People nowadays talk a lot about the position of woman in Islam, particularly Western people, who believe that woman have no right in Islam comparable to those enjoyed by European women. Such criticisms surprise Muslim scholars, and they wonder how western people arrive at this idea about the status of women, since it is completely contrary to the facts.
The women in Islam has full rights in the same way that man has. No difference at all exists between male and female, except when it comes to physical duties which women cannot perform, or financial responsibilities, which fall completely on the shoulder of the man.
To understand this future, we have to study what the Holy Qur’an says and what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught regarding the status of woman in Islam. In the Holy Qur’an we find that when Allah (SWT) address to the believers, He always says “O you who believe, male or female”. This kind of address always occurs in Holy Qur’an , and it illustrates that both sexes are treated equally.
Sometimes, however, women are exempted from certain duties on physical grounds, such as the duty of fighting to protect one’s country, and of earning a living for the family. To develop this point further, woman in Islam, whether she is a daughter or sister, a wife or mother or grandmother, has no responsibility to maintain her support herself.
This duty falls the man. If she is a daughter, her father is responsible for her, if a sister, a brother is responsible; if a niece, an uncle ; if a wife, her husband. If she is a mother, a son is responsible for her, if a grandmother, a grandson.
This responsibility has been prescribed by the law of Islam and if any Muslim try to escape from fulfilling his duty, The Judge in Islam has a right to take what the woman needs by force from his assets and give it to her. If he continues to neglect his duty the judge is empowered to order the deduction of the required money from his income. This protection is granted to the woman so that she can lead a good life.
If we compare this situation with the rights of a European woman, we will find a big difference. Once a girl in Europe has reached the age of 18 her father is not legally responsible for her any longer. If her father refuses her needs, she is obliged to make her own way in life, and many woman advanced in years have to go out to work in order to live. Such a situation in Muslim society would be a source of shame and scandal to the members of the family.
A woman in Islam is entitled to buy and sell and involve herself in any business she chooses, as long as her action will not effect her honor. She is entitled to use her money for her benefit through her agency or directly, and no one has a right to take this money from her, whether he is her husband or her father, unless she gives it to them voluntarily.
Furthermore a woman in Islam will keep her maiden name after marriage, and this illustrates the amount of independence she still retains even within marriage. In the case of European woman, it is customary for her to assume her husband’s surname.
Some people refer to the right of inheritance in Islam, and use it to illustrate that woman has less rights than man, but if we bear in mind the great responsibility born by the man and the fact that the woman bears no responsibility, we will realize the wisdom of giving a man double the rights of inheritance to those accorded to a woman.
Suppose a man died and left two sons and two daughters, then his legacy will be divided into six parts- each girl will receive one part and each son will receive two. It may sound unfair if we forget the man’s responsibility towards the woman, but if we remember the duty of son to spend his own money in keeping his sisters and providing them with a suitable home until they get married, we will realize why Islam gives the man a double share in the heritance.
Marriage and divorce in Islam are regarded by some western people as being very different in that a woman is treated as being second class. But if we understand the system of marriage in Islam we will come to realize that this is not so.
Marriage in Islam is very important, and Islam does its best to support and protect family life and to save it from any break. Thus a man and a woman have both the right to know about each other before getting married, with regard to the standards of the family, the character of its members, there way of life and also to know what the prospective spouse looks like.
The woman has every right to refuse anyone who has come to propose marriage to her if she does not wish to accept him as her husband. No one can force her. Her word is the final word, even her father has previously given his word. The following example will show us the attitude of Islam towards this particular point from the time of the prophet;
A man decided to marry his daughter to his nephew. The daughter came to Prophet (PBUH) and said:” O Messenger of Allah, My father has decided to marry me to his nephew so that his position in society may be enhanced.”
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “It is up to you to accept what your father has decided for you or to refuse.”The girl said, ” I have accepted what my father decided for me but I only wanted woman in Islam to know that a man has no right to force her in marriage.”