GENDER EQUITY IN ISLAM by Jamal Badawi, Ph.D.
Gender Equity in Islam presents an overview of the status and rights of Muslim women as defined by the Qur'an and Sunnah. In this brief but important work, Dr. Jamal Badawi examines the spiritual, social, economic, and political aspects of women's position in Islam and, in doing so, effectively summarizes the role of women in Muslim society. Further, in explaining the sources that provide the foundations for Islam's stance on gender equity, the author discusses the role of Islamic scholars in their approach to women's issues.
Dr. Badawi is a well-respected author and scholar of Islam. I respect him highly and also recommend this book to muslims and non-muslims alike (i wish it was required reading :)) Dr. Badawi takes no profit from his books and tapes, and the cost of his books are basically the cost of printing. May we make duah for him and his family Ameen.
This book is reproduced here electronically with the permission of Dr. Badawi. - H.A.
copyright 1995 Jamal Badawi
published by American Trust Publications
O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the desires (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that you do. (Qur'an 4:135)
O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women--fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (Qur'an 4:1)
The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur'an 9:71)
Highlights you can jump to in the book::
The Spiritual Aspect
The Qur'an depicts Adam and Eve as equally responsible for their sin in the garden
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Men and women have the same religoius and moral duties and responsibilities
The Economic Aspect The right to possess personal property
Financial security and inheritance laws
Woman's right to seek employment
As a Daughter
As a Mother
Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love and compassion
Education is not only a right but a responsibilityfor all males and females.
The right to accept or reject marriage proposals
Associating polygyny with Islam is one of the most persistent myths
Modesty and Social Interaction
Total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period
Both genders are entitled to equality before the law
Participation in social and political life
Women in Leadership Positions
The Ideal and the Reality: Islamic Reformation and Renewal
INTRODUCTION AND METHODOLOGY
ISLAM AND CULTURAL PRACTICES
When writing or speaking about the Islamic position on any issue, one ought to clearly differentiate between the normative teachings of Islam and the diversity of cultural practices prevalent among its adherents that may or may not be consistent with those teachings. This paper discusses the normative teachings of Islam with regard to the standing and role of women in society as the criteria by which to judge the practice of Muslims and to evaluate their compliance with Islam.
PRIMARY SOURCES OF ISLAM
In identifying what is "Islamic" it is necessary to make a clear distinction between the primary sources of Islam -- the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (P)  -- and legal opinions derived from them by scholars in regard to specific issues.
FACTORS IN INTERPRETATION
The process of extracting laws from the primary sources is a human function. The surmise of legal practitioners may therefore vary considerabley and be influenced by their specific times, circumstances and cultures. Obviously, opinions and verdicts of human beings do not enjoy the autheority or the finality accorded to the primary sources, which God revealed. Futhermore, interpretation of the primary sources should consider, among other things:
1. The context of any statement or commandment in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
In the case of the Qur'an, this includes both the context of the surah and the verses under examination, as well a sthe general perspective of Islam, its teachings, and its world-view. As for the Sunnah of the Prophet (P) the same applies to its texts.
2. The occasion of revelation that is, the historical background providing the primary reasons or causes underlying revelation of a Qur'anic portion or verse to the Prophet (P), which may help to better elucidate its meaning; and, with regard to the Sunnah, the event or the incident that occasioned the statement or action of the Prophet.
3. The role of the Sunnah in explaining and defining the meaning of the Qur'anic text.
To Muslims, Sunnah is a form of revealation given to Prophet Muhammad (P), but not verbatim, as is the case with the Qur'an. As such, authentic Sunnah is the second primary source of Islamic teachings, after the Qur'an. It plays the important roles of defining, explaining and elaborating the Qur'anic text. for example, the second "pillar" of Islam, prayer, is mentioned in the Qur'an but without details about how it should be performed. Such details were left for Prophet Muhammad (P) to explain based on the instructions of angel Gabriel.
Disregard or ignorance of sunnah may lead to serious errors of interpretation. At times, the literal or lexical meaning of a term used in the qur'an may not be its correct meaning if the Prophet (P) qualified or specified what is meant by it. erros are multipled when an erroneous literal meaning is translated from the original Arabic text of the Qur'an into another language, which, in turn may have its own connotations for the translated words used. A detailed illustrationo f this type of error is provided in endnote 14.
