After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, social media has been abuzz with discussions on the rights of women. Various views have been put forward by people who are involved in politics and religion. While many believe that under an Islamic system rights of women can be secured, others blame the religion of Islam for the misadventures of the Taliban government. What are the rights of women in Islam? How far are the claims of the opponents true that it is a religion that curtails the rights of women? Let’s examine in the light of the Islamic principles.
Gender disparity and violence against women are global facts and are not restricted to any one part of the world. The United States, which considers itself a big example of democracy and equality, is yet to elect a woman head of the state. Women have been contesting throughout history that they be treated equally but every powerful group characterized by patriarchy has denied women their agency and has resisted their claims to equal rights and dignity. In an age where people read less reality and more rhetoric, activists are often pitted against religion to make unfounded allegations against religious teachings that they’re the sources of misogyny.
The Holy Quran guarantees omen a number of freedoms, like the freedom to move about, speak, live with poise everywhere, anywhere, enter any place, work in whatever contributes to the good of her family in particular and for the society in general. It was the coming of Islam, the religion of justice, which ushered in a system of equality, fairness and justice to all. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the farewell pilgrimage, delivered the sermon in which he praised Allah and reminded people about their religious duties. During this sermon, the messenger of Allah said, “ I strongly advise you to treat women well”.
In Islam, men and women are equal in the sense that it suits the nature of each; there is no difference between men and women. The Qur’an says:
“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women” . Also, “Men and women were created from a single soul”. The Qur’an calls a woman Muhsana or Rabbat ul-Bait – a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him on the right path in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a virtuous act.
He said: “When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion.” He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: “Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)”.
A woman is completely independent in Islam. She is entitled to inherit a position as mother, as wife, as sister and as daughter. She has perfect liberty to choose her husband. The pagan society of pre-Islamic Arabia had an irrational prejudice against their female children whom, in many cases, they used to bury alive. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was totally opposed to this practice. He showed them that supporting their female children would act as a screen for them against the fire of Hell.
It is mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith about the values of women and its importance and as the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work, and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of Allah’s laws.”
Thus, in the age of hostility, women might find themselves cornered and defeated but it’s the recourse to the essential religion women have to make so as to secure their rights. It’s the societies that deprive women of rights, not religious texts. Rising cases of violence against women and bodily offences are not taught by the religion of Islam and it is the religion of Islam that detests the violence against the women the most. Social media may be abuzz with misinformation on religion and women but I am sure as a religious scholar that my religion gives me rights rather than depriving me of rights. Social media, rather than presenting a true picture of events, presents only the things that suit narratives of different kinds. Thus, religion gives rights, rather than taking away those, as is spread across the global space.
Afreen Showqat, Research Scholar, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir.