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Islamic respect for women

Publishing Date : 04 February, 2020

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


There is a general perception that Islam oppresses, disrespects women and relegates them to a second class status. Many people may have reached this mistaken conclusion simply by looking at the actions of some of the Muslim community around them.



Therefore there is a need to separate between the teachings of Islam and the practices based on the cultural norms, traditions and customs of some societies. It is also true that there are many people who have either been raised or brought up in a ‘masculine’ society, as a result, are unable to differentiate the difference between local custom and religion.


Women’s status and rights in Islam should be judged according to Islamic sources such as the Quran and the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad PBUH – not on what the Muslim individual or society does. Because of the phenomenal growth of Islam one person in every five of the world’s population is Muslim, the result is that it brings together a plethora of different cultures, customs, regional and social norms that people tend to confuse with Islamic practice/ culture


In the Qur'an Allah frequently addresses both the man and the woman. In one passage Allah reveals:

"For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise - For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." (Quran 33:35)


O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." (Quran 4:1)


In many cases where some Muslims who have been brought up in different cultures may appear to oppress women, it often reflects local customs that are inconsistent with, if not contrary to, Islamic teachings. A Muslim is expected to uphold the rights of women, to protect their social status and prevent their degradation in any way. In Islam women are equal to men in their origin, their humanity, their honour and their accountability before Allah: ‘And they (women) have rights similar to those of men over them, according to what is equitable’ (Quran 2:228)


There are many verses in the Quran that express the value of women that show that in the eyes of Allah men and women are equal; they have the same spiritual nature as well as the same obligations of belief towards their Lord and will be judged accordingly. The only criterion for judgement is ‘Taqwa’ – God consciousness, piety or righteousness. "O mankind! Verily we have created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other.".......And the most honoured in the sight of Allah is the one who is most righteous. (Quran 49:13)


"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquillity with them, and He had put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." (Quran 30:21)
Here are some of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him:
 "It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.": "Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.": “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”: “The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best and kindest to his wife.”: “This world is nothing but temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this world is a righteous woman”


The Holy Quran says: ‘And among His Signs is this , that He created for you spouses from among yourselves that you might settle with them in comfort, and He put between you love and mercy between your hearts. Surely there are signs in this for those who reflect’. (Quran 30:21)


Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, ‘When a husband and wife look at each other with love, Allah looks at both of them with mercy’. ‘The most perfect of the believers are those who are best in character and behaviour and those who are best to their family and their


The greatest respect in Islam is for our mother: Islam respects this Divinely given responsibility and most important role for childbirth to women. Women are uniquely qualified to do this all important task it is because they have been given those special talents and the psychological makeup needed to raise children. There is no substitute for mother’s milk or mother’s love – no one can extract and bottle motherly compassion.


The key ingredient in any child’s upbringing is a mother’s patience, kindness, willingness to sacrifice her own comforts, and her natural empathy for children. A mother understands and can uniquely sense their physical and emotional needs even if they cannot express them. That is what makes them so extra special. As the Quran says ‘in travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in the years twain was his weaning’’ (Quran 31:14).


Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked ‘who requires the maximum love and respect’. He replied ‘your mother’. Who is next? He replied again ‘your mother’. Again asked ‘who is next’ the reply was ‘your mother’. On the fourth time he answered ‘your father’. This shows that a mother gets the maximum respect and love – ahead of the father. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said ‘Heaven lies at the feet of the mother’ meaning that if you fulfil your duties of respect for, being kind to and honouring your mother you will by Allah’s grace enter Paradise.


Islam treasures the role of the mother – I recently read a very simple line that captures and encapsulates beautifully this high regard for mothers: this is real gold, why should anybody trade it in for glitter? I hope that these few examples that I have given will help dispel the notion that Islam degrades and tramples on the rights of women and relegates them to the back seat. Islam does not do this; often these are the cultural, social and other customs and practices that people apply; or is it maybe,  just maybe as a result of the chauvinistic attitudes of some of us hiding behind the cloak of religion?


The Quran says: ‘O Mankind, reverence your guardian Lord, Who has created you from a single person and created like nature his mate’ (Quran 4:1). Further in the Quran there is a verse that says: ‘For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women........ who are patient and constant, who give charity, who fast and deny themselves, who guard their chastity, who engage much in Allah’s praise......for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and an ample reward (Quran 33 : 35)

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