Are women neglected in the Islamic law?

With Islam women got the position and value that they deserved and reached welfare and bliss, they had always longed for throughout history. Islamic law has abolished the practices of excess and negligence and set up a perfect balance and harmony between two genders.According to Islam, women and men are equal with each other in terms of being servants that Allah Almighty has created. “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” (Al-Hujurat Surah, 13) “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a Watcher over you.” (An-Nisaa,1) As the Prophet Muhammad has it, no matter women or men, all human beings are equal like the teeth of a comb.” (Bilmen, Ömer, Nasuhi, Hukuk-u İslâmiye ve İstilahat-ı Fıkhiye Kamusu, II. 73-74).

Women and men are two halves of an apple. This verse expresses that most beautifully:

They are clothes (Lîbas) for you and you are clothes for them. (Al-Baqarah Surah, 2:187) Just as clothes cover private places, preserve you from warmth or cold, each of you covers another one’s bad deeds and amends your deficiencies.

Then the debate ‘men or women are superior’ is inappropriate. Again, according to the explanation in the Qur’an, just as men have some sorts of qualities and superiorities, which women do not have, likewise, women also have some sorts of qualities and superiorities that men do not have. Therefore both genders are in need of each other from different aspects and thus by creation both genders have superiorities different from each other. To make comparisons on the same points would lead us to wrong.

The best thing to do is to listen to this advice of Qur’an:

And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things.” (An-Nisaa Surah, 4:32)

After this short introduction, let us examine closely some customs that Islam abolished in favor of women and the right Islam has given to women.

1. Some Customs That Islam Abrogated in Favor Of Women:Islam rejected the notion that women are cursed, which is the belief of Christians and Jews. It severely prohibited the practice of burying girls alive, which was a custom of pre-Islamic era in Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) declared that there was no ill omen in anything and smashed the belief of considering women inauspicious. He ordered men to demonstrate great compassion, love, and care. He despised the hate towards the girl children and praised them by saying, “be equal while giving presents to your children; if I had to prefer one, it would be maids.” As an answer to one of his companions, who asked who was more worthy of respect, he said “Your mother” three times, in the fourth he said “Your father.”

2. The Rights Acknowledged To Women:Right and duty are two sister words. If there is a right, there must be a duty as well. The Islamic Law, which from the very beginning recognized women’s rights and freedom and despised their being looked down on, has assigned some duties onto them. Before mentioning them, we shall recall the principle he delivered at the Last Sermon in the presence of 130.000 people:“O People it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have right over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with his permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

Again, in a hadith, he says, “Fear Allah in respect of fulfilling the rights of women. Beware of transgressing their rights and freedom. For they have been entrusted to you.” (Acluni, Keşfu’l-Hafa, Beirut, 1351, I.36)

After this generalization, let us examine the rights acknowledged to women briefly:

Women’s Right for Alimony: A husband is obliged to provide alimony for his wife and for the children she gave birth to. That is, women may demand alimony from their husbands. In Islamic Law, the husband has to meet his wife’s expenses of food, clothing, housing, and servant. Women may not be forced to attend to the expenses: It is incumbent on the husband to supply subsistence money for the wife and children...

Women’s Right of Action: In the Islamic law, women have the right for action. They have freedom over their own properties. They can acquire or take upon themselves any kind of civil rights.

Furthermore, the guardianship of children is given to women, for boys until the age of seven, and for girls until they get married.

Right for Inheritance: Contrary to all systems of custom-practices laws (Roman Law excluded) at the time of Islam’s rise, the Islamic Law acknowledged women right for inheritance. This practice has been based on equality apart from sharing in a way two to brothers and one to sisters among siblings. The logical reasons of the one-to-two practice have been satisfactorily explained both in the Qur’an and in the hadiths. Women getting fewer shares in inheritance are not something absolute.

The Right of Study and Education for Women: Study and education have a significant role in Islam. The woman is the perfect pedagogue. It is the woman who mostly brings up and educates children. It is unthinkable that women be deprived of education. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) always encouraged and commanded women to learn how to write and to read. There came a large number of women hadith-narrators, women of literature, and most importantly great women jurists in the history of Islam.

Right for Work: Women may exercise any profession, which is suitable to the religion and morality.

The Other Rights that Women can Demand from Their Husbands: A woman may want her due dowries from her husband. Besides, the husband has to get on well with his wife. The woman may visit her family by informing her husband whenever she wants. The husband needs to have fun with his wife and allow her for legitimate pleasures. The husband may not treat his wife brutally for no reason. The husband must not reveal the secrets of his wife.

Let us indicate that although women have these rights, the head of the family is the husband. This is the principle adopted in the classical law systems anyway. Agreeing to this principle does not mean that there are, as some jurists claim, differences between women and men. The verse that points out this fact by saying that the husband is the head of the family also rejects this claim. The Holy Qur’an announces:

“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other (which means, women also excel men in certain points), and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).” (An-Nisaa Surah, 4:34)

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