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Subject: Islam FAQ (Part 7/15): Women In Islam

This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:17 GMT

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Archive-name: islam-faq/part7 Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: 1995/3/27 Version: 3.3 Organization: Alumni Association, Caltech, Pasadena, California
Copyright 1993,1994,1995 Asim Mughal (mughal@caltech.edu) Redistribution for profit, or in altered content/format prohibited without explicit written permission of the author. Any other redistribution must include this copyright notice and attribution. Frequently Asked Questions: Part 7 __________________________________ This message is automatically posted to 'soc.religion.islam' every month and when updated. This lists answers to most commonly asked questions on the forum. Contributions & changes are requested and should be directed to: mughal@caltech.edu OVERVIEW: The Frequently Asked Questions document for Islam has been divided in parts. Below is the index. Part 1 - Welcome & Index Part 2 - Info on Islamic News Groups Part 3 - Introduction to Islam Part 4 - God & Worship Part 5 - Islam, Quran & Muhammad (PBUH) Part 6 - Marriage Laws in Islam Part 7 - Women In Islam Part 8 - Life after Death, Moral System & Human rights in Islam Part 9 - Islam: Prophethood, Jesus & Trinity Part 10 - Islam: Farrakhism & Malcom X Part 11 - Islamic Internet Guide: Islamic Resources on Internet Part 12 - Other Islamic Resource Guides on Internet Part 13 - Islamic Literature: Books & Video Part 14 - Islamic Calendar & Prayer Time Table for 1994 Part 15 - Misc: List of Halal Foods ________________________________________________________ PART 7: Women In Islam Contents --Articles-- 1. Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women ...................... from Ms.Naheed Mustafa 2. Women In Islam .................................................. from IINN 3. Women's Liberation through Islam ............................... from III&E 4. Human Rights - Equality ........................................ from III&E 5. Civil Rights - Freedom of Choice & ............................. from III&E 6. Social Rights .................................................. from III&E 7. Political Rights ............................................... from III&E 8. Economic Rightrs ............................................... from III&E 9. Rights of a Wife ............................................... from III&E 10. Duties of a Wife ............................................... from III&E 11. Conclusion - Rights of Women ................................... from III&E 12. Who Practices Polygamy? ........................................ from III&E --Announcements-- 13. Archive Info .............................................................. 14. Credits ................................................................... Articles ..................................................................... 1. Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women ...................... from Ms.Naheed Mustafa "My body is my own business" by Naheed in The Globe >Dated: 25 Sep 1993 16:35:02 -0500 MULTICULTURAL VOICES: A Canadian-born Muslim woman has taken to wearing the traditional hijab scarf. It tends to make people see her as either a terrorist or a symbol of oppressed womanhood, but she finds the experience LIBERATING. I OFTEN wonder whether people see me as a radical, fundamentalist Muslim terrorist packing an AK-47 assault rifle inside my jean jacket. Or may be they see me as the poster girl for oppressed womanhood everywhere. I'm not sure which it is. I get the whole gamut of strange looks, stares, and covert glances. You see, I wear the hijab, a scarf that covers my head, neck, and throat. I do this because I am a Muslim woman who believes her body is her own private concern. Young Muslim women are reclaiming the hijab, reinterpreting it in light of its original purpose -- to give back to women ultimate control of their own bodies. The Qur'an teaches us that men and women are equal, that individuals should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth, or privilege. The only thing that makes one person better than another is her or his character. Nonetheless, people have a difficult time relating to me. After all, I'm young, Canadian born and raised, university-educated -- why would I do this to myself, they ask. Strangers speak to me in loud, slow English and often appear to be playing charades. They politely inquire how I like living in Canada and whether or not the cold bothers me. If I'm in the right mood, it can be very amusing. But, why would I, a woman with all the advantages of a North American upbringing, suddenly, at 21, want to cover myself so that with the hijab and the other clothes I choose to wear, only my face and hands show? Because it gives me freedom. -o-o-o- WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract notions of beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile. When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule and contempt. Whether it's women who refuse to wear makeup or to shave their legs, or to expose their bodies, society, both men and women, have trouble dealing with them. In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it's neither. It is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction. Wearing the hijab has given me freedom from constant attention to my physical self. Because my appearance is not subjected to public scrutiny, my beauty, or perhaps lack of it, has been removed from the realm of what can legitimately be discussed. No one knows whether my hair looks as if I just stepped out of a salon, whether or not I can pinch an inch, or even if I have unsightly stretch marks. And because no one knows, no one cares. Feeling that one has to meet the impossible male standards of beauty is tiring and often humiliating. I should know, I spent my entire teen-age years trying to do it. It was a borderline bulimic and spent a lot of money I didn't have on potions and lotions in hopes of becoming the next Cindy Crawford. The definition of beauty is ever-changing; waifish is good, waifish is bad, athletic is good -- sorry, athletic is bad. Narrow hips? Great. Narrow hips? Too bad. Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to bear their breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe. That would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will be had only when women don't need to display themselves to get attention and won't need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves. Naheed Mustafa graduated from the University of Toronto last year with an honours degree in political and history. She is currently studying journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic University NOTE: This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News Network) publications. The Permission of Reprinting granted by "Islamic Information & News Network" (Muslims @ Asuacad.Bitnet). 2. Women In Islam .................................................. from IINN Source: Islamic Center of Southern California Typed in by: Ms.Iraj Ali SEPARATING FACTS FROM FICTION o Islam gave woman the right to reject a marriage proposal free from pressure and by mutual agreement to specify in the marriage contract that she has the right to divorce. If she deems the marriage to have failed beyond repair. o Islam does not require woman to change her name at marriage. o Islam protects the family and condemns the betrayal of marital fidelity. It recognize only one type of family, husband and wife united by authentic marriage contract. o "Heaven is at the feet of mothers" is a basic Islamic teachings. This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News Network) publications. The Permission of Reprinting granted by "Islamic Information & News Network" (Muslims @ Asuacad.Bitnet). 3. Women's Liberation through Islam ............................... from III&E Today people think that women are liberated in the West and that the women's liberation movement began in the 20th century. Actually, the women's liberation movement was not begun by women but was revealed by God to a man in the seventh century by the name of Muhammad (peace be upon him), who is known as the last Prophet of Islam. The Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet (Hadith or Sunnah) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties. 4. Human Rights - Equality ........................................ from III&E Islam, fourteen centuries ago, made women equally accountable to God in glorifying and worshipping Him - setting no limits on her moral progress. Also, Islam established a woman's equality in her humanity with men. In the Qur'an, in the first verse of the chapter entitled "Women," God says, "O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you." (4:1) Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal in their humanity. Women cannot be by nature evil (as some religious believe) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction of equality. 5. Civil Rights - Freedom of Choice & ............................. from III&E In Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states: "There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error." (2:256) Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their opinions and ideas. There are many traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) which indicate women would pose questions directly to him and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters. A Muslim woman chooses her husband and keeps her name after marriage. A Muslim woman's testimony is valid in legal disputes. In fact, in areas in which women are more familiar, their evidence is conclusive. 6. Social Rights .................................................. from III&E The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)." This includes knowledge of the Qur'an and the Hadith as well as other knowledge. Men and women both have the capacity for learning and understanding. Since it is also their obligation to promote good behavior and condemn bad behavior in all spheres of life, Muslim women must acquire the appropriate education to perform this duty in accordance with their own natural talents and interests. While maintenance of a home, providing support to her husband, and bearing, raising and teaching of children are among the first and very highly regarded roles for a woman, if she has the skills to work outside the home for the good of the community, she may do so as long as her family obligations are met. Islam recognizes and fosters the natural differences between men and women despite their equality. Some types of work are more suitable for men and other types for women. This in no way diminishes either's effort nor its benefit. God will reward both sexes equally for the value of their work, though it may not necessarily be the same activity. Concerning motherhood, the Prophet (pbuh) said: "Heaven lies under the feet of mothers." This implies that the success of a society can be traced to the mothers that raised it. The first and greatest influence on a person comes from the sense of security, affection, and training received from the mother. Therefore, a woman having children must be educated and conscientious in order to be a skillful parent. 