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Women in Sharia (Islamic law)

by Abdur Rahman I. Doi (1992)

*Presently a Professor at the International Islamic University, Malaysia.


Maulana Abul A'La Maududi has made a fine psychological distinction, however, between women looking at men and men looking at women. The man, he says, "...is by nature aggressive. If a thing appeals to him, he is urged from within to acquire it. On the other hand, the woman's nature is one of inhibition and escape. Unless her nature is totally corrupted, she can never become so aggressive, bold and fearless, as to make the first advances towards the male who has attracted her. In view of this distinction, the Legislator (the Prophet) does not regard a woman's looking at other men to be as harmful as a man's looking at other women. In several traditions it has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) let Aisha see a performance given by negroes on the occassion of the 'Id. This shows that there is no absolute prohibition on women looking at other men. What is prohibited is for women to sit in the same gathering together with men and stare at them, or look at them in the same manner which may lead to evil results.

  • Social Behavior

The Shariah has placed restrictions on men meeting strange women privately. Similarly no other man other than her husband is allowed to touch any part of a woman's body. The following traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are worth noting in this connection :

"Beware that you do not call on women who are alone," said the Messenger of Allah. One
of the Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what about the younger or elder brother of the husband?" The Prophet replied, "He is death".

(Tirmidhi, Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet said, "The one who touches the hand of a woman without having a lawful relationship with her, will have an ember placed on his palm on the Day of Judgement."

(Takmalah, Fath al-Qadir)

Aishah says that the Prophet accepted the oath of allegiance from women only verbally, without taking their hands into his own hand. He never touched the hand of a woman who was not married to him.

(Bukhari)

Umaimah, daughter of Ruqaiqah, said that she went to the Prophet in the company of some other women to take oath of allegiance. He made them promise that they would abstain from idolatry, stealing, adultery, slander, and disobedience to the Prophet. When they had taken the oath, they requested that he take their hands as a mark of allegiance.

The Prophet said, "I do not take the hands of women. Verbal affirmation is enough."

(Nasai and Ibn Majah)

It is most unfortunate, however, that in spite of this guidance from the Prophet (peace be upon him) many Muslims have adopted the Western system of shaking hands with women, using these traditions in respect of old women as justification. This is clearly an unreasonable extension of the permission. It is therefore, submitted that the Muslims the world over, and ulama in particular, must pause to reflect and stop this Un-Islamic practice which has crept into our society. There cannot be a better form of greeting than uttering ASsalamualaikum (peace be upon you) and greeting back with Waalaikumsalam
(peace be upon you too).

  • The Mosque - Page 29

There is a clear tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraging women to offer their prayers inside their houses : "The best mosques for women are the inner parts of their houses"

Since the Prophet had not forbidden women to attend the mosques, they continued to come to the mosques. But after his death it became increasingly clear that it was not keeping with the dignity and honour of Muslim women to come to the mosques for prayers, especially at night, because men, being what they were, would tease them. Therefore, the Khalif Umar told women not to come to the mosques, but to offer their prayers inside their own houses. The women of Madina resented this prohibition and complained to Aisha. But they received a fitting reply from her : "If the Prophet knew what Umar knows, he would not have granted you permission to go out (to the mosque)".

It is reported by Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The best row for men is the first, and the worst for them is the last. The best row for women is the last, and the worst is the first."

(Muslim)

  • Divorce (Page 84)

Talaq is a right available mainly to the husband, but not to the wife. even though Islam allows divorce, the Prophet (peace be upon him) says :

"Of all things that Islam has permitted, divorce is the most hated by Allah. " (Abu Dawud)

This shows that the right is to be exercised only when there are sufficiently compelling reasons to do so. Hasty and wanton use of the right of divorce is regarded as most condemnable in Islam. The Prophet said, "Marry and do not divorce, undoubtedly the Throne of the Beneficient Lord shakes due to divorce".

Thus Islam encourages reconciliation between spouses rather than severance of their relations.

  • Repentance of the Slanderer (Page 126-127)

If a husband puts forward an accusation against his wife or a wife against her husband, the Holy Quran lays down the following procedure :

"And for those who launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own, their solitary evidence can be received if they bear witness four times with an oath by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth. And the fifth (oath) should be that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness four times with (an oath) by Allah that he (her husband) is telling a lie. And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (24 : 6-9)

  • Women and Education (Page 138-139)

The Holy Prophet made women integral to his plan for Muslim education and learning when he declared :

"An acquisition of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim, male and female"

The Holy Prophet made it a point of duty for every father and mother to make sure that their daughters (and sons) did not remain ignorant of the teachings of Islam because they would, after the marriage, have to play important roles as housewives and as mothers of children. In case the parents had failed to impart such knowledge to their daughters, it was made incumbent upon husbands to teach their wives the basic principles so that they would lead their lives according to the teachings of Islam.

It is reported that Malik Ibn Huwayrith and a group of young men had come to live near the Prophet and acquire knowledge from him.

When they decided to return to their respective homes, the Prophet told them,

"Return home to your wives and children and stay with them. Teach them (what you have learnt) and ask them to act upon it." (Al -Bukhari)

"Ignorant and illiterate mothers cannot possibly rear their children and raise them to be good, effective, capable and intelligent Muslims, in the world today" (Maryam Jameelah Answers Questions, The Criterion, p.46)

To conclude, the seven brilliant jewels of a mu'mins faith (iman) as mentioned in these verses are :

  1. Humility 2. Avoidance of vanity 3. Charity 4. Sexual purity
  2. Fidelity to trusts 6. Fidelity to covenants
  3. An earnest desire to get closer to Allah

"Waqul Rabbi Zidni Ilma"

ps : May we benefit something from this.. INshaallah.. n makes us *think* ..

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