Status of Women in Other civilizations And in Islam
ii) Status women in other civilizations
A. Status of women in Hinduism
1. Misanthropic practices in Hinduism
B. Status of women in the Athenian civilization
C. Status of women in the Roman civilization
D. Status of women in Judaism
E. Status of women in Christianity
iii) Status of women in Islam
A. The spiritual aspect of Islam
B. The social aspect of women in Islam
a. As a child and adolescent
• Prohibition of infanticide
• Promotion of respect and dignity for women
b. As a wife
• Right of consent in marriage
• Right of Haq-mahr
• Right of consultation in matters
• Right of divorce
c. As a mother
D. The economic aspect of women in Islam
a. Right of ownership of property
b. Right of employment
c. right of inheritance
D. political aspect
Before the advent of Islam, different civilizations assigned different status to women. Some civilizations considered her as a gate way to devil; some viewed her as a devil incarnate; some deemed her brainless or worthless; and some even believed that all evils plagued to mankind were because of women. IN contrast to other civilizations, Islam has given better status to women in society. She is deemed as an angel of house, not an evil. In other words, Islam treats women as she should be in society with its various spiritual, social, economic and political aspects.
As mentioned above, there are different religions or civilizations which treat women differently. To begin with, one of the oldest religions is Hinduism which describes women in this way:” A women, whose mind, speech and body kept in subjugation, acquires higher renown in this world and the next with her husband.”(David and Vera, Marriage East and West)
From this, it is clear that a subjugated woman is the best women who not only get honor and renown in this world, but also in the heavens. This element of enslavement of a Hindu woman is highlighted in various Hindu practices.
There are many inhuman Hindu practices which underscore the lackey status of women in Hinduism but the two are outstanding. The first was the practice of Sati. In Sati ritual, a Hindu widow was burnt alive on the funeral pyres of her husband. This ceremony symbolizes that she is a permanent servant of her husband not only in this mundane world, but also in the real one. Therefore, she is bounded with her husband who, whether alive or dead, takes her along with him. Another such a misogynist practice supported by the Hindu scriptures was the practice of polyandry. In this, a woman can have as many sexual partners as she can. In this connection, there is an example in the epic story of Mahabharta, in which Dhrupati had five Pandu husbands.
Fortunately, the practice of Sati was outlawed by Lord William Bentick in 1829, but unfortunately the evil practice of polyandry is still found in some backward areas of shining in India!
Like Hinduism, the status of the Athenian and Roman women was no different from Hinduism. The Athenian women were treated like source of all evils and consider as minors.According to Greek methodology, Pandora, the first women on the earth, was the source of all problems and evils plaguing to mankind. This story was deliberately concocted to degrade the Athenian women who brought all sufferings in this world. Also, Allen E.A, the author of History of Civilization, says:” The Athenian women were minor, subject to her male- to father, to brother, or to some kin.”
Similar to the Athenian civilization, the Roman civilization considered to women as a worthless creature or chattel. For instance, Allen E.A says:” She is a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting on her own individual taste…” In addition to this, the Roman women were deemed as chattel. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “if married she and her property passed into the power of her husband.”
Similar to other civilizations, Judaism also treated women inhumanly. For example, it deprived three fundamental rights of women such as right to property, right to consent in marriage and right to divorce. According to the Mosaic Law, if a woman was betrothed, it meant all her property was to transfer to her husband. For consent in marriage, the Encyclopedia Biblica says:” a jewish woman had no authority in consent of marriage.” Moreover, a Jewish woman had no right to divorce as according to the Mosaic Law, it was the sole privilege of men.
In Christianity, women were abhorred because of many reasons. Lecky, the famous historian, explains these reasons in following manner:” In the writings of the Father…. Woman was represented as the door to hell ,as the mother of all human ills….She should be ashamed of her beauty, for it is the most potent instrument of the devil.”(David and Vera, Marriage East and West)
In contrast to other civilizations and religions, Islam gives a very respectable position to her in society with its variety of spiritual, social, economic and political aspects. In spiritual aspect, she is equated with man before Allah. For instance, the Glorious Quran explains the equality of man and woman in following manner:” O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female and have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another. The most noble in the eyes of Allah is the one who is good in conduct.”(surah Hujurat: 13) another place the Holy Quran says:” Every soul will (held) in pledge for its conduct.”(2:36-37). In the light of Quran, it is crystal clear that men and women are equal in status in society.