7. Political Rights ............................................... from III&E A right given to Muslim women by God 1400 years ago is the right to vote. On any public matter, a woman may voice her opinion and participate in politics. One example, narrated in the Qur'an (60:12), is that Muhammad (pbuh) is told that when the believing women come to him and swear their allegiance to Islam, he must accept their oath. This established the right of women to select their leader and publicly declare so. Finally, Islam does not forbid a woman from holding important positions in government. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended Uthman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph. 8. Economic Rights ................................................ from III&E The Qur'an states: "By the creation of the male and female; Verily, (the ends) ye strive for are diverse." (92:3-4) In these verses, God declares that He created men and women to be different, with unique roles, functions and skills. As in society, where there is a division of labor, so too in a family; each member has different responsibilities. Generally, Islam upholds that women are entrusted with the nurturing role, and men, with the guardian role. Therefore, women are given the right of financial support. The Qur'an states: "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend of their wealth (for the support of women)." (4:34) This guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men, requires that they provide women with not only monetary support but also physical protection and kind and respectful treatment. The Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her earnings including her husband. The Qur'an states: "And in no wise covet those things in which Allah hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women, what they earn; but ask Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge of all things." (4:32) A woman inherits from her relatives. The Qur'an states: "For men there is a share in what parents and relatives leave, and for women there is a share of what parents and relatives leave, whether it be little or much - an ordained share." (4:7) 9. Rights of a Wife ............................................... from III&E The Qur'an states: "And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." (30:21) Marriage is therefore not just a physical or emotional necessity, but in fact, a sign from God! It is a relationship of mutual rights and obligations based on divine guidance. God created men and women with complimentary natures, and in the Qur'an, He laid out a system of laws to support harmonious interaction between the sexes. "...They are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187) Clothing provides physical protection and covers the beauty and faults of the body. Likewise, a spouse is viewed this way. Each protects the other and hides the faults and compliments the characteristics of the spouse. To foster the love and security that comes with marriage, Muslim wives have various rights. The first of the wife's rights is to receive mahr, a gift from the husband which is part of the marriage contract and required for the legality of the marriage. The second right of a wife is maintenance. Despite any wealth she may have, her husband is obligated to provide her with food, shelter and clothing. He is not forced, however, to spend beyond his capability and his wife is not entitled to make unreasonable demands. The Qur'an states: "Let the man of means spend according to his means, and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him." (65:7) God tells us men are guardians over women and are afforded the leadership in the family. His responsibility for obeying God extends to guiding his family to obey God at all times. A wife's rights also extend beyond material needs. She has the right to kind treatment. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "The most perfect believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are best to their wives." God tells us He created mates and put love, mercy, and tranquillity between them. Both men and women have a need for companionship and sexual needs, and marriage is designed to fulfill those needs. For one spouse to deny this satisfaction to the other, temptation exists to seek it elsewhere. 10. Duties of a Wife ............................................... from III&E With rights come responsibilities. Therefore, wives have certain obligations to their husbands. The Qur'an states: "The good women in the absence of their husbands guard their rights as Allah has enjoined upon them to be guarded." (4:34) A wife is to keep her husband's secrets and protect their marital privacy. Issues of intimacy or faults of his that would dishonor him, are not to be shared by the wife, just as he is expected to guard her honor. A wife must also guard her husband's property. She must safeguard his home and possessions, to the best of her ability, from theft or damage. She should manage the household affairs wisely so as to prevent loss or waste. She should not allow anyone to enter the house whom her husband dislikes nor incur any expenses of which her husband disapproves. A Muslim woman must cooperate and coordinate with her husband. There cannot, however, be cooperation with a man who is disobedient to God. She should not fulfill his requests if he wants her to do something unlawful. A husband also should not take advantage of his wife, but be considerate of her needs and happiness. 11. Conclusion - Rights of Women ................................... from III&E The Qur'an states: "And it becomes not a believing man or a believing women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have decided on an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His Messenger, he verily goes astray in error manifest." (33:36) The Muslim woman was given a role, duties and rights 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy today, even in the West. These are from God and are designed to keep balance in society; what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for or explained in another place. Islam is a complete way of life. -- Mary Ali and Anjum Ali 12. Who Practices Polygamy? ........................................ from III&E Polygamy has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. Many of the ancient Israelites were polygamous, some having hundreds of wives. King Solomon (peace be upon him) is said to have had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. David (Dawood) had ninety-nine and Jacob (Yacub, peace be upon them both) had four. Advice given by some Jewish wise men state that no man should marry more than four wives. No early society put any restrictions on the number of wives or put any conditions about how they were to be treated. Jesus was not known to have spoken against polygamy. As recently as the seventeenth century, polygamy was practiced and accepted by the Christian Church. The Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has allowed and practiced polygamy in the United States. Monogamy was introduced into Christianity at the time of Paul when many revisions took place in Christianity. This was done in order for the church to conform to the Greco-Roman culture where men were monogamous but owned many slaves who were free for them to use: in other words, unrestricted polygamy. Early Christians invented ideas that women were "full of sin" and man was better off to "never marry." Since this would be the end of mankind these same people compromised and said "marry only one." In the American society many times when relations are strained, the husband simply deserts his wife. The he cohabits with a prostitute or other immoral woman without marriage. Actually there are three kinds of polygamy practiced in Western societies: (1) serial polygamy, that is, marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce, and so on any number of times; (2) a man married to one woman but having and supporting one or more mistresses; (3) an unmarried man having a number of mistresses. Islam condones but discourages the first and forbids the other two. Wars cause the number of women to greatly exceed the number of men. In a monogamous society these women, left without husbands or support, resort to prostitution, illicit relationships with married men resulting in illegitimate children with no responsibility on the part of the father, or lonely spinsterhood or widowhood. Some Western men take the position that monogamy protects the rights of women. But are these men really concerned about the rights of women? The society has so many practices which exploit and suppress women, leading to women's liberation movements from the suffragettes of the early twentieth century to the feminists of today. The truth of the matter is that monogamy protects men, allowing them to "play around" without responsibility. Easy birth control and easy legal abortion has opened the door of illicit sex to woman and she has been lured into the so-called sexual revolution. But she is still the one who suffers the trauma of abortion and the side effects of the birth control methods. Taking aside the plagues of venereal disease, herpes and AIDS, the male continues to enjoy himself free of worry. Men are the ones protected by monogamy while women continue to be victims of men's desires. Polygamy is very much opposed by the male dominated society because it would force men to face up to responsibility and fidelity. It would force them to take responsibility for their polygamous inclinations and would protect and provide for women and children. Among all the polygamous societies in history there were none which limited the number of wives. All of the relationships were unrestricted. In Islam, the regulations concerning polygamy limit the number of wives a man can have while making him responsible for all of the women involved. "Marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one or one that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." (Qur'an 4:3) This verse from the Qur'an allows a man to marry more than one woman but only if he can deal justly with them. Another verse says that a person is unable to deal justly between wives, thus giving permission but discouraging. "You will never be able to deal justly between wives however much you desire (to do so). But (if you have more than one wife) do not turn altogether away (from one), leaving her in suspense..." (Qur'an 4:129) While the provision for polygamy makes the social system flexible enough to deal with all kinds of conditions, it is not necessarily recommended or preferred by Islam. Taking the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is instructive. He was married to one woman, Khadijah, for twenty-five years. It was only after her death when he had reached the age of fifty that he entered into other marriages to promote friendships, create alliances or to be an example of some lesson to the community; also to show the Muslims how to treat their spouses under different conditions of life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given inspiration from Allah about how to deal with multiple marriages and the difficulties encountered therein. It is not an easy matter for a man to handle two wives, two families, and two households and still be just between the two. No man of reasonable intelligence would enter into this situation without a great deal of thought and very compelling reasons (other than sexual). Some people have said that the first wife must agree to the second marriage. Others have said that the couple can put it into the marriage contract that the man will not marry a second wife. First of all, neither