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Response to Egyptian Family Life in 1919

Reader comment on item: Egyptian Family Life in 1919

Submitted by Anees Ahmad (United States), Feb 18, 2006 at 11:46

While Najib Mahfuz comments on the clash of Orthodox Islam and modernity may be true in recent years, they have nothing to do with the Islam as mentioned in the Holy Qur'an. It is the height of absurdity to cite the example of some misguided followers of any religion or ideology and then declare this behavior to be indicative of the teaching itself. Otherwise, we might as well condemn Hinduism for groups such as the Arya Samaj and BGP or Christianity and Judaism for promoting the actions of Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, Marshall Herff Apple, the KKK, Ariel Sharon, Ben Gurion and Begin. Nevertheless, Mahfuz has cited three areas of dispute between ‘Islam' and the modern era. We shall explain how this clash is not because of an adaptation of Islamic teaching, but only because these misguided souls have abandoned the Islam.

• "True to a long-standing Muslim pattern, the father, Ahmad, completely dominates the lives of his wife, two daughters, and three sons. He not only has absolute jurisdiction over the family, but he routinely demands acts of servility of them: the children must kiss his hands when he is angry with them; his wife, Amina, sits by his feet each night when he returns home from his philandering to take off his shoes and socks… While members of the family sense Ahmad's power, regardless of his distance, Ahmad himself freely indulges in infidelities without concern for Amina's awareness of sensibilities. He is not accountable, yet maintains full control over everyone else."

The behavior cited above, while extant, has nothing to do with Islam. Islam promotes, more so than any other ideology or ism, the welfare of the family and the safeguarding of all individuals in the family. Let us first examine a woman's status prior to the advent of Islam. In ancient Greece, the virtuous and faithful married women were totally secluded from society, uneducated, and were under total authority of her husband with virtually no rights. The other Greek women, hetaerae, were high-class courtesans enjoying a little more freedom but were still dependent on the whims of their husbands. In ancient Rome women enjoyed greater practical, if not legal, freedom compared with Greek society yet Roman religion greatly degraded women such as the injunction of patria protesta where the absolute power of one's children resided with the father, even to the degree of life and death and extended into adulthood. Infanticide was the result with the mother helplessly looking on.

When monotheistic religion came, woman's status raised considerably as she was accorded dignity by the 5th Commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." The Old Testament provided some other safeguards for women such as a written bill of divorce that a husband had to provide in order to divorce; she could remarry after divorce; female slaves had to be freed after 7 years; and penalties were set for men who were guilty of sexual crimes. Yet Jewish society still considered women inferior as she could not take part in religious matters and was still largely considered an appendix to her husband, who by his good actions could ensure salvation for her. Christianity did little to change this picture, although Jesus Christ (pbuh) taught that men and women were equal and in the Gospel of John his apostles are said to be astonished when Jesus Christ (pbuh) was found talking to a woman and inviting her to believe and become his disciple, just as he would any man. Yet after his departure, the teachings of Jesus Christ did not remain in vogue and women's status remained lesser than that of men.

In the United Kingdom, it was only in late 1882 that the first Married Women's Property Act was passed by Parliament, and before that, a woman could not hold property on her own, independently of her husband, and in Italy as late as 1919. The 1920's marked the first time western women were given the right to vote. Misconduct was accepted in English law as cause for divorce only in 1923. Abandonment was accepted as cause for divorce in New Zealand only in 1912. In Tasmania (1919), Victoria (1923), Cuba (1918), Mexico (1917), Portugal (1915), Norway (1909), Sweden (1920), Switzerland (1912) divorce was allowed for women for suffering various forms of mistreatment.

The Quran, however, does not differentiate between man and woman as they were created from a single soul. They are spoken of as one because they are two things jointly performing one function, affirming that women and men have the same propensities. The requirements of piety are also the same and so they can both achieve nearness to God.
• "O ye people! Fear your Lord who created you from a single soul and of its kind created its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women" (4:2).

• Muhammad declared in his Farewell Address, "... Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any rights, any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers. O men, your God is One and your ancestor is one. An Arab holds no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a White over a Black person, nor vice-versa, but only to the extent to which he discharges his responsibility to God and man. Only the God-fearing people merit a preference with God."

In 6th century Arabia, women were much less than a second class citizen, closer to slaves and animals in rights than to humans. They could not own property, could not inherit from her husband upon his death nor on the death of her parents, was deprived of education she had no say on the upbringing of her children and was expected to assume the burden of their care, and helplessly watched the burial of live female infants. She had no role in religion and had no share in God's blessings, was vulnerable to abuse and ill treatment, and had no recourse to divorce while her husband could divorce her at moment's notice, leaving her homeless. For a pre-Islamic Arab, the ultimate humiliation was to be the father of a daughter:

• "And when to one of them is conveyed the tidings of the birth of a female, his face darkens with inward suppressed grief; He hides himself from the people because of the bad news he has had. Shall he keep it in spite of disgrace or shall he bury it in the dust? Verily, evil is that which they judge" (16:59-60)

Needless to say, after the advent of Prophet Muhammad, all of these customs were totally abolished and remained abolished for at least 300 years (the Golden Age of Islam) after his departure. Indeed, it was the very example of the Holy Prophet that totally changed the mentality of Arab society. It is recorded that during the Battle of Hunayn, the Muslims were victorious and captured 6,000 prisoners - among them a large number belonged to Banu Hawaazin, and Hazrat Sadia, the foster mother of the Holy Prophet was also a member of this tribe. A delegation from Banu Hawaazin begged to be pardoned on account of Hazrat Sadia was of her tribe and the Holy Prophet set free all 6,000 people for the sake of his foster mother!

