By Mirza Ahamat –
All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema pronouncements to the Proposed Amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, strongly resisted by the Muslim majority.
Woman’s equality to Man enshrined in the Holy Quran.
To the Proposed Amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce act the pronouncements of the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema (ACJU) that Women are not worthy of being appointed as Qazis and there is no need for review of the marriageable age for women, had sparked off a wave of protests among Women’s organization and the concerned Muslim public in general. ACJU’s contention is that the law is perfect in its present form and so no need for reform. The decision to debar women seeking appointment as Qazis has been based on a Hadeeth that according to knowledgeable sources is not relevant and does not specifically relate to the suitability of women’s appointment as Qazis. A very comprehensive study on the subject had been undertaken by eminent Islamic scholars and made presentations through the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) to the UN conference on Women Beijin 1995. One paper titled the Status of women in Islam by Dr Jamal Badawi and another paper titled Woman and Family life in Islam, portraying the status rights and role of the Muslim woman according to basic sources of Islam presented by WAMY. Every aspect on the subject had been dealt meticulously in the presentations dispelling any doubts and ambiguities surrounding the subject. Some of the features of the presentation are put forward to enlighten the Sri Lanka Muslim community the right perspectives on the issues involved.
Womans equality with man supported in the Holy Quran
Any fair investigations of the teachings of Islam or into the history of Islamic
Civilization will surely find clear evidence with Woman’s equality with man in what we call today as Political rights. This includes right of Election as well as nomination to political offices. It also includes women right to participation in public affairs.
Although not mentioned in the Quran one Hadeeths of the Prophet is interpreted to make a woman ineligible for the position of head of State. The Hadeeth referred is roughly translated “A people will not prosper if they let a woman be their leader”.
This limitation has nothing to do with the dignity of woman or with her rights It is rather related to natural differences in the biological and psychological make up of men and women.
According to Islam the Head of State is no mere figure head. He leads people in prayer especially on Fridays and festivities. He is continuously engaged in the process of decision making pertaining to the security and the well being of the, people. This demanding position or any other similar one such as the Commander of the Army is generally inconsistent with the psychological and physiological make up of woman in general. It is a medical fact that during the monthly periods and during their pregnancies women undergo various Psychological and physiological changes. Such changes may occur during an emergency situation thus affecting her decision without considering the excessive strain which is produced. Moreover some decisions require a maximum of rationality and a minimum of emotionality, a requirement which does not coincide with the instinctive nature of women.
Even in modern times and in most developed countries it is rare to find a woman in the position of Head of state acting as more than a figure head, a woman commander of the armed forces even a proportionate number of women representatives in parliaments or similar bodies. One cannot possibly ascribe this to the backwardness of various nations or to any constitutional limitations on women’s rights. To be in such a position as head of State or as a member of Parliament. It is more logical to explain the present situation in terms of the natural and indisputable difference between man and woman, a difference which does not imply supremacy of one over the other. The difference implies rather complementary role of both sexes in life.
Man and woman are physical forms of the same soul
The Quran the final and eternal guide of all mankind makes it very clear that man and woman are two physical forms of the same soul hence no original difference between them.God declares in the very opening verse, aptly entitled chapter An Nissa.
O Mankind ! Be conscious of your Sustainer who has created you out of one living entity and out of it created its mate and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand ( your rights) from one another and of these ties of kinship. Verily God is ever watchful over you! An Nisa 4 1
The divine declaration has spelled an end to the discrimination against women, in that the whole mankind is the offspring of a single human soul and originally everyone man and woman has the same descent and no one is nobler or meaner by birth. It has made it clear that all human beings man and woman are servants of the True God. Therefore they should worship and serve Him ,Islam thus dismissed the notion that man is more honored for being a man and a woman is inferior for being a woman.
The above Quranic words are the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human rights revealed to human kind by its Creator the Almighty God who alone possess the absolute knowledge of the origin and nature of the creation of humankind.
This verse is the divine declaration for all times to come that all the sex related discriminatory practices prevalent in society are unnatural and therefore baseless false and absurd. The whole mankind is the offspring of a single soul and any kind of discrimination against either tantamount to the division of a single whole and therefore it is null and void .Upholding sex equality in the Holy Quran has drawn attention to the biological fact as well.
