The Rights Islam Offers to Women
With the onset of Islam and its special teachings, the life of women entered into a new phase - a phase which differed vastly from the previous one and became one in which women availed of all kinds of individual, social and human rights. The basis of Islamic teachings with respect to women is exactly what we read in the Noble Qur`an:
وَ لَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ
“…The wives have rights similar to the obligations upon them, in accordance with honorable norms…” (1)
i.e. the women possess rights and privileges in the same measure as the responsibilities which they shoulder within the society. Islam considers a woman, just like a man, to possess a human soul, will and choice, and perceives her to be on the path of spiritual perfection, which is actually the purpose of human creation. It is for this reason that it has placed man and woman alongside each other, addressed them together:
ياَ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ
ياَ أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا
O you who have faith,
and imposed moral, educative and scientific curriculum upon both of them.
By means of verses such as:
وَ مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْـثى وَ هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولٌئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ
“…and whoever does good, whether male or female, and he is a believer, these shall enter the Paradise.”(2)
Islam has promised the benefits of complete prosperity to both the sexes. By verses such as:
مَنْ عَمِلَ صالِحاً مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْـثى وَ هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَ لَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“Whoever does good whether male or female and he is a believer, We will most certainly make him live a happy life, and We will most certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.”(3)
it has elucidated that every man and woman, by adhering to and implementing the Islamic curriculum, can achieve material and spiritual perfection, and possess a pure, good life that is replete with ease and comfort. Islam considers a woman, like man, to be completely free and independent, and the Noble Qur`an, by way of verses like:
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ
“Every soul is held in pledge for what it earns.”(4)
مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً فَلِنَفْسِهِ وَ مَنْ أَسَاءَ فَعَلَيْهَا
“Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is against himself.”(5)
It declares this freedom to be for all people - men and women. We observe that the Islamic penal code sentences both genders with the same kind of retribution, as can be seen in the following verse and other similar verses:
الزَّانِيَةُ وَ الزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ واحِدٍ مِنْهُمَا مِائَةَ جَلْدَةٍ
“The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication - flog each of them with a hundred whippings.” (6)
On the other hand, since independence is an inevitable consequence of (free) will and choice, Islam has also extended this independence to all monetary privileges, permitting women to enter into various kinds of monetary transactions and regarding her as the rightful owner of her income and investment. In Suratul Nisa we read:
لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا وَ لِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ
“Men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn.” (7)
In view of the fact that the word اکتساب (used in the verse) - unlike the word کسب - is used to denote acquisition of wealth, the use of this word conveys the meaning that the wealth which is acquired becomes associated with the person acquiring it(8), and also taking into consideration the general rule:
أَلنَّاسُ مُسَلِّطُونَ عَلى أَمْوَالِهِمْ.
“All the people have authority over their own wealth”, (9)
Numerous verses of the Noble Qur`an were revealed at a time when a great number of the communities of the world had been reluctant to recognize the female species as a human being, regarding her as an accursed entity and a source of sin, deviation and death! Many of the ancient communities even held the belief that a woman's worship was not acceptable in the eyes of Allah. Many of the Greeks considered a woman to be a defiled entity and an evil handiwork of Satan. The Romans and some of the Greeks believed that basically females did not possess a human soul and as such, the human soul was specifically confined to the males!
Interestingly, till recently, Christian scholars in Spain engaged themselves in discussing whether women, like men, possessed human souls or not, and whether or not their souls would continue to live eternally after their deaths. After their discussions they eventually concluded that since a woman's soul is an isthmus between an animal and a human soul, it cannot be eternal, save for the soul of Maryam J.(11)
Here it becomes apparent how far from reality the allegation is, which some ignorant individuals level against Islam that it is a religion of males and not females. Generally speaking, if, due to physical and sentimental differences which exist within males and females, some differences in respect of social responsibilities are observed in the Islamic Laws, it does not by any means, diminish the spiritual worth of a woman. There exists no difference between a man and a woman in this regard; the doors of success and prosperity lay equally open for both of them, just as we read in the Quran:
بَعْضُکُمْ مِنْ بَعْضٍ
“All are from one species and one society.”(12)
1. (The Quran 2:228)
2. (The Quran 40:40)
3. (The Quran 16:97)
4. (The Quran 74:38)
5. (The Quran 45:15)
6. (The Quran 24:2)
7. (The Quran 4:32)
8. Refer Al-Mufradat of Raghib Isfahani. It should be known that this point is applicable in instances when كَسب and اِكتِساَب are used in conjunction with one another.
9. An Authentic Juristic Rule in Islamic Jurisprudence extracted from several Quranic verses and Traditions.
10. Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 2, pg. 113
11. Refer the books An apology for Muhammad and the Quran, Huqooq-e-Zan Dar Islam and other books related to the humans beliefs and views.
12. Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 223