"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."
The issue of women in Islam is a topic of great misunderstanding due partly to a lack of understanding, but also partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims.
Islam has always been depicted as an oppressive religion towards women, and in this post, I’d like to debunk some of the most controversial theories. I have included in this post as many misconceptions as I can find.
The testimony of two women equal to the testimony of one man
ﻳَﺎ ﺃَﻳُّﻬَﺎ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻳﻦَ ﺁﻣَﻨُﻮﺍْ ﺇِﺫَﺍ ﺗَﺪَﺍﻳَﻨﺘُﻢ ﺑِﺪَﻳْﻦٍ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﺟَﻞٍ ﻣُّﺴَﻤًّﻰ ﻓَﺎﻛْﺘُﺒُﻮﻩُ ﻭَﻟْﻴَﻜْﺘُﺐ ﺑَّﻴْﻨَﻜُﻢْ ﻛَﺎﺗِﺐٌ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻌَﺪْﻝِ ﻭَﻻَ ﻳَﺄْﺏَ ﻛَﺎﺗِﺐٌ ﺃَﻥْ ﻳَﻜْﺘُﺐَ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﻋَﻠَّﻤَﻪُ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻓَﻠْﻴَﻜْﺘُﺐْ ﻭَﻟْﻴُﻤْﻠِﻞِ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻱ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﻭَﻟْﻴَﺘَّﻖِ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪَ ﺭَﺑَّﻪُ ﻭَﻻَ ﻳَﺒْﺨَﺲْ ﻣِﻨْﻪُ ﺷَﻴْﺌًﺎ ﻓَﺈﻥ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻱ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻖُّ ﺳَﻔِﻴﻬًﺎ ﺃَﻭْ ﺿَﻌِﻴﻔًﺎ ﺃَﻭْ ﻻَ ﻳَﺴْﺘَﻄِﻴﻊُ ﺃَﻥ ﻳُﻤِﻞَّ ﻫُﻮَ ﻓَﻠْﻴُﻤْﻠِﻞْ ﻭَﻟِﻴُّﻪُ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻌَﺪْﻝِ ﻭَﺍﺳْﺘَﺸْﻬِﺪُﻭﺍْ ﺷَﻬِﻴﺪَﻳْﻦِ ﻣﻦ ﺭِّﺟَﺎﻟِﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﺈِﻥ ﻟَّﻢْ ﻳَﻜُﻮﻧَﺎ ﺭَﺟُﻠَﻴْﻦِ ﻓَﺮَﺟُﻞٌ ﻭَﺍﻣْﺮَﺃَﺗَﺎﻥِ ﻣِﻤَّﻦ ﺗَﺮْﺿَﻮْﻥَ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟﺸُّﻬَﺪَﺍﺀ ﺃَﻥ ﺗَﻀِﻞَّ ﺇْﺣْﺪَﺍﻫُﻤَﺎ ﻓَﺘُﺬَﻛِّﺮَ ﺇِﺣْﺪَﺍﻫُﻤَﺎ ﺍﻷُﺧْﺮَﻯ ﻭَﻻَ ﻳَﺄْﺏَ ﺍﻟﺸُّﻬَﺪَﺍﺀ ﺇِﺫَﺍ ﻣَﺎ ﺩُﻋُﻮﺍْ ﻭَﻻَ ﺗَﺴْﺄَﻣُﻮْﺍْ ﺃَﻥ ﺗَﻜْﺘُﺒُﻮْﻩُ ﺻَﻐِﻴﺮًﺍ ﺃَﻭ ﻛَﺒِﻴﺮًﺍ ﺇِﻟَﻰ ﺃَﺟَﻠِﻪِ ﺫَﻟِﻜُﻢْ ﺃَﻗْﺴَﻂُ ﻋِﻨﺪَ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪِ ﻭَﺃَﻗْﻮﻡُ ﻟِﻠﺸَّﻬَﺎﺩَﺓِ ﻭَﺃَﺩْﻧَﻰ ﺃَﻻَّ ﺗَﺮْﺗَﺎﺑُﻮﺍْ ﺇِﻻَّ ﺃَﻥ ﺗَﻜُﻮﻥَ ﺗِﺠَﺎﺭَﺓً ﺣَﺎﺿِﺮَﺓً ﺗُﺪِﻳﺮُﻭﻧَﻬَﺎ ﺑَﻴْﻨَﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﻠَﻴْﺲَ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻜُﻢْ ﺟُﻨَﺎﺡٌ ﺃَﻻَّ ﺗَﻜْﺘُﺒُﻮﻫَﺎ ﻭَﺃَﺷْﻬِﺪُﻭْﺍْ ﺇِﺫَﺍ ﺗَﺒَﺎﻳَﻌْﺘُﻢْ ﻭَﻻَ ﻳُﻀَﺂﺭَّ ﻛَﺎﺗِﺐٌ ﻭَﻻَ ﺷَﻬِﻴﺪٌ ﻭَﺇِﻥ ﺗَﻔْﻌَﻠُﻮﺍْ ﻓَﺈِﻧَّﻪُ ﻓُﺴُﻮﻕٌ ﺑِﻜُﻢْ ﻭَﺍﺗَّﻘُﻮﺍْ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪَ ﻭَﻳُﻌَﻠِّﻤُﻜُﻢُ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻭَﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﺑِﻜُﻞِّ ﺷَﻲْﺀٍ ﻋَﻠِﻴﻢٌ
Surat Al-Baqarah [2:282] O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write [it] between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate. And let him fear Allah , his Lord, and not leave anything out of it. But if the one who has the obligation is of limited understanding or weak or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses – so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her. And let not the witnesses refuse when they are called upon. And do not be [too] weary to write it, whether it is small or large, for its [specified] term. That is more just in the sight of Allah and stronger as evidence and more likely to prevent doubt between you, except when it is an immediate transaction which you conduct among yourselves. For [then] there is no blame upon you if you do not write it. And take witnesses when you conclude a contract. Let no scribe be harmed or any witness. For if you do so, indeed, it is [grave] disobedience in you. And fear Allah . And Allah teaches you. And Allah is Knowing of all things.
