Womens Rights In Islam Essay

Translator's Note

We realise the importance of this book in dispelling some of the misconceptions of Islam, and in spreading a religion on Earth which can solve or allay the adversities which abound. With books such as The Status of Women in Islam, it is hoped the recognition of Islam as a mercy to mankind becomes apparent.

The Status of Women in Islam is hoped to be one of many to be put forth on this subject of the continual discovery of women, their abilities, and the solace they provide. The case of woman and their special place in the order of Allah has been undermined throughout the world and I might add, history. The plight of the fairer sex in the West, where widespread exploitation exists, in the East, where their value is distortedly depreciated and sadly, I must admit in the Arab world where people do not follow their religion, is indeed tragic. Women are the underpinnings of future generations and must be treated as such.

Islam, the mercy of Allah, is for all of mankind and makes no preference to sex. Men and women have a calling and a place in nature. Neither has a greater value, nor is one of greater importance. Both are subject to Divine Retribution which is equal for the capacity of each. The Quran expounds upon this in multiple verses and exists as an illuminating miracle for those who reflect.

I hope there is no confusion with my use the terms of God, Who is Allah, The One, The Almighty, The Everlasting, The Provider and the other ninety-nine names of Allah which should be ceaselessly reflected upon for inspiration and guidance.

I especially wish to thank Dr. Mohammed Tolba, Dr. Elham Fathy, Alicia Daniel, and Afiwine Mischler for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of this book.

Sheikh Mohammed Gemeaah

Introduction

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, praise be to Allah, blessings and greetings be on His Messenger and his family, his Companions and whoever flows his guidance. It is common talk that women constitute half the society and that the society should not neglect them, leave them idle, maltreat them nor dissolve their rights.

This is all true. It may as well be argued that although women constitute half of the population, their influence exceeds their number, since women, for good or ill, influence their husbands and children. The poet Hafiz Ibrahim struck this note when he described the woman as a whole school, the sound management of which leads to the production of a noble society.

For these reasons scientists, thinkers, leaders, reformers, preachers and educators have all shown interest in the case of the woman. They have called for doing her justice, treating her with respect and for the abolition of forms of unfairness and repression towards her so that she can have her rightful access to learning, work, responsibility and choice in marriage. Some did not find this enough; they wanted to give her the right of sexual permissiveness, homosexuality, unrestricted abortion, rebellion against the family, and disregard of values of religion and society.

These were some of the aims the International Conference on Women in Peking 1995 impelled. It has provoked a lot of controversy in the Islamic and even Christian worlds. We Muslims have a divine document that truly honours women and treats her with justice; it is a document that rescued her from the gloomy injustice of Pre-Islamic darkness. This document of The Noble Qur'an-honours the woman as a human being, as a feminine being, as a daughter, wife, mother and, no less, as a full member of her society. True, some Muslims have wronged women in different ages by depriving her of her right to solid religious knowledge and her right to work. They have even forbidden her from going to the mosque for worship or leaming, compelled her to marry someone she did not like and confined her to her home. But this has happened in the absence of any sound religious awareness. Nor did it prevail everywhere; there have always been Muslims willing to reject this, something we have seen happening in rural areas.

Islam's true stance on the status of the woman is what this small treatise seeks to make clear. Although the issues relating to women and the family are dealt with in some of our previous books, particularly The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam (Al-Halal wal-Haram fil Islam) and Contemporary Legal Opinions (Fataawa Muserah), the reader may find in these pages a light that guides the way to knowledge of the correct opinions on this critical issue, between harsh austerity and excessive indulgence. "And my guidance cannot come except from Allah, and in Him I have put my trust and unto Him I repent.'' [Surah 11:88]

The Woman as Human Being

Islam was revealed at a time when a lot of people denied the humanity of the woman; some were sceptical about it; and still others admitted it, yet considered the woman a thing created for the humble service of the man.

With the advent of Islam, circumstances improved for the woman. The woman's dignity and humanity were restored. Islam confirmed her capacity to carry out Allah's commands, her responsibilities and observation of the commands that lead to heaven. Islam considered the woman as a worthy human being, with a share in humanity equal to that of the man. Both are two branches of a single tree and two children from the same father, Adam, and mother, Eve. Their single origin, their general human traits, their responsibility for the observation of religious duties with the consequent reward or punishment, and the unity of their destiny all bear witness to their equality from the Islamic point of view.

Establishing this fact, the Noble Qur'an says: " O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. " [ Surah 4:1] That people all people men and women, were created by their Lord from a single person or self, that this self is a nucleus from which Allah created an integral counterpart that completes this original self and is completed by it, is stated in another verse: " It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and (then) He has created from him his wife (Eve), in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her." [ Surah 7:189] Eventually Allah, out of this nuclear pair, scattered the multitudes of men and women, all worshippers of a single God and children of the same parents implying they are united in a fraternity, embracing men and women alike. Because of this fact, the verse commands people to fear Allah as their Lord and be heedful of the duties that the wombs, as symbolic of this bond, impose.

The man on this account is a brother to the woman and the woman is the other half of the pair. The Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) says, "Women are the sisters of men." [ Transmitted on the authority of Aisha by Ahmad (6/256); Abu Dawud (236); Al-Termithy (113); Al-Doram(1/195) and others.]The Qur'an, on its part, treats this issue of fraternal equality from more than one perspective. On the purely religious level for instance, the Qur'an says: "Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam) men and women, the believers men and women (who believe in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord -Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat, (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who fast (the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan and the optional Nawafil fasting), the men and women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and women who remember Allah muchwith their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc. for more than 300 times extra over the remembrance of Allak during the five compulsory congregational prayers or praying extra additional Nawafil prayers of night in the last part of night etc.) Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise). [ Surah 33:35]

On the basic social and religious responsibilities, the Qur'an establishes equality by maintaining: "The believers, men and women, are "Awliy," (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma`ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do);and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they offer their prayers perfectly (lqamat-as-Salat), and give the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have mercy on them. [ Surah 9:71]

In Adam's story, Divine Orders were made to him and his wife, both and equally: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalim'n (wrongdoers). [ Surah 2:35] What is new, however, about this story as given by the Qur'an is that the temptation is blamed not on Eve but on Satan: "Then the Satan made them slip therefrom (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. [ Surah 2:36] - the reverse of The Old Testament versions. Thus Eve was neither the sole eater from the tree, nor the one who initiated the act. Rather, the mistake was theirs both, and both of them repented and asked for forgiveness: "They said, "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall be losers". [ Surah 7:23]

Further still, some verses ascribe the trespass to Adam: "And indeed We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We found on his part no firm will-power." [ Surah 20:115] And "Then Satan whispered to him saying, "O Adam! Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away?" [ Surah 20:120] and till "Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray." [ Surah 20:121]

This implies that Adam was the one who trespassed first and was followed by his woman. Whatever the case may be, even accepting that Eve did commit a trespass, she, alone, would be responsible without any transmission of accountability to her daughters.

On the question of equality of punishment and reward and eligibility for Paradise, The Almighty says: "That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. [ Surah 2:134 and 2:141] Concerning the equality of men and women in receiving rewards and the entry of paradise, God says: " So their Lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), "Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female." [ Surah 3:195] and Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter). [ Surah 16:97]

When it comes to financial matters, the rule of Islam abolished the conventions prevalent among many nations which deprived the woman of the right of ownership, inheritance, and those which created obstacles against her exercise of free and full control of her holdings. As a rule, Islam acknowledges the woman's rights to all kinds of ownership, spending and channelling of her money. It gives her the rights of inheritance, selling, buying, renting, donating, lending, allocating property for religious and charitable purposes, giving alms, legal transfer and mortgage, as well as many other forms of contracts and actions.

The woman's right to seek education or learning is basic and is also guaranteed by Islamic teachings. Islam actualIy makes it incumbent on the woman to seek knowledge; the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) says, `seeking knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim," where "every Muslim" obviously involves men and women on an equal footing as a rule formalised by all authorities of jurisprudence .

The woman is also required to perform religious ordinances and forms of worship the way the man is. Praying, fasting, Zakat (the alms sanctifying tax), pilgrimage and all the other fundamental practices in Islam are required of Muslims in their capacity, both men and women, as responsible humans. Again the woman's actions are recompensed by Allah the way the man's actions are.