Following the above methodology, and for the reader's convenience, the issue of gender equity is discussed under four broad headings:
The Spiritual Aspect
The Economic Aspect
The Social Aspect
The Political and Legal Aspect
It is hoped that, insha'Allah (God willing), this humble contributionmay help in providing a basic frame of reference for more detailed treatments of this vital topic, from an Islamic perspective.
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT
FOUNDATIONS OF SPIRITUAL AND HUMAN EQUITY
1. According to the Qur'an, men and women have the same human spiritual nature.
O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person (nafsin- waahidah), created, of like nature, his mate, and from them two scattered (like seeds) countless men and women--reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.... (Qur'an 4:1)
It is He Who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord (saying) "If You give us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful. (Qur'an 7:189)
(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you! There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the one that hears and sees (all things). (Qur'an 42:11)
2. Both men and women alike are recipients of the "divine breath," because they are created with the same human spiritual nature. Indeed, as the Qur'an states, Allah originated them both from a single person or "one soul" (nafsin-waahidah). Reflecting the magnitude of this universal divine gift, the Qur'an states:
But He fashioned him (the human, or insan) in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and understanding: Little thanks do you give! (Qur'an 32:9)
Referring to Adam, the father of both men and women, the Qur'an relates that Allah commanded the angels to bow down (in respect) to him:
So if I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in obeisance unto him. (Qur'an 15:29)
3. Allah has invested both genders with inherent dignity and has made men and women, collectively, the trustees of Allah on earth.
We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea, given them for sustenance things good and pure, and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (Qur'an 17:70)
Behold, your Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? While we celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you know not." (Qur'an 2:30)
4. The Qur'an does not blame woman for the "fall of man," nor does it view pregnancy and childbirth as punishments for "eating from the forbidden tree."On the contrary,the Qur'an depicts Adam and Eve as equally responsible for their sin in the garden , never singling out Eve for blame. It also esteems pregnancy and childbirth as sufficient reasons for the love and respect due to mothers from their children.
O Adam! You and your wife dwell in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you (both) wish: but approach not this tree or you (both) run into harm and transgression.
Then Satan began to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame was hidden from them (before): he said, "Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you (both) should become angels or such beings as live forever."
And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall. When they tasted the tree, their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I know forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?"
They said: "Our Lord! we have wronged our own souls: If You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be lost."
(Allah) said: "Get you (both) down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling- place and your means of livelihood for a time." He said: "Therein shall you (both) live and therein shall you (both) die; and from it shall you (both) be taken out (at last)..."
O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith. (Qur'an 7:19-27)
Regarding pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur'an states:
And We have enjoined on (every) person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal." (Qur'an 31:14)
We have enjoined on (every) person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in pain did she give his/her weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he /she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he/she says "O my Lord! grant that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam (submission)." (Qur'an 46:15)
5.Men and women have the same religious duties and responsiblities. Each human being shall face the consequences of his or her deeds. And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them:
"Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he/she male or female: you are members one of another..." If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them. (Qur'an 4:124)
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 patent 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. (Qur'an 33:35)
One Day you shall see the believing men and the believing women, how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands. (Their greeting will be): "Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein forever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!" (Qur'an 57:12)
CRITERION FOR "SUPERIORITY"
The Qur'an is quite clear about the issue of claimed superiority or inferiority of any human male or female:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquanted (with all things). (Qur'an 49:13)
A few observations about this verse may be helpful in tracing the foundation of spiritual and human equality before Allah:
a. It begins by addressing not only Muslims but the whole of mankind, irrespective of their gender and their national or religious backgrounds. As such, it is a universal declaration to all made by the Creator of all.
b. It states that there is only One creator of all mankind. As such there is no room for arguments of superiority based on one's having been created by a "superior" God, as there is only One god (Allah). Nor is there any basis for a caste system based on some having been created in a way which is "different" from others or is superior. As Prophet Muhammad (P) explained, "... You all belong to Adam, and Adam was created from dust." In the process of human reporduction there is no superiority or inferiority; kings and paupers, males and females, are created from what the qur'an describes as "despised fluid."
Our having been crated by the One and Only Creator implies our basic equality before Him; He is just to all.
c. Being a faithful creature, servant and worshipper of the One god is at the heart of one's real spirituality and humanness. In this, the essence of gender equality finds its most profound basis.
d. The verse states that all human beings are created min thakarin wa-untha, which can be translated literally as "of male and female." This means in pairs, as the Qur'an explicitly mentiones elsewhere (e.g. 78:8). Each component of the pair is as necessary and as important as the other and hence is equal to him or her. The wording of this verse has been commonly translated as "from a (single pair of) a male and a female," referring to Adam and Eve. this serves as a reminder to all mankind that they belong to the same family, with one common set of parents. As such they are all equal, as brothers and sisters in that broad and "very extended" family.
e. Variations in gender, languages, ethnic backgrounds and, by implication, religious claims, do not provide any basis for superiority or inferiority. Thhe implication of "that you may know each other" (Qur'an 49:13) is that such variations constitute a delibrate mosaic that Allah created, which is more interesting and more beautiful than a single "color" or a "unisex".
f. Most significant and relevant to the topic at hand is the clear categorical statement that the most honored person in the sight of allah is the one who is most pious and righteous. this precludes any other basis for superiority, including. gender.
6. Nowhere does the Qur'an state that ones gender is superior to the other. Some interpreters of the Qur'an mistakenly translate the Arabic word qiwamah (responsibility for the family) with the English word "superiority." The Quran makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness , not gender, color or nationality.
7. The absence of women as prophets or "messengers of Allah" in prophetic history is due to the demands and physical suffering associated with the role of messengers and prophets and not because of any spiritual inferiority attributed to women. Socitied to which prophets were sent, including the Israelities, pre-Islamic Arabs and others, were largely patriarchal socieites. they probably would have been less responsibe to the ministry of female messengers of god. In fact, they made things extremely difficult for male messengers.
From this chapter, it is clear that in terms of spirituality and humanness, both genders stand on equal footing before Allah. It is clear also that nowhere in the primary sources of Islam (the Qur'an and Sunnah) do we find any basis for the superiority of one gender over the other. Human misinterpretations, culturally-bound opinions or manipulations are not congruent with what Islam teaches. The full equality of all human beings before Allah is beyond doubt. This equality should not be confused , however , with role differentiation in the spirit of cooperation and complimentary. This is why equity is a more accurate term than "equality," as explained in end-note 1 and as applied in the remaining chapters of this work.
THE ECONOMIC ASPECT
THE RIGHT TO POSSESS PERSONAL PROPERTY
One aspect of the world-view of Islam is that everything in heaven and earth belong to Allah:
To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth... (Qur'an 2:284)
As such, all wealthy and resources are ultimately "owned" by Allah. However, out of Allah's mercy He created mankind to be, collectively, his trustees on earth. In order to help mankind fulfill this trustee- ship, he made the universe serviceable to mankind:
And He (Allah) has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold, in that are signs indeed for those who reflect. (Qur'an 45:13)
It is the human familiy that is addressed in the above and in other verses of the Qur'an. And since that family includes both genders, it follows that the basic right to personal possession of property (as Allah's trustees) applies equally to males and females. More specifically:
1. The Shari'ah (Islamic Law) recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. They may buy, sell or lease any or all of their properties at will. For this reason, Muslim women may keep (and in fact they have traditionally kept) their maiden names after marriage, an indication of their independent property rights as legal entities.
FINANCIAL SECURITY AND INHERITANCE LAWS
2. Financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive martial gifts without limit and to keep present and future properties and income for their own security, even after marriage. No married woman is required to spend any amount at all from her property and income on the household. In special circumstances, however, such as when her husband is ill, disabled or jobless, she may find it necessary to spend from her earnings or savings to provide the necessities for her family. While this is not a legal obligation, it is consistent with the mutuality of care, love and cooperation among family members. The woman is entitled also to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period ('iddah) in case of divorce or widowhood. Some jurists require , in addition, one year's support for divorce and widowhood (or until they remarry, if remarriage takes place before the year is over).
A woman who bears a child in marriage is entitled to child support from the child's father. Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in al stages of her life, as a daughter, wife and mother or sister. The financial advantages accorded to women and not to men in marriage and in family have a social counterpart in the provisions that the Qur'an lays down in the laws of inheritance, which afford the male, in most cases, twice the inheritance of a female. Males inherit more but ultimately they are financially responsible for their female relatives: their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Females inherit less but retain their share for investment and financial security, without any legal obligation to spend any part of it, even for their own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, etcetera).
