This study attempts to discuss the status of women in Islam. The study is based on two kinds of resources. First the Holy Qur'an which provides valuable information on the Status of Women in the pre-Islamic period and after the declaration of Islam, and secondly, the works of Muslim jurists including the works of modern scholars and writers.
The first chapter of this study deals with the Status of Women until the beginning of the Islamic Mission.
The second chapter is devoted to the Status of Women after the call of Islam and how Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his household) in his Message freed women from the shackles and chains of cultural customs and tribal traditions which were imposed on them and drew for them their role in life socially and politically, and gave them what they were not previously given, their dignity and put them on the right path which led them to stability, clear self-determination and self- confidence.
The main concern of this study is to clear the way for Muslim women, to know their rights which were suppressed and deprived for many centuries and to know the position that God and His Messenger Prophet Mohammad and Islamic Law (Shari'a) have chosen for them. This study is also aimed to raise awareness among the World Muslim women about their rights as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, and to clarify the real image of Islam in relation to women in general for Western readers in order to differentiate between Islam and cultural practices. And above all, to educate men about the role of women in Islam.
I am extremely grateful to Mr Ali Zeitoun, Mr Hussein Zeitoun and Mr Abed al-Rahman Hammoud for the typing and publication of this work. I would like to thank everybody in particular the women who praised this book. I would also like to thank Mr. Hussein Abu Ghaida who is known by his generosity for the publication of the second edition.
Finally, I must acknowledge the debt I owed to my wife Mariam and my daughters Seknah, Amenah and Batoul for their constant encouragement to write about the Status of Women in Islam.
In this chapter I am going to illustrate the position of woman before the rise of Islam. The woman in primitive societies was not considered as a member of society and had no social value. Her existence in society was for the requirements of men only. She was assigned to insignificant work such as carrying goods, moving them when the tribes were searching for water and pasture, collecting wood and serving the man at home.
In addition, she was responsible for the upbringing of children and caring for the sick.
As long as she was in her father's house or in a house of a guardian, she was solely his possession without having the right to own anything even her clothes; gold and jewellery were for the man. It was permissible for him and without any restriction to take any hard decision concerning her and inflict any kind of torture or punishment on her, even if it would lead to her death.
She was offered to others as a present or borrowed for entertainment. Furffiermore the poor father was allowed to sell his daughter like a slave to relieve himself from misery. She had to accept anyone selected by her guardian as her husband.
Once she moved to her husband's house she would become only an object to satisfy his excessive sexual craving.
The man had the right to unlimited polygamy. A custom which was widespread at the time in Byzantium, Persia, as well as Arabia.
It was for man alone to exercise his right to divorce, and he was not obliged by custom to provide any compensation for his divorced wife. Even after divorce he could prevent her from remarrying.
She had to live under his authority and was always the victim for his inclination and interest.
She was condemned to live as a miserable creature who had no role to play in the human society. She was a helpless captive condemned to live and die without rights and dignity. She did not live to enjoy life or exercise her human rights.
They questioned whether woman had a soul or was she a body without a soul. If she was a human with a soul, was her soul similar to that of a man or not? Had they regarded her with a soul, her soul would have been lower than the man's soul.
In the second stage during the reign of Hummurabi, the rule of the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Persians, certain family laws appeared in their codes such as 'woman had rights in the human society'. But that did not, change her status. She was considered a weak person who was incapable of bearing the life's burden and managing its affairs. She never enjoyed any freedom and was not allowed to join men in social gatherings. She never joined the study circles of the philosophers.
However, the woman in these societies was yielding to the authority of man throughout life, obeying his orders without any objection.
She hadn't any freedom that would make her able to achieve any kind of work and was deprived of all rights and social privileges. She was deprived of any right to complain or protest and she was not allowed to give evidence in the courts.
There were many other oppressive aspects of the life of woman in these societies.
There were other factors which affected her life. The laws of the day did not allow her to inherit her relatives or own any wealth. If it happened that she earned some money or received her dowry from her husband, the father would assume responsibility over managing her assets.
Had she done any good work her guardian alone would have benefited, however, had she done unacceptable work then she alone would have been held responsible and would bear its consequences.
The hardest time on woman was when she had a relationship with a stranger, an undesirable man, during her monthly menstruation period or if she gave birth to a female child. In these circumstances she was kept away and considered as an unclean human being.
If it appeared that she was sometimes granted some of her rights it would be due to the paternal kindness and husband's love.
However, one might observe that woman at this period of time was no more a prisoner who had no freedom.
