The religion of Islam includes a basic set of rules considered to protect individual and society rights and freedoms, it is a set of guidelines concerned with respect, tolerance, justice, and equality and the Islamic concepts of freedom and human rights are imbedded in and assured by the Sharia (Islamic Law).Islam is the religion of justice and equality, Islamic law sees men and women as equal.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, it was a common practice to bury female infants alive. Infanticide was extensive due to the fact that female children were looked upon as not equal in value to male children. Thus, we see the value pre-Islamic Arab peoples placed on female lives. Women were also frequently bought and sold as frequently and similarly to cattle in the marketplace. A man could also by laws of inheritance, inherit and cohabit with his father’s wives. Keep in mind that this all took place before Islam.
When Islam came, by revelation to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, these animalistic practices from the days of ignorance changed. The kind Prophet Muhammad admonished the Muslims to treat women as equals, and with benevolence. He said to them “Women are the twin halves of men.” Thus he touched upon the issue of equality that they were to abide by. Muhammad also taught the Muslims that the best amongst them were those who were kindest to their wives. Islam permitted women rights that before they had never been granted, such as rights to inherit, and rights to buy and sell, as well as control their own property. Also, they were to receive a dowry before marriage, which is not a bride-price as some think, but a gift showing love and affection.
Islamic law sees men and women as equals, the only difference between men and women being the aspect of the man being given the capacity for harder physical labor, and bearing the physical responsibility of supporting and protecting his family. The woman is responsible for rearing her children, but she may work or obtain an education if she wishes. Her earning is her own to do with as she chooses, as it is the duty of the Muslim man to provide all the necessities for his family. Thus we see the justice and equality that Islam gives to the woman (Osman, 2002).
According to a survey conducted on rights of women shows results that, most Muslim women polled associated sex equality with the West. Seventy-eight percent of Moroccan women, 71 percent of Lebanese women and 48 percent of Saudi women polled linked legal equality with the West. Still, a majority of the respondents did not think adopting Western values would help the Muslim world’s political and economic progress (Andrews, 2006).
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Status of women in Islam
The Status of Women as Defined by Islam The woman is a mother and it is said that “Paradise lies under her feet. A woman is also a daughter and sister and like their male brothers is born of the same lineage and from the same womb. A woman is also a wife who is a source of comfort for her husband. Women make up half of society and they are responsible for the nurturing, guidance and reformation of the subsequent generations of men and women. It is the female who imbues principles and faith into the souls of the nation.
Muslim women and oppression
Everybody focuses to Muslim women worldwide as oppressed, more specifically the Muslim Women of Afghanistan.
The media shows us how oppressed the Muslim women are there and people start connecting three words in their minds: “Islam,” “women” and “oppression.” Therefore, they think and feel that Islam commands oppressing women.
People often are unsuccessful to differentiate between culture and religion, two things that are completely different. In fact, Islam condemns oppression of any kind whether it is towards a woman or in general.
The Qur’an is the sacred book by which Muslims live. This book was revealed 14 centuries ago to a man named Muhammad who would later become the Prophet. Fourteen centuries have passed and this book has not been changed since, not one letter has been altered.
In surah number 33, entitled Al-Ahzab (Arabic for ‘The Clans’), on verse 59, it says: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw cloaks all over their bodies. That will be better as they shall be known (as free respectable women) and will not be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.” This verse shows that Islam makes wearing a Hijab necessary, Hijab is the word used for covering, not only the headscarves (as some people may think) but also wearing loose clothes that are not too bright (Samrah, n.d).
Literally, Hijab means “a veil”, “curtain”, “partition” or “separation.” In a metaphysical sense, Hijab means illusion or refers to the illusory aspect of creation. Another, and most popular and common meaning of Hijab today is the veil in dressing for women. It refers to a certain standard of modest dress for women. Sometimes, people see covered Muslim women and they think of this as oppression. This is wrong. A Muslim woman is not oppressed, in fact, she is liberated. This is because she is no longer valued for something material, such as her good looks or the shape of her body. She compels others to judge her for her intelligence, kindness, honesty and personality. Therefore, people judge her for who she actually is.
When Muslim women cover their hair and wear loose clothes, they are obeying the orders of their Lord to be modest, not cultural or social mores. In fact, Christian nuns cover their hair out of modesty, yet no one considers them “oppressed”. By following the command of Allah, Muslim women are doing the exact same thing (Samrah, n.d).
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Muslim should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that they should not show their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to there hidden ornaments .
The Hijab (Islamic dress for women) did not only guard the Muslim women against those evil eyes of non-believers and other men but also gave them freedom and independence and this is also a reason that why there is a low rate of rapes in Muslim countries. The hijab is the real beauty of Muslim women. But the women who instead of practicing the Hijaab (covering), the disbelieving women expose themselves, making a dazzling display of themselves for others. Such a display is an attribute of ignorance.
The challenge faced by the woman who wears hijab, is often taunted at work and on the street, and the careers of a lot of these women are actually jeopardized–they are discriminated against at work and they are not given jobs. And, women who wear hijab in the United States are obvious targets–they are obviously Muslims, and because of this they bear the brunt of the ignorance about Islam; they face sexual harassment, and often their actual physical safety is jeopardized (Hathout, n.d).
But in addition, Muslim women often face discrimination from their own Muslim community. Discrimination by Muslims primarily results from ignorance about Islam and the importation of cultural attitudes that demean women. Islam is often interpreted in ways that are sexist and not true to the true teachings of equality in the Quran and the model provided by Prophet Muhammad, may God”s peace and blessings be upon him. Quran and hadith (the teachings of Prophet Muhammad) are taken out of context and used to justify certain behavior.
Some of the most serious problems that we American Muslim women face include: domestic violence, abuse of divorce and child custody laws, abuse of the polygamy system, and isolation and exclusion from various aspects of Muslim life (Hathout, n.d).
Basically the Oppression of women is the result of removing their rights. Islam gives men & women rights that are different in some aspects to those they have in the western world. The standard dissimilarity in the way these rights came about is also significant. In the West rights became part of the law only after women had been through great political struggles and also partly due to the necessity of women working in factories during wars. It is possible that this will be reversed in the future. In Islam, rights were given ‘out of the blue’ by God through revelation. They cannot be reversed by anyone’s decision. Most Muslims recognize the purity and validity of the Quranic laws even if they are not following them, but it may be necessary to struggle for a return to them from time to time. It is quite commonly agreed that all things in life which are worthwhile require some struggle (Why are Women Oppressed in Islamic Countries, n.d).