Women’s Rights Under Islam

Do Women Have Rights in Muslim States?

Islam came from Saudi Arabia, a country where girls were buried right after their birth and women who dared to give birth to baby girls were mostly kicked out of their homes, had to see their husbands bringing other women into their homes to finally produce a male child. Women had no right to education, nor to real property and were seen as property of their fathers first and then their husbands. The motto was very simple: Be happy that I allow you to live at all.
When Islam was introduced to Saudi Arabia, the Koran (translated meaning: recitation) became a revolutionary rule-book. Not only did it speak about how to believe in God and how to appreciate nature, but additionally it spoke about family law, about wills and inheritance, and about women.

Yes, I know, looking at the Burka of Afghan women, looking at the hijab of Iranian women, reading that FGC is mostly done in the Islamic countries of Africa, reading how poorly women in Islamic countries are treated does not really prove my point. Islam came from Saudi Arabia, a country where girls were buried right after their birth and women who dared to give birth to baby girls were mostly kicked out of their homes, had to see their husbands bringing other women into their homes to finally produce a male child. And since back then women did not have any rights, imagine who would have come to rescue a woman in case of a sexual crime? To protect women the Koran indicated that women should cover the space between their shoulders, meaning their cleavage and should not show their body jewelry. At a time in history, where women were not able to work, where society would treat a widowed woman poorly, or where a woman who did not have any male supporters was seen as an easy target, a man who was financially sound, and hence able to support her, was allowed to have another wife.

Many might be surprised to hear that Islam is the first world religion, dedicating one chapter (sure) to women (Sure 4, Nessah). Unlike most other religions, Islam does give women the right of requesting a divorce for numerous reasons (one of them being if the husband does not pay any sexual attention to her).

How should it be possible to treat two women exactly the same? Again, this has protective reasons for women. At a time in history, where women were not able to work, where society would treat a widowed woman poorly, or where a woman who did not have any male supporters was seen as an easy target, a man who was financially sound, and hence able to support her, was allowed to have another wife.
I could go on and on and bring you more samples. Concluding I would say that Islam does give women a lot of rights.

Islam is probably the most misinterpreted religion, and until people are not willing to find out the true base of Islam, people like me have to continue telling others about the meaning of the Islamic rules in order to reveal the un-Islamic actions of some countries.

I know that by saying this many eyebrows will be raised: Islam is a modern religion with the aim of emancipation. Yes, I know, looking at the Burka of Afghan women, looking at the hijab of Iranian women, reading that FGC is mostly done in the Islamic countries of Africa, reading how poorly women in Islamic countries are treated does not really prove my point. Give me a chance to explain my point without stopping to read my paper, and I am sure that at the end of this you will understand my statement.

Here, it was supposed to show a woman’s cleanliness to cover her head in order for her not to get dust or dirt into her hair. And since back then women did not have any rights, imagine who would have come to rescue a woman in case of a sexual crime? To protect women the Koran indicated that women should cover the space between their shoulders, meaning their cleavage and should not show their body jewelry.

It continues with the rights of women after their divorce, indicating that no man should mistreat his ex-wife; neither should he take their children away, mostly not if they are still being nursed by her. He should give her dowry and make sure that she is provided for. And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result.
After saying all of this I can imagine anyone asking me: if this religion is so modern, why are women in Islamic countries treated so poorly?

The second question I am usually asked is about the famous Islamic statement, why men can have four wives, and that this would degrade women. And if you fear that you can not act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course. In case he does not, any of the women could request a divorce.

Since it would be too broad to consider all the Islamic countries, I will concentrate on Iran as a sample and compare it to some other Islamic countries when necessary.
Women had numerous rights: right to divorce, right to own real property, right of leadership etc. The other Middle Eastern countries did not have any of those rights. Women were seen as “birth-machines” for male production only.

I did a lot of research on this, since the Islamic revolution, which required that (literally from one day to another) women should wear a scarf over their head and a longer coat or a veil (chador). Originally this cover was meant to make a distinction between the women form the higher groups and the working class women. Similar to the difference between women in the US Northern and Southern States: women of the South, who had their slaves working for them on the farms, were not supposed to have a tanned skin, since it would show that they were working outside.

Iran is the only country where women wear their head scarves differently than in the other Islamic countries. In Taliban- Afghanistan women were forced to wear a Burka, in Saudi Arabia they also wear a Burka, which looks different than the Afghan one. It is not Islam indicating what women should wear; it is the original tradition of the countries adapting their life styles to their understanding of the Islamic way of life.

The countries traditions do not want women to be able to write and read, in order for them to read the Koran and become able to defend themselves based on the Islamic rules. The newest political developments and the involvement of terrorists in the name of Islam put a bad light on a religion, which was supposed to bring people closer and give women rights.

For being able to answer this question, I will give you a little historical background of Islam: As I mentioned above, before Islam women had basically no rights. And while reading Islamic rules now, we do not have to look at them from our modern, maybe western point of view, but mostly from the eyes of the women from 1,400 years ago. Put yourself in the same position of an Arab woman in the year 600 B.C.: You had no rights before Islam, and now you can even become a witness.

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