This is a famous misinterpretation. A woman’s testimony is always equal to that of a man’s testimony, except in one case only; the financial transactions, as seen in the above verse.
Financial transactions are the only situations where two women may substitute one man. This is to prevent the real possibility that one of the witnesses may marry or be married to the male witness, causing her to be biased. It is a recognized fact, not only in Islam but worldwide, that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men. Also, men (especially during the Prophet’s (PBUH) days) were more skilled in financial transactions. It is also to be reminded that the line “so that if one of the women errs” does not mean that women are forgetful. Seeing that men were usually in charge of finance, this simply means that sometimes women might lack understanding of what is happening, thus having the other woman there to remind her.
This verse indicates clearly that in general, at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), financial transactions were not often matters of concern to women at that time. Also, the actual may be that of only one woman, even though her testimony might require the support of another woman who would “remind” her is necessary. The other woman may act merely as a guarantor for the accuracy of the other’s testimony.
Taking us back to the time before the revelation, pre-Islamic Arabs were known to female infanticide. Most pagan Arabs would be unhappy to know that their wife has birthed a daughter, and most killed their daughters at a young age. When Islam surfaced, it’s purpose was to dispose of this evil act and give equal importance to women in society.
The objective is to end the traditional perception of women and to bring about their acceptance as partners in society. The Qur’an seeks to overcome the mentality of men that prevent them from accepting women as their equals in society. At the time of the revelation, the amount was irrelevant, but rather it was the equality of women that the Qur’an wanted to emphasize. Even the act of witnessing served as a means to an end of looking down upon women, and establishing the concept of gender equality. This was critically significant as the Qur’an’s application of the principle of gender equality was not only on a religious level, but on the levels of human society as well.
A woman’s testimony in all other matters are equal to that of a man, or might even supersede his testimony (as in the case of a wife testifying against accused adultery).
In conclusion, a woman’s testimony is only equal to half of a man’s in a case of financial transactions to avoid bias or confused results. That is the only case where a woman’s testimony is half of a man’s.
