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The True Status of Woman in IslamWritten by محبوب حسين الأزهرى
I commence the translation of the booklet “ISLAAM MEIN `AURAT KA MAQAAM” by the Late and Great Pir Muhammad Karam Shah Al-Azhari (Rahim-Allaahu `Anhu), in the Glorious Name of Almighty Allaah, the One and Only God, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent. May all praise be the Allaah the Lord of the Worlds, and salutations to His Beloved Messenger Muhammad (Sall-Allaahu`Alayhi wa-Sallam) on whom we invoke the blessings of Almighty Allaah for ever and ever.
Brothers and Sisters,
It is an honour for me to present this brief but concise piece of work entitled “ The True Status of Woman in Islaam ”. However it may be, it is no original concept of my own, but rather, a small structure on the base of the Urdu booklet known as “Islaam Mein `Aurat Ka Maqaam” which is related to the great Thinker of Islaam, Mufassir of the Noble Qur’aan and Spiritual Guide of many, the unforgettable Pir Muhammad Karam Shah Al-Azhari (May the Blessings of Almighty Allaah shower upon him) whose soul proceeded from this world to the next in April 1998.
May I also clarify that it is due to confining this work to the main subject of the above-mentioned Urdu booklet and its conciseness and that my original objective was its translation, the reader may notice that I have not touched many topics which may have come under the same heading. Nevertheless, I have slightly extended my views to the modern pro-feminist errors, which many of those who reason will agree to, that could jeopardise the world in general, and the West in particular.
I hope this booklet proves beneficial to the reader and helps in erasing any doubts and ambiguities concerning the status of woman in Islaam.
May we all pray for the departed soul of the Great Pir Muhammad Karam Shah Al-Azhari (Rahmatu-l-Laahi `Alayhi).
Tahir Mahmood Kiani
Graduate of Jamia al-Karam
B.A./LL.B (Honours) Shariah & Law (IIUI)
Woman is the twin half of man. She comprises half of the total population of the world. She has roles to play and duties to fulfil in this huge world of ours where she performs the characters of mother, wife and daughter, which ultimately go on to prove her eminence and importance in both the domestic and social dimensions. This is the sole reason for her equality in rights and duties with man. Mind you, these rights and duties are distributed equally, with respect to the natural being of the sexes which is why many of these rights are not the same. The first to declare these rights and duties for the female was the most consummate and elaborate socio-political system of them all – Islaam.
Islaam appeared as a saviour for the whole creation in general, but let us not forget that humans were the main objective, and as we all know, the human race includes, as well as man, the female gender. Islaam bestowed upon woman the right to breathe freely, the right to speak truly, the right to safeguard her rights, the right to prosper and the right to excel. It also advised her to adopt modesty, decency and virtue. It gave examples of pious women such as Maryam (A.S.) and the wife (A.R.) of Pharaoh which helped encourage chastity and goodness and elevated the dignity of women who followed suit, creating women of the highest calibre, women like Khadeejah (R.A.), `Aaishah (R.A.) and Raabi`ah al-Basriyyah (A.R.).
It was Islaam that paved the way for the progress, development and prosperity of women and let us be convinced that its advent was literally the illumination of a beacon for others to follow.
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In the following pages, we shall be touching the main areas of oppression that befell woman, the neglect and brutality she faced in her domestic and social environments as a mother, wife and daughter, and how Islaam pioneered in restoring her true honour and reputation. We shall finally be concluding with the dangers the Western world is facing due to the unlimited and unbridled rights and privileges it has gifted to women.
THE TRUE STATUS OF WOMAN IN ISLAAM
Prior to discussing what status Islaam gave woman after its advent, it would be appropriate for us to take a short trip to the past and briefly encounter the situation and problems prevailing then.
Just over fourteen centuries ago, in ante-Islaamic times, woman, literally, had no existence. She had been extinct for a long time. The simple reason is because she was not considered a part of the society. It was a supremely man’s society where woman was heavily burdened with duties but enjoyed almost no rights at all. She was oppressed and neglected in every way. She was to bear and raise children at home and serve her husband like a slave would serve his master. Female children would be buried alive and a widowed mother could lawfully be remarried to her stepsons and foster sons.
Under these traditions where abysmal chaos, anarchy and extreme sexism dominated the scene, Divine mercy intervened and Islaam jumped in as the hero, the saviour. It elevated the neglected, socially rejected and legally abused woman from the deep and dark abyss of savagery and oppression by raising her status and literally placing blessings upon her head and Paradise under her feet.
