With the rise of the divorce rate, the prospect of women's mental health looks particularly poor.

Alcohol and Smoking

smokinglungsThe Western development of the equality of the sexes has been accompanied by an increase in the vices that were previously thought to be a male preserve, namely the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. According to a recent report published in the Sunday Times, the number of women drinking more than the "recommended limit" is rising. The survey shows that the number of men exceeding this limit has fallen to 26%, whilst the number of women doing so has risen to 12%.

Smoking used to be a men's vice, as for a long time it was deemed improper for women to smoke. However, the number of women who smoke is now more or less the same as the number of men who do so. Although anti-smoking campaigns have led to many adults quitting the habit, tobacco companies have responded by targeting younger people, on the premise that if they can get teenagers or children "hooked" they will continue to have a ready market for their product. Reports indicate that more young women than young men are starting to smoke, which indicates that in the near future the majority of smokers will be women.

Pornography

The rapid growth of the pornographic industry since the 1950s has, again, mirrored the progress of "equality" in the West. Pornography does not present women as human beings with feelings and needs, but as mere available commodities to be used and cast aside. Women are led to believe that by selling their bodies, they are achieving equality, but in fact they become subordinate to men who use the idea of equality to exploit women for their own desires and financial gain. In the 1980s, a further step in the manipulation of women appeared. Sheila Jeffreys, a feminist, wrote:

"When the campaign against pornography first got underway, it was possible to attack pornography as a male product designed for male consumption. This is not true in the 1980s. Women are being told - by libertarian theorists that because 'women are equal now,' it is all right for women to enjoy pornography. This ideology serves more to defeat women's emancipation than to pander to it. The idea of selling pornography to women from the 1980s has become a more sophisticated and effective way of bolstering male power".

Pornography is the biggest media category world wide. It enters our homes via television and magazines, as well as video, film and satellite media. Globally, pornography generates $7 billion annually, more than the legitimate film and music industries combined. In the US, pornographic films gross $1 million daily, and outnumber films of other genres by 30%. In Britain, 20 million copies of pornographic magazines are sold each year, producing an annual revenue of over £500 million. In Sweden, a large "sex shop" may offer over 500 titles of pornographic magazines, and a corner shop can offer up to 50 titles. It is estimated that 18 million American men buy a pornographic magazine each month. Pornography throughout the world is becoming ever more violent and gruesome, and is spreading further via the new technology: pornography on the Internet, including "hard-core" and child pornography, is a growing problem worldwide.

The Western world is also exporting this deviant trend, which exploits women in the most abhorrent fashion, to the so-called third world. This is the state of affairs to which Western "civilization" and its Progress" and "equality" have brought humankind, where women are victimised in ever increasing numbers to vices and mistreatment that any sane person would abhor and seek to eliminate. To summarise, within the last hour the following have taken place in England: one woman was raped, eighteen people got divorced, 20 women had abortions, and 24 children were born to women without husbands. These same events will be repeated in the next hour, and in the hour after that. As you go through your daily routine of sleeping and waking, this sorry state of events will continue, and the number of victims will continue to escalate. What possible answer can there be? How can these barbaric crimes against women be reduced, if not eliminated altogether? The path of supposed equality between the sexes is only making the problem worse, and any sane person can see that the world is moving away from a civilized state towards a position of barbarity and ignorance (Jaahiliyyah). Very much like that which prevailed before the advent of Islam. In a society which considers itself to be at the forefront of civility and human concerns, how can the low standards of morality that prevail nowadays be accepted?

What are the solutions to these problems? For the people who are blessed with sincerity and understanding, there is no need to search far afield. Who better to guide, than the Creator of men and women, Allah Himself? When comparing Western practices to the values of Islam, it will soon be apparent where people have gone wrong and how Islam may steer people back on to the right path. The single most common cause of the problems discussed above is the fact that Western society encourages the free mixing of men and women. The natural modesty of one sex towards the other is regarded as backward, unfashionable and uncivilized. Any effort to retain a sense of modesty is immediately labelled as "oppressive" or "repressive". Yet considering the disastrous consequences of free mixing, from the above statistics, the appropriate course of behaviour to be undertaken is clear. Recent Psychologists reports agree that when there are two persons of opposite genders in enclosed surroundings, sexual ideas and connotations are bound to pass through their minds. The casual and frequent manner in which such encounters are allowed to occur in an atmosphere of free mixing sets the stage for most of the calamities suffered by women today.