Women inherit only half of what men inherit
ﻳُﻮﺻِﻴﻜُﻢُ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻓِﻲ ﺃَﻭْﻻَﺩِﻛُﻢْ ﻟِﻠﺬَّﻛَﺮِ ﻣِﺜْﻞُ ﺣَﻆِّ ﺍﻷُﻧﺜَﻴَﻴْﻦِ ﻓَﺈِﻥ ﻛُﻦَّ ﻧِﺴَﺎﺀ ﻓَﻮْﻕَ ﺍﺛْﻨَﺘَﻴْﻦِ ﻓَﻠَﻬُﻦَّ ﺛُﻠُﺜَﺎ ﻣَﺎ ﺗَﺮَﻙَ ﻭَﺇِﻥ ﻛَﺎﻧَﺖْ ﻭَﺍﺣِﺪَﺓً ﻓَﻠَﻬَﺎ ﺍﻟﻨِّﺼْﻒُ ﻭَﻷَﺑَﻮَﻳْﻪِ ﻟِﻜُﻞِّ ﻭَﺍﺣِﺪٍ ﻣِّﻨْﻬُﻤَﺎ ﺍﻟﺴُّﺪُﺱُ ﻣِﻤَّﺎ ﺗَﺮَﻙَ ﺇِﻥ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻟَﻪُ ﻭَﻟَﺪٌ ﻓَﺈِﻥ ﻟَّﻢْ ﻳَﻜُﻦ ﻟَّﻪُ ﻭَﻟَﺪٌ ﻭَﻭَﺭِﺛَﻪُ ﺃَﺑَﻮَﺍﻩُ ﻓَﻸُﻣِّﻪِ ﺍﻟﺜُّﻠُﺚُ ﻓَﺈِﻥ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻟَﻪُ ﺇِﺧْﻮَﺓٌ ﻓَﻸُﻣِّﻪِ ﺍﻟﺴُّﺪُﺱُ ﻣِﻦ ﺑَﻌْﺪِ ﻭَﺻِﻴَّﺔٍ ﻳُﻮﺻِﻲ ﺑِﻬَﺎ ﺃَﻭْ ﺩَﻳْﻦٍ ﺁﺑَﺂﺅُﻛُﻢْ ﻭَﺃَﺑﻨﺎﺅُﻛُﻢْ ﻻَ ﺗَﺪْﺭُﻭﻥَ ﺃَﻳُّﻬُﻢْ ﺃَﻗْﺮَﺏُ ﻟَﻜُﻢْ ﻧَﻔْﻌﺎً ﻓَﺮِﻳﻀَﺔً ﻣِّﻦَ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪِ ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪَ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻋَﻠِﻴﻤﺎ ﺣَﻜِﻴﻤًﺎ
Surat An-Nisa [4:11] Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half. And for one’s parents, to each one of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. But if he had no children and the parents [alone] inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers [or sisters], for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he [may have] made or debt. Your parents or your children – you know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. [These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah . Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.
This is a misconception not only within non-Muslims, but within Muslims themselves. Islam actually gives the parents absolute freedom to divide their wealth and estate to their children as they see fit, even if it means giving the daughters double of what the males get. The Qur’an does, however, state that if a will is not left, then the estate should be distributed in a manner where the son gets double of what the daughter gets. The reasons why man gets more in these particular instances may be classified as followed:
However, in Surat Al-Baqarah [2:180], it is recommended that a will be left to conform with the specific circumstances of the deceased.
In conclusion, this verse only shows the standardized division of wealth and estate belonging to the deceased only if a will has not been written, for the sole reason that the son will have to care for his family, while the daughter will be in the care of her husband or her family.
