WOMEN'S LIBERATION THROUGH ISLAM
Today people think that women are open-minded in the West and that the women's liberation movement began in the 20th century. In fact, the women's liberation movement was not begun by Men or women but was revealed by Allah (Glory be to Him), the creator to Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) in the seventh century, who was the last Prophet sent for the entire universe. The Qur'an and the Ahadith are the sources of Islam from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties.
Islam, fourteen centuries ago, made women equally accountable to Allah (Glory be to Him) in glorifying and worshipping Him setting no limits on her moral progress. Also, Islam established a woman's equality in her humanity with men. In the Qur'an, in the first ayath of the Surah entitled "Surah Nisa – The Women," Allah (Glory be to Him) says, "O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:1. Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as some religions believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction of equality.
In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states: "There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error." (Qur’an.Surah Baqarah 2:256) Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him Peace) which indicate women would pose questions directly to him and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters. A Muslim woman chooses her husband. A Muslim woman's testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas in which women are more familiar, their evidence is definite.
The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him Peace) said: "Seeking knowledge is a compulsory for every Muslim (male and female)." Tirmidhi 74 and Ibn Majah 224 This includes knowledge of the Qur'an and the Ahadith as well as other knowledge. Men and women both have the capacity for learning and understanding. Since it is also their obligation to promote good behavior and condemn bad behavior in all spheres of life, Muslim women must acquire the appropriate education to perform this duty in accordance with their own natural talents and interests. While maintenance of a home, providing support to her husband, and bearing, raising and teaching of children are among the first and very highly regarded roles for a woman, if she has the skills to work outside the home for the good of the community, she may do so as long as her family obligations are met it should be in the Parameters of Islam.
Concerning motherhood, the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him Peace) said: "Heaven lies under the feet of mothers." Ibn Majah 2771 This implies that the success of a society can be traced to the mothers that raised it. The first and greatest influence on a person comes from the sense of security, affection, and training received from the mother. Therefore, a woman having children must be educated and conscientious in order to be a skillful parent.
The Qur'an states: " By the night when it covers; And by the day when it appears; And by He who created the male and female, Indeed, your efforts are diverse Qur’an.Surah Layl 92:1-4. In these ayaths, Allah (Glory be to Him) declares that He created men and women to be different, with unique roles, functions and skills. As in society, where there is a division of labor, so too in a family; each member has different responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds that women are entrusted with the nurturing role, and men, with the guardian role. Therefore, women are given the right of financial support. The Qur'an states: "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend of their wealth (for the support of women)" Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:34. This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men, requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment.
The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her earnings including her husband. The Qur'an states: "And in no wise covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women, what they earn; but ask Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge of all things." Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:32
A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur'an states: "For men there is a share in what parents and relatives leave, and for women there is a share of what parents and relatives leave, whether it be little or much - an ordained share." Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:7
RIGHTS OF A WIFE
The Qur'an states: "And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." Qur’an.Surah Rum 30:21 Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity, but in fact, a sign from Allah (Glory be to Him). It is a relationship of mutual rights and obligations based on divine guidance. Allah (Glory be to Him) created men and women with complimentary natures, and in the Qur'an, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes.
Clothing provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the other and hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of the spouse. To foster the love and security that comes with marriage, Muslim wives have various rights. The first of the wife's rights is to receive Mahr, a gift from the husband which is part of the marriage contract and required for the legality of the marriage. The second right of a wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she may have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter and clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability and his wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. The Qur'an states:
"Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him." Qur’an.Surah Talaq 65:7
Allah (Glory be to Him) tells us men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership in the family. His responsibility for obeying Allah (Glory be to Him) extends to guiding his family to obey Allah (Glory be to Him) at all times. A wife's rights also extend beyond material needs. She has the right to kind treatment. The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him Peace) said: "The most perfect believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are best to their wives."
Allah (Glory be to Him) tells us He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquility between them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs, and marriage is designed to fulfill those needs. For one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, temptation exists to seek it elsewhere.
DUTIES OF A WIFE
With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations to their husbands. The Qur'an states: "The good women in the absence of their husbands guard their rights as Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded." Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:34 A wife is to keep her husband's secrets and protect their marital privacy. Issues of intimacy or faults of his that would dishonor him, are not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honor. A wife must also guard her husband's property. She must safeguard his home and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft or damage. She should manage the household affairs wisely so as to prevent loss or waste. She should not allow anyone to enter the house whom her husband dislikes nor incur any expenses of which her husband disapproves. A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate with her husband. There cannot, however, be cooperation with a man who is disobedient to Allah (Glory be to Him). She should not fulfill his requests if he wants her to do something unlawful. A husband also should not take advantage of his wife, but be considerate of her needs and happiness.
The Qur'an states: "And it becomes not a believing man or a believing women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decided on an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest." Qur’an.Surah Ahzab 33:36
The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are from Allah (Glory be to Him) and are designed to keep balance in society; what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for or explained in another place. Islam is a complete way of life not only for Muslims but for the entire Mankind.