Women Rights in Islam
Host (Question 4)
Islam is a complete code of life. Every person has his own set of rights in the society. We talk to Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri sahib about these rights. Dr Sahib! What does Islam say about rights of women?
Let me clarify at the outset that Islam is not a religion but a Din (a complete way of life). There is a lot of difference between religion and Din. Religion is a part, while Din is a whole. But chief characteristic of Islam is that it incorporates all aspects in its body politic from the religious and spiritual to the secular and temporal and from the collective to the individual. That is why this faith is comprehensive code of conduct. This question of yours is also very interesting as to what is the position of women in Islam?
You should keep this in your mind that Islam is the first religion of human history that not only gave rights to woman some fifteen hundred years ago but also accepted her to be a legal person. And if you further ask I would give you comparative study as well. But from the Islamic angle, formal rights were given to women in the Holy Quran. Two verses of the Holy Book describe equality of rights between man and woman in domestic, social and economic domains. One is categorical declaration of human rights. It is not merely declaration but there is equality of rights described for both genders. There are hundreds of verses of the Holy Quran where rights of women have been recognized. This was the time when no culture or civilization of the world could think of such things in such a large-hearted manner. No country ever gave rights to its women after 1300 years which Islam bestowed on them at that time. Political rights are part of these rights.
During the caliphate of Hazrat Umer (ra), the women used to be members of parliament. It has been mentioned in many books of Hadith and history that he wanted to present a bill about limiting the dower when he was the Commanders of the Believers. He wanted to fix a maximum limit of such a dower in the parliament. A woman member stood up in opposition saying that if Allah did not fix any limit on it, how come he could do it. Hazrat Umer asked her to present evidence in support of her viewpoint. She recited a verse of the Holy Quran. ‘In case of separation, you cannot take back as a downer even if you have given her heaps of gold.’ This was a jurisprudential point. The word ‘heaps of gold’ denotes that no limit has been fixed on dower. At this, Hazrat Umer said as the head of state that man kept sitting in error and a woman gave correct opinion. As a result, he withdrew his bill from parliament. I have given all references in great detail in my book ‘Human Rights in Pakistan’.
When election of Hazrat Usman Ghani (ra) took place, it is reported in books like ‘Tabqat Ibne Saad’, ‘Tibri’, ‘Ibne Kathir that there was a vote tie in parliament. General elections followed and Huzrat Abdur Rehman Bin Auf was appointed Chief Election Commissioner. It is categorically stated that both men and women voted for three days. This was right to vote. The Holy Prophet (saw) himself included women in the important national affairs during the Caliphate period including defence duties. He would have them during Holy War, and journey. The incident of Hudbayia is an important epoch in Islamic history. When crisis arouse and ugly situation was created, the Holy Prophet (saw) consulted Hazrat Ume Salama (ra) and it was upon her advice that the Prophet (saw) decided to move on.
The role of women was such as Hazrat Ayesha (ra) was teacher of 8000 companions who learnt knowledge of Hadith from her. She was expert of literature, medicine, history, Hadith and law. In the similar way, Hazrat Umsan Ghani (ra) appointed Hazrat Umme Kalsoom Bint Ali (ra) as ambassador and sent her to the court of the Empress of Rome during his Caliphate. Hazrat Umer (ra) appointed Hazrat Shifa Bint Abdualla as the justice of Accountability Court and administrator of market. Women would play their role in diplomacy, politics and as advisors. They performed their role quite actively in other spheres too. Islam gave them respect and other kinds of rights like evidence rights, domestic rights, economic rights, business and trade rights etc. They were given political rights to vote and be elected to parliament, whereas western world was mired in darkness. I will tell about it later on.
They were given equality in rights as men. In his Farewell Address, the Holy Prophet (saw) urged believers to mete out good treatment to women three times repeatedly so much so that he said that a woman enjoyed a share in man’s earning. For It is man’s responsibility to provide for for living, maintenance and food of his wife according to Islamic teachings. This is so because Islam prefers family system. But if a woman does some job and earns, it is her discretion whether to share it with her husband or spend it on domestic needs. If she does not spend even a penny, it is not sinful on her part. Man does not have a right to share even a single penny in her earning. The Holy Prophet (saw) said that a person who respected a woman was respectable and he who demeaned woman was a mean himself. Thus the Holy Prophet (saw) set a criterion to distinguish between the respectable and the mean. The Prophet (saw) said, “The best Muslim from amongst you is the one who is the best in his conduct towards his wife and children.” If a woman is a mother, Islam has placed paradise under her feat, and if she is a daughter and sister, her good and pious upbringing guarantees paradise as a result. If she is a wife, guarantee has been given of paradise and pleasure of Allah as a result of good treatment towards her. This is high station Allah and His Prophet (saw) bestowed on woman.
Think about the society where female child was buried alive upon being born and women enjoyed no rights of inheritance. This was a breakhrough in that society, which when we hear today, appears quite strange. What was the status of woman in Rome, Iran, China or Hindustan, Byzantine, Greece, Egypt and Arabian Peninsula? When you look at it from this angle, it was in these circumstances that the Prophet (saw) gave them lofty and ideal rights by taking revolutionary steps and gave them such equality in rights as modern mind has not been able to go beyond what Islam has endowed on them in terms of rights.
What is unfortunate is that this is not taught here. It is so because if some Maulana mentions it in his speech, the wife will demand her rights. Let me tell it on TV that it is not woman’s responsibility to cook food, lunch, dinner and breakfast etc from point view of Islamic law. If she refuses to do all this or does not know how to cook, she would not be sinful in the eyes of Allah. She may be sinning in the eyes of man because he has married her to put her in kitchen all day long and play host to him, wash crockery and produce children. We do not have Islamic concept here in any department of life.
If she refuses, she would not be sinful. It is her act of benevolence and good upon a man that she is cooperating with him. It is a joint venture because of nature of their marital relationship. Therefore, man should appreciate that she is contributing more than her duties warrant. He should give her more time in privacy, extend more love and respect towards her. He should give her gifts like a rose flower upon reaching home. He should take her and children for an outing on weekends. He should have them dine out and show greater regard for her contributions. It is a misfortune that people who could present true face of Islam have not remained anymore in our society. And outside world has borrowed Islamic face from some other society. It was cultural traditions not Islam. Islam is getting bad name from every quarter. Would that rulers, men and women knew the spirit of Islamic teachings! No single voice can achieve effective results unless joined by other voices. Islam has granted such a high position to woman that a human mind cannot perceive it.
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