The woman is not excluded from the area of social activity; Allah says: " The believers, men and women, are "Awliy," (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma`ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do);and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden). [ Surah 9:71] For instance, she can give refuge for those who seek it. If she hosts a refugee, her action is to be respected and observed. This rule relates back to Um Hanibint Abi Talib's giving relief to a father in-law on the day of the Conquest of Mecca by Muslims. When her brother wanted to kill him because he was an infidel, she complained to Allah's Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) saying, "Allah's Messenger, my mother's son insists on killing my refugee, Ibn Hubayra."The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) replied, "We confer asylum on him that you give refuge to, Um Hani". [ Mutafaq aley (agreed upon) on the authority of Um Hani, The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan) (193)]

Refuted Misconceptions

Distinctions justified

Some people harbour certain doubts and raise questions about Islam's stance on the woman's status as a human being. Here we tackle the more important points of uncertainty or even scepticism.

One of these questions is: why, if Islam really regards the woman's humanity on an equal basis with that of the man, does it give the man privilege over the female in some dealings such as legal testimony, inheritance, blood money, charge of the family, heading the state and other supporting ministrations?

The distinction (if it can ever be called one) between the man and the woman is not due to any preference by Allah, The Almighty, of the man or the woman on any account of being nobler or closer to the Lord. As a rule, it is piety and only piety that is the measure of ascendancy, nobility and closeness to Allah: " Verily, the most honour able of you in the Sight of Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaq 'n: i.e. pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much](abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden), and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)". [Surah 49:13] The distinctions, however, are merely conditioned by the different tasks assigned to each of the two sexes by virtue of their natural disposition.

Legal testimony

The Qur'anic verse known as "the indebtedness verse" in which Allah prescribes writing debt contracts as a precautionary measure is: "And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, tile other can remind her. And the witnesses should not refuse whethey are called on (for evidence). [ Surah 2:282] Thus, the Qur'an makes the testimony of oman equal to the testimony of two women. Moreover, the majority of jurisprudents establish that a woman's testimony does not count in major crimes and in matters which do not relate to the rule of retaliation in kind.

Yet the distinction is far from being due to any belief in a deficiency of the woman's humanity and integrity. It is rather due to her natural disposition and her special inclinations which may exclude her involvement in such matters while being focused on motherhood or the household. Hence, there is very likely to be a kind of characteristic inattention on her part when it comes to handling these matters. For this reason, Allah commands creditors if they want to verify the value of debt to seek the testimony of two men or one man and two women. The Qur'an puts it unambiguously: " so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. [ Surah 2:282]

The exclusion of woman's testimony, altogether, from cases of major crimes, and cases requiring retaliation in kind, is meant to protect women and distance them from sites of crime and aggressions against souls, honour and property. It is not infrequent, for instance, to see a woman closing her eyes, or running away in panic from a scene of bloodshed; therefore , it becomes difficult for that woman to give a reliable account of the crime.

Nevertheless, this has also meant for the jurisprudents that a woman's testimony counts in cases of feminine affairs such as foster relationships, menstruation, delivery and such matters whose knowledge was confined to women in past ages and probably still is. Yet, Ata'a-tabiei (literally a follower a companion of one of the Prophet's Companions) establishes that a woman's testimony on such matters does count. In addition, other jurisprudents accept a woman's testimony in crimes that take place in female gatherings that are not usually frequented by men, like women [ Surah 2:282] oriental pools, wedding parties attended solely by women. and other such gatherings. The question, however, is: if one woman kills, wounds or maims another and the only witness is a woman, should her testimony be ruled out because it is merely given by a woman or should men give testimony of something they did not witness? It is more in the nature of things to accept a woman's testimony in this case so long as she is reputed to be honest, accurate and mindful. Commenting on the verse: " And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women" the former Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmud Shaltut says: The verse does not address the question of the status of the testimony. It rather addresses the methods of verification and establishment of confidence about the individual's rights at the moment of transaction. The verse actually begins: "O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him," until it reaches " And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two woman, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. [ Surah 2:282] Therefore the situation is one of verification and documentation of rights and not one of judgement. Thus the verse points to the best ways of documentation and verification by which partners in a deal can have maximum security. This therefore does not mean that a single woman's, or a group of woman's testimony without a man's does not count in establishing rights nor is to be taken by a judge since the maximum required in jurisdiction is "evidence".

Along this line of thinking, jurisprudent Ibn Al-Qayyim establishes that "evidence" in Islamic Law is more comprehensive than testimony; confirming "evidence" is the factor in establishing rights, what makes it "evident" and consequently what is to be considered by the judge.

The judge pronounces his verdict on the basis of decisive evidence, even if it were a non-Muslim's testimony as long as he feels it worthy of his trust.

This leads Sheikh Shaltut to the conclusion that when two woman's testimonies are counted as one man's testimony, it is not because of some weakness or flaw in her mentality which would involve, in turn, a defect in woman's humanity.

The verse, however, was so worded as to address the norms of that time, which are still very much the same for the majority of women. They do not attend debt registration sessions or transactions. The fact that some women take part in such activities does not alter the basic facts of life that the woman's natural disposition in life such as procreation. Yet again, the verse serves as guidance on maximum verification. In some places, the tendency is for a woman to make transactions and witness the writing of debts; it is the people's right to accept a woman's testimony as they accept that of a man as long as they do this with equal confidence in both sexes" memories.

Still, Sheikh Shaltut does not stop here; he goes on to consider a case in which the word of men and women weigh equally: There is a stronger proof for equality in the Qur'an's statement that the woman is just like the man in the type of testimony known as the oath of condemnation [ An oath in which either the husband or the wife accuses his or her partner of adultery and the only witness is one of them. (Translator's note.)] "And as for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves, let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies (i.e. testifies four times) by Allah that he be one of those who speak the truth. And the fifth (testimony) (should be) invoking the Curse of Allah on him if he be one of those who tell a lie (against her). But it shall avert the punishment (of stoning to death) from her, if she bears witness four times by Allah, that he (her husband) is telling a lie. And the fifth (testimony) should be that the Wrath of Allah be upon her if (her husband) speaks the truth". [ Surah 24:6- 9] That is, four repetitions of the oath or testimony by the man concluded by an invocation of his damnation by Allah if he is lying, countered by and invalidated by four repetitions of the woman's counter statement, also followed by an invocation of Allah's wrath upon her if she is lying. [ Islamic Beliefs and Code of Laws, Sheikh Shalt, p.111 - 112]

Inheritance

The difference between the man and the woman in their respective shares in inheritance established by Allah's statement: " Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females. [ Surah 4:11], is clearly due to the difference in the duties and costs that each has to cope with by virtue of the Islamic teachings (shar'a)".

For example, if a man dies leaving a son and a daughter, the son gets married and pays the obligatory bridal money (dower) to the bride and as soon as they live together, he has to provide and pay for their living expenses. On the other hand, when his sister gets married, she receives the bridal money from her bridegroom and when they live together, the husband provides for her without her paying a single penny, even if she is among the richest of people. Poor or rich, her living costs are estimated in proportion to her husband's financial ability. The Qur'an puts it thus:" Let the rich man spend according to his means". [ Surah 65:7] To simplify matters, if the father leaves a wealth of about 150,000 dollars, the son would get 100,000 and the daughter would get 50,000 dollars. Then the son pays the bridal money (dower) gives presents and furnishes a flat which may cost at least 25,000 dollars. If the daughter gets married and has the bridal money and the presents, she would get another 25,000. This makes them about even.

But this is not all; the man's duties and spending increase as he provides for his children, in some cases his ageing parents, his brothers and sisters who have no income of their own and no one else to provide for them, and further still his relatives who are in similar circumstances-all by virtue of the Islamic Teachings (shar'a) and under certain conditions. For her part, though, the woman is not commanded by the shar'a to furnish aid unless she chooses to do so out of good manners and morals.

Nor is the distinction in any sense absolute. Sometimes the woman's share in the inheritance is equal to that of the man's. For instance, when the two parents inherit from their children; the Qur'an rules that: For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children. [ Surah 4:11] The reason in this case is that the parent's needs are often similar. If siblings inherit from a brother who has neither parents nor children, the Qur'an establishes that: " If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of them gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third". [ Surah 4:12] Thereby, the sister by the mother gets a sixth, which is the same as the brother by the same mother. If there are more than two siblings, they inherit a third to be distributed equally among them. All this is to say that equality of inheritance exists in many cases, and they are well-known to jurisprudents and experts in these matters.

