Status of Woman in Islam by Ibrahim B Syed Part 1
The Quran warns about those men who oppress or ill-treat women:
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them - except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good.
(Quran Surah an-Nisa Ayah 4:19)
Unlike other religions, which regard women as being fixated of inherent sin and wickedness and men as being possessed of inherent virtue and nobility, Islam regards men and women as being of the same essence created from a single soul. The Quran says:
O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and reverence the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you.
(Quran Surah an-Nisa Ayah 4:1)
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, "Women are the twin halves of men." The Quran emphasizes the essential unity of men and women in a most beautiful simile:
They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.
(Quran Surah Baqarah Ayah 2:187)
Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. "The garment is the grace, the beauty, chastity or the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." Islam does not consider woman "an instrument of the Devil", but rather the Quran calls her muhsana - a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of righteousness in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as a most virtuous act. He said: "When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion." He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: "Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)." The Quran has given the reason for the existence of marriage in the following words:
And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.
(Quran Surah Ar-Rum 30:21)
Before the advent of Islam women were often treated worse than animals. The Prophet (SAW) wanted to put a stop to all cruelties to women. He preached kindness towards them. He told the Muslims: "Fear Allah in respect of women." And: "The best of you are they who behave best to their wives." And: "A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good." And: "The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is."
The Prophet (SAW) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous Khutbah on the Mount of Mercy at Arafat in the presence of one hundred thousand of his Companions who had gathered there for the Hajj al-Wada (Farewell Pilgrimage). In his Khutbah he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women. He said:
"Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means."]
The predominant idea in the teachings of Islam with regard to men and women is that a husband and wife should be full-fledged partners in making their home a happy and prosperous place, that they should be loyal and faithful to one another, and genuinely interested in each other's welfare and the welfare of their children. A woman is expected to exercise a humanizing influence over her husband and to soften the sternness inherent in his nature. A man is enjoined to educate the women in his care so that they cultivate the qualities in which they, by their very nature, excel.
The Shari'ah requires a man, as head of the family, to consult with his family and then to have the final say in decisions concerning it. In doing so he must not abuse his prerogative to cause any injury to his wife. Any wrongdoing of this principle involves for him the risk of losing the favor of Allah, because his wife is not his subordinate but she is, to use the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him), 'the queen of her house', and this is the position a true Muslim is expected to give his wife. In contrast to these enlightened teachings of Islam in respect of women, Western talk of women's liberation or emancipation is actually a disguised form of exploitation of her body, dispossession of her honor, and deprivation of her soul.
Prophet Muhammad said, "Do not beat the female servants of Allah;""Some (women) visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you" and "[is it not a shame that] one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe sleeps with her at the end of the day."(Riyadh Al-Saliheeen, p137-140). In another Hadith the Prophet (SAW) said, "...How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?..."(Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, Hadith 68, p.42-43).
Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) instructed Muslims regarding women, "I command you to be kind to women." He said also, "The best of you is the best to his family (wife). The Quran urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband or disinclination for her arises within him. It also outlawed the pre-Islamic practice of inheriting women as part of the estate of the deceased.
Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
PresidentIslamic Research Foundation International, Inc.