Women’s issues in Islam



Okikiola  Qasim

The liberation of woman in Islam is far superior to western liberation as it allows woman to live with respect, dignity and equality in society. Equality does not mean aping and behaving like men or dancing to their clubs. A truly liberated woman always dresses decently and modesty. A true woman will never degrade her body and sell her dignity to the highest bidder. In the name of so-called freedom, a woman can’t be of her wayward conscience, bodily lust, desire or infidelity. Thus in Islam, women whatever their role as mothers, sisters, wives, or daughters command respect and have a constructive role to play in society. The women itself gives an aura of freedom to the womanhood, facilitating their movement and protecting them provocation and wanton greed of the human wolves. “O” Prophet! Say to your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; that they may be known and thus will not be troubled.

“Holy Quran (33:59) Modesty and chastity form part of the Islamic faith. the world and all things in it valuable no doubt, but the best creation of Allah i.e. mankind those who follow Allah and Rasul(SAW)are most valuable as well as virtuous wife.
The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world. While men and women have different roles within Islam, some argue that the Qur’an makes it clear that they are equal, however the Quran states in4:34,

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard.”
Sharia (Islamic law) provides complementary in differences between women’s and men’s roles, rights, and obligations. Majority Muslim countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives. Conservatives argue that differences between men and women are due to different status, while liberal Muslims, Muslim feminists, and others argue in favor of other interpretations. Some women have achieved high political office in Muslim majority states.
Marriage customs vary in Muslim dominated countries. Cultural customs are sometimes implemented under the cover of Islam. However Islamic law allows polygamy under some conditions.

According to Islamic law (sharia), marriage cannot be forced.
Islamic jurists have traditionally held that Muslim women may only enter into marriage with Muslim men, although some contemporary jurists question the basis of this restriction. This is pursuant to the principle that Muslims may not place themselves in a position inferior to that of the followers of other religions. On the other hand, the Qur’an allows Muslim men to marry women of the People of the Book, a term which includes Jews and Christians, but they must be chaste. However, fiqh law has held that it is makruh (reprehensible, though not outright forbidden) for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman in a non-Muslim country.

Polygamy is permitted under restricted conditions, but it is not widespread.[64] However, it is strongly discouraged in the Qur’an, which says, ‘do justice to them all, but you won’t be able to, so don’t fall for one totally while ignoring other wife(wives)’. This also must be taken in historical context, as this was actually a restriction on the number of wives men of the Arabian tribes can take. Sometimes Pre-Islamic men could have up to eight wives. Women are not allowed to engage in polyandry, whereas men are allowed to engage in polygyny (a man can take up to four wives at any given time as mentioned in the Qur’an). A widow inherits one quarter of the property of her deceased husband, however, if he had children the inheritance reduces to one eighth.

Rights and obligations of spouses in Islam and Islam and domestic violence
The Qur’an considers the love between men and women to be a Sign of God.[Qur’an 30:21] Husbands are asked to be kind to their wives and wives are asked to be kind to their husbands. The Qur’an also encourages discussion and mutual agreement in family decisions.
Muslim scholars have adopted differing interpretations of An-Nisa, 34, a Sura of the Qur’an. In the event where a woman rebels against her husband, Muslim scholars disagree on what is prescribed by the Sura. According to some interpretations, it is permissible for the man to then lightly beat his spouse. However, this is disputed by many scholars who contend that the expression used alludes to temporary physical separation.

 Islamic sexual jurisprudence
Some hold that Islam enjoins sexual pleasure within marriage; “Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom”. Qur’an 4:24— Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
Qur’an 23:1-6—The Believers must (eventually) win through—those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex; except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess—for (in their case) they are free from blame.

Qur’an 33:50—O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee . . . Qur’an 70:22-30—Not so those devoted to Prayer—those who remain steadfast to their prayer; and those in whose wealth is a recognized right for the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking); and those who hold to the truth of the Day of Judgments; and those who fear the displeasure of their Lord—for their Lord’s displeasure is the opposite of Peace and Tranquility—and those who guard their chastity, except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess—for (then) they are not to be blamed.
A high value is placed on female chastity (not to be confused with celibacy). To protect women from accusations of unchaste behavior, the scripture lays down severe punishments towards those who make false allegations about a woman’s chastity. However, in some societies, an accusation is rarely questioned and the woman who is accused rarely has a chance to defend herself in a fair and just manner. This is often due to the local cultural customs rather than as a direct result of classic Islamic teaching.

Female genital cutting has been erroneously associated with Islam, but in fact is practiced predominantly in Africa and in certain areas has acquired a religious dimension. The factuality of this is disputed though, as a UNICEF study of fourteen African countries found no correlation between religion and prevalence of female genital mutilation. In some countries, where “health campaigners estimate that more than 70 percent of Mauritanian girls undergo the partial or total removal of their external genitalia for non-medical reasons”, 34 Islamic scholars signed a fatwa banning the practice in January 2010. Their aim was to prevent people from citing religion as a justification for genital mutilation. The authors cited the work of Islamic legal expert Ibn al-Hajj as support for their assertion that “[such practices were not present in the Maghreb countries over the past centuries”. FGM is “not an instinctive habit, according to the Malkis; therefore, it was abandoned in northern and western regions of the country,” added the authors.

 Divorce (Talaq)
In Islam, in some circumstances, a woman can initiate a divorce. According to Sharia Law, a woman can file a case in the courts for a divorce in a process called “Khal’a”, meaning “Break up”. However, under most Islamic schools of jurisprudence, both partners must unanimously agree to the divorce in order for it to be granted. To prevent irrational decisions and for the sake of the family’s stability, Islam enjoins that both parties observe a waiting period (of roughly three months) before the divorce is finalized.

Sharia Law states that divorce has to be confirmed on three separate occasions and not, as is commonly believed, simply three times at once. The first two instances the woman and the man are still in legal marriage. The third occasion of pronouncing divorce in the presence of the woman, the man is no longer legally the husband and therefore has to leave the house. The purpose of this procedure of divorce in Islam is to encourage reconciliation where possible. Even after divorce, the woman should wait three monthly cycles during which her husband remains responsible for her and her children’s welfare and maintenance. He is not permitted to drive her out of the house. This process may leave the woman destitute should her family not take her back or the ex-husband fail to support her and possibly his children.

After the third pronouncement they are not allowed to get back together as husband and wife, unless first the wife is divorced in another lawful and fully consummated marriage. This rule was made to discourage men from easily using the verbal declaration of divorce by knowing that after the third time there will be no way to return to the wife and thus encourage men’s tolerance and patience.
Usually, assuming her husband demands a divorce, the divorced wife keeps her mahr (dowry), both the original gift and any supplementary property specified in the marriage contract. She is also given child support until the age of weaning, at which point the child’s custody will be settled by the couple or by the courts.

In actual practice and outside of Islamic judicial theory, a woman’s right to divorce is often extremely limited compared with that of men in the Middle East. While men can divorce their wives easily, women face many legal and financial obstacles. In practice in most of the Muslim world today divorce can be quite involved as there may be separate secular procedures to follow as well.

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