It should be noted that in pre-Islamic society, women themselves were sometimes objects of inheritance. In some Western countries, even after the advent of Islam, the whole estate of the deceased was given to his/her eldest son. The Qur'an however , made it clear that both men and women are entitled to a specified share of the estate of their deceased parents or close relations:
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 (Qur'an 4:7)
With regard to the woman's right to seek employment , it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as her most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby sitters can possibly take the mother's place as the educator of an upright, complex-free and carefully-reared child. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as "idleness." This may explain why a married woman must secure her husband's consent if she wishes to work, unless her right to work was mutually agreed to as a condition at the time of marriage.
However, there is no decree in Islam that forbids women from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature best and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially children), medicine, and social and charitable work. Moreover there is no restriction on benefiting from women's talents in any field. Some early jurists, such as Abu-Hanifah and Al-Tabari, uphold that a qualified Muslim woman may be appointed to the position of a judge. Other jurists hold different opinions. Yet, no jurist is able to point to an explicit text in the Qur'an or Sunnah that categorically excludes women from any lawful type of employment except for the headship of the state, which is discussed in the following chapter. Omar, the second Caliph after the Prophet (P), appointed a woman (Um Al-Shifaa' bint Abdullah) as the marketplace supervisor, a position that is equivalent in our world to "director of the consumer protection department."
In countries where Muslims are a numerical minority, some Muslim women, while recognizing the importance of their role as mothers, may be forced to seek employment in order to survive. This is especially true in the case of divorcees and widows and in the absence of the Islamic financial security measures outlined above.
THE SOCIAL ASPECT
AS A DAUGHTER
1. The Qur'an ended the cruel pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide , wa'd:
When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed.... (Qur'an 81:8-9)
2. The Qur'an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitude of some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:
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! With shame he hides himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! (Qur'an 16:58-59)
3. Parents are duty-bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad (P) said,
Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise. (Ahmad)
Whosoever supports two daughters until they mature, he and I will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together). (Ahmad)
4. A crucial aspect in the upbringing of daughters that greatly influenced their future is education. Education is not only a right but a responsibility for all males and females. Prophet Muhammad (P) said, "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim." The word "Muslim" here is inclusive of both males and females.
AS A WIFE
1. Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love and compassion, and not the mere satisfying of human sexual desire.
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Qur'an 30:21)
(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur'an 42:11)
ليس الرجل من قال عن نفسه أنا هنا
ولكن ما قيل عنه كان رجل هنا
مشاركة: GENDER EQUITY IN ISLAM by Jamal Badawi, Ph.D.
MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
2.The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract, according to the Prophet's teaching. It follows that if an "arranged marriage" means the marrying of a female without her consent, then such a marriage may be annulled if the female so wishes:
Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of Allah, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice...(between accepting the marriage or invalidating it) (Ahmad, Hadith no. 2469). another version of the report states that "the girl said: 'Actually, I accept this marriage, but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.'" (Ibn-Majah)
3. The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership (qiwamah) of the family, within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementary of husband and wife does not mean "subservience" by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad (P) helped with household chores although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in his community were immense.
The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account of his child. An heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning by mutual consent. and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Qur'an 2:233)
Prophet Muhmmad (P) instructed Muslims regarding women, "I commend you to be kind to women." He said also, "the best of you is the best to his family (wife)." The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives, even if a wife falls out of favor with her husband or disinclination for her arises within him. It also outlawed the pre-Islamic Arabian practice whereby the stepson of the deceased father was allowed to take possession of his fathers widow(s) (inherited them) as if they were part of the estate of the deceased:
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the martial gift you have given them, except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings about a great deal of good. (Qur'an 4:19)
Should maritual disputes arise, the Quran encourages couples to resolve them privately in a spirit of fairness and probity. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DOES THE QUR'AN ENCOURAGE, ALLOW OR CONDONE FAMILY VIOLENCE OF PHYSICAL ABUSE. In extreme cases, and whenever greater harm, such as divorce, is a likely option, it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat to his wife that causes no physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may serve, in some cases, to bring to the wife's attention the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behavior (refraction, and may be resorted to only after exhausting other steps discussed in endnote 14. If the mild measure is not likely to prevent a marriage from collapsing, as last measure, it should not be resorted to. Indeed the Qur'an outlines an enlightened step and a wise approach for the husband and wife to resolve persistent conflict in their marital life: In the event that dispute cannot be resolved equitably between husband and wife, the Qur'an prescribes mediation between the parties through family intervention on behalf of both spouses.