Polygamy is encouraged
ﻭَﺇِﻥْ ﺧِﻔْﺘُﻢْ ﺃَﻻَّ ﺗُﻘْﺴِﻄُﻮﺍْ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻴَﺘَﺎﻣَﻰ ﻓَﺎﻧﻜِﺤُﻮﺍْ ﻣَﺎ ﻃَﺎﺏَ ﻟَﻜُﻢ ﻣِّﻦَ ﺍﻟﻨِّﺴَﺎﺀ ﻣَﺜْﻨَﻰ ﻭَﺛُﻼَﺙَ ﻭَﺭُﺑَﺎﻉَ ﻓَﺈِﻥْ ﺧِﻔْﺘُﻢْ ﺃَﻻَّ ﺗَﻌْﺪِﻟُﻮﺍْ ﻓَﻮَﺍﺣِﺪَﺓً ﺃَﻭْ ﻣَﺎ ﻣَﻠَﻜَﺖْ ﺃَﻳْﻤَﺎﻧُﻜُﻢْ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﺃَﺩْﻧَﻰ ﺃَﻻَّ ﺗَﻌُﻮﻟُﻮﺍْ
Surat An-Nisa [4:3] And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Islam. The Qur’an strongly discourages polygamy, as seen in the line “if you fear that you will not deal justly, then marry only one…” Polygamy was a way of life until the Qur’an was revealed 1400 years ago. The Qur’an was the first scriptural limit to polygamy and discourages it as much as possible. In polygamy, the men were allowed to have more than one wife and not vice versa, as the objective of polygamy was to support those who do not have the guidance and maintanence of a male guardian in their lives. Also, it is a common known fact that a women can only be pregnant once a year if she were to be married with four men, but one man can have four children at the same time with four wives.
This verse was revealed after the Battle of Uhud, in which many Muslim men were killed, leaving widows and orphans. Thus, many agree that this verse has been revealed because of God’s concern for the welfare of women and orphans who were left without husbands and fathers who died fighting for the Prophet and for Islam. It is a verse about compassion towards women and their children; it is not about men or their sexuality.
Polygamy was never meant to be abused for sexual pleasure or superiority. The verse also makes it clear that the only condition for polygamy is mostly for the sake of orphans, as they have no family or male guardian to take care of them, or widows who were left with no husbands and child support. Polygamy should also only be practiced by righteous men who can treat all his wives equally and justly. The particular verse below is proof that Islam actually discourages polygamy:
If a man cannot deal justly with more than one wife, then he must marry only one. This is brought up in the above verse where the Qur’an challenges a man’s ability to deal justly between women. From these verses, it is clear that these quotes were indeed out of compassion towards women, and not as a means to please male sexuality, which is a common modern interpretation of such verses. In conclusion, even though polygamy might be allowed in Islam, it is highly discouraged and should only be practiced by the most righteous of believing men. The purpose of polygamy is not to prove superiority, but to care for those who do not have or have lost a male guardian.
Beating of wife is permissible
ﺍﻟﺮِّﺟَﺎﻝُ ﻗَﻮَّﺍﻣُﻮﻥَ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻟﻨِّﺴَﺎﺀ ﺑِﻤَﺎ ﻓَﻀَّﻞَ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﺑَﻌْﻀَﻬُﻢْ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺑَﻌْﺾٍ ﻭَﺑِﻤَﺎ ﺃَﻧﻔَﻘُﻮﺍْ ﻣِﻦْ ﺃَﻣْﻮَﺍﻟِﻬِﻢْ ﻓَﺎﻟﺼَّﺎﻟِﺤَﺎﺕُ ﻗَﺎﻧِﺘَﺎﺕٌ ﺣَﺎﻓِﻈَﺎﺕٌ ﻟِّﻠْﻐَﻴْﺐِ ﺑِﻤَﺎ ﺣَﻔِﻆَ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻭَﺍﻟﻼَّﺗِﻲ ﺗَﺨَﺎﻓُﻮﻥَ ﻧُﺸُﻮﺯَﻫُﻦَّ ﻓَﻌِﻈُﻮﻫُﻦَّ ﻭَﺍﻫْﺠُﺮُﻭﻫُﻦَّ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻀَﺎﺟِﻊِ ﻭَﺍﺿْﺮِﺑُﻮﻫُﻦَّ ﻓَﺈِﻥْ ﺃَﻃَﻌْﻨَﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﻼَ ﺗَﺒْﻐُﻮﺍْ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻬِﻦَّ ﺳَﺒِﻴﻼً ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪَ ﻛَﺎﻥَ ﻋَﻠِﻴًّﺎ ﻛَﺒِﻴﺮًﺍ
Surat An-Nisa [4:34] Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
A lot of people misread this verse as permission for domestic abuse. But if read very carefully, it actually avoids abuse by using the best psychological approach. This approach is only common sense, not only Islamic:
Unfortunately, many Muslim men disregard their obligations and righteousness and only focus on the last step of handling this situation, and that is to strike their wife, completely skipping the first two necessary steps and give themselves an excuse to beat their wives. These men misrepresent Islam and divert people from the peaceful nature of the religion.
