According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘Women’s Rights are the rights, that promote a position of social and legal equality, of women to men’. According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘they are the rights, claimed for the women, equal to those of men, as regards to suffrage that right to vote, as regards to property, etc’.
‘Modernising’, according to the Oxford dictionary means, ‘to make modern, to adapt to modern needs or habits’. And according to the Webster’s dictionary it means ‘To make modern, or to give a new character or appearance - e.g., to modernise ones ideas’.
In short, modernising is a process of updating or opting for the betterment of the present status itself - It is not the present modern status itself. Can we modernise ourselves, to master our problems, and to realize a new way of life, for the whole human race? I am not concerned about the modern ideas, the conclusions and the categorical statements made by scientists and inexperienced armchair experts, as how a life should be lived by a woman.
I am going to base my conclusions and considerations on truth, which can be proved by experience.
Experience and unbiased factual holistic analysis, are the sure test, between the gold of truth, and the glitter of theory. We have to check our thinking against reality, otherwise many a times, our mental process will go astray - Indeed the great brains of one time, believed that the world was flat.
Women Rights in the West
If we agree with the ‘Women’s rights in Islam’, as portrayed by the Western media, you have no option, but to agree that the ‘Women’s rights in Islam’ are outdated. The Western talk of women’s liberation, is actually a disguised form of exploitation of her body, deprivation of her honour and degradation of her soul.
The Western society which speaks of upgrading the status of women in Islam, have actually reduced her status to concubines, to mistresses, to society butterflies, which are mere tools in the hands of sex marketers and pleasure seekers, which are disguised behind the colorful screen of art and culture.
Women Rights in Islam
Islam’s radical revolutionary support, gave women their due right and status in the days of ignorance 1,400 years ago. Islam’s objective was and continues to be, to modernise our thinking, our living, our seeing, our hearing, our feeling and striving for the women’s upliftment and emancipation in the society.
Before I dwell further with the topic, I would like you to make note of a few points:
- Approximately one fifth of the world’s population, consists of Muslims. There are different Muslim societies - Some may be close to Islam, some may be far away from Islam.
- The ‘Women’s rights in Islam’ should judged according to the authentic sources, and not what individual Muslims do, or what the Muslim society does.
- The authentic sources of Islam, are the Qur’an, which is the word of God, and the authentic Sunnah, and the traditions of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). Qur’an will never contradict itself, nor will the authentic Hadith contradict itself. neither will these two authentic sources, contradict each other.
- Sometimes the scholars differ, and many a times, these differences can be removed by analyzing the Qur’an as a whole, and not just by quoting one particular Verse. Because if one particular verse of the Qur’an is ambiguous many a times the answer is given somewhere else in the Qur’an - Some people quote one source and neglect all the other sources.
- It is the duty of every Muslim, male or female, to seek the pleasure of God, and to act as His trustee on this world, and not to try and gain fame or satisfy one’s own ego.
A. Spiritual Rights of Women in Islam
Another misconception is that, which the Western media has, that, ‘The woman has no soul’.
In fact, it was in the seventeenth century, when the Council of wise men, when they gathered at Rome, and they unanimously agreed that the woman had no soul.
In Islam, man and woman have the same spiritual nature. It is mentioned in Quran, Ch.4, Verse No.1, which says that, ‘O humankind reverence your Guardian Lord, who has created you from a single person and created like nature his mate’.
A similar thing is mentioned in Surah Nahl, Ch.16, Verse No.72, which says that, ‘We have made for you companions and mates of your own nature’.
In Surah Al-Shura, Ch.42, Verse No.11, it says, ‘He is the one who has created the heavens and the earth and has made for you pairs from among yourselves’.
Just because the spiritual nature of a man and woman is the same in Islam, will you call such rights in Islam, as modernizing or outdated? The Qur’an clearly mentions that, ‘God has breathed somewhat of His spirit into the human beings’.
If you read Surah Hijr, Ch.15, Verse No.29, it says, ‘When I have fashioned you in due proportion and have breathed into you something of my spirit, fall you down in obeisance’.
A similar thing is repeated in the Qur’an, in Surah Sajdah, Ch. 32, Verse No.9, which says, ‘Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit...’.
Here, when God refers to as ‘Something of My Spirit, is breathed into the human beings’ - it does not mean, a sort of incarnation or a pantheistic form. It means that Allah has given to every human being something of His spiritual Nature, and the Knowledge of God Almighty, and coming closer towards Him. Here it refers to both Adam and Eve (may peace be upon them) - Both were breathed something of God's Spirit.