Acting upon these impulses leads to all the woes of modern society: Abortion, divorce, single parent families, suicide, rape and all the other heart breaking social ills. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet Muhammad warned humanity about the hazards of free mixing and advised extreme caution. In this matter, he informed us that when a man and a woman are alone together, the third one present will be the Shaytan (Satan), working to implant mischief between the two. As stated earlier, 75% of all rapes are committed by men who know their victims personally. In the workplace, 38% of men in positions of power abuse their position to take advantage of women working with them. The most frequent cause of divorce is adultery, which is made easy by the free mixing of the sexes. The reason that children as young as 15 are getting pregnant is because the schools, which were once segregated, have become "co-educational", and are now dens of iniquity where peer pressure reigns supreme and promiscuity is the order of the day.

The abortion rate simply reflects the low esteem in which human life is held. n the Western world, equality for women has meant looking the same as men, doing the same jobs as them, and exhibiting the same behaviour and characteristics as men. Western societies have paid the price for this unnatural approach, by suffering huge losses of morality and human values. Equality of the sexes does not mean that both men and women should look the same. In a society where money, beauty and masculinity are what counts, a woman has to work, dress and behave like a man and at the same time stay pretty like a model in order to stand on equal terms with men. This is to the detriment of her moral values and feminine nature, whereas Islam has set out the unique and complementary roles of both men and women.

First, the misinformation campaign directed at most Westerners which conveys to them that Islam preaches inhuman practices and the Oppression of women need to be emphasised. Opponents of Islam usually maliciously manipulate the fact that Muslim women are required to dress modestly, and are prohibited from mixing freely with the opposite sex. A further whip is drawn to bash Islam with by distorting the facts regarding polygny. They misconstrue these Islamic teachings as evidence and portray Islam as preaching suppression of women. The West has been so successful in propagating these distorted views that even some Muslims have fallen victim to it. This should hardly come as a surprise when it is known that Muslims tend to be more familiar with Western literature than their own Islamic heritage. In Britain alone, between 1960 and 1978 over 22,000 books and 43,000 journals published material slandering the teachings of Islam. When every form of media and education such as, television, schools, teachers, friends, colleagues, books, newspapers and magazines are all conveying this distorted message that Islam oppresses women; it is no wonder that those who are poorly educated, in the facts of the matter, are so easily distracted away from the right path. To counter this tide of misinformation, a general need to educate society at large about the true Islamic teachings regarding women needs to be urgently undertaken. The Qur'an and ahadith are explicit on this matter.

purpleflowerwaterToday people think that women are liberated in the West and that the women's liberation movement began in the 20th century. Actually, the women's 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 Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet (Hadith or Sunnah) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties.

I. HUMAN RIGHTS
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 woman's equality in her humanity with men. In the Qur'an in the first verse of the chapter entitled "Women," Allah says,

"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." (4:1)

Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as some religious believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction of equality.

II. CIVIL RIGHTS
In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states:

"There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error." (2:256)

Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) 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 woman's testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas in which women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive.

III. SOCIAL RIGHTS
The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)." This includes knowledge of the Qur'an 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 behaviour and condemn bad behaviour 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 maintenance of a home, providing support to her husband, and bearing, raising and teaching of children 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 neither effort nor its benefit. God will reward both sexes equally for the value of their work, though it may not necessarily be the same activity. Concerning motherhood, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Heaven lies under the feet of mothers." This implies that the success of a society can be traced to the mothers that 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.

IV. POLITICAL RIGHTS
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, narrated in the Qur'an (60:12), is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) 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. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended Uthman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.

V. ECONOMIC RIGHTS
The Qur'an states:

"By the creation of the male and female; Verily, (the ends) ye strive for are diverse." (92:3-4)

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 labour, 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 Qur'an states:

"Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend of their wealth (for the support of women)." (4:34)

This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men, requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment. The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage 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 Qur'an states:

"And in no wise covet those things in which Allah hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women, what they earn; but ask Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge of all things." (4:32)

A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur'an states:

"For men there is a share in what parents and relatives leave, and for women there is a share of what parents and relatives leave, whether it be little or much - an ordained share." (4:7)

VI. RIGHTS OF A WIFE
The Qur'an states:

"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." (30:21)

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 Qur'an, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes.

"...They are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187)

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 wife's 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 Qur'an states:

"Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him." (65:7)

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 wife's rights also extend beyond material needs. She has the right to kind treatment. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

"The most perfect believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are best to their wives."

