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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Muslim women and their rights in Islam

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By Awa Gassama

Women in Islam are thought to be subjugated, degraded, oppressed, but are they really? Are millions of Muslims, simply that oppressive or are these misconceptions fabricated by biased media?

Islam gave women rights that women in the West have only recently begun to enjoy. In the 1930s, Annie Besant observed, ‘it’s only in the last twenty years that Christians in England recognized the right of women to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times.  It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls.’

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Men and women all descended from a single person, Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), Islam does not accept for either of them anything but justice and kind treatment.

Equal reward and accountability

Men and women worship Allah in the same way, meaning they worship the same God (Allah), perform the same acts of worship, follow the same scripture, and hold the same beliefs. Allah; the Arabic word for one true God of all creation, judges all human beings fairly and equitably. Allah emphasizes the just treatment and reward due to both men and women in many verses of the Qur’an.

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‘Allah has promised to the believers, men and women, garden under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss.’

Equal right to choose a spouse

Islam has honored women by giving them the right to choose a spouse and keep their original family name once they are married.  Additionally, many have impression that parents force their daughters into marriage. This is the cultural practice, and has no basis in Islam. In Fact, it is prohibited.

Equal yet different

While men and women have equal rights as a general principle, the specific rights and responsibilities granted to them are not identical. Men and women have complementary rights and responsibilities. Aside from external and internal anatomical differences, scientists know there are many other subtle differences in the way brains of men and women process language, information and emotion just to mention a few. A social-biology expert, Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, said that females tend to be higher than males in verbal skills, empathy and social skills, among other skills, while men tend to be higher independence, dominance, spatial, and mathematical skills, rank-related aggression, and other characteristics.

The family unit

God created men and women to be different, with unique roles, skills and responsibilities. These differences are not viewed as evidence of superiority or inferiority but specialization. In Islam, the family is of central importance. The man is responsible for the financial well-being of the family while the woman contributes to the family’s physical, educational and emotional well beings. This encourages cooperation rather than competition. By fulfilling their mutual responsibilities, strong families are created and hence strong societies.

Equal right to knowledge

Both men and women are equally encouraged to seek knowledge. The Prophet (SAW) said, education is compulsory for every Muslim.

Also, great female Muslim scholars existed at and around the time of the Prophet (SAW). Some were from his family and others from his companions or their daughters. Prominent amongst them was Aisha, the wife of the prophet (SAW) through whom a quarter of the Islamic law has been transmitted.

Other females were great scholars of jurisprudence and had famous male scholars as their students.

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