Translation supervised and edited by
First published in Egypt by the
International Islamic Committee for Woman & Child
P.O. Box 684, Oman, 12621 Giza, EGYPT
Email: info@ iicwc.org
as Book Series No. 1
Women in Islam
©1999, Fatima Umar Naseef
ISBN 81 207 2208 6
All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without prior written permission of the original
publisher, Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 46 Goodge
Street, London WIP 1FJ, U K.
E-mail: imm@zajil.net
Women Prior to Islam
Women in Ancient Civilisations • 3
Womenin Judaism and Christianity • 25
Women's status at the advent of Islam (Pre-Islamic Paganism) • 33
Rights of Women in Islam
Social Rights and Attributes of Women • 47
Maternal and Matrimonial Rights • 73
Right to Seek Knowledge • 79
Right to. Choose Her Husband • 89
Right to Seek Employment • 99
Ethical Rights • 107
Religious Rights • 117
Political Rights • 143
Economic Rights • 163
Obligations of Women in Islam
Obligations of the Young Woman • 185
Obligations of a Wife • 195
Obligations of the Mother • 211
Conclusion • 249
Bibliography • 255
ll praise is due to Allah who has bestowed His bounties
upon women and liberated them from the slavery of pre -
Islamic paganism. Allah the Exalted has honoured women by
granting them the true faith of Islam. He confirmed their
dignity, humanity and partnership with men.
The Almighty says: "O mankind! Be dutiful to Your Lord, who
created you from a single person (Adam), and from him he created
his wife (Eve), and from them He created many men and women"
Prayers and peace be upon Muhammad, the best of mankind who
also asserted their dignity by saying that "women are partners of
men". He (s) valued them and established their position in society,
thus demolishing, the ignorance of pre-Islamic tribalism and
tradition. Prayers and peace be upon him, his family and his
The subject of this book, the status of women in Islam, was chosen
for several reasons.
First, it was my desire to choose a subject relating to the Qur'an
and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) in order to seek
Allah's pleasure and to explicate for the benefit of common people the
code of regulations inspired from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The
Messenger (S) of Allah said:
"O people, I have left amongst you that which if you cling on to,
you will never go astray: the Book of Allah and my Sunnah."
Secondly, it is a subject which needs to be addressed urgently
as women represent half of society and share with men the burden
of building this society. They share jobs, responsibilities and
constitute half of humanity.
This is subject of the hour and Muslim women have become the
focus of many controversial intellectual movements whose aim is to
make them doubt the values and principles they hold and to question
their rights and obligations. Misinformed and confused, many
Muslim women are then unable to distinguish between truth and
falsehood and between the worthless and the precious. They have
consequently deviated from the straight path of God.
I therefore felt it my duty to write about this controversial
subject in order to elucidate as much as I can the rights and
obligations of Muslim women in Islam. By doing so I hope to place at
their disposal, a reference which can be used as a guide to dissipate
any confusion, answer their questions and help erase any remaining
I want to reassure women, using Qur'anic references and clear
argumentation that Islam is the only religion that truly cares about
their well-being, dignifies their character and honours them. No
celestial religion or positive secular legislation has elevated women
to the status provided by Islam.
I want to provide women with a reference that illustrates all their
rights as well as obligations since the inseparability of both is
logical and also clear in Islamic jurisprudence and in no way
can we disassociate one from the other.
I have also noticed that women often advocate their rights
and forget about their obligations. Hence, in addition to informing
them of their rights granted by Allah, I wanted to remind them of
their obligations and responsibilities.
In the Muslim world today we often see Muslims either turning
away from their religion or practising a deviant form of the great
Islamic teachings and its divine principles. I therefore intend to
present Islam as ordained by Allah: a way of life and a code of conduct
to follow and to act upon in all situations. This is also to inform
women, as well as men, of their rights and obligations respectively so
that the contrived antipathy between the two sexes will disappear and
will hopefully be replaced by mercy and love bestowed by Allah the
Almighty, the most Merciful, the most Loving.
I have not yet come across a book which outlines all the rights and
obligations of Muslim women. Most of the books on this subject
focus on their rights as a riposte to the continuous tirades levelled
against them. Others briefly deal with her duties without adequate
detail or explanation, leaving the investigator's thirst for
knowledge unquenched.
This book is divided into three main parts, which is further subdivided
into chapters.
PART ONE: presents the historical backdrop of the status of women
in Pre-Islamic times,
CHAPTER 1: portrays women in ancient civilizations. It was necessary
to start from here in order to form a comprehensive image of women
at that time and the degradation they suffered. However the main
reason was to bring to light the sublime and noble Islamic tenets,
since good things can best be identified by their opposites.
CHAPTER 11: focuses on the two major religions that preceded Islam,
Judaism and Christianity, denoting some of their practices,
regarding women, during that period.
CHAPTER l ll: describes women in Pre-Islamic paganism. This is
anecessary prelude to Part Two and Three in order to
adequately delineate the status of women prior to the advent of
PART TWO: This section is devoted to women's rights in Islam. It
is divided into four chapters:
CHAPTER 1V: deals with women's social rights including: their
right to life, upbringing, education, their right to seek
employment, their freedom to choose their spouse, and
finally, their right to social security.
CHAPTER V: addresses the religious rights of women including
their rights to religious worship, their eligibility to observe both
obligatory and optional acts of worship and their equality with
men in terms of religious responsibilities, rewards, restrictions and
CHAPTER V1: looks at women's political rights including: freedom
of speech, freedom to express one's opinion, the pledge of
allegiance, the right to participate in Jihad and to give sanctuary.
It also deals with women's positions of authority, both minor and
CHAPTER V11: addresses women's financial and economic rights.
This includes their right to ownership, alimony,
inheritance, and endowment.
PART THREE: This section discusses the obligations of Muslim
women and is divided into three chapters.
CHAPTER VIH: focuses on the obligations of the young girl.
This includes her obligations towards her Creator, parents,
relatives and society, as well as the duty towards herself.
CHAPTER Ix: addresses the obligations related to the role of a wife.
It illustrates the objectives of marriage and the basis upon which
the family structure is built in Islam.
CHAPTER x: focuses on the obligations associated with the role of
motherhood. Her responsibility to all aspects of their evelopment:
physical, intellectual and spiritual are discussed.
CONCLUSION: In the last part of the book, the conclusion, I have
summarised the results of my study. I have attempted to assume an
impartial approach, always backing my opinions with references
from the Noble Qur'an and books of Hadith.
Please note the following facts:
1. I restricted my quotations from The Qur'an and the
authenticated traditions (Hadith) of the Prophet (S) to either one
or two. This was sufficient evidence for my purpose. Other
evidences can be deduced by inference.
2. I avoided debate over highly controversial Fiqh issues since
this would have led me away from the aim of my research.
3. In some situations, my emotions and feelings towards Islam led
me to indulge in Arabic rhetoric in order to bring out the beauty
of its teachings. Were it not for the danger of falling into
subjectivity, I would have elaborated further.
4. Due to my extensive travels, I had to use different editions of
the same book and have therefore specified in the footnotes
and the general bibliography, the specific edition used in each
5. Given the large number of books written on this subject, I had
to assume a scientific approach in order to arrange, co-rdinate,
and examine the data and to finally draw my conclusions. I hope
I have been successful in doing so.
Finally, my principal wish has been to contribute, by this humble
work, to the field of Islamic Studies. I hope that it will achieve the
purpose for which it has been written. If I am successful, then it
is from the
bounty of God bestowed upon me and His invaluable help, all praise is
due to Him; if I have erred, I sincerely ask Him to reward me for my
diligent effort. I conclude this Preface with the following
o Allah, enable me and all the daughters of Hawwa*
(Eve) to thank You and praise You the way You deserve to be
praised for all the bounties You have conferred on us and for all
the deeds we are rewarded for.
o Allah I praise You, praise that is plentiful, purely
good and blessed, praise that is befitting of your Majesty,
Glory and Sovereignty. I praise You for You have taught me
that about which I was ignorant.
o Allah benefit me with the knowledge You have given
me and teach me what is beneficial to me and increase my
knowledge and do not allow my heart to be diverted after you
have guided me to the correct path and reward me for my
efforts, You are verily the all Hearer, the all Knower.
Women Prior to Islam
Women in Ancient Civilisations
Women in Ancient Civilisations
nancient civilizations and throughout the centuries, the status of
women has varied considerably. Although women were occasionally
given a modicum of respect, they were usually oppressed and abused.
Very often, rules and legislation concerning women were shockingly
unjust. They were deprived of their civil rights as well as their natural
human rights. People doubted their humanity, isolated them and
burdened them in the name of customs and tradidons. Women were often
denied the right to a social life and the right to express their opinions.
They were no better than slaves, cheap to buy and easy to sell. This
situation remained during their entire lives, as young women, wives
and mothers. They were escorted from one prison to another, submitting
to the authority of the father, the husband or the male guardian who
was in control of all aspects of their lives. They were not allowed to
make decisions, nor did they have any financial or civil rights.
History does record a few cases in which women occupied
positions of power, such as in Egyptian civilization. But these cases are
few and do not reflect the general condition of women at that time or
since. As to the feminine names of certain gods and angels, this was
pure coincidence which does not indicate that women were highly
respected or dignified. Even if this were the case, they should be
considered as rare exceptions which do not affect the general rule. For
further clarification of the plight of women prior to Islam, this
chapter consists of a general overview of women's status in various
ancient civilizations. To truly appreciate the impact of the advent of
Islam on women, we must first have some understanding of their
status in ancient civilizations. Therefore this brief historic look at the
status of women is a necessary prelude to the remainder of the text.
It is important to emphasize that the purpose of this chapter is
merely to create a mental image, for the reader, of the predicament of
women at that time. The reader is encouraged to refer to the
bibliography and list of footnotes if further, indepth study of these
civilizations is desired.
The status of women in Chinese civilization was ever
changing. Before the arrival of Confucius, mothers were treated
with a considerable amount of respect. Chinese people respected the
family as such, and being the pivot of the family, the mother was
highly respected1. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a short time.
Historians suggest that the beginning of the feudal system is
responsible for the downfall of women in Chinese civilization. Among
these historians is the author of Kitaab al-Hadaarah (The book of
civilization) who said, "Perhaps the beginning of the feudal system
was responsible for their dishonour and degradation in terms of
political and economic rights. The authoritarian father was the pivot of
the family and male children, their wives and their children lived under
the authority of the father. Though the land was owned by all the
members of the family, the father had absolute sovereignty over the
rest of the family as well as over the land. Under the reign of
Confucius, the father had tyrannical and absolute power regarding all
matters of his family. He even had the right to sell his wife and
children into slavery"2.
The Chinese treated women with little consideration and respect.
Women were seen as evil omens and lived in ignominy and shame.
"Men prayed and asked god to grant them boys. The utmost shame
for a woman was not to have male children since boys worked harder
Women in Ancient Civilisations
in the fields and were more reliable in the battleground. Girls on the other
hand, were regarded as a burden on the family since the parents had to
provide for them as children and pay for their marriage when they grew
up. Female infanticide was widely prevalent amongst Chinese people
and was practised whenever the number of girls exceeded the need and
means of their family. Female infants were abandoned in the fields and left
to die of cold or to be devoured by the beasts. This practice was viewed as
normal and acceptable, and was rarely associated with even the slightest
feelings of guilt."3
Throughout her life, a woman submitted to a male authority
figure: that of her father, her husband, her brother in the absence of her
father or her son in the absence of her husband4.
"She submitted to the will of man and obeyed him during her entire
life. She was deprived of financial and social rights. She was considered
unable to manage her own affairs and her guardian made all the decisions
for her. She had no right to education or intellectual development. She
stayed at home and learned to be at the service of the family. She learnt
many skills which are required from a devoted servant. She had to cut her
hair at fifteen and to get married at twenty. The husband was usually
chosen by the father with the help of a broker. Moreover, women lived in
separate rooms of the house and rarely mixed with men since social life
was restricted to men unless the women involved were from a class which
allowed such mixing, for instance, singers and entertainers."5
After marriage, the wife would move in with her husband's
parents. She bore her husband's name and it was her duty to strive in
assisting her in-laws, as she did before for her parents. She was called Fu
Cong which means "submission", indicating her obedience and submission
to the will of her husband. The husband thought of his wife only as the
mother of his children and assessed her not according to her beauty or
intellect but according to her fertility, perseverance in assisting him and his
family and her obedience. He would be served food and would rarely
invite his wife or his children to join him at mealtimes. They rarely ate at
the same table. When the husband died, his wife could never re-marry.
She was asked to pay tribute to her dead husband by sacrificing and
burning herself 6.
The literary works of a nation have always been a good source of
identifying its social life, traditions and customs at a given time. One
can readily discern the degrading and miserable situation of women in
Chinese civilization through Chinese literary works, including poems
and essays. The author of "The Book of Civilization" quoted the
following from Mrs Ban Hoban's famous letter describing the women of
her society, "We occupy the lowest class of human race, we are the
weakest of mankind, and we have to engage in the most degrading of
jobs". These modest yet submissive words were written by a woman
from the highest social class of her society, leaving us wondering
about the situation of women in the lower social classes. She
continues, "How just and fair the book of law is in dealing with
women's issues, since it decrees that if a woman loves her husband,
she should spend the remaining of her days with him and if she does
not love him she should still spend her entire life with him." This is a
pertinent description of the humiliation, weakness and total
subjugation of women in Chinese society.
Will Durant comments, "This was the opinion of an aristocratic
woman, I dare not imagine the condition of women from a lower
social class". Fushwan, the Chinese poet, sings these words in an
attempt to describe the women in his society:
How miserable a woman is,
In this world she is the cheapest of all things,
The boys stand on the doorsteps...
Thinking they were gods from the skies...
And defying the four seas...
And the winds, and the sand and the horizon...
The girls are nothing but sadness...
To their families, they bring nothing but emptiness...
When they grow older, they hide in their rooms...
Fearing to look up to a human face...
Leaving nobody weeping
If they disappeared,
In an instant like the clouds after the rain...
And they lower their heads and beautify themselves...
Women in Ancient Civilisations
And they bite their lips and they bow and they bow
And often miss the crowd.
This was the condition of Chinese women. It can be summarised as
She was a despised, deprived of education, of all her rights and
freedoms, kept in submission to her menfolk and in service to her
family. She only possessed what men granted her and did what
one was told to do. She remained silent, abused and lost.
Indians denied the humanity of women. They did not acknowledge
their social importance and granted neither rights nor obligations for
them. "Veda" is one of the ancient texts that deals with women's
condition in Indian civilization. It is also the sacred book containing the
principles of the Brahmin religion. In the book entitled:
"Legislations of Brahmin religion" we find the following:
"The Brahmin religion distinguishes between men and women in
terms of humanity and in terms of rights. It denies women their
civil rights and submits them to the authority of men
throughout their lives as it is under the provisions No 147 &
148 of the law of "Mane". It declares that a woman,
throughout the different phases of her life, can make no
decisions whatsoever concerning her life, even if this decision
relates to the affairs of her own house. Provision No 147 states; As
a young girl, she should obey her father and as a wife, her
husband. If her husband dies she obeys her guardian; if he
dies, the guardianship will be transferred to her uncles. If she had
no uncles, the guardianship should be transferred to the ruler.
According to Provisions No 148, she as no right to
independence nor the freedom to act according to her
Thus women submitted to the supremacy of men throughout their
lives. They obeyed them and fulfilled their duties. Yet, this
submission was beyond obedience since they were treated no better
than a piece of merchandise to sell, buy or keep and as a servant to
hold captive for life.
