WOMEN´S RIGHTS IN ISLAM VERSUS WESTERN DOUBLE STANDARD, PREJUDICE AND HYPOCRISY
by Syarif Hidayat
The Western civilization regimes apply double standard policies against Islam, Muslim World and Muslim people including the rights of Muslimah (Muslim women) in general and their rights to Muslimah dresses.
The Western people and the Western civilization regimes leaders are busy criticizing, hating and banning Muslimah (Muslim women) dress in their countries. But They keep silent on the Nun’s dress!!
The Nuns wear the almost similar dresses as Muslimah do. But yet they are free from the Western civilization BIGOTRY and TERROR!!
The Background: The Conditions of Women in Arabia Before Islam
In those days before Islam, women were treated like slaves or property. Their personal consent concerning anything related to their well-being was considered unimportant, to such a degree that they were never even treated as a party to a marriage contract. Women were used for one purpose, and then discarded. They had no independence, could own no property and were not allowed to inherit. In times of war, women were treated as part of the prize. Simply put, their condition was unspeakable.
In addition, the birth of a daughter in a family was not an occasion for rejoicing, but was regarded with humiliation. The practice of killing female children was uncontrolled.
With the advent of Islam came the verse from the Holy Qur’an condemning those who practiced female infanticide:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.”(An-Nahl 16:58-59)
And as part of a description of various events on the Day of Judgment, the Holy Qur’an mentions:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed? (At-Takwir 81:8-9)
Outside Arabia conditions for women were no better. In India, Egypt, and all European countries in the Dark Ages, women were treated worse than slaves. They were not regarded as human beings but as sort of a sub-species between humans and animals.
Allah (SWT) Gave the Arab Women Their Rights
The rights of Muslim women were given to us by Allah (SWT), who is All-Compassionate, All-Merciful, All-Just, All-Unbiased, All-Knowing and Most Wise. These rights, which were granted to women more than 1400 years ago, and were taught by the perfect example of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), were given by the one Who created us and Who alone knows what rights are best for our female natures. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “O You who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.” (An-Nisa 4:19)
The most basic right of a woman in Islam is the knowledge and recognition that she never has to ask or demand or fight for her rights which are guaranteed to her by Allah (SWT) Himself.
Rights That Islam Gives to Women
Islam considers a woman to be equal to a man as a human being and as his partner in this life. Women have been created with a soul of the same nature as man’s. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever and All-Watcher over you.” (Al-Nisa 4:1)
And in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
“Assuredly, women are the twin halves of men.” (Sahih reported by Abu-Dawud (RA)
Islam does not blame Eve alone for the First Sin.
The Holy Qur’an makes it very clear that both Adam and Eve were tempted, that they both sinned and were both forgiven after their repentance. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “Then Satan whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: “Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals.” And he (Satan) swore by Allah to them both (saying): “Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both.” So he mislead them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to stick together the leaves of Paradise over themselves (in order to cover their shame). And their Lord called out to them (saying): “Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: Verily, Satan is an open enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.” (Allah) said: “Get down, one of you an enemy to the other (i.e. Adam, Eve, and Satan, etc.). On earth will be a dwelling-place for you and an enjoyment, – for a time.” He said: “Therein you shall live, and therein you shall die, and from it you shall be brought out (i.e. resurrected).”(Al-A’raf 7:20-25)
In Islamic law a woman is an independent, unique individual in her own right. She has the same responsibilities towards herself, towards Allah (SWT) and towards other human beings as the male, and will be punished or rewarded in the Hereafter without discrimination towards her female gender.
There is no compulsion in religion according to the Holy Qur’an:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut [anything worshipped other then the Real God (Allah SWT) (Allah)] and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
A Muslim woman is not permitted to change her family name to her husband’s name upon marriage. She is always known by her father’s name, as a mark of her own identity. In choosing a marriage partner, her consent to accept or reject any prospective suitor for marriage must be respected. A Muslim woman has the right to seek divorce, if necessary within the laws of Islam.
Muslim Women Have the Right to Go Outside of Her Home
Muslim women are not forbidden from going out in the community, working, or visiting relatives and female friends, if there is no objection from their guardian/husband and they are covered and behave and speak according to Islamic guidelines and, if necessary, escorted by their Mahram (a close male relative).
