Lamin Sabally, Minneapolis, Minnesota
A great number of western media has been chronically abuzz with degrading stories depicting women as having their rights systemically suppressed in Islam. These negative and very disturbing truncated stories have therefore permanently shaped a strong public opinion in the western world about Islam, which is equally gaining huge followership in the west at an unprecedented speed. From all carefully verified and vetted signals, these are mainly falsified characterizations of women’s rights within the purview of Islamic law (Sharia). Unfortunately, the mere mention of sharia sends reverberating waves of fear and terror among some non-Muslims because of their basic lack of understanding of the divine laws. The accumulating effect has now produced a newly-coined phrase called Islam phobia that has caused heightened pointless apprehension of Islam which means peace. Conversely, it is by all strength of imagination, the best religion both in context and practice. Simply, Sharia is an embodiment of laws that are prescribed by Allah and most of these are clearly stipulated in the Muslim holy book, the Quran. It is the word of GOD delivered to the holy prophet through angel Gabriel in sequential fashion. The Quran is an amazing book of Allah both in eloquence and poetry.
To have an unfettered understanding of the status of women in Islam, one has to extensively examine the totality of situation they lived in during the pre-Islamic time in the Arab world often known as the regrettable apex time of jahiliyyaa (ignorance). In those sad and darkest eras in human history, a woman was specifically considered as a sex machine whose purposeful role in the world was only to give sexual pleasure to men. Prostitution was a very common place and women were forcefully paraded in public places to show their nudity just to satisfy sexual pleasure of men. Among the greatest documented atrocities committed was the burying alive of newly born baby girls by pre-Islamic Arabs. They so much detested and despised women to the extent that they routinely buried their daughters alive in manifestation of that abhorrence. Preference was however given to boys and the mere news of the delivery of a baby boy in the family elicited roaring celebrations in many Arabs families. On the contrary, a family is immediately struck by unbridled grief and tribulation when a baby girl was born. Arab men and husbands sealed that anger by burying their innocent daughter s alive in the dark days of time of ignorance before the coming of Islam.
The first important thing Islam had introduced at its infancy was the stern condemnation of the barbaric act and its complete liquidation in the Muslim faith. Women were considered as partners to men. Their status was elevated from there and this is being amply demonstrated in various forms and shapes.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave an inspiring promise to raising female daughters. To paraphrase the best person ever created and a Prophet who told the wholesome truth even when he joked as confirmed by the Quran, he said those Muslims who raise three female children into marital status as believing women would be neighbors in Jannah with him.
In the institution of marriage, which is the very foundation of family upon which a community or society is built, then to a nation, both the Quran and Hadith clearly outlined that it is a man’s responsibility to house, feed and clothe his wife. In fact there is a whole chapter of the Quran named women – An- Nisaa and the various shared and specific gender roles are explicitly expounded in this beautiful sura and many others such as Al- Talaq (Divorce). Even in matter of irreconcilable differences when divorce is granted, the Quran enjoined Muslim men to still allow the woman to stay in the house and be treated with appropriate respect and kindness. If things can be worked out during this cooling time, the divorce can be annulled and the two are allowed to reestablish their matrimonial union islamically.
Isn’t it amazingly beautiful, satisfying and peaceful to realize that that the elevation of women in Islam is being graciously manifested in the Quran with the naming of a whole chapter after women- An-Nisaa? The role they play in the propagation of Allah’s religion dates back to early regions before the dawning of Islam that came with the certified prophethood of prophet Muhammad (SAW), the seal and imam of all prophets. In recognition of their huge contributions in the consolidation of Allah’s prescribed religion, four women namely Fatima daughter of Muhammad (pbuh), Maryam bint `Umran (Mary daughter of Amram), mother of Christ (as) and niece of prophet Zakariyya and Ishba (Elizabeth), Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid, wife of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and `Asiya daughter of Muzahim, wife of Pharaoh have been named the most perfected women ever.
Narrations in an authentic hadith affirmatively validated the honor of their appointment and selection as the best of all women of mankind by Allah. Clearly, the zenith of accomplishments and success in life is to be chosen among GOD’s team. The the noble Quran in many verses plainly enunciates that those in Allah’s company have won a great success and for those in Satan’s team are the great and manifest losers.
The individual responsibility shouldered by each of these great role models in their generations was great and their sincerity to the Deen was manifestly affirmed. The Quran in Sura Maryam named after one of the best selected women gave spectacular narrations about the mother of Prophet Essa, Sura Maryam perfectly captures the miraculous birth of Prophet Essa and gives it as a similitude to the creation of Adam. Whereas Essa had a biological mother and not a father, Prophet Adam neither had a father nor a mother and their respective amazing stories are scintilla depiction of the might of Allah as HE just says Be and it will Be.
Both of their creation was further divinely complemented inter-alia, by the unique creation of Hawwa (Eve) from the rib- DNA as it were of Adam.
For the Saidatuna Khadija, the support she gave to the Holy Prophet never wavered by even an inch until her death. She ungrudgingly happily relinquished her entire life-saving wealth to the Prophet on the day they got married. Prior to that union, Khadija was a renowned successful rich woman in Makah and on the day of their marriage, she was reduced to penury and became penniless because she wholeheartedly handed over all her wealth to Prophet Muhammad just for the sincere support and unbridled love of Islam.
At the dawn of the religion with over 1.4 billion followers in the world now, and the fastest growing religion, the status of women was very despicable and very pitiful in the pre-Islamic time especially in the Arab world. So Islam from its very inception gave shiny harbinger for the restoration of the dignity not just to women, but to the entire humanity .Readers should know that only 25 percent of the Muslim population are Arabs and the rest are non-Arabs because the purveyor of Islam, Prophet Muhammad was sent as a messenger to the entire human race as rahma of Allhu Subuhanu Wata ‘ala
A fitting conclusion of this article which provides a clear testimony to the claim that Islam honors and elevates is entrenched in some of the direct quotes taken from the last sermon of the holy Prophet (pbuh).
”O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights 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 any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never.”
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”