God tells us He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquillity between them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs, and marriage is designed to fulfil those needs. For one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, temptation exists to seek it elsewhere.

VII. DUTIES OF A WIFE
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations to their husbands. The Qur'an states:

"The good women in the absence of their husbands guard their rights as Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded." (4:34)

A wife is to keep her husband's secrets and protect their marital privacy. Issues of intimacy or faults of his that would dishonour him, are not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honour. A wife must also guard her husband's 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 that 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 fulfil 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.

VIII. CONCLUSION
The Qur'an states:

"And it becomes not a believing man or a believing women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decided on an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest." (33:36)

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.

shiningniqaabThe Muslim woman has been bestowed many rights by Alllah, the Almighty, and it is extremely necessary in Da'wah that she - the Muslim woman - familiarise herself with these rights. Not only will she then appreciate Islaam more, but infront of those people who think she is ‘oppressed’ & without rights, she will be efficiently able to prove their views wrong, so much so that many women, when realising the rights Islaam has given the Muslim woman, will feel envious of her dignified position.

Spiritually

"Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the their actions." (Qur'an [16]:97, also see [4]:124, [74]:38, [3]:195).

Woman according to the Qur'an is not blamed for Adam's first mistake. Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to God, both repented, and both were forgiven (see Qur'an [2]:36, [7]:20 - 24). In one verse in fact (Qur'aan, [20]:121), Adam specifically, was blamed.

In some cases indeed, woman has certain advantages over man. For example, the woman is exempted from the daily prayers and from fasting during her menstrual periods and forty days after childbirth. She is also exempted from fasting during her pregnancy and when she is nursing her baby if there is any threat to her health or her baby's.

If the missed fasting is obligatory (during the month of Ramadhan), she can make up for the missed days whenever she is able. She does not have to make up for the prayers missed for any of the above reasons.

Women can and did go into the mosque during the days of the Prophet and thereafter. Although, attendance of the Friday congregational prayers is optional for women while it is mandatory for men. This is clearly a tender touch of the Islamic teachings for it is considerate of the fact that a woman may be nursing her baby or caring for it, and thus may be unable to go out to the Mosque at the time of the prayers. It also takes into account the physiological and psychological changes associated with her natural female functions and nature.

The Social Aspect

a) As a child and an adolescent

Despite the social acceptance of female infanticide among some Arabian tribes, the Qur'an forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like any other murder (see Qur'an [81]:8-9). Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children, the Qur'an states, {And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and He is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof He has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her In the earth ? Certainly, evil is their decision.} (Qur'an [16]: 58-59).

Far from saving the girl's life so that she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam requires kind and just treatment for her. Among the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in this regard are the following,

"Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise." (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957)

"Whosoever supports two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)." (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 2104)

The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from that of males. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim". (Al-Bayhaqi). Islam promotes the education of both sexes. Islamic history, from the very beginning, records the names of numerous female scholars, foremost among whom is 'Aa'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), who was one of the greatest narrators of Prophetic Narrations. Not only was she responsible for conveying over two thousand aHaadith, but great men of her time used to consult with her on matters of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence).

b) As a wife:

The Qur'an clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, beside perpetuating human life, is emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy. Among the most impressive verses in the Qur'an regarding marriage is the following, {And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell In tranquility with them, and He has put love and Mercy between your (hearts): Verily In that are Signs for those who reflect.} [Qur'an, [30]:21]

According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice between accepting the marriage or invalidating it. (See Ibn Hanbal No. 2469)

In another version, the girl said,

"Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)." (Ibn Maajah, No. 1873).

A Muslm woman has the full right to her Mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. The concept of Mahr in Islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection. The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man (see Qur'an, [2]:228).

Such a degree is Quwwama (maintenance and protection). This refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet, man's role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband's dictatorship over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur'an gives us an example:

{The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. but He shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. no soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. no mother shall be Treated unfairly on account of Her child. nor father on account of His child, an heir shall be chargeable In the same way. if They both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. if ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on equitable terms. but fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do.} (Qur'an, [2]: 233) Over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the Qur'an and which is strongly recommended by the Prophet (peace be upon him); kind treatment and companionship,

{O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great Deal of good.} (Qur'an, [4]: l9).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "The best of you is the best to his family and I am the best among you to my family. The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives." (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 7396)

There is no celibacy in Islam. Islam considers sexuality to be a natural part of life, which is to be channeled into a healthy marriage life; sinful fulfillment of the sexual urge and exploitation of women through prostitution, pornography and rape are utterly forbidden. As an equal partner, the Muslim woman may stipulate conditions in the marriage. In contrast to British women, who even now do not have the right to draw up a contract or stipulate conditions, Muslim women were given this right fourteen hundred years ago. The woman may stipulate, prior to marriage, conditions, including the transfer of divorce power to herself, restricting the husband to one wife only, and clearly defining the conditions of maintenance. Although this is not always advisable.

