An Islamic Perspective
The constitution of Pakistan states that men and women are to be given their fundamental rights without any discrimination. It is also in concurrence with the Islamic viewpoint on rights of both sexes. Needless to say, in the development and prosperity of any country, empowering women and protecting their rights is of pivotal importance. However, in today’s patriarchal world, women suffer a lot; they are even denied their fundamental rights.
In today’s male-dominated world, there are a myriad of problems women are faced with. They have no say even in their personal matters and are made to surrender to men. They are perceived as docile and subservient. They face humiliation, subjugation and brutal treatment at the hands of men. They suffer privations and domestic violence and are the victims of the so-called ‘honor’ killing. They do not have access even to their own legal and constitutional rights, and their self-expression is overtly and covertly denied. Most importantly, and most worryingly too, they are the victims of sexual violence and rape at the hands of men.
Women bear the wrath of men and are made a scapegoat for their mischievous acts. The incidents of woman sufferings – killing after rape, domestic and sexual violence, oppression, bullying, honor killing, sexual harassment, intimidation, etc. – have been occurring blatantly.
Along with this, misogyny is on its pinnacle in today’s ‘modern’ societies. And Pakistan – the sixth most dangerous country for women in the world as per a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey conducted in 2018 – is no exception. Incidents of sexual violence and killing after rape, especially of minor girls, occur every other day. A woman was brutally gang-raped at gunpoint before her two children. Another heart-wrenching incident is that of a five-year-old girl, who was raped, then hit on the head with brick, and finally set on fire.
Islam, the religion of peace and a torch-bearer of women’s rights, strongly condemns such vile acts. It teaches us goodness, tolerance and mutual respect. It confutes harsh and animalistic treatment of woman. Rather, it not only obliges men to treat women fairly, but also praises those who treat women fairly. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Best amongst you is he who is good to his wife” (Tirmizi). This hadith shows that the gauge of man’s humanity in an Islamic society is his fair treatment of his wife.
In conservative societies, such as ours, women are oppressed by, and considered inferior to, men. However, Islam doesn’t allow such acts. It rather despises those who commit such heinous deeds. Islam is the religion of parity and equality. It does not make woman subservient to men. Muslim woman (wife) owes as much rights to man (husband) as he owes back to her. The Holy Quran states: “And the believers, both men and women, are guardians of one another. They encourage good and forbid evil …” (Surah at-Tauba: 71). On another place, Allah Almighty says: “I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; you are equal to one another” (Surah Aal-Imran: 195). Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Women are equal counterparts of men.”
Thus, it can be inferred from the aforementioned verses of the Holy Quran and a hadith that men and women are equal, and women are in no way less than, or inferior to, men. Islam, in some cases, has given woman a status even superior to men. The following hadith bears testimony to this fact.
Once a person came to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and asked: “Who has the first claim to my good treatment?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: “And then who?” Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “Then your mother”. The man said, “And then?” He (PBUH) said, “Again, it is your mother!” The man once again asked: “And then?” Thereupon, He (PBUH) said, “Then, it is your father!” — Muslim and Bukhari
Besides giving a woman such a great respect, Islam has charged man with the duty of supporting her and providing for her all the requirements.
Furthermore, Islam does not allow oppressing women. It despises beating woman (wife) and believes in love, mutual understanding and perpetual sympathy rather than brutality. Says the Holy Quran: “Consort with them [wives] in kindness” (An-Nisa: 19). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Fear Allah with regard to women, for you have taken them as a trust from Allah …” (Saheeh Muslim). Also, there is a Hadith-e-Qudsi which says: “O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another.” (Muslim)
Islam preaches revolt rather than obedience to, and raising voice against, oppression and injustice.
It is crystal clear that Islam has delineated all aspects of women’s rights, and no one can deny them these. Islam was the first to grant economic independence to women. Hazrat Khadija (RA), the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was an opulent businesswoman of Makkah. Similarly, on the education front, Islam not only allows women to get education but also makes the acquisition of it obligatory on them: “Acquiring knowledge is must for every Muslim [man and woman].” (Ibn-e-Majah)
Islam has given a woman the right of expression as well as the right to arrange her own marriage. The Apostle (PBUH) said, “A widow must not be married until she is consulted, and a virgin must not be married until her permission is sought, and if she keeps quiet, her silence is her consent.” (Sahih Muslim)
Islam does permit women to work in fields and factories in case she has no male breadwinner.
From the abovementioned points, there is no denying that Islam is the protector and guarantor of women’s rights. But, what are the factors that spring the current sufferings of women in the Islamic world? Hereunder is some description.
The reasons behind the plight of women in Islamic world, inter alia, are poverty, customs and traditions, as well as social, political and economic iniquities. In a patriarchal society such as ours, man suppresses woman to maintain his hegemony and defend the status quo. It is, however, unfortunate that despite living in the twenty-first century, we haven’t still freed ourselves from the clutches of the philistine traditions, which have made woman subservient to man. Moreover, it is the man’s frustration due to humiliation at the hands of his employer, poverty and social, political, economic and other types of societal injustices that, being helpless to avenge himself, he vents his repressed rancor on his wife and other members of his family, who ought to be docile as traditions in conservative societies have made them.
Women are no less than men in any aspect. Annals of history are replete with the examples of Muslim women who took active part in every sphere of life, which is the reminiscent of the glorious past of Islam. For instance, Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz would consult female scholar Amrah bint Abd al-Rahman, whose authority was so weighty that she could overturn the ruling of a court. Hazrat Umar (RA) appointed Shifa Abdullah (RA) and Samra Nuhayak (RA) as market controllers and supervisors. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would give great importance to the advice of his wives. He acted upon the advice of Hazrat Umme Salma (RA), mother of the faithful, to shave his head on the occasion of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. Hazrat Ayesha (RA), another Ummul Momineen, would take active part in politics, and even led an army in the battlefield.
In conclusion, it goes without saying that societies prosper on the basis of equality and justice. For prosperity and progress of a country, women’s participation in every sphere of life is vital. Women’s rights ought to be given first priority. After all, “ladies,” as the famous saying goes, “first!”
The writer is currently serving as an educator in KP government.