Thus history testifies to the fact that Muslim woman never had to raise a finger on their own to attain these rights - God bestowed these rights upon them with the advent of Islam. It was, and still is, Islam that not only acknowledged the rights of women, but established a positive mindset by making those rights and freedoms an inherent part of a female's existence. 1400 years ago Islam firmly established that all mankind is created equal (an idea expounded by Rousseau around 1750). As American Justice Pierre Craibites rightly observes:

• "Muhammad, 1300 years ago assured to the mothers, wives, and daughters of Islam a rank and dignity not yet generally assured to women by the laws of the West."

To quote the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw):

• "... Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any rights, any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers. O men, your God is One and your ancestor is one. An Arab holds no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a White over a Black person, nor vice-versa, but only to the extent to which he discharges his responsibility to God and man. Only the God-fearing people merit a preference with God."

Roles of a Female in Islam

In an Islamic society, women can occupy three positions:

1) Daughter:

The pre-Islamic practice of killing infant girls at birth for fear of humiliation or poverty was totally abolished by Islam:

• "...Slay not your children for fear of poverty, it is We who provide for you and for them, and approach not foul deeds, whether open or secret..." (6:152)
• "... He creates what He pleases, He bestows daughters upon whom He pleases, and He bestows sons on whom He pleases" (42:50)

These verses deal with the slaying of both born and unborn children for the fear of poverty. Islam protects the child's right to life, and enjoins the parents to place their trust in Allah. Islam teaches that children are a blessing, and their proper rearing is a means of gaining Allah's pleasure. After forbidding the killing of children, Islam goes on to teach a father that he must raise his daughters in the same way as his sons. Her importance is such that the Holy Prophet of Islam tells us:

• "He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgment attached to me like two fingers of a hand"
• "He who brings up his daughters well, and makes no distinction between them and his sons, will be close to me in Paradise."

2) Wife:

Islam states that the character of men in an Islamic society is established in relationship to their treatment of women: "The best from among you is one who behaves best towards his wife" (Tirmidhi). Also, the Holy Prophet urged his followers to not bear hatred towards their wives nor should they bear malice for their wives. How sad is the contemporary trend – one may attain respect due to their upbringing but these same people do not treat their parents well? To remove such evils from society, Prophet Muhammad stated, "Marry a righteous woman, she will help you fulfill your obligations." This means that whenever a righteous woman is married she works in a manner that by fulfilling her duties she strengthens her own faith, helps her husband discharge his duties, and cultivates excellent manners in children. Lastly, Prophet Muhammad beautifully stated:
• "The world is a provision and the best provision in the world is a good woman" (Muslim)
• "The most perfect believer in the matter of faith is he whose morals are the most excellent; and the best of you in morals is he who behaves the best towards his wife" (Tirmidhi).

3) Mother:

Islam has placed women at a higher status than men as Prophet Muhammad has said, "Paradise is at the feet of the mother." Islam recognizes the great role that women play in upbringing of the children and that the future of mankind and of societies depends on mothers. The paradise mentioned by the Holy Prophet refers to both the social paradise that can be achieved in Islam and the heavenly paradise. Therefore, mothers have been placed at a position of the highest respect. In her role as mother, Muslim woman achieve the highest social status, because the mother is revered in Islam unlike any other individual. The Holy Qur'an repeatedly directs Muslims to care for their parents, especially the mother:

• "And We have enjoined man to be good to his parents; his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years..." (31:15)
• Abu Hurairah reported that a person came to Prophet Muhammad and said: "'Who among the people is most deserving my companionship' (of a kind treatment from me?) He said: 'Your mother'. He, again, said: 'Then who' (is the next one)? He said: 'It is your mother' (who deserves the best treatment from you). He said: 'Then who' (is the next one)? He (the Holy Prophet) said: 'It is your mother.' He (again) said: 'Then who? Thereupon he (The Prophet (peace be upon him)) said: 'It is your father'" (Muslim).

