The subject of the rights and duties of women in Islam has often been clouded by controversy, personal opinions and sheer ignorance. Although many scholars have dealt with this subject, there has remained a need to discuss wider aspects of the issue than are often tackled. Maulana Abdul Ghaffar Hasan, a scholar of Hadith and member of the Islamic Ideological Council in Pakistan, originally presented this topic to the Council as a short Urdu paper for discussion. Considering it to be a concise yet useful contribution to the field, I rendered it into English. I am very grateful to my daughter Khola Hasan who not only edited the English version but also contributed to it with her thoughts, thus adding to its substance beautifully. I hope that this booklet will help to remove some of the misunderstandings, prejudiced opinions and falsehoods, which circulate about the rights, and duties of women in Islam.
The issue of Women in Islam has been the subject of all kinds of controversies,
misunderstandings and especially misinformation. This work will discuss and
explain this subject according to the precise teachings of the Quraan and the
Sunnah (sayings, acts, i.e., the traditions) of Allah's Messenger !.
To begin with, the most important aspect of the entire issue is the spiritual
aspect. The Muslim accepts that the main purpose behind the creation of jinn
and mankind was that they should worship Allah, struggle against the forces of
Satan and live their life according to Allah's Commandments in order to
achieve eternal bliss in Paradise.
Dr. Suhaib Hasan
The Purpose of Creation of Men and Women
The Muslim accepts that the main purpose behind the creation of jinn and
mankind was that they should worship Allah, struggle against the forces of
Satan and live their life according to Allah' s Commandments in order to
achieve eternal bliss in Paradise.
"And I (Allah) created not the jinn and men except they should worship
Me (Alone)." (V. 51:56)
Also Allah said:
"Nay! But worship Allah, and be among the grateful." (V. 39:66)
At another place He said:
"Say (O Muhammad !): 'Verily, I am commanded to worship Allah by
obeying Him and doing religious deeds sincerely for His sake only." (V.
Equality of Men and Women as regards Religious Obligations and
In this spiritual regard, Islam makes no distinction between men and women.
Both have a soul, both were created for the same purpose in life, both have a
duty to fulfill their religious obligations, both will be judged by the All-
Mighty, and both will be rewarded or punished according to their individual
actions. Whenever the Qur�aan mentions those fortunate beings who will enter
the Gardens of Bliss because of their piety and good deeds, it mentions men
and women together.
"And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a (true)
believer (Muslim)], such will enter Paradise and not the least injustice,
even to the size of a Naqira (speck on the back of a date stone), will be
done to them." (V. 4:124)
"Whoever works righteousness whether male 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)." (V.16: 97)
"The believers, men and women, are Auliya ' (helpers, supporters, friends,
protectors) of one another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma'r�f (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 (Iqimat-as-Salat), and
give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His
Mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (V.9: 71)
"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), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast) (the
obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the optional Nawafil
fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal
sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with
their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc.); Allah has
prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e., Paradise)." (V.
There can thus be no doubt that in the Hereafter, men and women will both be
judged, each individual bearing the burden of its own acts, each soul will be
punished for its transgressions and each will be rewarded for its obedience to
Biologically Men and Women are two different sexes but complementary
to each other:
One may well ask that if there is such a complete and comprehensive spiritual
equality between the two sexes, why is this identical treatment not found in
other rights, duties and privileges. Muslims and especially non-Muslims
question why men go out to work while women are encouraged to stay at
home, why women have to wear the Hijab (veil), why a brother receives a
larger share of inheritance than his sister, why a man can be a ruler but a
woman can not, etc., and they then conclude that Islam treats women as
inferior beings. Laws can never be discussed without being explained first, so
we must first consider the fundamental Islamic ethos that men and women are
two different yet complementary sexes. It is an established medical fact that
men and women have different biological compositions and temperaments.
Allah the All-Mighty created and knows this biological difference better than
we do, and has thus assigned to men and women the roles that each excels in
due to its nature. Neither gender is inferior or superior to the other; instead they
complement each other like the two halves of a whole. In everyday life we see
that society consists of many different kinds of people, all of whom play their
particular roles to keep society intact. The farmer and the doctor make different
contributions to the society, but both are equally important. Each excels in his
own field, and each provides a service for the other. Similarly, men and women
are different sexes and play vital roles in their own areas of excellence.
