• Date: 2010 Jun 26

The Glorious Qur'an and Womanhood

In spite of being a life partner, the woman has throughout history been considered a worthless commodity by man. Like a chattel, she has been traded upon, freely, in the marketplace. In many parts of the world, she has been buried alive by her own father, immediately after birth. Supposedly the source of all evil, she has been burned alive, upon the funeral pyre of her husband. Even in the so-called freedom-loving Greek Republics, their great philosophers could not decide if in fact she even belonged to the human race. Despite her human appearance, they thought she may not be of the same species. Her looks were just to please and entertain menfolk.
To the West she was a chattel, until about 125 years ago. She still carries the brunt of being an accomplice in the original sin, by those who believe in the concept and is thus a persecuted element of society in the East as well as in the West. She is a victim of ignorance, greed, and lust.
The Glorious Qur'an was revealed to dispel ignorance and to tame the animal side of human nature. It is a comprehensive code for all nations, for all times, addressing all issues. It guides humanity in every aspect of their lives. So, let us look into what the Qur'an revealed regarding the woman, 1400 years ago, when she was not even considered to be a human being, in most other parts of the world.
Her Status
The Qur'an says: "And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and caused between you love and compassion. Most surely there is sign in this for a people who reflect." (30:21)
The above verse clarifies two very important facts:
1. Woman is a part of humanity. She is as important as a man is, and is not inferior to him.
2. Divine Wisdom has created the race of human beings with two opposite sexes, such that they may share mutual peace and comfort, which are natural outcomes of the love and respect they have for each other.
The Qur'an protects a woman's individuality and accords her the same status and rights as a man has. She has the rights to acquire knowledge, to advance economically, and to hold property. She has her share in inheritance. She is free to protect her honor, chastity, and modesty. She has an important say in the choice of her life partner. From the depths of degradation and depravity, the Qur'an has raised her to a position of honor and dignity. Nay! She is placed on a much higher status through the notion that "Paradise lies at the feet of the mother." (Nahjul Fasaha, No. 1328)
Though they are equally important, men and women are created to play different roles in procreation and the continuity of the human race. Since their roles are different, their endowments are also unique.
The Qur'an says: "So their Lord accepted their prayer. That I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other...." (3:195)
The message is that man and woman stand on the same footing and that they belong to each other. Their good deeds are equally valuable to human society.
Again the Qur'an says: "... and say, `O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little." (17:24)
Once again, the Qur'an tells us to value the work of both parents. The father and the mother are equally important. We should be good to both of them. We should invoke His Mercy for both of them.
Married Life
Marriage is an important union in human life, whereby two individuals of different sexes and family backgrounds unite in such a way that they feel themselves to be one. They compliment each other and respect the sentiments and feelings of one another. Belonging to different sexes, their tendencies and needs are different. Coming from diverse family backgrounds their priorities may be different too. But their obvious differences don't form a stumbling block in their union. The tendency to bind together is inherent in their natures. Man has a natural inclination for woman, whereas the woman too, feels a natural urge for man. When they join together, an inherent craving for one another comes into play; creating love and compassion between them. This is a sign of the Master, as mentioned in the earlier quoted verse from the Chapter of the "Roum" (30:21)
The Qur'an says: "... and they (women) have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them...." (2:228)
Both the husband and the wife have some mutual rights and duties, according to their natural abilities. Since a man is strong and more physically capable, he is charged with a responsibility to take care of the woman and the family. This gives him a little edge over her, but not absolute authority; she is in no way deprived of her freedom. Even this limited authority is not without an attached responsibility, for he has to provide for her needs.
The Qur'an says: "Men have authority over women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property...." (4:34)
Man has to struggle hard to maintain his family. A woman on the other hand, employs her natural endowments to fulfill upon her obligations. The man's hard-earned material procurements belong to her, and her femininity is for him. He willingly works hard for her comforts, while she enjoys the security of her home. What he gets in return from her, for the trials and tribulations that he goes through in a working day is her love, care and her feminine charms. In fact for many, a question that could arise here is: Is there then an inequitable distribution of responsibilities; an injustice to man, in terms of duties and responsibilities?
If only we think rationally, we will see clearly that this is not the case. Marriage is not merely a barter between a woman's body and a man's labor. A husband and wife in fact belong to each other. To them this sense of belonging is the most satisfying, and soothing aspect of their relationship. It is priceless and incomparable with status, fame, wealth, or labor. The Qur'an requires a man and woman to do only what is in compliance with their innate natures. This is a just division of duties based on natural God-given abilities. A man wants to protect his wife from the lustful looks of other men, therefore he asks her not go out of the house without a just cause. Is it unfair? No, this is a just and reasonable demand in the best interest of both sexes.
