OnIslam.net

The Story of Women in Islam

Clearing Misconceptions:
muslim-women
Men and women have been made in multi-folds of love and kindness, and both are complementary to each other – just as Adam and Eve were.

Women are the lesser gender. They have to obey their fathers and brothers, and then to obey their husbands.

They have weaker prospects to education as to their careers. They also inherit less and their testimonials are only half of men.

What is more, they are burdened with their monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, giving birth, and that horrendous six weeks or so of post-partum bleeding. Therefore, women are of lesser value than men.

It all started in Jannat Adn, more famously known as “the Gardens of Eden” (via mainstream narrations), when the forbidden fruit was consumed by the first two humans. The woman, in particular, was the culprit. She had fallen prey to Satan and in turn, seduced her husband, to turn away from their Lord, apparently, in vain plight of immortality. Nevertheless, both were shamed, she was blamed, and the two were banished onto earth.

The fall from Eden rests heavily upon her – and all of her kind of course – they (the women of earth) are always to be seen as cursed and punished, mostly through the pain and suffering of childbirth – and that is how it has always been, and that is how it will always be.

Does that story sound familiar?

Probably.

In mainstream beliefs, women are often seen as seductresses, the adulteress (despite having a man to adulterate with), the one carrying the burden of sin, and the one who should endure the severe punishment. And unfortunately, many Muslims play second fiddle to these beliefs, despite the fact that it was never mentioned in the Quran.

Adam & Eve in The Quran

This is what is mentioned in the Quran:

{O Adam! You and your wife dwell in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you (both) wish: but approach not this tree or you (both) run into harm and transgression.

Then Satan began to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said, "Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you (both) should become angels or such beings as live forever. "And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser.

So by deceit he brought about their fall. When they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?"

They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be lost.

(Allah) said: "Get you (both) down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time." He said: "Therein shall you (both) live and therein shall you (both) die; and from it shall you (both) be taken out (at last)..."

O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden, stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith.} (Al-A’raf 7: 19-27)

Just because women are seen as child bearers of their children, this does not mean that they are inferior

As per the Quran and its tafsir (interpretation), God singled out Adam for being responsible over his family (his wife Hawwa’), and asked both of them to repent for their disobedience (in which, they both did). God specifically repeats “both” several times throughout the eight verses.

Then God forgave them and sent them down to the dwelling on earth in order to populate this life with believers to worship Him. Hawwa’ (Eve) was never singled out as the burden of sin, and in fact, her slate was wiped clean with no one to carry on her burden for her.

Yet despite this clear depiction in the Quran, the misogyny runs rampant in society and is supplemented by endless feeds through the media of cultures that treat women as the secondary gender.

But the problems are two-fold. In many Muslim countries, unfortunately, women are less entitled to education and career prospects and can be said to be treated unfairly. And in some “developed” Muslim countries, women who choose to stay at home and tend to their children are seen as uneducated and less worthy of those who run rapids, competing against men and many of these women “bring upon” less worthy societal treatment upon themselves, just because they prefer to be more family-centric, or purely just a mother.

Ironic, isn’t it?

While women in Islam have and always will have the same recognition in the eyes of God, as pious believers, when they demonstrate taqwa (God-consciousness), women are not identical replicates of men. And that is where the seeds of misconception get planted and are encouraged to grow.

Just because women are seen as child bearers of their children, this does not mean that they are inferior to the male gender, because they may struggle with bouts of pregnancy and birth. Islam has made it very clear that pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are part and parcel of love and mercy that God has bestowed upon couples to celebrate an important part of worship towards God.

{It is He Who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord (saying) "If You give us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful} (Al-A’raf 7: 189)

There is no need to believe that any of the above are forms of punishment, as women’s bodies have already been designed to conceive, carry and birth a baby, unlike man’s body. Similarly, since women are designed in such a manner, that male anatomy is designed in another manner, and one “advantage” a man has over a woman to be recognized as a martyr, is to be able to fight in war, as and when the need arises to protect his people and family, for the sake of Allah.

But women too can be recognized as martyrs – in the event she dies during a pregnancy, birth or during the time of post-partum bleeding. Both are rewarded with the same blessings, because they have set out to perform a worship that is dear to God as per their own design.

Complementary Not Identical

Once we accept the notion that men and women are not identical, but complementary, do not necessarily have equal rights, but enjoy full equity based on what is prescribed in the Quran and Sunnah, a lot of misconceptions are resolved.

female inherit less than men (because she has no obligation to spend on her family...

Rather than harp on mainstream beliefs that women are to be blamed for “misfortunes” in society, we will better understand why two female witnesses are equal to a man’s testimony (to complement multi-focal minds of women), why female inherit less than men (because she has no obligation to spend on her family, whereas a man is obliged to spend his inheritance on his wife, children and parents), and why being “just a mother” is perfectly fine (there is so much riding on the importance of mothering).

A young girl being obedient to her father or brothers or a wife being obedient to her husband is part and parcel of respecting the heavy responsibilities of men that have been bestowed upon them by God as guardians and protectors of women.

Whether misogyny is seen or injustice is served in a particular culture and does not jive with Quranic injunctions of the Prophetic Sunnah, then it falls upon culture to treat women with justice.

Throughout Islamic history, women were removed from harm, hardship, prejudice and discrimination, and even instant death. The Quran warned against female infanticide, female mutilation, preventing women from becoming learned teachers and scholars, preventing women from venturing into the masjid.

Prophet Muhammad spoke sternly about the rights of wives, and even the rights of a woman who was no longer to be wed to a man – to be released in divorce with kindness and dignity! Islam educates the mother on her responsibilities towards her children in family, so, in turn, she would always be honored as the next person to pay command to after God and Prophet Muhammad. Women used to work in the same playing field as men, as long as they were treated with dignity and respect and never eschewed their responsibilities towards their worship and families. The list goes on.

And it should go on because that is the story of the woman in Islam. She is the complementary being of the male form, she is the confidante and the companion. She is the mother who brings the next human being to the world in her own compassion and the one who feeds the future, through the natural sustenance that God has given her. She is the one who rocks the baby in the sling, and the one who rocks the world.

It is so easy to look at both genders and insist that one is seen as more superior to the other. But men and women have been made in multi-folds of love and kindness, and both are complementary to each other – just as Adam and Eve were – that is why there were two of them, in the beginning, in the Gardens of Eden. Both were asked to be deployed to the Earth, and both were asked to worship God and repent for their wrongdoings. If God has that mercy upon both of them – in equity – then it is only befitting to view gender equity as perfected in the Quran and Sunnah.

It just takes a little thought and plenty of reflection to understand how and why.

First published in February 2013.
Related Links:
Women in Islam: Interview with Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Challenges Faced by Western Muslim Women Converts
The Prophet and the Status of Women
Prophet Muhammad’s Respect and Love for Women
Tariq Ramadan on Islamic Feminism (Watch)
Maria Zain is freelance writer by night and a homeschooling mother of four by day. She currently writes for an assortment of publications but has a wish to dedicate more of her time to charitable work, while championing the message of Islam through her work.

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