More conclusively, there are cases in which the woman gets a bigger share than the man. For instance, if a woman dies leaving a husband, mother and two brothers and one sister by her mother, the sister alone gets a sixth; whereas only one sixth is given to the two brothers. Also if a woman dies leaving a husband, a full sister and a brother by her father, the husband gets half the inheritance and the sister the other half, whereas the half-brother gets nothing being merely an agnate. But if the half sibling is a sister and not a brother, she gets a sixth, as sustenance.

One more case where the woman gets more than the man follows Ibn "Abbas's interpretation of the verse: " If no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third". [ Surah 4:11]

This is means for Ibn Abbas that if a woman dies leaving a husband and her two parents, the husband receives a half, the mother a third and the father a sixth. Ibn Hazm relates this statement to Ibn "Abbas via Abdul-Raziq, and to Ali ibn Abi Talib via of Abi "Uwana and to Mu'adh ibn Jabal who were Companions of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), known also as experts on such matters. Ibn Hazim relates it also to Shuraih and to Dawud Al-Zahiry, among the jurisprudents, and he quotes the companion Ibn Mas'ud's axiom on the matter: "Allah would not like to see me prefer a father to a mother." Other authorities who concurred are Companions such as `Umar, `Uthman, and Zaid ibn Thabit. From their followers, there are Al-Hasan, Ibn Sirin and Al-Nakh'i. Among the jurisprudents, there are Abu Hanifa, Malik and Al-Shafi, may Allah be pleased with them all.

Blood money

There is not a single well-authenticated statement by the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), nor any consensus of religious authorities (Ijm,') to establish that the blood money paid for the killing of a woman is half the sum paid for the killing of a man. There are two Hadiths (prophetic traditions), neither perfectly authenticated, that address the question. The best one on terms of authentication is that narrated Al-Nisa"i and Al-Daraqatny, which still suffers a time gap in the chain of transmitters up to the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). Statements related to the Companions suffer in the same manner. What remains then is the only well-authenticated tradition on the subject "for a soul, a hundred camels."

The general agreement of authorities that make the value of the blood money paid for the killing of a woman half that for the killing of a man falls short of a consensus. Ibn `UIayya and Al-Asam, two scholars from the high order of jurisprudents (fuquh," as-salaf) make the value of the blood money the same for both men and women. This opinion is in agreement with the generality of reference to "believer" and `soul" in the Qur'an and the Hadith. If we opt for this opinion today, we are not to blame since, in addition to the previous reason, the legal opinion (fatwa) could change with the age and environment but the new legal opinion is not in conflict with the relevant textual statements nor with the general objectives of Islamic Teachings. Under the subtitle of "Blood Money, the Same for Men and Women," Sheikh Shaltut writes:

Woman's humanity stemming from the same origin as that of the man, her blood is the same as his, he being from her and she from him and equal retaliation in kind being the rule common to both cases of homicide and hell and damnation being the other wordly punishment for the killing of either man or woman, so the rule of the verse applies to the accidental homicide of either a man or a woman.

Given that our primary frame of reference is the Qur'an, we find that its statement is general and does not privilege the man with any special status: "and whosoever kills a believer by mistake (it is ordained that) he must set free a believing slave and a compensation (blood-money i.e. Diya) be given to the deceased's family". [Surah 4:92]

It is true that the scholars have differed over the amount of blood money, whether it is the same or double in the man's case. Al-Razi tells us in his At-Tafsr Al-Kabr that the majority of jurisprudents double the sum in cases of male homicide. He adds that Al-Asam and Ibn `Ulayya make the sum paid the same. The majority cite the ruling of the Companions `Ali, `Umar and Ibn Mas'ud ruling on this matter, as well as the rules of inheritance and legal testimony in which the woman's inheritance and testimowomen, therefore the ruling on the sum paid is the same.

Guardianship

Allah assigns guardianship to the man by virtue of the Qur'anic verse: " Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other and because they spend (to support them) from their means". [ Surah 4:34]

There are two reasons for this, one has to do with a natural quality and the other relates to something acquired. First, Allah has provided the man with a quality of greater strength whereas he has equipped the woman with a lighter and usually more delicate physique. Secondly, Allah has delegated the man to be the family provider. If the family collapses, he must bear the brunt of the collapse. This responsibility naturally entails deference and support.

Judiciary and political corps

Abu Hanfa establishes that women are not forbidden from occupying positions in the judiciary system in matters that are of their sphere of testimony, that is in non-criminal affairs. At-Tabari and Ibn Hazim, on the other hand, establish the authority of their judgement of criminal cases, as well as financial and other cases. Yet, that this is not prohibited does not give it the status of incumbency or necessity. It is a possibility that can be adjusted according to different circumstances and interests: the interest of the family, the interest of the community and, above all, the interest of Islam. Thus, the possibility may lead to a situation where some distinguished women at a certain point of their age are chosen for judgeship in certain matters and under certain circumstances.

On the other hand, her ineligibility under the Islamic teaching (shar'a) to hold the caliphate or head the state is owing to the great burdens of such a huge responsibility which in most cases outweigh the capacity of the woman (and the man) and conflicts with the natural disposition of the woman as mother. This does not exhaust all possibilities since we are aware that some women could be even more capable than some men. One such example is the Queen of Sheba whose story is told by Allah in the Qur'an. She led her nation to happiness and well-being in this and the other life and submitted herself with Prophet Solomon to Allah, Controller of the Worlds. Nevertheless, rules are not formed on the basis of rare occurrence but on the frequency of it. Thus the scholars establish that generally "the rare does not constitute a rule." But for the woman to be a manager, dean, director, member of parliament, minister, etc., is all very well so long as it weighs the interests. All these questions are dealt with in detail in my book Contemporary Legal Opinions (Fatawa Mu'aserah).

The Woman as Feminine Being

Islam has always appreciated the femininity of the woman and regarded her as playing a role integral to that of the man, and similarly regarded the man as playing a role integral to that of the woman. Neither is a foe, adversary or a competitor to the other. Rather, each is a help to the other in attaining the relative perfection of his or her person and each's whole sex.

Allah's ordering of the universe makes binary existence one of its characteristics. This principle is manifested in the presence of male and female in the animate world of man, beast and plant, and the presence of negative and positive in the inanimate world with its phenomena of magnetism, electricity and others. Even in the atom, there are positive and negative charges, that is, the proton and the electron. The Qur'an, revealed fourteen hundred years ago, makes an explicit reference to the fact: "And of everything We have created pairs, that you may remember". [Surah 51:49]

Men and women are, so to speak, like a can and its lid, a unity that comprises the thing and its counterpart; one does not exist without the other. When Allah created the first human soul, Adam, He also created from it its counterpart, Eve, so that he would settle and find peace with her. The Almighty did not leave Adam alone, not even (self sufficient enough) in Heaven. Allah's discourse, whether in the form of prohibition or command, was addressed to both of them: "Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimun (wrongdoers)". [Surah 2:35]

What all this comes to is that the woman is different from the man, for she complements him and he her. A thing does not complement itself. The Qur'an emphasises that difference: " And the male is not like the female". [Surah 3:36] They are as unlike as positive and negative. Yet the difference does not mean that they are adversaries in any sense. They arise from each other and are for each other: "you are from one another" [Surah 4:25] , and "And Allah has given you wives of your own kind". [Surah 4:25]

Allah's wisdom has also ordained that the physical and psychological construction of the woman should carry elements that enable her to attract and be attracted by the man. Fundamental to this purpose was Allah's equipment of the female with an instinctive desire and a strong natural passion that leads to their mutual attraction and communion so that life would continue and generations would spring forth.

Therefore, Islam disapproves of systems that clash with this instinctive nature or render it ineffective, such as the system of monasticism. By no means, however, does this reflect acceptance of the channelling of this energy in the wrong direction, that is, outside divinely-sanctioned marriage which forms the basis of the family. Thus Islam, as do all other revealed religions, prohibits adultery as well as all forms of licentiousness whether they be visible or invisible. Islam has filled in all the gaps that could lead to these acts, thus providing protection for men and women from all factors of seduction and lust.

