Muslim Women and feminists are considered to be the two ends of a string. It’s a popular notion among people that if a woman is a Muslim, she can’t be a feminist and vice-versa. The idea that feminism and Islam cannot coexist is rooted in cultural norms, not religious ones. If we study Islam – the Quran, hadith, sunnah, and Islamic history, we will know the status of women in Islam.
Firstly, let’s see what a feminist movement is all about.
Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote, hold public office, work, earn equal pay, own property, receive education, enter contracts, have equal rights within marriage, and maternity leave. – Source: Wikipedia.
All Of the above-mentioned rights for women have already been a part of Muslim women’s rights for 1400 years. This was way before the revolution of the feminist movement. A Muslim woman is not born a Feminist but the rights and the status given to her in Islam make her one. Right from the day, she is born until death, she is honored.
Let’s walk through the life of a Muslim woman and look into the status and rights given to her in Islam.
The Day She Is Born
Before the beginning of Islam, akin to many cultures, it was a norm among the people to bury their daughters alive. They believed that a girl child would bring shame and is a burden to them. After Islam came into existence, this practice was forbidden as we know from the hadith
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him):
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
If anyone has a female child and does not bury her alive, slight her, or prefer his male children to her, Allah will bring him into Paradise. (Ahmad, authenticated by Al-Hakim, graded Hasan by Ahmad Shakir)
Read more hadiths related to rewards for raising a daughter.
The Right To Education And Work
The right to have a proper education is every human right. A proper educational right for women was started in the 1700s. Now, let’s see what Islam has prescribed us 1400 years ago.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said:
“Seeking knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim”
We learn from this hadith that seeking knowledge is not based on gender. In fact, the first mosque and teaching institute was founded by an Arab woman named Fatima al-Fihri in the 800s. Which became a place of acquiring knowledge for women.
Apart from education, women can put their abilities to work and make the world a better place to live. Women were given the right to work from the 1800s. But the women of Islam – ‘The Sahabiyats’ are the biggest example of success and entrepreneurship for every Muslim woman.
Khadijah (R.A) – The first wife of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was a successful merchant of the Quraysh tribe. She single-handedly managed her business elegantly and successfully.
Aisha (RA) – The youngest wife of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was known for her intellect. She was an eminent scholar credited for narrating more than two thousand hadiths and teaching other scholars. She had a sharp sense of judgment. Her life depicts that a woman can be a scholar, inspire men and women, and have amazing leadership abilities.
Nusaybah (RA) – she was one of the early women to accept Islam and was one of the companions of the Prophet. She is known as a warrior who participated in many wars. She played a renowned role in defending the prophet(PBUH) during the battle of Uhud.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many sahabiyat have played a vital role in Islamic history.
Muslim women must seek inspiration from the sahabiyat and work for the betterment of society.
Right To Vote
The women’s Right to vote in an election was implemented in 1913 in Washington D.C. Until then they had no right to vote which denied them their democratic equality. Whereas, many historians say that the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) would take the advice of his wives in many legal matters.
In the Quran (4:59) Allah Says “Allah commands you to makeover the trusts to those best fitted to discharge them.”
This means that voting for the rightful ruler is an obligation upon everyone. And the voter is like a trustee who needs to discharge his duties towards people fairly. So, voting is like an obligation for every Muslim regardless of their gender.
Marriage is a very beautiful bond between two souls. When a Muslim man and woman marry, they complete half of their deen.
A popular saying of the Prophet(PBUH) related to marriage is, as narrated by Aisha(RA):
“That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives, and when your companion dies, leave him alone.” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]
So, first things first, A Muslim woman is given the liberty to choose a life partner of her choice. And nobody can force her into getting married.
The Qur’an states: “It is not lawful for you to inherit women by force. Nor may you treat them harshly so that you can make off with part of what you have given them unless they commit an act of flagrant indecency. Live together with them correctly and courteously [. . .]”20
And when this sacred bond of nikah is performed, it is obligatory for the groom to give mahr to her bride. The Mahr is a gift that can be money, materialistic things, or as simple as reciting an ayah from the Quran. And the woman can demand whatever mahr she wants from the groom. This mahr needs to be given to the woman and the man has no right over it whatsoever.
But mahr is often misinterpreted by people of other communities as a form of dowry. On the other hand, dowry is more dangerous to society. It is the amount of money or things or property given by the bride’s parents to the groom’s family. And the man’s parents demand as much as they want and it needs to be fulfilled. This practice of dowry is a cultural thing and practiced even today in many communities and even Muslim families of India and Pakistan.
Right To Own Property
A woman had no ownership of the property after marriage. The married women’s property act was started at the beginning of the 1840s. It protected the inheritance of women from their husbands and husbands’ creditors. But in Islam, women have as much right over their property as men.
“Allah thus commands you concerning your children: the share of the male is like that of two females.15 If (the heirs of the deceased are) more than two daughters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance;16 and if there is only one daughter, then she shall have half the inheritance. If the deceased has any offspring, each of his parents shall have a sixth of the inheritance;17 and if the deceased has no child and his parents alone inherit him, then one-third shall go to his mother;18 and if the deceased has brothers and sisters, then one-sixth shall go to his mother.19 All these shares are to be given after payment of the bequest he might have made or any debts outstanding against him.20
-Surah Nisa (4:11)
Apart From the inheritance of property, Muslim women if she wishes to earn, have no liability on her to contribute it towards the expenses of the household. Whatever she earns is hers and her husband or her children have no rights over it.
This video is the best way to describe this right of women.
Motherhood is the blessing bestowed upon most women by Allah (SWT). A little life developing inside of you is the best feeling a person can ever feel. The status of a mother in Islam is superior.
As we know from the hadith:
“The Paradise lies beneath the feet of a mother”
Another narration that shows the importance of the mother over any other relation is:
A man came to the Seal of the Prophets and said: “O Prophet of God! Guide me, to whom should I be good to benefit completely from my good deed?”
He said: “Be good to your mother.” He asked: “Next to her?”
The Prophet repeated: “Be good to your mother.” He said again: “And next to her?”
The Prophet answered: “To your mother.”
The man said: “What other person should be good?”
The Prophet said: “To your father.”
And if a woman dies while giving birth to a baby, then she is given the status of a martyr. This is because Islam validates the struggles of a woman during pregnancy and childbirth.
Read more on the status of the mother in Islam.
Lastly, the way a woman dresses up slowly became a part of the feminist movement. “My Body, My Right” were the slogans by women. But my question is does a piece of clothing give you any important rights that would bring a change to society??.
Islam is a complete religion that teaches you to lead a life within specific rules. It teaches you etiquette for every simple thing in your life. From bathing to sleeping, a way of performing every single thing is taught.
Allah(SWT) has instilled shame in every human, male and female. It is one of the instincts which makes us different from animals. Covering your awrah is mandatory for every Muslim regardless of gender. Certain dress codes need to be followed by Muslim men and women. Liberating a woman is not by uncovering her shame but by giving her the rights and respect that she deserves.
Know more on Muslim women and feminism: through the lens of modesty.