Declaration of Equal Rights
1- The Blessed Qur’aan, the Word of Almighty Allaah, revealed to the Last of the Messengers, Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allaah always shower upon him), was the first to declare equal rights for women.
“wa lahunna mithlu-l-ladhee `alayhinna bi-l-ma`roof(i)” (2:228)
“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.”
There are democracies today that boast themselves champions of equality and on the other hand mudsling at Muslims by saying that Islaam does not give equal rights and opportunities to women by restricting them from socially mixing in with men and imposing numerous duties and limitations on them. Let us first get our facts right. Islaam does let women work in a decent manner, in a decent atmosphere and adopt a decent profession that suits her nature. Islaam does not, however, permit women, and at the same time men, to socialise with the opposite sex due to the fact that it may lead to illicit relations between them, and this is the main problem which could jeopardise the natural family structure. Then again, nature plays a leading role in the determination of rights and duties for each being. The male can never be a mother, biologically, and naturally speaking of course, and neither can the female become a biological father. That is as simple as it can get. Both genders have their own biological compositions, their own set of rights and their own set of duties. The Holy Qur’aan says:
“wa laysa-dh-dhakaru ka-l-unthaa” (3:36)
“The Male is not like the Female.”
Alexis Carrel, The French Laureate, agrees with this divine verse when he states in “Man, the Unknown” that the differences existing between man and woman are of fundamental nature than is usually realised. Ignorance of these fundamental facts has led promoters of feminism to believe that both sexes should have the same responsibilities. In reality, woman differs profoundly from man. Every cell of her body bears the mark of her sex.
He goes on to say that because males and females also have differences in the disposition of their nerves and in their mental and emotional talents, therefore women should develop their aptitudes without imitating the males. Partisans of women’s liberation aim at a false conception of equality as if that miserable condition meant a precise similarity and identity in upbringing, employment, responsibilities and duties.
It is evident that the biological composition of males and females is very different and therefore their rights and duties are distributed according to these differences. It is not right to give them the same rights in every social aspect but equal rights as Islaam does. Remember, equal rights does not mean same rights.
Right of Inheritance
2- Women, before the advent of Islaam, had no right of inheritance. Places like Iran, India, Arabia and the whole of Europe were enveloped in a darkness and experiencing a chaos that no woman could hope for a successful protest. Speaking of the obvious, she would be maltreated, abused and tortured if she mentioned any such right.
Islaam was the first to grant woman the right to inherit. The Noble Qur’aan says:
“li-r-rijaali naseebum-mim-maa taraka-l-waalidaani wa-l-aqraboona, wa li-n-nisaa’i naseebum-mim-maa taraka-l-waalidaani wa-l-aqraboona …” (4:7)
“For men there is a share of which is left by their parents and close relatives; and for women is (also) a share of which is left by their (the women’s) parents and close relatives.”
Woman, before the advent of Islaam, could not inherit, and in fact, on the contrary, she herself would be inherited. She would be considered a part of the inheritance herself, either kept or sold by the male inheritors.
Today, some societies do allow women to inherit but let it be known that this rule was introduced by Islaam. It is a right enjoyed by the woman, young or old, implemented since the first days of Islaam.
Right to Work for Income
3- Islaam does permit woman to work and earn for a living. This right Islaam gave to her fourteen centuries ago when the rest of the world had discarded her.
“li-r-rijaali naseebun-mim-maa-ktasaboo,wa li-n-nisaa’i naseebun-mim-maa-ktasabn(a)” (4:32)
“For the men there is a share (in the wealth) of what they earn, and for women there is a share (in the wealth) of what they (women) earn.”
The above verse of the Glorious Qur’aan clarifies the position of Islaam with respect to the occupational working of women. There are, however, some legal conditions and restrictions that must be kept in mind at all times.
Islaam does not require women to participate in trade, the vocations and professions unless it is very necessary. As I have mentioned earlier, the biological formations and physiological structures of either sex are very different and therefore they are assigned to play a distinct role in the family. The main role of the woman is to look after her matrimonial home, bear and bring up children in a befitting manner, etc. If she can perform this role perfectly and also work outside the home to supplement her husband’s income, she may do so, as long as her work does not ask her to transgress the boundaries drawn by the Islamic Canon, the Shariah.