the Qur'an nor Hadith state that the first wife need be consulted at all concerning a second marriage let alone gain her approval. Consideration and compassion on the part of the man for his first wife should prompt him to discuss the matter with her but he is not required to do so or to gain her approval. Secondly, the Qur'an has explicitly given permission for a man to marry "two or three or four." No one has the authority to make a contract forbidding something that has been granted by Allah. The bottom line in the marriage relationship is good morality and happiness, creating a just and cohesive society where the needs of men and women are well taken care of. The present Western society, which permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to an abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance of "fatherless" children, many unmarried teenage mothers; all becoming a burden on the country's welfare system. In part, such an undesirable welfare burden has given rise to bloated budget deficits which even an economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate. Bloated budget deficits have become a political football which is affecting the political system of the United States. In short, we find that artificially created monogamy has become a factor in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and political systems of the country. It must be a prophet, and indeed it was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who directed Muslims to get married or observe patience until one gets married. 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported Allah's messenger as saying, "Young man, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at strange women and preserves you from immorality; but those who cannot should devote themselves to fasting, for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire." (Bukhari and Muslim) Islam wants people to be married and to develop a good family structure. Also Islam realizes the requirements of the society and the individual in special circumstances where polygamy can be the solution to problems. Therefore, Islam has allowed polygamy, limiting the number of wives to four, but does not require or even recommend polygamy. In the Muslim societies of our times, polygamy is not frequently practiced despite legal permission in many countries. It appears that the American male is very polygamous, getting away with not taking responsibility for the families he should be responsible for. --Mary Ali (NOTE: In this article polygamy has been used to mean polygyny meaning having two or more wives. Islam forbids polyandry meaning having two or more husbands.) Announcements ................................................................ 13. Archive Info .............................................................. This FAQ is archived at several sites and is available for public retrieval thru anonymous FTP, E-MAIL, Gopher & World Wide Web. -- Anonymous FTP -- Login: anonymous Password: Your e-mail address Site: rtfm.mit.edu Dir: /pub/usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/ Site: ftp.uu.net Dir: /pub/usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/ Site: ftp.cco.caltech.edu Dir: /pub/calmsa/islam-faq/ -- E-MAIL -- Send E-mail to: mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu Text of E-mail Message: send usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/part7 quit -- GOPHER -- Site: gopher.caltech.edu 70 Path: Computing Information/ CCO anonymous ftp archive/ pub/ calmsa/ islam-faq/ Site: latif.com 70 Path: Resources relating to Islam/ Soc.Religion.Islam -- World-Wide-Web (WWW) -- One recommended interface is 'mosaic,' below are mosaic 'home pages.' URL at USENET Archive site: http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/islam-faq/faq.html URL at Caltech MSA site: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~calmsa/links.html 14. Credits ................................................................... The author wishes to thank all those who contributed in any capacity for the original one part FAQ or this multi-part FAQ. -- SOURCES -- The basic introduction and literature presented in the FAQ is from brochures on Islam distributed by Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E). These brochures were typed in electronic form by Ms.M.Ahmed. The information on soc.religion.islam forum (in Part 2) has been compiled from USENET archives and administrative logs of Soc.Religion.Islam moderator panel. What is III&E? III&E is an acronym for the Institute of Islamic Information & Education which was established in Chicago, Illinois in 1985. The III&E is registered in the State of Illinois and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a not-for-profit religious organization. More information can be obtained by contacting Dr. M. Amir, III&E, P.O. Box 41129, Chicago, IL 60641-0129, U.S.A.; Tel: (312) 777-7443 Fax: (312) 777-7199. -- FORMAT -- The format of the FAQ series has been done by utilizing resources of Islamic Information & News Network (IINN). A custom program, Nebula, written by editors of IINN for generating newsletters has been used. What is IINN? Islamic Information & News Network is a forum dedicated to educate the network community on issues relating to Islam and Muslims in an academic & non-political environment. Weekly digest is available on internet by subscribing to MUSLIMS@ASUACAD.BITnet (A Bitnet listserv list) and on USENET: bit.listserv.muslims. -- Permissions -- Permission to post this multi-part FAQ has been obtained by the following: o Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E) o Islamic Information & News Network (Muslims@PSUVM.bitnet) o Moderator(s) of News.Answers (Thomas Khoenig & P.Huang) # End of Islam FAQ Part 7 #