Worth of Women in Islam:
The Prophet's narrations speak of women with praise and respect. He ! once
"The world and all things in it are precious, and the most precious thing
in the world is a virtuous woman." (Ahmad and Muslim)
He ! also said:
"Shall I not inform you about the best treasure a man can have? It is a
virtuous woman who pleases him when he looks at her, who obeys him
when he commands her, and who guards herself when he is absent from
The Prophet ! said:
"Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the
coolness of my eyes is in prayer." (Ahmad and An-Nasa 'i)
The Honour of Mother in Islam:
In a famous incident, a man came to the Prophet ! and asked:
"O Messenger of Allah, who is the person who has the greatest right on me
with regards to kindness and attention?" He replied: "Your mother." "Then
Who?" He replied: "Your mother." "Then who?" He replied: Your mother."
"Then who?" He replied: "Your father." (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)
The Qur'an also discusses the immense honor and respect due to both parents,
and especially to mother:
"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 to your
parents, unto Me is the final destination." (V. 31:14)
The Reward of upbringing Girls:
In the days when it was a custom to cherish the birth of male children and to
bury the female children alive because of shame and poverty, the Prophet !
"Whoever looks after two girls till they reach maturity, he and I will enter
Paradise together like these two (fingers).� (Muslim and A t- Tirm idh 1)
While men are the physically stronger sex, the woman's biological make-up
has made her excel as the homemaker. She alone can be impregnated, carry
and deliver the child, and then suckle the baby. Her gentle, caring and selfsacrificing
temperament is best suited to bringing up children and looking after
the home. To say that she should also earn a living is an unacceptable injustice
and implies that everything she does for her home and children is worthless
and needs to be supplemented by an outside cover. A woman already has to
play in society a great and noble role as mother of a new generation, a role for
which no man can claim the honors. It is because of her supreme role as
mother that she is entitled to three times the devotion given to the father from
The roles of men and women in the Qur�aan are dealt as:
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has
made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from
their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and
guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard." (V.
This Divine injunction describes the man as Qawwam (maintainer) and the
woman as Qanitah (obedient) and Hafizatun lil-Ghaib (preserver of the secret).
The Verse gives two reasons as to why men are described as maintainers.
"Allah has made the one of them to excel the other," which means that He has
excelled men to be physically stronger and more inclined to have a career
outside the home. The history of mankind has always shown that men, from
the most primitive to the most technologically minded, have assumed the role
of providing food, maintaining law and order in the community, waging war
against enemies, and going on expeditions in search of new lands, adventure,
food and even hidden treasure. The women have primarily stayed at home to
provide a stable environment for the children.
The second reason is that "they spend from their means." It is the man's duty to
provide financially for his family, and it is also the man who is required to give
a dower to his wife at the time of their marriage. In the castle of his home, the
husband is the ruler and the wife is his pillar of support. As in any
establishment, there can only be one ruler; a car with two drivers, a country
with two kings or an army with two generals would all be in utter chaos and
disarray. The husband has thus been put in charge of his home, but this is a
responsibility and not a privilege.
Both Sexes have Rights over each other:
The different roles of the sexes means that never is one sex burdened with all
the duties while the other enjoys all the privileges. Instead they both have
individual duties and privileges. The Qur�aan says in this regard:
"And they (women) have rights similar over them to what is reasonable,
but men have a degree over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (V.
Issues in which Men and Women are treated alike or Women are treated
This chapter discusses issues, which carry little or no controversy.
The Messenger of Allah ! once said: "Acquiring knowledge is
compulsory for every Muslim. (At-Tabarani)
This narration applies equally to men and women. "Knowledge" in this context
refers primarily to knowledge of the Qur�aan and the Sunnah as no Muslim
should be ignorant of his or her Faith, but it also covers other areas of general
education, which can contribute to the welfare of civilization. It is precisely the
ignorance about their religion among Muslims that has led to men oppressing
women because they believe it is permitted, women not demanding their Godgiven
rights because they are ignorant of them, and children growing up to
perpetuate their parents' follies. Throughout Islamic history, men and women
both earned respect as scholars and teachers of the Faith. The books of Rijal
(Reporters of Hadith) contain the names of many prominent women, beginning
with 'Aishah and Hafsah.
