Role of Women in Islam
According to William Montgomery Watt, an Islamic scholar, women and men were before equal in terms of rights. He even declared that women in the early Islamic period had held positions higher than men. Women were also said to be owners of properties and the likes. Such structure was then called as matrilineal. (Ahmed) However when men became more known in trades and business, men wanted to preserve their wealth and properties by allowing only their sons to inherit all their possessions.
In this attempt, the matrilineal form of society was then replaced by patriarchal one. This signaled the undermining of the rights of women in the aspect of inheritance. (Ahmed) Another factor that contributed to the discouragement of women is the misinterpretations of some scholars of the Quran text. The interpretations were very patriarchal since the first interpreters were also men. (Stowasser) Thus, women’s rights were sort of devalued upon the rise of the patriarchal Islamic society. Issues on Islamic Women Gender Equality
Men and women were said to be compelled to do particular gender roles. (Shujaat) Man’s obligation is to feed his family and tend to all the needs of his family. On the other hand, woman is tasked to attend to her husband and children’s need. (Stowasser) In addition, men and women’s fields of work were distinguished. Men’s work is more on the public sphere while women’s work is on the private sphere (the house). With this, women were confined with household chores. Conversely, men had given the right to assume public offices. (Ahmed)
Segregation of Men and Women Chastity of women was being regarded as a supreme code for all Islamic people with regards to the rights of women. (Stowasser) In this regard, Men and women were traditionally being separated in Islamic affairs and activities. There was this issue before that women were being placed at the back of men when praying in mosque. (Baig) It was for the reason that men were being tempted to think of sexual pleasure when they saw women. Nevertheless, such issue was addressed by placing women side by side with men in the mosque.
Yet there was still a segregation that was being done to uphold woman’s chastity like that of separate doors in the mosque for men and women. (Stowasser) Financial and Inheritance Rights Islamic women were said to have a financial rights as that of men. (Engineer) They were allowed to own personal properties and keep it even after they were married to their husbands. And these properties were not transferred to their husbands. On the contrary, in the issue of inheritance, women were only entitled to inherit half of the inheritance unlike men whom can inherit all his father’s possessions.
The reason for such was that women were not really obliged to work and earn money for their families whereas men have duties to work and make money for their families. (Stowasser) Marriage An Islamic woman was only allowed to marry one man. On the other hand, man was allowed to take up to four wives as long as he can equally treat and support them. According to some scholars and interpreters of the Quran, women were not really forced to be under their husbands. But instead, women and their husbands were asked to live harmoniously.
Man should be kind to his wives and woman should be obedient to her husband. (Stowasser) Upon the marriage, the groom was obliged to give a dowry to his bride. (Stowasser)And such dowry will be the bride’s personal property even after the marriage (in case of divorce). In the issue of divorce, the scholars said that men were the only ones who have the right to declare divorce not unless it was include din the marriage contract that the wife was allowed to pursue divorce. But traditionally, men were the declarers of divorce. (Shujaat) Dress Code of Islamic Women
Women in Islam were asked to dress up in accordance with what was prescribed by the Islamic law. (Baig) Traditionally, women in Islam were asked to cover all their skin except for their face and hands. In other countries like in Afghanistan, Islamic women were even asked to cover their face and only their eyes should be exposed. This kid of dress code received so many criticisms. (Ahmed)Some say that it was unfair and biased since men were only asked to cover their legs up to their waist. They may even go in public without any shirt on top.
Nonetheless, it was answered by stating that women’s chastity is highly recognized in the Islamic tradition such that women were only being protected from getting abused. (Stowasser) Islamic Women in Politics Although women in Islamic tradition were asked to function on the private sphere and attend to their family, women were not really being compelled from pursuing public tasks and positions. And though there were beliefs that women were not suited to rule or have public positions, they were allowed to enter in the politics. (Baig)