The Qur’an urges husbands to treat their wives with kindness. Even during the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an commands the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects.
Also, we have to remember that this right (to strike the wife) can only be claimed in a situation where a righteous man is confronted by a wife who repeatedly commits “nushuz”‘ which is an unrighteous, wicked and rebellious act (humiliating husband, leaves house against husband’s will etc.) Also, beating of the wife should be done very lightly, and not hard enough to leave bruises on her skin. Abusing this law and applying it to regular daily marital disagreement is highly frowned upon by the selective wording of the verse. In reality, a believing and righteous husband would most probably not reach the stage where he would lay a hand on his wife. As a God-fearing man, he would examine his own motives first before claiming this right.
It is important to understand the verse carefully before jumping to a quick conclusion. One should not use the verse as justification for your own misconduct. The verse neither permits nor condones violence. It is simply describing ways to handle delicate family situations with care and wisdom. The word “beat” in this verse does not mean “physical abuse”. The Prophet (PBUH) explained that it be “a light tap that leaves no mark”, to which he further said that the face must be avoided.
Generally, the Prophet (PBUH) discouraged his followers from even taking this measure. He even used to say that the best of men are those who do not hit their wives.
It is also important to note that even this “light strike” mentioned in the verse is not to be used to correct some minor problem, but it as a last resort to only in a situation of some serious moral misconduct, and if avoiding sleeping with her would not help. If this disciplinary action can correct a situation and save the marriage, then one is permitted to use it.
Unfortunately, a lot of women today do not receive the protection that this verse grants them, instead are unjustly abused, verbally and physically, by unrighteous men who manipulate the words of this verse. They get beaten up for trivial reasons, or no reasons at all. In this verse, it shows that even if the husband has a good reason to lay a hand on his wife, he is not allowed to until he has passed all the previous steps justly.
This verse was made to protect women from the outrage of their angry husbands, but then again, we also learn that one of the traits of righteous people are those that learn to suppress their anger:
In fact, the nature of a healthy relationship between husband and wife is expressed in this following verse:
Many people also refer to this statement, “Men are in charge of women…”, in the verse as a sign that men are above women in status, but this has been misunderstood. In the above verse, that expression basically means “Men are made responsible for women (as maintainers and protectors) and have been endowed with certain qualities and made them breadwinners”. This expression merely means that God has appointed the husband as “captain of the ship”, whereby the marriage is like a ship which the captain runs after due consultation of the crew on deck. It does not assign inequality or superiority, but rather assigns duties to avoid disputes.
In conclusion, a righteous pair of believing husband and wife will never get to the point where beating of the wife is the solution. They will consult one another and agree on the best way to solve their differences as the whole verse recommends. Also, the men are also responsible for maintaining the wife and taking care of her, as in Islam, women are highly respected and appreciated.
Women are seen as sexual objects
ﻧِﺴَﺂﺅُﻛُﻢْ ﺣَﺮْﺙٌ ﻟَّﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﺄْﺗُﻮﺍْ ﺣَﺮْﺛَﻜُﻢْ ﺃَﻧَّﻰ ﺷِﺌْﺘُﻢْ ﻭَﻗَﺪِّﻣُﻮﺍْ ﻷَﻧﻔُﺴِﻜُﻢْ ﻭَﺍﺗَّﻘُﻮﺍْ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪَ ﻭَﺍﻋْﻠَﻤُﻮﺍْ ﺃَﻧَّﻜُﻢ ﻣُّﻼَﻗُﻮﻩُ ﻭَﺑَﺸِّﺮِ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺆْﻣِﻨِﻴﻦَ
Surat Al-Baqarah [2:223] Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.