"The Indian woman used to be the property of her father who
could dispose of her as he wished. After her marriage, she became the
bondservant of her husband. If her husband died, she became the
property of his relatives." As Louis Frank said, the law of Mane
stipulates that, "An Indian woman has no right to make any decision
even in matters concerning the management of her household. She
needs prior consent from her father or brother. The young woman
should attend to her father with respect and perseverance. She
should acquire good character and should be able to manage the house
with expertness and agility and to keep it well furnished without
being uneconomical."8
When she moved to her martial home, she had to dedicate herself
completely to attending to her husband with utmost loyalty and
without complaints. In other words her bondage of slavery continued
with her marriage. Mane stipulates that, "A devoted wife should
attend to her Master (husband) as if he was a god, she should not
engage in any matter that may hurt his feelings. Even if her husband is
deprived of qualities and good character, she should address him
saying: My lord, My God, Oh master!...And if they walk in public,
she should follow him keeping a distance between them." He very
rarely addressed her with a word. The husband expected his wife's
devotion in all matters: preparing his food, eating the remains of his
meals with her children, falling between his legs in bed .... Even then,
woe to her if she disobeyed him. If she did, they believed that her soul
would be re-incarnated as a jackal in the next life."9
The woman had no right to dispose of her money and property
and everything was under the control of her husband. This was her
condition during the life time of her husband, but when he died her
situation went from bad to worse. She was doomed to be burnt alive
with her husband's corpse or else she was ostracised from society.
"From their sacred books, we learn that a widow had to throw herself
Women in Ancient Civilisations
into the fire prepared to cremate her husband. The corpse would be
placed on the firewood and the wife would walk to it with a veil on her
face. The Brahman would then approach and pull away her veil and take
off her ornaments. She would also take off her jewellery and distribute
it to her family and relatives and then unplait her hair. The senior
brahman would take her right hand and walk with her three times
around the funeral pyre. Then, she would kneel down, lift her husband's
feet and put them on her forehead as a sign of respect and eternal
devotion; she would then stand up, turn around and sit by his head,
laying her right hand on his body. The brahmans would then start the
fire and burn her alive with her husband's corpse. They claimed that
by doing so, the wife was granted a happy and long life of 35 million
years (the number of hairs in a human body) in the heavens with her
husband. By doing so, she also purified her parents, maternal and
paternal relatives and her husband's family. She would also redeem
her husband of his sins even if he had killed a close friend or a brahman
during his life time. She would then be considered to be the purest of her
kind and the most noble and honourable with the best reputation.
Unfortunately this ritual was widespread and continues to this day.10
Commenting on this barbaric tradition, G. Lepont says: "The
reason being that the Indian women considered their husbands to be
the representatives of the gods on earth".11 Therefore, the woman
who was not sacrificed in this horrid way, was forever rejected from
society and considered to be on the level of animals. Lepont says:
"The unmarried women and especially the widows were despised and
rejected by Hindu society and were classified as animals. Many
women lost their husbands at a very young age and were doomed to an
eternal suffering and humiliation. They were considered to be an evil
portent for those they met. They were dismissed as impure creatures
that contaminated anything they touched. The only decent solution for
a widow was to throw herself in the fire or else she suffered a more
gruesome punishment"12.
The author 'Umar Kahaaleh says, "The widow was forever
ostracised and rejected by her people. For them she was a repugnant
and horrid creature. She was so insignificant that she only ate one
meal a day, wore the same outfit, slept on the floor and was burdened
with different chores. She shaved her hair to emphasise the fact that
she was a widow."13 A more grisly fact is that widows were usually
very young and spent their whole lives in such a miserable situation.
"A more reprehensible fact is their habit of marrying girls of 6 & 7
years old.14
Explaining the origin of this tradition and the belief behind it, W.
Durant says, "This ritual of burning the wife alive with her husband's
corpse arrived in India from abroad." Regarding this matter
Hirodotus says, "It was widespread amongst the Scots and the Turks.
Women used to compete between themselves to win the honour of
being killed on the grave of their husbands. This ritual might have
been transmitted to Hinduism from a very old tradition which was
prevalent amongst primitive peoples and societies.
It was also traditional among the Chinese people to sacrifice one
or two of the prince's wives or mistresses and a number of his slaves
and make other offerings because they believed that they accompanied
him in another life. It is mentioned in "the prints of Veda" that this is
a remote tradition and "Rhaj Veda" mentioned that this tradition was
never widely spread in the vedaic society and was reduced to the
widow lying on the firewood prepared to cremate her husband's
corpse just before the fire was set"15.
This was the condition of young girls and older women in Indian
civilization. It can be summarised by the following quotation from
Manichaios Manes, "The woman is the source of disgrace, the cause
of trouble and strife and the origin of this worldly existence. Her
destructive power does not only lead the unwise man astray, she is also
able to deceive the wise. She controls him and leads him to be the
slave of his own desires and anger" 16. Even their own Hindu
legislation describes women using slanderous and disgraceful
attributes. In the Vedaic scriptures we find the fol lowing, "When
Manes created women, he endowed them with sexual desires and love
of jewellery and ornaments. He also endowed them with anger,
treachery and fornication. There is no dispute that they are liars and
ignoble creatures. Their main purpose is to seduce men and to lead
Women in Ancient Civilisations
them to commit the abominable act, therefore they should not be
independent." They considered women to be inherently unclean and
impure to the extent that when a female child was born, family and
relatives were thought to be impure for ten days. Also, Manes, the father
of mankind gave women a wretched position on earth. He decided that,
"women have no power nor dignity, they should remain ignorant and kept
as slaves in the house, they possess no virtue whatsoever, nor do
they have an eternal soul. All these facts contributed to degrading
women to the extreme and it is not surprising if we do not find a
prominent female personality in Indian civilization"17. Most of the ancient
societies were similarly cruel to women. We learn from Hinduism that, "
predestined fate, the winds, death, poison, serpents, hell and fire are no
greater an evil than women."18 In fact, all these ancient religious scriptures
portray women in a shockingly repugnant manner, using the ugliest words to
describe them and to deny their humanity.
Some researchers like B. Axton Russell and Avril argue that
Manichaeisim does not ordain such humiliation for women and that they
were only the victims of their own customs and traditions although it
is a certainty that Manichaeisim did not give women equal rights to men.19
In spite of the controversy regarding this matter, the general consensus is
that Indian women had no financial nor civil rights and were oppressed
and humiliated throughout their lives.
Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations were oppressed and humiliated in the
same way as were women in the other ancient civilizations. Their
traditions and religious rituals are proof that both women's humanity and
social role were denied. This conclusion is evident in the books of ancient
history depicting the different phases of their lives. The young woman
was her father's property and whenever he experienced financial
difficulties, he would force his daughter into prostitution.20 As for her
marriage, it could be described as an auction. The law stipulated that those
who had daughters old enough to be married should bring them to the
marketplace where men gathered once a year. The auctioneer would
give a general description of each woman and would sell them one by one.
He would begin with the most attractive one to secure a high price and
would only sell them under the condition that the buyers would
marry them.21
Moreover, the law concerning punishment did great injustice to
women. It stipulated that if a man hit a girl and she died , he would
not be punished. The man's daughter would be punished instead and
would be put to death.22
"She was always burdened with numerous manual chores.
Therefore, she would spend her life in a constant struggle trying to
fulfil her duties towards her husband and her obligations towards the
house. She had to go early in the morning and late in the evening,
daily, to bring water from the river or from the well. She had to grind
the corn, knead the dough, bake, and knit and it was her responsibility to
furnish the house. Her permanent state of pregnancy was followed by
the breast-feeding period which lasted for three years. She
struggled day and night, day in day out. The only positive aspect of
her life appears to be her freedom of movement, for she could go out
whenever she wanted, even without her husband's permission.23 This was
most probably due to the nature of her household obligations.
This was the lot of the ordinary women. The rich women of a
higher social class were screened from public eyes. They dwelt in a
separate section of the house and were chaperoned by castrated
guardians and servants whenever they left the house. Women of a
lower social class were regarded as machines to produce babies,
especially if they did not possess a dowry or a small property inherited
from their parents; in this case they were treated no better than
servants and slaves.24
Herodotus reports that when the Babylonians were surrounded
by an enemy, they would kill their wives to economise on food.25
The Babylonians to lerated sexual freedom before marriage but
were very strict in terms of the wife's loyalty to her husband. She was
severely punished or put to death if she .committed adultery. "The law
stipulates that the wife who commits adultery should be punished
Women in Ancient Civilisations
along with her lover."26 Moreover, a mere suspicion or accusation was
enough to carry out the death sentence. If people suggested that a
married woman had committed adultery, she would automatically be
thrown in the river to save her husband's honour, even though no
witnesses or proofs had been brought forward. 27 Their sexual
traditions left their neighbouring countries in wonderment and
astonishment. "Before marriage they enjoyed absolute sexual
freedom. They fulfilled their desires whenever and however they
liked. They never thought of disguising their immorality by an
arrangement such as "the temporary marriage" or "a period of trial." In
fact they did not bother with marriage but just indulged in fulfiling their
basic instincts. Cortis wrote in the year 42 AD that "nothing is more
astonishing than the sexual behaviour of these people. Nowhere else in
this world can we find such a city with all the facilities provided to
fulfil one's sexual desires"28. Will Durant also described Babylon as
"Babylon the whore".
One of their most disgraceful traditions, which Durant called "the
sacred prostitution" and which destroyed any dignity or humanity left
for women, was that, every woman in Babylon had to retire to the
"flower temple" at least once in her fife and to have sexual intercourse
with a complete stranger. Rich women were too proud to mix with
others and so arrived at the temple in a closed carriage and sat there
surrounded by a large number of servants and attendants. As for the
vast majority of women, they would sit in the temple with rope
crowns on their heads. Men would walk by and each would choose the
woman they liked. The woman was not allowed to leave the temple until
a man chose her, threw a silver piece in her lap and had sexual
intercourse with her. When throwing the silver piece, the man would
say, "May the gods protect you". The woman had no right to refuse the
silver piece, however smatl it may have been, since it was regarded as
sacred. Then she would follow him and after fulfiling her religious
obligations towards the gods she would finally leave the temple and
return home.29 Beautiful women naturally returned home very quickly as
they were soon chosen. The less fortunate ones could stay in the temple
for several months and even for several years until they were chosen for
the service and thus able to fulfil the obligations stipulated by the law
and could return home." How strange was this law! How disgraceful its
regulations! It makes us wonder as Will Durant did, "I wonder what the
origin was of this extraordinary tradition? Was it a remaining of sexual
communism? With what license did the future husband grant the
virginity of his potential wife to an accidental stranger? Or was it an
immolation with which they offered the dawn of their femininity to the
gods ... who knows?"30 Whatever the reason, this immoral and repulsive
tradition continued to be practised in Babylon until it was abolished by
Constantinus in 325 AD.
The only positive rights granted to women in commercial centres such
as Babylon were: their right to own property, enjoy full control over their
own money and inherit.
The condition of Persian women was unpredictable and their position in
society unstable. It varied according to the overall situation of the country
and according to the thinking of male legislators and rulers whose laws
changed from one century to another and from one reign to another. The
Persian woman was abhorred and rejected by society until the rule of
Zoradasht. This ruler cared for and protected the women around him, but
only after he had kidnapped them and taken them by force. He granted
women several rights, for instance the right to choose her husband, the
right to ask for divorce, the right to ownership and full control over their
financial affairs. Unfortunately, this situation did not last for long. It ended
with the end of the rule of Zartosht and women were once again humiliated
and oppressed.
Being a military nation, the Persians favoured male children
because they offered financial benefits to their fathers and were pillars of the
army during the war.
Female children on the other hand, did not benefit their parents and
were either abandoned by their parents or married off at a very young age.
One of their sayings was, "Men do not ask god for daughters, and the
angels do not consider them amongst the bounties bestowed upon human
Women in Ancient Civilisations
beings."31 Another fact that confirms that women were neglected in
persian civilization is that Casinovan, when studying the culture and
education in Persia, did not mention women at all. He reported
nothing concerning their education and upbringing. This indicates
that they were overlooked in terms of education and intellectual
development, repressed and isolated from social life.32 Will Durant
confirms that education was reserved for boys and especially for those
who belonged to the upper social class, and who were usually taught by
As far as women's status in the family was concerned, "the
woman submitted totally to the authority of the male in the family
who had the right to put her to death or to grant her the right to live
according to his own whims and desires. He treated her as an object, no
better than a piece of merchandise or an old piece of furniture."34
Furthermore, the Persians included women among their list of
incentives to crime: which consisted of land, women and gold35.
They also considered women to be impure during their menses
and after giving birth. Women were banned from mixing with other
people because they feared contamination from them and men would
not touch their wives or even the objects that surrounded them
during their menses. Quoting Ahmad Ihyaf, 'Umar Kahaaleh said,
"During their menses and post-natal period, women deserted their
homes and dwelt in small tents, set aside especially for them at the
outskirts of the town; they were called "foulness".
Even the servants who were in charge of serving the food to these
women had to block their noses and ears and to wrap their hands with
thick material. They took such precautions because they thought that
they would be contaminated if they touched the menstruating women or
even if they touched the objects that surrounded them, including the
The situation of women in Roman civilization was no better than
their situation in the rest of the ancient civilizations. They suffered
oppression and rejection in all aspects of social life, "The Romans
abhorred women, hated the birth of a girl and their traditions allowed
the father to put his female child to death. On the other hand they
rejoiced at the birth of a male child. This was because, in the rough
countryside the male child was more likely to be a source of income for
his parents."37 As a result, they taught the boys science and art whereas
the education of young girls was restricted to housework.38
Roman law deprived women of their civil rights throughout their
lives. Before hei ma'riage a woman was under the authority of the
head of the family who was the father or the paternal grandfather.
This authority gave him full control over her life. He had the right
to put her to death or to banish her from the family or to sell her
into slavery. After her marriage, this sovereign authority was
delegated to her husband and all relationship with her family came
to an end.39
So unfortunate was her situation that they considered her to be
an object to be bought by the husband. The latter would pay her
father a certain amount of money and in return the wife had to do
all the housework and to undertake any chores without protesting
or even questioning her situation. She had no right to claim her
husband's fortune after his death and he could, if he so wished,
deprive her of any inheritance from him.40
She had no right to object to her husband's injustice, however
outrageous it might have been, since even killing or selling the wife
was allowed. The legislation considered women to have no
intellectual capacities and no right to freedom.41
The Romans described women as inherently unintelligent. 42
However some histor ical texts do ment ion that the mother in
particular was treated with respect but only if she devoted herself to
her house and family. "The mother was respected and given the title,
"mother of the family". Yet, she only deserved this respect and title if
she had been a self-denier and had fulfilled all her obligations with
perseverance. They would inscribe on her tomb that she remained in
her house and never left it. She used to weave and knit. She was
indeed a devoted housewife.43
Women in Ancient Civilisations
The situation of women in Greek civilization was far from satisfactory and
their position on the social ladder was much lower than that of men.
Greek poets and writers wrote very satirically and cynically when
discussing women. Even though, the Greeks were known for their
intellectual advancement and scientific discoveries, they treated women
with disgrace and injustice. They denied their humanity and overlooked
their sensitivities.
A woman who gave birth to a malformed child was put to death.
Monsieur Troilong said "The unfortunate who did not give birth to a
strong child suitable for the army was put to death."44
The Greeks believed that women had two purposes in life: to
procreate and to do the housework. Troilong adds that "The fertile
woman would be snatched naked from her husband to conceive
children for the country from other men.45
Although the Greeks were advanced in Literature and Science,
girls were often prevented from gaining this knowledge. "In Athena,
girls from the well-to-do families were taught to read and write in
their homes. As for the less fortunate ones and the poor, some
religious knowledge was transmitted to them through their ignorant
mothers while doing the housework. The exception to this was noted in
Sparta, where girls were brought up in the same way as boys in terms
of education which included music and physical exercise."46 Women in
Sparta did obtain these rights only because Sparta was a military city in
need of strong warriors. Therefore they provided necessary training
for women which included different physical exercises like wrestling,
discuss throwing and spearing. In Athena on the other hand, women's
education was restricted to housework.