Again we read in the Qur’an, that Allah has appointed the human being as His vicegerent, as His trustee, as is mentioned in Surah Isra, Ch.17, Verse No.70, which says, ‘We have honoured the children of Adam and bestowed on them special favours’.
Note, here all the children of Adam have been honoured, male as well as female. There are some Religious scriptures, for example the Bible, which puts the blame on Eve for the downfall of humanity. In fact if you read the Qur’an in Surah Araf, Ch.7, Verse No.19 to 27, Adam and Eve (may peace be upon them both) are addressed, more than a dozen of times.
Both disobeyed God, both asked for forgiveness, both repented, and both were forgiven.
In the Bible, if you read Genesis, Ch. 3, only Eve is held responsible (May peace be upon her) for the downfall of humanity. And according to the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’, because of Eve (may peace be upon her) the whole of humanity is born in sin.
Does Pregnancy Uplift the Women or Degrade?
If you read the Bible in Genesis, Ch. 3, Verse No.16, it says that,
'To the woman He (God) said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."' That means, pregnancy and child birth has been said in the Bible to degrade the women and the labour pain is a sort of punishment.
In fact if you read the Qur’an, pregnancy and child birth have uplifted the women. If you read Surah Nisa, Ch.4, Verse No.1, it says,
‘Respect the womb that bore you’.
Its mentioned in Surah Luqman, Ch.31, Verse No.14, it says,
‘We have enjoined on the human being to be kind to the parents, in travail upon travail did their mother bore them and in years twain was their weaning’.
A similar thing is mentioned in Surah Ahqaf, Ch.46, Verse No.15, it again repeats, which says,
‘We have enjoined on the human beings to be kind to his parents’.
To be kind to the parents - in pain did their mother bore them, and in pain did she give them birth - Pregnancy in the Qur’an has uplifted the women not degraded her. Just because pregnancy has uplifted the women in Islam will you call such rights in Islam as modernizing or outdated?
Criteria in the Sight of God to Judge Male and Female:
The only criteria for judgment in the sight of Allah is ‘Taqwa’, ‘God consciousness’ or ‘righteousness’.
It is mentioned in Surah Hujurat, Ch.49, Verse No.13
‘O humankind, We have created you from a single pair of male and female and have divided you into nations and tribes, so that you shall recognize each other not that you despise each other and the most honored in the sight of God, is the one who is the most righteous’.
Gender, colour, caste, wealth has got no criteria in Islam - The only criteria in the sight of God is ‘righteousness’, neither is sex the criteria for God to reward or to punish a person.
If you read Surah Imran Ch.3 Verse No.195 it says
‘I will never suffer the loss of any of you, be it male or female, you are companions unto each other’.
Equal Moral Duties for Men and Women:
I had started my talk by quoting a verse from the Qur’an from Surah Al Ahzab, Ch.33, Verse No.35, which says,
‘For Muslim men and Muslim 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 give in charity, for men and women who fast and deny themselves, for men and women who guard their chastity, for men and women who engage much in God's praise, God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.’
This verse indicates that the spiritual duties, the moral duties, for the men and women in Islam are the same - Both have to believe, both have to pray, both have to fast, both have to give in charity, etc, etc. But the women has been given certain concession in Islam. If she is undergoing her menstrual period or pregnancy, she does not have to fast - She can keep those fasts later on, when she is more healthy.
During the menstrual period and during the postnatal period, she needs not pray also - she has been given the concession, and neither does she have to compensate it later on. Just because the moral duties of the men and women are equal in Islam will you call such rights in Islam as modernizing or outdated?
B. Economical Rights to the Women
Islam gave economical rights to the women 1,300 years before the West. An adult Muslim woman can own, she can dispose or disown any of her property without consulting any one, irrespective whether she is married or she is single.
In 1870, it was the first time in England, that the West recognized the rights of the married woman, where she was allowed to own or dispose any of her property without consultation. I do agree that the women were given their economical rights 1300 years ago - these are ancient rights - but the question is – ‘are they modernizing or outdated?’
Women on Job:
A women in Islam, if she wishes to work she can work - There is no text in the Qur’an or the authentic Hadith which prevents or makes it prohibited for a woman to do any work, as long as it is not unlawful, as long as it is within the preview of the Islamic Shariah, as long as she maintains her Islamic dress code. But natural, she cannot take up jobs, which exhibit her beauty and body - Like for example, modeling and film acting, and such kind of jobs.
