Darkness above the Veil
Written by Asim Nazir
Student of Master in Islamic Studies
Islamic University Qatar
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Chapter One: Secrets of the Woman
Islam has become a very alarming word in the west and its media leaves no stone unturned to prove that Islam is the religion of oppression, terrorism and carrying the doctrine of ancient era which does not have any place in the 21st century. This animosity against Islam is not a new phenomena in the west rather it’s a domination over any civilization through its ideology that their creed is the only way of life which is acceptable. Harvard University Professor, Samuel P. Huntington phrased it beautifully in his book “The Clash of Civilization”, he said,
“The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not CIA or the US department of defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to impose that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.”
Similarly, the status of the woman in Islam is also a burning debate in the west. One of aspect of that discussion is wearing hijab/Niqab which also has been a hot topic in the media recently for weeks. What triggered me into writing this essay is my wife who faced a silent opposition after wearing hijab. Islam has been facing liberal opposition on hijab/niqab stating that it is a sign of woman oppression; Islam has no tolerance for woman freedom, it does not have space for women rights, it promotes segregation and many other allegations which according to them contradict with their “liberal society” which itself has no moral grounds. The tragic element of this story is that few “liberal Muslims” also support their agenda blindly and put Islam down just for making their “liberal society” happy without having even basic knowledge of Islam. This became my second reason for me to write this essay so that I could show them that Islam is a religion of truth which treats the women fairly and gives them their rights & liberty with dignity and respect. Whereas woman’s freedom in the west is only comprise of obscenity under the name of fashion. A renowned scholar of comparative study of religions Dr Zakir Naik has exquisitely expressed it in his following statement:
“The western talk of woman’s liberation is actually a disguised form of exploitation of her body, deprivation of her honour and degradation of her soul. The Western society which speaks of upgrading the status of women in Islam, have actually reduced her status to concubines, to mistresses, to society butterflies, which are mere tools in the hands of sex marketers and pleasure seekers, which are disguised behind the colourful screen of art and culture.”
Overview of Woman Status in Pre-Islamic Society
Women in pre-Islamic society lived under terror and humiliation in the Arab Peninsula. Arabs used to bury their new born baby girls as it used to be considered bad omen to give birth to a girl. Quran mentioned about this state: “When news is brought to one of them, of [the birth of] a female [child], his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has received! Shall he keep this [child] despite the contempt [which he feels for it] or shall he bury it in the dust? Oh, evil is indeed whatever they decide! ". Islam strongly condemned this evil act and prohibited it by criticising it. Quran states “when the female (infant) buried alive - is questioned, for what crime she was killed ".In pre-Islamic society woman also did not have any rights in inheritance, If a man died, his wife was part of the wealth that his heirs would inherit and even after divorce they used to keep them in their houses as being guardians for unlimited time and they were also not allowed to re-marry without their permission which were never granted.
The marriage contract rested completely in the hands of the woman’s legal guardian whose words with regard to her marital status could never be questioned. On the other hand, there were other social strata where prostitution and indecency were rampant and in full operation. Abu Da’ûd, on the authority of ‘Aishah (RA) reported four kinds of marriage in pre-Islamic Arabia: The first was similar to present-day marriage procedures, in which case a man gives his daughter in marriage to another man after a dowry has been agreed on. In the second, the husband would send his wife after the menstruation period to cohabit with another man in order to conceive. After conception her husband would, if he desired, have a sexual intercourse with her. A third kind was that a group of less than ten men would have sexual intercourse with a woman. If she conceived and gave birth to a child, she would send for these men, and nobody could abstain. They would come together to her house. She would say: ‘You know what you have done. I have given birth to a child and it is your child’ (pointing to one of them). The man meant would have to accept. The fourth kind was that a lot of men would have sexual intercourse with a certain woman (a prostitute). She would not prevent anybody. Such women used to put a certain flag at their gates to invite in anyone who liked. If this woman got pregnant and gave birth to a child, she would collect those men, and a seeress would tell whose child it was. The appointed father would take the child and declare him/her his own.
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) declared Islam in Arabia, he cancelled all these and many other practices like that. He uplifted the woman and gave them a respectable status in the society.
- Islamic Rights of Woman
I have divided the women rights into two stage so that we can analyse that how Islam treat woman fairly.