Fathers had absolute control over their daughters, "The authority of
the guardian over the young woman was unlimited. He could arrange
her marriage without even consulting her, and on the other hand her
marriage was illegal without his consent. After her father's death, her
brothers inherited everything, If she had no brothers, she became part
of the inheritance. This meant that she had to become the wife of the
eldest of her father's inheritors. Her child would be named after his
grandfather and the fortune would be transferred to him. In other
words, it was her male child who inherited from her father and not
This was only one of the many injustices done to women in Greek
civilization. "Male legislators deprived woman of her civil rights and
submitted her to the absolute authorities of men through the different
phases of her life. Before marriage, she was the property of her father
and after marriage she was the property of her husband." 48 The
woman was considered to be incapable of responsibility and therefore
needed a guardian to direct her throughout her life. As a young girl
she was under the guardianship of her father, as a wife under the
tyranny of her husband or the inheritors of her father, if both the
husband and the father were dead.
Aristotle declared that, "Mother Nature did not endow women
with intellectual capacities, therefore their education should be
restricted to housework, mothering, nursing and other similar casks".
After declaring this philosophical notion, he included women in the
list of those miserable people who had no right to freedom. "Three
categories of people have not the eligibility nor the capacity to make
their own decisions:
The slave has no volition.
The child possesses a will-power but it is incomplete.
The woman possesses a will but hers is deficient."49
Plato, the pioneer of the "Rational school" was no more rational than
Aristotle was. "He classified women in the same level as children and
slaves. He established that men are superior to women, while
Euripides noted that women are deficient and incapable of handling
decent jobs and they constantly corrupt society with their evil
"It seems that this arrogant attitude towards women was
prevalent amongst the Greek thinkers, writers and philosophers. The
greatest representative of Greek comedy, Aristophanes, was famous
for his satiric humour and social denunciation of women. In his
comedy "Lystrata "his character says: "What else can we, women, do
Women in Ancient Civilisations
than sitting all together in a group, with our intellect, lipstick, seethrough
garments...?"51 A woman in their opinion was a deficient
creature. Aristotle said, "A man's word is not a woman's word and
mother nature has already determined the status of both women and
slaves". They attributed every imperfection to women. When they
wanted to insult a man they would call him "woman", a fact clearly
illustrated in the" Odyssey".52
This was the situation of women in Greek civilization. They were
oppressed and deprived of their rights. They were forced to submit
totally to the tyranny of men who had full and absolute control over
their lives.
Unlike their contemporaries, women in Egyptian civilization were
appreciated and respected. "Women were honoured in Egyptian
civilization. The Egyptians entrusted them with their country. They
reigned over Egypt, individually or collectively. They drafted the
laws, directed foreign affairs and made good politicians. The
Egyptians erected statues in memory of their dignity, power and
Although this happy situation did not encompass the whole
female population of Egypt, Egyptian civilization remained "the only
civilization which entrusted women with a legal status recognised by
the nation. It was also the only civilization that granted them full civil
rights similar to those given to the male population." 54 "She
contributed to the expenditure of the family when this was agreed
upon at the time of marriage. She made her own decisions with
regard to the children and other household matters. When the
husband died, she obtained custody over the children under the age of
consent, and had full control over the family, even in terms of family and
government relationship."55 The status of women remained fairly
constant except when the country was experiencing political or
military unrest. But women were allowed to regain their status when the
country was out of danger.
Historians have been able to gather this information from various
documents, engravings and garments that have been discovered. All
the evidence provides us with valuable information about the customs
and traditions of the Egyptians. In his treatise on the ancient
civilization of Egypt, Tuhfah Ahmad Al-Said Handusah illustrates
and comments upon these engravings and paintings as they "offer a
true image of the strong family relationship. Some depict the life
indoors, in the core of their homes, others show the woman working
in the field with her husband and the whole family going out for a
walk or on a hunting trip. We also have images of the wife consoling
her husband or worshipping with him."56
So the Egyptian woman was not degraded and dehumanized like
the women of other ancient civilizations. The French writer
Alexandre Moret says that the woman in ancient Egyptian civilization
was nor neglected nor rejected. "On the contrary, she was regarded
with respect; she lived amongst the members of her family yet she was
totally independent from men. The Pharaohs glorified and honoured
women since they regarded them as the main reason for the survival,
reproduction and unification of the nation."57
The title "The lady of the house" was given to women. The wife
accompanied her husband to the balls and they were never segregated
when they attended the theatre. The wife was the partner of her
husband. They always walked together hand in hand as shown in the
paintings and engravings on the monuments and graves. The
commandments of the sages also indicate that Egyptians were loving
and kind to their wives. The sages instructed their male children to
treat their wives kindly and to secure a happy and comfortable life for
them. Bataah Hatab says, "Be loving and kind to your wife and
provide for her. Perfumes and oils are medicine for her body. Bring
happiness to her heart throughout her life. She is indeed a fertile field
for her husband."58 Aany says: "Do not give orders to your wife in her
house if you know she is a competent woman. 'Do not say Where is soand-
so, bring it forth', if she has put it in its place. Observe her
actions with silence."59 In return, Egyptian women were polite, loving
and obedient to their husbands and took good care of their house and
Women in Ancient Civilisations
In his treatise, Al-Sayed writes under the title "Women's
duties towards the husband" that, "The Egyptian woman was
an obedient wife, a perfect housewife and an ideal mother.
This is suggested in the engravings and the ancient texts
available. They illustrate the respect of the wife for her
husband and her feelings that he was her master. She
transformed his house into a welcoming home. He would
arrive in the evening and find his wife ready to pour the water,
wash his hands and serve the food that she had prepared
So despite her high position in society, she still submitted to her
husband: "We learn from the engravings found on the graves that
women deemed sacred their duties towards their husbands and felt inferior
to them."
Following the rules of matrilineal descent childrens lineage was
determined through their mother who was highly respected by the
members of her family, although patrilineal descent was also
widespread. This might have been the influence of the original notion of
motherhood, the impact of which is to be found until the time of the
Lower Empire. The engravings from that period illustrate the maternal
grandmother walking ahead and preceding all the other members of the
Despite women's high status in Egyptian civilization, men had priority
in terms of inheritance and ascendance to the throne, "Even though women
had the right to ascend to the throne, this right was only applicable in the
absence of a male inheritor. This law was enacted in 3000 BC. According
to historical records, there were five queens and 470 kings amongst the
Egyptian monarchs. When a queen ascended the thrown she felt that she was
in a position which was not rightly hers. Therefore, queen Hatshoob,
who reigned over her country 1550 years before Christ, was obliged to
wear men's clothes in compliance with the general opinion."61
Despite her high ranking, the law also submitted her to
unrelenting regulations: "It stipulated that nobody should touch a woman
during her period. She was confined in a special place called "Hareeri"62
Moreover, fornication was regarded as a "big sin" and a woman who
committed illegal sexual intercourse was put to death. In fact, the criminal
law was unjust since a woman was put to death63 as soon as her loyalty to her
husband was doubted.64
The high status of women in Egyptian civilization persisted for many
centuries but began to deteriorate under the influence of Greek culture.
"After the collapse of the Roman empire, people reacted negatively to
the extravagant pursuit of pleasures of this world and the delectation of
human desires by dismissing worldly goods and progeny. They began to
lead an ascetic life and believed that the human body in general and
women in particular were a malediction and rejecting them was a sign of
great wisdom. This Roman idea spread to Egypt destroyed all that had
been established in Egyptian society regarding women's issues.
Moreover, the despotism of the Romans led many Egyptians to renounce
the vanities of this world and to lead a monastic life. Thus Egyptian law
and regulations came to an end before the Islamic era."65 'Umar Kahaaleh
explains that this was their status until the reign of the Batavians in
Egypt, who submitted women to the authority of men and deprived them
of their rights.66
1 Abbas Mahmood AI-Aqaad, AI-Mar'afi
Dhaalika AI-Lugfiz, (Woman...That
Mystery), ist Edition, Beirut,
Lebanon,Daar al-ICitaab al-Arabi, 1970,
2 Will Durant, 'Qissat Al-Hadaarah;
(The Story of Civilization), translated
into Arabic by Muhammad Badraan
Mataabi, al-Kajwa, 1971, Vol.4, Al-
Mar'ahfrt-Secn, (Woman in China), 3rd
edition, Cairo, Egypt, Matba'at Lajnat
al-Ta'leef Wa-al-Tarjama Wa-al-Nashr,
1968, p. 272.
3 Ibid Vol.4.
4 AI-Almecd al-Rukn Muhammad Daaher
Witr, 'MakaaniitAl-Mar'ukfeeAl-
Shu 'oon Al-lditariyah Wai Butulaat Al-
Qiiaa/iyah', (The Status of Woman in
Administrative Affairs and Heroic
righting), Beirut: Mu'asasat al-Risalah,
1399 AH1/1979.P.347.
5 Will Durant, op. cit. Vol.4.
6 Ibid., Vol 4, p.273.
7 Ali Abdulwaahed Waafi, 'Al-Asfaar At-
Mugaddmah It a,l Adyaan Al Sattbtqah li
al-Islam', (The Holy Books of the Pre-
Islam Religions), Cairo: Daar Nahdat
Misr li al-Tawzee wa al-Nashr, (no
Women in Ancient Civilisations
date), p. 168.
8 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, 'AI-Mar'ah fi
Al-Qadeem wal Hadeeth', (Woman in old
and Modern Times), volume i, Beirut,
Mu'asasat al-Risaalah, 1309 AH/ 1971),
9 Will Durant, op. cit. Vol.3, P.177.
10 Ibid, Vol. 3, p. 1181
11 Daahcr Witr, op. cit. p.345
12 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, p.138
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Will Durant, op. cit. Vol 3, p.181.
16 Ibid Vol.3, P.177
17 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, op. cit. P. 136.
18 Gustavu Lepont, 'Hadaarat AI-Arab;
(The Civilization of the Arabs),
translated into Arabic by Adel
Beirut: Issa AI-Maabi Al I lalabi and (Co
(no date), p.406
19 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, op, cit. p. 134.
20 Will Durant, op. cit. Vol.2, p.234.
21 Ibid. Vol.2, p.232.
22 Ibid.
23 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, op. cit.
24 Will Durant, op. cit. Vol.2, p.234.
25 Ibid, p.232.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.
28 Ibid, p.234.
29 Umar Ridah Kanaakh, op. cit, p. 128.
30 Will Durant, op. cit, Vol.2, p.230.
31 Ibid.,p.442,
32 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, op. cit.,p.132.
33 Will Durant, op. cit.vol. 2, p.442.
34 Umar Kahaaleh, op. cit., p. 132,
35 Ibid., p.132.
36 Ibid.
37 Will Durant, op. cit.Vol. 11, 119
38 Umar Kahaalch, op. cil., p.183.
39 Ali Abdulwaahed Waafi,y Al-Mar'aA Fee
al Islam , (Woman In Islam), 2nd
Edition,Cairo, Daar Nahdat Misr Li altab'
Walnashr, (no date), p.18.
40 Ismatudden Karkar, At-Mar'ah Min
Khilaal Al-Ayaat Ai-Qur 'aaniyah, I
laram al-Hcelah: al Sharikah al-
Tunisiyah li -altawzee'1979, p.29.
41 Muhammad Daahcr Witr, op. cit.,
42 Abbas Mahmood AI-Aqaad, op.
cit., p.10.
43 Will Durant, op. cit., Vol. 1, p.119.
44 Gustave Lpont, op. cit., p. 406.
45 Ibid.,.
46 Umar Kahaaleh, p.173.
47 Ali Abdulwaahcd Waafi, Al-Afar'aA
Fee Al-Islam, p.18.
48 Ismatudden Karkar, op. cit. p.27.
49 Ibid.
50 Umar Kahaaleh, op. cit. p.170.
Women in Judaism and Christianity
he ancient Jews led a nomadic life in the desert, the rules of
which were transmitted from one generation to another. The
Old Testament asserts their nomadic origins:
"For the Lord's portion is His people, Jacob His allotted inheritance.
In a desert land He found him,
In a barren and howling waste.
He made him ride on the heights of the land
And fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock.
and with oil from the flinty crag."1
This is also confirmed by Prophet Yusuf when he mentions the favour of
Allah on him and his family: "He took me out of prison, and brought you
out of the Bedouin-life. "(12:100)
We notice that the law of Israel is a law conceived for a military
nation which stipulates that women should submit to the authority
and power of men throughout their lives. Before her marriage, the
young woman is under the guardianship of her parents and under the
guardianship of her husband after her marriage. In both cases she is
treated as a slave and any father who fears poverty has the right to sell
his daughter into slavery.2
It is mentioned in Exodus that: "If a man sold his daughter into
slavery she cannot be treated like the other slaves." This means that she
cannot be redeemed nor released but has to remain a slave for life.
She is not only sold, but is also doomed to eternal slavery.
In fact, the father was the pivot of the family. "The Hebraic
family was patriarchal and had a huge financial and political network. It
comprised the oldest married man and his wives, his single
children, his married children, their wives, children and slaves if
any."3 Moreover, the father had absolute authority over his family and
especially over his daughters. "The power of the father was unlimited.
The land belonged to him and his children could not survive if they
did not obey him. He was the chief and he had the right to sell his
daughter to slavery and the right to choose her husband.
Nevertheless, he sometimes was merciful and asked for her consent to
the marriage."4
Jewish women were captured, sold and inherited as one would
inherit a camel or a piece of furniture. Also, the father had the right to
rent out his daughter for a certain period of time or to sell her while
she was still a minor. He also had the right to kill her and nobody
could prevent him from doing so.
Moreover Jewish women were degraded and humiliated to the
extreme. They were considered to be taboo and the embodiment of
an abominable sin. In Ecclesiastes we find the following:
"So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search
out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the
stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.
I find more bitter than death, the woman who is a snare, whose heart
is a trap and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will
"Look", says the teacher, this is what I have discovered: "Adding one
thing to another to discover the scheme of things-while I was still
searching but not finding-I found one upright man among a
Womenin Judaism and Christianity
thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. "5
It is clear that women's status in Judaism was no better than their
status in other ancient societies. A woman belonged to her father
until a man came and "bought her" for marriage. The dower was paid to
the father or the brother as retail price after which the young woman
became the property of her husband. He became her master and she
called him "my Ba'l", which means "Master". According to the law, a
marriage contract was a "slavery" contract.
A woman's oath or vow was never valid without the consent of her
father or her husband, as stated in Numbers:
"When a young woman still living in her father's house makes a
vow to the Lord or binds herself by a pledge and her father hears
about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows
and every pledge by which she bound herself will stand. But if her
father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the
pledges by which she bound herself will stand; the Lord will release
her because her father has forbidden her.
If she marries after she makes a vow or after her lips utter a
rash promise by which she binds herself and her husband hears
about it but says nothing to her, then her vows or the pledges by
which she bound herself will stand. But if her husband forbids her
when he hears about it, he nullifies the vow that binds her or the
rash promise by which she binds herself, and the Lord will release
The Jewish woman was also inherited as part of the deceased's legacy. If
her husband died, his inheritor would also inherit her amongst the other
goods and slaves. He had the right to sell her or to retain her as a slave
without allowing her to re-marry. In Deuteronomy we find the following:
"If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son,
his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's
brother shall take her and marry her and fulfil the duty of the
brother-in-law to her."7
As soon as a man died, his widow who was called yabamah,
automatically became the wife of her brother -in-law or wife to her
father-in-law's brother, especially if she had no children from her first
husband. Whether she agreed or not, she had no right to marry
anybody else as long as one of those inheritors was alive unless he
decided to disown her.