These are the three fundamental changes brought by Islaam to raise the status of women in our societies. If Islaam had not amended these social precedents, it would have been hard to reckon that any other social, political or welfare system would have done so because they were definitely inconceivable by the simple human mind.
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Basically, woman has three important roles to play in a society. She is either a mother, a daughter or a wife. None of these roles were respectfully recognised until Islaam brought about some very essential changes. In the next few pages, we shall be explaining, very briefly, the predominant customs and practices relating to the immoral exploitation of women with respect to their three roles and how Islaam terminated that oppression and blessed women with their due honour and reputation.
Among many of the tribes of Arabia, it had become an established custom to get rid of the newly born daughter as soon as possible. To the father, the birth of a daughter meant the birth of a curse. It would send a wave of rage within the stonehearted father who would immediately bury her alive, watching her screaming and crying helplessly for sympathy and fatherly affection. Many a female child would suffer similar consequences, sooner or later.
When Islaam came, the teachings of the Holy Qur’aan and the guidance of the Mercy for the Universe, the Messenger Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Almighty Allaah always shower upon him) helped eradicate such evil completely. The Merciful Messenger (Sall-Allaahu`Alayhi wa-Sallam) promised Paradise to anyone who would bring his daughters up according to Islaamic teachings and then wed them to pious husbands. Other similar teachings in the Glorious Qur’aan and in the example of the Final Prophet (Sall-Allaahu`Alayhi wa-Sallam) had such a positive impact on social life as a whole that the concept of the so-called ‘curse’ was morally amended, renamed and up to this day has been known as ‘blessing’.
The piteous and miserable condition of the wife is not unknown. She was overworked, underfed and treated worse than an animal. She would breathlessly serve her husband and children, day and night, having very little time for rest. Her toil and moil would hardly be remunerated except for the rags on her back and the bits of food, mostly stale, just enough to keep body and soul in tact.
Her succour appeared in the gift of Islaam, which quickly relieved her of this contempt.
“wa `aashiroo-hunna bi-l-ma`roof(i)” (4:19)
“(Oh Believers!) Live with them (your wives) peacefully.”
“hunna libaasun-lakum wa antum libaasun-lahunn(a)” (2:187)
“They (your wives) are a garment for you and you are a garment for them”
The Beloved Messenger (Sall-Allaahu`Alayhi wa-Sallam) is reported to have said:
“khayrukum khayrun bi-ahlihi wa ana khayrun bi ahlee”
“The best of you is he who is best (in conduct) with his family, and I am best (in conduct) with my family.”
These are only some of the teachings found in the Book of Allaah (`Azza wa-Jall) and in the Sunnah of the Beloved Messenger of Allaah (Sall-Allaahu `Alayhu wa-Sallam), which helped reinforce the matrimonial relationship between a man and a woman and helped promote a healthier and moiré peaceful domestic atmosphere.
Islaam honours the mother with the title of “Queen of the Home”, but the situation was not so before Almighty Allaah sent His Final Messenger (Sall-Allaahu`Alayhi wa-Sallam).
The mother would be ill-treated and abused during her matrimonial period by her husband and children, and once widowed, she would often be made part of the inheritance, let alone be only deprived of inheritance. One of her foster sons, stepsons or all of them would be entitled to marry her or cohabit with her. She may even be traded. She was given no eminence at all and was considered nothing more than moveable property that could be bargained at will.
Islaam restored this sacred relationship and put it back into the spotlight by declaring through the words of the Holy Prophet (May Allaah Almighty always shower peace and blessings upon him):
“al-jannatu tahta aqdaami-l-ummahaat(i)”
“Paradise lies under the mothers’ feet.”
There are many such verses and traditions which insist the Muslims to respect and serve their parents, especially their mothers.
Today, the civilised, developed and modern Western world, we will find ‘old people’s homes’, established to shelter those elderly and helpless people who have been rejected and discarded by their unfaithful grown-up children and have no-one to look after them.
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Islaam, evidently, had enhanced the status and honour of woman when no other religion or social system had ever pondered over the position of her existence. Islaam entitled her to rights she had never experienced before. She was now able to compete with man in every sphere of life and assist in building a healthy and pious social atmosphere. This is what kick-started the ‘progressive society’.
