Rights of Women
Rights of Women in Islam
At the time of ignorance (Jahiliyya) prior to the advent of Islam women were in subjugation either to their husbands or kinsmen. They were considered a chattel to be possessed, bought, sold or inherited. They were excluded from any active role in the socio-economic and political affairs of society, in fact their personal consent concerning anything related to their own well-being was considered unimportant, to such a degree that they were never even treated as a party to a marriage contract.
The birth of daughter in a family was not an occasion for rejoicing, but was regarded with humiliation and disgrace. Family infanticide was common; in fact it was viewed as a generous act. This was because of the nature of society. There were often inter tribal feuds which demanded male members to defend their tribes, hence men were in greater demand than women. In addition, in tribal conflict, the enemy always aimed at capturing women and taking them as prisoners to collect heavy ransom, failing to do so, the women would be kept as slaves. In both cases women were considered a liability as if the ransom was paid, the tribe would lose money, if not, then their honor was at stake. Wars and invasions never ceased and taking revenge was the greatest feat. All of these things depended on the male and the women could not partake in these activities. In war time women were desired loot for the service of the enemy.
With the arrival of Islam came the verse from the Quran condemning those who practiced female infanticide.
“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” (An-Nahl 16:58-59)
And as part of a description of various events on the Day of Judgment, the Quran mentions:
“And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed? (At-Tawir 81:8-9)
Outside Arabia conditions for women were no better. In India, Egypt, and all European countries in the Dark ages, women were treated worse than slaves.
With the advent of Islam, the position of women was radically redefined. Firstly, it prohibited the practice of female infanticide and restored the birthrights of women. Islam elevated the status of women to be as worthy of human dignity as men.
Allah says in the Quran:
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away party of the Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.” (An-Nisa 4:19)
The most basic right of a woman in Islam is the knowledge and recognition that she never has to ask or demand or fight for her rights which are guaranteed to her by Allah, Himself.
RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
1. THE RIGHT OF INDEPENDENT OWNERSHIP
This involves the right to manage for a woman to own money and property independently. She is at liberty to buy, sell, mortgage, lease, borrow or lend and sign contracts and legal documents. Also, she can donate her money, act as a trustee and set up a business or company. This right cannot be altered whether a woman is married or single. When she is married she enjoys a free hand over the dower while she is married or divorced. This independent economic position is based on Quranic principles, especially the teaching of Zakat, which encourages women to own, invest, save and distribute their earnings and savings according to their discretion. It acknowledges and enforces the right of women to participate in various economic activities.
2. THE RIGHT TO MARRY BY CHOICE
Islam regards marriage as a union between two consenting adults which aims to perpetuate human life and achieve spiritual and emotional harmony. Islam attaches great importance to the well being of a marriage.
Islam is against the idea of women being forced to marry against their wishes. On the contrary it encourages women to choose their spouses. According to the prophet, ‘A widow or divorcee is not to be married unless her consent is sought.’
3. THE RIGHT TO DIVORCE
As a woman has the right to have a say on the issues of her marriage, she equally has a right to initiate divorce if the partnership proves to be unsuccessful. If the marriage contract states that she has the right of divorce she can attain one instantaneously otherwise she would have to resort to the court to dissolve the marital relationship. Overall, Quranic legislation requires some time for reflection and insists on the kind treatment of the woman. If the divorce takes place the husband has to pay back the deferred dowry and a reasonable amount of money for maintenance. He has to support her throughout the idda period (three months and ten days) to determine if she is pregnant. If so he is legally obliged to support her until she delivers and nurses the baby to a certain age.
4. THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION
Both Quran and Sunnah advocate the rights of women and men to attain knowledge equally. The Quran commands all Muslims to exert effort in the pursuit of knowledge irrespective of their sex. It constantly encourages Muslims to read, think, contemplate and learn from the signs of Allah in nature. ‘Are the wise and ignorant equal? Truly none will heed but men of understanding” “Allah will raise to high rank those that have faith and knowledge among you. He is cognizant of all your actions.” Say: Lord, increase me in knowledge. The prophet also said ‘If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell fire’
5. THE RIGHT TO KEEP HER OWN IDENTITY
A woman in Islam has always been entitled by law to keep her family name and not take her husbands name. Therefore, she is known by her family name as an indication of her individuality and her own identity. In Islam there is no process of changing the names of women be they married, divorced or widowed.
6. THE RIGHT TO INHERITANCE
The Quran has allotted a share for the woman in the inheritance of her parents and kinsmen. Her share is guaranteed by law and it is completely hers. No one can have a claim on it. The Quran says ‘Men shall have a share in what their parents and kinsmen leave; whether it be little or much, it is legally theirs’. (An-Nisa 4:7)
7. THE RIGHT OF ELECTION AND NOMINATION TO POLITICAL OFFICES AND PARTIPICATION IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Islam encourages women to be active politically and to be involved in decision-making. In fact Islam is the only religion which acknowledges a political role of women. In early Islam women were given every opportunity to express themselves, to argue, and to speak their mind in public. They led delegations, mediated and granted refuge and protection. Their judgments on political matters were highly valued and respected and they exercised great influence in shaping their own societies. Umme Salama and Aisha for instance played a crucial role in compiling the traditions of the Prophet, which are considered one of the main sources of Islamic Jurisprudence.
8. RIGHT TO GO TO THE MOSQUE.
“If someone’s wife asks his permission to go the mosque, he should not deny it to her” Women have the right to go to the mosque. They should be dressed according to the Muslim women’s dress requirements for respect.
9. THE RIGHT TO WORK OPPORTUNITIES
Islam does not forbid women to work and have a job outside the home as long as the external work does not interfere with her home obligations and lower her dignity. On the contrary Islam granted women the right to hold a job and involve her actively in trade and commerce. During the early Islamic period, women often helped men in their outdoor work and were allowed to move about freely with men. The Prophet himself encouraged his wives and daughters to engage in gainful work. He said ‘the most blessed earning is that which a person gains from his own labor. Hazrat Khatijah’s astuteness and business acumen made hers the most widespread among the Quraish.
Rights Of Women In Constitution Of Pakistan
|Topic : Rights|
Govermental Reform Initiatives
In accordance with the International conventions and declarations the government has been taking various initiatives and reform measures for improving the status of women at all levels.
Commissions On Women
Since the creation of Pakistan, there have been five major commissions and committees regarding women issues;
- Commission On Marriage And Family Laws (1955-61)
- Pakistani Women Rights Committee (1975-76)
- Commission On The Status Of Women (1980-88)
- Commission Of Inquiry For Women (1994-97)
- Pakistan National Commission On The Status Of Women (2000)
The only reform law existing in Pakistan, today, concerning women’s personal rights is the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961.
In addition to these commissions, the Government has also been taking initiatives like the establishment of the Ministry of Women Development MOWD) at the Federal level and the Women Development Departments at the four provinces. These permanent institutional arrangements are proactive measures, albeit with varying temporal focus and by and large having a welfare approach. However as long as the Institutional mechanisms are available, we can always hope for an improvement in the policies, systems and mechanisms towards women development.
In addition the initiatives include:
- National Plan of Action, and the attached implementation mechanisms.
- The National policy for the Empowerment & Advancement of Women.
- Ten years perspective plan
These policies and plans do reflect the basic themes of women development and partial empowerment, but stop short at the crucial issues of discriminatory laws and violence within the family. None the less, these policies and plans have responded to Pakistan’s international commitments and many demands emanating from within Pakistan to follow an agenda of empowerment and emancipation.
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