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The Honor of Women in Islam

A woman is the significant other, a soulmate for a man. She was created by God in a very distinct nature of feminine, gentle and physically weak compared to a man. The most dominant one is that she possess strong feelings, patience, and a soft and gentle heart. It is one of the wisdom on why it is women who should bear the burden in nurturing the children, as a very significant role in the household, tending to her husband and so on and so on.

Concomitant with the flow of time, voices began to appear; voices that heralding their thoughts about how women should be wholly equalized with men, in the way of socializing, freedom, rights, position etc. They think that women nowadays, or, to be specific, women in Islam, are discriminated, intimidated, suppressed, shackled, tyrannized, etc. They think those things are degrading women; they think of women as boneless creatures without willpower, humiliated, etcetera, etcetera, until they consider it necessary to herald off a campaign on the freedom of women and equality with men.      

The loud campaigners are not aware that the position of women is Islam is very noble, packed with honor, gentleness and all attributes of dignities. So please, dear readers, don’t fall into the trap of their exaggerate warblers.

In history, before the age of Islam women were a very miserable species; considered as vile creatures of lesser origin, fit only as lust quenchers, with no rights and will of their own, etc. Let us see the causes that bring Verse 19 of Chapter IV in the Noble Qurân to us; there are at least three causes.

First, that before Islam, if a man died and left a widow, and he had an heir or other beneficiaries, then the son or the beneficiaries had the rights on the deceased’s widow. When the heir is deign to do so, he could lay down with the woman, or marry her to anyone on his behalf without having to ask for a dowry, or to marry her off to men of his choice and take the dowry for himself. Thus the position of women in pre-Islam era.

Second, in other context, in those days when a man marry a woman, and after they married the husband feel resentment or dislike toward his wife, he is free to confine, boycott, or do anything to make the wife feels extremely uncomfortable; not divorcing her while concomitantly denied to make love to her. The husband will only release and divorce the wife after she paid a ransom which amount had determined by him. Thus the condition women had to bear in pre-Islam time; afflictions, abjection, humiliation and tyranny were their everyday ordeal.

Third, before Islam, the majority of husbands did not treat their wives with respect; they scolded, yelled, reviled, berated and abused the wife, threw filthy words toward them, even beat or tortured them whenever they pleased.

Also within this horrible culture that degraded women, the law determined that women were not entitled to inherit anything. Islam came with verses that gives women their right of inheritance.

Those were the dark times described in the Quran. There was even more ruthlessness and cruelty carried out in this unbelievable culture; that is, if a baby girl was born and her family were deign to it she would be “tolerated” to live, in constant abuse and ructions from the neighbors toward her family; and if the family couldn’t bear all the ordeal they were entitled to bury her alive. A girl was considered worthless by the society; because she can’t go to war, she is weak, powerless, and so on.

These all were the situation of women in Hejaz, or Mecca-Madina and the surroundings as the place where Qurân would be revealed, later. While the condition of women in countries other than Hejaz were far more despicable and miserable. They had to seek for a husband by letting various men sleeping with them. As if this wasn’t humiliating enough, they were obliged to display a flag on their roof indicating that they were ready to be laid down.

And there were also practice of polyandry, plus myriad forms of other “poly”. A group in the Kingdom of Farsy (Persia), for instance, like what Imam As Syahrostani said, that in Persia there was a sect called al Mazkiyah that possessed a different philosophy compared to other sects at that time, and that is the general ownership of women.

According to this sect, women are the properties of the society, own and could be exploited by all the men in the society, just like water, fire, land, etc. (You may want to consult Islamic history books like Al Fiqh as Sirah by Dr. Al Buthy, Rahikul Makhtum by Al Mubarakfuri, etc) Thus were the pre-Islam condition of women; degraded, subject to non-mutual sex, oppressed, boycotted, tortured and miserable, which was changed drastically after Islam came. Islam prohibited the tradition of “inheriting” the wives of the late fathers, complete with all its attributes. Almighty God says in one of His verses: “O thou who believe! Thou art forbidden to inherit women against their will.” (Chapter IV Verse 19).

This also applied to the cause of the revealing of the third verse of Chapter IV. Islam banished the tradition of ruthlessly repressing women. Islam teaches to treat a wife politely, gently, far from the rough and violent way which was once a common practice. Almighty Allah says, “…And thou shalt not treat them with harshness, that thou may take away part of the mahr thou hath given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably.” (Chapter IV Verse 19).

In ancient times women did not get any inheritances when their relatives died. So Allah revealed a verse about inheritance, giving the right of it to women; in the end both sexes, male and female as well, have the rights to inherit what is left by a late relative. (You might want to check the cause of the revealing of this law in Chapter IV Verse 11 of the Holy Qurân).

All of those were done in order to elevate women, glorify them, giving them the full rights on everything, erase their misery and save them from adversity, abjection, ruction and lowness, discrimination, intimidation and all terrible things that had ever happened to them. As if these are all not good enough, there is even one chapter in the Noble Qurân dedicated to women and named after them: An Nisâ, means Women.

In Islam, the position of a mother is more glorified, even preceding that of a father. This is testified in one of the Prophet’s hadith that goesas follows: An apostle asked the Prophet PBUH: “O Messenger of God, among all mankind who is it that I am much obliged to glorify?” The Prophet answered, “Your mother.” “And then who else?” again the man ask. “Your mother,” again the Prophet answered. “And then who else?” the man ask for the third time. “Your mother, still answered the Prophet. “And then who else?” asked the man for the fourth time. “Your father,” at last the Prophet said.

Subhanallah (Glory be to God). In Islam women are positioned on such high and noble place, until they were mentioned three times in a row by the Prophet himself. So what else is lacking in the nobility desired by women nowadays? What lacks from the nobility and freedom of women (in Islamic teachings), that those people are heralding of?

Therefore people who voiced women in Islam as oppressed, dumbfounded, tyrannized, etc, must know that they were mistaken; either they are totally blind to the Islamic history, or they are purposely campaigning that, in order to cover up history. Please, do not fall into their trap. Wallahu ‘alam (And (only) God knows the best).

By: Moeslich El-Malibary, student of Imam Syafi'i University Yaman

Bahasa Indonesia version of this article has been published in Muslimedianews as a part of Wahid Foundation's Media Syndication Program.