Once The Holy Prophet explained the meaning of the Arabic word ‘Raehm.' There are two words having the same root letters, Re, Hae and Mim that make up the word ‘Raehm' as well as ‘Raham'. Raham means mercy, and Rahman is an attribute and name of Allah derived from the same three letters. Raehm, however, refers to the uterus in which a child develops; it is also derived from the same three letters Re, Hae and Mim. The Holy Prophet pointed out that the word ‘Rahman' and the uterus are derived from the same source to show that whoever breaks the ties of relationship with a mother he also breaks his ties with Rahman – in other words God. If one cuts at the root, the entire tree is gone. Muhammad explained that both the relationship of the child with the uterus and man with God belong to the same root. So this is a message of unity, indicating that unity begins at home first - in the families. It is highly important that we preserve the family unit as healthy and wholesome to bring mankind under one universal flag or charter.
At another place Muhammad declared that he who does not show Raham, that is mercy, to the people of Allah, Allah does not show mercy to him. What Prophet Muhammad meant was that one must first strengthen the ties with your mother and then, with reference to the same attribute Rahman, to strengthen ones ties with the entire mankind. Consequently, to go to paradise is not just a matter of claims but of a much deeper understanding of the message of Islam and translating that message into practice. Recall that Prophet Muhammad said "Paradise is at the feet of the mother", indicating that there is a door leading to paradise, but it lies under the feet of your mother.

Relationship with Men

In order to allow women the opportunity to fulfill the challenging obligation of producing those moral individuals who will become members of the Islamic society, the responsibility for providing for the family has been placed on men. They are appointed as protectors of the members of their household.

• "Men are appointed guardians over women..." (4:35)
• "Wives have rights corresponding to those which husbands have, in equitable reciprocity, though, in certain situations, men would have the final word and thus enjoy a preference. Allah is Mighty, Wise" (2:229).

Prophet Muhammad has stated:

• "When you married, God appointed you trustees of those rights (of your wives). You brought your wives to your home under the law of God. You must not, therefore, abuse the trust which God has placed in your hands."
• "Be good to women because they are given to you by God as a trust" (Muslim).
• "Man being the head of the family has the authority over his house, and he shall stand accountable (in front of God) how he treated and took care of the members of his family. And woman is the authority in the house of her husband over the children and she shall be questioned (by God) about them" (Bukhari & Muslim).
• "…A man is a steward to his family members of his house, a woman is a steward to her husband's house and his children…" (Bukhari & Muslim).
• "Let no Muslim man entertain any rancor against a Muslim woman. Should he dislike one quality in her, he would find another which is pleasing" (Muslim, Kitab-ul-Nikah, Al-Wassiyat bil Nisaa).

This methodology practiced by Islam can be explained in the following manner: Just as in any system, different individuals are assigned different roles for the optimum functioning of the system, similarly, in the family unit, man is the head of the household. This does not imply superiority or inferiority in any way, but a difference in roles, because the functions men and women each play in the family unit are different. In the family unit, the men bears the ultimate responsibility for providing that pious and safe haven of love and comfort called the Islamic home within which paradise is formed under the feet of mothers during the course of the sacred task of the moral upbringing of the children. In return, men receive obedience and support from their spouse. Being a guardian of women means husbands are leaders as they have been placed with a heavier burden, not dictators and there actions will be questioned on the Day of Judgment - it is not as if the men are free to abuse and domineer their wives. The Promised Messiah Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh) always exhorted his followers to be conscious of their duty as a husband:

• "Your wives are the first witnesses of your moral and spiritual caliber and your relationship between you and God. A man who is not honorable and kind to his wife, how can he possibly be good to other people? You must first of all be good to your wives" (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, by Iain Adamson, p. 146).
• "It is women who are the primary witnesses regarding the excellence of a man's moral character, and his relationship with God. How can a man make peace with his God if his relationship with his wife is strained?" (Al-Hakam, p. 12, May 17, 1902; Al-Badr, p. 137, May 22, 1902).
• "One who does not treat his wife and his family with kindness and benevolence does not belong to my Jamaat" (Kashti-e-Nuh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, p. 19).

Duties of Husband & Wife

The rightful duties of the husband are:

1. He should respect and be very mindful of the susceptibilities of his wife.
2. He should try to be a source of comfort to his wife and behave in a manner that convinces her that she alone is the center of his love and affection.
3. He should provide for all her reasonable needs and keeping within his means and should be disposed to spending in that respect with an open hand.
4. The husband should participate in the management of the house by giving hand in the household chores of his spouse.
5. He should look after her health and be always anxious about it.
6. He should refrain from keeping a close watch over every movement of his wife as if he had no confidence in her and thus making her life miserable.
7. He should always be disposed to overlooking the minor shortcomings of his wife and be generous in forgiving and forgetting.
8. He should see that trifles do not lead to a situation in which tempers are lost and threats of divorce and separation are pronounced.
9. He should shun every act or act which is likely to displease or agonize his wife.
10. The husband should display a sense of utmost sympathy towards his wife when she is in distress or has met with some misfortune.
11. He should not object to his wife meeting her relatives provided no mischief is feared from their side. He should also be respectful to them.
12. He should consult his wife in all family matters of importance and handle the situation as decided by mutual consent.
13. If there are more wives than one, the husband must treat them all as equal in every respect, in dress, in food, in living accommodation and in the duration of his stay with each of them.