Divorce

tearsAlthough Islam emphasises the importance of marriage, it is a humane and practical religion which recognises the fact that there may be situations in which dissolving the marriage bond may be in the better interests of the individuals concerned and of society at large.

Divorce is allowed as a last resort, rather as amputation or major surgery may be the unpleasant but a necessary step needed to save a person's life. If divorce were forbidden, then animosity and adultery may become rampant. To save individuals and society from the greater evils, divorce has been permitted. However, it is not a step to be taken lightly or hastily. Sincere attempts at reconciliation are to be made first and - as in the case of marriage - the rights and welfare of women are to be upheld.  The Qur’an advises a couple who are facing difficulties in their marriage to appoint arbiters:

{If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from His family, and the other from hers; if they wish for Peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: for Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.} [Q: al-Nisa' [4]:35; also see: Qur'aan [4]:130, [2]:231, [65]:1]

As the woman's right to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is recognized. To provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce. Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. Like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that.. When the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it:

{When ye divorce women, and they fulfill the term of their ('Iddat), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if any one does that; He wrongs His own soul. Do not treat Allah’s Signs As a jest, but solemnly rehearse Allah’s favors on you, and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom, for your instruction. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is well acquainted with all things.} (Qur'an [2]:231; also see: [2]:229 and [33]:49).

When it comes to divorce, Islam treads the middle ground, and safeguards the rights of women. It neither prohibits divorce, thereby imprisoning women as is the case in Hinduism and historical Christianity; neither does it regard divorce as insignificant, as in pre-Islamic Arabia and in many of our present-day societies. The right to divorce is not restricted to the husband. The woman may also seek a dissolution of the marriage by means of a process known as Faskh, whereby she applies to the Qadi (Judge) for an annulment of the marriage. The wife may seek Faskh in several cases, including: apostasy (renunciation of Islam) by the husband; lack of equality of status (Kafi'ah); lack of compatibility; spoiling of marriage (Fasad); incurable impotence on the part of the husband and if the husband ill treats the woman (Nushooz). The above cases present valid grounds for a woman to seek divorce from her husband. If the couple come to a mutual agreement for separation and get divorced then this is called Khul':

{If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; Even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practice self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.} (Qur'an, [4]:128)

The latter part of the twentieth century has seen an increase in cohabitation i.e., couples "living together" before marriage. Nearly half of women born in the 1960s said that they had cohabited at some time. This social trend is supposed to iron out any difference between partners and ensure that they are compatible before they tie the knot and make the commitment of marriage. This "trial run" is meant to increase the chances of a successful marriage, but the truth is that the increase in cohabitation has been accompanied by an increase in the divorce rate. Britain now has the highest divorce rate in the European Union. In 1983 there were over 147,000 divorces granted by the courts. By 1994, this number had increased to 165,000.

In USA the divorce rate has increased from 708,000 in 1970 to 1,175,000 in 1990. Whereas during the same period the marriage rates have remained virtually static, despite the rise in 'marriageable age' populations.

Tables of divorce statistics do not convey the suffering of partners whose marriage breaks down, or of their children whose world is torn apart by the parents' separation. The number of marriages in Britain has decreased, from 389,000 in 1983 to 341,000 in 1994. Of those, nearly one-third end in divorce, and the most common grounds for divorce is adultery.

The silent sufferers in divorce families are no doubt the children but even the partners are not saved from the trauma. Divorce now ranks as the number one factor linked with suicide rates in USA, outstripping other important social and economic predictors. Divorced people are three times more likely to commit suicide than people who are married.

The more human beings rely on their own intellectual reasoning and abandon the guidance of their Creator, the greater their suffering.

Single Parents

moondarknightThere is yet another set of depressing statistics that has been increasing since the advent of so called "women's liberation". In the past ten years, the number of births to unmarried mothers has risen from nearly 90,000 in 1982 to 215,000 in 1992. Of all the babies born in 1992, 31% were born to unwed mothers. Nearly 2,500 girls under the age of 15 gave birth, and over 23,000 new mothers in that year were aged under 20.