However, a woman’s home should be the main base that she works from. Allah (SWT) instructed the wife’s of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW): “A Woman in Islam Has the Right to Get an Education.” In the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW): “To seek knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.”(Declared Authentic By Shaikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani)
Muslim here meaning male and female Muslims, as women are the twin halves of men. The Prophet (SAW) also said:
“Whoever follows a way to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a way to paradise.” (Declared Authentic By Shaikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani)
A woman in Islam has the right to knowledge and education. Allah (SWT) encourages women to read and keep up the learning process. He also bestows His mercy upon all who seek knowledge, and gives them high status:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses). (Az-Zumar 39:9)
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. “O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. Allah will give you (ample) room (from His Mercy). And when you are told to rise up (for prayers, Jihad, or for any other good deed), rise up. Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. (Al-Mujadilah 58:11)
This is referring to religious knowledge, in the first place, and to any other kind of knowledge, in the second place, where one has the intention of benefiting herself, her family and the Islamic society. Additionally, a husband should not forbid his wife from going out of the house to seek basic religious knowledge, unless he is teaching her at home. The Holy Qur’an advises mankind to pray:
The Right to Go to the Mosque
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:“If someone’s wife asks his permission to go to the mosque, he should not deny it to her.”
Women should be covered Islamically, according to the Muslim woman’s dress requirements.
At the same time, a woman’s prayer in her home is better, from the standpoint of her household duties and duties as a mother. Also it is better in the sense that it prevents unnecessary mixing with men. The Prophet (SAW) also stated on another occasion: “But their homes are better for them.” (Reported by Abu Dawud and Ahmed)
Islam Gives Men and Women Equal Rights
In reality, and in Islam, the rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of man, but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two very different things. I think you’ll agree that, for one thing, women and men are physically very different from one another, although they are equal to each other in other important ways.
In the West, women may be doing the same job that men do, but their wages are often less. The rights of Western women in modern times were not created voluntarily, or out of kindness to the female. The modern Western woman reached her present position by force, and not through natural processes or mutual consent of Divine teachings. She had to force her way, and various circumstances aided her.
Shortage of manpower during wars, pressure of economic needs and requirement of industry forced women to leave their homes to work, struggling for their livelihood, to appear equal to men. Whether all women are sincerely pleased with these circumstances, and whether they are happy and satisfied with the results, is a different matter. But the fact remains that whatever rights modern Western women have, they fall short of those of her Muslim counterpart!
Islam has given woman what duties her female nature. It gives her full security and protects her against becoming what Western modern women themselves complain against: a “mere sex object.”
The Right to Seek Employment
If you take a look at many societies today, a woman is only valued and considered important if she performs the functions of a man, (while at the same time displaying her feminine attractions to the public). While these women may carry the immense responsibility of bearing and rearing children, you have to admit that they may still be at par with men in nearly every area of life. The result is the present-day confusion concerning sex role differentiation, resulting in very large numbers of divorces and emotionally distraught children.
In Islam, however, the value and importance of women in society and the true measure of their success as human beings, is measured with completely different criteria: their fear of Allah (SWT) and obedience to Him, and fulfillment of the duties He has entrusted them with, particularly that of bearing, rearing and teaching children.
Nevertheless, Islam is a practical religion, and responds to human needs and life situations. Many women need, or wish, to work for various reasons. For example, they may possess a needed skill, such as a teacher or a doctor.
While Islam does not prohibit women working outside the home, it does stipulate that the following restrictions be followed to safeguard the dignity and honor of women and the purity and stability of the Islamic society, (the conduct of women, after all, is the “backbone” of any society):
1. Outside employment should not come before, or seriously interfere with her responsibilities as wife and mother.
2. Her work should not be a source of friction within the family, and the husband’s consent is required in order to eliminate later disagreements. If she is not married, she must have her guardian’s consent.
3. Her appearance, manner and tone of speech and overall behavior should follow Islamic guidelines. These include: restraining her glances in relation to any men near the work place, wearing correct Islamic dress, avoiding men, not walking in a provocative manner, and not using make-up or perfume in public.
4. Her job should not be one which causes moral corruption in society, or involve any prohibited trade or activity, affect her own religion, morals, dignity and good behavior, or subject her to temptations.
