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September 30, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Deccan Chronicle: Women and Islam

  • September 27, 2012 
  • By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

At a time when women were considered nothing more than chattels and objects of sexual pleasure possessing no rights or status in the Arab society, Prophet Mohammed’s teachings brought revolutionary change in common perception about women. Before the advent of Islam, Arab tribes used to bury their female children alive and women were often treated worse than animals.

The Prophet emerged as harbinger of love and compassion for them and tried hard to put an end to all such obnoxious practices and cruelties. He preached kindness towards women and admonished his followers about fulfilling their women’s rights. He said: “Fear Allah in respect of women… The best of you are those who behave best to their wives… A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good… The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is.”

The Prophet introduced women rights in Arab for the first time. He stressed that a woman is a completely independent personality. She can make any contract or bequest in her own name. She is entitled to inherit in her position as mother, as wife, as sister and as daughter. She has perfect liberty to choose her husband. The society of pre-Islamic Arabia had an irrational prejudice against their female children whom they used to bury alive, but the messenger of Allah strongly condemned this horrendous practice and assured them that supporting their female children would act as a screen for them against the hellfire.

Woman as mother commands great respect in Islam. The Quran speaks of the rights of the mother in a number of verses. It enjoins on Muslims to revere their mothers and serve them well even if they do not follow their religion. The Prophet states emphatically that the rights of the mother are paramount. Abu Hurayrah narrated that a man came to the messenger of Allah and asked: “O messenger of Allah, who is the person who has the greatest right on me with regards to kindness and attention?” He replied, “Your mother.” “Then who?” asked the man. The Prophet replied, “Your mother.” “Then who?” asked the man. The Prophet replied the same. “Then who?” asked the man. The Prophet replied, “Your father.”

Similarly, the Prophet granted lofty status and noble rights to woman as wife. Once Mu’awiyah, one of the Prophet’s companions, asked him, “What are the rights that a wife has over her husband?” The Prophet replied, “Feed her when you take your food, give her clothes to wear when you wear clothes, refrain from abusing her, and do not separate from your wife, except within the house.”

The Prophet’s companions epitomised these noble teachings and brought about a revolution in their social attitude towards women. The Arabs no longer consider women as mere chattels, but as an integral part of society. For the first time women were given the right to have a share in inheritance. In the new social climate, women rediscovered themselves and became highly active members of the Islamic society.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a graduate from a traditional Sufi Islamic seminary. He is a Delhi-based writer.


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