As the number of illegitimate births has increased, the number of babies born within marriage has decreased, from 890,000 in 1961 to 511,000 in 1994. The reality behind these statistics is that women are bearing most, if not all, of the responsibility for raising these children. This form of oppression of women should not be ignored; men must be made to shoulder the responsibility and be accountable for the children they produce.

An official survey has demonstrated that the number of families with children headed by a lone parent has risen to more than one in five (over 20%); in the North West of England, the figure is closer to 30%, or one in three. The same survey shows that fewer than 60% of women aged 18 49 are married. Even more alarmingly, growing numbers of single mothers are typically trying to cope on very little money: 42% of them had a gross weekly income of less than £100. The impact of poverty on educational achievement, crime rates, health, moral value and self esteem has been well documented and has led to reports in Britain and elsewhere of an "emerging underclass" whose future is indescribably bleak.

The burden of family care on the Western women has been escalating and in 1994, the USA had 9.9 million single mothers having to maintain and take care of their children compared with only 1.6 million single fathers. The 'normal house' with a father, mother and children has become an illusion in the Western world and is reaping havoc. The USA - In 1970, 40% of household were made up of married couples. In 1995, only 25% of households are made up of married couples. The social impact of single parenting on children is devastating. 75% of children in chemical dependency hospitals are from single parent families. 20% of children in single parent families have a learning, emotional or behavioral problem. 63% of suicides are committed by individuals from single parent families.

The burden on woman created by 'single parenting' is one of the most brutal forms of oppression.

c) As a mother: From the time a child is conceived, Islam gives glad tidings to a woman regardless of the gender of the foetus. The pregnant woman is held in the highest esteem, and her patience in bearing the discomforts of pregnancy is regarded as an act of virtue which brings her closer to Paradise. Islam considered kindness to parents next to the worship of God:

{And we have enjoined on man (to be good) to His parents: In travail upon travail did His mother bear him, and in years twain was His weaning: (hear the Command), "Show gratitude to me and to Thy parents: to me is (thy final) Goal.} (Qur'aan, [31]:14; please also refer to: [46]:15, [29]:8).

The Qur'an has a special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers:

{Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age In Thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them In terms of honor.} (Qur'an, [17]:23).

A man came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asking "O Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Your mother". The man said, "Then who else?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Your mother". The man asked, "Then who else?" Only then did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, "Your father". (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

A famous saying of the Prophet is "Paradise is at the feet of mothers." (an-Nisaa'i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad).

The Economic Aspect

moneyIslam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman's right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged.

This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.

With regard to the woman's right to seek employment it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as the most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby-sitters can possibly take the mother's place as the educator of an upright, complex free, and carefully-reared children. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as "idleness". However, there is no decree in Islam which forbids woman from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially for children), and medicine. Moreover, there is no restriction on benefiting from woman's exceptional talent in any field. Even for the position of a judge, where there may be a tendency to doubt the woman's fitness for the post due to her more emotional nature, we find early Muslim scholars such as Abu-Hanifah and At-Tabari holding there is nothing wrong with it.

In addition, Islam restored to woman the right of inheritance, after she herself was an object of inheritance in some cultures. Her share is completely hers and no one can make any claim on it, including her father and her husband:

{From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large,-a determinate share.} (Qur'an, [4]:7).

Her share in most cases is one-half the man's share, with no implication that she is worth half a man! It would seem grossly inconsistent after the overwhelming evidence of woman's equitable treatment in Islam, which was discussed in the preceding pages, to make such an inference. This variation in inheritance rights is only consistent with the variations in financial responsibilities of man and woman according to the Islamic Law. Man in Islam is fully responsible for the maintenance of his wife, his children, and in some cases of his needy relatives, especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived nor reduced because of his wife's wealth or because of her access to any personal income gained from work, rent, profit, or any other legal means. Woman, on the other hand, is far more secure financially and is far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she even keeps her maiden name. She has no obligation to spend on her family out of such properties or out of her income after marriage. She is entitled to the "Mahr" which she takes from her husband at the time of marriage.

If she is divorced, she may get an alimony from her ex-husband. An examination of the inheritance law within the overall framework of the Islamic Law reveals not only justice but also an abundance of compassion for woman.