The rightful duties of the wife are:

1. She has to look after the comfort of her husband, give him due respect and always have regard for his feelings.
2. She has to safeguard the honor of her husband.
3. She has to be the guardian of the property of her husband.
4. She has to rear and bring up their children properly.
5. She should treat the relatives of her husband as if they were her own relatives.
6. She should beautify herself for her husband.
7. She should bear in mind the tastes of her husband in the matter of food and dress.
8. She should be ever mindful of her husband's health.
9. She should give her most sincere advice when her husband consults her in any of his problems.
10. She should not make unfair and unreasonable demands on the purse of her husband.
11. She has to remain loyal to her husband under all conditions and be a source of strength to him in adverse circumstances and stick fast to him through thick and thin.
12. She should be careful that the dignity and reputation of her husband are not harmed by any of her actions.
13. Under all conditions her behavior should be conducive to peace and tranquility in the house.

The Aim of Marriage

"God has reminded us constantly about this mutual love and loyalty in marriage. It is the fountainhead of all human relationship" (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad).

Allah has enjoined marriage for the believers for three basic reasons:

1. It enables a man and a woman to live together and experience love and happiness.

2. To produce children, and provide a stable and righteous environment for their upbringing.

3. To provide a legal union which safeguards society from moral and social degradation.

The first two reasons are self-explanatory; both take into account the natural urges of human beings. The third point looks beyond the individual, and establishes marriage as the most important tool for creating an ideal society. How does marriage accomplish this?

One of the most important moral values in Islam is chastity. Islam regards marriage as the means by which man's natural urges and needs, both physical and emotional, are controlled and satisfied at the same time. Uncontrolled and uninhibited satisfaction of physical desire is simply not permitted in Islam. Hence, there is the creation of a society whose morals are protected. In fact, the Holy Quran mentions the marriage contract (nikah) by the word "ihsan", which means a fortress. The man who contracts marriage is a "muhsin", that is he builds a fortress. The woman who marries him is a "muhsinah", which means that she has come into the protection of that fort, in order to protect herself and their morals. Verily, the Holy Prophet declared, "A women needs to be sheltered. When she issues forth unguarded, Satan pounces upon her."
It is also important to note that the Quran has declared celibacy to be prohibited:

• "And monasticism they invented - We did not prescribe it for them - for the seeking of Allah's pleasure; but they observed it not as it should be observed" (57:28).
Monasticism originated from the idea that the woman was the inferior creation and association with her was demoralizing and degrading. Albeit, Islam raised women's spiritual status to equal with man – and each complemented the other: (2:188).
Marriage also serves the purpose of winning the pleasure of Allah through chastity, contentment, and species continuation (23:1-12). The same theme of marriage as an institution that creates peace of mind and mutual love and affection, and a means of attaining piety and of guarding one's chastity is stated at other places in the Quran as well:

• "And of HIS Signs is that HE has created wives for you from among yourselves that you may find peace of mind in them, and HE has put love and tenderness between you. In that, surely, are Signs for a people who reflect" (30:22).
• "HE it is Who created you from a single soul and made therefrom its mate, that he might find comfort in her" (7:190).
• "...They are a sort of garment for you and you are a sort of garment for them..." (2:188).

The Arabic word 'libaas' (garment) means a thing that covers another thing. A garment serves a threefold purpose:

• "O children of Adam, we have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress; but the raiment of righteousness - that is the best. That is one of the signs of Allah, that they may remember" (7:27).
• ...HE has made for you garments which protect you from heat, and coats of mail which protect you in your wars... (16:82)

Another use of our dress is that it provides protection against heat and cold. "Libaas" or raiment is used to cover our nakedness and also to serve as a decoration and to make us look elegant. But the apparel of piety is in fact the really fine raiment for us. Ordinary dress covers our physical nakedness, while the apparel of piety covers our spiritual and moral nakedness. Since the Holy Quran has used the word 'garment' in respect of both the husband and wife, it proves that they hold an equal status. These verses indicate that there are a number of dormant aspects in the life of a man that can only be activated by a woman. When God declares each of them to be a garment for the other, He wishes it be known how they should discharge their duties towards each other which are as follows:

1. To cover up one another's weaknesses and shortcomings from others.
2. To act as an adornment and embellishment for one another.
3. Just as clothes protect us from the severity and inclemency of the weather, so the wife and husband should stick fast to each other and at no time should they fall apart in adverse circumstances.

Marriage in Islam means laying the foundation of a fabric from which emerges a benevolent and beneficial society, as the Holy Prophet Muhammad said:

• "O company of the youth! he who can afford to marry should marry, for it keeps the eyes cast down and keeps the man chaste; and he who cannot afford to marry should take to fasting for it will have a sobering effect upon him."
• "Wedlock is my way. He who turns away from my way is not of me."