It is obvious that the woman who was herself inherited like
cattle or a piece of furniture had no right to inheritance. The law
stipulated that if a man died and left no male children, his legacy
would be inherited by his brothers or his friends. Nothing was given
to his wife. The Torah stipulated that if a man had no male children,
his daughter could inherit from him as long as she married
someone from her father's tribal clan. In Numbers it is stated that,
"Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry
someone in her father's tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess
the inheritance of his fathers."8
"Women were also considered to be inherently impure. If a
woman gave birth to a male child, she would be considered impure for seven
days. She had to wait for 33 days before she became completely clean and
was able to enter the Temple. If she gave birth to a female child, she would
wait twice as long. This clearly suggests that the Jews preferred male to
female children. A woman was also dismissed as impure during her
monthly period. Anyone who touched her or touched the seat she was
sitting on was also considered impure until the sunset. A menstruating
woman only became clean after washing herself with cold water. Her
husband would not touch her without a witness who could testify to her
Jewish laws relating to women remain the same today, and include the
following rules and regulations regarding women:
"A woman should be considered impure as soon as she feels that her
monthly period is about to commence, even if there is no evident sign. Her
husband should not touch her, not even with his little finger. He should
not pass anything to her even if it is a very long object, nor should he take
anything from her hands. Neither should they pass it to each other by
throwing it in the air. They should not eat on the same table unless
Womenin Judaism and Christianity
something separates their places. He should not drink what remains in
her glass, nor should they sleep in the same bed. Nor can they travel in
the same vehicle. If they work in the same place, they should not
touch each other. If a woman's husband falls ill and there is nobody
else to attend to him, she should be able to do so as long as she does not
touch his skin. On the other hand, if a man's wife falls ill, he should not
nurse her even if there is no risk of him touching her.
A woman who gives birth to a child is dismissed as impure. If she
gives birth to a male child, she will remain impure for seven days. On the
other hand, if she gives birth to a female child, she will remain impure
for fourteen days. If it is a boy, she has no right to have a bath before 40
days and 80 days if it is a girl!"10
These laws clearly show how humiliated women were in Judaism.
The Jews preferred male children and considered women to be
inherently impure. They also held them responsible for the original sin
and considered them to be filthy and dirty. This also shows the extent to
which Judaism has been altered and distorted through the centuries in
order to meet the "approval" of modern society.
1. The Old Testament, Oeutronomy
2. Ali Abdulwaahed Waafi,AI-Mar'ah
fee al-Islaam , (Woman In Islam) 2nd
edition, Cairo: Daar Nahdat-Misr li
al taba' walnashr, no date, p 15
3. Will Durant, Qissat Al-Hadaarah, (The
Story of Civilisation), translated into
Arabic by Muhammad Badraan Mataabi,
al-Rajwa, 1971, Vol 4, AI-Mar'ah fee-Seen,
(Woman in China), 3rd edition, Cairo,
Egypt, Matba'at I.ajnat al-Ta'leef Wa-al-
Tarjama Wa-al-Nashr, 1068, Vol 2, p.374.
4. Ibid
5 The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes
6 The Old Testament, Numbers 30: 3-8
7 The Old Testament, Deuteronomy
25:5 and The Old Testament,
Numbers 36:8
8 Umar Ridah Kahaaleh, Al-Marahfe
Al- Qadeem Wat Hadteth, (Women in
Old and Modern Times), vol i, Beirut:
Mu'asasat al-Risaalah, 1399 AH/ 1979
9 Rabbi Solomon Gauzfried, "Code of
Jewish Law, Kitzur Shulhanamah.
A Compilation of Jewish Laws and
Customs. Translated by Hyman E
Voiding, revised edition, Vol. 4, York:
Hebrew Publishing Company, 1961,
The condition of women in Christianity was no better than their lot in
Judaism. Christianity paid little attention to women's issues. The advent
of Christianity did not improve their condition nor did it give them the
rights they deserved. It did not liberate women from the sovereign
authority of men nor did it protect them from men's oppression and
despotism. On the contrary, Christianity forced women to submit to the
authority of men and to obey them blindly. Paul said: "Wives, submit to
your husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as
Christ is the head of the church."1
Similarly, Peter said in his first letter: "Slaves, submit yourselves to
your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and
considerate, but also to those who are harsh."2 Then he says: "Wives in
the same way be submissive to your husbands..."3
We also notice that the Bible makes special reference to men, since
Christians believe that man has been created in the image of God and
that woman is only created from a man's rib. Therefore the
theologians agree that men and women are not and will never be
equal. A man's social and religious position should exceed that of the
woman. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians: "Now I want you
to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman
is man, and the head of Christ is God." Then he says: "A man ought not
to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the
woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but
woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for
man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have
a sign of authority on her head."4
Paul did advise men to be loving to their wives: "Husbands, love your
wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."5
However this did not go beyond the level of mere advice which was not
put into practice. The Church also recommended that a man should be
kind to his wife, yet it gave him full control over her life and her money
and possessions.
Christianity considered women to be the root of many evils.
"They believed that every woman was guilty of the original sin and that
Womenin Judaism and Christianity
she was responsible for the ejection of Adam from paradise. The story of
Adam and Eve was the main cause of women's oppression in Christianity.
"Tertullian" believed that women were the partners of Lucifer. Didn't she
obey the devil and disobey the Lord? This theory which was developed
and explained by Tertullian was responsible for the repression and
humiliation of Christian women for many centuries."6
Moreover, women were asked to assume a particular behaviour
outside and inside the Church, and Paul strongly recommended the
following: "Your women shall keep quiet in the Church because they have
no right to speak if they want to learn, they should ask their husbands if
they should do so at home because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak
in the Church."7
"Christians were superstitious of women. Christom said: "Women are
an inevitable evil, an inherent temptation, a domestic danger, a
pernicious seduction and a disguised devil".
Ahmad Khaaki explains the origin of this superstition, saying:
The primitive communities did not understand the nature of
blood, therefore they were frightened of it and attributed it to
"Mana". They also considered women to be dirty and filthy
during their menses. A man had to stay away from his wife and
not touch her until she sought expiation for her impurity by
shedding the blood of a bird. Moreover, they believed that
menstruating women contaminated everything they touched,
therefore a man had to avoid his menstruating wife all the
time. They slept in different beds, wore different clothes and
drunk from different pots.8
Consequently, the condition of Christian women was very similar to the
condition of Jewish women since both religions dismissed them as filthy
and impure. Some theologians also went beyond this to question the
origin as well as humanity of women. Did a woman possess a soul?
Was she predisposed to redemption or damnation? These questions were
raised and discussed at the Council of Macon held in 581 AD and many
times since then.
This was a quick glance at the condition of women in Judaism and
Christianity, which resulted from evident distortions of the truth.
Both dogmas held women in a degrading and humiliating position,
favouring men in all respects. A woman had no religious eligibility nor
civil rights, yet she had many obligations and was expected to submit
to the sovereign authority of men.
In conclusion, it is important to note that this adverse condition of
women was a result of distortions of the revealed religions and the
impositions of man made laws and regulations, decreed and enacted by
Jewish and Christian religious leaders. Their practices today are far from
what was originally decreed. Islamic law on the other hand has and will
always be protected from alteration and misinterpretations.
Furthermore, Islam has always given women their full religious and
civil rights as we are about to discover in the following chapters.
1. Ephesians 5: 22, 23
2. 1 Peter 2:18
3. 1 Peter 3: 1
4. 1 Corinthians n: 3, 7, 9
5. Ephesians 5:25
6. Ahmad Khaaki,AIMar'ahfeeAiukhlalaf
(Women in Various Ages of History),
Cairo, Egypt, Daar al-Ma'aarif, 1947,
p. 33
7. Will Durant, Qissat Al-Hadaarah,
(The Story of Civilisation), translated
into Arabic by Muhammad Badraan
Mataabi, al-Rajwa, 1971, Vol 4, Al-
Mar'ah fee-Seen, (Woman in China),
3rd edition, Cairo, Egypt, Matba'at
Lajnat al-Ta'kct Wa-al-Tarjama Waal-
Nashr, 1968, Vol 3. P- 278
8. Ahmad Khaaki, op.cit., p. 33
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
Women's Status under Paganism
and at the Advent of Islam
t is necessary to understand the status of women at the advent of Islam
in order to fully appreciate the generosity and beauty of the Islamic
tenets which have liberated women from the oppression and ignorance of
pre-Islamic paganism. At this time in history the majority of Arabs
led a nomadic life, with nomadic traditions and customs. Wars and
sudden attacks were part of their lives and they therefore aspired to
physical strength which was essential in order to defend their tribes and to
protect their lands. In this environment, the male was the symbol of
security and strength. Author Ahmad Kaaki wrote that as a result of this,
"men were held in high esteem and women in low esteem.'1 The fact that
tribes were much more in need of boys to defend them had devalued
women in this society and led to the preference for male children leading,
in fact, to female faticide.
If the female child was fortunate enough not to be buried alive, she
spent the rest of her life being oppressed and persecuted. Neglected
by her parents and abused by her husband, nobody came forward to
champion her cause. She was denied most human rights. She had no right
to inheritance; indeed she herself was inherited like any other object and
piece of furniture.
This was the predominant fate of women in pre -Islamic
paganism. A few writers and thinkers like Ahmad al-Hufi have tried to
prove that women of that era were cherished and honoured. Others
have gone to the other extreme and have described the women as
being tyrannically and cruelly treated.2
Although pre-Islamic poetry often romanticized about women,
their overall status in society was not favourable.3 They were often
neglected, oppressed and persecuted as the reader will discover in the
forthcoming sections of this chapter. Quotations from the noble
Qur'an are used to describe the status of women during this period
which demonstrate the dramatic impact Islam had on women's status.
Women were oppressed, humiliated and abhorred by their parents. In
the noble Qur'an we find the best expression of the pagan Arab's
hatred for women:
Allah (SWT) says: "They assign to Allah that which they dislike for
themselves. "[16:62]
"That" is referring to daughters.
Allah (SWT) also says in the Qur'an : "And they assign daughters
unto Allah - Glorified (and Exalted) be He above all that they
associate with Him! - And unto themselves what they desire."
Al-Qurtubi says: "This verse was revealed in Khuzaa'ah and
Kanaanah as people then claimed that the angels were the daughters of
God and that angels should be associated with God (Glorified and
Exalted be He). He has placed Himself far above what they attribute
unto Him (taking children for Himself). And "unto them what they
desire" means that they like to have boys and they reject girls whom
they attribute to God."4
Allah (SWT) says in answer to their fabrication:
"And they make the angels who themselves are servents of the Most
Beneficent, females. Did they witness their creation? Their
evidence will be recorded, and they will be questioned!"[43:19]
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
This suggests that women were held in disrespect among the pagan Arabs.
They were oppressed, humiliated and treated with injustice. The male
children for instance, would always take the best and the biggest part of the
family's possessions. Women only had shares in the food that was deemed
foul and repugnant. About this Allah (SWT) says in the Qur'an:
"And they say: 'what is in the bellies of such cattle (milk or
foetus) is for our males alone, and forbidden to our females, but if it
is born dead, then all have shares therein'. He will punish them for
their attribution (of such false ordinances to Allah). Verily, He is
All-Wise, All-Knower. "[6.139]
Explaining this verse, Abu Ja'far said:
"This verse means that if the cattle gave birth to a healthy foetus, then it
would be an absolute right for the males without women. If on the other
hand, the foetus was dead then, women and men had equal shares. Hence,
they clearly favoured males in every matter.
The "females" in this verse refers to their women, who are a man's
daughters or wives. Allah (SWT) will punish these slanderers who prohibit
what Allah has not prohibited and who permit to themselves what Allah
has not made permissible. Allah is All-Wise in the way He deals with His
creation, All- Knower of what they deserve."
It must be noted that some historians mention a few cases where some
women were famous during this period. Examples would be; Ateeqah
(daughter of Murah, wife of Abdulmanaaf) for her contribution to
the treaty of "Al Fudool" and Al-Khansaa', who was a very famous poetess.
In addition a few other women attained major positions of authority and
reigned over their countries, for instance, Azzabaa, monarch of Tadmur and
Balquees and Queen of Saba. But these isolated cases did not affect the
general status of women in pre-Islamic times.
Girls were abhorred and rejected by Arabs and daughters were often
killed by being buried alive at birth. The noble Qur'an describes this act as
disgraceful and ignominious. It is condemned and censured by Allah (SWT)
in a scolding and reprimanding style. He (SWT) says:
And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to
any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward
He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which
he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury
her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision." ]6:57-59[
The above verses clearly illustrate the gruesome fate that awaited female
children at that time, and the profound sadness of their fathers at their birth.
Explaining these verses Ibn Katheer says: "Allah (SWT) tells us about
the dreadful sins of the pagan Arabs. When the news of the birth of a
female child is brought to any of them', his face becomes gloomy and pale
and he is stricken by grief and avoids mixing with people, so ashamed is he
'of the evil of that about which he had been informed'. He will either keep
her repressed and deprived of his love and mercy, or he will bury her alive.5
Allah (SWT) will question them and punish them for their
monstrous deeds that He (SWT) strongly condemns in the Qur'an. He (SWT)
"And when the female (infant) buried alive shall be asked: for
what sin was she buried?" ]81:8[
Ibn Katheer said: "On the day of resurrection, the female infant will
be questioned about the sin for which she was killed. This question will
be a warning for her killer and an intimation of the intensity of the
punishment awaiting him, since, if the victim is "questioned", the
punishment of her oppressor must be great indeed!".
"Usually, it is the criminal who is questioned and the fact that it is the
victim who is questioned in these verses intensifies the accusation
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
directed towards her killer. He is confronted with his crime, his victim
and her accusations. This is a powerful device with which to
intimidate the killer, for there is nothing more horrifying for a killer
than to be confronted by his victim. She will be given the chance to
accuse him of his crime in front of Allah (SWT) the All-Mighty, Lord of
the heavens and the earth.6
With this powerful and emphatic style, Allah (SWT) warns those
who did kill or thought about killing their daughters.The pagan Arabs
buried their daughters whenever they feared poverty and humiliation.
Yet, Allah (SWT) instructs in the Qur'an:
"Say (O Muhammad) (s) ' Come, I trill recite what your Lord
has prohibited you from: join not anything in worship with Him;
be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of
poverty - we provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near
to shameful sins whether committed openly or secretly and kill not
anyone who Allah has forbidden except for a just cause. This He
has commanded you that you may understand.' "]6:151[
Ibn Katheer said:"They killed their children whenever the devil
inspired them to do so. Hence, they killed their daughters because
they feared dishonour and killed their boys because they feared
Some advocates of pre-Islamic paganism even argue that fathers
killed their daughters only because they did not want them to suffer
poverty and humiliation, and so it was a sign of love and respect. But
regardless of the motives a crime remains a crime, and it has been
forbidden by Allah, the All-Mighty, Lord of the heavens and the
One of the most disgraceful and repulsive habits of pagan women was to
circumambulate the sacred House naked. Narrated Sa'eed bin Jubair,
on the authority of Ibn Abbas that: "Women,used to
circumambulate the House naked saying "Who would pass me a
titwaaf (i.e, gown) to cover my private parts". They would also say:
"Today I will reveal it all or hide it a little. What is revealed will be
offered." So, the following verse was sent down: "O children of Adam!
take your adornment at every masjid. '8
Explaining this narration, Imaam al-Nawawi said, "titwaaf" was a
kind of dress that pagan women wore while circumambulating the
House. All the pagan Arabs used to circumambulate the House naked.
