“Oppressed, downplayed, second in importance and representation”– sheer heresy.. “To be avoided, weak, and marginalized” — complete ignorance and total deviation from the truth. Beyond misconceptions, whether purposeful, manipulated or unintentionally spread, what do women mean to Islam and Muslims?

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, which was celebrated by the world yesterday, I thought this would be a timely and opportune chance to present the pure image of women in Islam, beyond any defiling or deviation.

Islam abounds with many examples from the Quran and the Prophet’s Sunnah all laying special stress on respecting women and treating them well.

Allah Almighty says; “Live together with them correctly and courteously,” – Quran (4:19)

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Treat women well. Woman was created from a rib. The most crooked part of the rib is the top part. If you try to straighten it, you will break it. If you leave it, it remains crooked. So treat women well.” – [Agreed upon]

And in a variant in the two Sahih collections, “A woman is like a rib. If you straighten it, you break it. If you wish to benefit from her, you can benefit from her in spite of her crookedness.” In another variant, recorded in Sahih Muslim, the Hadith reads: “Woman was created from a rib, and you will never find any means to straighten her. If you wish to benefit from her, you can benefit from her in spite of her crookedness. If you try to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her means divorcing her.”

As for harsh treatment of women and all kinds of domestic violence practiced against them and mistakenly attributed to the Islamic teachings, maltreatment of women and abusing their rights is warned against and rejected in Islam and the clearest and most direct manner. Over and above it’s considered sheer contradiction to the noble teachings of Islam, which pays strict attention to respecting human dignity and views men and women as equal, even if they’re not similar in characteristics and roles in life.

‘Abdullah ibn Zam’a (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) giving a speech in which mentioned the She-camel and the one who hamstrung her. The Messenger of Allah said, “‘The worst of them rushed ahead,’ (91:12) means that a mighty, malicious, powerful man in his party leapt to do it.” Then he mentioned women and gave an admonishment regarding them, saying, “Some of you go and flog their wives as a slave is flogged and then sleep with them at the end of the day.” Then he admonished them about their laughing at people breaking wind and said, “Why does one of you laugh at something he himself does?” – [Agreed upon]

Islam prescribes that women be dignified and viewed in a similar stature as men- not to be humiliated nor looked down upon.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “A believing man should not hate a believing woman. If he dislikes something in her character, he should be pleased with some other or another trait of hers.” – [Muslim]

In Islam, women are to be protected and their rights are to be safeguarded. They have separate properties, over which they have full control and have complete freedom and right to run and manage them as they wish. Among the very last words utterd by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on his death bed where advices to treat women well and humanly.

‘Amr ibn al-Ahwas al-Jushami (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say during the Farewell Hajj after praising and glorifying Allah, and reminding and admonishing, “Treat your women well. They are as captives in your possession. You have no rights over them except that [i.e. physical enjoyment and that they protect their husband’s interest in respect of themselves and his property]. If they act licentiously in an open way, then leave them alone in their beds and beat them but not severely. If they obey you, you have no way against them. You have rights over your women and your women have rights over you. Your right over them is that they do not allow into your bed those you dislike and do not permit those you dislike to enter your house. Their right over you is that you are good to them in respect of their clothes and food.” – [at-Tirmidhi]

As for the Kawama, or the so-perceived privilege men have over women, it is one major source of misconception among Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Such position or stature given to men over women is one of protection and additional responsibilities to serve women and look after them.

Women’s rights over men are clearly defined and highlighted in the Islamic tradition.

Mu’awiya ibn Hayda (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I asked, ‘Messenger of Allah, what is the right of someone’s wife over him?’ He said, ‘That you feed her when you eat and clothe her when you clothe yourself and do not strike her face. Do not malign her and do not keep apart from her, except in the house.'” – [Abu Dawud]

Moreover, good treatment of women and dignifying them is highlighted as part and parcel of a good and genuine Muslim character, it’s part of one’s Islamic attitude and civilized manner.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) stated, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are the best to their women.'” – [at-Tirmidhi]

As for Hijab, mistakenly perceived as a sign of oppression, it is a way of dignifying women and elevating them beyond female slaves; maltreated and used as elements of pleasure and joy before Islam. Hijab has been highlighted as an obligatory act for women, one of great importance to preserve and safeguard their dignity and modesty. Women, contrary to widespread misconception about their position in Islam, are not viewed as signs or elements of disgrace to be avoided and kept in the darkness. The exact opposite of that is true.

(may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: “We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and veiled women in the religious gatherings and invocation of Muslims on the two ‘Id festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from their Musalla. A woman asked, “O the Messenger of Allah ‘ What about one who does not have a veil?” He said, “Let her share the veil of her companion.” – Found in: Sahih Bukhari Chapter No: 8, Prayers (Salat) – Hadith no: 347

A lot has been said about women being lacking in intellect and religion. Another source of misconception about Islam whether among Muslims or non-Muslims.

Allow me to shed some light on the true position of women in Islam with regards to this subject.

Abu Said Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: “Once the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” – Found in: Sahih Bukhari Chapter No: 6, Menstrual Periods – Hadith no: 301

Some are still wondering about polygamy and why it is allowed in Islam and whether it’s not doing justice to women rights.

Well, Islam came to limit the number of wives men used to have, for before Islam, a man could have up till hundred wives. Islam came to restrict such custom, limiting the number of wives a man can have to only four. And the wisdom behind legalizing having more than one wife is many-fold, but primarily has to to with the great number of women who were widowed as a result of ongoing wars during the number of the Prophet, which ledt many women without husbands and limited chances to have one.

Which is the case in our modern times, given the humber of women that’s far greater than men- yet polygamy in Islam bound to so many conditions that have to be met and strictly respected.

Abu Musa
(may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: Thy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “A time will come upon the people when a person will wander about with gold as Zakat and will not find anybody to accept it, and one man will be seen followed by forty women to be their guardian because of scarcity of men and great number of women.” – Found in: Sahih Bukhari Chapter No: 24, Obligatory Charity Tax (Zakat) – Hadith no: 495

Among other signs demonstrating the elevated stature given to Muslim women is that Islam allows and actually encourages women to go to the mosque, to enjoy equal rights as men, in contrast to women of Israel which used to be prohibited from going to places of worship.

Women, in general, and among all their good and pleasant characteristics, are most appreciated for their modesty, righteousness and piety.

Yes, righteousness is the best adornment ever for women, if only people would understand.

This is how Islam views women, or to be precise, this is how women are elevated in Islam and by Islam.

To all the women in the world, Happy International Women’s Day!

Wassalaam, Maha Youssuf The Muslim Tribune’s Editor maha@muslimtribune.org

Posted on: March 9, 2012