It has already been discussed in detail that both men and women are the slaves
of Allah and have a duty to worship and obey Him. Men and women have to
pray, fast, give charity, go on pilgrimage, refrain from adultery, avoid the
prohibited, enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and so on. Because of women's
roles as mothers, a role which does not end at a specific time but is a roundthe-
clock career, they have been exempted from attending the Mosque for the
five daily prayers or for Jumu 'ah (Friday) prayer. Nevertheless, if they wish to
attend the Mosque, no one has the right to stop them.
3. Charitable Acts
Men and women are both encouraged to give charity, and there is nothing to
stop a woman giving charity from her husband's income.
'Aishah reported that the Messenger of Allah ! said:
"A woman will receive reward (from Allah) even when she gives charity from
her husband's earnings. The husband and the treasurer (who keeps the money
on the husband's behalf) will also be rewarded, without the reward of any of
Asma' once said to the Prophet !
"O Messenger of Allah, I have nothing except what Zubair (her husband)
brings home." The Prophet told her: "O Asma, give in charity. Don't lock it lest
your subsistence is locked."
4. The Right to own Wealth and Property
A woman has the right to keep her property or wealth, whether earned or
inherited, and spend it as she may please.
This right was granted to Western women only very recently, and the women
of India had to wait until 1956 for a right which Muslim women have always
taken for granted. Concerning the right to one's earnings, the Qur�aan says:
"And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you excel
the others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and
likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask
Allah of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything." (V.
5. Freedom to express One's Opinion
Few societies exist in which the ordinary citizen can confront the ruler face to
face and challenge his policies. Even fewer societies allow women to be so
bold, yet the Islamic ideal has always been open and accessible. This freedom
of expression is aptly demonstrated by a famous incident involving 'Umar the
second Rightly- Guided Caliph.
'Umar was once standing on the pulpit, severely reprimanding the people and
ordering them not to set excessive amounts of dower at the time of marriage. A
woman got up and shouted, "Umar! You have no right to intervene in a matter
which Allah the All-Mighty has already decreed in the Qur�aan:
"But if you intend to replace a wife by another and you have given one of
them a Qintar (of gold, i.e., a great amount as Mahr bridal money), take
not the least bit of it back; would you take it wrongfully without a right
and (with) a manifest sin?" (V.4:20)
After being reminded of this Verse, 'Umar withdrew his order, saying, "I am in
the wrong and she is correct."
6. Participation in Jihad
The battlefield is a place, which frightens many men let alone women. Due to
the aggressive and violent nature of war, only men have a duty to participate in
Jihad (holy fighting in Allah's Cause) while women are exempted. A woman
once asked the Prophet to allow women to go on Jihad with men because of its
excellence and the unlimited reward promised to Mujahidin (Muslim fighters)
in the Hereafter.
The Prophet replied:
"For them is a Jihad without fighting," which referred to the Hajj and '
Nevertheless the Prophet did permit women to nurse the injured and supply
provisions to the Mujahidin at some battles. A woman from the tribe of Ghifar
came with a large group of women to the Prophet when he was preparing to
leave for the conquest of Khaibar. She said:
"O Allah's Messenger, we wish to accompany you on this journey so that
we may nurse the injured and help the Muslims." The Prophet responded,
"Come may Allah shower His blessings upon you."
Umm 'Atiyyah an Ansari woman, once said:
"I have participated in seven battles with the Prophet. I used to guard the
camels of the Mujahidin in their absence, cook the food, treat the injured
and care for the sick."
Mu'adh bin Jabal reports that his cousin Asma' bint Yazid killed nine Roman
soldiers with a tent-pole during the battle of Yarmuk.
7. Freedom to choose Her Husband
The guardian of the girl, whether her father, brother or uncle, plays an
important role in her marriage, such as finding a suitable match for her. But
under no circumstance does this allow him to force his choice on her against
her wishes. She is free to accept or reject his choice, or make her own choice.