They would take off their clothes, throw them away for the people to
tread on until ragged and would not take them back. This ritual used
to be called the "meeting". They did so until the Prophet (S)
prohibited the practice and instructed that: "No naked person may
circumambulate the House."9
Abu Hurairah reported: "Abu Bakr sent me during Hajj before
the farewell pilgrimage for which Allah's Messenger (s) had
appointed him Amir among a group of people whom he had ordered
to make an announcement on the day of Nahr: "After this year no
polytheist may perform the Pilgrimage and no naked person may
circumambulate the House."10
Also, women used to walk amongst men shamelessly and
conspicuously displaying themselves and uncovering their breasts.
Allah (SWT) has prohibited us from imitating them as He (SWT) says:
"And do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance." [33:33]
Nikaah (marriage) in pre-Islamic times took different forms. Women
were treated as sex objects whose sole purpose was to satisfy men's
sexual desires and to produce children. Men seldom cared about
women's feelings and personal desires. The woman's father would
normally choose the husband and very often he would give his
daughter away without asking for a dower. A man would also marry
his daughter to somebody else, and the latter would marry his
daughter to the former without paying mahr (dower). This was
known as Nikaah al-Shigaar, similar to a transaction between two men
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
where goods or cattle were being exchanged.
Narrated 'Urwa bin az-Zubair: Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (s)
told him that "There were four types of marriages during the Pre-
Islamic period of Ignorance. One type was similar to that of the
present day, i.e. a man would ask somebody else for the hand of a girl
under his guardianship or of his daughter's hand, and give her mahr and
then marry her.
The second type was that a man would say to his wife after she
had become clean from her period, "send for so-and-so and have
sexual relations with him". Her husband would refuse to sleep with her
untill she became pregnant from the man with whom she was sleeping.
When her pregnancy became evident, her husband would sleep with her
if he so wished. Her husband would do so (ie. let his wife sleep with
another man) so that he might have a child of noble lineage. Such a
marriage was called Al-Istibda'.
Another type of marriage was that a group of less than ten men
would assemble, choose a woman, and all of them would have sexual
relations with her. If she became pregnant and delivered a child, she
would send for all of them after the birth of the child and none of
them would refuse to come. When all of them had gathered before her,
she would say to them, " You all know what you have done, and now I
have given birth to a child. It is your child, O so-and-so," naming
whoever she liked, and her child would follow him and he would not
refuse to take the child.
The fourth type of marriage was that many people would enter
upon a woman and she would not refuse anyone who came to her.
Those were the prostitutes who used to fix flags at their doors as
signs, and any man who wished could have sexual intercourse with
them. If one of them got pregnant and delivered a child, all those men
would be gathered for her and they would call a Qaa’ if (person skilled in
recognising the likeness of a child to his father). He would identify the
father of-the child and she would have to let her child follow this man's
lineage and be called his child. The man could not refuse. However,
when Muhammad (s) was sent with the true message, he abolished all
the types of marriages observed in the Pre-Islamic period of
ignorance except the type of marriage the people recognise today."11
This hadith illustrates the different types of marriage that took
place in Pre-Islamic paganism, three of which are indicative of the
licentiousness of pagan Arabs at that time.
Fornication was neither condemned nor disapproved of by pagan
Arabs. Moreover, instead of condemning fornication, they forced
their women into it. Even if a female slave refused to do so, her master or
guardian would force her to fornicate for the sake of money. But when
the Prophet (s) came with the message of Islam, he prohibited people
from this detestable practice. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur'an: "And force
not your maids to prostitution, if they desire chastity, in order that you
make a gain in the (perishable) good of this worldly life."
Polygamy was widely prevalent among the different Arab tribes.
The greater number of wives a man had, the prouder he was. This
number was unlimited and there were no rules or restrictions
whatsoever regarding polygamy: "Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Ghailan bin
Salama embraced Islam while he had ten wives and the Prophet (s)
told him: "select four of them".13 Also, narrated Al-Harith Ibn Qays: "I
embraced Islam while I had eight wives, so I mentioned it to the
Prophet (S). The Prophet (s) said: "select four of them."14
Islam set rules and regulations regarding polygamy and made it
clear that for a man to be able to marry more than one wife, he must
be able to treat them equally, for Allah (SWT) says: "And if you fear that
you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls then marry (other)
women of your choice, two or three or four, but if you fear that you shall not
be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives) that your
right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice''[4:3]
Divorce in Pre-Islamic times had no regulations nor restrictions. A
man could divorce his wife whenever he wanted and as many times as
he wished. This added to the subjagation and degradation of
women. Therefore, the following verse was revealed: "Divorce is twice,
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
after that either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with
kindness."[2: 229]
Explaining this verse, Al-Qurtubi says: "Iddah (a waiting period
which must elapse before she can remarry) was established amongst
the pagan Arabs before Islam. However, a man could still divorce his
wife as many times as he wished. He would then return her just before
the end of her prescribed period of Iddah. In the time of the Prophet (s), a
man once said to his wife: "I will not keep you, nor will I release you". She
said: "How is this?". He replied: "I will divorce you and just before the end
of your prescribed period of Iddah, I will remarry you". This woman
complained to Aisha (R) who reported the complaint to the Prophet (s). Then
the above verse was revealed." 15
Women had no established right to ownership and very often they
possessed nothing at all. This is clear from the hadith of 'Umar bin Al-
Khattaab: Umar said, "By Allah, in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance
we did not pay attention to women until Allah revealed regarding them that
which He revealed and assigned for them that which He assigned."16
Women and children had no right to inheritance. This was an
exclusive right for men because they carried the swords, defended the tribes
and protected the land.
"The pagan Arabs did not bequeath any of their belongings to women
or children. Everything was inherited by men and they used to say: Only
those who fight on the backs of horses and seize the enemy's booty should
In pre-Islamic times, people were assessed according to their
functional abilities in the battlefields as well as their materialistic
productivity."18 Moreover, they used to inherit women as they would inherit
any other object. The next-of-kin to the deceased would inherit his
wives along with other goods and slaves. Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "If a man
died, his relatives would have the right to inherit his wife. One of them could
marry her if he wished, or they could force her in marriage, or, if they
wished, they would not give her in marriage to anyone, and they would
be more entitled to dispose of her than her own relatives. So the following
verse was revealed."19
Allah (SWT) says: "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit
women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness
that you may take back part of the dower you have given them"[4:19]
Narrated Ali bin abi Talhah, on the authority of Ibn Abaas: "If a man
died and left a young woman (wife) behind, his heir would bestow a
robe upon her and would hide her from the people. If she was attractive,
he would marry her, if not, he would confine her until she died". Narrated
Al'Ufi: "If a man died, his heir would inherit the right to marry his wife and
nobody else had the right to do so without his consent. He would then
confine her until somebody came and paid a ransom to redeem her."20
This was the unfortunate condition of most women at that time.
However, it is mentioned in the books of history and the biography of the
Prophet (s) that a number of women were allowed to own property and
we learn that Khadeejah bint Khuwailid had her own business and that she
also employed men. Yet we do not know how she acquired her
possessions. Nevertheless these few exceptions did not affect the general
traditions and regulations regarding inheritance and ownership established
in pre-Islamic pagan society.
From this chapter it is clear to see how women were devalued and
abused prior to the advent of Islam. Even though there were
documented cases of women who were allowed to own property and
businesses, these appear to be rare exceptions. Unfortunately these few
exceptions did not affect the general traditions and regulations established
in the pre-Islamic pagan society.
It is obvious from the Qur'anic verses, mentioned in this chapter, that
the advent of Islam was responsible for an elevation in womens status. Islam
recognised the rights of women and made provisions for their protection
from the abusive traditions of pre-Islamic paganism.
Women's status under Paganism and at the advent of Islam
1 Ahmad Khaki, Al-Mar'ahfi Mukhtalaf
al-Usoor (Woman in Various Ages of
History), p.63.
2 Habeeb Afandi Alzayaat al-Dimashqi,
Al-Mar'ahft alJaahileeya, (Woman in
Pre-Islamic Times), unpublished treatise,
Egypt, Matba'at al-Ma'aarif, AI-Fajalah
St., 1808-1899, p.2.
3 Abi Abdullah Muhammed bin AI-Ansaari
AI-Qurtubi, Al-Jaami li Ahkaam Al-
Qur'aan, Vol.5, Beirut, Lebanon: Daar
Zhyaa al Turaath al Arabi, (no date),
Cairo, Daar al-Sha'ab Kitaab al-Sha'ab
92, AI-Qasr-al-Ayni, (no date).
* 16:57.
* 43:19.
4 Abi Jaa'far Muhammad bin Jareer
al Tabari, Jaami al-Bayanfi Tafseer al-
Quraarn, (The Compiler of Elucidation
in the Explanation of the Qur'aan),
Vol.12, 2nd Edition, Beirut, Lebanon,
offset 1398 AH/ 1978, Egypt, Daar Al-
Ma'aarif, Sura 6:139.
* 16:58,59.
5 Al-Imaam al-Haafez Imaaduddeen Abual-
Fidaa Ismaa'eel Ibn Katheer, Tafseer
AI-Qur'aan al-Adheem, (Explanation of
the Holy Qur'aan), Vol 2, Makkah
al-Mlukarramh, Beirut, Lebanon, Daar
al-Baaz, Abbas Ahmad al-Baz, Daar
al Ma'rifah 1388 AH/1969, 16:572.
6 Abdulkareem AI-Khateeb, Al-Tafseer al-
Quraani li AI-Qur'aait,('l'he Qura'nic
Explanation of the Qur'aan), Book 15,
Vol.30, Dar al Fikr al-Arabi, 1970,
p. 1469.
7 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol.2, p.189
8 AI-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol.5, 'Book of al
Tafseer'. p.878
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid. Vol 3, book of 'Pilgrimage', p.494
11 Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani, Fath al-Baari,
(Authentic Tradition of the Prophet),
compiled and edited by: Abdulazeez bin
Baaz, Vol.9, book of'AI-Nikaah', printed
by al-Matba'ah al Salfiya, (no date),
p. 182.
12 Muhammad Ali Al-Saabooni;,
Mukhlasar Tafseer Ibn Katheer,
(Summerized Explanation of Ibn
Katheer), Vol.2, i st edition, Beirut,
Daar al-Qur'aan AI-Kareem, p.604.
13 Al-Haafez Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin
Yazid Ibn Maajah al-Qizwini, Sun'aan
Ibn Maajah, (Ibn Maajah's Tradition of
the Prophet), texts compiled by: Fu'aad
Abdulbaaqi, book of'AI-Nikah', Vol.i,
Daar Ihyaa al-Kutub al-Arabeeya, Abaas
al-Baaki & Co., 1372 AH/1955, p. 628.
14 Ibid
15 AI-Qurtubi, op. cit. vol 2, p. 934
16 Al-lmam Abi-Abdullah Muhammad bin
Ismaa'eel al-Bukhaari, Saheeh al-
Bukhari, (AI-Bukhaari's Authentic
Tradition of the Prophet), 'Tafseer Sura
6', Vol 6, Offset print, Istanbul, Daar al
Fikr from Daar al-Tibaa'ah al-Aamira,
(no date), p.79. This quotation is part of
a very long Hadith.
17 Al-Waahidi, op. cit. p.96.
18 Sayyed Qutb, Fi DhilaalAl-Qur'aan, (In
the Shade of the Qur'aan), Vol.i,
Limited editions No.7 and No. t,
Beirut; Daar al-Shurooq, 1398
AH/1978, 1394AH/1976,
Sura 4.
19 Al-Asqalaani, op. cit. vol.8 'Book of
Tafseer', p.245.
20 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol.1, p.4
Rights of Women in Islam
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
Social Rights and Attributes of Women in Islam
n part one, I have illustrated the condition of women in ancient
civilizations. It is clear that women were usually oppressed and
discriminated against. Their rights and their humanity were denied. This
situation persisted until the advent of Islam, which came to teach the
people how to be just and fair to all mankind. It also came to rescue
women from the oppression and the humiliation they suffered. It came to
correct misconceptions, implement justice and restore women's dignity.
Islam restored women's dignity and their position in society as
human beings who contribute to the building of their society. It also
proclaimed that women are an essential factor in the development and
prosperity of nations.
Islam has given women their full rights, proclaiming and
establishing these with clear explicit texts. These texts cannot be
altered nor denied. It has prohibited female infanticide, offered
guidelines for their upbringing in order to protect them throughout their
lives and stipulated for them mercy and love.
Islam has also imposed preventive regulations to further protect
women from any defamation, humiliation and wrong accusations.
Islam has given women the protection and security they need which they
had lacked through the centuries and which they still lack in many
so-called civilized societies that claim to uphold human rights.
"Establishing her humanness."
Allah (SWT) has dignified all of mankind, regardless of whether
male or female. He says:
"And indeed We have honoured the children of Adam, and We
have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with
good things, and have preferred them above many of those
whom We have created with a marked preferment. [17:70]
Explaining this verse, Sayyed Qutb says: "Allah has honoured him by
creating man in this form which combines mud and the divine breath of
life. Allah (SWT) has also honoured man by endowing him with natural
dispositions that enable him to rule in the earth, implement new
alterations, cultivate and build. Man is also able to establish rules and
regulations, to achieve great scientific results and attain the
perfection ordained for this worldly existence.The Almighty also
honoured man by subjecting to him the natural forces of the earth and
the cosmic forces of the stars and orbits. He honoured him with a
sumptuous and welcoming worldly existence and also by the angels
prostrating to Adam and the Creator Himself proclaiming man's
dignity and superiority."1
Al-Qurtubi understands this privilege to be exclusive to man over
the rest of creation. He explains that, "We have honoured the children of
Adam" means: "We have established for them dignity, nobility and
superiority.Dignity; because Allah (SWT) has perfected their image
and given them the ability to travel on land and by sea, choosing their
own means, conditions and time. This is indeed unique to
mankind."2 Al-Imaam Ibn Katheer quotes this verse to prove that
Allah (SWT) has declared the superiority of mankind over the angels
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
and all His creations.
Human beings, whether male or female, are honoured by their
very creation. This is a divine endowment, not a man-made allotted
privilege nor an acquired earthly talent. This honour and dignity is
explicitly stated in the Qur'an and has been established for all human
beings regardless of their sex, colour, race and country of origin. All
people belong to the human race and are therefore entitled to the
same honour and privileges established for mankind. They all
descend from one origin, one father and one mother.
A funeral procession once passed by the Prophet (s), and when he saw
it he stood up as a sign of respect. One of the companions mentioned
to him that the deceased was a Jew, to which the Prophet replied, "Was
he not a human being?'3
How eloquent, wise and truthful was this answer, as it established and
asserted the dignity of all humankind. Is the woman not a human being
with a dignified and honoured human soul? Surely she is and this is
clearly stated in the Qur'an and asserted by the Prophet (s).
Allah (SWT) says: "O people! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created
you from a single soul. "[4:1]
And the Prophet (s) said: "Men and women are indeed brothers and
The following Qur'anic verse asserts powerfully that men and
women were created from the same soul. Allah (SWT) says "O
people", addressing all mankind regardless of their race,colour,
religion and country of origin, since people in the Arabic language and
in the Qur'an refers to mankind. He (SWT) says:
"0 people! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a
single soul, and from it He created his wife, and from them both
He created many men and women. And fear Allah through Whom
you demand your mutual rights, (and do not cut the relations of)
the wombs/Surely Allah is ever an Observer over you." [4:1]"
This verse clearly indicates that men and women have been created from
one soul. They originate from the same race and are equal in terms of
humanness. And to emphasize this fact, the co-ordinating conjunction
"and" links "created you from a single soul" to "from him, He created
his wife"; meaning that men and women are created from a single soul.
This verse has been interpreted in two ways:
A] "From him", means from the soul of Adam, meaning that the
woman is part of Adam. This opinion is shared by most of the
scholars of the past.5
Ibn Katheer wrote that,"It came to our knowledge from the
people of the Book and specifically from the people of the Torah, that
Adam was sent to sleep, then Allah took his left rib and replaced it
with flesh. After this, Adam awoke and found his wife (Eve) whom
Allah (SWT) had created from his rib. When Adam awoke and found
Eve next to him, according to them he said: "My flesh, my blood, my
wife". So he trusted her and Allah blessed their union and married them.