On the basis of the instinctive nature of the woman and the need for a healthy and proper atmosphere for her relationship with the man, Islam has set its codes for the woman as well as all the other relevant codes, instructions and rules. To guard her femininity and acknowledge its needs so as not to repress it, is what Islam is after. It tries to create a barrier between the woman and degradation, to protect her from the human wolves and predators who chase her into their lairs, devour her and discard the despoiled remains.

We can give a rough summation of Islam's attitude to femininity as follows:

1- Islam protects femininity to keep the stream of tenderness and beauty running. For this reason some of the things that men are forbidden to do are permissible for women. So the woman can wear gold and pure silk; hence the Hadith, "These two (substances) are prohibited for the men of my nation and allowed for its women". [Transmitted by Ibn Majah on the authority of Ali (3595), Hadith Sahih.] The permission to use things that suit women is supported by forbidding them from handling things that go against their femininity, such as men's wear, movement and behaviour in general. A woman is not to wear a man's garment; a man is not to wear a woman's garment. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) says: "Allah condemns the man who dresses like a woman and the woman who dresses like a man". [ Transmitted by Abu Huraira, Abu Dawud (4098); and Ahmad 2/325; and Ibn Hibban (1904); and others.] For men to behave like women and women to behave like men is equally condemned by Alkib. Again the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) says, "Three (kinds of people) do not enter Paradise and do not enjoy Allah's gaze upon them on Judgement Day: a son who is disobedient to his parents, a mannish woman and an adulterer. [ Transmitted by Ahmad lbn Umar and approved by Sheikh Shaker as Sahih (1680); and Al-Nisa'i 5/80; and Al-Hakim 1/72 and others.]

2- Islam supports femininity in view of its relative weakness, placing it in the hands of a supporting man, securing the costs of living and the provision for her needs. Whether under the guardian care of her father, her husband, her son or her brother, she will be provided for by them as an obligation under the shar'a. No basic need should compel her then to wade in the unexplored stretches of life with its conflicts, within the hustle of competitive men to win her bread-something that has befallen the Western woman under severe necessity in which neither father, brother, son or uncle look after her. The result is that she has to accept any kind of work for whatever payment in order to survive.

3- Allah's Religion protects her morals and decency, guards her reputation and dignity, and defends her chastity against evil thoughts and tongues, and tries to foil tempting hands that seek to harm her. In order to achieve these noble objectives, Islam makes it incumbent on the woman to lower the eyes and preserve chastity and purity.

"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts etc)". [Surah 24:31]

Preserve a decent, unrevealing manner of dress and ornamentation, all without being oppressive towards her. "and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (we. their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms, etc.) " [ Surah 24:31] The visible or apparent ornament that the verse refers to has been interpreted to be inclusive of kohl, the finger ring, the face, the two hands and, some exegetes and jurisprudents establish, the two feet. [ At the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). it was customary for some women to cover their face. The flexibility of Islam allows the woman the option of covering her face or not. (editor's note)]

Cover the other attractions that do not show, such as the hair, neck and throat, arms and legs, from all people except her husband, and her consanguineous, non-marriageable relations or mahrim [ Those persons whom the woman is forbidden to marry because of the proximity of the relation. (editor's note)] (brothers, uncles etc.) whom she finds it hard to hide these afrom. "and not to reveal heir adornment except to their husbands, fathers, their husband`s fathers, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex". [Surah 24:31]

* Maintain staidness in gait and speech. "And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment". [Surah 24:31] and" if you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner. [Surah 33:32]

Therefore she is not (as some wrongly understand) forbidden to speak; nor is her voice a shameful thing to show. On the contrary. She is commanded in the Quran to speak in good faith. [bullet] Be above all acts meant to excite and tempt men in a way reminiscent of the showiness of Pre-Qur'anic ignorance or Jahiliyya. or in the manner of modern jahiliyya. This showiness contradicts the conduct of a decent woman.

* Avoid being in seclusion with a man who is neither a husband nor a non-marriageable relation, so as to keep a barrier between herself or the other man and all thoughts of sin, and between her good name and false rumours. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) says, "No man should be in seclusion with a woman and no woman should travel except with a non-marriageable relation," or her husband of course.

* Avoid male gatherings except on the grounds of necessity or an appreciable interest and only to the necessity or limit. Attending the congregational prayers in the mosque, seeking learning, co-operation in charity and promotion of piety are fields in which a woman's presence with men is accepted so that she will not be deprived of her right to participate in serving her community, and only on condition that she observes the limits of the Islamic code on social life.

With these directions and regulations, Islam provides safety for the woman and her femininity from impious tongues; it preserves her decency and chastity by distancing her from all factors of deviation. Islam guards her honour against the slurs of slanderers and spreaders of calumny. Above all, it protects her soul and calms her nerves against the tension, instability and trepidation that spring from wild imaginations or obsessed hear torn between the factors of agitation and excitement. At the same time, islam protects the man from anxiety and aberration, the family from disintegration, and the society from collapse and decay.

Legitimate Mixing Between Men and Women

Some words which have existed in the language for a long time have acquired new significance and even weight. Among these is the term "mixing (or mingling)", which refers to mixing of men and women in one place. During the Age of the Prophet (blessings and peace he upon him), the Age of the Companions which succeeded it, and the age of their followers, Muslim men and women met at different gatherings, religious or otherwise, and this was not forbidden at all. Under the right circumstances and for good reasons, it was legitimate and natural for them to meet. Nor was it called "mixing" then.

In our age, however, the word has become very common. Nor do I know when it came into use with the new connotations unsavoury for Muslim men and women, since mixing one thing with another suggests a dissolution, the way sugar or salt is dissolved in water, a metaphor that would have unpleasant suggestions if applied to male-female relations. Anyway, the purpose is to point out that not every kind of socialisation is prohibited as some may imagine and as other hard-liners argue. On the other hand, not all forms of mixing are acceptable as propagators of Westernization claim.

In the second volume of my book Contemporary Legal Opinions (Fataawa Mu'aserah), I answer questions on this and several other related matters such as greeting women, handshaking, treatment of women by male doctors and the reverse, in addition to other questions. A careful Muslim should refer to these legal opinions if he or she wants to learn about the rules of the Islamic teachings (shar'a). Here, nevertheless, I would like to make the point that it is our duty to adhere to the best guidance which is that of the Prophet Mohammed (blessings and peace be upon him), his righteous successors and enlightened Companions whose pious paths he recommends sticking to, avoiding the two extreme routes of Western permissiveness and severe Eastern asceticism.

By examining this guidance of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), we find that the woman was not caged or isolated as happened later during the age of Muslim abatement. The women attended the major congregational prayers on Fridays at the Prophet's mosque, including the night (Al-Esha) and dawn (Al-Fajr) prayers. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) would direct them to form rows behind the men rows, and the more to the back the better so that they would not see the sensitive parts of men's bodies that might have shown due to the fact that only a few were familiar with trousers and underwear, and there was no partition between the men and women.

Moreover, in the early stages of congregating for prayer, men and women would go through the same entrance where crowding would occur. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, "If only we left this entrance to the women". [ Transmitted by Abu Dawud on the authority of Ibn Umar (462) (463).] So they allocated the entrance for them from that time on and it became known as the "woman's Entrance." As for the Friday congregation, women during the Prophet's Era attended the prayer and listened to the sermon to the extent that one of them could learn the Surah of because the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) recited it frequently from his position on the sermon pulpit. They also attended the two Bairam (a religious celebration) congregations and took part in these big Islamic celebrations that involved all people, old and young, male and female, in the open outskirts where they would chant the name of Allah. Um`Ateyya, a witness of the Prophet's Era, said, "We were frequently instructed to go out for the Bairams."

In another version she said, "The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) instructed us, the maids, and the ones in their menses to go out. The women menstruating would stay away from prayer and witness the good (of the day) and Muslim's prayer (to Allah). So I said, `O Messenger of Allah, there may be one of us who does not have a jilbab (dress)." He replied, `Let her sister (in Islam) give her one. [ Sahih Muslim "The Prayers of the Two Eids" (890).]

This is one of the aspects of Muslim life that are ignored by Muslims in most of their countries. Some, however, such as the devotional retreat in the last ten days of Ramadan and the attendance of the Bairam congregation by women, are in the process of coming back to life through the efforts of the youth of the modern Islamic awakening.

