By: WE’AM HUSSAIN – PRE-MEDICINE
Women’s rights are significantly important both on an international and domestic level; however, popular focus has been fixated on Muslim women and perceived Muslim women’s rights in an international context. In this article, I am going to uncover the God-given rights of women according to Islam to clarify the discrepancies between cultural and religious understandings of women’s rights, to eradicate any stereotypes and to educate.
In order to understand any concept in Islam, especially in regards to women’s roles in Islam, it is important to understand the basis of Islam. Muslims all over the world turn to the Holy Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to understand how to behave in different circumstances. Looking at Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), his first marriage was to an independent businesswoman known for her intelligence and beauty, Khadija. Khadija was widowed twice before, and was 15 years older than the Prophet; yet after observing his trustworthy, humble and altruistic character, she was bold enough to initiate a proposal of marriage. Additionally, after they wed, she continued to work in her independent business and Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) would continuously help her; they had a very compassionate and loving marriage.
All of Muhammad’s (p.b.u.h.) surviving children were daughters, and they were so dearly loved and cherished by him that it has been recorded that when his daughter entered the room, the Prophet would stand up out of respect and ask his daughter to sit where he had been sitting; or how while on his death bed, he told one of his daughters that she would be the first one to greet him in paradise. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was indeed a tremendous influence to humanity, helping to teach many prophetic and wise morals, but he started his teachings within his home first. He dedicated most of his time and energy to his family, as he said, “the best of you are those who are best to your families” demonstrating that virtue starts at home. His character displayed a healthy concept of fatherhood and humanity, and emulating these characteristics of the Prophet is an important tenet of Islam.
Islam introduced the law that women have the right to initiate divorce if she is being mistreated. Islam also abolished the practice of “forced arranged marriages.” Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) continuously emphasized how important it is that both the woman and the man agree to be married, and that neither felt pressure to enter a marriage. Islam also first entitled women to the right of inheritance of their parents’ property with proportionate sharing with their siblings.
Finally, a common way to identify a Muslim woman is the wearing of a hijab, or headscarf. Not all Muslim women wear a headscarf, as covering is a personal choice between her and God. The hijab is prescribed for Muslim women to help protect themselves “that they may be distinguished and not be harassed” (Qur’an 33:58-59). The Qur’an prescribes modest dress to ensure protection for women, so that they may be seen as human beings of character and intellect.
Islam strongly promotes women to go out and strive for excellence and live their own healthy and independent lives, just like the Prophet’s beloved wife Khadija did. Men in Islam, too, have a tremendous responsibility of “lowering their gaze” (Qur’an 24:30) to give women respect. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) himself was a shining example for humanity as he dearly regarded those around him, and he never once raised his hand or voice at any woman or child, constantly ensuring all people around him were constantly treated with dignity and respect.
Therefore, based on what I’ve said it is clear that Islam is an egalitarian religion that has a basis of equality and equity to both men and women. Islam does not permit any form of sexism. Sexism and the deprivation of Muslim women’s rights in predominately Muslim countries are practices that do not have a basis in Islam. Islam has been promoting women’s rights for the last 1400 years. If Islam is practiced correctly, and women are given the independence and education to succeed, many problems around the world can be improved, giving us a peaceful world that Allah, or God, loves.