It is worth mentioning that the position of woman started to change after Christianity's declaration. But she was not free from the bonds of man on the grounds that she reflected the glory of man; for man was not created from woman but woman from man, nor was man created for woman's sake but the woman was created for man's sake.
Furthermore, she was generally considered not independent of man nor was man independent of woman. For, as a woman was made from man; in the same way; man is born of woman.
It is obvious that Christianity left its impact on the life of woman; that was due to the inspiration, attitudes and teachings of Jesus.
In the course of history, one might ask how the woman was treated in the west?
In 586 A.D., the religious leaders of France after long discussions decided that woman was a human being but made to serve man. It was not until recently that women in Europe had any right to own property.
In England it was not until about 1850 A.D. that women were counted in the national population census.
It was in 1882 A.D. that a British Law unprecedented in the country's history granted women the right to decide how their own earnings should be spent, instead of handing them over directly to their husbands. Until then, even the clothes on their backs had been their husband's property.
Henry VIII even forbade women to study the Bible when the first En&h Translations began to appear.
The women in the west had to fight hard for their rights. In 1919 women in England fought for their rights to he elected to parliament. Because of their demands, they were imprisoned by the government and suffered tremendously.
However; due to their struggle the women in the west recently came to enjoy their rights and privileges.
In the Arabian peninsula the woman had no right or esteem as well. She was just a chattel to form part of the property of a father or a husband. Most of them were ashamed of having a daughter, because, according to these tribes a daughter could not become a warrior to defend the tribe or she might be taken captive by their enemies in the future.
Some of these tribes used to bury their daughters alive. The Holy as mentions some of the sufferings of the woman under the burden of these Tribal Laws which were strongly condemned by Islam. The Qur'an states.
﴾And when a daughter is announced to one of them his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge?﴿ Qur'an 16:58-59
The Arabs' contact with different nations had brought the traditions of various religions to Arabia, such as Judaism, Christianity, Star-Worshipers and Zoroastrianism.
The culture and way of life of these tribes were a mixture of the customs and cultures of Persians, Romans, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Jews, and the Christian of Iraq and Yemen.
This was a brief account of the status of woman in the pre-Islamic period. And now we shall move with the reader to the next chapter to reveal how Islam treated woman.
In this chapter I am going to shed the light on the status of women in Islam.
When Prophet Mohammad declared Islam the people of Arabia heard about his Message, its universality and that men and women were equal.
In the first place, Islamic history indicates to us that it was a woman who was the first martyr in Islam, to rise up and revolt against her master, to break the chains of slavery and crush the shackles of customs and traditions which dominated Arabian women.
From the very beginning of Islam, it considered man and woman as two human beings with due respect to their physical construction one being a male and the other a female, and did not differentiate between them on the grounds that every single human in general was the result of procreation between the male and the female.
﴾I suffer not the work of any worker inale orfemale to be lost, you proceed one from another﴿ Qur'an 3.195
On the other hand Islam sent a clear message to the human race as a whole that men and women, be they of any nation, tribe, clan or colour occupying any part of the earth, are the children of ADAM and EVE.
﴾O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).﴿ Quean 49:13
This verse makes clear the view point of Islam with regards to human life on earth. It is addressed to all mankind, as mankind is descended from one pair of parents.
The distribution of people into nations, tribes, communities and societies is only for the purpose of knowing and recognising each other.
In this, of course lies the great importance of Prophet Mohammad's saying: 'Do not pride over your births and your tribal or national superiority".
﴾O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from twain scattered countless men and women....﴿ Qur'an 4:1
﴾He it is Who created you from a single soul.﴿ Qur'an 7:189
This message to humanity as a whole clarifies that all men and women are from the same essence and kind.
Anyhow, the Holy Qur'an is the most authentic source to tell us about the treatment of female children before Islam.
﴾When the girl-child that was buried alive, is asked, For what sin was she killed﴿ Quean 81:8-9
The Holy Qur'an put before us the trial of this female child which is going to take place on the Day of judgement. This innocent female infant wffi be questioned about the crime she had committed to deserve such injustice. Certainly! The crime was committed by the father. But in the world of justice she will be able to give evidence for she had not committed any crime herself. Her only crime was that she was born a female baby.
To that degree was the treatment of the female infants in the pre- Islamic period. They were buried alive and having a daughter was considered to be a shame.
In that age Of darkness, Islam put an end to this shameful act of female infanticide.
When Prophet Mohamniad heard how a man buried his daughter, he cried.