But just before that Allah had said to Adam: "O Adam! dwell you and
your wife in paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of
things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both
will be of the wrongdoers." (2:35)
It has also been said that when Eve was created, Adam was
already in paradise. Al Sadi narrated on the authority of Ibn Mas'ood
that: "Allah (SWT) sent Satan out of Paradise and allowed Adam to
dwell in it.".
In Paradise, Adam felt lonely and isolated with no wife to confide
in. Therefore, Allah (SWT) caused Adam to fall asleep and when he
awoke, he found by his head a woman whom Allah (SWT) had created
from his rib. Then Adam asked her: "What are you?". She said: "A
woman".He said: "Why were you created?". She replied: "For you to
confide in me". Aware of the knowledge he had been given by Allah,
the angels asked Adam: "What is her name Adam?". He answered:
"Hawwa [Eve] The living" They said: "Why Hawwa?". He replied:
"Because she has been created from a living substance.'6
Al-Baahi Al-Khuli is one amongst many who support the above
opinion. He says in his book ''Adam": "We read in the noble Qur'an that
Allah "created you from one single soul (Adam), and from him he created
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
his wife." (4: 1)
This single soul is without doubt the soul of Adam. And the
creation of the wife from the body of her husband, followed by her
separation from him is a natural process.This is because reproduction
of some cells by the process of division, dissociation and then
proliferation by means of multiplication is a scientifically proven
process.The texts of the noble Qur'an state that similarly, the mother of
mankind was created through a process of division and separation from
her husband's body and soul and that their children proliferated by a
natural means of reproduction.This could also be an explanation of the
Prophet's (s) statement:" The woman is created from a rib.7
Abu Huraira (R) narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "The woman
has been created from a rib and you cannot straighten her. If you wish to
live happily with her, do so despite her crookedness. If you try to
straighten her you will break her, and breaking her means divorcing
Abu Huraira(R) also narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "Treat
women kindly. The woman has been created from a rib, and the most
crooked part of the rib is in the upper region. If you try to make it
straight you will break it, and if you leave it as it is, it will remain
curved. So treat women kindly."9
Explaining the above narration, Al Imaam An-Nawawi says:
"This backs the opinion of the scholars who said that Hawwa (Eve)
was created from Adam's rib. Allah (SWT) says: "...created you from a
single soul (Adam),and from him He created his wife (Hawwa)."
In this narration the Prophet advised the people to show kindness
and courtesy towards women as well as patience in dealing with
B] In the second interpretation, "From it" means "the same original
substance set in readiness for the creation of human beings."
Explaining this verse, Al Imaam Al-Raazi says:"And from it He
created his wife. He created her from the same kind and the same
substance.11 Allah (SWT) says: "And Allah has given you wives of your
own kind." (16:72)
"From" does not imply that Eve is necessar i ly p ar t of
Adam. However it indicates that the creation of Adam took
precedence. Therefore Allah (SWT) says"... created you from a single soul."
Among the people of knowledge who sustain this opinion is
Sheikh Abdulkareem Al Khateeb,who says: "It means that He created
from this soul,from the same kind and the same substance, a spouse to
that one soul, which does not refer to Adam as a human being. It
refers to a substance set in readiness for the creation of mankind.
From this substance Adam has been created and from this same
substance his wife has been created. And by her creation, the
existence of Adam has been perfected as Allah (SWT) says: "And we have
created you in pairs. " (78:8)
This does not apply only to human beings but also applies to the
rest of Allah's creation.
Allah (SWT) says: "And of everything we have created pairs, that
you may remember." (51 :49)
"And of everything we have created pairs''' clearly indicates that a
human being naturally embodies in its constitution the characteristics
of the female and male.Its constitution refers to the substance from
which he/she has been created. So, a male contains a male part and a
female part in his constitution. Likewise, a female contains a female
part and a male part in her constitution. This is a proven scientific
fact first stated and developed in the Noble Qur'an."12
I personally favour the second interpretation for the following
1 The interpretation based on the creation of Eve from Adam's
rib originates from the Torah and is not mentioned in our
Prophetic narrations.
2 There is nothing in the verse which clearly suggests that "this
soul" refers to Adam himself (as a person).
3 The narration which describes woman as "a rib which is crooked"
is metaphorical, "with the intention to urge men to be kind to
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
their wives and to be patient in dealing with and tolerating their
This understanding of the Prophet's narration is in accordance with
Al Imaam An-Nawawi's comments mentioned earlier. It is also in
accordance with the context of the narration itself since the Prophet
(s) starts and ends his narration with the words "treat women kindly"
The Prophet (s) has also explained that "breaking her"
metaphorically means divorcing her.
However,both opinions and interpretations confirm that women's
humanness is dignified by Allah (SWT) in the same way as men's
humanness and that they are both created from the same soul or
substance. Moreover, in order to remove any remaining doubts, Allah
(SWT) says: "And from them both He created many men and women." This
means that all humankind consisting of different races spread all over
the earth, male and female, are the result of that union. Human
reproduction is a result of the natural union of a man and woman,
they are partners and together constitute the two halves of one
We can thus conclude that in this verse Allah establishes two
1 That men and women are created from the same substance.
2 That man and woman, together , const i tuted the origin of
mankind.Allah (SWT) also says "And Allah has given you wives of
your own kind, and has given you, from your wives, sons and
grandsons" (16:72)
Sayyed Qutb says: "If people only remembered this fact, then all
these differences that exist amongst human beings and which cause
people created from one soul to separate and to cut the relationship of
the wombs and be divided would disappear.
The establishment of this truth will also solve the problem of
racial discrimination and social inequalities that humanity has
endured throughout the centuries. If this fact had only been
understood by mankind, it would have prevented many injustices
such as assigning the ridiculous attributes to women or considering
them to be filthy and impure as well as the cause of every evil and
misfortune. 'In fact, they possess the same innate qualities as men.
Allah has created them to be the partners of men and to produce,
together, many other men and women Ignorance has led humankind to
stumble in the darkness for many centuries and caused the
humanity and natural rights of women to be denied. People have
forgotten that every woman is a human being, created for another
human being, and a soul created for another soul and a realm which
complements another realm. They have also forgotten that men and
women are not two separate enti ties, but are partners that
complement each other.'
This verse also indicates that the basis of humanity is the family.
Allah (SWT) willed the human race to stem from a single family.He
first created one soul and from it He created its partner.They both
constituted a family and from that family, "He created many men and
women". If Allah had willed, He could have originally created many men
and women and allowed them to intermarry, thus creating many different
Many other verses also sustain this interpretation. Allah (SWT)
says: "He it is Who has created you from a single soul, and then He has
created from it his wife,in order that he might dwell in security with her" (7:189)
Many verses also prove the brotherhood and common parentage of
mankind.The woman is therefore the sister of man. They both descend
from the same father and the same mother. Allah (SWT) says:
"0 Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and
made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.
Verily, the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the most
righteous of you.Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware,"'(49:13)
Allah (SWT) addresses His above message to "mankind", to all the
peoples, informing them that He has created them from one mother
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
and one father, hence establishing the brotherhood of mankind, as well as
their common parentage. In this regard the Prophet (s) said:" Men and
women are indeed brothers and sisters."15
Moreover, in the above verse the message is directed to all human
beings regardless of their race, colour, language and sex as if Allah
(SWT) is telling them: "O Mankind, who have been created with
different races and colours and who belong to different nations and
tribes, indeed, you descend from the same origin. This origin
comprised a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, and from them We
have created these different nations and tribes with different colours and
different languages."
Since we are all brothers and sisters descended from the same
mother and father, nobody should claim superiority over the other on
the basis of his or her colour, race, language or country of
origin. These should not be the criteria to assess a human being. Piety is
indeed the only criterion:
"Verily, the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the
most righteous of you. "
Therefore, a man is not superior to another man because of his colour or
race. Nor is a man superior to a woman because he is a male. Being a
male does not allow him to contend for precedence and superiority:
"You are indeed all sons of Adam and Adam was created from dust,"16
Allah (SWT) has made it clear that mankind is the result of the
union of a man and a woman. Only by this union can reproduction
take place. Through them the lineage is preserved and the family is
begun. Allah (SWT) says:
"And it is He who has created man from water, and has appointed
for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage. And your
Lord is ever Powerful (to do what He wills)."(25:54)
He also confirms this meaning in many other verses, for example
when He says:
"And He creates the pairs, male and female. " [53:45]
He specifically says "male and female" in order to point out the
importance of each and in order to emphasize the greatness of Allah's
creation which leaves us in wonder and admiration. He (SWT) says:
"And by Him who created male and female, certainly, your efforts
and deeds are diverse. "[92:3,4]
Indeed, men and women complement each other and together are
responsible for the reproduction of mankind:
From all that has been said and illustrated, we conclude that the
Qur'an has established the humanity of women and made it clear that
there is no difference between a man and woman in terms of
humanness.They are both indispensable to building a society united in
solidarity and a virtuous nation in which both men and women enjoy
equal rights.
Islam has liberated women from the curse and malediction which
was falsely attributed to them and which has convicted them of
committing the original sin. Was Eve not the one who - as they saytempted
Adam and led him to eat from the forbidden tree as
mentioned in Genesis? The noble Qur'an denies this false accusation
and makes it clear that both Adam and Eve were responsible for their
ejection from Paradise. The prohibition was directed to both of them, as
Allah (SWT) says:
"And We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise and
eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein
as wherever you mil, but come not near this tree or you both will
be of the wrongdoers." Then Satan made them slip therefrom,
and got them out from that in which they were..." (2:35,36)
Both of them disobeyed Allah (SWT) and together were tempted by
Satan. He whispered to both of them,contrary to the Biblical version in
which Satan whispered to Eve and Eve tempted Adam. Allah (SWT) says:
"Then Satan whispered suggestions to them both in order to
uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts, he
said, 'your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
angels or become of the immortals. '' [7:20]
However, some verses suggest that Satan whispered to Adam alone:
"Then Satan whispered to him, saying:"O Adam! Shall I lead
you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that spill never waste
away?" Then they both ate of the tree, and so their private parts
appeared to them, and they began to stick on themselves leaves
from Paradise for covering. "[20:120,121]
And Allah (SWT) ends this verse saying:
"Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray."
Hence Islam exonerates woman from the sin that has been attributed to her,
denying that she was responsible for Adam's ejection from Paradise. The
above verses clearly indicate that the prohibition was directed to both
Adam and Eve and that they both disobeyed their Lord.
Having established the humanness of women, I would like to discuss
some of the innate differences that exist between men and women. These
differences do not affect their equality, dignity and eligibility to certain
rights, nor do they give precedence to one sex over the other. Both sexes
have different innate dispositions.They have different temperaments
and different constitutions. These different dispositions help them to
fulfil their different yet equally important tasks in life for which they have
been created.
Hence, women have been endowed with special physical and mental
characteristics which help them to fulfil their role in society and to
achieve their mission on earth.Again,this does not affect women's dignity
and their equality with men as many people seem to think.Islam is a set of
regulations which form an integral system that should be put into practice as
a whole, not to the advantage of men, nor to the advantage of women.
Rather, to the advantage of humankind as such and for the benefit of
Allah's creation in general.
"In Islam, distribution of duties and responsibilities is based on our
natural dispositions (fitrah).We have a man and a woman. Each has
different characteristics that enable him or her to fulfil their preordained role
in society. Not for the advantage of one over the other, rather for the
benefit of humanity. This humanity has to be established and
organised and directed to the sole aim of worshipping Allah through our
different, yet equally important duties and responsibilities.
Moreover, since men and women are endowed with different
dispositions and hence different responsibilities, they will naturally have
different obligations and different roles, again, for the benefit of this big
enterprise and this great society we call humanity."17
There are indeed physiological differences between men and
women, in accordance with their different roles in society.As far as their
physiological differences are concerned, scientists say that "It is a proven
scientific fact that women's physiology is different from that of men. This
difference is also observed in their cell composition, antibodies,
chromosomes and genital cells.As for their cellular tissues and organs, the
prominent organs of a woman, her muscles and her bones greatly differ
from a man's prominent and hidden organs. Also, men's muscles, bones,
endurance and brain size differ from from those of women.
These differences are not by coincidence. Behind the special
constitution of the human body and the constitution of all Allah's
creation, lies a divine wisdom that, very often, we do not
comprehend.Allah has perfected everything He has created.
Therefore, these physiological differences are not by mere chance nor a
simple coincidence.
In fact, men have been created in such a way that they are able to go
out to work and to provide for their families. Women on the other hand are
pre-disposed to stay at home and to fulfil their primary mission in life:
bringing up the children and looking after the martial home.
The woman's temperament also differs from that of a man.
Parents notice these differences from early childhood in their
children. Girls and boys think, observe and behave differently.
Moreover, women have to go through menstruation, pregnancy, labour
and breast feeding."18
The Qur'an and prophetic tradition also speak about certain
characteristics attributed to women and which are part of their
natural constitution. These include shyness, adornment, weakness in
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
disputation , jealousy and cunning.
These attributes do not undermine their humanness, nor do they
affect their eligibility to religious responsibilities.
Let us now look at each attribute separately to clarify and
delineate the natural characteristics of women:
The noble Qur'an describes the shyness of the daughter of Shu'aib;
"Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly.
She said: "Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for
having watered for us, "[28:25]
This characteristic is usually attached to women. Shyness is more
noticeable among modest and virtuous women. The companions of the
Prophet (s) used to say that: "The shyness of the messenger of Allah
exceeded the shyness of a virgin in her boudoir."19
Also, inquiring about the bride's necessary consent before her
marriage, 'Aisha said to the Prophet (s): "O Allah's messenger! A
virgin feels shy." He said: "Her consent is expressed by her silence."20
In fact, shyness is an inherent characteristic of women and one of
the moral attributes endowed to them by Allah to protect and
safeguard their chastity.If the shyness of a man is praiseworthy, the
shyness of a woman is even more praiseworthy. And, if the shyness of a
man is a virtue, the shyness of a woman is one which adds to her beauty,
enhances her radiance and makes her desirable. Shyness is also a sign of
modesty and purity, whereas insolence is a sign of corruption and
depravity. Shyness is the vigilant guardian of chastity. lt protects
women's purity and prevents anyone or anything from violating its
sanctity. Therefore, we notice that whenever we are about to commit an
evil deed, or to utter a bad word, our inherent modesty prevents us from
doing so. The Prophet (s) said: "Modesty can only lead to good."21
Also, Ibn Mas'ood narrated that the Prophet(s) said: One of the
sayings of the early prophets which the people have taken is: "If you do
not feel ashamed, do whatever you like."22
This means that boldness entails evil and depravity. This is also a
warning since Allah (SWT) says:
"Then whoever wills, let him believe.and whosoever wills, let
him disbelieve. "(18:29)
The first narration establishes that shyness brings nothing but good
and results in nothing but good manners and sweet words.The second
narration is a warning to those who have no sense of modesty and who
never feel ashamed when doing wrong.
Many other narrations also suggest that shyness from Allah are
the basis of worship and the best of virtues.
In an attempt to analyse the differences between men and women,
Darwin says: "During the barbaric era, the strongest and most
aggressive man would kidnap the female and imprison her in the cave.