5. Divorce is a last resort, permissible but not encouraged, for the Qur'an esteems the preservation of faith and the individuals right--male and female alike--to felicity. Forms of marriage dissolution include an enactment based upon mutual agreement, the husband's initiative, the wife's initiative (if part of her marital contract), the court's decision on a wife's initiative (for a legitimate reason),and the wife's initiative without a "cause," provided that she returns her marital gift to her husband (khul', or divestiture).
6. Priority for the custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later may choose the mother or father as his or her custodian. Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and the well-being of the child.
1.Associating polygyny with Islam , as if it were introduced by it or is the norm according to its teachings, is one of the most persistent myths perpetuated in Western literature and media. No text in the Qur'an or Sunnah explicitly specifies either monogamy or polygyny as the norm, although demographic data indicates strongly that monogamy is the norm and polygyny the exception.
In almost all countries and on the global level, the numbers of men and women are almost even, with women typically slightly outnumbering men. As such, it is a practical impossibility to regard polygyny as the norm, since it assumes a demographic structure of at least two-thirds female and one third males (or eighty percent females and twenty percent males, if four wives per male is the norm!) No Qur'anic "norm" is based on an impossible assumption. The Qur'an was revealed by Allah, Who is the creator of males and females. Allah created about equal numbers of human males and females. This is His law in the physical world. It follows that His "norms" in the social realm must be consistent with His norms in the physical realm. Only monogamy fits as a universal norm, with polygamy as an exception.
2. Islam did not outlaw polygyny, as did many other peoples and religious communities; rather, it regulated and restricted it. It is neither required nor encouraged, but simply permitted and did not outlaw. Edward Westermarck gives numerous examples of the sanctioning of polygyny among Jews, Christians and others.
3. The only passage in the Qur'an (4:3) that explicitly addresses polygyny and restricts its practice, in terms of the number of wives permitted and the requirement of justice between them on the part of the husband, was revealed after the battle of Uhud , in which dozens of Muslims were martyred, leaving behind widows and orphans. This seems to indicate that the intent of its continued permissibility, at least in part, is to deal with individual and collective contingencies that may arise from time to time (e. g., imbalances between the number of males and females, created by war). This provides a moral, practical and humane solution to the problems of widows and orphans, who would otherwise surely be more vulnerable in the absence of a husband and father figure in terms of economics, companionship, proper child rearing and other needs.
If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them),then only one...(Qur'an 4:3)
4. It is critically important to point out with regard to polygyny that all parties involved have options. Men may choose to remain monogamous. A proposed second wife may reject the marriage proposal if she does not wish to be party to a polygynous marriage. A prospective first wife may include in her marital contract a condition that her prospective husband shall practice monogamy. If this condition is mutually accepted, it becomes binding on the husband. Should he later violate this condition, his first wife will be entitled to seek divorce with all the financial rights connected with it. If such a condition was not included in the marital contract, and if the husband marries a second wife, the first wife my seek khul' (divestiture), explained in endnote 15.
While the Qur'an allowed polygyny, it did not allow polyandry (a woman's marriage to multiple husbands). Anthropologically speaking, polyandry is quite rare. Its practice raises thorny problems related to the lineal identify of children and the law of inheritance, both important issues in Islamic law.
In the case of polygyny, the lineal identities of children are not confused. They all have the same father and each of them knows his or her mother. In the case of polyandry, however, only the mother is known for sure. The father could be any of the "husbands" of the same wife. In addiction to lineal identity problems, polyandry raises problems relating to inheritance law. For example, which of the children inherits of shares in the estate of a deceased "probable" father?
AS A MOTHER
1. The Qur'an elevates kindness to parents (especially mothers) to a status second only to the worship of Allah.
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. (Qur'an 17:23)
And We have enjoined on every human being (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) destiny." (Qur'an 31:14)
2. Naturally, the Prophet specified this behavior for his followers, rendering to mothers an unequaled status in human relationships.
