A historical study of the different positions of men and women in various societies leads to the conclusion that these differences arise from different values. In the western world, the values of male domination produced a culture of discrimination against women. Women were unaware of their rights in the west until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the suffragette movement began in various parts of Europe and the Americas. In the United Kingdom, starting with the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 to as late as the Pension Act 1995, women have slowly gained the economic, social, and political freedom denied to them earlier. The attitude of the Christian church was historically not friendly towards women. However, the process of reinterpreting Christian texts and the restating of its values in the nineteenth and the twentieth century has been of immense help to Christian women (The Position of Women in Islam: A Progressive View by Mohammad Ali Syed).
In pre-Islamic Arabia, the position of women was even worse. Women were treated as nothing but cattle. Married women were treated as heritable property, to be inherited by the heirs of a husband. In this dark era for women, Islamic reforms through the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h) were revolutionary. Due to these Islamic reforms, between 610 and 632 A.D. Muslim women gained rights unparalleled in the world. In fact, Muslim women enjoyed more rights than women in any other society until the liberation of women in the western world. The Quran, the principal authority for all Islamic rules and regulations, put women on an almost equal footing with their male counterparts, and the rights conferred on Muslim women by the Quran were supported and supplemented by the authentic Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h).
It was Islam that uplifted the status of women and gave them right of inheritance and other equal rights to men. The Prophetic traditions mainly focus on uplifting the female child and a person who nourishes a female child is assured of paradise. There are many other traditions that clearly indicate that women entertain more freedom and rights in Islamic societies. There are many tales from the Prophetic era and episodes from the time of the rightly guided Caliphs that talk about the liberty that women enjoyed in those times.
Islam is the complete guide to the conduct of life. It guides humanity in all domains of life, be it social, ethical, economic, or political. Islam hasn’t just taken care of big issues but also paid tremendous attention to small and minute things. How to sleep, how to eat and drink, etc, are all recommended in Islam. The barbaric pages of history filled with the killing of innocent female infants remind us of those dark times when the birth of a girl was considered as inauspicious. Muhammad’s prophethood changed this discourse. Now girls were given due care and respect. The cruel pages of history were replaced with beautiful and pleasant lines.
Human beings are a species that is rightly called the crown of creation. Their Lord has set different rights and duties for them, so that the whole humanity can remain in peace and harmony. From the beginning of life the Almighty has been guiding human beings, but time and again the message and commandments of Allah were maligned. In the end, the great guide from Allah named Muhammad (p.b.u.h) came and guided humanity. Human freedom was greatly appreciated and their rights were addressed. This included many freedoms and rights, but there were some restrictions imposed, too.
The Quran is the final word of God that was sent to guide humanity. God created pairs for every species so that they can find peace. The male and the female are biologically and physically different. Both have different strengths and weaknesses. There are some domains where their way behavior is different. However, the biological differences don’t make any gender superior or inferior. The doctor has a separate expertise from that of the engineer, but both are experts and there cannot be any comparison of superior and inferior between the two. Likewise, men and women have differences but that doesn’t mean one is superior to the other. Islam is a great advocate for the rights of both. It has laid rules for the honor and dignity of all humanity. Muslim men and women are partners of each other. Whoever does good will be honored without any discrimination. In a nutshell, we may say that both have been guaranteed great freedom within the circle of Sharia.
So for as liberty is concerned, when Adam and Eve were in Heaven, they were given freedom of everything, but were commanded not to eat from the forbidden tree. Thus, there was a restriction imposed on them. Our God does not stop us from those things that are good for us, but forbids such things that have bad consequences, for example, alcohol. It has been forbidden because it has more demerits than it has merits.
Islam guarantees the rights and liberty of women but these rights and privileges have been snatched from women on different pretexts. There are famous women who have shown great character and talent in different walks of life, but still in many societies women have been barred from such liberty and freedom. This snatching of their rights resulted in the worsening of the condition of women and gave birth to the movement of feminism. But feminism claimed even those rights which did not suit women. The need of the hour is to return to the basic sources of Islam and understand what rights and privileges have been given to women.
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