Marriage primarily affects the lives of two persons but then comes the question of family and children. As long as the man is responsible for the maintenance of the family and children he will be forced to be away from the house for considerable periods of time and so the responsibility of their well being and training has been placed upon the woman by Islam. Therefore, marriage is not just the joining of two people but the joining of two families and as such, one should treat the other spouse's family with the utmost respect and dignity. Regarding the upbringing of children, if the woman is chaste, pious, and religious, she would raise the children in a well-trained manner and thus the society emerging from these children would be highly moral and respectable and so the Holy Prophet said:

• "A woman is married for four things: (1) for her wealth; (2) for nobility of her family; (3) for her beauty and (4) or for her righteousness. Give preference to the one who is righteous. May you remain humble" (Bukhari).
• "Marry such women as are productive and of loving nature" (Nasa'i).

Piety, or moral goodness, is the most important quality to be sought in a potential mate. If you and your partner have righteousness, you will approach all aspects of marriage in a God-fearing way and will try to make a success of things. Prayer is also an essential tool for deciding on a prospective mate and Muslims are taught to seek Allah's guidance in making this important decision.
Moreover, the Quran explains that the relationship between man and woman should be one of grace:

• "O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will, nor should you detain them wrongfully that you may take away part of that which you have given them, except that they be guilty of a flagrant impropriety, and consort with them in kindness, and if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing wherein Allah has placed much good" (4:20).

After a husband and wife establish their marriage, they desire to have children:

• "Your wives are a tilth for you, so approach your tilth when and how you like, and send ahead some good for yourselves and fear Allah and know that you shall meet Him, and bear good tidings to those who obey" (2:224).

The word "tilth" means a piece of land ploughed for sowing or actually sown with some crop or even under crop; it also means crop or produce of a land. It is also used to signify gain, acquisition or earning and also reward and recompense. The wife is likened to a tilth here because she is like a tilth in which the seed of progeny is sown to bear crop in the form of children. A wise farmer selects the best soil, prepares the best tilth, secures the best seed and chooses the best time and manner of sowing it. Similarly, a man should select a wife who is best suited as a tilth, i.e., pious and well qualified and of loving nature for the benefit of his children. He should love her and treat her well and look after her so that her life will be happy and contented and she may become best disposed to bring up the children well. Lastly, he should keep himself in a state of good physical and moral health so that his seed for his tilth may also be healthy in every respect. Then he will ensure that he will reap a good harvest in the form of pious and righteous children.

The Holy Prophet said:

• "Marriage is my precept and my practice. Those who do not follow my practice are not of me."

• "When a person has married, he or she completes half of his or her religion. He or she should fear Allah concerning the remaining half"

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad has elaborated:

• "It is our duty to see that it is duly respected and adhered to faithfully. It entails a heavy responsibility for both man and woman, but I find very few people realize it. When it is attempted, it is done on a very inadequate scale. The Islamic law has only distinguished between two sets of rules. One pertains to God Himself, and the other to our fellow beings. Marriage therefore falls into the second category and may be considered to be its chief proponent. The Islamic law has made the most of it, but there are many people that do not seem to understand [the law] fully. Neither do they try to benefit themselves by it. Their case is like that of a baby who would be quite willing to barter a precious diamond for a base coin. I wish people could only realize the importance of marriage."

Returning to the role of a women in the family, we see that biologically and psychologically, women have been designed by Allah to be more loving, patient, forbearing, nurturing, etc. then men - qualities making them more fit to be the custodians of the house. Science has shown that male and female hormones totally differ and account for many of the differences between the two, mentally and physically. God instructs parents to pray for the success of this sacred duty of marriage, because seeking God's help through prayer is a necessary precursor to every endeavor of a Muslim:

• "Lord, grant us of our spouses and our offspring the delight of our eyes and make us a model (family) for the righteous" (25:75).

Therefore, in order for a society to be a pure society, both men and women should think, dress, and behave in ways that allow pure thoughts and actions to dominate the way of life and create a social climate conducive to the achievement of the real goal of life, the achievement of communion with our God, our Creator. The issue of dress and appearance turns us to the Islamic custom of Hijab. However, let us first examine what has resulted from a lack of modesty and chastity in society.

A cursory glance of the teenage pregnancy and abortion rates should serve as ample evidence for the validity in the Islamic stance of preserving one's chastity and staying away from foolish modern innovations such as dating. There were 276,000 illegitimate babies born in American in 1964, almost 3 times more than that of 1950; more than 40% of these mothers are teenagers. The Washington Post stated, on February 19, 1986 that, "Teenage pregnancy cost the state and federal governments at least $16.65 billion in welfare outlays in 1985...more than 1 million teen-age girls become pregnant each year but, because of abortions and miscarriages, onlyl about 500,000 give birth. More than half the number who give birth are unmarried, and about three quarters are having their first baby."

The state of women in this society is pitiful. From early childhood, they are taught that their main asset is their physical attraction from beauty pageants to cheerleading squads to the images portrayed by their so-called pop culture role models. They are made to believe that they must parade their physical beauty, spend hours working out in the gyms to shape their figures only to display them at the beaches, all this demeaning compromise so that eventually they will catch a husband. Once they do, they continue to display their attractiveness outside the home, only to be complimented by men other than their husband, or sexually harassed on the job, generally starting the slide into the path of adultery, divorce, broken homes, etc. For example, in 2000 alone in America almost 1,000,000 new families were divorced.

