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THE POSITION OF WOMAN IN ISLAM A COMPARATIVE STUD

AUTHOR : Nuzhat afza & prof.khurshid ahmad

  
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Woman:Before and After Islam
In the religions of the world Islam is the only exception which gave the attribute "better half" to woman and established her separate identity, thus giving her an independent and honorable status? Islam not only dignified the status of man but also raised the status of woman to a footing of near equality with man. Before the advent of Islam woman had no position in society. They were at the mercy and caprice of their men folk and were treated as goods and chattels. Unrestricted polygamy was the order of the day and woman could be divorced At the whim and pleasure of their husbands. Concubinage and slavery were the recognized social institutions. It was Islam that, for the first time, vindicated the rights of woman and gave them a status unknown, unsought of even to this day. They are granted all the fundamental rights. They are right of inheritance of the property of their father, mother, husband and brothers. As regards marriage and divorce, they have got fair liberty. Islam has removed various domestic and conjugal hardships of the woman by prohibiting the unlimited polygamy prevalent in those days and prevailing nowadays in the western society, of course in an unacknowledged and unrealized form. Women are encouraged to study and acquire learning. All woman and men are alike. Both should acquire education "from the cradle to the grave. " in short, islam has made adequate provision for preparing the woman as equal partners of men. There is no other religion in the world that favors women so much as Islam. It raised her from the lowest status to equality with men when the Holy Qur'an brought the following Gospel:
"O people! Be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created its mate of the same (kind)."
The Holy Prophet's world explains the verse very eloquently when he says: "Women are the twin halves of men." Could there be any justification. In view of the above quotations, of the gross misstatements of some western scholars who say that the Muslims do not believe that a woman has a soul? Obviously enough, such an attitude of unending and unmitigated hostility cannot but breed a bitter reaction. The Holy Qur'an in various places proclaims the equality of men and women on almost every plane- moral, spiritual and intellectual. This is not all. The divine ideology of Islam which fourteen centuries ago, not only treated woman as a person- as a sharer of rights as well as duties- but also portrayed her in the most beautiful and apt simile yet used in any literature, religious or other; says the Holy Qur'an: "They (the women) are your (men's) raiment and ye are their raiment." Who does not know that the raiment gives protection and security, charm and beauty, above all, warmth and intimacy-that great attribute of companionship which the Creator of man and woman ordained to subsist between the two?
And yet this sex is the one thing that, more than anything else, makes Islam the target of the most scurrilous attacks from Christianity. The very basic principle of Christianity reduces her to the utmost degradation when it makes her the cause of human perdition. But ovetitly, Christianity has universally brought it to be believed through western civilization. That it is the deliverer and savior of woman! Christianity blasts woman, but the Christian flocks are made to believe that it blesses her!

The present position of woman in Christendom is not the result of Christianity. For Christianity is banished bag and baggage from Christendom and is now used only for export to the developing countries to serve their capitalistic interests. The present-day Christianity has all of a sudden hypocritically found itself a great champion of the female cause. Whereas in fact it axes at the very root of the fair sex. For in Christianity, woman and family are things to be shunned. Today's woman in Christendom thinks that she has freed herself from man. But in doing so, she contrived to free herself from herself as well and thus from the best of man!

Woman in the west
The Eastern woman-in any before her enslave-mint to the west-made man feel the master and he thereby felt inspired; he, therefore, gave her his best. The western woman after her revolt against religion did not rest till she made man feel inferior, and he forthwith ceased given her best. Thune, he became a better business man, a better so-and-so but he degenerated as a man. Western thinkers today dolefully bear this out. Family life is obsolescent in the west. A western home is not a commendable home for woman. Marriage is a lottery. Heart- burning transference of love and affection, neglected wives, forsaken children, mistresses, and street girls are the command features of western life. The western women are the unhappy creatures on earth. Their position in society has created innumerable social, psychological and moral problems that they are desperately to solve or at least to alleviate - but all in vain.

