Eid-e-Miladunnabi : The greatest champion of women's rights : Syed Ashraf Ali

Eid-e-Miladunnabi : The greatest champion of women's rights : Syed Ashraf Ali

THE first person to advocate effectively the cause of women in history was, as it happens, a man, born not in Europe or America, not in the modern age, but in Arabia, in the sixth century. The first person to effectively champion and establish the rights and privileges of women was indeed the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It was the holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who was the first to assert that he is the best among human beings who behaves best with his wife. He also declared in unambiguous terms that Heaven lies not at the feet of the father or husband, it lies at the feet of the mother.

What is more, the Holy Quran denounces in unequivocal terms the heinous attitude of those who hate or dislike female children: "When news is brought to one of them, of the birth of a female child, his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on sufferance and contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on?" (Sura Nahl, 16:59-61)

It is true that the Holy Quran states: "Men are protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from them from their means." (Sura Nisaa, 4:34).

But it also states: "Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them … Would you take it by slander and manifest wrong?" (Sura Nisaa, 4:19-20).

There must indeed be something most extraordinary, most chivalrous about this child of the desert that alone among the great teachers of mankind did he confer the first legal status of honour and responsibility upon women, making them sui juris, ensuring their economic independence, and providing them opportunities in every sphere of human activity and in every domain of thought, guaranteeing their rights in the properties of the deceased parents, of the husband and the children.

"From what is left by parents and those nearest related, there is a share for men and a share for women, Whether the property be small or large — a determinate share." (Sura Nisaa, 4:7)

These are rights and privileges which could not even be conceived of till the enactment of the Married Women’s Property Act in England by the middle of the 19th century — rights which are being conceded by the civilised nations of Europe and America in the twenty-first century.

Mention may be made in this connection that in the case of marriage also a Muslim woman enjoys unique rights and privileges. Marriage in Islam, though considered a sacred relation between the husband and the wife, is not a sacrament, but purely a civil contract.

No person can marry a woman without her consent. Liberty is allowed a woman, who has reached the age of puberty, to marry or refuse to marry a particular man, independent of her guardian, who has no power to dispose of her in marriage without her consent or against her will; while the objection is reserved for the girl, married by her guardian during her infancy, to ratify or dissolve the contract immediately on reaching her majority.

It is indeed essential to the validity of the marriage in Islam that there would be: (1) declaration or offer on the part of the one, (2) acceptance by the other, and (3) before sufficient number of witnesses. What is more, it is obligatory on the part of the husband that he should promise to pay or deliver a sum of money or other property as dower to his wife.

This settlement of money or property on the wife, without which a marriage is not fully legal, is known as "mahr." It is, therefore, evident that in a Muslim marriage is not fully legal, is known as mahr. It is really unfortunate that Muslim bridegrooms in our society nowadays force the brides or their parents to pay the dowry — an act which is never permitted in Islam. And many among us are not even aware of the fact that Islam also empowers the wife to effectuate a divorce on various grounds including cruelty, insanity, and impotence of the husband.

What is more, the Holy Quran emphatically warns: "Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the hereafter: for them is a grievous penalty." It also declares: "And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegation), flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence hereafter; for such men are wicked transgressors." (Sura Nur, Verse 4).

The Holy Quran has also totally quashed the age-old belief that women have no souls and are not entitled to enter paradise. It declares in very clear terms: "Never shall I suffer to be lost the work of any one of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another … If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter paradise, and not the least injustice will be done to them." (Sura Al-i-imran, Verse 195, and Sura Nisa, Verse 124).

And it is not only in household affairs, but in other spheres as well that Muslim women have a proud and glorious record. Women in Islam have never failed to rise to the occasion in the hours of crises. They have braved many an ordeal, fought many a battle, tided over many a crisis.

The first person to embrace Islam was a woman — the Sadiq Dost — Hazrat Khadijatu’l-Kubra (RA). The first martyr was a woman — Bibi Sumaya (RA). The first person to know of the Holy Miraj was a woman — Bibi Umma Hani (RA). The custodian of the first compiled copy of the Holy Quran (al-Umm or Sahifa) was a woman — the "Mother of the Faithful" Bibi Hafsa bint Omar (RA).

What is more, Bibi Ayesha Siddiqua (RA), a wife of the holy Prophet (pbuh) and the daughter of Abu Bakr (RA), the first caliph of Islam, personally commanded her own troops at the famous Battle of the Camel against the legendary Sher-e-Khoda Hazrat Ali bin abu Talib (RA), the fourth caliph.

That women were allowed to move freely in society in the early days of Islam is an undisputed fact. Will Durant states in The Age of Faith: "He (Muhammad) improved the position of women. He allowed them to come to the mosque, but believed that their homes are better for them: yet when they came to his services he treated them kindly even if they brought suckling babies; if, says an amiable tradition, he heard a child cry, he would shorten his sermon lest the mother be inconvenienced. He placed woman on the same footing as man in legal processes and in financial independence, she might following any legitimate profession, keep her earnings, inherit property, and dispose of her belongings at will … A tradition quotes the Prophet as saying to women: ‘It is permitted to you to go out for your needs.’ We find Muslim women moving about freely and unveiled in his time, and a century thereafter."

No wonder, Annie Besant boldly declared in the Life and Teachings of Muhammad: "In Islam, men and women are put perfectly on equal footing. Mussalman women have been far better treated than the Western women by the Law. By the Laws of Islam her property is carefully guarded whereas Christian women do not enjoy such absolute right according to the Laws of Christian West. I often think that women are more free in Islam than in Christianity, women are more protected by Islam than by the Faith which preaches monogamy. In al-Quran, the law about women is more just and liberal."

The unprecedented and revolutionary improvement effected in the position and status of women by Islam under the inimitable and magnificent guidance of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) has indeed been acknowledged by all unprejudiced writers, both in the East and in the West.

Had the holy Prophet of Islam done nothing more, his claim to be a benefactor of mankind would have certainly been indisputable. Pierre

Crabite very rightly declares: "Muhammad, thirteen hundred 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 …Muhammad was probably the greatest champion of women’s rights the world has ever seen.”

Syed Ashraf Ali is former Director General of Islamic Foundation Bangladesh. | Link posted by Badiuzzaman Khan | Original Source Daily Star

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