Women always attended the teaching sessions of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). They would address aisha with the questions they found awkward or too bold to ask. The Prophet's wife, aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), praised the women of the Ansar whose shyness did not prevent them from seeking knowledge of the religion and asking questions about major issues such as impurity (full sex or ejaculation preventing one from performing some forms of worship), night ejaculation, washing from impurity, menstruation and other such matters.

This, however, was not enough for them compared to the men's completely enfolding the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him); so they demanded a special day of teaching be allocated to them without vying with a crowd of men, and said openly, "Messenger of Allah, the men have taken complete possession of your company, so devote one of your days to us." The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) promised to give them a day and he preached and gave them instruction. [ Transmitted by Bukhari in The World (Al-Alam) 1/34 on the authority of Abu Said.] This kind of female activism was also revealed during battles when women served in the army with the mujahedeen (warriors who struggle to keep Islam alive) in a way that suited them and brought out the best of their abilities, such as attending the wounded, giving medical aid, nursing the injured fighters, in addition to cooking, procuring water and the like. Um `Ateyya asserted, "I went on seven military expeditions with the Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him); I would guard the fighters, provisions, make their food, treat the injured and nurse the ill ones". [Transmitted by Muslim (1812).]

Anas, one of the Prophet's Companions, narrates, "On the Day of Uhud,`aisha and Um Salim, their sleeves rolled up, would carry water in skin bags on their backs and empty the contents into the soldiers open mouths". [Transmitted by Muslim (1811).] The fact that `aisha was still in her teens renders incorrect the claim that female participation in military expeditions and battles was confined to old women. Realistically speaking, this defies logic as such work would be unduly onerous for the aged when considering the physical and psychological exigencies of war.

In the same line, Imam Ahmad recalls, `six believing women were in the army that besieged Khaibar, their task being to hand arrows to the fighters, prepare food, procure water, treat the wounded, spin yarn and help in (the promotion of) the cause of Allah. Eventually, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) allocated shares in the spoils to them. [Transmitted by Ahmad 51271,7/371; And Abu Dawud (2729).]

It is also established that some of the Companion's wives took up arms in some expeditions and battles. The deeds of Um `Imarah Nasba bint Ka'b on the Day of Uhud are well known and were of such effect as to make the Prophet say, "Her manner excelled that of such and such people." On the day of the Battle of Hunain, Um Salum, for her part, kept a dagger to stab any enemies who would come within her reach. This story is told again by her son Anas, "On the Day of Hunain, Um Salum had a dagger; when she was seen by her husband, Abu Talha, he told the Prophet, `Messenger of Allah, Um Salum is keeping a dagger with her." When the Prophet asked her about it she answered, `It is to stab the abdomen of any of the Pagans who might come near me," at which the Prophet laughed. [Transmitted by Muslim (1809).]

But the women of the Prophet's and Companion's Eras had ambitions that went beyond the participation in the expeditions into adjacent areas. They were also keen to take part in the Muslim conquests of distant lands to help disseminate the message of Islam. Anas narrated, "One day, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) took his siesta in the house of Urn Hiram. When he woke up, he laughed. So she asked, `What makes you laugh, Prophet of Allah?" The Prophet said, `I have seen some people from my nation, who were out to fight for the sake of Allah, riding the sea. There were kings seated on their thrones." So she replied, `O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah that I may be one of them." He did. [Sahih Muslim (1912)] During the reign of `Uthman (the third caliph), Um Hiram set sail with her husband, Ubada ibn As-Samit, to Cyprus, where she was killed while she was on horseback (in a battle) and was buried there, according to biographers and chroniclers. A whole section is devoted to highlighting woman's roles in the battles and military expeditions.

In the sphere of social life, the Muslim woman played her part, preaching of good deeds, enjoining what is right and forbidding evil, in conformity with Allah's statement: "The believers, men and women are "Auliy,"(helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) what is right Al-Ma`ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden). [Surah 9:71]

A well-known story depicts a woman reasoning with `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in the mosque over the issue of the amount of bridal money paid to the bride. It also illustrates how `Umar (the third caliph), being convinced of her argument, reversed his opinion to that of hers in public. His comment on this was "everybody's knowledge is better than mine". [Tafsir Ibn Kathir 1/468] The story is cited by no less an authoritative register than Ibn Kathir's Tafsir, where Ibn Kathir states its ascription to `Umar is correct. In another version `Abdul-Raziq cites `Umar as saying about himself, "A woman debated with `Umar and outdid him in the debate. [ Tafsir Ibn Kathir 7/180] Also during his caliphate, `Umar appointed a woman, Al-Shifa bint Abdullah as the market-place superintendent.

By examining the Qur'an's discourse on woman's affairs and by looking onto the lives of the Prophets, we hardly find such an iron curtain, as is drawn by some people, between men and women. Thus in the prime of his youth, Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is depicted talking to the two daughters of the old man of Madyan. He asks them questions and gets their answers without any particular feeling of guilt or embarrassment and magnanimously helps them. One of them returns soon after with an invitation from her father for Moses to come to their house. One of them even suggests her father hire Moses, as he is a strong and honest man. This is how the Qurtan puts it: "And when he arrived at the water of Midian (Madyan) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and beside them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said, "What is the matter with you?" They said, "We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man." So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he returned back to shade, and said: "My Lord? Truly, lam in need of whatever good you bestow upon me!" Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said: "Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us." So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: "Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, disbelievers, and wrongdoers)." And said one of them (the two women): "O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy. [Surah 28:23- 26]

In the story of Mary, every time Zachariah comes to her chamber he finds much food, so he inquires about it:

" Every time he entered Al-Mihrab [A praying place or private room.] (to visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Mary! From where have you got this?" She said: "From Allah" Verily Allah provides sustenance to whom he wills, without limit. [Surah 3:37]

Another story is that of the Queen of Sheba, who is cited by the Qur'an as consulting her people about how they should respond to Solomon's message to her: " She said, "O chiefs! Advise me in (this) case of mine. I decide no case till you are present with me." They said: "We have great strength, and great ability for war, but it is for you to command; so think over what you we command." She said: "Verily! Kings, when they enter a town (country), they despoil it, and make the most honourable amongst its people low. And thus they do. [Surah 27:32- 34]

Later then she arrives in Solomon's palace, she converses with Solomon as follows:

" So when she came, it was said (to her): "Is your throne like this?" She said: "(It is) as though it were the very same." And (Solomon said): "Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we were submitted to Allah (in Islam as Muslims before her)." And that which she used to worship besides Allah has prevented here (from Islam), for she was of a disbelieving people. It was said to her: "Enter As-Sarh" (a glass surface with water underneath it), but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs, Solomon said: "Verily, it is Sarh paved smooth with slab of glass." She said: "My lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit (in Islam, together with solomon), to Allah, the Lord of `Alamn (mankind, jinns, and all that exists). [ Surah 27:42 to 44]

Nor is it right to say that the revealed codes of preceding nations do not apply to us, since their stories were only cited in the Qur'an for reflection and guidance. Hence the correctness of the claim that the revealed code of preceding nations which is given in the Qur'an and the Sunna (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed) is also a code for us as long as no code of ours renders it null. Allah said to his Messenger:" They are those whom Allah had guided. So follow their guidance". [Surah 6:90]

Moreover, the fact that in the early stage of Islam the initially revealed punishment for a woman who committed adultery was to confine her to a house until she died or until Allah made a way out for her: "And those of your woman who commit illegal sexual intercourse, take the evidence of four witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them (i.e. women) to houses until death comes to them or Allah ordains for them some (other) way. [Surah 4:15] meaning it is illogical from the point of view of the Qur'an, and Islam in general, to make house-confinement a characteristic of a decent and chaste Muslim woman, which would be to punish her without any perpetration. Later, of course, the punishment changed to flogging for the unmarried couple who commit adultery and stoning to death for the married ones

In summation, the encounter of men and women is not prohibited in itself. Quite the contrary, it is allowable or even required if done in pursuit of a noble cause like gaining knowledge or performing good acts in which the joint efforts of both men and women are necessary.