Role of Man & Woman in Society

Man and woman differ physically in nature and capabilities. Man is physically stronger than woman and this is why his natural role in the family is to go out and provide the family with his means of sustenance. He is also the protector of the family from the outside dangers. But this does not in any way degrade the position of the woman because she has her own sphere of responsibilities - with her loving and caring nature she is more capable of looking after the members of the family, and thus has more to offer than man. She acts as the protector of the family from the internal dangers and she is responsible for the education and training of the children. The combined efforts of both man and woman are needed to produce the perfect family. As the man needs the help of the woman to protect his house and look after it in his absence while he is away carrying out his duties, similarly the woman needs the protection of the man from the outside dangers to provide her with the peaceful atmosphere, that will enable her to perform her duties inside the house in the best possible way.
The protection provided by men does not mean their superiority over women but emphasizes the importance of the role of women in the society. Women need to be fully protected from outside dangers so that they can give full attention to carrying out their sacred duties. The Islamic veil symbolizes the spiritual protection of the Muslims. Women need protection from external dangers and this is why their veil is manifest because it represents their external protection while for men the veil is concealed because it represents their internal protection. But it must always be remembered that observing the veil is an obligation for both men and women alike, even if it assumes different forms.
We notice that in the above quoted verses, after the mention of the commandments to men and women separately, the Quran ends by saying: "And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers that you may prosper." This emphasizes the fact that for the achievement of the sought results, both men and women need to carry out their share of responsibilities in connection with these injunctions for the sake of the prosperity of their society. Moreover, the directions concerning the believing men ends with the words: "...that is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well-aware of what they do," meaning that if the believing men obey this command, they will be able to purify their souls.
But the order concerning the believing women does not end with a similar statement, hinting to the believing women that there are still some more requirements that they will need to fulfill before they can achieve fruitful results. These requirements are mentioned separately in the verses that directly follow the above verses because they can only be complied with by the combined action of the men and women together. Those verses instruct the believers to arrange marriages for the women having no husbands, emphasizing that the real duty of the woman can only be carried out fully after becoming a housewife:

• "O wives of the prophet you are not like any other woman if you are righteous. So be not soft in speech lest he in whose heart is a disease should feel tempted; and speak decent words. And stay in your houses with dignity and display not your beauty like the displaying of the former days of ignorance and observe prayer and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surely, Allah desires to remove from you all uncleanliness, O members of the household, and purify you completely" (33:33-34)

In these verses it is required from women to behave with dignity, dress appropriately, and talk in a formal manner when addressing men. Modest behavior includes not only how we dress, but also how we think, how we address others so that we can avoid any evils lurking from within the inner state of others. Islam discourages too much familiarity between the two sexes in order to purify their thoughts and to protect women from slanderous tongues. A woman who is following the rules of Hijab in her dress and actions is not likely to be treated in a disrespectful way by men. Thus purdah provides Muslim women with freedom from some of the problems that women in Western society are facing today. In Islam woman is not regarded as a ‘sex object,' nor is she exploited or harassed in this demeaning manner. Moreover, various feminist movements are trying to deal with these issues today, yet the results are disheartening. In Islam, a woman need not compromise her dignity, her integrity, and her high self-esteem at any time. She thinks, behaves, and dresses modestly. All members of the society, particularly men, respect her. She displays her beauty for her own husband, not providing a free show for all to enjoy:

• "...and display not your beauty like the displaying of the former days of ignorance..." (33:34).

Here is the key word ‘ignorance.' If you walked in an area where prostitutes were parading, would you not feel pity for them and understand that they chose this way of life out of ignorance, because of low self-esteem learned from bad childhood experiences? In an Islamic society, men and women help each other achieve goodness, they are not devilishly tempting one another:

• "The believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat (tax for the poor), and obey Allah and His Messenger. It is these whom Allah will have mercy. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.Allah has promised to believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide, and delightful dwelling-places in Gardens of Eternity. And the pleasure of Allah is the greatest of all. That is the supreme triumph" (9:71).

Some Hadith on Women's Status

• Abdullah ibn Amr ibn ‘As relates that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "The world is a provision and the best provision in the world is a good woman" (Muslim)

• Mu'aiwah ibn Haidah that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "I asked the Holy Prophet: what is the right of a wife against her husband? He said: Feed her when you feed yourself, clothe her when you clothe yourself, do not strike her on the face, do not revile her and do not separate yourself from her except inside the house" (Abu Daud).

• Abu Shuraih Khuwailad ibn Amr Khuzai relates that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "Allah, I declare sinful any failure to safeguard the rights of two weak ones: orphans and women" (Nisai).

• Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, "Treat women well. The woman was created from a rib. The most bent part of the rib is the top part. If you try to straighten it, you will break it. If you leave it, it remains bent. So treat women well" (Bukhari & Muslim).

• Abu Hurairah relates that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "A dinar (currency unit from gold) you spend in the sake of Allah, a dinarr you spend to free a slave, a dinar you donate to the poor, and a dinar you spend on your wife and children, the most rewarding among them is the dinar that you spend on your wife and children" (Muslim).

