Prayer Time

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There are many rights mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an 1400 years ago when many civilizations of the World were wandering astray and knew nothing of human rights. The paramount characteristic of the pre-Islamic epoch was the abuse of rights especially that of people who did not belong to the ruling, wealthy and strong class. The ruled worked like slaves to feed the rulers, the poor laborers worked like donkeys to add to the fortune of their wealthy employees. The weak such as women, children and the aged were not accorded their due rights for their inability to participate in warfare. Life continued to swing according to this tune of human rights abuse until the dawn of The Islamic Civilization.


Islam, as a divine religion, accorded rights to each member of the family and the society. It properly placed each human being in the right context and allotted to them their due rights accordingly. Whilst it is voluminous to give account of all these rights; we present the special rights of women as mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an.

What the Qur’an says about women’s rights.

Prior to the advent of Islam, women were widely regarded as non-entities in many societies around the world. Indeed, it has taken centuries for women to gain rights equal to those of men, at least in theory, if not in practice. Nevertheless, the struggle for complete gender equality has not ended. 
Within this struggle, many fingers point to Islam as one of the biggest hurdles to women's rights. However, when we consult the Qur'an, this does not appear to be the case. Traditionally conservative customs embedded in society do not live up to the Qur'an's vision of dignity for women. 
The Qur'an says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاءً ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا

"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward God in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bear you)…" (Qur'an 4:1).

This verse clearly demonstrates that men and women in Islam are equal to each other both intrinsically – within the very act of creation – and extrinsically, with respect to both their relationship with one another and their duties before God. In fact, the singling out of women at the end of this verse for special reverence as de facto mothers is the only indication of relative inequality, albeit in favour of women.

In pre-Islamic Arabia, parents would often commit female infanticide because they considered the birth of a daughter an inauspicious omen for the family. The Qur'an condemned feelings of shame at the birth of a girl, and said of those who commit such acts:

وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُم بالأنثى ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ

"He hides himself from the folk because of the evil of that whereof he has had tidings, (asking himself): Shall he keep it in contempt, or bury it beneath the dust. Verily evil is their judgment" (Qur'an 16:58-59). 

Fourteen centuries after Islam's beginnings and the progress, development, education and enlightenment that followed, we still observe the stigma attached to having a daughter in certain parts of the world, like in much of South Asia, for example. In a society where men often support the entire family, the birth of a son is seen as greater cause for celebration. 

Though the empowerment of women, resulting from better education and employment, is changing societal structures, we must do more to honour the gender equality expounded by the Qur'an. Forced marriages, "honour" killings, and women's confinement to the home by culture, tradition and societal norms have no endorsement from Islam. 
Islam granted rights of inheritance to women 12 centuries before they were granted to European women:

لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ ۚ نَصِيبًا مَّفْرُوضًا

 "Unto the men (of a family) belongs a share of that which parents and nearer kindred leave, and unto the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be little or much – a legal share" (Qur'an 4:7). 

Islam came at a time and in a society in which women themselves had been inherited as property; it was nothing short of revolutionary for them to have their own inheritance rights recognized. 

In Muslim discourse, the debate over women's rights, or any rights for that matter, is always understood in the context of rights and responsibilities from an Islamic perspective. To respect these rights and responsibilities and to understand our role in the development of a society, we must educate ourselves. Education and knowledge are mandatory upon men and women in Islam. 
After all, education serves as a catalyst for change.

قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

"Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed" (Qur'an 39:9).

The teachings of Islam must take precedence over the cultures and customs with embedded bias against women's constructive role in many Muslim societies, ironically in the name of the very religion that has granted women far greater rights than these social structures are willing to accept. Any empowerment efforts in accordance with the Qur'an's vision, which upholds women's status before the law, must be fully supported. To those who would deny women such rights, we ask, "Will they not then ponder on the Qur'an?" (4:82).



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