A woman named Khansa bint Khidam once came to the Prophet and
"My father has forced me to marry my cousin in order to raise his own status
(in the eyes of the people)." The Prophet told her that she was free to dissolve
this marriage and choose whomever she wished to marry. She replied, "I
accept my father's choice, but my aim was to let the women know that
fathers have no right to interfere in the marriage." (Ahmad, An-Nasa 'i and
8. A Woman's Guarantee in War is acceptable
If a woman gives surety to a war-captive or gives him shelter, her guarantee
will be accepted. Umm Hani a cousin of the Prophet, said to him after the
conquest of Makkah: "I have given shelter to two of my in-laws." The
Prophet said: "O Umm Hani, we have given shelter to whom you have given
According to another narrative, Umm Hani gave shelter to a man but her
cousin 'Ali tried to kill the man. She complained to the Prophet who endorsed
her act of giving shelter to the man.
9. The Right to custody of Children
Divorce is especially painful and difficult when the couple have had children,
and awarding custody to either party involves difficulties. According to
Western law, both father and mother have to prove to the Court that they are
more capable of looking after the children, and this often involves maligning
the other party in order to strengthen their own claims to custody.
has its own clear decision on this issue. Custody of young boys and girls goes
to the mother. The son stays with his mother until he is about seven or nine
years of age, after which he is looked after by the father. The daughter remains
with her mother until she gets married. The exception is when the mother
herself re-marries, in which case custody may be awarded to someone else
such as the girl's grandmother or aunt. This is based on the Prophet's words to
"Your right to custody of the child is greater as long as you do not remarry."
10. Participation in extending cooperation for the promotion of good and
elimination of evil.
The Quran deals with this subject in clear terms:
"The believers, men and women, are Auliya ' (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 perform As-Salat (Iqimat-as-Salit), and give the Zakat,
and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them.
Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (V. 9:71)
Chapter 4 :
Issues in which Men and Women are treated as dissimilar
This chapter deals and as well as tempers with the issues, which raise most of
the questions and criticisms.
Muslim men and women have to fulfill very different requirements concerning
Satr (parts of the body which have to be covered). The following Verse deals
with the observation of Satr for women inside the home where only close male
and female family members can mix together freely:
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their
private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which
is apparent, and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e., their bodies,
faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their
husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or
their husband's Sons, or 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 vigor, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let
them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide ~of their
adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that
you may be successful." (V. 24:3 1)
Women can thus expose their objects of beautification such as make-up and
jewellery to other chaste women and the men listed in the above Verse only.
In front of other people, the Prophet's wives and all Muslim women have been
ordered to fulfill the requirements of Hijab by wearing a Jilbab, which is a long
outer garment that covers the entire body:
"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the
believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e., screen
themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be
better that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be
annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (V. 33:59)
Islam does not permit the free mixing of men and women outside the close
family group, and Western-style mixing even with wearing the Hijab is not
permissible as is seen in places of education and work. The Quran tells the
believing men in the time of the Prophet:
"And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from
behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts." (V.
The wives of the Prophet were models for all women and were regarded as the
Mothers of all believers. If they could only be addressed from behind a curtain
in order to avoid any temptation or impropriety, how much more then is such a
curtain necessary for ordinary women who can be a much greater source of
temptation? It is also clear from the time of the Prophet that the Companions
did not treat this Verse as referring only to the Prophet' s wives but applied it to
their women as well, with the complete approval of the Prophet. The reason
given in the above Verse for such a curtain is "that is purer for your hearts and
for their hearts" and in another Verse we read:
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden
things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is
purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do." (V. 24:30)
Islam wishes to establish a pure society in which there is no room even for
adultery of the eye. Free-mixing between the sexes is forbidden, men and
women are advised to marry at a young age so that they can fulfill their desires
lawfully, and all are told to "lower their gazes" in public so that the eye may
not be used as an instrument of Satan. By observing Hijab, the woman's dignity
and decency is safeguarded. Her attire makes clear that she is not an object for
sale, advertising her beauty and availability for men's lusting eyes and wolf
whistles. We need little reminder of the immoral society around us today in
which the sexes mingle wearing indecent clothes, and adultery is only frowned
upon if committed after being married. Before marriage individuals are
encouraged to try different partners, and the unfaithfulness, the misery, the
jealousy and the insecurities, which then take place, are a necessary result of
such a life style. The Muslims may well feel safe and secure within the Islamic
moral and dress code, but they are often imitating too much of the non-
Muslims' behavior for complacency.
