Does Islam discriminate against women? Part 4

In Islam, when a woman marries, she retains her family name; her identity, and her possessions.

However, the taking of a husbands surname, which is widely practiced today by those of other faiths and cultures, is rooted in the fact that historically, when a woman married a man, she became his property; just as a slave was given his masters surname so that everybody would know who’s property he was. When it comes to possessions, the Quran says in chapter 4, verse 32: “to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn”. Again, historically, when a Western woman married a man, her possessions and money automatically transferred to her husband; after all, the wife became the man’s possession, so it followed that her possessions would likewise become his.  Islam does not tolerate such unjust treatment of women. The prophet (pbuh) was known to have addressed the Muslim men saying: “The best of you is he who is kindest to his wife”. The Quran describes the relationship between husband and wife in a beautiful way: “And among His signs is this; that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility and He has put love and mercy between your hearts” (Quran 30:21) The topic of marriage also brings us to the right of a Muslim woman to have a marriage contract or “pre-nuptial agreement”, the right to choose her spouse, and the right to divorce if she is unhappy in her marriage. Such concepts were granted to Muslim woman more than a thousand years before European women finally attained such privileges. When a woman came to the prophet complaining that her father had married her off to a man without her consent, the prophet said that she had the right to have the marriage annulled. The woman told the prophet that she was actually satisfied with her father’s choice, but she wanted it to be made clear that a woman had the right to choose her husband.   On another occasion a woman came to the prophet complaining that she was displeased with her husband. So he asked her why she was displeased and she responded that she didn’t like him. So the prophet granted her a divorce. It’s as simple as that; if the woman is dissatisfied, she is not compelled to remain in an unhappy marriage.

Al-rijal qawamoon ala alnisaa

Among one of the most misunderstood verses of the Quran, due largely to inaccurate translations, is verse 4:34, which is translated as “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one above the other” There is no translation more misleading and misinforming than that. The verse, in Arabic says: Al-rijal qawamoon ala alnisaa, the word qawwamoon comes from qawam which denotes someone providing a service. So the more accurate translation would be “Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money”

This means that men, who are generally physically stronger than women, should be the ones to protect women. I give this example in the most secular societies; imagine that you’re in your bedroom with your wife, and you hear a noise and believe that there is an intruder in your home, would you turn to your wife and say “go, see who’s there”.. and the response is always the same; laugher. Because even in the most secular societies, it is expected that the man will protect the woman; not the other way around. The other thing mentioned in the verse is that men are responsible for the financial keep of their wives. This means that the “qawaama” has the potential to be transferred from the husband to the wife; it is not an inherent right of men. For instance, if the wife were the bread-winner of the home and family, then financial decisions are the right of the wife. Similarly, if the husband is paralyzed or otherwise immobile, the wife is of course the one who is in charge of the protection of the family. Therefore, the husband does not have the right to tell his wife to keep the doors unlocked while they sleep. Rather, the decision is hers since she is the one responsible for the repercussions of the decision.

Islam honors mothers

Islam also honors mothers even more than it honors fathers. Contrary to the common Western mindset where when women are asked “what do you do” and they reply “I am ONLY a mother”, Islam does not view the woman’s role as a mother as something marginal. Rather, the role of a mother in Islam is one of the most respected positions in society. A man came to the prophet asking him “who is the most worthy of my companionship and kindness?” and the prophet replied “your mother”. The man then enquired “and who else?”. The prophet again replied “your mother”. Again the man asked “who else?” and the prophet said “your mother.” The man asked yet again, and this time the prophet replied “then your father”. This is a message for those who don’t think twice about putting their aged mothers into care homes, and to those who do not celebrate their mothers except on Mother’s Day. It is narrated that the prophet (pbuh) said: “Heaven is under the feet of mothers” compare this to the Catholic church, debating- until the 17th century-whether women possessed souls or not.

Islam does not blame Eve for the reason that we are here on earth,

and doesn’t claim that women suffer from the pains of labor and menstruation as a punishment for what she had done. On the contrary, these hardships that women endure are considered to be things that women should be appreciated for.  According to the teachings of Islam, woman is not inherently a temptress either. The Quran teaches that both Adam and Eve were warned against the promptings of the Devil, both sinned, both repented, and both were forgiven. But there is no suggestion that Eve was in any way more responsible than Adam for their deeds.

I am not claiming that women are not oppressed. I acknowledge that Muslim women, and non-Muslim women are oppressed also. In some non-Muslim countries, women are paid less than men for doing the same job, and are not legally able to wear what they wish to wear in school and in certain job positions. The same goes for some Muslim countries, which deprive women of some of their rights. If any society or individual oppresses women, or discriminates against them, it is against Islam, not because of it.