, by DR. DARAKHSHAN ANJUM
In this Section
The Prophet came to revive the teachings of Islam through his deeds and messages. His life was complete code of conduct as given in the Qur'an. All the religions and laws promulgated before Islam were designed to cater the needs of a particular nation or for particular time and place. But prophet Mohammad was sent for whole mankind and for every age.
The Qur'an Says:
“We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.” (21:107)
And again – “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour unto you, and have chosen for you as your religion Islam.” (5:3)
These verses show that the guidance brought by the Last Prophet is for mankind in every part of the world and in every age.
As far as the rights of women are concerned, no religion gives them that special place as Islam does. The right to equality, right to education, right to life, right to property and many more. Emancipation of women was guaranteed by an Arab Ummi, Prophet Muhammad (peace to him) when the entire world was unfamiliar about this idea. In the Jewish and Christian societies women were seen as the root of all evils and an item of shame. In this regard, Majid Daryabadi, in his Tafsir, quotes Mr. Lecky's book History of European Morals which states that it was believed that “the woman is a door of hell and the cause of all human problems. And a reason for a woman to think herself as a piece of dishonour was that she is a woman.”
A newly born girl child was buried alive in then Arab society and one out of every ten men was guilty of this crime. Not only men but women also participated in this act. Mothers handed over their girl child for burial. These practices are continued in the so-called modern world in the form of female foeticide. According to a world children report by UNICEF boys are outnum-bering girls in India. It informs that against the global sex ratio of 954 girls to 1000 boys, there are only 882 girls per 1000 boys in India. The drip in female birth rate is due to female foeticide. Especially in Punjab and Haryana, where the advance prenatal diagnosis leads to a lot of termination of female foetuses. The Prophet (peace to him) gave women not only the right to life but said that the birth of a girl should be welcomed in the same manner as the birth of a boy. The Prophet stresses the importance of taking special care of daughters by saying that a person who brought up two girls till their young age then on the Doomsday my and his status (lifting up his two fingers) will be same like that. The Prophet also said that when a person having girls is involved in a problem due to one of them but behave with love and kindness, then they will become veil between him and the hell. When women came for Bait the Prophet used to say to them not to kill their babies. Islam does not give superiority to boys over girls. The Prophet said that one who has a daughter and lets her to live and does not prefer his son(s) to her, he will go to heaven.
As education is considered a key instrument of change and development of a community, the Prophet (peace to him) laid emphasis on education, when he said, “To acquire knowledge is binding on all believers, both men and women.”
This declaration clarifies that women and men are equal in pursuit of education and knowledge. The Prophet's wives having themselves been fully trained in the company of the Prophet rendered their services to educate and enlighten the women and pass on the Prophetic traditions to them. Aysha was one of the most eminent scholars of the science of traditions. Abu Musa says that if any companion of the Prophet among us had any difficulty in finding out the real purport of any tradition, he used to enquire it from Aysha for she invariably knew about it.
The Prophet came to the world as a model for mankind. He showered his blessings on women by saying, “The best amongst you is the one who is best towards his wife.” He himself was the kindest husband, the most loving and cherishable partner. Aysha stated, “He always joined in household work and would at time mend his cloths, repair his shoes, sweep the floor. He would milk, tether and feed his animals and do the household shopping.” In the Jahiliyah period wives were beaten even for small mistakes. The Prophet stopped it and give them similar rights as men have. Umar said that once he scolded his wife and so she retaliated equally. That was due to equal rights given to her. The Prophet declared that complete maintenance of the wife is the husband's duty. As a wife she is entitled to demand from her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. The Prophet said that she is free to retain after marriage whatever she possessed before it and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. If married life does not function properly and there is very serious obstacle in this way, something that can't be overcome by reconciliation, in this situation only divorce is applicable. However, it is the last resort because it is described by the Prophet as the most detestable of all lawful things in the sight of God. Islam does not confine the right of divorce to a man only or to the woman alone. Both can exercise this right in their own ways. Before the advent of Islam man used to pronounce divorce to women many times and with his wishes again establish contact with her. But Islam stopped it and restricted it to three times only. Women were also given right to reject the proposal of a man whom she finds below her level or unfit, because this may hinder the fulfilment of her obligations as a wife and may even break her would-be marriage. Once a woman consulted the Prophet about her marriage and told him about a person's proposal. The Prophet replied that the person concerned did not put down his rule from his shoulder, which means that he was very cruel. This shows that the Prophet did not like such type of behaviour as he has given woman right to refuse or accept a proposal.