5. Her job should not be one which is mixing and associating with men.
6. A woman should try to seek employment in positions which require a woman’s special skills, or which relate to the needs of women and children, such as teaching, nursing other women, midwifery, medicine with specialization’s like pediatric or obstetrics-gynecology.
The right of a Muslim woman is to be respected for her mind and for being her own person:
A Muslim Woman is Required to Dress a Certain Way When She Goes Out in Public. For a Muslim woman, her modest dress is an expression of a universal sisterhood. An Islamic dress also liberates the Muslim woman, and she is then automatically respected for her mind instead of her body.
Simply put, she retains her dignity! It is like saying: I am a respectful woman. I am not for every man to look at, touch, or speak to. I am protected, exactly like a precious white pearl which, if touched by everyone, will become black and dirty.
A woman’s modest dress protects society from adultery and other forms of illegal sexual relations that lead to the break up of families and corruption of society.
A successful Muslim sister was asked by the people of the West, ‘How is it possible that an intelligent lady like yourself, well educated and incredible successful, can be so backwards in thought, which is shown by your ‘choice’ to cover yourself up [i.e. hijab]’.
The sister very intelligently, and rightly so, replied, ‘If you look back into history, you’d notice that the not-so-intelligent people barely covered. As intelligence increased, clothing was introduced. It is not I who is backward, for I am moving forward, with intelligence. Backwards are those who wear less clothes, like the ancestors did whence cohabitation in caves were a norm.
Islam and The Western World: “Media-Biased News Reporting, Prejudice and Ignorance”
(Description: Stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam in the media are rooted in prejudice and ignorance!)
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. Nevertheless, the West has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to: the media, Prejudice, and Ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as a “extremist”, “terrorist”, or “fundamental” religion. Many people hate Islam and do not want to acknowledge its true teachings.
In many cases, the media’s reports about Islam are incorrect due to ignorance. This is one of the reasons why the West often hates Islam. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a peaceful religion, which does not promote any injustice or crime. Stereotypes about Islam are not new to Western culture. Problems can be traced back 1400 years. At that time, Islam and Christianity were involved in the Crusades in the 1100’s and in the Ottoman and Moorish control in Europe. Islam spread quickly to the West, and started to threaten the position of the Christian Church and the ruling class.
The Western elites, mainly the governments and the churches, then became highly involved in seeing that negative images were presented about Islam. As a result, not only were battles fought against Islam, but also a war of words was initiated to make sure that Islam would not have any converts or sympathizers in the West. These kinds of actions and feelings that the West had long ago still seem to be the case in the West today.
Today, the West, with little or no understanding of Islamic history, has identified a new enemy, “a new demon that has replaced the Red menace of the Cold war, i.e., radical Islam”. This “radical Islam”, a stereotype common to Western thought, portrays Muslims as fundamentalists or potential terrorists. Some of these ideas that the Western people have about Islam are due to the mass media of the West. Reporters who cover the Muslim world often know very little details about it. The media then develops a distorted image of Islam that Western culture adopts.
A major factor which contributes to Islamic stereotyping in the West is due to the media’s ignorance of selecting their words that describe Muslims. Some common names heard or seen in the news about Muslims are “extremist” or “terrorist”. These words are misleading and are mainly anti-Islamic. The media rarely uses more neutral terms such as “revivalist” or “progressives”. The Western media also creates the idea that Muslims are “returning” to Islam. This is not true in most cases, because many Muslims have never left Islam in the first place. Islam has always been a big part of their lives.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH – one the greatest reformers for women
The media often says that Islam discriminates against women, and that women have no power or authority. However, it is ironic of what the media represents, that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was one the greatest reformers for women. In fact, Islam is the only religion that formally teaches women’s rights and finds ways to protect them. When Islam is practiced correctly, it becomes the best example of a fair society.
As Islam came around, traditional pre-Islamic roles of women were replaced by new Islamic roles that women followed. Islam allowed women to have the right to be educated and the right to participate in political, economical, and social activities in their community. This created upward mobility in their communities. Women were given the right to inherit property and take charge of their possessions. While most of these rights are denied to Muslim women today as a result of cultural tradition, one should not associate this with Islam, because they do not correlate with it.
