Whether its cultural tradition or ignorance, most women and men don’t know what rights and responsibilities they have in Islam. Nor do they understand the wisdom behind God’s decree in placing specific roles of men and women. I had a very vague idea of what the rights were for women in Islam actually were. The idea of female empowerment isn’t really something that’s taught from a young age. Why?
You always hear about the bad stuff, like how a woman’s testimony is less than that of a man because they are ‘emotional’, that we get less inheritance or a woman has to obey her husband completely. That is pretty much what we’re fed with when we grow up. Do gender roles have to be completely equal is order to be just? Justice in Islam means treating men and women equally by recognising their differences and having roles that reflect that, equity.
It’s a concept I think the Western world haven’t quite grasped or perhaps reject, where if men and women are to be treated equally, they should have the exact same role opportunities leaving aside their gender. Reconciling the gender roles in Islam when living in a western country is difficult because equality and equity can be conflicting.
The Prophet Muhammad (s) knew a patriarchal society dominated by men would forget about the rights of women. Unfortunately, that’s what has happened, we have forgotten the empowerment of women in Islam, and because of culture, a good woman became one who had no voice or agency. The restrictive gender roles that are by culture and tradition is what gives Islam a bad name, especially the roles that under the guise on treating both sexes ‘equal’ that put women at a disadvantage.
As a role model to how a Muslim man should act, the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) stance of the role women played in Islam was very clear through his character. He sought counsel on important matters, as the women in his life were instrumental in helping him establish and spread Islam.
The sermon emphasises the importance of domestic justice however, it was not just his wives and daughters that the Prophet had a strong relationship with. He was a community leader, a confidant – a man where women could come to, to seek advice and assistance. The Prophet would sit and listen to women, respect them with his time and company.
Women have the right to: be treated obtain an education, be financially and emotionally supported, own independent property, earn her own income, express her opinion and negotiate marital terms. And if a man does not take care of his wife, then there are dire consequences – they will be questioned on the day of judgement, whether they fulfilled their responsibility about that which was entrusted to them.
Women have the right to expect that their husbands groom themselves and keep clean. It is said that men who do not groom themselves but expect their wives too are compared to oppressors who deserve to be punished.
As women are the partners and committed helpers of men, so therefore they should be consulted and respected with big decisions made within the family. This excerpt from the last sermon demonstrates the equal value of men and women as essential contributors to the private and public life of their society. If there is a shared role in earning income, there should also be shared responsibility in managing the household.
One of the biggest sins in Islam, is to slander a chaste woman, it is worse than slandering a chaste man. It is an elevated privilege that God has given to a Muslim women in order to preserve and maintain her honour. Even with this decree, in culture, women are under constant scrutiny and suspicion about their chastity and are further restricted more so than men.
As considered the earliest declaration of human rights, the last sermon by the Prophet Muhammad (s) covered core values of anti-discrimination to women. We just need to make sure that women are empowered by the rights given to them in Islam and for men to be aware of their responsibilities.