Pseudo-arguments for unrestricted mixing

This is the position of Islam on man-woman relations, and their common involvement on charitable and righteous lines is what we call legitimate mixing; yet "intellectual imperialism" has managed to create in our countries people who turn a deaf ear to the ruling of Allah and His Messenger. These people call on us to give the woman free rein to assert herself, promote her personality, enjoy her life and her femininity. They want her to mix with men freely, experience them closely where they would be together and alone, travel with them, go to cinemas or dance till midnight together. She is supposed to find the "right man" from all those she has known. In this way, it is said, life is supposed to be more secure and have greater stability in the face adversity.

These people who may well be thinking of themselves as unblemished seraphs, tell us not to worry about the man or woman as a result of this "decent" communication, innocent friendship and upright contact. The frequency of their contact will pacify desire. The two sexes will supposedly find satisfaction in the mere look, conversation or, in the extreme, dancing together, which is only a form of elevating artistic impression. Sensual pleasure would have no place. It is a clean vent for energy, nothing more. This is said to be what the advanced West did after they rid themselves of complexes and privation.

Pseudo-arguments disproved

In answer to this line of thinking, we must say that we are Muslims first and foremost. We do not sell our religion in imitation of the vagaries of Westerners or Easterners. Our religion forbids us from promiscuous mixing with its showiness and seductiveness: " Then we have put you (O Mohammed, blessings and peace be upon him) on a plain way of (Our) commandment like the one We commanded Our messengers before you (i.e. legal ways and laws of the Islamic Monotheism). So follow you that (Islamic Monotheism and its laws), and follow not the desires of those who know not. Verily, they can avail you nothing against Allah (if He wants to punish you). [Surah 45:18]

In addition, the West itself, enamoured by these ideas, is suffering the consequences of dissipation and decaying morality that has corrupted its youth and doomed its civilisation to ruin and collapse. In the United States, in Sweden, and in other countries where sexual freedom is the norm, statistics show that feverish lust is not alleviated by freedom of talk and contact, nor by whatever may follow that. On the contrary, the more people taste, the thirstier they become.

It would be better if we studied the consequences of this freedom or what may as well be termed looseness and abandonment of virtues and traditions in modern civilised Western societies.

Effects of promiscuous mixing

Numbers and events that fill statistics and reports provide a more convincing indictment of this point. Sexual freedom and the sexual revolution has borne its bitter fruit with the dissolution of the barriers separating men and women and the resultant effects are set forth as follows.

Moral decay

The consequences of sexual promiscuity have been the disintegration of morality characterised by the tyranny of desire and the triumph of bestiality over humanity, the loss of sense of chastity and any sense of shyness and reserve by both men and women giving rise to an internally disturbed society. In a famous speech in 1962, President Kennedy said that American young people were loose, indulgent and decadent; six out of seven young men were not fit to join the army because they were up to their ears in lustfulness. He warned against the ills of such youth leading the country.

In a book by the Harvard Research Centre director, entitled The Sexual Revolution, the author firmly states the United States is heading towards a catastrophic situation of sexual anarchy, akin to that of the Romans and Greeks. He adds that Americans are beset the by dangers of sexual intemperance that would overwhelm their culture and all aspects of their life.

While the communists were more reticent on these matters, and general restrictions existed on media coverage, in 1962, Khrushchev declared that the Soviet youth had deviated and had been spoilt by luxury. He threatened to open concentration camps in Siberia to rid the society of the decadent youth that posed a threat to the future of the Soviet Union.

Illegitimate children

The rapid increase in the numbers of illegitimate children is directly related to the unlimited rein given to desire and the removal of barriers between young men and women. Statistics on the ratio of pregnant school girls in the United States revealed dreadful dimension. In a newspaper report, one third of the infants born in 1983 were illegitimate. Most of them were born to young women under nineteen. The total number of illegitimate children was 112,353 with a percentage of 37% of the births for that year.

Drops in Marriage Rates

The availability of sex without any liability of marriage and family has led youth take the route of spending their youth between different partners, enjoying change without commitment to a "monotonous life" and without having to provide the costs of a responsible married life and the liabilities of fatherhood. Thus a huge number of young women are deprived of the opportunity to have a husband, and settle with a modicum of peace and security, because of the illicit yearnings of easy relationships. Similarly, there are a lot of young men who are also deprived of a peaceful life. Statistics published in the United States show, for the first time since the beginning of the century, the majority of the inhabitants of San Francisco are celibate; fifty-three per cent are not married. For Bruce Chapman, who announced the findings, this was probably an indication of the obsolescence of the traditional family pattern. He added that these social changes were good for the welfare of the city which had witnesses a forty per cent increase in the number of youth between twenty-five and thirty-four during the previous ten years. This, however, did not include the homosexuals of the city who constitute fifteen per cent of the population.

In the face of the sexual degradation which is a predominant social phenomena on the Western world, it was natural for Swedish women to stage a 100,000-woman demonstration in protest against unlimited sexual freedom. It must have been woman's institutes and awareness of their future life and where their interests lie that motivated them to organise such a huge protest.

High Divorce Rates and Destruction of the Family

Not only is marriage beset by many obstacles, it is also unsafe after its accomplishment. The family collapses and bonds break with occurrence of the slightest problem. In all Western countries, divorce rates are skyrocketing.

Spread of Lethal Diseases

The outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as neurotic, mental and psychological diseases, the spread of complexes and disturbances that claim hundreds of thousands of patients are among the acknowledged effects of sexual promiscuity. One of the most dangerous, and in many cases lethal diseases is AIDS, which is caused by the HIV virus. This virus is responsible for the body's loss of immunity leaving it vulnerable to all factors of decay Millions of people have succumbed to this menace, a fact that provides a modern piece of evidence for the words of the Prophet Mohammed (blessings and peace be upon him) that, "Lechery never appears in a community, but with its proclamation, plague and affliction appear throughout, which did not exist in bygone generations". [ Tranmitted by Ibn Majah on the authority of Ibn Umar (4019) ; Al-Zawa'ed, Hadith Sahih; and Al-Hakim and Al Dhahaby 4/540, 541 and others.]

Notwithstanding the neurosis and psychological disturbances which have taken Western societies by storm and have filled hospitals and asylums without patients.

Freud and his followers in psychoanalysis argued that the lifting traditional restrictions on sexual instincts would relieve the nerves and consciousness, undo complexes and give souls a sense of comfort and ease. The restrictions have been lifted, the desires have been released and the complicated souls are only worse off; nerves are tenser and anxiety is the disease of the age. Not even the opening of a million clinics have helped.

It is hard to believe this is the picture the proponents of unrestricted mixing would like to see of us when Allah has protected us against its evils. Or is it only (that they do not know?

The Woman as Mother

The first contact with a woman is with one's mother, who suffers in the pregnancy, delivery, nursing and rearing of her child.

History does not recall a religion or a system which honours the woman as a mother and which raises her as Islam does. Islam repeatedly commends the woman, and this comes directly after the command to worship and believe in the Oneness of Allah. Allah has made honouring one's mother a virtue, and He puts forth the mother's right over that of the father for what she endures in pregnancy, delivery, nursing and raising her children. This is stated and restated in the Qur'an, in multiple chapters, to imprint this notion in the child's mind and heart as per the following verses: "And we have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years-give thanks to Me and your parents,-unto Me is the final destination. [Surah 31:14] and "And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of `jim is thirty (30) months. [Surah 46:15]

A man came to the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) asking, "Who is most deserving of my care?" He said, "Your mother." The man asked, "Then who?" He said, "Your mother." The man asked, "Then who?" He said, Your mother." The man asked (the fourth time), "Then who?" He said, "Your father. [ Transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abu Huraira The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan) (1652)]

Al-Bazzar recounts that a man was circumambulating the Ka'bah carrying his mother. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) asked him, "Have you repaid her?" The man said, "No, not even for one of her moans (i.e. one of the moans of labour, delivery and so on) [Transmitted by Al-Bazzar (1872)] As to be good to her, it means treating her well, respecting her, humbling oneself in front of her, obeying her without disobeying Allah, seeking her satisfaction and pleasure in all matters, even in a holy war. If it is optional, he must have her permission, for being good to her in a type of jihad. [ Jihad is the struggle (physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, etc.) to preserve the purity and practice of Islam. (editor's note)]

A man came to the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and said, "O Messenger of Allah, I want to fight and I want your advice." He asked him, "Have you a mother?" The man said, "Yes." He said, "Do not leave her because Paradise is under her feet. [ Transmitted by Al-Nisaai, 6/11; Ibn Majah, 1/278 and Al-Hakim. It is amended and approved by Al-Dhahaby, 4/151, on the authority of Muaaweya Ibn Jammah.]