Islamic women wearing veils is another commonly misunderstood concept in the West. Westerners often think that this is a harsh custom that Islam requires of women. Westerners often say these women have no freedom or dignity for wearing these veils. But in fact, these veils actuality help protect women and help them remain in chastity. In Islamic societies there are very few rape cases and AIDS victims as opposed to the Western societies, were there are thousands of rape cases and AIDS infected victims a year. God will do anything He wants to her in this world and the after.
Islamic women are indeed supposed to be granted these rights, but the media often fails to inform its audiences about this fact. The media also fails to report that most of the Islamic countries have a high illiteracy rate. This means that it is “virtually impossible for many Muslim women to challenge cultural male authority when the women themselves do not know the difference between village customs and actual Islamic law”.
The Western media would be able to better represent women’s issues in Islamic countries if they identified how and why governments have limited women’s rights that are guaranteed to them by the Quran (Muslim Holy Book). Most so-called Islamic countries such as Syria are corrupt (according to Islam) in their religion and should be addressed in the media’s reports. But instead “the media falsely portrays Muslim women as victims of a harsh and suppressive religion”. With regard to Islamic women’s rights, Islam is also a hot topic of Western governments. Western powers do not usually easily tolerate Islamic movements or governments.
One main reason is that in an Islamic government, in contrast to Western governments, there is no separation of church and state. Judith Miller states in her book Challenge of Radical Islam, “that anyone who believes in universal human rights, democratic governments, political tolerance, and peace between the Arabs and the Israelis cannot be complacent about the growing strength of Islamic militant movements in most Middle Eastern countries”. Miller says that the Western governments should oppose these kind of Islamic movements. This statement shows one Western’s views about how the West opposes Islamic movements.
The West False and Misleading Ideas about Islam
Observers often say that the goal of Islamic fundamentalism is to wage a holy war against the West. These observers believe the idea that Islamic leaders only wanting the redress legitimate political grievances is totally nonsense. They think that even if Israel or any other opposing regime in the Middle East would disappear, “the appetite of the Islamic fundamentalists would only have been whetted”. These ideas are false and also misleading. The Western media often portrays Islam as a “militant Islam” or a “fundamental Islam” threat to the West.
Edward Said states that: For the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is “news” of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists, and although they are marginal to the culture at large – the academic experts on Islam are all in concert: Islam is a threat to Western civilization. Now this is by no means the same as saying that only derogatory or racist caricatures of Islam are to be found in the West…What I am saying is that negative images of Islam are very much more prevalent than any others, and that such images correspond, not to what Islam “is”…but to what prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be: Those sectors have the power and the will to propagate that particular image of Islam, and this image therefore becomes more prevalent, more present, than all others.
John L. Esposito’s book, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, states the question, is Islam a threat to the West? He tells us that the answer lies in the West’s views. He says that if the Western powers continue to defend the unjust status of the Middle East in the name of an illusory or fleeting stability, Islam will be a threat. “But if the Western powers begin to appreciate the legitimacy of grievances in the Middle East, the West and Islamic movements will get along peacefully”.
With the Western media’s spotlight and some Western governmental attitudes, the West is a place where Islam is a name of negativity. The Western media has contributed a great deal to this negative image of Islam. The media often misrepresents and inaccurately explains Islam and its manifestations. Sometimes the media seems to be biased against Islam. When the media distorts the image of Islam, the general public tends to believe it, because the media is a major source of information that the public gets about Islam. This ignorance that the West accumulates from the media leads them into making stereotypes about Islam and associating all Muslims and Arabs together.
The West often times views Islam as “fundamental” “extremist” or “discriminatory”, but all of these terms have be manipulated, purposely because of biased feelings and accidentally because of ignorance, by the media to present a negative image about Islam.
Islam is actually a fair religion that most often does not correspond to the media’s reports. As Islam grows more and more in the West, Westerners will eventually learn the truth about Islam and find out that these negative stereotypes are incorrect. Islam will become one of the biggest religions in the United States. As more people follow Islam, the media will start to learn about it, understand it, and report about it in positive ways. As long as the Westerners are educated about Islam, they will probably learn to accept it as well. (HSH)
1. “ISLAM AND THE WEST: WOMEN´S RIGHTS IN ISLAM” by Amer Al-bayya
2. ”ISLAM COVEYED” (http://www.islamconveyed.com/pages/index.php?id=181)