Many people have misinterpreted this verse to mean that women are sexual objects for men to use however they please. However, the objective of the verse is to abolish the confusion that some people had about babies coming out with squints if a couple were to conceive in a particular way.
Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) declared that the Jews used to say:
The verse was simply to inform that their beliefs were unfounded and a couple can conceive however the like (as long as through only her vagina). It is important to note that this verse is talking about conception, which is why the word “tilths” has been used, making reference to the sowing of seeds. Muslim women don’t find this derogatory, as it’s obvious that it is merely a play on words and a metaphor. Furthermore, is it not important for a farmer to put care and attention into growing his crops to ensure wholesome results?
Men are a degree above women
ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﻄَﻠَّﻘَﺎﺕُ ﻳَﺘَﺮَﺑَّﺼْﻦَ ﺑِﺄَﻧﻔُﺴِﻬِﻦَّ ﺛَﻼَﺛَﺔَ ﻗُﺮُﻭَﺀٍ ﻭَﻻَ ﻳَﺤِﻞُّ ﻟَﻬُﻦَّ ﺃَﻥ ﻳَﻜْﺘُﻤْﻦَ ﻣَﺎ ﺧَﻠَﻖَ ﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻓِﻲ ﺃَﺭْﺣَﺎﻣِﻬِﻦَّ ﺇِﻥ ﻛُﻦَّ ﻳُﺆْﻣِﻦَّ ﺑِﺎﻟﻠّﻪِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻴَﻮْﻡِ ﺍﻵﺧِﺮِ ﻭَﺑُﻌُﻮﻟَﺘُﻬُﻦَّ ﺃَﺣَﻖُّ ﺑِﺮَﺩِّﻫِﻦَّ ﻓِﻲ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ ﺇِﻥْ ﺃَﺭَﺍﺩُﻭﺍْ ﺇِﺻْﻼَﺣًﺎ ﻭَﻟَﻬُﻦَّ ﻣِﺜْﻞُ ﺍﻟَّﺬِﻱ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻬِﻦَّ ﺑِﺎﻟْﻤَﻌْﺮُﻭﻑِ ﻭَﻟِﻠﺮِّﺟَﺎﻝِ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻬِﻦَّ ﺩَﺭَﺟَﺔٌ ﻭَﺍﻟﻠّﻪُ ﻋَﺰِﻳﺰٌ ﺣَﻜُﻴﻢٌ
Surat Al-Baqarah [2:228] Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation. And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.
Out of this whole verse, the only statement that has received much notoriety is “And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority].”
There are various points of view to the meaning of “…the men have a degree over them…” Some suggest that it means having qualities of leadership, surveillance and maintenance. Others suggest that it may refer to the tolerance that is expected of men even when their wives are are in a bad mood. However, the most common consensus of most scholars is that this “degree” refers to the principle of guardianship, as written in another surah “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. (Surat An-Nisa 4:34)” which has already been previously explained that it means men are maintainers and protectors of women.
When it comes to financial security, Islamic law is more tilted in many respects towards women. For example:
Abdullah ibn Abbas, a companion of the Prophet (PBUH), mentioned, with reference the the quote from Surat An-Nisa 4:34, that as men have been granted such a noble position by Allah, they should exercise more patience. If there is a lacking on the wife’s part, then the husband should accommodate to her weaknesses, maintain a patient attitude and still consistently fulfill his rights. In short, a marriage is intended to bring mutual benefits to both partners.
This “degree above” must not be taken literally to imply male superiority. What it does imply, however, is a greater liability and responsibility, which means that men will be subjected to greater questioning in the Hereafter regarding the treatment of their wives and families. The Qur’an also tells us that the innocent girls who were slain for no other reason than that they were female (during pre-Islamic infanticide), will be asked on the Day of Judgement for what sin they were slain:
This is what one could hardly describe as an enviable position. The “degree” in question is nothing more than means of assuring the maintenance of women, as and when it is necessary. Islam clearly recognizes the equal potential and ability of the sexes, but Allah has also created human beings in a manner whereby men and women are better suited for differing but complementary tasks, especially during the time of the Prophet (PBUH). Just because the male may be better at a task, it does not make him superior. Islam emphasizes on harmony and mutual dependency, so a woman’s work in caring for the home and raising the family is seen as being as important as a man’s work in earning money for the family.