A man is allowed a maximum of four wives provided he treats them with
equality and justice. If he cannot support more than one wife or fears that he
will not be just between them, he should remain monogynous. The primary
purpose behind polygyny is to provide for war widows and orphans. The
number of men in any society inevitably decreases after a major war, and
polygyny provides the only decent solution for the widows and orphans left
alone. In such situations women may resort to a monastic life, which is
unnatural, or to an immoral and sinful life. Islam also strictly forbids sexual
relations outside marriage, and polygyny is again the only decent and honest
solution in cases where a man wants more than one partner.
The widespread practice today of men having wives as well as mistresses is
demeaning for all the women involved, it is dishonesty and causes untold
misery. By marrying more than once, not only are all the woman and the
children involved legitimate, but the man also has to face up to full
responsibility for all the relationships he enters into.
3. Evidence of Women
The Quran clearly states that the evidence of two women is equivalent to that
of one man, giving the reason that if one forgets, the other may remind her:
"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, the other can remind her." (V.2:282)
Giving evidence in court can be a daunting experience, especially as the
judicial system will consist mainly of men, so the women can give each other
moral support as well as reminders. It is a serious and burdensome
responsibility, which has been lightened for women.
There are four situations in which evidence is required:
a. Crimes related to penal ordinances and retaliation. If men and women are
both available, the men will be called to give witness and the women will not
b. In economic affairs related to wealth and property, which are usually the
domains of men, the evidence of two men is accepted. If two men are not
available, then one man and two women will be accepted.
c. In affairs concerning women only such as pregnancy, birth, sexual defects,
the evidence of one woman alone is accepted.
d. In criminal cases where only women are the witnesses, the four Imams
(religious leaders) are unanimous in not accepting the evidence of women.
They reason that in cases such as murder and rape, the women will be
emotional and may get confused. Such evidence becomes suspicious, and a
principle of Shar'iah (Islamic law) is that any suspicion about the evidence
makes the evidence null and void. In this context the Zahiri school of thought
is more credible.
It states that if women alone are the witness in a criminal case, their evidence
will be accepted according to the principle of two women's evidence being
equivalent to that of one man. So in cases of adultery, the evidence of four men
or eight women will be accepted. They argue that to reject women's evidence
entirely in such cases will allow much crime to go unpunished.
It is an established scientific fact that women cannot explain the intimate
details of events with the accuracy which men are capable of. This fact has
been confirmed by much research, such as Dr. Harding's. in his book 'The Way
of All Women.' According to one Hadith, the Prophet described women as
being incomplete in reason and religious practice because they are exempted
from the five daily prayers and fasting during their monthly menstruation.
Their incompleteness in reason is taken into account in the field of legal
evidence. Giving evidence in court is a serious responsibility from which a
woman is relieved, just as she is relieved from attending the Mosque for the
five daily prayers and the Friday prayer.
A daughter receives half the share of inheritance compared with the son in
accordance with the following Qur'anic injunction:
"Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance): to the
male, a portion equal to that of two females;" (V. 4:11)
If the daughter has no brothers and only women are the heirs, then this
principle does not apply. The ruling of giving a woman half the share of a man
seems unjust at first glance, but in fact it is more generous to women. It is
based on the Shari 'ah principle of "Benefits in accordance with the scale of
To illustrate, a brother will inherit twice the sum his sister inherits. What she
inherits is hers to keep and she need not spend it on anyone, even her husband
though he may be poor. The brother is, however, responsible for maintaining
his family, which includes his unmarried sister, surviving parent, wife and
children. At the time of his marriage, he will have to pay bridal money to his
wife as well as provide for her throughout their married life. The sister will in
contrast receive bridal money and will be maintained by her husband. Any
income she has and her share of inheritance is hers exclusively, with which her
family cannot interfere.
It seems that this same wisdom is behind the 'Aqiqah ceremony when the two
sheep are sacrificed at the birth of a male child, and one sheep at the birth of a
female child. This principle of benefits according to responsibility has wide
applications in Islam.