It reminds us of the place of origin of our biological existence ie the mothers womb Human biological existence another clear evidence of men and women equality. Both come to life n the womb and are given birth by a woman in exactly the same fashion hence ruling out the question of superiority or inferiority between them.
Islam treats both men and woman equally in that whoever leads a pious life in accordance with the divine guidance is entitled in equal measure to attain salvation and eternal success in the Next life.
As for anyone – be it man or woman who does righteous deeds and is a believer withal-him shall. We must certainly cause to live a good life and most certainly we shall. We grant on to such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did. An Nahl 16 97.
The Quran provides clear cut evidence that man is completely equated with woman in the sight of God in terms of rights and responsibilities. The Quran states
(On the day of Judgment) every human being will be held in pledge for whatever (evil) he has wrought. Quran 74 38
And thus does their Sustainer answer their prayers. I shall not sight of the labour of any of you who labours( in my way) be it man or woman, each of you is an issue of the other. Hence for those who forsake the domain of evil and are driven from their homelands and suffer hurt in My cause and fight for it) and are slain -I shall most certainly efface their bad deeds and most certainly bring them into gardens through which running waters flow as a reward from God for with God is the most beauteous of rewards. Al Imran 3 195
In Islam the criterion of superiority or status in the sight of Allah is one’s righteous conduct ruling out any references to one’s gender nationality or what ever the Quran makes this point in unmistakable terms.
O men! Behold,. We have created you out of a male and female and have made you unto nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold God is all knowing all – aware. Al Hujarat 49 13
The holy Quran has laid therefore stress on the spiritual equality of man and women God promises
And thus does their sustainer answer their prayers. I shall not sight of the labour of any of you who labours in my way be it man or woman each of you is an issue of the other. Hence for those who forsake the domain of evil and are driven from their homelands and suffer hurt in My cause and fight (m for it)I shall most certainly efface their bad deeds and most certainly bring them into gardens through which running waters flow as a reward from God for with God is the most beauteous of rewards. Al Imran 3 195
Both men and women are equally obliged to practice the principles of Islam and their deeds are equally regarded, No discrimination would be made against or in favour of either on the basis of their sex for reward and punishment. This signifies the spiritual equality between man and woman
It is He, who has created you (all) out of one living entity and out of it brought into being its mate, so that man might incline( with Love) towards women. And so when he has embraced her she conceives( what at first is) i a light burden and continues to bear it. Then when she grows heavy (with child) they both call unto God their Sustainer If thou indeed grant us a sound child, we shall most certainly be among the grateful. Al Araf Quran 7 189
The Originator (Is He) of the Heavens and the Earth. He has given you mates of your own kind just as ( He has willed that) among the beasts ( there be ) mates to multiply you thereby ( but) there is nothing like unto Him and He alone is all hearing all seeing. Quran Ash shura 42 11
And God has given you mates of your own kind and has given you through your mates children and children’s children and has provided for you sustenance out of the good things of life. Will men then ( continue to) believe in false and vain and thus blaspheme against God’s blessings
Quran AnNahl 16 72
The Quran clearly indicates that marriage is sharing two halves of the society and that its objectives besides perpetuating human life are emotional well being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and Mercy among the most impressive verses
Among His wonders is this.He creates for you mates out of your own kind. So that you might incline towards them and He engenders love and tenderness between you in this, behold there are messages indeed for people who think Quran Ar RUM 30 21
Islamic law allows women the right to retain their financial resources
According to Islamic Law woman’s rights to her money real estate or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married she retains her full rights to buy sell mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the law that that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that right apples to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.
Seeking Employment is no barrier for woman
With regard to Woman’s right to seek employment, it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as the most sacred and essential one. Neither maids or baby sitters can possibly take the mothers place as the educator of an upright complex free and carefully reared children. Such a noble and vital role which largely shapes the future of nations cannot be regarded as “idleness.”
