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Women under the Sharia? Oktoobar 2, 2008

Posted by spiritualphilantropy in Islamic Perspectives.
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It is widely believed in the West that Islam subjugates women. Many believe that men force women to cover their hair, to stay at home chained to the stove, that women remain uneducated and weak as second class citizens within an Islamic society. They therefore call for the liberation of Muslim women through the abandonment of Islamic tradition, on a Western image.

So how does Islam view women and are they subordinate second class citizens.

Are women equal to men in Islam?

Yes.

Women are equal to men in Islam in so much as that both men and women are addressed by God (Allah) in His revelation the Qur’an with rights, duties and prohibitions. Men and women will be accounted for what God asked of them and will not be accountable for what was not asked of them.

However, men and women were addressed differently by God in the Qur’an and so by His Wisdom he has made men and women the same in some things and different in others.

For example, both men and women pray five times each day, fast the month of Ramadhan and have the right to own property. Also both men and women are not allowed to steal, murder or have sexual relationships outside of marriage and the penalties for men and women are the same under the Sharia.

However, women are not obliged to pray at the Mosque on Fridays, to provide monetarily for their families or to join the army during times of war as men are.

Are women discouraged from working in Islam?

No.

Women can work and are encouraged to gain a good education. In Western societies, women are strongly encouraged to work. If a woman chooses to stay at home and look after her children, this is derided within society and many women feel pressurised to work, even in low income jobs in order to raise their status within society and self-esteem. This has an impact on their family lives and their children. Currently Britain has real problems with violence from teenagers responsible for vandalism, theft and even murder, teenage pregnancies, broken homes and families. Politicians are struggling to find an answer to the problems facing the youth in Britain today.

In Islam, the highest and most respected position within society is that of a mother. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said “Paradise (Heaven) is at your mothers feet,” to symbolise the very high status that motherhood holds.

In Islam, women are regarded as being crucial to the vitality and well-being of the entire society. Children are the future of all nations and they deserve the best possible start in life. Who is better placed to raise well balanced, well mannered and successful children than their mothers?

Therefore Muslim women do not feel pressurised to work and choose to stay at home and give their children the best possible start in life as nothing is regarded with more respect in Islamic society.

Why are two female witnesses equal to one male witness in a Sharia court?

In most cases in Islam, the testimony of a woman is equal to that of a man. Indeed women can be the Sharia court judges themselves as Aisha, the Prophet’s wife was.

To illustrate this, the Sharia itself is based upon the example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), much of which was reported by his wives, daughters or other women individually and their individual testimony is considered to be as valuable by scholars as the testimony of men. A single woman is equivalent to a man in sighting the moon for the advent of Ramadhan, one of the pillars of Islam.

So the law itself is based on the testimony of women, the scholars who derive this law can be women and the judges who apply the law can be women it is clearly not the case that women are considered to be second to men in the eyes of the law or less reliable witnesses. There are some cases where the testimony of a woman is valued above that of a man such as cases of adultery as follows:

… And as for those who accuse their own wives (of adultery), but have no witnesses except themselves, let each of these call God Four times to witness that he is indeed telling the truth. But (as for the wife, all) chastisement shall be averted from her by her calling God four times to witness that he is indeed telling a lie. [Qur’an 24 6,8)

The stipulation of requiring two women to replace one man as witness is mentioned in the Qur’an specifically regarding the writing of a contract for a loan as follows:

… And if he who contracts the debt is weak of mind or body, or, is not able to dictate himself, then let him who watches over his interests dictate equitably. And call upon two of your men to act as witnesses; and if two men are not available, then a man and two women from among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if one of them should make a mistake, the other could remind her. [Qur’an 2:282]

This is understood by the fact that men and women take different roles in society and there are some spheres in public life that most women will not be familiar with. The Islamic Scholar Taqiuddin an-Nabhani explained in his book “The Social System in Islam;” “… the testimony of two women is equal to the testimony of one man in actions which take place amongst the male community and in the public life.”

Some scholars have extended this to serious violent crime such as murder on the premise that women were normally protected from such crimes and may require support in their testimony although this is not stipulated in the Qur’an or example of the Prophet. It is unfortunate that in the 21st century under liberal secularism, no-one is safe from violent crimes including the elderly, women and children and so all are required as witnesses for such crimes frequently.

These judgements on witnesses are made on a case by case basis according to the facts of the crime or dispute in question. The Sharia does have mechanisms to differentiate between men and women and in what situation their witness is more useful but this in no way implies that the testimony of a woman is less reliable than that of a man in Islam or that they are inferior in the eyes of the law.

What about honour crimes?

Honour crimes are neither Islamic nor honourable. They bring only shame to the perpetrator and his family and “honour” killings are murders of the most serious nature.

The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) always sought to forgive those who committed sins in private and urged Muslims to conceal the faults that people had in their private lives, not publicise them or murder them for such errors. The Sharia is clear about these matters and if Muslims were properly educated concerning it, such crimes could be eradicated.

Horrific though they are, honour crimes are relatively rare in comparison to the 1 in 4 women in the UK today who are victims of domestic violence according to home office statistics. Sometimes this results in permanent disability or even death. This violence is not spurred by a desire to restore respect to the family but more often by alcohol, drugs, anger and a complete lack of respect for women. Many women feel unable to escape from violent relationships with insufficient support from family, the police or social workers.

Honour crimes can be eradicated from Muslim societies with education and the appropriate application of Sharia law. Unfortunately, secular law has repeatedly failed to deal with Western problems of domestic violence and these statistics are swept under the carpet whilst women in the West continue to suffer.

Why do women have to cover their bodies and hair?

Allah tells women to cover themselves so that they be recognised as pious Muslim women and are not bothered by men. It is a dress code intended to ensure respect and decency in the interactions between men and women in society.

This dress code is not as some have suggested to subjugate women nor to prevent men from lechery or worse. It is completely incorrect in Islam to say that a woman who does not cover is “asking for trouble.” Whether a woman is covered Islamically or not, a Muslim man is obliged to lower his gaze, treat her with respect and decency and her dress code is not seen as a criterion or justification for any form of illicit action.

Western societies have a different dress code. In general both men and women, but particularly women attempt to adhere to the fashions of the day. In general this promotes female images likely to be attractive to men. Often this includes a relative increase in the amount of skin displayed and a relative reduction in the amount of cloth as covering.

SEXUALISATION

Observing Western Society it is apparent that this does not promote men to treat women with respect and decency or vice versa. Men are lecherous and often speak of women in the most derogatory terms. Women are almost traded as commodities and objects of lust or desire by corporations in their advertising. Women feel under pressure to adhere to unrealistic images of perfection undoubtedly related to low self-esteem, eating disorders and depression. The Western dress code achieves an admiration of a sort but affords no real respect.

God in His Greatness has given Muslims a different dress code as part of a comprehensive social system and it is not surprising that many Muslim women choose it over other dress codes.

Women are not subordinate to men.

Women and men are not the same in Islam. God by His Knowledge has made for men and women different roles, rights, responsibilities and duties. Men have been given the responsibility of protecting women, providing for them and upholding their dignity. This does not make women less than men in any way but enhances the balance and harmony that exists within an enlightened Islamic society.

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