Some religious laws before Islam neglected the mother's relations, making them insignificant. With the advent of Islam, it recommended caring for uncles and aunts, both on the father's side and the mother's. A man approached the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and said, "I committed an offence, could I atone for it?" He asked, "Have you got a mother?" The man said, "No." He asked, "Have you got a maternal aunt?" The man said, "Yes." The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, "Be good to her. [ Transmitted by Termithy in "Righteousness and Relations" (1905); Ibn Hibban Charity (EI-Ehsan) (435); and Al-Hakim who amended it on the terms of the two Sheikhs, agreed upon by Al-Dhahaby, 4/155, all on the authority of Umar.]

It is amazing that Islam commanded us to be good to a mother even though she is an unbeliever! Asma'a bint Abu Bakr asked the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) about her relationship to her unbelieving mother who had come to her. He said, "Yes, be on good terms with your mother". [Transmitted on the authority of Asmaa (agreed upon), The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan) (587).]

An indication that Islam cares for motherhood, for the rights of mothers and their feelings is that a divorced mother has greater rights and is worthier of looking after her children than the father. `Abdallah ibn `Amr ibn Al-as transmitted that a woman asked, "O Messenger of Allah, this son of mine had my womb as a container, my breasts for drinking, my lap to contain him. His father has taken him from me." The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, "You have more right if you do not marry". [Transmitted by Ahmad in Al Musnad (6707). Sheikh Shaker said its authenticity is correct. Transmitted also by Abu Dawud.]

Imam Al-Khataby said in Landmarks of Traditions (Maalem As-Sunna): "Container" is the name of the place that contains a thing. This means that the mother is worthier as she and the father shared in the begetting of the child, then she was singled out for such things as nursing which the father had no share in. Therefore she deserves to be the first when it comes to disputes about the child.

On the authenticity of Ibn `Abbas who said, "`Umar ibn Al-Khattab divorced his wife from Al-Ansar, the mother of `Asim. He met her carrying the child in Mahser (a market- place between Quba and Medina). The child was weaned and could walk. `Umar held out his hand to take the child from her and disputed about it till the boy cried out in pain. `Umar said, "I am worthier of my son than you "They complained to Abu Bakr, whose verdict was that the mother should keep the child. He said, "Her scent, her bed, and her lap are better for him than yours until he grows up and chooses for himself ". [ Landmarks of Traditions (Maalem as-Sunna) (2181).]

The mother who is cherished that much by Islam and given all these rights has a task to perform. She has to take care of her children, raise them well, implant virtues, and make them loathe evil. She has to teach them to obey Allah, encourage them to defend what is truthful, not dissuade them from fighting for the sake of Allah (one form of jihad) because of the motherly sentiments in her heart but to favour the correct way over sentiment.

We saw a believing mother, Al-Khansaa, in the Battle of Qadesseyah eloquently urging her four sons to be brave and steadfast. Then as soon as the battle was over and the news of their four deaths came to her, she did not wail and carry on but said with certainty and contentment, "Praise be to Allah who honoured me with their martyrdom for His faith."

Immortal mothers

Out of Qur'anic guidance, we have been supplied wit superb examples of good mothers who had influence and position in the history of the faith in Allah. Moses" mother, for example, responded to Allah's inspiration and calling when she cast the apple of her eye into the river, assured of Allah's promise: "And We inspired the mother of Moses, (saying): `suckle him (Moses), but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back for you, and shall make him one of (Our) Messengers." [Surah 28:7]

There is also Mary's mother, who promised what she had in her womb to be devoted to Allah, to be pure of any polytheism or worship of anything other than Allah. She prayed to Allah to accept her vow: "so accept (this), from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing". [ Surah 3:35] When the child turned out to be a female, which she had not expected, it did not prevent her from fulfilling her vow, asking Allah to protect her from all evil: "and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast" [ Surah 3:36]

Moreover, the Qur'an has made Mary (may Allah be pleased with her), daughter of `Imran and mother of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), an example of purity, humility to Allah and of faith in His word. "And Mary, the daughter of `Imran who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (the sleeve of her shirt or her garment) through Our "Ruh" (i.e. Gabriel), and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord (believed in the Words of Allah "Be! and he was; that is Jesus-son of Mary;-as a Messenger of Allah), and (also believed in) His Scriptures, and she was of the Qanitun (i.e. obedient to Allah). [ Surah 66:12]

The Woman as Daughter

In pre-Islamic times, the Arabs used to be disheartened and annoyed with the birth of girls, so that a father, when informed his wife had given birth to a girl, said, "By Allah she is not as blissful as a son; her defence is crying and her care is but stealing!" He meant she could not defend her father and her family except by screaming and crying, not by fighting and carrying arms. She also cannot be good to them and care for them except by taking from her husband's money to give to her family. Their traditions allowed the father to bury his daughter alive for actual poverty, or for expected poverty, or out of fear of a disgrace she might bring upon them when she grew up. In that context, the Qur'an says, denouncing and derogating them: "And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin was she killed? [Surah 81:8-9]

The Qur'an also describes the condition of fathers when daughters are born: "And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief ! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision". [ Surah 16:58-59]

Some ancient laws gave the father the right to sell his daughter if he wished, while others allowed him to hand her to another man who would either kill her or own her if the father killed the other man's daughter.

When Islam was revealed, it decreed a daughter-like a son-was a gift from Allah, to be granted to whomever Allah wishes of His worshippers:

"He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He will, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He will Or He bestows both male and females, and He renders barren whom He wills. Verily, He is the All-Knower and is Able to do all things. [ Surah 42 : 49 - 50]

The Qur'an has illustrated in its parables how some of the daughters could be more remarkable in their influence and more immortal in memories than many male offspring. We have a good example in the story of Mary, daughter of `Imran, who was chosen by Allah from all other women and purified. Her mother who bore her had wished the child to be a male to serve Allah and to be of the righteous: "(Remember) when the wife of `Imran said: "O My Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services (from all worldly work; to serve Your Place of worship), so accept this, from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing." Then when she delivered her (child Mary), she said: "O My Lord! I have delivered a female child, "-And Allah knew better what she delivered,- "And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast." So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with a goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner. [ Surah 3:35 - 37]

The Qur'an led an uncompromising campaign against those cruel people who kill children-whether male or female. Allah says in the Qur'an: " Indeed lost are those who have killed their children from folly, without knowledge". [Surah 6:140] And He says: " And kill not your children from fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin. [Surah 17:31]

The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) of Islam made Paradise the recompense of every father who conducts himself well with his daughters, has patience in raising them, provides their moral education, and observes Allah's commands concerning them until they come of age or until his . The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) made the place of the father in Paradise next to him. Muslim has transmitted on the authority of Anas: "the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, `Whoever sustained and protected two slave-girls until they came of age, on the Day of Judgement, he and I will be and then he put his two fingers together." It was phrased by Al-Termithy in the following manner: "Whoever sustained and protected two slave-girls, he and I will enter Paradise like these and lie joined his forefinger to the next finger."

Ibn `Abbas transmitted that the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, "A Muslim who has two daughters whom he treats well when they accompany him or when he accompanies them is admitted to Paradise". [ Transmitted by Bukhari in Al Adab Al Mufrad (77); Ibn Abu Sheiba, 8/551; Ahmad which is corrected by Sheikh Shaker (2104); Ibn Majah (3670); and others.]

Some prophetic traditions stated that such a recompense-i.e. admittance to Paradise-is also granted to the brother who sustains and protects his sisters (two or more). Other traditions stated that these heavenly rewards are granted to anyone who treats the female sex well, even if she is one. On the authority of Abu Huraira: "The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, `Whoever had three daughters and showed patience in their keeping, their pleasure and displeasure, Allah admits him to Paradise for his mercy over them. A man asked, `And what about two daughters, O Messenger of Allah? He said, `And two daughters as well." Another asked, `O Messenger of Allah, what about one daughter?" He said, `And one daughter as well". [ Transmitted and its authority amended by Al-Hakim, agreed upon by Al-Zahaby, 4/176] Ibn `Abbas recounted, "Whoever had a female who was not buried nor insulted by him, and had not preferred his male children to her, Allah admits him to Paradise. [ Transmitted by Abu Dawud, 5/5146; and Al-Hakim who corrected it 4/177, approved by Al-Dhahaby.]

