liberty and independence of muslim women

Details of the Question
What kind of liberty and independence do women in Islam enjoy?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The value that Islam gave to women
When the past is investigated, it is seen that women had a more destitute and mistreated look when compared to men in the flow of the history. Some negative events in Islamic world brought out some wrong ideas like that Islam ignores women and doesn’t give importance to them.
In Islam there is no difference in being human between a man and a woman; they are equally liable for demands and prohibitions of God. All people are responsible with living on the earth and serve on the way of God, it doesn’t matter whether woman or man. In Islam there is no difference about the main rights and responsibilities between a man and a woman, as there is no difference in being a servant to God.
Women don’t have a secondary importance and value according to men in creation. As a principle the best of people is the one who is best in taqwa (having good deeds and keeping away from wickedness) (el-Hucurât 49/13). In Quran a woman and a man who have different physiological and psychological traits are regarded as complements each other instead of regarding one of them superior to the other or regarding them as equal. (El-Bakara 2/187)
“Never will I allow to be lost the deed of any of you, man or woman.” (Al-i İmran, 3/195)
“And of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them and ordained between you love and compassion; Most surely there are signs in this for thinking man.” (Rum, 30/21) These two verses a woman according to Islam is never regarded as a secondary person.”
The holy book Quran clearly pointed out the needs of a man and a woman for each other as a human being by saying; “They are your garments and you are their garments.” (Bakara, 2/187)
The position of women in several civilizations and communities before the rise of Islam must be searched comprehensively to fully understand the rights and the value, importance that Islam gave to women. In an era when it is discussed whether women are human being or not and whether they have souls or not and when they are totally dependent on men, when they didn’t have share from inheritance even they are regarded as a part of the inheritance, Islam religion declared that women are human beings established their rights in inheritance and put them in a place where they not only receive orders but give orders according to situations, put them in a place where they should be.
In holy Quran it is mentioned that the Prophet had an obeisance. (Mümtehine, 60/13). That shows the independence of women’s will clearly. In Islam the fundamental rights that are given to men are equally given to women. The right of living, freedom of expense and possession of property, equivalence before the laws, a fair judgment, immunity of property, the freedom of belief and opinion, preservation of honour, the right to marry and establish a family, privacy and immunity of life, guarantee of livelihood. In these fundamental rights, there is no difference between men and women.
It is known that women took part in social life in the first years of Islam. Women came to mosques, they sat before the Prophet; they used to ask questions about things special to them, questions that even today’s women can’t dare to ask. They never felt shy when they asked. They performed their prayers in the mosque, they used to listen the advices of the Prophet.
This application continued in following years. At one time, caliph Omar told the “mehir” (livelihood given to women), were too high and needed to be reduced in his preach, one of the women in the mosque stood up and objected ;”You cant take the right given to us by God, because this is a rule of the Quran. Caliph Omar, in respond to that objection, “Thank to God that there are such women who can tell my faults.” Again at the time of Caliph Omar the duty called "hisbe" which is the job to control the order and security was given to women.
When we look at the applications in Islamic countries, it is clearly seen that the rights given to women during the times of the Prophet decreased slowly since traditions are regarded as religion and accepted as religious rules.
With the effect of that understanding, in some countries women are seen as sexual objects, belittled and became outcast in the society. This application is adopted by followers of the other religions on different parts of the world for centuries. Except for some exceptions, women and men were not equal in civil and political rights by this century. In the last century, the west had bad experiences in women rights. It is a reality that, in countries where women had all rights needed, it was discussed whether women had souls or not and whether they are humans or not by the nineteenth century.
As a conclusion: we can say that in Islam a human equals to the human. In this understanding, discrimination between men and women are out of question.
Mehmet Nuri YILMAZ
Is it religiously allowed for women to work? Is it religiously proper to work amongst men?
We do not know any prohibition that prevents a woman from working. But, there are some rules that are supposed to be obeyed by the woman. When she doesn’t obey these rules, she becomes a sinner.
In Islam there is no discrimination in being human between a man and a woman; they are equally liable for demands and prohibitions of God. All people are responsible with living on the earth and serve on the way of God, it doesn’t matter whether woman or man. In Islam there is no difference about the main rights and responsibilities between a man and a woman, as there is no difference in being a servant to God.
