Role of Women In Islam
There is a lot said about the way women are treated in Islam, from being oppressed to second class citizens, a lot of these misconceptions are based on ignorance, cultural and social norms and sometimes economical factors, so lets us look at some issues regarding the Role of Women in the light of the Quran and Sunnah (Quran being the Devine Revelations from Allah SWT (God) and Sunnah how the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH practiced and lived His life according to the Quran)
Creation of Mankind
`A single soul’ is neither male nor female, although it could be understood to mean Adam it is not necessarily so. In fact `soul’ is feminine and `mate’ is masculine, that is not to say that women came first, because in other parts of the Qur’an the creation of Adam is described. But the gender relationship here is ambivalent. And the mate was created from the `soul’ not the humble `rib’. No Muslim scholar could ever argue, that women do not have a soul! They are made of the same soul. Their capacity for good and evil is identical with that of men. In 49:13, of the Qur’an we find that it is good deeds and awareness of Allah which make the believer, male or female, noble in the sight of Allah:
Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious.
and in 40:40:
Whoever does right, whether male or female, (all) such will enter the garden
The works of male and female are of equal value and each will receive the due reward for what they do:
Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any one of you, male or female…
The same duties are incumbent on men and women as regards to their faith:
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 and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise – for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.
Islamic law makes no demand that women should confine themselves to household duties. In fact the early Muslim women were found in all walks of life. The first wife of the Prophet, mother of all his surviving children, was a businesswoman who hired him as an employee, and proposed marriage to him through a third party; women traded in the marketplace, and the Khalifah Umar, not normally noted for his liberal attitude to women, appointed a woman, Shaff’a Bint Abdullah, to supervise the market. Other women, like Laila al-Ghifariah, took part in battles, carrying water and nursing the wounded, some, like Suffiah bint Abdul Muttalib even fought and killed the enemies to protect themselves and the Prophet* and like Umm Dhahhak bint Masoud were rewarded with booty in the same way as the men. Ibn Jarir and al-Tabari siad that women can be appointed to a judicial position to adjudicate in all matters, although Abu Hanifah excluded them from such weighty decisions as those involving the heavy hadd and qisas punishments, and other jurists said that women could not be judges at all. The Qur’an even speaks favourably of the Queen of Sheba and the way she consulted her advisors, who deferred to her good judgement on how to deal with the threat of invasion by the armies of Solomon. (Qur’an 27:32-35):
She (the Queen of Sheba) said, `O chiefs, advise me respecting my affair; I never decide an affair until you are in my presence.’ They said, `We are possessors osf strength and possessors of mighty prowess, and the command is thine, so consider what thou wilt command.’ She said, `Surely the kings, when they enter a town, ruin it and make the noblest of its people to be low, and thus they do. And surely I am going to send them a present, and to see what (answer) the messengers bring back.’
Women have sometimes headed Islamic provinces, like Arwa bint Ahmad, who served as governor of Yemen under the Fatimid Khalifahs in the late fifth and early sixth century.
To sum up, the qualifications of women for work of all kinds are not in doubt, despite some spurious ahadith to the contrary. Women can do work like men, but they DO NOT HAVE to do it to earn a living. They are allowed and encouraged to take the duties of marriage and motherhood seriously and are provided with the means to stay at home and do it properly.
The Muslim woman has always had the right to own and manage her own property, a right that women in this country only attained in the last 100 years. Marriage in Islam does not mean that the man takes over the woman’s property, nor does she automatically have the right to all his property if he dies intestate. Both are still regarded as individual people with responsibilities to other members of their family – parents, brothers, sisters etc. and inheritance rights illustrate this.
The husband has the duty to support and maintain the wife, as stated in the Qur’an, and this is held to be so even if she is rich in her own right. He has no right to expect her to support herself, let alone support his children or him. If she does contribute to the household income this is regarded as a charitable deed on her part.
Because of their greater financial responsibilities, some categories of male relations, according to the inheritance laws in the Qur’an, inherit twice the share of their female equivalents, but others, whose responsibilities are likely to be less, inherit the same share -mothers and fathers, for instance are each entitled to one sixth of the estate of their children, after bequests (up to one third of the estate) and payment of debts. (Qur’an 4:11):
For parents a sixth share of the inheritance to each if the deceased left children;
If no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth…
Women are thus well provided for: their husbands support them, and they inherit from all their relations. They are allowed to engage in business or work at home or outside the house, so long as the family does not suffer, and the money they make is their own, with no calls on it from other people until their death.
Nor are women expected to do the housework. If they have not been used to doing it, the husband is obliged to provide domestic help within his means, and to make sure that the food gets to his wife and children, already cooked. The Prophet* himself used to help with the domestic work, and mended his own shoes.Women are not even obliged in all cases to suckle their own children. If a divorcing couple mutually agree, they can send the baby to a wet-nurse and the husband must pay for the suckling. If the mother decides to keep the baby and suckle it herself, he must pay her for her trouble!
This is laid down in the Qur’an itself, (2:233):
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…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 what ye offered on equitable terms …
What basis does all this leave for the male attitude that women are only fit for maternal and household duties?
Nevertheless the womanly state in marriage is given full respect in Islam, and so are the rights of children. No Muslim woman could feel ashamed to say she was only a housewife. She is the head of her household, although the husband has the final say in major decisions. According to a hadith:
The ruler is a shepherd and is responsible for his subjects, a husband is a shepherd and is responsible for his family, a wife is a shepherd and is responsible for her household, and a servant is a shepherd who is responsible for his master’s property.
The wife must defer to her husband in respect for the fact that he maintains and protects her out of his means (Qur’an 4:34), but not if he tries to make her break the laws of Allah. Likewise children’s obedience and respect for parents goes only to the limits set by Allah. If the parents try to make them disobey Allah, then it is their duty to disobey the parents. If the husband wilfully fails to maintain his wife, she has the right to divorce him in court.
Women are also entitled to respect as mothers: Allah says in the Qur’an (31:14):
And we have enjoined on man to be good to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him…
The Prophet said:
Paradise lies at the feet of mothers…
and in another hadith the Prophet told a man that his mother above all other people, even his father, was worthy of his highest respect and compassion.