In this society Islam gave the woman her rights and made her a respectable member of the community and saved her from the prison of customs and traditions and granted her the freedom of willpower and work and made her inherit from her father, brother, husband, uncles and her next of kin.
She was able to choose a career she may like. There was esteem and respect for her work, she was empowered to demand her rights and to make a formal request directly to the authorities or take legal action if she was assaulted or subjected to any harassment.
In all circumstances, her rights were fully preserved without any restrictions. The man had no power over her and had no right whatsoever to control and dominate her.
﴾There shall be no blame on you in what they may do with themselves in fairness﴿ Quran 11.234
Islam honored women as mothers, daughters, wives and as working mothers.
A man came to Prophet Mohammad and asked him: "O Messenger of Allah! Whom should 1 be more dutiful to?' The Prophet replied: 'To your mother." He asked: "Then to whom?' He replied: 'To your mother.' The man again asked: 'Then to whom?' The Prophet said: 'To your father."
In addition, he crowned women with the best crown in the entire history when he said: "Paradise lies at the feet of mothers."
The Holy Qur'an considered both female and male babies as gifts from God to be rejoiced over and nurtured to maturity. It has been narrated that Prophet Mohammad said: 'the girl is a mercy from God and the boy is a grace from God. God will reward and compensate for that mercy and will ask (or question you) about that grace.'
The Holy Qur'an also instructed logical and practical doctrines towards the mother and father:
﴾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 their life. Say not to them a word of contempt nor repel thein. But address them in terms of honour. And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility,- and say: 'My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.﴿ Qur'an 17.24-26
It is worth noting that one of the chapters of the Qur'an was named "Surat AI-Nisa' - 'The Women' which glorifies them. Twelve women were mentioned in the Qur'an. Mary the mother of Jesus was among them and a chapter of the Holy Qur'an was assigned to her name 'Surah Mariam'. (Chapter 19) Another example was the wife of Pharaoh who is historically known as Asiya, one of the four perfect women. The other three are Mary the Mother of Jesus, Khadija the wife of Prophet Mohammad and Fatima his daughter.
Asiya faced Pharaoh, his arrogance, and his wrong doings and preserved her faith and her righteousness. She was probably the same woman who saved the life of the infant child Moses.
﴾And God sets forth, as an example to. those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh. Behold she saiil- 'O my Lord! Buildfor me, in nearness to you a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save mefrom those that do wrong.﴿ Qur'an 66..II
Khadija the wife of Prophet Mohammad won the distinction of being the believer and the first Muslim and the mother of believers. Her love of God and devotion to her husband and her commitment to support Islam religiously, politically and economically were an example for womanhood in Islam to imitate.
Meanwhile, her daughter Fatima was the owner of the values of her father Prophet Mohammad. She was born in a society which regarded a daughter's birth as a disgrace which could only be overcome with her burial.
This is why history looks in amazement at the way Prophet Mohammad treated his young daughter Fatima, the way he spoke with her and the way he praised her.
Whenever the Prophet went on a journey, Fatima was the last person to farewell him and the first person to welcome him when he returned. He was kind to her. Islamic history recorded that he used to kiss the hands of Fatima his youngest daughter. This "e of behaviour on the part of the Prophet carries a great meaning.
It opens the eyes of important people, politicians and the majority of the Muslim community towards the greatness of Fatima. It teaches mankind about the importance of women. It invited men to release women from the shackles of cultures, the tribal traditions and customs which were imposed on them. It helps women in their endeavour to achieve their potential and to reject inferiority, humiliation and indignity.
He also made his daughter's happiness correlated to his happiness and said: 'Whosoever loves my daughter Fatima loves me, whosoever makes Fatima content makes me content, whosoever makes Fatima unhappy makes me unhappy. Fatima is a part of my body.'
As a little girl she was watching her father's suffering in his mission. With her small loving hands she cleansed her father's head and face from the dust which was thrown on him by his opponents and comforted him.
She was supporting him through all his adversities, troubles and sufferings in order to lead people forth from the. depths of darkness into light. It is because of that she came to be called 'The mother of her father'. This is how Prophet Mohammad revolutionised the position of women.
It is related that when Prophet Mohammad was attacked by the pagan tribes at the battle of Huneyn and was victorious, a large number of their people were taken prisoners and a great amount of booty was seized. Once it had been brought to the Prophet's attention that his wet nurses were among the prisoners, he remembered the kindness of his wet nurses at the time of his childhood. Tears filled his eyes and he immediately gave away all his share and the shares of all his family back to the prisoners. On the following day, he freed all the prisoners and gave them back all the booty.
