Islam and the Position of Women

The West’s vociferous partisans of Women’s Lib. have no idea of the revolutionary leap forward in women’s position which Islam brought about. In the days of Islam’s first appearance the position of women was that of chattels of the men – little above the domesticated animals. Yet the West, for all their vaunted freedom, have added nothing to what Islam gave to women, except liberty for increased corruption and licentiousness. Islam prohibits debauchery, laxity, vulgarity, debasement and demoralisation. Is that to hinder women’s upward advance?

Islam regards both man and woman as created by God to rise to the full stature of the perfect human. This is in stern contrast with those versions of the Heavenly Book which Jews and Christians have tampered with and published as reading: “Amongst every thousand men appears one beloved of God: but amongst all the women in the world there is not to be found one who is included in God’s grace and favour.” (My quotation is from page 519 of “Islamic and Arab Civilisation”, an authoritative work to which due respect must be paid.)

A scene from a female-majority class at the Psychology Department of Uludağ University in Bursa, Turkey. In Turkey, 47.5% of staff at the top five universities are female, a higher proportion than for their equivalents in the United States (35.9%), Denmark (31%) and Japan (12.7%).[62]

A scene from a female-majority class at the Psychology Department of Uludağ University in Bursa, Turkey.

Islam proclaims that in God’s eyes there is no difference between man and woman. Each is a precious soul. In His eyes all that makes people stand out from one another is their excelling in virtue, piety reverence, spiritual and ethical qualities. It is open to both men and women to achieve that type of excellence. At Doomsday each soul will be judged, regardless of sex, according to the fruits of their actions, by the above criteria. As it is written in Sura XXVII: Nahl -“Bee”.

“Whosoever hath faith and performs decorous actions, man or woman, I decree as their destiny a life that will be satisfied and will win that soul a reward better than the good deeds they have done.”

Compare Sura XXVIII: Qasas-“The Narration” (verse 84): “To whosoever does good, the reward is better than the deed.”

Islam regards men and women as complementary to each other. As it is written in Sura III: Aali-Imran -“Imran’s Family” (verse 195):

“Their Lord hath accepted their prayer and answered: ‘Never will I suffer the work of any one of you, male or female, to be lost. Ye are complementary to each other’.”

Many women possess such personal excellences and intelligence that they attain great heights of true humanity and happiness. Many men, alas, fall to the lowest depths because they flout reason and abandon themselves to their passions.

It is related that on one occasion the Second Caliph, Omar, said from the pulpit in the presence of a large crowd: “I will fine any man who gives his bride 500 darhams or more as dowry. He shall be made to give the same amount as that by which his dowry exceeds the Mahr-as-Sunna (traditional dowry) to the public treasury.” At this a woman who was at the foot of the pulpit cried out in a loud voice her objection to Omar’s statement saying: “Your proclamation contradicts God’s law. for does not the Sura IV: Nisa’a -‘The Women’, say (verse 20): ‘But if you decide to take one wife in place of another, even if you have given the wife you put away a talent of gold as her marriage portion, take not the least bit of it back.’? How can you, then, in contradiction of the Divine Law which has stated that it is permissible to give more than the legal minimum marriage portion, make your proclamation?” Omar could not deny the impeachment and withdrew his proposition saying: “It was a man who erred and a woman who uttered the truth.”

Contrast with this the tragic depression of women in pre-Islamic Arabia. What a height of dignity has been conferred by Islam on the female sex to enable one of them to lift up her voice in public rebuke to a Caliph and cause him to reverse his own public utterance! Islam took from men the right to own women. It instituted equality of human souls, with due regard to differences of male and female constitutions.

By Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari

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