• "To treat a wife tenderly and put a morsel in her mouth is charitable."

• "The more civil and the kinder is a Muslim to his wife, the more perfect of faith he is; fear Allah with reference to two meek beings, woman and orphans."

• Hazrat Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: "Allah's Messenger (saw) said: 'Be mindful of the welfare and well being of women. Woman is like a rib. The curved portion of a rib is its best part. If you try to straighten it, it will break. Therefore, treat women with kindness'" (Bukhari).

• "How excellent are the women of the tribe of Quraish! They are most affectionate towards their children and most efficient guardians of their husband's homes" (Bukhari).

• "Shall I tell you which is the best of treasures? A good wife. She pleases her husband when he looks at her, obeys him when he directs her and watches over his possessions in his absence."

• "O' people! Verily you have got certain rights over your women and your women have certain rights over you...Treat the women kindly, since they are your helpers and not in a position to manage their affairs themselves. Fear Allah concerning women, for verily you have taken them on the security of Allah and have made their persons lawful unto you by words of Allah" (Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (saw)).

• Life, honor, and property are three of the main causes of unrest in society, yet the Holy Prophet (saw) declared these items as safeguarded for both men and women, "Verily your blood, your property and your honour are sacred and inviolable until you appear before your Lord, as the sacred inviolability of this day of yours, this month of Hakk and this very town (of yours), the House of God. Let them not be violated" (Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (saw)).

What is True Equality?

When understanding equality between man and woman, one must agree that equality is not in totality of constitution, but in relative terms of rights and so while man and woman are equal, they must be awarded different rights in certain circumstances based upon their physical and emotional makeup. It would be the height of stupidity to insist that a woman should be equal with man in all regards – if so, would it make sense for a woman to participate in professional sports with men, or for men to compete with women in the rearing of children? One can thus see that equality is of relevant terms, and where there seems to be an apparent discrepancy regarding rights placed upon man and woman in Islam, it is because of difference of their makeup and not because one sex has superiority over the other. If women take to men's avocations (or vice versa) they seek to defy nature and nature does not allow its laws to be defined with impunity.

When speaking of the roles and rights of men and women, it is vital to remember that relevant Quranic verses speak on the physical differences or the role men and women have to play in maintaining a healthy moral atmosphere in society. God has, in His perfect wisdom, created all species in pairs and so men and women have been created of the same species:

• "O ye people! Fear your Lord who created you from a single soul and of its kind created its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women; and fear Allah, in Whose name you appeal to one another, and fear him particularly respecting ties of kinship. Verily, Allah watches over you" (4:2).
• "He it is Who created you from a single soul and made therefrom its mate, that he might find comfort in her. And when he knows her, she bears a light burden and goes about with it. And when she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord, saying, 'If thou gives us a good child, we will surely be of the thankful" (7:190).
• "And of His Signs is that He has created wives for you from among yourselves that you may find peace of mind in them, and He has put love and tenderness between you. In that, surely, are Signs for a people who reflect" (30:22).
• He created you from a single being; then from that He made its mate; and He has sent down for you of the cattle eight pairs. He creates you in the wombs of your mothers, creation after creation, through three stages of darkness. This is Allah, your Lord. His is the Kingdom. There is no god but He. Whither then are you being turned away (39:7)?
• "He is the originator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you pairs of you own selves, and of the cattle also He has made pairs. He multiplies you therein. There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing" (42:12).

• ...And they (the women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in equity; but men have a degree of advantage above them... (2:229)

As far as rights are concerned, women are equal with men but as the whole responsibility of affording the household amenities rest with man he therefore has a rank above them in this respect. This does not mean he has the right to abuse or dominate his wife, but in certain household matters he should have the final say as he has a greater responsibility to the household. To ensure the smooth running of the partnership, one partner has been put in charge. Allah has appointed the husband to act as a ‘guardian' over his wife (see 4:35). This does not give him the right to dominate his wife or abuse her in any way, but he is responsible for her well-being and that he has to spend out of his earnings to maintain the family and the household. In return, his wife is expected to obey him and Prophet Muhammad has said this carries the same reward as the work of her husband: "Stick to your homes, in your case it will count as striving in the cause of Allah." Obeying one's husband does not mean that the wife does not have any say. Instead, the wife should be more apt to accept a decision in certain circumstances. Similarly, the husband should be more willing to accept the decision of the wife when issues such as the upbringing of children are being discussed. God who has created both man and woman knows best their capabilities and constraints and straying away from strict observance of His Law ensues in nothing but ruin:

• "And assuredly, We have created man and We know what his mind whispers to him, and We are nearer to him than even his jugular vein" (50:17).

Men and women are spiritually equal, but their function is different:

• "Moses said, our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function" (20:51)
• "So set thy face to the service of religion with single-minded devotion. And follow the nature made by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the right religion - but most men know not" (30:31).

