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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.

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