It’s ironic as to how people pay so much attention to the “degree” in the above verse, but disregard everything else written in it.
Every divorced women in Islam has to remain in a waiting of three periods, also known as “iddah”. And during this waiting period, the women must stay in their husband’s house. It is also shown in the line above that if the woman is pregnant, she has to let her husband know. This is because the waiting period of a pregnant woman is until she gives birth.
During the duration of this waiting period, it is advisable for the husband and wife to reconcile, and for the husband to take her back. From this verse, we can derive that marriage is a sacred matter in Islam and it should be taken seriously. Decisions made that could nullify the marriage should be carefully thought over. Most instances of divorce happen when the husband is outraged and declares talaq upon the wife in the spur of a moment. This waiting period is a good way to allow the husband and wife to make amends, and hopefully fix and save the marriage.
Marriage is also seen as a sacred matter in this following verse, and if needed, have representatives from both the husband and wife’s side to help them both reconcile the marriage:
Unless the wife has committed a proven and clear immorality, she is permitted to leave the house of her husband, as shown in the below verse:
It also made clear that if a man were to divorce a woman in Islam, he has to do so with righteousness and on acceptable terms, without tainting her dignity, harming her or taking away anything that rightfully belongs to her:
In Islam, divorced women are not encouraged to stay alone. Most would live with their parents or another close relative as the women would need someone to maintain her. Divorced women should be taken cared of, and this is also mentioned in the Qur’an:
Women are not allowed to divorce
Women in Islam are given the right to divorce from their husband, just as much as she has the right to decline an arranged marriage her father has set for her. Talaq is a man’s right to divorce, while the right for a woman to divorce is called khula’.
Khula’ means the separation of the wife in return for a payment; the husband takes the payment and lets his wife go, whether this payment is the mahr which he gave to her, or more or less than that, according to what they have agreed on.
This term can be seen in this verse:
The evidence for that is from the Sunnah that the wife of Thaabit ibn Qays ibn Shammaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said,
Divorce is highly discouraged in Islam. In the case of talaq, husband and wife are encouraged to reconcile during a waiting period, whereas in the case of khula’, the wife has to persuade usually her hesitant and reluctant husband into releasing her. If a husband disagrees, the khula’ should not continue, unless the grounds for divorce are evident, such domestic abuse or he cannot provide her adequate food and shelter and maintanence. In almost all cases, a woman must have clear evidence in her favour to be granted khula’. The laws of khula in particular cannot be found in the Qur’an directly, so a Sharia court judge must discern from Hadith and Islamic jurisprudnce historical cases what they believe to be valid reasons for divorce. A pair of husband and wife should do all it takes to reoncile their marriage and try to avoid divorce completely.
Women are not granted child custody
This is false. The Qur’an advises couples accordingly “Take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable” (65:6).
Granting that couples cooperate and come to a mutual agreement on what is best for their children then. The issue of child custody is not based on gender; it is based on the capability and suitability of the parent, that is which parent is better prepared to raise the children. Nevertheless, when parents cannot agree on settling the issue of custody, then in most cases, the father would obtain custody of the children. Again, this is conditional based on the premise that the father was religious and morally qualified. Otherwise, the children may remain with the mother, and the father must continue to financially support his children. If the father were granted custody of the children, it would not mean that the mother would be denied seeing the children. The mother would continue to have access to her children. A father could never deny a mother the opportunity to be with her children.
The general agreement among the scholars is that when parents separate and they cannot agree on the issue of custody, then the mother would attain custody of the boy until the age of two and the daughter until the age of seven. However, this rule is dealt with accordingly, case by case. If both parents were dignified, then an Islamic judge would order the first few years of the child’s life to be with the mother. This is an essential developmental time for a child, and the parent that best fits in catering to the needs of a child during those years is the mother. In most cases girls, because of their natures, are entitled to be in the care of their mothers for a longer period than boys.