When his foster-sister visited him one day, he received her warmly and spread out his cloak for her to sit on. In these actions lies the great respect of Prophet Mohammad towards women,
Since the early Message of Islam, women enjoyed full political rights, and participated in all Socio-Political and Religio-Political activities. Their pledge was to worship none but the one true God; not to indulge in sex outside marriage; not to assign illegitimate children to their husbands; not to commit infanticide; not to steal; not to indulge in slander or scandal and generally to obey the law and principles of Islam.
These points were similarly prescribed for men, on the grounds that the Islamic Law treats a woman as a complementary part of human society with rights equitable to those of a man.
Islam regarded both man and woman as being created by God to rise to the full stature of the perfect human and proclaims that in God's eyes, there is no difference between a man and a woman. Each being is a precious soul.
All that makes a woman or a man stand out from the other is their excellence, in justice, piety, spiritual and ethical equalities. it is open to both men and women to achieve this type of distinction and to enjoin good and forbid evil.
﴾Whoever works a righteous deed male or female and is a believer, verily We will endow him with a good, pure life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do.﴿ Qur'an 16:97
There is no distinction of gender in according the reward for righteousness. A righteous one shall be rewarded. The above verse indicates that both men and women are both treated equally and both have their duties to perform.
Islam bestowed dignity, liberty and freedom on women. Therefore, many Muslim women throughout Islamic history have achieved the highest peak of true humanity and played an important role in Islamic State affairs; holding heated political and social debates with the Muslim rulers and their governors.
They were never meant to live segregated and isolated lives. On the contrary, Islam encouraged women to play their role in society and fuffil their duties in the community. They became scholars, warriors, political activists and writers in various fields of knowledge.
Ibn Sa'ad in his book 'AI-Tabaqat al-Kubra' has recorded a great number of women who transmitted traditions (Ahadith) from Prophet Mohammad. By the time of the Prophet's death, there were many women scholars.
Muslim women used to accompany the army to the war ftonts and help in nursing the wounded.
Nasibah bint K'ab took part in battles alongside the Prophet as a surgeon, and in the famous battle of Ohod when she noticed that the Prophet was surrounded by the enemy she rushed towards the Prophet to defend him and joined in the battle, fighting with a sword and shooting arrows until she was heavily wounded. During the battle of Yamamah she fought until she lost her hand.
Zeinab bint Ali the heroic sister of Imam al-Husain played a key role on the stage of political events of the Islamic State. Her name was connected with Islamic and human history in the tragedy of the baffle of Karbala, which historians unanimously agreed was one of the most decisive and important battles in Islamic history.
Certainly, no-one ignored the roles she played in this tragedy and some of them had called her 'The heroine of Karbala' because she was the first lady to appear in this serious event, treating the wounded, comforting the orphans and enraged that the corpses of the martyrs were abandoned on the sands of Karbala under the burning heat of the sun.
It is safe to say that her stand after the massacre of Karbala gave this tragedy a permanent place in history. Zeinab did not live long after this tragedy. In this short period of time she was able to inflame the grief in the Muslims souls for the cause of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husain.
Her sermons in Iraq after the massacre of Karbala and her stand in the court of the Umayyad government in Damascus changed the course of Islamic history and agitated the flames of the revolution against the Umayyad rulers which led to the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty.
Another example is Hamidah, the wife of Imam ja'far al-Sadiq who took care of the needy in Madina. No-one can pass through Islamic history without realising the impact which Nafisah bint al- Hasan has left on the scholars of her time and whose intellectual discourses were famous throughout Egypt at that time.
Imam al-Shafii was one of the most respected scholars who used to hear 'ahadith' traditions of the Prophet from her. On his death bed he requested Nafisah to pray over him.
After al-Shafi'i passed away the Muslims brought his corpse to her house and she prayed over him with a number of respected muslin women after Abu Yacoub al-Bouti prayed over him.
It must be borne in mind that Islam has given the woman the right to persue her education on the grounds that Prophet Mohammad made education incumbent on every Muslim male and female and said. 'Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.'
For fourteen centuries Islamic Law (shariah) has given women total financial independence, their right to own and dispose of property without surveillance or control by any man, to conduct business; trade and all transactions relating to profit and loss; including the execution of deeds and gifts without having to check with anyone. Whatever a woman earns is her own and she has complete control over that as mother, wife, sister or daughter.