Where man was given the chance to excel in piety and chastity, woman was also encouraged to do likewise, as the Noble Qur’aan says:
“inna-l-muslimeena wa-l-muslimaati, wa-l-mu’mineena wa-l-mu’minaati, wa-l-qaaniteena wa-l-qaanitaati, wa-s-saadiqeena wa-s-saadiqaati, wa-s-saabireena wa-s-saabiraati, wa-l-khaashi`eena wa-l-khaashi`aati, wa-l-mutasaddiqeena wa-l-mutasaddiqaati, wa-s-saa’imeena wa-s-saa’imaati, wa-l-haafizeena furoojahum wa-l-haafizaati, wa-dh-dhaakireena-l-Laaha katheeran-wa-dh-dhaakiraati, a`adda-l-Laahu lahum-maghfiratan-wa-ajran `azeema(n)”
The Glorious Qur’aan (33:35)
“For Muslim men and women,
for believing men and women,
for devout men and women,
for true men and women,
for men and women who are true and constant,
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 Allaah’s praise,
for them has Allaah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”
This verse testifies that both men and women have been given the opportunity to do pious deeds and adopt chastity in order to please their Lord Sovereign, Almighty Allaah (`Azza wa-Jall), and to win for themselves an honourable place in this world and the Hereafter.
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The appearance of Islaam meant the honourable and rightful recognition of woman as a human. It meant her entitlement to equal rights and opportunities to play a positive role in the society, to make good use of her talents. Islaam blessed her with an inconceivable social status as a mother, wife and daughter. It gives her freedom to do whatever she wills, however, whenever and wherever she wills, subject to the rules, regulations, restrictions and injunctions as enunciated by Islaam.
Many Western thinkers still fail to comprehend that unlimited freedom disturbs the natural chastity of the woman. If given unlimited rights or rights unsuitable for her biological physique, the system has every chance of polluting the social environment with uncontrollable corruption and filth. Pornography, prostitution, rape, fornication and homosexuality are only some of the moral diseases plaguing the Western world today.
The world must think again and again and realise that only Islaam holds the solutions to today’s evils facing mankind. The rights and duties, befitting the natural characteristics of a woman, should not only be handed over to her, but also be kept limited and safeguarded to socially administer our lives and to assure the all-round prosperity and everlasting peace the world needs. It was Islaam that pioneered dignity and honour for woman and it is Islaam that shall safeguard it.
Tahir Mahmood Kiani
B.A./LL.B (Honours) Shariah & Law (IIUI)
Allama Hafiz Mahboob Hussain al-Azhari BA (Hons), BSc (Hons), MA (RES) Secretary of WAAG (World Association of Al-Azhar Graduates) UK, a mureed of Hazrat Zia-Ul-Ummat Shaykh Pir Justice Pir Karam Shah Al-Azhari and a student of Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada. As such, Mahboob Hussain is the founder and resident scholar of PirKaramShah.com. He was born in Pakistan in 1976 Mahboob Hussain arrived in the UK in 1978 where he settled in Dewsbury. In 1980 he began his primary Islamic studies under Abul In’am Muhammad Abdul Bari Chishti and followed that by memorisation of the Qur'ân. After completing his GCSE’s in 1993 he rejoined his teacher in Jamia al-Karam, which at that time was at the former site in Milton Keynes, where under his tutelage and the auspicious guidance of Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada, he began his studies in Arabic and Islamic studies and A Levels. Here he was fortunate to meet with his Shaykh, the Ummah’s Luminary, Justice Shaykh Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari (ra) and pledged his allegiance to him.
After completing his A Levels and studies in Jamia al-Karam in 1997, he was fortunate to pursue his studies in Jamia al-Azhar, Cairo where he gained a BA honours from the Department of Theology, specialising in the science of Prophetic Traditions. After completing his studies in 2000, he returned to the UK and spent a year teaching Arabic and Islamic studies in his local town Dewsbury. In 2001 he began BSc in Computing and Information Studies in the University of Bradford, which he completed in 2005 and immediately rejoined Shaykh M I H Pirzada at Jamia al-Karam as a teacher. Mahboob Hussain has achieved his MA thesis by research at the University of Leeds titled ‘Jewish Anecdotes in Qur'ânic Exegesis’ and is currently looking forward to his upcoming PhD InshAllah. He is also involved in alot of other literary work, such as English translation of selected surahs of Tafsir Zia-Ul-Quran, soon to be exclusively released on pirkaramshah.com.