The daily events as reported in newspapers show the worse conditions of widows. The widows are facing many problems in today's society. She is insecure as she is seen by mischief-mongers of society and is harassed physically and mentally. In past also when a woman's husband died she was given as inherited property to his brother or her step sons and they behaved with her cruelly. In the Indian society there was a tradition of immolation of the widow on the funeral pyre of her husband. If she would live, she had to be apart from worldly attraction and led the whole life in grievances. But Islam confined her sadness to four months and ten days which is called waiting period or Iddat. After that she is permitted all beautification. She can opt for remarriage now and the Qur'an gives sanction to it.
“Marry those among you who are single” (24:32)
The Prophet (peace to him) himself married a widow, Khadija, who was 15 years older than him. After the death of Khadija he married widows and divorcees, save and except Aysha. In this way he put an example for his followers that a widow should be treated well. He said that the person who worked for widows and the poor is like one strives in the way of Allah or one who fasts whole day and prays whole night. He even did not hesitate to do the menial work for others, particularly orphans and widows.
Today many controversies about Hijab and Purdah are boiling. Other communities want to show that it is a burden which suppresses Muslim women. But in reality it is improving a woman's status in the society. In today's modern world the evil of vulgarity is deeply rooted and is becoming a cause of harassment, rape and kidnapping of the women. By following Prophetic traditions women will be saved from these problems. The Prophet disfavoured unbecoming dresses which are designed more to reveal than conceal. The Prophet recommended veil for the woman if she goes out and meets the strangers. If she does so then she will not be recognised and the frequency of sins and evils like adultery will naturally become less. The Prophet warned the woman against displaying her charm or exposing her physical attraction before strangers by saying, “The woman who puts on a dress through which the contours of her body are open to another's gaze will rise on the Day of Resurrection in a naked form.” When a woman speaks to a man, her speech should not be inviting, but should remain objective and crisp. The Prophet prohibited easy and unsupervised meetings between the young of opposite sexes if they are not near relatives. He said that when a man and a woman are alone the third will be the Satan between them. Thus the Holy Prophet (peace to him) guaranteed the dignity and purity of the womenfolk.
The woman, who had been considered a property to be inherited, was not only considered an independent human being but was also given share in inheritance. Whether she is a wife, a mother, a sister or a daughter she receives a certain share of property. A man receives two parts whereas the woman gets one in father's property. The reason behind is that she is not responsible for maintenance of her family. In addition to this a married woman gets two parts of property, one in father's property and another in her husband's property.
Women used to accompany the Prophet's armies engaged in battle to nurse the wounded, prepare supplies, serve the warriors and so on. Rafidah, Umme Sulaim, Umme Atiyah, Rabie-bint-Ma'az and many other Ansari women participated in wars with the Prophet. The Prophet allowed women to indulge in all business transactions that are permissible for man. A woman may also hold a job if it does not affect her main responsibility of the house and family, if her husband agrees and if she is not required to mix with men. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honour in the sight of Allah. The Prophet acknowledged this honour when he declared: “Heaven lies under the feet of the Mother.”
She is entitled to three-fourth of the children's love and kindness with one forth left for the father.
What a blessing showered by the Prophet on women! But today Muslim societies lag socially, educationally, politically, morally and otherwise. That is because of absence of true and total commitment to Islam. The deterioration in the women's social condition in the modern world calls for a better understanding of Islamic laws and implementing them in life by men and women both. May Allah guide us all towards the way which can earn His pleasure.