Summary of 7.15 “Position of Women in Islam-Economic Aspect”

The previous program dealt mainly with the economic rights of a Muslim woman in accordance with Islamic Law.’ In Islamic Law a woman has the full right to own property in her own name and to dispose of it in any way that she prefers regardless of her marital status.’ We said that it took the European Laws nearly 1200 years to catch up with the Islamic Law which established that right as early as the seventh century.’ We made reference to the Married Women Property Act in Britain in 1870 which was the beginning of independent ownership.

The second aspect was to allow women a share of inheritance at the time when they themselves were regarded as objects of inheritance.’ We discussed the variations of the share of inheritance that women and men get in view of the share of the financial responsibility each carries within Islamic Law.

We also discussed the issue of women working when needed.’ We said there is nothing in Islam that says that work is prohibited to a woman and in fact an Islamic society assumes that some women will work in some professions like medicine, nursing, teaching and other similar areas.’ We simply said that Islam emphasizes the important role of the woman as the mother and wife and that this is not something to be degraded or frowned upon, but is the most noble career for any woman to aspire to from an Islamic perspective.

7.16′ Position of Women in Islam (Social Aspect)

Host:’ What was the position of Islam regarding the birth of girls and how did this vary from the common practice before Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

The practice of female infanticide was quite common before Islam.’ The Quran made it clear that this inhuman act was nothing but murder.’ In the Quran in (81:8-9) that on the Day of Judgement ‘When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned-For what crime she was killed.” In this verse it uses the term murder to refer to the method of her death.’ Aside from uprooting this practice, which Islam eliminated within a few years, the bias of happiness when a son is born and sadness when a girl is born (which is still practiced today) is criticized in the Quran.’ This is found in (16:58) ‘When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!’ With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on?” The attitude of Islam was not only to stop inhumanity but also to criticize the attitude of feeling happier with the birth of a boy rather than a girl.’ To put it in simple terms Islam regards the birth of both boys and girls as equal blessings and a gift.

Host:’ Are there specific directives for people to be kind to females?

Jamal Badawi:

In one of the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) as narrated in Ahmad he says ‘Whoever looks after two girls until they grow up, he and I will come on the Day of Judgement like this’ and he pointed to his two fingers.’ This showed that that person would be as close as those two fingers to each other on the Day of Judgment.’ Indeed there are certain text in the Prophetic Tradition which shows that the bias did exist and that it came to change this negativeness.’ In another saying narrated in Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ‘Whoever has a daughter, he did not bury her alive and he did not insult her and he did not favor his son over her God will enter him into Paradise.” Prophet Muhammad gave in his own example and life the practical manifestation of these teachings.’ His extreme kindness in the treatment of his daughters to the point that he once said about his daughter Fatima ‘Fatima is a part of me, her happiness is of my happiness and her anger or hurt is my hurt.” The Prophet tried in words and deed his best under divine direction to move society away from these strange ideas or misogyny.

Host:’ Is the female entitled to an education in the same way as a male?

Jamal Badawi:

Perhaps we can make a cross reference here on the economic rights of a Muslim woman.’ We indicated that work is permissible unless there is a good reason why it is not permissible, but there is no text preventing women from seeking employment.’ In an Islamic society it is highly desirable to have females in medical, nursing and teaching professions (to name a few), then how can they do this unless they have an education.

The attitude of Islam towards learning is that is not simply a right but an obligation and responsibility.’ In Hadith narrated in Al Bihaki Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that ‘Seeking knowledge is mandatory on every Muslim (Muslim as a generic for both male and female).’ The Quran in numerous passages speaks about the higher status that God endows on those who are knowledgeable as is also mentioned in the sayings of the Prophet.’ None of these make a distinction between male or female as meeting this responsibility is concerned.

Host:’ Are there any specific fields which are permissible for girls while others are not?

Jamal Badawi:

I am not familiar with any provision anywhere that says that it is unlawful for women to engage in certain fields, which are only allowed to men.’ If there is any field of knowledge which is unlawful for women then it is also unlawful for men.’ An example of this would be learning sorcery or magic, which is unlawful in Islam whether the person learning is male or female.

Even though it is always desirable to seek knowledge there is a minimum degree of knowledge that a Muslim must learn.’ For example, learning about fundamental’ beliefs, devotional acts of worship, moral teachings etc.’ In this area of absolute mandatory requirements they are such for both male and female with no distinction.

It is safe to say that there are certain fields which are highly desirable for women to engage in which would help her perfect her role (to enhance the capabilities that God created her with that in roles that men can not perform as effectively).’ For example, various areas that deal with medicine and nursing, home management, health care (which would help her look out for her family and the their development), psychology and areas that help a woman fulfill the most noble career of being a wife and mother.’ Other than this all other fields can be classified in Islamic terminology as permissible so long as they are beneficial and there is nothing in the pursuit of the knowledge that is against Islamic law.’ It is implied when we say we need women teachers that we need them in all fields (it is desirable to have separate schools for girls in an Islamic society).

Host:’ What about the situation of the woman as a wife?

Jamal Badawi:

The way Islam views marriage is basically that it is a partnership.’ When a person get married they don’t marry a slave nor a master.’ All human beings are servants of God, none of them are slaves or masters of anybody else.’ It is the basic, fundamental idealogical fundamental of a Muslim that servitude belongs to God alone.