- Individual Rights
- Social Rights
- Individual Rights
- As a child and adolescent
As previously mentioned Islam prohibits the evil act of burying new born girls, Quran said, “Kill not your children for want of sustenance for it is God that will provide sustenance for you and for children ”. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also emphasized that “Whosoever raises two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the Day of Judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together). In another hadith Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise ”.The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from that of males. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim ”. Muslim as used here including both males and females. Also teaching us to be ‘just’ with your children, According to a Hadith, in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), once a man kissed his son and placed him on his lap but did not do the same to his daughter. The Prophet (PBUH) immediately objected and said that you are unjust, “You should have even kissed your daughter and placed her on the other lap”.
- Teenager & Education
When a girl comes of age, she still lives under the protection of her parents. Father is responsible for her education and maintenance. Even the first revelation came to Prophet (PBUH) was not about pray or fast, it was about reading as Islam pays utmost importance to education. Quran says, “Read, recite or proclaim in the name of your Lord, Who has created the human beings from a congealed clot of blood (a leech like substance).” Another place Quran mentioned, “And say, O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge ” And “whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth ”. It will be worth mentioning here that we find several women scholars in early age of Islam, for instance, Aishah (RA) wife of the Prophet (PBUH) is considered a renowned early scholar, who has narrated hundreds hadiths and companions of the Prophet (PBUH) used to visit her for the clarification of the Islamic rulings in various matters. Several verdicts in Islamic rulings are attributed to her, which shows that Islam encourages educating the woman. There were also many others female scholars in early age, for instance, Amrah bint Abdur Rahman (RA), She was a jurist, a mufti, and a Hadith specialist. The great Caliph Umar Abdul Aziz used to say: “If you want to learn Hadith go to Amrah.” Imam Zuhri, who is credited with compiling the first systematically edited compilation of Hadith used to say: “Go to Amrah, she is the vast vessel of Hadith.” Ayesha binte Abu Bakar (daughter of Abu Bakar, second Caliph 632-634 CE), Umm Darda from Damascus, Fatima bint Ibrahim Jowhar (daughter of Imam Bukhari’s teacher) from Madina, Ayesha bint Abdul Hadi from Damascus (she was appointed as a hadith scholar by the Caliph) etc. Whereas there was no such concept of educating women in pre-islamic society including in the western society who till today claims to be the most civilized culture in the world, women had to fight for their right to enter universities and only started getting degrees in 1920 in Britain.
- As a Wife
According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent. Ibn 'Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of Allah gave her the choice between accepting the marriage or invalidating it .In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)" .There is another Hadith in which ‘a lady was forced by her father to marry against her wishes’ and she went to the Prophet and the Prophet invalidated the marriage . These hadith also shows that they were always welcome to come and ask Prophet (PBUH) questions. They never felt shy to come to him for justice.
When a woman gets married, she is on the receiving end. She receives a dower or a marital gift, which is called as ‘Meher’. In Islam, there is no lower-limit, nor is there an upper limit for ‘Meher’, she can ask as much she likes, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her Meher and such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband, which was the tradition before.
It is vital to understand in Islam both male and female have different roles and responsibility. Both have equal rights physically and spiritually but physiologically and psychologically are different. To ignore the differences would be unjust. Men on s whole are physically stronger than women. That’s why you’ll never find Roger Federer playing tennis against Serena Williams. Nor will you find men racing against women at the Olympics. Our bodies are designed differently. It states in the Quran, “...the women have been given rights similar against them (men) on equitable terms but the men have a degree higher ”. Most of the Muslims have misunderstood this verse, when it states ‘men have a degree higher’, yet we should analyse the Qur’an as a whole. Quran also mentions “The men are the protectors and maintainers of the women, for God has given one of them more strength than the other and they give them their means ”. In Islam, a woman is considered a homemaker she is not considered as a housewife, she looks after the house and her family, whereas a man has the responsibility for their maintenance and only he bears the financial burden however out of necessity there is no harm for woman to do work within the Islamic limits. This is the logic why man has more share in Islamic inheritance law than a woman because he is accountable to provide financial assistance to his family although, the two to one division in inheritance is not applied in all cases, for example, the Quran states, “If a man or woman died and left neither descendants for ascendants, but left behind a brother or a sister, each gets 1/6th of the share, and if they are more than two, they equally share 1/3rd of share.” So, in this case male and
female are getting equal shares.
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Professor, Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization, P. 217-8
Wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) & early scholar of Islam
Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, p.20
[Masnad-e-Ahmed, Hadith No. 1957].
[Masnad-e-Ahmed Hadith No. 2469]
Hadith in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 69,