A man came to Prophet Muhammad (P) asking, "O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?" The Prophet (P) said, "Your mother". The man said, "Then, who is next?" The Prophet (P) said, "Your mother". The man said, "Then, who is next?" The Prophet (P) said, "Your mother". The man further asked, "Then who is next?" Only then did the Prophet (P) say, "Your father." (Al-Bukhari)
AS A SISTER IN FAITH (GENERALLY)
1. According to Prophet Muhammad's (P) saying, "Women are but sisters shaqa'iq, or twin halves) of men." this hadith is a profound statement that directly relates to the issue of human equality between the genders. If the first meaning of shaqa'iq is adopted, it means that a male is worth one half (of society), with the female worth the other half. Can "one half" be better or bigger than the other half? Is there a more simple but profound physical image of equality? if the second meaning, "sisters," is adopted, it implies the same. The term "sister" is different from "slave" or "master."
2. Prophet Muhammad (P) taught kindness care and respect toward women in general ("I commend you to be kind to women"). It is significant that such instruction of the Prophet (P) was among his final instructions and reminders given in the "farewell pilgramage" address given shortly before his passing away.
MODESTY AND SOCIAL INTERACTION
1. There exists a gap between the normative behavior regarding women outlined in the Qur'an and the prevalent reality among Muslims, both as societies in the Muslim world and as communities in the west. Their diverse cultural practices reflect both ends of the continuum -- the liberal West and the ultra-restrictive regions of the Muslim world. Some Muslims emulate non-Islamic cultures and adopt their modes of dress, unrestricted mixing, and behavior, which influence them and endanger their families' Islamic integrity and strength. On the other hand, in some Muslim cultures undue and excessive restrictions for women, if not their total seclusion, is believed to be the ideal. Both extremes seem to contradict the normative teachings of Islam and are consistent with the virtuous yet participate nature of both men and women in society at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (P).
2. The parameters of proper modesty for males and females (dress and behavior) are based on revelatory sources (the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah) and, as such, the regarded by believing men and women as divinely-based guidelines with legitimate aims and divine wisdom behind them. They are not male-imposed or socially imposed restrictions.
3. The near or total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period. Interperative problems in justifying seclusion reflect, in part, cultural influences and circumstances in different Muslim countries. There is ample evidence in authentic (sound) hadith supporting this thesis. Women at the Prophet's (P) time and after him participated with men in acts of worship, such as prayers and pilgrimage, in learning and teaching, in the market place, in the discussion of public issues (political life) and in the battlefield when necessary.
THE LEGAL AND POLITICAL ASPECT
EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW
1. Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless. According to the Qur'an, men and women receive the same punishment for crimes such as theft (5:38),fornication (24:2), murder and injury (5:45). Women do possess and independent legal entity in financial and other matters. One legal issue is widely misunderstood: testimony. A common but erroneous belief is that as a "rule," the worth of women's testimony is one half of men's testimony. A survey of all passages in the Qur'an relating to testimony does not substantiate this claimed "rule."
Most Qur'anic references to testimony (witness) do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and females.
And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own, their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. But if would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a like; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (Qur'an 24:6-9)
One reference in the Qur'an distinguishes between the witness of a male and a female. It is useful to quote this reference and explain it in its own context and in the context of other Qur'anic references to testimony:
O you who believe! When you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear his Lord, Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If the party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable himself to dictate, let his guardian dictate faithfully. And get two witnesses out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as you choose for witnesses so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is more just in the sight of Allah, more suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves, but if it be a transaction with you carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is not blame on you if you reduce it not to writing, But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. (Qur'an 2:282)
A few comments on this text are essential in order to prevent common misinterpretations:
a. It cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur'an that the worth of a female's witness is only half the male's. This presumed "rule" is voided by the above reference (24:6-9), which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders on the issue at hand.
b. The context of this passage (verse, or ayah) relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization that would otherwise contradict 24:6-9, cited above.
c. The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference is made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender's witness or the other's. The only reason given is to corroborate the female's witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage, tadhilla, literally means "loses the way," "gets confused," or "errs." But are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony? Definitely not, and that is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses, even when they are both male.
One possible interpretation of the requirements related to this particular type of testimony is that in numerous societies, past and present, women generally may not be heavily involved with and experienced in business transactions. As such, they may not be completely cognizant of what is involved. Therefore, corroboration of a woman's testimony by another woman who may be present ascertains accuracy and, hence, justice. It would be unreasonable to interpret this requirement as a reflection on the worth of women's testimony, as it is the ONLY exception discerned from the text of the Qur'an . This may be one reason why a great scholar like Al-Tabari could not find any evidence from any primary text (Qur'an or hadith) to exclude women from something more important than testimony: being herself a judge who hears and evaluates the testimony of others.
d. It must be added that unlike pure acts of worship, which must be observed exactly as taught by the prophet (P), testimony is a means to an end, ascertaining justice as a major objective of Islamic law. Therefore, it is the duty of a fair judge to be guided by this objective when assessing the worth and credibility of a given testimony, regardless of the gender of the witness. A witness of a female graduate of a business school is certainly far more worthy than the witness of an illiterate person with no business education or experience.
PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE
2. The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and females in public affairs.
The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur'an 9:7)
3. There is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in a administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was conducted without the participants' losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue.
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS
There is no text in the Qur'an or Sunnah that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer (however, women may lead other women in prayer),due to the format of prayer, as explained earlier. There are exceptions even to this general rule, as explained later in this chapter. Another common question relates to the eligibility of Muslim women to be heads of state.
There is no evidence from the Qur'an to preclude women from headship of state. Some may argue that according to the Qur'an (4:34), men are the protectors and maintainers of women. Such a leadership position (responsibility, or qiwamah) for men in the family unit implies their exclusive leadership in political life as well. This analogy ,however, is far from conclusive. Qiwamah deals with the particularity of family life and the need for financial arrangements, role differentiation, and complementary of the roles of husband and wife. These particularities are not necessarily the same as the headship of state, even if some elements may be similar. Therefore, a Qur'anically based argument to exclude women from the headship of state is neither sound nor convincing. Most arguments for exclusion, however, are based on the following hadith, narrated by Abu bakrah:
During the battle of Al-Jamal (in which A'isha, the Prophet's widow, led an army in opposition to Ali, the fourth Caliph), Allah benefited me with a word. When the Prophet heard the news that the people of Persia had made the daughter of Khorsrau their queen (ruler), he said, "Never will such a nation succeed as makes a woman their ruler."
While this hadith has been commonly interpreted to exclude women from the headship of state, other scholars do not agree with that interpretation. The Persian rulers at the time of the prophet (P) showed enmity toward the Prophet (P) and toward his messenger to them. The Prophet's response to this news may have been a statement about the impending doom of that unjust empire, which did not take place later, and not about the issue of gender as it relates headship of the state in itself. Z. Al-Qasimi argues that one of the rules of interpretation known to Muslim scholars is that there are cases in which the determing factor in interpretation is the specificity of the occasion (of the hadith and not the generality of its wording. Even if the generality of its wording is to be accepted, that does not necessarily mean that a general rule is applicable, CATEGORICALLY, to any situation. As such, the hadith is not conclusive evidence of categorical exclusion.
Some argue that since women are excluded from leading the prayer for a mixed gathering of men and women, they should be excluded from leading the state as well. This argument, however overlooks two issues: (1) Leading the prayer is a purely religious act and, given the format of Muslim prayer and its nature, it is not suitable for women to lead a mixed congregation. This point was discussed earlier. Leading the state, however, is not a "purely" religious act but a religiously based political act. Exclusion of women in one instance does not necessarily imply their exclusion in another.
(2) Even the matter of whether women may lead prayer is not without exception. Prophet Muhammad (P) asked a woman by the name of Umm Waraqah to lead her household in prayer, which included a young girl, a young boy, and a mu'azzin (caller to prayer--who is always male).
Al-Qasimi notes that the famous jurist, Abu-Ya'la al-Farra' (known for his writings on the political system of Islam), did not include among the qualifications of the imam (head of state) being a male. It should be noted, however, that the head of state in Islam is not a ceremonial head. He leads public prayers on some occasions and constantly travels and negotiates with officials of other states (who generally are men). He may be involved in confidential meetings with them. Such heavy and secluded involvement of women wth men and its necessary format may not be consistent with Islamic guidelines related to the proper interaction between the genders and to the priority of feminine fuctions at home and their value to society.
Furthermore, the conceptual and philosophical background of the critics of this limited exclusion is that of individualism, ego satisfaction, and the rejection of the validity of divine guidance in favor of other man-made philosophies, values or "isms." The ultimate objective of a Muslim man or woman, however, is the selflessly serve Allah and the Ummah in whatever appropriate capacity. In the incident of Al-Hudaybiyah, Umm Salamah, a wife of the Prophet (P), played a role equal to what we would refer to today as "chief advisor of the head of state."
