TOPIC:INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. A CRITICAL LOOK AT THE ISSUE OF GENDER EQUALITY.
‘Audhu billaahi minash shaytanir rajeem Bismil laahir Rahmanir Raheem. Alhamdu lil laahil ladhee khalaqa kulla shay in was salatu was salaamu ‘alaa rasuulihi al mab’uthu rahmatan lil ‘aalameen.
The 2020 edition of the Annual International Women’s Day is on March 8 and it is with the theme: I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. It is on this our sermon for this Friday will be focussed.
The International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
If we go back into history specifically in the Pre-Muhammad’s mission in Arabia it would be seen that the treatment of women is characterized by cruelty and injustice with the following as examples:
–Women were not given their share in inheritance, both from parents and spouses.
–They were treated as material things. The protector of a woman had the right to decide her fate. As proof, if a husband died without paying his debt, the lender would own the deceased’s wife as a compensation.
–Men could marry as many women as they wanted to. There were no rules in this regard.
–Women did not have the right to choose their husbands, or getting consent from a woman for a marriage proposal was out of the question. Her protector or rather owner could hand her over to anybody he pleased to.
–Mostly fathers were horrified at the birth of a female child. They considered her an evil omen. Fathers felt embarrassed and unhappy. Fathers even went to the extent of killing the female child to express their anger and dissatisfaction. The Qur’an, on this, says:
وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِالْأُنْثَىٰ ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ
يَتَوَارَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ مِنْ سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ ۚ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَىٰ هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ ۗ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ
And when one of them is given news of a female infant, his face darkens, and he chokes with grief. He hides from the people because of the bad news given to him. Shall he keep it in humiliation, or bury it in the dust? Evil is the decision they make.
It is instructive to state that propagandists have tried to defame Islam by misrepresenting the teachings of Islam regarding women rights. They present the conduct of misguided non-practicing Muslims as an example of Islam’s stance on women rights. However, the stance of Islam is clear on the rights of women. Women were given a fair share in the area of inheritance and they have the right to inherit and be inherited but not as a property but their estate can be inherited by their dependents after death. In chapter 4:7 of the glorious book we have:
لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ ۚ نَصِيبًا مَفْرُوضًا
Men receive a share of what their parents and relatives leave, and women receive a share of what their parents and relatives leave; be it little or much—a legal share.
Islam regulated the number of wives that can be married by one single man and pegged it at a maximum of four and making marrying more than one wife an exception and not a rule. The Qura’n 4:3 states that:
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانْكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُبَاعَ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا
If you fear you cannot act fairly towards the orphans—then marry the women you like—two, or three, or four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then one, or what you already have. That makes it more likely that you avoid bias.
Again in the area of marriage, the woman is highly considered as her acceptance of the proposal by the would-be suitor is an essential component for the validity of an Islamic marriage.
Generally, the status of women in Islam occupies a very envious position and an illustration can be made of Khawlat Bint Thalabah. Khawlah was a woman who lived in the time of the Prophet and was constantly verbally abused by her husband, Al-Aws ibn Samit. She then went to the prophet to complain to him (saw) and because of her Allah (swt) revealed a whole chapter, Al Mujaadalah not only to address the issue but also to speak on behalf of women and by extension raise the status of women. For more on the story of Khawlat bint Tha’labah, read the below.
In conclusion however, Muslims should be wary of going beyond specified boundaries in the issue of seeking the rights of women. There are limitations to the issue of Equality in gender as Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Since everyone is different and we embrace these differences as unique, we must also redefine our basic expectations for fairness and success as contingent upon those individual differences.
As we commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, we thank Allah for making women occupy their rightful place amongst humanity, we ask for His salutations on Muhammad (saw) for his exemplary role in treating women right and we also wish our women a good and memorable Day.