Women’s Rights and Equality in Islam: Challenges and Progress
By Aubaid Ahmad Akhoon
The practice of female infanticide in pre-Islamic Arabia was a tragic and barbaric reality that reflects the depth of misogyny and cruelty that existed at that time. Islam, through its teachings and principles, brought a revolutionary change in the status and treatment of women and challenged the patriarchal norms and practices of Arab society. The Quran and the Prophet’s teachings unequivocally condemned the practice of female infanticide and affirmed the dignity, worth, and rights of women as equal members of society.
“The concept of guardianship in Islam is not meant to give men control over women but rather to ensure their protection and well-being.”
Have you ever wondered why women in our society seem to age faster than men? Why do daughters start resembling their mothers’ sisters within a few years of getting married? The most stunning woman’s body may become unshapely and unsightly before its time, while a man can appear to be his own wife’s younger brother only a few years after their marriage. Who, or what is responsible for this situation: the physical makeup of our society, or the men and women who inhabit it?
Although women may be physically weaker than men, nature has endowed them with all the faculties necessary not only to carry out the task of reproduction but also to maintain a physique that is appealing to men and a source of happiness. However, in our society, the opposite seems to be the case. The majority of girls in our culture do not wish to get married, and often their acquiescence is in some way a form of compromise.
Sometimes, this compromise is made by the woman herself, with gratitude toward her parents, love, and respect for the family being the underlying elements. On other occasions, a woman is coerced into accepting the marriage. In either case, we all wish for the girl to get married as quickly as possible, so that the second or third proposal may be accepted with alacrity. Often, when bidding her farewell, we pray that her funeral will leave her in-laws’ house.
Once married, a woman’s primary duties include bearing children, serving her husband, raising her in-laws, and assuming complete responsibility for the household. After giving birth to six children within seven years, and carrying out all other responsibilities, a woman reaches many milestones, leaving the pace of time far behind. At this point, a thirty-year-old woman may begin to appear as her fifty-five-year-old mother’s sister, thus piquing a man’s interest, as men are naturally inclined toward beauty.
Now, the woman has an obligation to the man that she no longer desires. She is not interested in spending time with him, laughter no longer appeals, and opportunities for entertainment become as scarce as Eid’s moon. Although a woman may age physically, do her heart and soul likewise grow old? Don’t all the desires and aspirations that young men have a change in her heart?
One of the endless tragedies of our society is that we consider women’s problems to be limited to purity, chastity, intimacy, special days, and childbirth and that all our “research” revolves around these subjects. Women’s emotions, desires, psychology, and needs are not granted the same respect or attention as men’s, and we need to consider why a girl who was her father’s darling for twenty years becomes an old woman in charge of the household just five years after getting married.
Women’s emotions, desires, psychology, and needs are not granted the same respect or attention as men’s.
It’s important to remember that women’s rights and gender equality are not just women’s issues, but human rights issues. The progress made in the last century toward women’s empowerment is remarkable, but there is still much work to be done. Women are still facing discrimination, violence, and harassment in many parts of the world.
Islam, as a religion, has always advocated for the rights of women. The Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) clearly state that men and women are equal in the sight of Allah. Both men and women have their own rights and responsibilities.
“And among His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)
Men are appointed as guardians of women, but they also have a great responsibility to protect and care for them.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an advocate for women’s rights and he set an example of treating women with kindness and respect. “The most perfect of believers in faith are those with the best character, who lower their wings (i.e. are humble) and are kind and courteous towards their wives.” (Hadith, At-Tirmidhi). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also taught that women should be educated and encouraged to seek knowledge.
In many Muslim countries, women are playing a vital role in society. They are contributing to the economy, participating in politics, and making significant progress in many fields. However, there are still many challenges that women face, such as lack of access to education and healthcare, gender-based violence, and discrimination in the workplace.
Let us remember the women who have fought for gender equality and women’s rights. Let us honor the women who have made a difference in our lives and in the world. And let us work together toward a future where all women are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself was a perfect example of this and showed utmost respect and kindness towards women in his life. The Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) advocated for the rights of women and condemned any mistreatment or abuse towards them.
The concept of guardianship in Islam is not meant to give men control over women but rather to ensure their protection and well-being. It is the responsibility of men to provide for their families and take care of them in every possible way. This includes emotional, physical, and financial support.
However, this responsibility does not come without accountability. Men will be held responsible for their actions towards women and will be accountable for any mistreatment or abuse. Islam strongly condemns any form of violence or oppression towards women and regards it as a grave sin.
In Islam, men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah and both have important roles to play in society. Men are not superior to women, nor are women inferior to men. Both are created by Allah and are deserving of respect and dignity.
Furthermore, Islam promotes the idea of mutual respect and cooperation between men and women in all aspects of life. This includes the family, work, and society as a whole. Women are encouraged to pursue education and careers and are not restricted in any way.
Bottom line: The concept of guardianship in Islam is not meant to give men authority over women but rather to ensure their protection and well-being. Men have a great responsibility towards their families and will be held accountable for their actions towards women. Islam promotes the idea of mutual respect and cooperation between men and women and regards them as equal in the eyes of Allah.
“And live with them (i.e. your wives) in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” (Quran 4:19)
In our culture, women do not want to be free from men; they want to live with men and experience all the colors of life beside them. As a result, men must include women in all their legitimate desires, as it is their responsibility not only to earn a living but also to live a good and happy life.
“Let’s celebrate and empower women, for when a woman rises, she brings a whole community with her.”
The author is an Educational Columnist, Motivational Speaker, and Associate Editor of the weekly ‘Education Quill’. He is also the Senior EDP Head at DD Target PMT in Kashmir.
He can be reached at [email protected].