Salman Ahmed Shaikh
Institution of family is highly respected in Islam. Women are indispensable part of this institution. As per Islamic worldview, mental and physical capabilities that we enjoy are the blessings of Allah and we hold them as a trust. Therefore, based on the differences in these mental and physical capabilities alone, no one is superior and powerful in the eyes of Allah.
As per Islam, following is a brief summary of women rights.
- Muslim women must educate themselves like men. Education is not only allowed, it is compulsory for women like for men.
- Women can choose an occupation and earn their livelihood. They are allowed to do that. But, they are not made responsible for it. Men are made responsible for it in the Islamic family system.
- Women have the right to own property and engage in trade. First wife of Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a business woman.
- Women have the right to choose their husbands and the right to separate from their husbands. First wife of Holy Prophet (pbuh) initiated the marriage proposal herself.
- Married women are entitled to ‘Mehr’ (wealth at the start of marriage), ‘Wirasat’ (wealth at the death of husband, children and father and in some cases even brothers).
- Mother must be respected three times more than the father according to a Hadith (Source: Sahih Bukhari & Sahih-Muslim).
- In another Hadith, it is said ‘paradise lies beneath mother’s feet’ as a symbolic representation to highlight the importance of how critical one’s attitude towards mother really is for having eternal success in life hereafter. (Source: Ibn-e-Maja)
- As per a Hadith, best men are considered those who are best to their wives. (Source: Tirmizi)
- No man is allowed to have extra-marital relationships with any other women.
- Adultery and prostitution is a severe crime in Islam and can lead to capital punishment.
In fact, one of the arguments of non-believers in Arab was to say that how can we accept this religion which gives such rights to women. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Himself married an old widow to set an example. Several non-Muslim historians for this reason hold the view that Islam modernized the Arab world then in terms of human rights and especially the women rights.
But, in reality, we also see things like honor killing, discouraging education and social mobility of women and strong encouragement for complete body covering among other things. Briefly, we discuss these issues below.
Honor killing has nothing to do with Islam. It is to do with ignorance and especially about Islam. Education is a religious responsibility for all Muslims, men and women included. Regarding social mobility, there is no strict restriction, but a set of etiquette. The etiquette is also prescribed for men (Chapter Noor, Verse 29). Women are also prescribed to cover themselves decently in public (Chapter Noor, Verse 29).
However, it must be noted that Islamic family system gives one edge to husbands as head of family than to wives, but with an additional responsibility that husbands are primarily responsible for their family’s financial sustainability. In Muslim societies, low labor force participation by women is not because of strict prohibitions by Islam. The economic and social role of women had remained important especially in keeping with the social capital and family system intact. Undocumented labor that women provide in agrarian economies understate their economic role. But, their primary contribution and responsibility is inculcating right values as first nursery and learning institutions for their children.
Empirical evidence shows that alternate societies where family institution had been ignored or established with different norms, more crimes happen against women and it engenders a society where all too often, children do not know their father’s names. Most definitely, these societies can have market for daycare, old homes, free and paid sex experiences, but they may not have a strong family system, social capital and ethical standards which can make a human society any different from non-human ones.