This essence of equality is also writ large in religious obligations. Like men, women have to perform regular prayer, keep fast, and pay poor-due and perform Hajj. In fact, in some situations they have certain advantages over men for example, if she is on the menstrual course, or if she is nursing her baby, she can forgo her religious obligations for a while. But after attaining the normal situation, she has to make up for the missed religious obligations.
In addition to spiritual aspects, women are given specific rights and securities in social aspects of Islam. The first and foremost security given to women is to ward off her from any harm. In this context, Islam saves women from infanticide. The Book of Guidance sheds a light on this:” When she is buried alive- is questioned for what crime was I killed.”(81:8-9).
Apart from protecting her, Islam gives her dignity and respect in society. The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever does not bury her alive, does not insult her and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him in paradise.”( Ibn Hanbal, 1957). In another Hadis of the Prophet of Islam, the Prophet said, “Whoever bears up two daughters till they are mature, he and I come in the Day of the Judgment like this (pointing to his two fingers)”.
For the status of the wife, the Book of Guidance has laid down some rules for her security and rights. She is given is given four fundamental rights and securities, for which women of the other civilizations and religions had longed for. The first fundamental right given to women in Islam is the right to consent in marriage. The consent of women is marriage is indispensable in Islam. The importance of the consent in marriage can be gauged from this fact that Hazrat ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Mummad (peace be upon him), and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it)(ibn Hanbal)
After this right the next right or the security of the women is her Haq- mahr. Haq-mahr is a gift from her husband to her on marriage and its ownership is not transferred to her father or husband. The Holy Quran says, “And give women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift...” (An Nisa:4)
Another fundamental right or security granted to women is the right of consultation of women in any important matter. In this context, The Book of Virtues says, “If they (husband and wife) wean a child by a mutual consent and (after) consultation, they are not on blame…”(2:233).
The most important social right given to women in Islam is the right of divorce. In this regard the Muslim woman can even ask for the divorce by Khola which is the complex procedure of the divorce granted to women in Islam. For the divorce, the Holy Quran says, “when you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness…”(2:231).
These were the securities or rights given to a wife by Islam.
For a mother, Islam has given exalted position to her by assigning status next to God. The Glorious Quran says,” Your Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to your parents (17:23). Honor and dignity of the mother further explained in the following Hadis that a man came to the Prophet Muhmmad (peace be upon him) asking,”o Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company?” The Prophet (P) said, “Your mother”. The man said,” Then who else?” The Prophet (P) said, “Your mother.” The man said,” Then who else?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said, “Then who else?” Only the said the Prophet (p) said, “Your father.”(Al Bukhari). A famous saying of the Prophet is “Paradise is at the feet of mothers.”(Ibn Hanbal).
In addition to spiritual and social aspects of women in Islam, Islam emphasizes the economic aspects of the women in society. These economic aspects are three given to women in the shape of securities. The first economic security of the women is the right to ownership. She can buy, sell or resell her property without any constraint. The second economic security given is the right to employment. A woman can earn her lawful livelihood. She can run her own enterprise as there is no any religious bar to her self-employment provided that it should be according to Islamic ethical rules. Last but not least, a woman can inherit the property, according to Islamic law. Her right in most of the occasions is one half of the man. The one half of the share in the property given to her is not because she is lower than men, but because she has much fewer financial obligations than man who has the burden of huge financial responsibilities on his shoulder.
Coming to the political aspect of women in Islam, Islam has granted her many political rights. The first and foremost right granted to her to elect her leader. She is not discriminated like other religions; rather she is encouraged by Islam to participate in the political process by using her right to vote.
Another political right assigned to her is to consult in political decision. For example, whenever the Prophet of Islam faced any political problem, he often consulted to his wife. The Holy Prophet is the perfect example of all the Mulims( surah Ahzab, 21-22) , so it is imperative for every Muslim to follow him in this context. Beside this, during the Caliphat of Hazrat Umar a woman had argued with the Caliph on an important matter. At last, the woman won in argument and Hazrat Umar declared –“The woman is right, Umar is wrong.”
Finally, women are given right to appoint at higher political position in Islam. For instance, during the Caliphat of Hazrat Umar, Shiffa bint Abdullah was appointed for the market place.
In conclusion, the status of women in Islam is better than the other civilizations in society with its many spiritual, social, economic and political rights and securities that were absent in other religions. Women are the integral part of every society, and if they are deprived of their rights and securities in any society, then that society cease to exist.
It is requested to seniors as well as juniors to point out any breach in organization or mistakes in grammar. source: Islam Its Meaning And Message by Khurshid Ahmed.