The inhabitants of the cave were the most beautiful and the most
timid women who had attracted the attention of the males. Therefore, if
the genetic characteristics of human beings have continued to be
divided and separated, in accordance with Mendelian hereditary
laws, it would be easy to understand how strength and aggressiveness
have remained the characteristics of the male,whereas beauty and
shyness remain the characteristics of the female."23
Henry Marion, senior lecturer of Literature at the University of
Paris, said: "'Larochvoko' said that very often, the shyness of a
woman is the protector of dignity and reputation. And 'Fanlon' said
that timidity is the best guardian of women's chastity."24
It is therefore not surprising to learn that Islam has protected and
encouraged this quality in order to strengthen women's defence -
against evil and to repel the whispering of Satan. Shyness protects
women's dignity and chastity, since a women deprived of timidity and
modesty is more vulnerable to temptations. She is easily led to
committing sinful acts.
Consequently, shyness is one of women's natural qualities. It is an
inborn disposition which complements their femininity. Behind this
lies a divine wisdom of which I have illustrated only a small part.
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
Allah (SWT) says: 'Would they ascribe to Allah females who adorn
themselves and in disputation cannot make themselves clear. "[43:18]
Explaining this verse, AI-Qurtubi says: ''Who adorn themselves"
means that they are born, brought up and live most of their lives
wearing silk and jewellery.
"In disputation cannot make themselves clear" refers to
argumentation and while presenting evidence. They are easily
intimidated by their opponents and hence unable to deliver their
arguments eloquently and concisely. Also,AI -Qatadah said;
"Whenever a woman tries to present an evidence, she turns it against
herself." 25
Many other scholars have commented upon this verse. Ibn
Katheer says: "A woman is deficient. She compensates for this
deficiency by adorning herself. When she tries to argue, her
arguments are weak and inarticulate. Since she is physically and
mentally deficient, she wears ornaments and beautifies herself as
compensation for her physical deficiency. As to her mental deficiency,
she is weak and unable to be victorious in a quarrel or a dispute. If she did
win, she would lack determination and perseverance."26
Our great Imaam has apparently understood the verse to mean
that women are deficient, while Allah (SWT) has merely described
these characteristic as qualities inherent in women, and not
deficiencies as Ibn Katheer seems to think.
However, if the apparent meaning of the words seem to convey a
pejorative meaning, this is only because Allah (SWT) revealed this
verse in the style and words of pagan Arabs.
To erase any possible misinterpretation, Muhammad 'Izzah
Duroozah says: "It may appear that the meaning of this verse is
degrading and disrespectful to women. It may also appear that this
verse intends to establish a kind of superiority of men over women.
Nevertheless, what is expressed in this verse and other verses dealing
with the same subject reflects the frame of mind and the thinking of
the pagan Arabs at that time. In this way, the arguments presented
against them are stronger and therefore binding. This
misinterpretation is in no way the direct message or opinion of the
The true meaning of this verse is less ambiguous if read in
conjunction with the verses that precede it. Allah (SWT) says:
"Yet they assign to Him a portion of His servants!
Surely man is clearly ungrateful.
Would Allah take daughters from those He has created for
Himself and choose sons for you?
Yet when the birth of one of those [daughters] they attribute to
the Most Beneficient is happily announced to one of them, his face
darkens and he is filled with gloom. Would they ascribe to Allah
females who adorn themselves and in disputation cannot make
themselves clear?" [43:15-18]
"The exclamatory negation is here to emphasize the ignorance of
those who assign partners to Allah. This had led them to pretend that
God had children. Moreover, they chose sons, buried daughters and
then claimed that Allah's so-called children (the angels) were the
females they had rejected. As a result of their arrogance and
ignorance, it never occurred to them that the angels might have been
males. Their attitude was both an obvious error and irrational. How
could they have what they desired and ascribe to God what they
rejected!? This exclamatory negation also highlights the irrationality
of the pagan Arabs and their double standards. They rejected
daughters for themselves and when one of them was informed of the
birth of a baby daughter his heart became filled with inward grief. At
the same time they ascribed daughters to Allah. Was this the rational
attitude of those who truly believed in God? Did they consider Allah
to be less choosy and of less importance than themselves? This was
indeed a manifest perversity and a great sin.
" When the birth of one of those daughters is happily announced to
one of them", clearly indicates that the birth of a baby daughter is
meant to be a gift from Allah and a happy event which should bring
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
joy and pleasure to the heart. However, due to the ignorance of pagan
Arabs and their deviation from the straight path of Allah, this happy
event was transformed into a sad and tragic one.
"They attributed to The Most Beneficient", refers to the
"mushrikoon" who attributed partners to Allah and claimed that the
angels were His daughters.This verse also rejects the lies of the
pagan Arabs who not only rejected daughters for themselves
but also conjured up daughters for Allah to whom they attributed
the female sex. For themselves they chose the male sex since it is a
well known biological fact that the male is physically stronger and
more aggressive than a female when confronted with an enemy.
"Make themselves clear",means manifesting, displaying and
showing strength when the need arises."28
It is thus obvious that these two feminine characteristics are not
debasing nor degrading to women. Why would Allah do such a thing
after He has dignified women in many other verses. It is also clear that
these attributes are presented as qualities intrinsic to women.
Adornment and beautification are inherent to women, who have used
jewellery and ornaments throughout the centuries in order to beautify
themselves. Furthermore, Allah has made ornaments and jewellery
like gold, silk and pearls permissible for women as indicated in the
following narration of the Prophet (S):
"Allah has made gold and silk permissible to women and made it
forbidden for men."29
Allah (SWT) also says: "it is He who has subjected to you the
ocean, so that you may eat of its fresh fish and bring up from it
ornaments with which to adorn your persons. "[16:14]
Explaining this verse, Al Raazi says "the 'ornaments' are pearls
and rubies found in the sea. "Your persons" refers to women but is not
specified, since women are part of the nation and since they adorn
themselves to please men. Thus, both men and women benefit from, and
enjoy these ornaments."30
Adornment is encouraged and a man will love the woman who
beautifies herself for him. This is indeed innate and natural to human
beings and even to animals.
Weakness in disputation
Allah (SWT) has endowed women with special physical and mental
characteristics suitable to the task assigned to them on this earth. An
emotional is necessary in order to fulfil this task, so Allah (SWT) has
created women to be emotional, delicate, sensitive, reactive and easily
provoked. When confronted with an accusation they become nervous,
lose their arguments and consequently become weak and surrender to
their opponents.
This characteristic is not a defect as many seem to think. The
Prophet (s) metaphorically referred to women as the "glass vessels". It
is a quality appreciated by men since a male needs to feel superior. He is
proud and satisfied when he perceives the weakness of his wife and her
need for him. He is happy when she seeks his assistance and when she
turns to him for help, security and protection. It is very natural for a
man to feel stronger and to be the protector and the guardian of his
family. This is called "masculinity." Consequently, the goal of the noble
Qur'an has never been to degrade and debase women after having
established their humanity and their religious eligibility equally with
Jealousy is an alteration that occurs in the heart, and is the feeling of
resentment and bitterness that a person feels when someone is trying to
take something that belongs to him. This type of jealousy applies to
human beings, and is often seen between husbands and wives.
As far as divine jealousy is concerned, Allah is jealous when His
servant acts in a way that has been forbidden by his Creator.
The term "jealousy" is also used to refer to "fervour" and "selfrespect."
In the Noble Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s), we notice
that jealousy in the broad sense of the word does not refer exclusively to
women but is common to all human beings, males and females.
People of knowledge distinguish between "praiseworthy jealousy"
and "blameworthy jealousy", depending on the situation that arouses
the feeling of jealousy. When the jealous person is in the right, then his
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
jealousy is encouraged. When he is in the wrong, his jealousy is
"Jealousy" also has been described in connection to Allah (SWT)
and His Messenger (s) and his companions (R).The Prophet (s) never
criticized his companions nor blamed them for their "jealousy" and
their sense of "self-respect".However, jealousy is more prevalent and
manifests itself more often amongst women.Al-Imaam Al-Bukhaari
has dedicated a whole chapter to "Jealousy" and another one to
"Jealousy and Passion of Women".Under the first title we find many
narrations describing the "jealousy" of Allah (SWT) as well as the
"jealousy" of His prophet (s).
Sa'd bin Ubaadah narrated, "If I saw a man with my wife, I
would strike him with my sword. The Prophet (S) said: "Are you
astonished by Sa'd's "jealousy"? Indeed my "jealousy" exceeds Sa'd's
jealousy and Allah's "jealousy" exceeds mine." 32
In another narration the Prophet (S) said: "There is none having a
greater sense of "jealousy" than ." 33 To explain this further Abu Huraira
(R) narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "Allah is "jealous". His "jealousy"
is provoked when His servant commits an act that He has forbidden." 34
Interpreting this narration, Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajr says: "Such an
unstable condition of the heart as "jealousy" should not be
interpreted as an intrinsic attribute of Allah since transmutation is not
one of the attributes of Allah.Thus "jealousy" should be interpreted as
the act of "menacing" and "punishing".
As far as the "jealousy" of the Prophet (s) is concerned, he was
the most jealous of mankind because of his "fervour" for his religion
and his jealousy for Allah. He never sought revenge for his own self." 35
Jealousy between husband and wife is also natural due to their
inherent human characteristics.This jealousy is encouraged as long as it
does not go beyond jealousy to mutual distrust and suspicion.Many
narrations illustrate the jealousy of the male companions of the
Prophet(S).We have already read of the "jealousy" of Sa'd Ibn
'Ubaadah. We also learn about the great "fervour" and sense of "selfrespect"
of 'Umar bin Al-Khattaab (R). Jaabir bin Abdullah (R)
narrated that the Prophet (S) said: "I entered Paradise and saw a
palace and asked whose palace it was. The angels said, "This palace
belongs to 'Umar bin Al-Khattaab. I intended to enter it, and nothing
stopped me except my knowledge about your "sense of self-respect"
(jealousy). 'Umar said: "O Allah's Messenger! Let my father and
mother be sacrificed for you! O Allah's Prophet! How dare I think of
my self-respect being offended by you?" 36
It is clear from the above narration that 'Umar's "jealousy" and "sense
of self-respect" was known to the Prophet (S). He (S) did not criticize
'Umar (R) for it but was very patient in dealing with 'Umar and the rest of
the Companions (R).
We also learn of Az-Zubair's jealousy and his sense of self-respect.
When he first married Asma bint Abu Bakr (R), he was very poor and
possessed nothing. His wife Asma' used to carry the date stones on her
head from Zubair's land given to him by the Prophet (S) and this land was
about 2 miles from her house. One day while she was walking with the
date stones on her head, she met Allah's Messenger (S) and some of his
companions. He called her and offered her a ride behind him on his camel.
She then remembered Az-Zubair and his jealousy and politely declined the
Prophet's offer. 37
Many authentic narrations also describe the jealousy of the
"Mothers of the Believers",the Prophet's wives, like Umm Salamah and
'Aisha(R). Umm Salamah narrated that, "The Messenger of Allah(s)
proposed to me. Although I was very pleased, I said: "I have a daughter as
my dependent and I am of a jealous nature. When the messenger of Allah
(s) heard of this, he replied: 'We will supplicate to Allah to free her of her
responsibility and I will also pray to Allah to remove her jealousy.'"38
Many narrations also describe the jealousy of 'Aisha. She narrated that,
"I never felt so jealous of any of Allah's Messenger's (s) wives as I did of
Khadija (R) because Allah's Messenger (s) used to remember and praise
her very often and because it was revealed to Allah's Messenger (s) that
he should give her the glad tidings of her having a palace of Qasab in
Paradise."39 Her jealousy was not confined to Khadija (R) as she also "felt
jealous of all those who were close to Allah's messenger."40
In his explanation of Saheeh Al-Bukhari's "jealousy and passion of
women", Al-Imaam Ibn Hajar says: "Jealousy is inherent to women.
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
However, a jealous woman is to be blamed when her jealousy becomes
excessive. This also applies to men. Jaabir bin 'Ateeq Al-Ansaari narrated
that, "There are two types of jealousy; one that Allah likes and another
that Allah dislikes. Allah likes the jealousy triggered by doubt and
dislikes the jealousy based on no reason. If a woman is jealous because
she fears that her husband is committing adultery or because he is not
treating her equally with her co-wife, and if her doubts prove to be
true, then his attitude is not permissible and he is to blame. If on the
other hand the husband is just and treats his wives equally and, despite
all this, one of his wives is still jealous, she is to be excused since
jealousy is human and inherent to all women. However, this jealousy
should not lead to prohibited acts or speech. This is what we learn from
the attitude of the pious female companions of the Prophet (s)."41
This comprehensive explanation by Al-Imaam Ibn Hajar shows
that the jealousy which does not lead to forbidden acts or words is not
harmful . In this case the jealous person should not be held
accountable for his or her actions. He or she should be dealt with
wisely and patiently. Narrated Anas (R), "While the Prophet (s) was
in the house of one of his wives, one of the Mothers of the
believers (the Prophet's (s) wives) sent a meal in a dish. The wife at
whose house the Prophet (s) was, struck the hand of the servant,
causing the dish to fall and break. The Prophet(s) gathered the
broken pieces of the dish and then started collecting on them the food
which had been in the dish and said: "Your mother (my wife) felt
jealous". Then he detained the servant till a sound dish was brought
from the wife at whose house he was. He gave the sound dish to the
wife whose dish had been broken and kept the broken one at the
house where it had been broken."42
Explaining this narration, Al -Imaam Ibn Hajar says: "This
narration proves that a jealous woman should be excused since she is
blinded by anger and passion which have been aroused by her
jealousy. Abu 'Ali narrated on the authority of 'Aisha (R), "It is
difficult for a jealous woman to discern the top of the valley from its
It is thus clear that jealousy is a characteristic inherent to both
men and women .Islam has acknowledged this fact and excused this
jealousy as long as it does not become excessive. How wonderful is
this divine wisdom which does not hold the jealous man or woman
accountable for their acts when blinded by anger and passion!
Indeed a moderate jealousy which does not reach the realm of
suspicion and distrust helps to re-kindle the flame of love and passion
between husband and wife. It also helps to maintain a passionate and loving
relationship where affection and mercy are forever exchanged and where
both husband and wife can enjoy mutual love and attraction.
However, "blameworthy jealousy" leads to afflictions, disputes, discord
and divorce. This is why it has wisely been called "condemned jealousy".
Cunning means to plot, using legal or illegal devices. It can also
means deceit and duplicity, trickery and devious ingenuity.
Cunningness can manifest itself at different levels. We
differenciate between "praiseworthy cunning" and "blameworthy
cunning". We could say that war is cunning.
The term "cunning" is mentioned in the Qur'an in different verses
and in different contexts. It has been attributed to Allah and to human
beings, men and women, pious believers and corrupt disbelievers.
However, when attributed to Allah, cunning means "ingenuity".It has
also been attributed to the devil.
Cunningness is a characteristic common all human beings. It is an
intrinsic attribute of women agreeing with their very feminine nature since
they often resort to cunning devices in order to obtain what they want and
in order to achieve their goals. This attitude could sometimes be
described as trickery and contrivance. In the noble Qur'an, women's
cunning is described as "great".
Allah (SWT) says: "And when he saw Yusuf's shirt rent from behind,
he said to her: "This is one of your tricks, [you women], your cunning is
great indeed." [12:28]
Women's cunningness is mentioned several times in the Qur'an,
specifically in Surah Yusuf. Allah (SWT) says:
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
"He said (Yusuf): I would prefer prison to that to which they invite
me. Shield me from their cunning or I shall yield to them and be one
of the ignorant." [12:33] "His Lord heard his prayer and warded off
their wiles from him.
He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower." [12:34]
"The king said: "Bring this man before me" But when the king's envoy
came to him, he said: "Go back to your master and ask him about the
women who cut their hands. My Lord knows their cunning." [12:50]
This gives us an idea of how a woman can creep into a man's heart by playing
on his weakness before her beauty, charm and magical words, thus leading
him to fall into her web as well as into more troubles and hardship. The
prophet Yusuf sought refuge in Allah from the cunning of women and
asked his Lord to rescue him from falling into their traps and from
becoming the victim of their "plotting" and "trickery".Allah (SWT)
answered his prayer since Allah's "cunning" is indeed the greatest.