Many of the professions and jobs which are prohibited for the woman are also prohibited for the man, for example serving alcohol, working in gambling dens, doing any unethical or dishonest business. All these jobs are prohibited for both men and women.
A true Islamic society requires women to take up profession such as doctors. We do require female Gynecologists, we do require female nurses, we do require female teachers. But, a woman in Islam has got no financial obligations - The financial obligation is laid on the shoulders of the man in the family - Therefore she need not work for her livelihood. But in genuine cases, where there are financial crisis in which both the ends do not meet, she has the option of working. Here too, no one can force her to work - She works out of her own, absolute free will.
Financial Security for Women:
A woman in Islam has been given more financial security, as compared to the man.
As I told you earlier, the financial obligation is not put on her shoulder - It is put on the shoulder of the man in the family. It is the duty of the father or the brother, before she is married and the duty of the husband or the son, after she is married to look after her lodging, boarding, clothing and financial aspects of her.
Compulsory Marital Gift for a Woman:
When she gets married, she is on the receiving end. She receives a gift - she receives a dower or a marital gift, which is called as ‘Meher’. And it is mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah Nisa, Ch.4 Verse No.4 which says, ‘Give to the woman in dower, a marital gift’.
For a marriage to solemnize in Islam, ‘Meher’ is compulsory. But unfortunately in our Muslim society here, we just keep a nominal ‘Meher’ to satisfy the Qur’an, say 151 Rupees [the currency of India], or some people give 786 Rupees and they spend lakhs [millions] and lakhs [millions] of Rupees on the reception, on the decoration, on the flowers, on the lunch parties, on the dinner parties.
In Islam, there is no lower-limit, nor is there an upper limit for ‘Meher’ - But when a person can spend lakhs of Rupees on the reception, surely the ‘Meher ’ should be much more. There are various cultures which have crept into the Muslim societies, specially in the Indo-Pak area.
They give a small amount of ‘Meher’ and they expect the wife to give a fridge, to give a T.V set, they expect the wife to give an apartment, to give a car, etc., and a large sum of dowry, depending upon the status of the husband.
If he is a graduate, they may expect 1 lakh - If he is an engineer they may expect 3 lakhs - If he is a doctor they may expect 5 lakhs. Demanding dowry from the wife, directly or indirectly is prohibited in Islam. If the parents of the girl give the girl something out of their own free will, it is accepted - But demanding or forcing directly or indirectly, it is prohibited in Islam.
No Financial Liabilities:
If a Woman works, which she does not have to - whatever earning she gets, it is absolutely her property. She need not spend on the household - if she wants to spend it is her free will.
Irrespective how rich the wife is, it is the duty of the husband to give lodging, boarding, clothing and look after the financial aspects of the wife.
In case of divorce or if a wife gets widowed, she is given financial support for the period of ‘Iddah’ - and if she has children, she is also given child support.
Right to Inherit:
Islam gave the right to the women to inherit, centuries ago. If you read the Qur’an - in several verses, in Surah Nisa, in Surah Baqarah and in Surah Maidah, it is mentioned that a woman, irrespective she is a wife or she is a mother, or a sister, or a daughter, she has a right to inherit. And it has been fixed by God Almighty in the Qur’an.
D. Educational Rights to a Woman
The first 5 verses which were revealed in the Qur’an were from Surah Alaq, or Surah Iqra, Verse No. 1 to 5 which says:
‘Read, recite or proclaim in the name of your Lord, Who has created the human beings from a congealed clot of blood (a leech like substance). Read, your Lord is most bountiful. Who has taught the use of the pen. Who has taught the human beings that which they knew-not’.
The first guidance given in the Qur’an to the humankind was not to pray, was not to fast, was not to give charity - It was read - Islam pays utmost importance to education.
Education is Compulsory in Islam:
According to Quran:
God will exalt those of you who believe and those who are given knowledge to high degrees.(58:11)
And say, O my Lord! increase me in knowledge. (20:114)
And whoever is is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth. (2:269)
According to a saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) “It is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, to acquire knowledge (Al-Bayhaqi).
Imagine, 1400 years ago, when the women were ill treated and were only used as property, Islam asked the women to be educated. Because Islam tells that every woman should be educated, - Will you call such women’s right’s in Islam as modernizing or outdated?