However, if the child had reached the age of maturity, and is responsible in determining what is best for their well-being, then the child has their own right to choose who stay with.
Presuming that both parents wanted custody of the children, and both were qualified financially, the father would still maintain financial and custodial rights of the children. There are many reasons as to why Islam has held the father to be the legal guardian of the children—the most critical being remarrying. In most cases, after couples divorce they remarry. The chances of a man remarrying with children are much better than a woman with children. As unwarranted as it may be, the children may become an impediment to the woman trying to remarry. Scholars also take into consideration that, if the children are brought into the home of another man, they may not be fully accepted. Reasons such as the ones mentioned, are an attempt to preserve and safeguard the children as well as the parents.
There are many reasons as to what could grant a woman full custodial rights over her child. For example, any form of cruelty, violence, neglect, or mistreatment of the children on the father’s part would affect this decision. Furthermore, if the father were morally corrupt, impious, or indecent—these would be decisive factors.
However, it should also be known that custodial rights over a child is not something supported by the Qur’an, but are local man-made laws. Custodial rights should be handled on a case by case basis with the best interest of the child as a priority.
Status of women in Islam
1. As a child/adolescent
Even though female infanticide was socially accepted by pre-Islamic Arabs, the Qur’an clearly forbade this custom and considered it a crime:
Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children, the Quran states:
The Qur’an also criticizes the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children:
Far from saving the girl’s life so that she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam
requires kind and just treatment for her. Among the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) in this regard are the following:
The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from the men. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
Muslim as used here including both males and females.
2. As a wife
As forementioned above, marriage is a sacred matter in Islam whereby its objectives are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its basis are love and mercy.
In Islam, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.
In another version, the girl said:
It has also been specifically said that the woman has the full right to her mahr, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in contract and the ownership of her mahr does not transfer to her husband or her father. The mahr is not a symbolic price for the woman, but rather, a gift symbolizing love and affection.
The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man. Such degree is maintenance and protection. This refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet, man’s role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband’s dictatorship over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur’an gives us an example:
Over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the Qur’an and is strongly encouraged by the Prophet (PBUH) kind treatment and companionship. The Quran states:
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
To provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce. Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. Like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that. When the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it. The Quran states about such cases:
3. As a mother
Islam considers kindness to parents next to the worship of God.
Moreover, the Quran has a special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers:
A man came to the Prophet (PBUH) asking:
A famous saying of the Prophet (PBUH) is:
Abdullah Ibn Abbâs (d. 687CE), a companions of the Prophet and a great scholar of Islam, considered kind treatment of one’s mother to be the best deed for strengthening or rectifying one’s relation with God. He said:
Before Islam, women were considered shameful, female children were buried alive, prostitution was rampant, divorce was only in the hands of the husband, inheritance was only for the strong, and oppression was widespread. Islam came and abolished these practices. Islam, however, regards women as precious and valuable, not to be disrespected or disgraced. Above are just some of the examples to show how valuable a woman is in Islam. Why would many women around the world willingly enter Islam if it is an oppressive religion? And if you were to ask most Muslim women, they would probably tell you that they feel no compulsion or oppression in Islam. How would I know? Because I am a Muslim.
Women in Islam are generally given equal rights to men, although designed for different tasks. Women is Islam are given equal rights to political activities, to education, to work, to choose a spouse etc. There is no verse in the Qur’an that states women are forbidden to contribute to social aspects of life.
The mistreatment of women in some Middle-Eastern countries or Muslim families is due to cultural factors that some Muslims wrongly follow, or based off their own unrighteousness, not because of Islam. Do not let the misconduct of radical Muslims taint your view of Islam. Muslims are indeed not perfect, however, subhanallah, the Qur’an is.
Perhaps this post might not change your perspective on Islam, but alhamdulillah, I am glad to say that the month I went through seeking answers about this particular topic has definitely made me embrace and appreciate my religion more. I only hope that someone somewhere might find this post beneficial to themselves as well.