For example, after a battle the Prophet would distribute the captured booty on
the same principle by giving two shares to the cavalry and one share to the
infantry. (Musnad Ibn Abu Shaibah)
5. Blood Money
According to the principle of 'Benefits according to responsibility', the blood
money of a woman is half that of a man. It is important to remember that blood
money is not the price for the soul of a murdered person, as there can be no
such price. It is instead a small compensation for the financial sufferings of the
deceased's family. Men are usually the breadwinners and maintainers of their
families, so the financial sufferings are greater if the man is killed, but if the
murder victim was a woman who was the sole breadwinner for her family, then
the Qadi (judge) has the authority to increase her blood money.
A precedent for such an increase is found in the Qur'aan where it allows the
Qadi to double the blood money of a person murdered within the precincts of
the Sacred Cities, Makkah and Al-Madinah. The wisdom behind is that just as
virtuous actions are rewarded more if practiced within Al-Haram (the
sanctuary), so the punishment for crimes or sins within Al-Haram is also
The man has the primary right to divorce. Allah says:
"And if you divorce them before you have touched (had a sexual relation
with) them, and you have appointed unto them the Mahr (bridal money
given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), then pay half of
that (Mahr), unless they (the women) agree to forego it, or he (the husband)
in whose hands is the marriage tie, agrees to forego and give her full
appointed Mahr. And to forego and give (her the full Mahr) is nearer to
At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness). And do not forget liberality between
yourselves. Truly, Allah is All-Seer of what you do." (V. 2:237)
This may seem unjust at first glance, but Allah the All-Mighty has given
injunctions based on men and women's different temperaments. The woman is
controlled more by her emotions than by reason, and this is obviously an asset
in the home. Her tender nature and ability to sacrifice her own comfort for the
sake of her child makes her a better parent than the man. In a situation of
marital conflict, her emotional nature will be more inclined to exaggerate the
seriousness of the conflict and to thus instigate divorce. The man will be more
inclined to think calmly about the situation before pronouncing judgment.
Neither of these characteristics is inferior or superior to the other; both are
complementary and best suited to the roles the sexes have to play. In order to
mitigate rash conduct by the husband, the Quran and the Sunnah have made
provisions for cases when the man does pronounce divorce but then regrets it.
The divorce never becomes binding immediately but gives him a period of
three lunar months (the woman's 'Iddah or waiting period) in which he can
either endorse the divorce or revoke it and seek reconciliation.
It should be remembered that a woman is not helpless in the matter of divorce
as is widely believed. Although she cannot pronounce divorce like a man, for
the reasons of her temperament already given, she can obtain one through a
Qadi or arbitrator. This process is called Khul ', and the woman asks for
divorce in lieu of returning her bridal money or any other gift to the husband.
In the Western world today, the high rates of divorce are widely attributed,
among other things, to the financial independence of women and the ease with
which they can obtain divorce for flimsy reasons. The Islamic ethos
encourages men and women to save their marriage for the sake of their
children and to uphold the family institution.
7. Right to trade or seek other employment
A women is allowed to trade and work in institutions for women only, and at
all times she must observe the relevant rules on Hijab and Satr. A woman's
primary place is in the home but she may work if she has no one to support her
or because her husband's income is not sufficient for the family's needs. As has
already been mentioned under the discussion of Hijab, Islam does not permit
the free mixing of men and women outside the close family circle. Women are
allowed to go to Mosques for worship, educational institutions, and the
battlefield. In the Mosques and educational establishments, the Muslims should
provide separate places where women may pray and study in privacy. On the
battlefield, women may nurse the injured if there is a shortage of male nurses.
Whenever men and women work or study in the same place, there is an
increase in temptation from Satan. Sexual harassment in Western places of
employment is a common problem for which the women often have no
remedy. Islam tackles the root of the problem by separating the sexes and so
avoiding situations of temptation, which can lead to sin.
8. Women in positions of authority, such as Leaders, Ministers,
Ambassadors and Members of the Legislature
The ruler of the Islamic state does not only administer the affairs of
government but has to fulfill a much wider and strenuous role. He has to be
able to face the public day and night, meet ministers and foreign dignitaries,
lead the country in political crises and war, and be able to lead the people in
congregational prayers. A woman cannot fulfill all these roles while having
children and establishing her home.
In fact, she cannot fulfill most of these roles anyway, such as leading a battle
or prayer. Allah the All-Mighty has enjoined upon men, the duty of
maintaining the family. If a woman is not the maintainer of her own home,
how can she be expected to maintain the government of a country.