(30:31) speaks of the unchangeable nature of man that was extant since man was created. Islam argues that only a religion whose teachings adhere to this natural state can truly be deemed a progressive and universal message. For example, women can bare children while man is equipped to do heavy labor, so each one must have a different role in the family. It is not a question of superiority and inferiority but of natural capacity and proper functioning. History tells us that when the basic family unit crumbles, so does the civilization and when man and woman tries to do what they are not equipped to do, order turns to disorder. As women are more vulnerable, so God has placed injunctions in the Quran for their protection: "Verily, those, who calumniate chaste, unwary, believing women, are cursed in this world and the hereafter. And for them is a grievous chastisement" (24:24). It must not be forgotten that these responsibilities man has been given are not to be abused. Faculties bestowed upon man are a Divine bounty and must be beneficially employed – meaning they are to be used at their appropriate times so that this habit would multiply peace and tranquility in the society: "And Allah has brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers while you knew nothing, and gave you ears and eyes and hearts, that you may be grateful" (16:79), while the misuse of these rights would incur divine wrath, "And when your Lord declared: 'If you are grateful, I will surely bestow more favors on you; but if you are ungrateful, then know that My punishment is severe indeed'" (14:8).

Intellectual Status of Muslim Women

• "He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant good; and none would take heed except those endowed with understanding" (2:270).

• "In the view of traditional Muslims, women are inferior to men. Ahmad sums up this view when he tells Amina ‘you are nothing but a woman and all women are mentally deficient.'"

The Holy Prophet Muhammad established that education is compulsory for both men and women and exhorted both man and woman to:

• "Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China."

• "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."

• "The pursuit of knowledge is a duty to every Muslim, men and women."

It is recorded of Muhammad that when he felt a group of women could not hear his words, he would go over to them and repeat himself. It is also worthy of consideration that Prophet Muhammad stressed that women stay inside the house more, and so there education is arguably more important than that of males as they are the ones who will be influencing the next generation more than man ever will. Contrary to this ideology, we see that as late as the Middle Ages, any women exhibiting any form of knowledge was declared a witch and burnt at the stake (Salem Witch Trials). Furthermore, most universities did not admit women to higher learning until the 20th century. Contrarily, the Holy Prophet encouraged his wives to seek knowledge and once stated, "half the religion of Islam can be learned from Ayesha (his wife)."

In accordance with what has been stated already, it is obvious that Islam does not prevent a woman from pursuing a professional career, but stresses the fact that it must not be done at the sake of her domestic obligations as she is the one who will be responsible more than anyone for the upbringing and training of the next generation. In contemporary society, almost half of mothers have left home for the workplace creating abundance of day care centers, but also of child molestation, teenage crime and pregnancy, drug abuse, and the increase of high school dropout rates.
Economic Status of Muslim Women
• "Husbands with the means to pay for servants and a private bath usually forbade their wives to leave the home; secluding women indoors assured their fidelity. For a woman this could mean not leaving the house from the moment she married. As Yasin told Zaynab, ‘since time immemorial, the home is the domain of women, the world that of men.'"

Never before was woman given the economic freedom such as given her by Islam. Islam makes it clear that she is entitled to possess wealth and property of her own, whether it is inherited or earned, and has full rights over it:

• "Men shall have the share of what they have earned, and women shall have the share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of His bounty. Surely, Allah has perfect knowledge of all things" (4:33).

Islam further protected the economic status of woman by requiring a husband to give her a dowry at the time of marriage. This becomes part of her exclusive wealth, and her husband has no right over it, unless she wishes to share it with him:

• "And give the women their dowries willingly. But if they, of their own pleasure remit to you a part thereof, then enjoy it as something wholesome and pleasant" (4:5).

Interestingly, this injunction is addressed not only to the husband but also the woman's relatives. The husband has to make a settlement with his wife in proportion to his means at the time of marriage. If the husband dies without paying the dowry, the debt to be paid to the wife must be done out of his estate and in priority to other debts. The wife is also entitled to her share in husbands' estate, which is determined by law. The contemporary norm of some Islamic countries where the groom demands that his bride bring a dowry of gold and household items to the marriage is totally un-Islamic. Finally, Islam gave woman the right to inherit from the deceased in her role as mother, wife, daughter or sister:

• "For men there is a share of that which parents and near relatives leave, and for women there is a share of that which parents and near relatives leave, whether it be a little or much -- a determined share" (4:8).

If a woman owns any property by own effort, it is hers entirely. The upkeep of the household is the man's responsibility entirely; if the woman wants to help she can but is by no means not obligated to – even if she is more well off than her husband. The Islamic system of inheritance in (4:12-13, 177) has men receiving double that of women, assuming same degree of relationship with the deceased, because they will be supporting and maintaining the household, not the wife. Muslim men cannot dispose more than 1/3rd of their assets outside of family so that one's family may be able to bear financially after his leave.

Ultimately, Islam as practiced by Prophet Muhammad (saw) is totally alien to the practices of a vast number of Muslims in recent years. Moreover, it is only the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that has revived the lost teachings of the Holy Quran and implemented them in daily lives of its members.

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