The Western society, standing on the exaggerated ideal of equality between man and woman, has instead of improving the status of woman, actually degraded her to the status of concubines, mistresses and society butterflies who are employed as mere tools of pleasure- seekers and sex -marketers hidden behind the colorful screen of art and culture. According to recent statistics, in some western countries 60% children are illegitimate. And this in spite of modern birth-control tactics. The western women, in their unnatural desire and effort to be the equals of men, have forgotten that motherhood is their greatest privilege and highest honor. The woman who passes most of her life in providing attraction and amusement for men, who neglects her home affairs and household duties, who cannot look after children, and is unwilling to suffer the discomforts which home life and the rearing of children must necessarily involve, is positively a hateful creature. True respect for women can never spring from their exhibition of bodily charms and entertaining manners. It is only when women prove themselves good daughters, good wives, and good mothers that they can earn the respect of men. The so-called respect shown to them in western society is unreal. It is founded on voluptuousness and license for unrestricted freedom rather than on the realization of their important role as mothers and guardians of the race.
The western civilization claims to "emancipate" women only to exploit her as the means for destroying the home and family. Every effort is made to lure women away from the home by making the role of the housewife and mother as unattractive, unsatisfying and unrewarding.

This is achieved by subtle propaganda through the mass media belittling the traditional feminine role and glamorizing those women who compete in careers with men. The wife who achieves economic independence from her husband destroys his role as head of the family. Consequently in families where the mother dominates, the children naturally lose all respect for the father.

Most devastating. However, is the ever-increasing freedom for illicit sex. No effort is spared to exploit and commercialise the female body. The result can be seen in the sky-rocketing rise in the number of unmarried mothers, pregnant brides, illegitimate children, abortions, divorces, sex crimes, and cases of venereal diseases. While polygamy is regarded as an unpardonable crime seldom any legal penalties are enforced against fornication and adultery which are rather deliberately encouraged by the society and social environments, wherear Islam enjoins upon the husband the dory to maintain his wife and children, it stresses the obedience of the wife to her husband, respect of the children for their parents, the home as the centre of women's life ,modesty of dress, prohibition of free intermingling of unrelated men and women combined with the severe penalty laid down in the shai'ah for illicit sex. All this provides conclusive proof of the supreme value Islam places on the preservation of the home and the family.

Position of woman under different religions and cultures

Before discussing the Islamic conception of woman hood it would be worthwhile to have a glimpse at other religions regarding her position and importance.

Greek civilization. Starting with Greek civilization, perhaps the oldest in the world, the conception of woman can be summed up in the words of Socrates. He says: "woman is the greatest source of chaos and disruption in the world. She is like the daftly tree which outwardly looks very beautiful but if sparrows eat it, they die without fail,"
Ander sky gives the Greek conception of woman in the following words: "Cure is possible for fire burnt and snake- bite but it is impossible to arrest women's suability."

Chinese Civilization. In Chinese scripture women have been called the "waters of woe" that wash away all good fortune. In Chinese life the woman had always been regarded as inferior to man and she was conceded no rights whatsoever. A woman was regarded eternally a minor-her very children not properly belonging to belonging to her. A man could, whenever he pleased, repudiate his wife. He could sell his wife as a concubine. After widowhood she remained the property of her husband's family and it was almost impossible for her to remarry. With all this went slavery and infanticide. And as late as in 1937 there were still two million girl slaves in china.

For over two thousand years up to the Second World War. The Chinese masses were in the grip of a landlord class; and the grip was all the tighter because of Confucianism, which blocked progress, taught obedience, and the importance of maintaining the existing conditions,
Hinduism. Woman met a similar in Hinduism. And the doctrine of niyog is in fact a brutal insult to pure womanhood and must excite the indignation of all those who desire the progress of morality as also of many honest thinkers even from among the Hindus. It shocks one to hear the advocates of the Niyog telling men that in the absence of a male offspring the wife should pollute herself with a stranger so that haply she may give birth to a son. No chaste woman would ever bear such insult.