It is quite clear that Islamic Law has given woman the right of inheritance and warned against depriving her of her shares in the inheritance of the family (Qur'an 4:19) and specifies that her dowry (mahr) should belong to her alone and never be taken by her husband (Qur'an 2:229, 4:19-21,25) unless offered by the woman as a free gift.
It is also obvious that under Islamic Law parents cannot force their daughters to marry against their will or without their consent, such a marriage is regarded as invalid.
In her marriage she should be protected by her husband and feel safe. Additionally, she has the right of retaining her maiden name. No matter how independently wealthy the wife may be, the husband should support her and provide her with the necessities of life to the best of his financial capacity. Also, in some cases, Islam says that if necessary the husband must employ a servant for his wife.
In Islam, the duties of house keeping, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and even child rearing do not necessarily belong to the woman, and she can claim a salary from her husband in return for such work.
Under Islamic Law it is a criminal act to perpetuate any form of violence against women.
During the life of the Prophet, women came to him and complained about their husbands treatment towards them. He told them "They are not from us, those men who hit their wives."
Another source of information reported that Prophet Mohammad said: 'Verily, the best of you is the best to his women and 1 am the best of you to my women.' He has also stated: 'God the exalted is more kind to females than..."
When Khaula bint Walaba was disappointed at the conduct of her husband and reported that to the Prophet, her pleadings were heard by God and these verses were revealed to Prophet Mohammad: ﴾God has heard the statement of the woman who pleads with you concerning her husband and complains to God and God hears your colloquy, For God hears and sees (all things).﴿ Qur'an 58:1
Islam insists that the wife should live in peace, equality, justice and harmony with her husband and children.
﴾And from His signs is that He created for you spouses from amongst yourselves that you may find tranquillity with them and He has placed between you love and mercy. Verily in that are signs for those who ref7ect ﴿ Qur'an 30:2'1
﴾And live with them (your wives) in kindness for if you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing, and God brings about through it a great deal of good.﴿ Qur'an 4:19
Islam also insists on a happy environment for the mother during her pregnancy on the grounds that the foetus is affected by his\her mother physically, psychologically and morally..
As a mother of the child she has the right to claim payment from her husband for breast feeding their baby if she chooses to do so. And above all, the husband cannot force his wife to conceive if she does not want to.
It is essential to remember that the husband should take an active part with the mother in the spiritual, physical and emotional development of their children.
Of course! Islam renders these affectionate acts for the woman and considers them good deeds and a way of approaching God.
It is quite clear that throughout the Message of Islam, Prophet Mohammad continued to stress the importance of women in society.
Moreover, on the occasiod of the farewell pilgrimage 'Hojjat al- Weda'. The Messenger Prophet Mohammad addressed Muslims and referred in his sermon to women's status as one of the important issues they should always remember. He said "Observe your duty to God in respect to the women and treat them well".
The Qur'an also called for equal rights for women and men in divorce proceedings. ﴾If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves and such settlement is best.﴿ Qur'an 4:128
﴾But if they disagree (and must part) God will provide abundance for all from His all reaching bounty. For God is He that cares for all and is wise.﴿ Qur'an 4:130
Of all the permitted acts, the one disliked most by God is divorce, as it has been reported by the Prophet.
Under Islamic Law there are three forms of marriage dissolution:
1- by death of the spouse.
2- By an act of one or both the parties.
3- By Judicial process.
In addition the judge (qadi) annuls a marriage on application of a wife who has some due cause for divorce, such as non- maintenance, abuse, desertion, infectious disease or impotence to name a few.
On one hand if Islam regards the right of divorce as exclusive to man, on the other hand he was strictly given instructions; advice, admonitions and warning not to misuse this right.
﴾When you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of the (Iddat), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; But do not take them back to injure them (or) to take undue advantage; if anyone does that he wrongs his own soul Do not treat God's signs as a jest; but solemnly rehearse God's favours on you. And the fact that He sent down to you the Book and wisdom for your instruction and fear God, and know that god is well acquainted with all things..﴿ Qur'an 2:231
Note the warning to the divorcing husband against any cruelty, unjust or unfair treatment to the wife to be divorced. No harm or injury shall be done to her. Her right to the dower due to her, shall not be prejudiced and she shall not be harassed to forego any of her rights and she shall not be inconvenienced in the least.