E. Legal Rights to a Woman
According to the Islamic law, men and women are equal - The Islamic Law protects the life and property of a man and woman both. If a man murders a woman he too will receive the capital punishment of ‘Kisaas’. According to the Islamic law of ‘Kisaas’, men and women - irrespective the injury be of the eye, of the nose, of the ear, of the body - both receive equal punishment. And if the guardian of the murderer, even it be a woman - If she says, that forgive the murderer and she accepts ‘Dia’, that is compensation - her opinion cannot be rejected - they have to accept it. And if there’s difference of opinion between the relatives of the person whose murdered - And some say that the murderer should be killed and some say that he should be forgiven and ‘Dia’ should be accepted - people should prevent the relatives from killing that murderer. And irrespective whether the witness or the opinion is given by a man or woman, it has same weight.
According to Surah Maida, Ch.5, Verse No.30 - It says ‘As to the thief, whether he be man or a woman, cut off his or her hand as a punishment for his crime, an example from God’. Means, if a person robs, irrespective whether he is a man or a woman his or her hands should be chopped - The punishment is the same. According to Surah Nur, Ch.24, Verse No.2, it says ‘If any commits fornication, be it a man or a woman, flog them with 100 stripes’. The punishment for fornication in Islam irrespective whether it is a man or a woman, it is the same - Flogging with 100 stripes. The punishment for men and women, is the same in Islam. In Islam a woman is allowed to give witness Imagine, Islam gave right to a woman to be a witness, 14 centuries ago.
Even now in as late as 1980, the Jewish Rabai, they were considering that whether the women should be given a right to act as a witness or not - And Islam gave that right 1400 years ago. Accord ing to Surah Nur, Ch.24, Verse No.4, it is said ‘If any of you put a charge against the chastity of a woman, produce 4 witnesses, and if they falter, flog them with 80 stripes’.
In Islam for a small crime, you require 2 witness - for a big crime you require 4 witnesses. Accusing a woman falsely is a big crime in Islam, therefore you require 4 witnesses. Now a days you see in the modern society, you find men abusing women and calling them all sorts of name. They call them prostitutes etc, and nothing is done. In an Islamic state, if a man calls her a ‘prostitute’ in public or anywhere else, and if she takes that man to court - And if that man cannot produce 4 witnesses or even if he produces 4 witnesses and any one of them falter, all of them will receive 80 lashes each, and in future all their evidence will be rejected. Islam gives utmost importance to the chastity of the woman. When a lady marries, she normally adopts the name of her husband. In Islam she has the option of either keeping her husband’s name, either adopting the name of the husband, or maintaining her maiden name. And maintaining the maiden name is recommended in Islam - And we find in several Muslim societies that women, even after they get married they maintain their maiden name, because according to the Islamic law men and women are equal. Will you call such rights in Islam modernizing or outdated?
F. Political Rights of a Woman
According to Surah Tawba, Ch.9, Verse No.71, ‘The men and the women they are friends (supporters) of each other’. Supporters not only Socially - even Politically – Politically, men and women should support each other. Women can even take part in law making. And according to the famous Hadith in which Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), he was discussing with the Sahabas, and considering putting an upper limit on the ‘Meher ’, since young men were discouraged from getting married - a lady from the back seat she objected and said When the Qur’an says in Surah Nisa Ch.4, Verse No.20 that ‘you can even give a heap of treasure, a heap of gold in ‘Meher’, when Qur’an puts no limit on ‘Meher’, who is Umar to put a limit (may Allah be pleased with him). And immediately Hazrat Umar (peace be upon him) said… ‘Umar is wrong and the lady is right’. Imagine, she was a common lady - If it would have been a famous lady, the name of the lady would be mentioned in the Hadith.
Since the Hadith does not mention the name of the lady, we can understand that the lady was a common lady. Means, even a common lady can object to the ‘Khalifa’, the head of the state. And in technical terms it would be called that – ‘she is objecting to the breach of the constitution’,- because Qur’an is the constitution of the Muslims - That means a woman can even take part in law making. Women have even taken part in the battle fields There is a full chapter in the Sahih Bukhari mentioning women in the battle field - Women gave water - they give first aid to the soldiers. Because the Qur’an says ‘Man is the protector of the ‘Woman’.