In Islam the rights and freedom given to men are equally given to women. There is no discrimination between a man and a woman about the main rights like living, to protect and to develop your material and spiritual life; personal freedom and safety; conscience, religious beliefs and freedom of conviction; freedom of expense and possession of property; Having an assertion or defense in the court as a suitor or defendant by using legal ways, equivalence before the laws, a fair judgment, immunity of property, preservation of honour, the right to marry and establish a family, privacy and immunity of life, guarantee of livelihood.
In holy Quran it is mentioned that the Prophet had an obeisance. (Mümtehine, 60/13). That shows the independence of women’s will clearly. So, being a woman is not a reason to lose the capacity of right and action. In case of violation of her rights by her husband or any other person, she has the right to complain to the court and demand to remove that injustice.
The position of women and discussions of her rights in Islam focus on participation of women in social life and work and have a job in the public service.  
According to Islam, a woman can work inside or outside the house; can help to her husband in meeting the family’s needs. It is possible that the roles of the spouses can change, it depends on circumstances. The thing which is important is the order and peace of the family life and the proper choice of the spouses about the responsibilities that are suitable to abilities and features of them. According to some sources, there is a hadith that tells that the prophet gave the responsibility of the inner works of the house to his daughter Fatima and gave outside works to his son-in-law imam Ali. [İbn Ebî Şeybe, Musannef, X/165, No: 9118; XIII/284, No: 16355; Ömer Nasuhî Bilmen, Hukuk-i İslamiyye, II/484. That is not a binding rule that makes up a family model for Muslim people; it is a solution, in form of an advice, based on needs and traditions.
The assistance and contribution of woman to her family and the community is so big that it can not be underestimated.
The women are equal with the men in economical and commercial domains and have no hindrance. They have all kinds of rights about the law of commerce and debt that men have. In Islam all people, men or women, are encouraged to work. “That man will have nothing but what he strives for” (Necm, 53/39);”…Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women will be rewarded according to their deeds. Rather implore God bestow upon you His bounty…..." (Nisa 4/32)
There is no a sign of discrimination between men and women in the verse about the trading and domain of work “O Believers! Do not devour your property among yourself by unlawful ways; but rather trade with it by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves; surely God is ever Merciful to you.” (Nisa, 4/29) and in the hadith “It is better for a person from you to get his rope and fetch some wood and sell it from being a beggar.”(Buhârî, Büyû’ 5)
Men or women, all people have right to gain money on the condition that they obey the  general principles that the religion tells like; frankness, honesty, trust, truthfulness, abiding by the promise, having commitment to agreements and conditions and not exploiting the other side’s weakness, ignorance and troubles.
From the explanations above we can infer both that women can work and can not work. If she has the conditions she can work, if not she can not work.
One of the fundamental principles for a woman to work is to be careful about her religious coverage of herself and her dignity and gravity mustn’t be underestimated. Also she mustn’t be in the same place with a stranger man alone.
It was told by the Prophet that when a man and a woman are alone, the third one will be the devil. In such a satiation, “halvet” (being alone with the opposite sex at the same place) occurs and it requires punishment for both man and woman like “mehr-i misil” (for man) and ”tâzir” (for woman).
In conclusion, we can say that the woman, who has to work since she is in need, can work in a place where there will be no harm to her dignity and chastity. She can have social relation with the men around with that gravity and dignity. The place lacking these features is not a good place for a woman to work.
It is an obligation for man to work and maintain the family, the woman is supposed to stay home and look after her children. The man has to work and try to meet the needs of his wife. The conditions mentioned above for women who has no such a protector and who is in need and poverty. A woman whose husband doesn’t let her work can not have a right to have a job. She is supposed to live on the money of her husband, or she needs her husband’s permission.
A woman can work at house or working place of a stranger man on the way that Islam required, with several women or in an open place. There is no hindrance in this. But if she stays in a closed place with a stranger “halvet” (explained above) occurs and that is a sin. (El-Fıkıh 'ala'l-Mezahip el-Arbaa, c.3 s.125).

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