The Asura form of marriage among the ancient Hindus was nothing but a kind of sale of the daughter by the father. Legalisation has hardly saved them from cruel hands, as they never inherited any property. In Indian in ancient times (and even now in certain parts) girls were dedicated to gods-rather given in actual marriage to them so that may have the use of their services in the same way as married men had the use of their wives. Thus indirectly they are passed onto the control of priests and dharmakarthas or trustees attached to the temple on the same principle on which offerings dedicated to the gods became available to them. The women were also considered host of priests and officials. Women in Vedic times were treated as prizes of war. After victory women were forcibly abducted and distributed as articles of booty.
In those days, a Hindu marriage was indissoluble. Neither adultery nor prostitution nor degeneration could ever dissolve a Hindu marriage. What to say in life, even after the death of the husband windows could not claim separation! The cruel rite of sati was practiced by which the widow of a Hindu used to burn herself on the pyre of her husband. The widow was looked upon as something loathsome, inauspicious, and fit to be shunned. The status of those widows who did not perform sati was so disgraceful That the poor souls considered it better to be burnt alive than bearing long and inhuman torture at the hands of a cruel and unsympathetic society.
Professor Indra in her book status of women in Mahabharata writes: "There is no creature more sinful than woman. Woman is burning fire. She is the sharp edge of a razor. She is verily all these in a body. Men should not love them.. Destruction."
In Hinduism, according to he ordinance of Manu, "a woman must never seek independence and must, "a woman must never seek independence and must never do anything according to her mere pleasure. " the law of Hinduism is : "by a girl, by a young woman or even by an aged one nothing must be done indecently, even in her own house."
" In childhood, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent."
Sir R.G. Bhandarkarcomments: " The Bagdad geeta gives expression to the general belief that it is only a sinful soul that is born as woman."

Buddhism. As regards Buddhism, The teaching that Nirvana (salvation) cannot be attained in the company of woman is sufficiently to eloquent to give us a clue to its attitude towards this sex.
The idea of wedlock and its attendant worldly life is opposed to the ultimate end of Buddhism- the annihilation of desire ... the striving for which one must necessarily invoke celibacy.

To a follower of Buddhism therefore, according to the celebrated historian Westermarck: "Women are, of all the snares which the temper has spread for men, the most dangerous ; in women are embodied all the powers of infatuation which blind the mind of the world."
The conception of women in Buddhism is summed up in the words of a renowned Buddhist scholar recorded by Battani in his world's Religions, in the following words:
"Unfathomably deep, like a fish's course in the water, is the character of woman, robed with many artifices, with whom truth is hard to find, to whom a like the truth and the truth is like a lie."
Judaism. In Judaism, according to Hebrew Scriptures, the woman is under an eternal Divine curse. "of the woman came the beginning sin and through her we all die," is a belief which holds poor woman responsible for all the wickedness of man. Hence her degradation in Jewish society, where she was considered not as a creature worthy of honors but as one who could be deservedly subjected to any amount of insults. And reduced to the position of a mere chattel in the house.
Christianity. To come to Christianity the whole structure of the Christian creed is based on the doctrine of Original sin for which Christianity holds woman responsible : "The woman whom thou gravest to be with me. She gave me of the tree and I did eat. " Eve first committed the sin and caused the fall of Adam. Thus actually she was responsible for the sins of humanity and god had to send his "only begotten son, "Jesus Christ, to be crucified and to wash off sins of humanity with his blood! This is the summary of the Christian faith.
I produce bellow a few quotations which alone, taken from the New Testament itself, should, without any comment whatsoever, be sufficient to show what woman in Christianity is, and how she should be shunned by those who are candidates to the kingdom of heaven:
For, behold, the days are coming are coming in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the papa which never gave suck.

It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
For I Would, That all men were even as I myself (i.e. unmarried) ... I say, Therefore, to the unmarried and windows. It is good for them if they abide even as I (i.e. unmarried) But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.
He that is unmarried caret for the things that belong to the Lord. How he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the
Things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

He that gives her not in marriage, doeth better.
These Biblical statements on the family of woman could only lead the early Christian Fathers to make such "pious" aspersion about which no self-respecting woman can ever feel silent.