The Quran describes marriage very favorably and positively not as an inevitable evil.’ It is a blessing that God has endowed on humanity and a source of tranquility, peace, mutual love and affection and for these reasons we find that Islam requires the consent of both parties in order for a marriage to be valid.’ Some of these aspects we can touch on when touch on the area of family law in Islam and how it is regulated.’ In terms of treatment not only of wives but of women in general the Prophet (PBUH) was very clear as he echoed the Quranic teachings.’ As narrated in Ahmad he says ‘The most perfect believers are the best in conduct, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.” There are tremendous volumes of Quranic verses as well as Prophetic Traditions which all point to the basic notion of full respect, affection and compassion in the marital relationship.

Host:’ Are there any special privileges that Islamic Law provides to a woman?

Jamal Badawi:

Islam does not forget a woman when she gets old.’ In fact this practice of nursing homes to the Muslim sounds like a very cruel, inhuman and un-Islamic act.’ In fact the Quran ranks compassion and kindness to parents, especially when they are old second to the worship of God.’ An example of this is in (17:23) of the Quran where it says ‘Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents.” Even within the basic framework of kindness to parents which involves both mother and father the Quran makes a special emphasis on kindness to the mother.’ In (31:14) ‘And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), “Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.” The weakness is not regarded as divine punishment or anything of that sort but this is a struggle, sacrifice and qualifies her for an additional touch of compassion.

An incident took place in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) where a man came to him and said ‘Oh messenger of Allah, who among all people is the most worthy of my good company and kindness?” The Prophet answered ‘Your mother.” And the guy said who is next?” And the Prophet said ‘Your mother.” And for the third time he asked ‘Who is next?” And the Prophet said ‘Your mother.” And the man said ‘Yes but who is next?” He said ‘Your father.” I used to tell my audiences that Muslim males have good reason to be jealous because three quarters of a person’s kindness goes to the mother and one quarter goes to the father.’ Of course this does not mean for one to be unkind to the father but the over emphasis on the mother then the father shows the importance of the mother.’ A very interesting and concise saying of the Prophet which is widely quoted which was narrated in Ahmad, Nassai and Ibn Maja in which the Prophet says ‘Paradise is at the feet of mothers.” It is obvious did not only honor a woman in one particular category but honored her as a child, wife, mother, sister, and even if a woman is not related to an individual.’ Indeed in one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he says ‘It is the generous in character who is good to women and it is only the wicked who insults them.” In another saying he said which can be translated in one of two ways ‘Women are but sisters of men’ or ‘Women are like the other halves of men.” Regardless of whether a woman is related or not to a person Islam considers compassion, kindness and respect as one aspect of good Islamic behavior.

Host: ‘Why do Muslim men require women to dress in one particular style of dress (all covered) and at the same time they are not subjected to any restrictions at all?

Jamal Badawi:

This does reflect a number of misconceptions that predominate the West about certain stereo types on Islam and Muslim women.’ First, Islam does not require a particular style of dress but rather it establishes standards.’ It doesn’t say a woman has to dress in this design that was used in this or that country.’ It has established basic standards of basic coverage and modesty so as to keep the moral fiber of society and the family in tact.’ Two, some people think that this type of dress is imposed on women by males who might have certain bias against females.’ In the case of Islam the compliance of a female or male to the standards of modesty in dress and behavior should not simply be imposed by society, social norms, by the force of law and not even by the Prophet (PBUH) because these are divine revelations with guidance that God has provided.’ When a male or female comply with these standards they simply feel that they are obeying God and are committed to Him which is the meaning of Islam.

A second miss conception is that some people think that Islam only legislates certain restrictions on women and has nothing to say against men.’ This is not correct either.’ In several programs that we covered under Moral Teachings in Islam we have seen that the question of dress and behavior is responsibility of both male and female.’ There might be a difference of the degree of modesty of the cover but the principle is there.’ It is not true that Islam allows men to wear anything that they like as there are certain restrictions on them.

Many viewers will be surprised to learn that in our age there are many incidents, not of men trying to make women cover but of them trying to make women who chose to cover themselves uncover.’ Just a few weeks ago we heard of orders issued in Turkey, Egypt and Syria that prevented women to some degree of complying with the Islamic dress.’ In a news piece that came from Syria it said that the government sponsored a militia group to stop women who cover properly in the streets and to rip off their cover.’ In this case it was heroic resistance on Muslim women’s part who chose to comply with the Islamic dress.

Host:’ Some people depict the ideal Muslim woman as one who is confined to the home, is this the way it should be?

Jamal Badawi:

This is another one of those misconceptions.’ We have seen from previous points that we have made that it is totally illogical to think that Islam to stay at him, because she is required to learn and if she doesn’t go out how can she do so.’ The misconceptions comes from a verse in the Quran that praised the wives of the Prophet as examples for other women and it uses the term ‘stay in your homes, and don’t be so flashy outside like the days of ignorance.” This must be taken in context of other Quranic texts and in regards to the Prophetic Tradition as it simply means that it is preferable that if one does not have a good reason to go out that it is better to concentrate on creating a warm and happy household.’ This does not mean stay at home and never go out.’ Some people may say that in a society with so much corruption, rape and attacks it is better to keep women from going out as protection.’ But we could say the same thing applies to men, and if we want to go to that extreme both men and women should never go out.’ The idea here is to minimize the risk and to take precautions but not to prevent a woman from going out.

There is text that shows us that the idea of a woman being totally secluded at home has nothing to do with Islamic teachings.’ First the Prophet has indicated more than once that women should not be prevented from going to pray in the Mosque.’ Second, she is permitted to seek knowledge.’ Third, if she works which is permissible when there is a need for it and this requires her to go out.’ Even then in Bukhari the Prophet said ‘God has allowed you to go out for your needs’ without defining any restrictions.’ This is the case so long as it is within the proper modesty of dress and behavior and within proper Islamic framework.