However there is no decree in Islam which forbids woman from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it especially in positions, which fit her nature and in which society needs her most, Examples of these professions are nursing teaching especially for children and medicine. Moreover there is no restriction on benefitting from woman’s exceptional talent in any field. Even for the position of a judge where there may be a tendency to doubt the woman’s fitness for the post due to her more emotional nature. We find early Muslim scholars such as Abu Haniffa and Al Tabary holding there is nothing wrong with it.
Woman’s right of Inheritance
In addition Islam restored to woman the right of inheritance after she herself was an object of inheritance, in some cultures. Her share is completely hers and no one can make claim on it including her father and her husband,
Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind and woman shall have a share in what parents and kinfolk leave behind whether it be little or much. – a share ordained by God.Quran AnNisa 4 7
Her share in most cases is one half of man’s share with no implication that she is worth half a man! It would seem grossly inconsistent after the overwhelming evidence of woman’s equitable treatment to man to make such an inference The variation in inheritance rights is only consistent with the variation in financial responsibilities of man and woman according to the Islamic Law. Man in Islam is fully responsible for the maintenance of his wife his children and in some cases of his needy relatives especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived or reduced because of his wife’s wealth or because of her access to personal income gained from rent profit or any other legal means.
Woman on the other hand is far more secure financially and is far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she even keeps her maiden name. She has no obligation to spend on her family out of such properties out of her income. She is entitled to mahr which she takes from her husband at the time of marriage If she is divorced she may get an alimony from her husband.
An examination of the inheritance law within the overall framework of the Islamic law reveals not only justice but also an abundance of compassion for women.
A man and Two women as witnesses.
If there are not two men, it is prescribed that a man and two women should be chosen as witnesses. This does not imply any reflection of Woman’s moral or intellectual capabilities.
The stipulation that two women can be substituted for one male witness does not imply any reflection of woman moral or intellectual capabilities. It is obviously due to the fact that, as a rule woman are less familiar with the business procedures than man and therefore more liable to mistakes in this respect.
A woman by her own biological constitution faces such problems it does not however make her inferior to man but that does illustrate that she is different.
Woman’s consent is essential for marriage
According to Islamic Law women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.
Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God and reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent The messenger of God gave her the choice of accepting the marriage or invalidating it IBn Hanbal 2469 In anther version the girl said ‘Actually I accept the marriage I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them’. Ibn Maya no 1873.
The leadership of the family rests with the man
The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature In consideration of the physiological and psychological make up of man and woman both have equal rights and claims on one another except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.
The Holy Quran thus states
And the divorced women shall undergo without remarrying a waiting period of three monthly courses, for it is not lawful for them to conceal what God may have created in their wombs. If they believe in God and the last day And during this period their husbands are fully entitled to take them back, if they desire reconciliation but in accordance with justice, the rights of the wives ( with regard to their husbands) are equal to (husbands) rights with regard to them, although men have precedence over them (in this respect). And God is Almighty wise. Quran Al Baqarah 2 228
Such degree is quiwamma (maintenance and protection, this relates to the natural difference between the sexes, which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet man’s role of leadership I relation to the family does not mean the husband’s dictatorship over the wife Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions.
Woman have the right to seek divorce
As for woman’s rights to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for un successful marriage is recognized. To provide for the stability of the family however and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress certain steps and waiting periods should be served by men and women seeking divorce. Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before a judge. Like the man however the woman can divorce her husband without resorting to the court if the nuptial contract allows that.
1) The history of Muslims is rich with women of great achievements in all walks of life.
2) It is impossible for anyone to justify any mistreatment of women by any decree of the rule embodied in the Islamic Law, nor could anyone dare to cancel reduce or distort the clear cut legal rights of women given in Islamic Law.
3) Throughout history the reputation chastity and maternal role of Muslim women were objects of admiration by impartial observers.
If this indicates anything it would demonstrate the divine origin of the Quran and the truthfulness of the message of Islam which unlike human philosophies and ideologies was far from proceeding from its human environment a message which established such human principles as neither grew obsolete during the course of time and after these many centuries nor can become obsolete in the future. After all this is the message of the All Wise and All Knowing God whose wisdom and knowledge are far beyond the ultimate in human thought and progress.