St. Paul, the premier saint of Christendom, proclaims:
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection, But I Suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first Formed, then Eve. And "Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in transgressed."
"Do you know, "says st. Tertullian to women, "that each of you is an eve ; the sentence of god on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must necessarily live too; you are the devil's gateway; you are the unsealed of that tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law ; you are she who persuaded him when the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image in man. On account of your desert, that is death, even the son of God had to die " (de colt Femi arum).
" Among all men," says st. Gregory Thaumaturgies, "I Sought for chastity proper to them, and I Found it among none. And, verily, a person may find one man chaste among a thousand, but among women never."

According to St. Gregory of Nazianzum:"Fierce is the dragon, and cunning the asp; But woman has the malice of both."
St. John Chrysostom regards woman as "a necessary evil, a desirable calamity, a deadly fascinator, and a painted ill."
In the eves of St. Clement of Alexandria: "Nothing disgraceful is proper for man. Who is endowed with reason; much less for woman, to whom it brings shame to reflect of what nature she is,"

In fact, the building of the Christian Church, as the early Fathers might be called, all vied in their denunciation of woman. She was described as" the organ of the devil" "the foundation of the arms of devil, whose voice is the hissing of the serpents," "a scorpion ever to sting. And lance of the demon." "An instrument which the Devil," " the road of iniquity, the sting of the scorpion." " an unclean thing." " a daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of Hell, the enemy of peace, (and) of the wild beasts the most dangerous", by St. Bernard, St. Anthony, St. Cyprian, St, Jerome, and St, John Damascene, respectively.

The orthodox Greek Church denied that woman had a soul.
At the Council of Macon a Bishop vehemently asserted that woman did not belong to the human species,
The woman was dubbed as an "unclean thing." The "uncleanness" of woman led the Christian Church to denounce even the holiness of marriage,- that great social institution of mankind. "Blessed," says St. Gregory, "is the one who leads a celibate life, and soils not the Divine image within hom with the filth of concupiscence."
And is it not the oppression, the killing and the indescribable torture of the Christian Inquisition. As well as these erotic aberrations, e.g. rape, incest, and sodomy of the nunneries, spoken by Lecky, through-out the first nineteen centuries, an indirect psychological compensation of this sex- suppression advocated by Christianity?
The position of in the Dark Ages-the Christian period-is summed up by Lecky in the the history of European morals. He says:
" The writers of the Middle Ages are of the accounts of Nunneries that were like brothels, of the vast multitude of infancies within their walls and of that inveterate pre-valence of incest among the clergy which rendered it necessary again and again to issue most stringent enact-mints that priests should not be permitted to live with their mother and sisters.''
Lecky obviously failed to see that asceticism and monasticism could not possibly lead to anything else. Joseph Mecabe in his The Social Record of Christianity says,: "Things came to such a pass that parishioners for the protection of their own families compelled their clergy to keep concubines."
We must ask what woman gained by the Church opening the Nunneries? Nunneries perhaps afforded her an escape from the Christian theory and practice of regarding her as the source of all evil. Admittedly, it woman a little dignity, but at what price! At the price of her womanhood, at the price of all the joy of which the Creater had made her. At the price of-woman!

Woman and Islam
Having seen how cruelly woman had been treated and mercilessly exploited by different religions and secular cultures of the world, it will now be possible for us to understand correctly the glorious achievements of Islam in this direction.
By a single masterly stroke, Islam removed the stigma of "wickedness" and "impurity" which the religions of the world had placed upon woman. Man and woman, it proclaimed, had both come from the same essence , and, therefore, if woman could be said to be wicked, man also should be regarded as such, or if man had a single spark for nobility in him, woman also should have it. " woman." Declared the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. "are the twin-halves of men."
"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 towards Allah in whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you.) Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you."

