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Islam and Women's Rights



We are often told that Islam is a sexist religion against women, that it oppresses women, and has rules and regulations that effectively take away their rights. The sad irony to this is that nothing could be further than the truth, the Quran uplifted the status of women, and recognized their rights.

The purpose of this article it to establish these facts and we start with the first proof. The Quran came with a new ruling that BANNED THE KILLING OF FEMALE DAUGHTERS, the Quran essentially made a law granting female children the right to live. This might sound surprising to some, but during the pre-Islamic days of Arabia, they used to practice a very backward barbaric tradition of burying their female daughters alive. Many of the people didn’t want to have a female daughter, but rather a male son who would continue the line of the family, and it was viewed as a shame and dishonor to have a female child. So the Quran got rid of this barbaric act when it mentioned the following:

When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! ith shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on? (16:57-58)

So here the Quran talks about how the pagans used to deal with the birth of a female daughter, they become grieved, their face darkens, and they feel shamed. After this they go on to think about whether they should retain the child, or bury it alive, and as the Quran says, what an evil decision this is.

And in another Quranic reference we read the following:

When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned, for what crime she was killed (81:8-9)

Ibn Kathir, a well known famous interpreter of the Quran writes the following concerning the above:

(And when the female infant (Al-Maw'udah) buried alive is questioned: For what sin was she killed) The majority have recited it as Su'ilat (she is questioned), as it is here. Al-Maw'udah is the female infant that the people of the pre-Islamic time of ignorance would bury in the dirt due to their hatred of girls. Therefore, on the Day of Judgement, the female infant will be asked what sin she committed that caused here to be murdered. This will be a means of frightening her murderer. For verily, if the one who was wronged is questioned, what does the wrongdoer (the one who is guilty of the oppression) think then `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, (And when the female infant (Al-Maw'udah) buried alive Su'ilat:) "This means that she will ask.'' Abu Ad-Duha made a similar statement when he said, "She will ask, meaning she will demand restitution for her blood.'' The same has been reported from As-Suddi and Qatadah. Hadiths have been reported concerning the Maw'udah.

So one has to logically ask the following: How can Islam be against the rights of women when it came and abolished the practice of killing young female daughters? Islam gave young females THE RIGHT TO LIVE, and by doing so, it averted the genocide and murder of millions upon millions of innocent women. Islam should be commended and praised for this; this alone is enough to establish the proof that Islam is a religion that completely respects the value and rights of women.

The practice of burying female daughters alive was not the only oppression committed by the pre-Islamic Arabs against women, among other things they did was to not allow women the choice to marry whom she wills. On many occasions a female would be married off against her will, and her consultation was not even needed nor did anyone care for it. On top of that there were no rules and regulations on how the wife should be treated within the marriage, if the husband saw it fit to treat her badly then it was up to him, there was no set rule that prohibited him from doing so. Can you imagine that? A society in which women have no say in who they marry, and have no rights within the marriage itself? The Quran completely got rid of these ways when it revealed the following verse:

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good. (4:19)

So according to the above verse, Muslim men were forbidden from inheriting women against their will, and not only were they forbidden from inheriting women against their will, they were also forbidden from treating them harshly, during the marriage. So a clear set of established rules were made 1) women should not be forced into a marriage, 2) women have the right to be treated properly and kindly within the marriage, and it is forbidden to treat them badly.

Also logically if a man cannot inherit a women against her will, he cannot keep her in marriage against her will neither, thus granting her the right of a divorce. With the ruling of divorce, Islam established new laws and rights for women, for instance in the pre-Islamic days of Arabia, women were not entitled to an alimony, there was no set fixed law or rule that established this. An alimony is basically the maintenance of a woman after the divorce, that the former husband still looks after her in a reasonable manner etc. The Quran established alimony in several verses:

For divorced women Maintenance (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale). This is a duty on the righteous. (2:241)

Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers in a seemly manner is upon the father of the child. No-one should be charged beyond his capacity. A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child, nor should he to whom the child is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. (2:233)

In fact, did Islam grant women the right of an alimony (maintenance after a divorce), it also granted them the right to an inheritance, something they were not entitled to in the pre-Islamic days. We read in the Quran:

From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large,-a determinate share. (4:7)

In what ye leave, their (the widow) share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. (4:12)

So women were given the right of an inheritance, including the widow as we saw in chapter 4 verse 12, interestingly enough, chapter four verse 7 also allows women to inherit property, meaning they would now own the property for themselves, this in itself was another right given to the females: The right to own property. Not only did Islam grant all of these logistical rights to women, it also granted them rights to protect their honor and status within society. For instance the Quran commands the punishment of anyone making false accusations against the chastity of a woman:

And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations),- flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors;- (24:4)

So the honor and dignity of women was now protected by law, if you made an accusation against them with no evidence whatsoever, you would be punished for doing so. Not only did the Quran prevent false accusations against women, it also prevented the male bias of society when it revealed the following verses as well:

As for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves; let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies, (swearing) by Allah that he is of those who speak the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (24:6-9)

So according to the above verses, if a husband accuses his wife of cheating on him, and he has no witness but himself, his own testimony counts as 4 witnesses, and he must make a fifth oath that invokes the curse of God upon himself if he is telling a lie. Likewise, his accusation can be thrown out if the wife herself testifies that she is innocent, and she testifies four times, with a fifth being an oath to God to curse her if she is lying. Hence the male bias is clearly thrown away, as in the pre-Islamic days, the man always had the upper hand and say over a woman, if he said something against her and made an accusation, his word was taken and that was it, yet Islam says that a wife can testify to her innocence, and if she does so, then she is innocent and there is no case at all against her. According to this Quranic verse, the testimony of the female trumps the testimony of a male; her testimony has more value than his.

Last but not least, the Quran explicitly put both men and women on an equal footing when it stated:

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (33:35)

So as the above verse clearly emphasizes, men and women are on a level playing field, both believing men and women are entitled to paradise and salvation if they are devout, constant, humble, charitable, fast, chaste, and praise God. This is applied equally to both of them; there is no distinction between the two.

So with all of these facts how can anyone claim that Islam is against the rights and status of women? 

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