Under normal circumstances, the women should not go to the battle field. It is the duty of the man. Only when required, under necessity are women allowed - and they should go to the battle field if they want. Otherwise you’ll have the same position as you are having in the USA. Women in USA are Not Safe In USA women were allowed to join the battle since 1901 but they were not allowed to take active part - They only played the part of a nurse. Later on after the ‘Feminist Movement’ had started in 1973, the ‘Feminist movement’ demand ed – ‘Why aren’t women allowed to take active part in the battle field?’ So the American government allowed women to take active part in the battle field. And according to a report of the Defense Department of America, which was released on the 23rd of April, 1993 it said that, ‘90 people were sexually assaulted in a convention, out of which 83 were women and 117 officers were charged with in disciplinary action’. Imagine in one convention only, 83 women sexually assaulted. What was the crime of those 117 officers? They made the women run and they snatched at their clothes. They made them parade absolutely nude without even covering the genital parts. They were made to have sex in public.
Is this what you call ‘Women’s rights’? If you think that this is what is ‘Women’s right’, then you can keep your rights to yourselves. We do not want our sisters, our daughters our mothers to be sexually assaulted. And there was a uproar in the parliament and the President, Bill Clinton - he himself had to apologize publicly and he said, ‘Necessary action will be taken’. And you know when politicians say ‘necessary action will be taken, what happens. So Islam allows women to take part in the battle field only when required. But there also they should maintain their Islamic dress and the Islamic ethics, and their modesty.
USA Has One of the Highest Rates of Rape. United States of America is supposed to be one of the most advanced countries of the world. It also has one of the highest rates of rape in any country in the world. According to a FBI report, in the year 1990, every day on an average 1756 cases of rape were committed in U.S.A alone. Later another report said that on an average everyday 1900 cases of rapes are committed in USA. The year was not mentioned. May be it was 1992 or 1993. May be the Americans got ‘bolder’ in the following years.
Islamic Law Let's Women Breathe Easily. Consider a scenario where the Islamic law is implemented in America. Whenever a man looks at a woman and any brazen or unashamed thought comes to his mind, he lowers his gaze. Every woman wears the Islamic dress as mentioned in Quran. After this if any man commits rape he is given capital punishment. I ask you, in such a scenario, will the rate of rape in America increase, will it remain the same, or will it decrease? If Islamic law is implemented in any part of the world, women will breathe easier.
Before I conclude, I’d like to give an example. As I said in the beginning of my talk, Islam believes in equality between men and women - Equality does not mean identicality. Suppose in a classroom 2 students, student ‘A’ and ‘B’, during an examination both come out first - Both secure 80% marks - 80 out of 100. When you analyze the question paper, the question paper has 10 differ ent questions, each carrying 10 marks. In question 1 student ‘A’ got 9 out of 10, and student ‘B’ got 7 out of 10 - So in question 1 student ‘A’ was higher than student ‘B’. In question 2, student ‘A’ got 7 out of 10 and student ‘B’ got 9 out of 10 - Student ‘B’ was higher than student ‘A’ in question number 2. In question 3 both of them got 8 out of 10, both were equal. So when we add up the marks of all the ten questions, both student ‘A’ and ‘B’ got 80 out of 100. So in short, student ‘A’ and student ‘B’ are over all equal. In some questions ‘A’ is higher than ‘B’, in some questions ‘B’ is higher than ‘A’, in others both are equal. In the same fashion, taking the example that since God has given man more strength - Suppose a thief enters the house will you tell, ‘I believe in women’s rights - I believe in women’s rights’ - will you tell your mother, your sister and your daughter, to go and fight the thief?’ No, but natural you’ll fight him - If required they may interfere - Under normal circumstances since God has given you more physical strength, you have to go and tackle the thief. So here, in physical strength, man is one degree higher than the woman Let us take another example where it comes to respecting the parents - The children are supposed to respect the mother 3 times more than the father (as mentioned earlier).
Here the women have one degree higher than the men - Over all both equal So Islam believes in equality, not identically - Men and women are over all equal in Islam. This was in brief, the highlights, of ‘the Women’s Rights in Islam’. After this what the Muslim society did is different - Many of the Muslim societies did not give the women their rights and they deviated away from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The Western society is largely responsible for this - because of the Western societies, many Muslim societies have become over protective, over precautions and have gone to one extreme and deviated away from the Qur’an and the [Authentic] Sunnah.
On the other extreme, some of the Muslim societies turned to the Western culture, and followed their culture. I want to tell the Western society that if you analyze the women’s rights in Islam according to the Qur’an and the [Authentic] Sunnah - you will realize it is modernizing and not outdated.