"And Allah hath given you wives of your own kind."
Islam denounced the assertion of Christian Fathers that woman did not possess a soul and that she would remain a sexless being in future life. It asserted in the words of the Qur'an:

"Enter into Paradise ye and your wives delighted.
Whoso doth that which is right, whether male or female, him or her will we quicken to happy life?
Lo! Men who surrender unto Allah and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who preserver (in righteousness) and women who preserver. And men who are humble and women who are humble. And men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah and women who remember Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and an ample reward."
Islam refuted Biblical assertion that woman was first deceived and she was, therefore, responsible for fall of Adam. It declared in the most unambiguous terms that Adam and Eve were deceived simultaneously and were, therefore, equally responsible for the deed:
"And we said: O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the garden and eat ye(both) freely (of the fruit) there of where ye will but come not night this tree lest ye become wrongdoers.
But Satan caused them (both) to deflect there from and expelled them the (happy) state in which they were."
In contrast to the view of Christianity: "Neither was Man created for the woman, nor woman for the man," Islam proclaimed:

"The women are raiment for you (men) and ye are raiment for them."
Islam regards woman spiritually equal to man as had been shown before. It also regards her intellectually equal.
The only difference it makes is in the realm of physical conditions, and this difference is based on hard facts. It believes in the principle of the division of labor. It allots the strenuous work and the rough outdoor life to man and makes him responsible for the maintenance of the family. It regards home as the first concern of woman. It allots the work of managing the home and of upbringing and training of children to women-a work which forms the most important item in the task of nation-building. It exhorts her to engage herself in the cultivation of learning and allow her to participate, if necessary, in social uplift and other schemes of national reconstruction. The life of the office and factory, it considers as uncongenial and unnatural for her, and is emphatic in its demands that should in no case step into the shoes of man, nor should man encroach upon her sphere of activity. Both should work in a spirit of harmony, sympathy, and love.
Further, there is the problem of vesting the ultimate authority in the administration of the affairs of the family. It is a fact that sound administration is impossible without a unitary policy. In a Muslim family, so far as honor is concerned, Islam has ordered to honor the mother more than the father, the sister more than the brother and the daughter more than the son. But as regards administration, that is, in the case of the husband and wife, the final authority is vested in the husband who is also held responsible for looking after the comfort of the wife, and who cannot use his power for doing any injury to her, except at the risk of losing the favors of Allah, because the wife is not this subordinate but in the words of Holy Prophet S.A.W. "The queen of her house ." The Qur'an says:
"They (women) have rights like of men against them, though men are a degree above them. Allah is Almighty, All-Knowing."

To Muhammad (S.A.W.) Woman was not "an organ of the devil" But Mushanah- a fortress against Satan. He gave the most honourable position to mothers when he said;
"Paradise lies under the feet of the mother" (nasal's).
Muhammad (S.A.W.) enjoined the acquisition of knowledge equally on women and men by his order: "The acquisition of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim man and every Muslim woman" (Ibn Majah).
The matrimonial union of man and woman had been viewed with disapproval and had been regarded as derogatory to man in certain religion. But Muhammad (S.A.W.) laid it down once for all:
"Marriage is of my ways and whoever disinclines from my way is not from me (i.e., is not my follower)"(Bukhari, Muslim).
"When man has married, he has completed one-half of his religion" (Baihaqi).
He raised the ideal of wifehood.
And of His (God's) signs is this: He created for you helpmates from (among) yourselves that ye might find solace in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy.
He inculcated respect for women in these words :
God commands us to treat women nobly, for they are our mothers, daughters, and aunts.
The world and all things in the world is a virtuous woman (Muslim).
He bade his followers to behave most humanely towards their wives:
"... Consort with them (i.e. the wives) in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hate placed much good."
The best of you are they who behave best to their wives (Tirmidhi).
A Muslim must not hate wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, then let him be pleased with one that is good.

The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect of faith he is (Tirmidhi).
Fear God in respect of women (Muslim).
"women," said he " is the queen of her house."
When a woman observes the five times of prayers, and fasts in the month of Ramadan, and is chaste, and is not disobedient to her to enter paradise by whichever door she likes.
Before the advent of holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) woman did not enjoy a position independent of man. This she received from him. Is Islam woman is an independent personality. She can enter into business; make any contract or testament in her own name. She is entitled to inherit, as mother, wife, sister and daughter, a thing unknown in any other religion, civilization or legislation. She is given liberty to choose her husband.

It is not lawful for a guardian to force an adult virgin into marriage. None, not even the father nor the sovereign, can lawfully contract woman in marriage who is an adult and of sound mind without her permission, whether she be a virgin or not.