In `isha's narration which is transmitted by the two sheikhs, the Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him) said, "Whoever suffers any mishap due to keeping his girls, but still treats them well, they will be protection for him from the Fire of Hell. [ The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan), as approved by the two Sheikhs (1688)]

With these open and authentic texts, with the enhanced and repeated good news, the birth of girls is no longer a fearful burden nor is it a bad omen. On the contrary, it is a blessing to be thanked for and a mercy to be desired and requested because it is a blessing of the Almighty and a reward to be gained.

In that way Islam nullified forever the custom of burying girls who now have a great place in the heart of the father.This is shown in what the Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him) says about his daughter Fatima, "Fatima is part of me; what makes her angry, makes me angry". [ Transmitted by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Al-Masur ibn Makrama, The Concise Comprehensive Book of Sound Hadith (Sahih al-Jame' as-Sagheer) and its supplement (4188).] And, "Fatima is part of me, what makes me sad, makes her sad, and what pleases me, pleases her". [ Transmitted by Ahmad, Al-Tabrany and Al-Hakim on the authority of Al-Masur as well. Ibid. (4189). See Ahmad 4/323,332; Al Tabrany 20/25; Al-Hakim 3/158 who amended its authority which was approved by Al-Zahaby.] And "`surely my daughter is part of me; I fear what frightens her, and I am harmed by what harms her". [ Transmitted by all the six. See The Concise Book of Traditions (Mukhtassar As-Sunna)by Al-Munzery, Hadith (1987).]

We feel the effect of this in Islamic literature, as a poet says in the following lines:

But for the soft girls in cats" downy fur,

Who have taken their smoothness,

I would have been in great, great trouble

On this vast earth and wide.

Surely when our children are among us,

They are the apples of our eyes surveying the earth;

If the wind blows on any of them,

My eyes will never close.

As to the father's control over his daughter, it does not exceed the limits of moral education, exactly as her brothers. He asks her to pray when she is seven, but raps her if she does not pray when she reaches ten. He has to separate her and her brothers at that age [ They should not sleep together in the same bed or bathe together as little children do.] and obliges her to follow the Islamic code of conduct in dressing, adornment, going out and talking. Her upkeep is obligatory on him according to his religion and law until she marries. He does not have the power to sell her or make her the property of another man by any means. Islam has annulled the selling of free persons, whether male or female, in any form. If a freeman bought or owned a daughter who had been a slave for another, she should be freed as soon as he owned her, whether he likes it or not, according to Islamic Law.

If the daughter has her own money, the father should keep it for her. A father is forbidden to marry his daughter to another man in exchange for being allowed to marry that man's daughter, which is called in jurisprudence as a "vacant marriage" due to its lack of dower, which is the right of the daughter, not the father.

In addition, the father has not got the right to marry his daughter to a man she hates and does not approve of. He must have her opinion of the man she is going to marry, whether she agrees or disagrees. If she has been married before, she has to utter her consent clearly. If she is a virgin and overcome by shyness, it is enough to listen to her silence, which is a sign of consent. If she says, "No," then he has no power to force her to marry someone she does not want.

The two sheikhs have transmitted on the authority of Abu Huraira, "A widow cannot marry unless she gives her consent, nor the virgin until she is asked permission. They asked, O Messenger of Allah, how can she give her permission? He said, By her silence". [Agreed upon The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan) (895)] They also transmitted on the authority of ` isha who said, "I asked the Messenger of Allah, `Are women asked their affairs?" He said, `Yes." I said, `The virgin when she is asked feels shy and remains silent!" He said, `Her silence is her permission". [Agreed upon The Pearl and the Coral (Al-Lu'lu' wal-Marjan) (895)] For that reason the learned say that the virgin should know that her silence is permission. On the authority of Khansaa" bint Khaddam Al-Ansari said: "her father got her married though she was not a virgin, and she hated her marriage. When she went to the Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him), he annulled the marriage. [Transmitted by all except Muslim.] On the authority of Ibn `Abbas, a virgin girl came to the Messenger of Allah and mentioned her father got her married while she was unwilling. The Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him) gave her the choice. [ Transmitted by Ahmad (2469), amended by Sheikh Shakker; Abu Dawud (2069); Ibn Majah (1875) and Ad-Daraqatny vol.3, (56)] From these Traditions (Hadith), we have an indication that the father is not distinguished from another as he is obliged to ask his daughter and it is a necessity to have her approval. According to Sahih Muslim and others, "A virgin is asked," which means she must give her permission and approval. On the authority of `Aisha, a girl came to her saying, " My father married me to his nephew to raise himself (in status) through his mean act, and I am unwilling." isha said, `sit until the Prophet comes." She told him and he sent for her father who gave her the choice. She said, "O Messenger of Allah, I approved of what my father did but I wanted to know if woman had any word in the affair:". [ Transmitted by Al-Nisaai in the Book of Marriage, chapter `The Virgin is Married Unwillingly by her Father; 6186-7.]

Obviously, the Prophetic Traditions illustrate permission for both the virgin and the woman who was married before as a condition of the marriage contract. If the father or the person in charge marries the widow or divorcee without her permission, the contract is invalid and revocable, as in the story of Al-Khansaa bint Khaddam. As to the virgin, she has the right to choose; if she wishes, she gives her permission; if not she refuses, which annuls the contract, as in one of he previous Stories. [See Nail Al-Awtar, 6/254-256] What is of great interest is that Islamic Law commands the consultation of the mother in the marriage of her daughter so the marriage can be completed to the satisfaction of all concerned parties. On the authority of Ibn `Umar, the Prophet (greetings and peace be upon him) said, "Take woman's permission about their daughters". [ Transmitted by Ahmad and ascribed to Ibn Umar (4905); researched by Ahmad Shaker, Abu Dawud (2095); and others.] In this context, Iman Abu Sulaiman Al-Kattaby has some valuable remarks to add, as comment on this Hadith, in his book Landmark of Traditions (Maalem as-Sunna), which should be conveyed for their moral sense and integrity. He writes: The counsel of mothers in the affairs of their daughters is not because they have a say in the marriage contract, but it is also that the daughters feel secure and have intimate relationships with their mothers, which is longer lasting for companionship and more effective in bringing their daughters and their husbands together, if the principle of the contract is based on the mutual satisfaction and desire of mothers and daughters. But if it is other than that, one would not get away safely from their harming effect ( i.e. rousing daughters against their husbands), and the potential cause of adversity to fall upon them.

Moreover, mothers are closer to their daughters; they listen more to what they say. For these reasons, their consultation concerning the marriage of their daughters is appreciated and Allah is more knowledgeable.

He adds: It could be for another reason in addition to what is mentioned. A woman might come to know through her special relation with her daughter and through her private conversation with her a matter which could invalidate the marriage contract. It could be due to an illness which makes her unable to perform her duties as a wife. For this reason, the Prophet's words, "The virgin should not be married except through her permission which is silence", as she might be shy to disclose her agreement and to show her desire in the marriage. Therefore her silence indicates her being free from a deficiency that prevents intercourse, or a reason which is only known to her and which does not permit marriage. And Allah Almighty is more knowing. [ See The Concise Book of Traditions (Mokhtasser As-Sunna) by Al-Munzery; The Landmarks of Traditions (Maalem As-Sunna) by Al-Khattab; Edification by Ibn Al-Qayyim 3/39, researched by Ahmad Shaker and Mohammed Hamid Al-Fiqy.]

We add here that the mother may know from her daughter's secrets that her heart is tied to someone else. If that person proposes and is suitable, then he should have the priority, as in the Hadith, "Nothing is better for those in love than marriage". [ Transmitted on the authority of Ibn Abbas, Ibn Majah (1847); Al-Hakim and corrected on Muslim's term 2/160, agreed upon by Al-Dhahaby and Al-Baihaqi 7/78; Al-Tabrany, Tammam and others. It is mentioned by Al-Albany in the "authentic ones" (624).]

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