The Prophet's statement on this issue was very clear:
"The people who hand their rule over to a woman, will not be successful
(or prosperous)." (Al-Bukhari)
During the early years of Islam, women were never appointed as Khalifah
(caliph), governor or Qadi (judge). The Prophet was survived by many of his
wives and daughters, but they were never the rulers of any part of the vast
Islamic state. The Muslims today who attempt to justify electing women as
leaders of Muslim countries are in open flagrancy of Islamic teachings. Some
Muslim countries, allow women to be ambassadors, and members of the
parliament or the consultative assemblies, but this too is inadvisable for various
reasons, for example:
(i) The woman' s natural and primary career is her home, family and children.
This is in itself an extremely demanding role; and in order for her to do justice
to her role in parliament, she would have to deny her own maternal instincts
and sacrifice the needs of her family. This is an unacceptable injustice to her.
(ii) Full participation in parliamentary proceedings involves long hours in an
atmosphere of free mixing and social interaction. This is completely forbidden
(iii) A woman is obliged to observe Islamic injunctions on Satr and Hyib.
Spending entire days and nights in parliament wearing Hijab is difficult and
uncomfortable, and the practical example of women parliamentarians in
Muslim countries today is that they cannot obey the rules. The nature of the job
is that it suits men only, and women who try to take on a man's work will
inevitably find themselves out of their depth.
(iv) A woman cannot travel on a journey which lasts more than a day and night
unless she is accompanied by a Mahram (a close male relative). Islam
recognizes that society can be very dangerous, and so does its utmost to protect
women. Members of parliament do not only attend daily sessions but are
required to travel inland and abroad in order to better discharge their duties. It
will be impractical for the Muslim woman to look constantly for a Mahram.
All this does not mean to say that women have no say in the government of
their country. If a woman has the capability and knowledge, which could
benefit the state, she can advise the government without having to participate
in its daily workings.
Men and Women as mutually Complements
The Noble prizewinner Dr. Alexis Carrel has described the biological
differences between men and women in her book "Man, the Unknown." She
concludes with the following analysis:
Woman differs profoundly from Man
The difference existing between man and woman do not come from the
particular form of the sexual organs, the presence of the uterus, from gestation,
or from the mode of education. They are of a more fundamental impregnation
of the entire organism with specific chemical substances secreted by the ovary.
Ignorance of these fundamental facts has led promoters of feminism to believe
that both sexes should have the same education, the same powers and the same
responsibilities. In reality woman differs profoundly from man. Every one of
the cells of her body bears the mark of her sex. The same is true of her organs
and, above all, of her nervous system. Physiological laws are as inexorable as
those of the sidereal world. They cannot be replaced by human wishes. We are
obliged to accept them just as they are. Women should develop their aptitudes
in accordance with their own nature, without trying to imitate the males. Their
part in the progress of civilization is higher than that of men. They should not
abandon their specific functions.
[Dr Alexis, Carrel; Man, the Unknown; New York, 1449 , p.91]
The major biological differences between men and women mean that the two
sexes do not duplicate each other, each fighting to fulfill the same roles and
behaving in the same manner. Instead they complement each other, exercising
their own particular strengths and mitigating their partner�s weaknesses.
Feminists in various Muslim countries have demanded that women be full
represented according to their population percentage in all fields such as the
political and the judicial. Other groups too have demanded not only equality
but often superiority based on race, language or regional prejudice. Such calls
for 'positive discrimination' have been breeding grounds for hatred and disunity
within the Muslim Ummah (nation) and can serve no real purpose. The
Qur�aan speaks of men and women coming from each other, being garments
for each other and being bounded together by love and mercy.
The hatred for men that many feminists preach is totally alien to Islamic
teachings. Instead of the sexes competing against each other, Islam teaches
mutual co-operation to form a harmonious and just society, the bedrock of
which is a stable family life.
The ultimate goal of both men and women is to win Allah's Pleasure arid His
countless favors in the Hereafter. If a man can achieve them through Jihad,
observing the Divine commandments and constantly struggling against the
forces of Satan, so a woman too has a way open to her as described by the
"If a woman prays regularly five times a day, fasts the month (of Ramadan),
guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: Enter Paradise
from whichever gate you wish." (Ibn Hibban)