The Sunday Mail
THE status and role of women in Islam has been generally misunderstood in the non-Muslim circles because of general ignorance of the Islamic system, their way of life and because of the distortions of the media.
How women are understood in Islam cannot be properly understood – unless one understands exactly what we call the philosophical basis or ideological understanding – since this is really a theological concept.
We should understand that Muslims firmly believe that what they are taught and practice is all part of a divine revelation bestowed upon humanity by God Almighty.
The argument is that God knows best that which He has created. He is a God of wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, He knows what is best and decrees the best for humanity. Therefore, Muslims try to live by a code of law which is an expression of that belief. Islam, based on the divine revelation known as the Holy Qur’aan, states that men and women share a single humanity – that they are equal in their humanity with no difference in the amount of human nature in them.
The Holy Qur’aan declares, “O mankind! Verily we have created you from a single male and a single female, and have made you into tribes and peoples so that you may know one another. Verily the most honourable of you are those who are most God-conscious.” (Ch 49 : v 13).
The indication here is that the male and female, in terms of their human nature, are at an equal level.
Likewise another verse, from a chapter which is known in the Holy Qur’aan as the chapter of “Women” – because most of the issues discussed there are laws dealing with women – starts off with the verse: “O mankind! Be conscious of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul, and created therefrom, its mate.” This is a reference to Adam and Eve. “And from the two of them, gave rise to a multitude of men and women, scattered throughout the earth.” (Ch 4 : v 1).
Here again is the issue of men and women and all human beings coming from a single source, a single family, a single set of parents. This shows that women share in full, humanity with men. Likewise in the sayings and declarations of the Last & Final Messenger of Allah Almighty, Muhammad (peace be upon him) we find that he said, “Indeed verily women are the twin halves of men.” The understanding is that there is a single humanity, a single essence which is shared, and there are twin halves of that – a man and a woman.
The truth is, Islam brought sweeping changes of a truly revolutionary nature to women’s rights. For the first time, the souls of women were explicitly declared in a sacred book to be equal to those of men. Reward and obligations were equally bestowed on both.
“Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, for them verily we shall grant a good life, and we shall give them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do.” (Ch 16 : v 97)
The Muslim woman is accorded full spiritual and intellectual equality with man, and is encouraged to practice her religion as well as develop her intellectual faculties throughout her life. In her relations with men, both are to observe modesty of behaviour, dress and a strict code of morality which discourages unnecessary mixing of the sexes.
Her relations with her husband should be based on mutual love and compassion. He is responsible for the maintenance of the wife and children, and she is to give him the respect due to the head of the family. She is responsible for the care of the home and the children’s early training. Thus, we find that men and women share in the same aim and are expected to have the same responsibilities, in that men and women are both required or obligated to adhere to and fulfill the laws and commandments of the Almighty, in terms of worship, duty and morality, etcetera.
In Islam, the basis of submission is not that women are submitting to men, but that men and women submit together to God. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam today is that of the status and role of women in the religion. This is in large part due to people’s failure to distinguish between religion and tradition. Many practices and customs existing in the Muslim world today are just customs and have nothing to do with Islam.
Another important factor is that modern culture teaches that, for things to be fair between the two sexes, they must be identical and “equal”. Little do the people of such “modern” culture realise that although the two are identical in the eyes of the Almighty, there is a need to acknowledge that the two are somewhat physically, biologically and emotionally different. Therefore, some lifestyle details must be different.
For further information on Islam please contact: Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars Publications Department
Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
Tel: 0242-614078 / 614004, Fax : 0242-614003
e-mail: [email protected]