Rights of women in Islam
Random thoughts In this column, I will concentrate on those Quranic verses dealing with the protection of women’s rights.
“And of His Signs is that He has created mates for you from your own kind that you may find peace in them and He has set between you love and mercy. Surely there are Signs in this for those who reflect.” – 30:21.
“They (women) are your garment and you (men) are theirs.” – 2:187.
“Believers! It is not lawful for you to become heirs to women against their will. Nor you should treat them with harshness… Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good for you.” – 4:19.
“Divorce can be pronounced twice: then, either honourable retention or kindly release should follow. (While dissolving the marriage tie) it is unlawful for you to take back anything of what you have given to your wives unless both fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah.” – 2:229.
“And so, when you divorce women and they reach the end of their waiting term, then either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner. And do not retain them to their hurt or by way of transgression; whosoever will do that will indeed wrong himself. Do not take the signs of Allah in jest and remember Allah’s favour upon you. He exhorts you to revere the Book and the Wisdom that He has sent down upon you. Fear Allah, and know well that Allah has full knowledge of everything.” – 2:231.
“Just as there is a share for men in what their parents and kinsfolk leave behind, so there is a share for women in what their parents and kinsfolk leave behind – be it little or much – a share ordained (by Allah)” – 4:7.
“Thus does Allah command you concerning your children; the share of the male is like that of two females. If (the heirs of the deceased are) more than two daughters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance; and if there is only one daughter, then she shall have half the inheritance. If the deceased has any offspring, each of his parents shall have a sixth of the inheritance; and if the deceased has no child and his parents alone inherit him, then one-third shall go to his mother; and if the deceased has brothers and sisters, then one-sixth shall go to his mother… But these portions have been determined by Allah, for He indeed knows everything, is cognizant of all beneficent considerations.
“And to you belongs half of whatever has been left behind by your wives if they die childless; but if they have any children, then to you belongs a fourth of what they have left behind… And to them belongs a fourth of what you leave behind, if you die childless; and if you have any child, then to them belongs one eighth of what you have left behind… And if the man or woman (whose inheritance is to be distributed) has no heir in the direct line, but has a brother or sister, then each of these shall inherit one-sixth; but if their number is more than that, then all of them shall be entitled to one-third of the inheritance… This is a commandment from Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Forbearing. These are the bounds set by Allah…” – 4:11-14.
“People ask you to pronounce a ruling concerning inheritance from those who have left behind no lineal heirs (kalalah). Say: ‘Allah pronounces for you the ruling: should a man die childless but have a sister, she shall have one half of what he has left behind; and should the sister die childless, (but have a brother), he shall inherit her (share). And if the heirs are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of what he has left behind. And if the heirs are sisters and brothers, then the male shall have the share of two females. Allah makes (His commandments) clear to you lest you go astray. Allah has full knowledge of everything. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Allah is sufficient for a Guardian” – 4:176.
Many people emphasise the difference in status between a man and a woman as justification for declaring man superior to woman. They base this on (mis)interpretations of some verses from the Quran. For example: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one of them excel over the other and because they spend out of their possessions to support them” – 4:34.
“Women have the same rights against their men as men have against them, but men have a degree above them. Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise” – 2:228.
“The share of the male is like that of two females” – 4:11.
“Believers! Whenever you contract a deal… call upon 2 of your men as witnesses; but if 2 men are not there, then let there be one man and two women as witnesses from those acceptable to you so that if one of the two women should fail to remember, the other might remind her” – 2:282.
From these edicts, it appears that men and women have equal rights. Regarding the ‘superiority’ of man, the Almighty has explained that this is due to his responsibilities and hard work in earning a living and supporting his family. This does not mean that the man should sit on a sofa, while his wife sits on the floor at his feet, or that the husband has the right to mistreat his wife.
And nowhere is it mentioned that honour killing is acceptable. If it were otherwise, the Almighty would not have clearly stated: “And Women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable” – 2:228.