Some people of wild temperament may not be able to give vent to their feelings outside their homes, and their wives may be the targets of their tyranny. But the Qur'anic verse doesn't justify their deeds. It gives two reasons for delegation of guardianship to man: Personal abilities and responsibility to maintain a family. It is obvious that neither of these two condone absolute authority or tyranny.
Sentiments alone cannot sustain life. Unless certain practical issues are addressed, the sense of belonging alone does not carry a family far enough. The Qur'an guides couples on how to cement their relationship as follows:
"... they (your wives) are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them...." (2:187)
Clothing hides one's shame and protects against heat and cold. Husband and wife should cover the shortcomings of each other, and help one another in adverse circumstances. If they don't do so, life may be hard to live.
The Qur'an says: "Your wives are a tilth for you, so go into your tilth when you like, and do good beforehand for yourselves...." (2:223)
The above verse, addressing the husband is pointing to many social issues of far-reaching consequences. His wife is his tilth. To get the best yield from his cultivated land, a farmer deals with it in a responsible and prudent manner, according to demands of time and season. Husbands should practise the same caution as regards their wives.
The marital relationship is formed because of human needs. A husband and a wife stand by each other. They respect each other's sentiments and do whatever they can, to stay happy together. However, life doesn't always move on a smooth pattern. Problems could arise between them, due to incompatibility or other reasons. Every effort should be made to resolve these differences. If they are insurmountable and the couple cannot live in peace and honor, the marriage may be dissolved. Even then the limits of decency cannot be exceeded. The Qur'an says:
"And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then either retain them in good fellowship or set them free with liberality, and don't retain them for injury so that you exceed the limits, and whoever does this, he indeed is unjust to his own soul...." (2:231)
He who commits atrocities on women, is in fact injuring his own self. While the victimized woman suffers in this life, the man stands liable for his sins in the Hereafter. Worldly sufferings are temporary, they will pass away, but the punishment of the Hereafter is eternal, it shall never end. The Qur'an says:
"O you who believe! It isn't lawful for you that you should take women as heritage against (their) will, and don't straiten them in order that you may take part of what you have given them, unless they are guilty of manifest indecency, and treat them kindly; then if you hate them, it may be that you dislike a thing while God has placed abundant good in it." (4:19)
Whatever the case, a woman can never be oppressed. She is to be treated kindly and gently.
Sexual Misconduct
The Qur'an allows neither men nor women to step beyond the rules it has laid down for the satisfaction of physical needs. As a staunch advocate of the family system, it has taken a 2-pronged approach to strengthen it. Firstly, it emphasizes the need and importance of the marriage institution. Secondly, it prohibits anything that diminishes or undermines the institution. The Qur'an says:
"And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is indecency and an evil way." (17:32)
The above verse is pointing to two evils of illicit sexual contact. It is an open indecency and an evil way of satisfying one's physical needs.
a) It is rebellious and irresponsible to have sexual contacts outside marriage with a person to whom one can marry. It destroys the roots of human society.
b) It is a more heinous crime to establish relation with persons who fall within prohibited class. By doing so one tramples the sanctity of human relationships.
The Qur'an says: "Surely (as for) those who love that scandal should circulate respecting those who believe, they shall have a grievous chastisement in this world and the Hereafter...." (24:19)
The Qur'an, not only prohibits the committing of indecencies, but abhors giving them currency. Publicity tarnishes the reputations of the involved persons, diminishes the seriousness of crime, and encourages innocent people to commit it. Thus, it helps in spreading indecency and crimes.
The pre-Qur'anic woman had no friends or sympathizers. The rights given to her by the Book of Allah had far-reaching effects on humanity. When a woman lives in the security of her home, there is little chance of her falling prey to the lustful designs of other men. Having no other duties, she devotes her full attention to her husband and children. Thereby the family system is strengthened. Children raised in these families feel secure and content. They are less likely to be exploited for material reasons. Thus, as a full-time wife and mother, she shapes the human generations. This is a job more satisfying, rewarding, and of greater value than being head of a state, running a successful business enterprise, treating patients, administering justice in court room, or anything that she can do away from her home.
The Qur'anic view of a woman runs against the interest of the lustful materialists. To counteract its impact, they have raised the false cry of women's liberation. They want her to be free - to compete with man, to display her fineries by moving freely among men, to go with anyone she wants to go with, to have physical relationship with any number of men she may desire to, to allow her semi-nude and nude pictures appear on billboards, magazines, and all around. They have no interest in her. The gimmick is their covert design to keep her a victim of their carnal desires, in order to weaken and destroy the family system and to promote their selfish, evil interests, as is evident in today's industrialized societies. BEWARE, BEWARE!!!
Reference: Syed Tahzeeb-ul-Hassan
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