﴾When you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (Iddat). Do not prevent them from marrying their (former) husbands, if they mutually agree on equitable terms, this instruction is for all amongst you, who believe in God and the Last day. That is (the course making for) most virtue and purity amongst you, and God knows, and you know not﴿ Quean 2.232
This verse contains another point of law protecting the right of a woman exercising her decision independently. The relatives or the guardians or any authority on her behalf are warned against obstructing a divorced wife returning to her husband even after the period of waiting (Iddat) for a three month period, when both the wife and her husband after the divorce mutually agree to be reunited in a re~ wedlock. Under this sanction, even though the period of waiting might have elapsed, the former husband can marry the divorced wife. This is allowed after the first or second divorce (Talaq) only.
﴾A divorce is only permissible twice: after that the parties should either hold together on equitable terms or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you (men) to take back any of your gifts (from your wives) except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by God. If you (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained, There is no blame on either of them If she gives something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by God. So do not transgress the limits ordained by God Such persons wrong (themselves as well as others).﴿ Quran 2.9'?9
It is quite obvious that it is not lawful for the husband to take or withhold anything out of what he has given or promised to give as 'Mahr' or dower to the wife.
the next part of the verse deals with 'Khala' or 'Mubarat' as it is called in law. Under this law, if the wife feels unable to put up with her husband any longer she may seek to be freed of the wedlock by retuning the dower if she has already received it or to forgo it, if it is still due to her and take 'Khala' divorce from the 'Hakim al-Shara' who is the authentic administrator of the law.
Two divorces followed by re-union are permissible; the third divorce is irrevocable. No re-union can take place until the woman legitimately marries another man and he legitimately divorces her.
﴾So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably), he cannot, after that re-many her until after she has married another husband and he has divorced her. In that case there is no blame on either of them, if they re-unite, provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by God Such are the limits ordained by God Which He makes plain to those who understand.﴿ Quran 2:230
It is worth mentioning that the woman can stipulate certain conditions on her husband in the marriage contract. If the husband breaches any of these conditions then she has the full power to divorce him. It is permitted for Muslim women to enjoy this important right in order to protect themselves against mal- treatment, abuse, domestic violence, incompatibility of temperament, and the like.
According to the Islamic Law 'Shariah' the 'Qadi' judge can even compel the husband to divorce his wife in certain cases.
The Western poet and thinker Voltaire said: 'The Prophet Mohammad's legislation on marriage and divorce is the most noble and effective ever conceived, formulated, and enacted by any authority at any time in the world's history, religious, political or social"
With the invasion of the Mongols in 1200AD and the tribal movements into central Asia which spilled over into Islamic lands the Status of Woman and her role in society started to deteriorate in the East as the conqueror's cultural traditions were imposed in Islamic communities. This has given rise to confusion between what has been traditional in those communities and what is provided for in Islam.
This period of decline had an enormous effect on the rights of Muslim women which were bestowed on them by the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet, socially, politically and economically.
Since then, their legal rights were oppressed by cultural traditions and customs. They became unaware of their rights which the 'Shariah' granted them to protect themselves and save them from having to live in an unhappy or even hostile environment.
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century movements of reform which included both men and women began to reinforce the true original Islamic principals for equality in relation to education, social and political participation in which Islam asked women to play a role equal to that of men.
The position of Muslim women in early Islam is an exemplary one that should be studied and known by every woman whether she is a Muslim or non-Muslim; whether she lives in the East or the West. When Dr Homer of Sweden was asked by the United Nations in 1975 to study the Status of Women in the Arab countries; she said: "It is the Swedish woman who should demand her freedom, as the woman in the Arab countries has already reached the peak of her freedom under Islam."
Finally! For the sake of justice and truth no blame whatsoever should be placed on Islam when one finds a Muslim woman whose rights have been violated. The blame should be put on the shoulders of ignorance, tribal customs and cultural traditions and practices; the neglect and abandonment of Islamic Law by Muslims; and the neglect of religious precepts in political, social and financial institutions; This neglect has caused many tragedies upon Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular.
* By Dr. Ahmed Abdul Magid Hammoud. Sydney,Australia.
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- Husayn G. :- "Islamic Teachmgs" Karachi (n.d)
- Lari Mujtaba :- "Western Civilisation Through Muslim Eyes" Guildford 1977
- Razwy A. A. :- "Khadija-tul-K-ubra" New York 1990
- Dr.Shariati Ali :- "Fatima is Fatima" Tehran 1980
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ii. "The Islamic Hijab" Tehran 1994
- Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria :- "Islam Opposes Violence Against Women" Victoria
- Azami Muhammad:- " Studies in Early Hadith" Indiana 1978