THE IDEAL AND THE REALITY
ISLAMIC REFORMATION AND RENEWAL
This work focuses on the normative , or ideal, relating to gender equity in Islam. This ideal may serve as a yardstick against which the reality of present-day Muslims should be evaluated. It serves also as the objective toward which any Islamic reformation and renewal should be directed, reformation of wrong practices and renewal of adherence to the Islamic ideal.
When assessing the realities of Muslims, two extremes should be avoided:
1. Justifying injustices done to most Muslim women by religiously flavored cultural arguments. Most problematic in that extreme is the subtle assumption of the "correctness" of traditional cultural practices and attitudes, followed by a selective search for endorsement in the primary sources of Islam
2. Failing to see numerous positive aspects in Muslim societies, such as family stability and cohesiveness, the respect and adoration of mothers, and the sense of self-fulfillment of women who are not frequently seen in public; in the meantime, painting a stereotypical picture of Muslim women as ignorant, submissive, oppressed and almost totally enslaved by women-hating chauvinist men. The focus on injustices and on magnifying them is sometimes partly based on questionable interpretations of outsiders' observations. For example, the smaller percentage of career women in many Muslim societies is interpreted in a Western framework and is seen as an indication of Muslims' oppressing women and depriving them of job opportunities. Little attention, if any, is given to the personal choices of Muslim women and their concepts of family happiness, which may or may not be the same choices or concepts of their non-Muslim sisters.
RELATING TO INTENRATIONAL BODIES AND MOVEMENTS
Once an objective and fair assessment of Muslim practices is made, it should be compared with the normative teachings of Islam. There are enough indications to show that a gap does exists between the ideal and the real. Given the existence of such a gap, a wide gap at times, it follows that Muslim reformers and other international bodies and movements share at least one thing in common: an awareness of the need to close or at least narrow that gap. The problem arises, however, as to the most effective frame of reference and to the particulars of implementation.
International bodies and women's rights organizations tend to consider documents and resolutions passed in conferences as the ultimate basis and standard expected of all diverse peoples, cultures and religions. Committed Muslims, however, both men and women, believe in the ultimate supermacy of what they accept as God's divine revelation (the Qur'an and authentic hadith). To tell Muslims that one's religious convictions should be subservient to "superior" man-made (or woman-made) standards or to secular humanism, is neither acceptable or practical. Even if pressures, economic and otherwise , are used to bring about compliance with such resolutions or documents, the resulting changes are not likely to be deep-rooting and lasting. For Muslims, divine injunctions and guidnace are not subject to a "voting" procedure ot to a human election, editing or whimsical modifications. they constitute, rather, a complete way of living within Islam's spiritual, moral, social, political and legal parameters. Imposed cultural imperialism is not the solution.
IMPOSITION OR REFORM FROM WITHIN
On the other hand, reformation from within requires the following:
2. Social scientists, legislators and rulers should avoid using the argument of cultural particularity to justify anti-Islamic and non-Islamic practices and to continue oppressing men and women alike.
3. Scholars should not continue to quote and repeat some of the long-standing juristic interpretations as if they were equal in authority and finality to the two primary sources of Islam. Nor should they engage in a fragmentary and selective approach in seeking justification of the erroneous status quo. They should realize that even the greatest of jurists are fallible humans, whose interpretations have been affected by the culture and circumstances under which they have lived. With the host of pressing and significant contemporary issues, a fresh ijtihad (interpretation) is needed.
One of the main obstacles in the way of such a reexamination of some of the traditional views is worry on the part of some scholars about the reaction of other scholars or of the public to their conclusions. Yet, it is not the duty of the scholar to speak for what others want or expect. A qualified scholar is duty-bound to give practical answers to contemporary issues and problems without losing sight of the boundaries of proper interpretation. In the final analysis, it is Muslims' practices and understanding that need revision, not the revelatory sources, if properly understood, and more important, implemented.
ليس الرجل من قال عن نفسه أنا هنا
ولكن ما قيل عنه كان رجل هنا
تحمَّلتُ وحديَ مـا لا أُطيـقْ من الإغترابِ وهَـمِّ الطريـقْ
اللهم اني اسالك في هذه الساعة ان كانت جوليان في سرور فزدها في سرورها ومن نعيمك عليها . وان كانت جوليان في عذاب فنجها من عذابك وانت الغني الحميد برحمتك يا ارحم الراحمين
People call it the way they see it. When such a long explanation is needed to show gender equity is in order, something is fishy, IMO.
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