Consequently, this characteristic "cunning" of women is not meant
to be pejorative.They cannot be blamed for it since it is "inherent" and
not "acquired".
There are more characteristics which could be classified as
inherent to women. I have selected these four as examples without
pretending that this is an exhaust ive study of women's
character. These characteristics do not affect women's status as an
honourable and dignified human being; and Allah knows best.
1 Sayyed Qutb Fi Dhilaal Al-Qur'an,
(In the Shade of the Qur'aan), Vol-4,
Limited Editions No 7 and No i,
Beirut, Daar Al-Shurooq, 1398 AH
/1978. 1304AH /1974, p.2241
2 Abi Abdullah Muhammed bin Al-
Anwaari al-Qurtubi,' Al-Jaami' li-
Ahkaam al-Qur 'aan, (The Compiler of
the Quranic Ordinances), Vol. 5, Beirut,
Lebanon, Daar Zhyaa al-Turaath
alArabi, (no date), Cairo:Daar al-
Sha'ab, Kitab al Sha'ab, 92 Al-Qasr al-
Ayni, (no date), P3909
3 Al-lmam Yahya bin Sharaf Ibn Hazm
al- Nawawi, Saheeh Mutlim-Sharh &l-
Nawawi compiled by: Abdullah Ahmad
Abu-7eina, Vol.2, 'Kitaah al-Jaraaiz',
Cairo, Maktba'at al-Sha'ab (no date),
2nd edition Beirut, Lebanon: Dar
Zhyaa' al-Turaath al-Arabi, 1392
4 Abi Isa Muhammad bin Isa bin Al-
Tirmidhi, Sawrah al-Tirmidhi, Sunan
al Tirmidhi Al-Jaami' al Saheeh,
(Al-Tirmidhi Tradition of the Prophet
-The Authentic Collection), Vol.1
Al-Tahaarah', Cairo Mustafah al Baabi
al-Halabi & Sons p.190.
5 See Abi Ja'far Muhammad bin
Jareeral-Tabari Jaami al-Bayaaa fi
Tafetr Al-Qur'aan, Vol. 1, 2nd
edition, Beirut,Lebanon, offset 1398
AH/1978, Egypt, Daar al Maa'arif, and
al-Qurtubi, op. cit.,Vol. 1 and Imaam
Muhammad al-Raazi Fakhruddeen,
544-604 AH, Tafseer-al-Fakhr al-Raazi
(Al-Raazi Explanation of the Qur'aan),
also known as Al-Tafseer al-Kabeer
Wa-ntfaatih al-Ghaib (The Great
Explanation and the Keys of the
Unseen), Vol. 5, Daar al-Fikr, P. 167.
6 Ibn Katheer, op. cit., Vol. 1
7 AI-Nawawi, op. cit., Vol.3, Kitaab al-
Ridaa' and Al-bahi Al-Khawli, Adam,
3rd Edition, Cairo: Maktabat Wahbah
publication, printed by al Istiqlal
al-Kubrah, 14 Al-Jumliooriyah St.,
Abideen, p.168.
8 Al-Nawawi, op. cit.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Al-Raazi, op. cit., Vol. 5
12 Abdulkareem AI-Khateeb, Al-
TafurAl- Qur'aani li Al-Qur'aan, Book
No.2, Dar al-Fikr al-Arabi, 1970, p.
13 Muhammad Izzat Daroozah, AIMar'ah
fiAl-Qur'aan Wa al-Sunnah,
(Woman in the Qur'aan and Sunnah),
Beirut; Al- Maktabat Al-Asreeyah
Publication, 1387 AH/1967, p. 47
14 Sayyed Qutb, op. cit. Vol.i Sura 16:72.
15 Al-Tirmidhi, op. cit. Vol.i Chapter 82,
Al-Taharah', p. 190, and AI-Bahi Al-
Kholi, Al-hlam Wa al-Mar'ah al
Mu 'aasirah (Islam and Modern
Woman), 3rd edition, Kuwait, Daar al-
Qalam, p.20
16 Al-AHaamaal-Manaawi, Fayd al-
Qadeer, Shark al-Jaami al-Zagheer
(The Abundance of the All-Powcrful,
Explanation of the Small Collection),
Vol.5, 2nd edition, Beirut, Lebanon,
Daar al-Mariff, 1391 AH/1972, p. 137.
17 Ahmad Faa'iz, Dustoor at-Usrah fi
Dhilaai Al-Qur:aan, (Family Rules in
the Shade of the Qur'aan), isi
edition,Beirut, Muasassat al-
Risaalah,1499AH/1980, p.33
18 Muhammad Ali AI-B aar, Amal al-
Mar'ahftAl-Meezan, (Woman's Work
on Balance), 1st edition, published and
distributed by al-Saudeeyah, 1401 AH
1981, p-57,98.
Social Rights and Attributes of Women
19 Ibn Hajar al Asqalaani, Falh-Al-Bnari
Bi-Sharh Saheeh Al-Imam Abi bdullah
Muhammad Ibn Ismaa 'eel al-Buktiaari
(compiled and edited by Abdulazeez bin
Baaz, Vol 6, printed by AI-Matba'ah
al-Salafiyah, (no date), p.566.
20 Ibid, p.i35.
21 Ibid.p.521.
22 Ibid.
23 Liwaa Al-Islam, (The Banner of
Islam), religious, social and educational
magazine, issue No. 9, Cairo, Egypt:
Matba'at Daar al Kitaab AI-Arabi,
24 Ibid.
25 Al-Qurtubi, op. cit. Vol. 8
26 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol.4.
27 Muhammad Izzat Daroozah, Al-TaJseer
al-Hadeeth, (New Explanation of the
Qur'aan), Vol.4, Daar Zhyaa al-Kulub
al-Arabeeya Issa al-Baabi & Co., 1381
AH/ 1962, p.203.
28 Abdulkareem A!-Khateeb, op. cit. Book
No.13, p.116
29 Al-Imani Ahmad bin Hanbal, 'Musnad
AMmam Ahmad bin Hanbal', (Ibn
Hanbal's Narrated Chain), Vol.3, Beirut,
Al-Maktab al-Islaami, Daar al-Saader,
30 Fakhruddeen al-Raazi, op. cit. Vol. 10,
Chap. 20, p.6.
31 AI-Asqalaani, op. cit. Vol.q, P-320.
32 Ibid.p.319
33 Ibid.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.p.332
36 Ibid, p.320.
37 Ibid.p.329.
38 Al-Imam Ahmad Ibn I lajar AIAsqalaani,
Al-Isaahak ft Tamyeez Al-
Sahaahah, (Being Kighl In the
Cognition of the Companions of the
Prophet), + in the footnotes 'Kitaab al-
Istiaab li Asmaa Al-Sahaab', compiled
by Abdullah bin al Barr Al-Nameeri
Al-Qurtubi, Vol-4, 1st edition, Beirut:
Matba'at al-Aadah, Daar Zhyaa'al-
Turaath al-Arabi, 1328 AH, P-459
3q AI-Asqalaani, 'Path Al-Baari', op. cit.,
Vol Q, 'Kitaab al-Nikaah'.
40 Ibid, p.33.
41 ibid.
42 Ibid.p.320.
43 Ibid.
Maternal and Matrimonial Rights
Maternal and Matrimonial Rights
education Allah (SWT) has strongly condemned those who regard the
birth of a female infant as an evil portent. Instead, He (SWT) has
encouraged parents to rejoice at her birth, to look after her and to be
responsible for her upbringing and education.
Islam protects all infants whether male or female. The father is
responsible for the upbringing of the child, even when the child is still an
embryo in its mother's womb. Therefore, in the case of a divorce, a
pregnant wife is eligible for support for the sake of the child she is
carrying. This maintenance is to be paid by the father to the mother
until she gives birth. Allah (SWT) says:
"..And if they are pregnant, then spend on them until they
deliver." [65:6]
Explaining this verse Ibn Katheer says: "Many scholars, amongst
them Ibn 'Abaas, a group of the Salaf and many of their successors
said that: In case of a final divorce, the husband should continue
paying maintenance to his pregnant ex-wife. He should continue to do so
until she delivers. However, in case of a revocable divorce, the
divorcee should receive maintenance whether she is pregnant or not."1
After the birth of the child, comes the period of breast-feeding.
During this period, the father is also responsible for his ex-wife, if she
consents to breast-feed their child. It is his duty to ensure that the
mother of his child is able to obtain the healthy and nutritious foods
required during breast-feeding.
Allah (SWT) says, " And if, after that, they give suck to their
children, give them their pay and consult together in all reasonableness"
Explaining the above verse, Ahmad Al-Maraaghi says: "After the end
of her waiting period (iddah), a divorcee has the right to either accept or
refuse to suckle the child. If she chooses to do so, she will be entitled to a
wage paid by the father of the child, her ex-husband. The amount should
be discussed by the parents or the guardians of the child. It is the father's
responsibility to provide food and clothing for the child and for the
mother."2 This is required because the mother's milk is essential
nourishment for the child.3
Allah has declared the period for breast-feeding and therefore
support of the mother to be set at two years:
"Mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years
for him who wishes the suckling to he completed. They must he
maintained and clothed in a reasonable manner by the father
of the child"'. [2:233]
Explaining the above verse, Ibn Katheer says: "It is a guidance from Allah
that mothers should suckle their children for a full period of two years.
After this, suckling should not be considered. The father should sustain
and clothe his children in a reasonable manner, according to the
standards of their country, without extravagance nor neglect, with
moderation and within his means."4
The Prophet (s) said: "No suckling except for what has formed the
bones and grown the flesh."5 This is also confirmed by the narration
related by Umm Salama, who said: "The Prophet (s) said: "Nothing
prohibits marriage of breast feeding except what has expanded the
Maternal and Matrimonial Rights
stomach and was before the age of weaning."6
This is the divine providence which cares about the child and urges
mothers to breast-feed their children. In fact, Islamic law makes it a duty
upon every mother to breast-feed her baby for two whole years. Most
physicians agree that there is nothing better, for an infant, than the
mother's milk, from a nutritional standpoint. In addition there are
psychological benefits to breast-feeding that cannot be obtained by
bottle-feeding. It is only in recent years that physicians, around
the world, have begun to emphasise the importance of breast-feeding.
Many international health organisations have launched campaigns and
distributed leaflets explaining the importance of breast-feeding and
encouraging mothers to do so.
Dr Mohammed Ali Al Baar stated that although fourteen
centuries have passed since the revelation of the Noble Qur'an, we are still
stumbling in darkness when it comes to this issue. Even the great
civilization of the 20th century has not yet considered the possibility of
allocating a support wage to the breast-feeding mother, but Islam did,
fourteen centuries ago.7
The advantages of breast-feeding are overwhelming and include the
1 The mother's milk is sterile. Therefore, the new-born is less likely to
suffer from intestinal infection. Breast milk is also easier for the infant to
2 The mother's milk resembles no other milk, whether extracted from
cows, sheep or buffaloes. Her milk is uniquely designed to meet the
nutritional needs of the infant. The colostrum contains concentrated
proteins and antibodies which help to transmit immunity to various
diseases from the mother to the child.
3 Babies who have been breast-fed develop quicker and more fully than
babies who have been bottle-fed.
4 Babies who have been breast-fed are psychologically healthier than those
who have been bottle-fed.
Islam also deals with the issue of custody of children in case of
separation. Due to the fact that a young child is in constant need of care,
protection, and maternal affection, custody of the young child is awarded to
the mother. Abdullah bin 'Amr narrated that, "A woman came to the
Messenger of Allah (s) and said: This child is the one whom I bore in
my womb, who rested in my lap and suckled my milk. His father has
taken him away from me. The messenger of Allah (s) replied: You get
custody of this child as long as you do not re-marry.8 The Prophet (s) thus
awarded her custody of the child. Some scholars have remarked that the
relationship of the mother should be given precedence.9
Dr. Muhammad Salaam Madkoor has written that, the wisdom
behind awarding custody of young children to their mother is that
Allah (SWT) has endowed her with endless affection towards her
children. Maternal love incites her to devote herself to her children, to
protect them and to look after them. She strives in doing so,
overlooking hardship, weariness and fatigue.
Allah (SWT) has entrusted women with the custody of their young
children during the early years when a feminine presence is most
needed. It is He (SWT) who has endowed women with natural
affection towards children, especially when the woman is the mother.
She is better at protecting the child. This right should not be extorted
from the mother except for a compelling necessity. When the child
reaches the age when he/she no longer urgently requires feminine
attention, he/she should be placed under the complete supervision of
the father or the guardian. As the child matures he or she will need
someone to direct him and to protect him from social corruption and
religious deviation.The father or the guardian is more suitable for this
From what has been said, we can see how much Islam cares for
the child as an embryo, an infant and during his/her early childhood.
However, Allah (SWT) has urged us particularly to sustain the female
infant. He (SWT) has ordered us to dignify her, and to provide for her.
He has also promised great rewards for those who do so.
The Prophet (s) said: "The one who brings up two girls right
from their childhood till their maturity, will appear on the Day of
judgement close to me like two fingers of a hand, and he joined his
Maternal and Matrimonial Rights
two fingers." 11 This narration urges not only parents but everyone to
look after girls and young women, to provide for them and to secure a
happy and peaceful life for them. In this way, Islam has protected
women from the vicissitudes of time and the oppression of harsh and
ignorant parents. Allah will look after the father who looks after his
daughter. Allah will also honour and dignify the father who educates and
sustains his daughter. He has promised him Paradise (al Firdaus) - with
the best of the prophets, Muhammad (s).12
Allah (SWT) guarantees the female her rights, protects her feelings
and considers her sensitivity. He has ordained that she should not feel
neglected and deficient in front of her brother to avoid any possible
psychological problems. The Prophet (s) said: "If one of you had a
daughter whom he did not bury alive, whom he did not abhor, and nor
did he prefer his son over her, Allah will reward him with
The following narration also promises Paradise and liberation
from the Fire, for any mother who is merciful and loving to her
Aisha (R) narrated that: A poor woman came to me with her
two daughters. I gave her three dates. She gave one to each
girl and wanted the third to eat herself. The two girls asked
her for this as well. So she divided it into two parts and gave
one to each of the girls. I was greatly impressed by her action
and mentioned all this to the prophet (s). He said: Allah has
ordained Paradise for her in consequence of this action; or
Allah freed her from the Hell fire on account of this gesture,14
The mercy of Islam towards women is obvious from the above verses
and narrations discussed in this section. Islam has provided
protection for women throughout their life cycle. The extent of this
protection is unrivaled, even to this day, hy any other religion or set of
I Ibn Katheer, Tafieer al-Qur'aan Al
,Ukeem, Vol. 4, Makkah Al-
Mukarramah, Itcirut, Daar Al-ltaa/,
Ahhas Ahmad AI-Baaz/, Daar'al Marif,
1388 AH/1968, p.384
2 Ahmad Mus'aa AI-Maraaghi, Tafsfer
Al-Maraaghi, (AI-Maraaghi's
Kxplanation of the Qur'aan), Vol 28,
Kgypt, Mustafa AI-Daabi & Son, not
dated, p. 146.
3 Muhammad Salaam Madkur, Al Islam
Wa al-Uirah Wa ul-Mujtama, (Islam,
Family and Society), 1st edition, Cairo:
Daar al-Nahdah ai-Arabiyya, 1388 AH
/1968, p.150.
4 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol.1
5 AI-Allama Abittayeb Muhammad
Shamsuddcn Al-Uaq AI-Azecm Ahaadi,
and Sharh Al-Haafez Ibn Al-Qayyem al-
Jwziya, Awn al-Aia 'botidSharh Suitan
Ahi Duwootl, (The Help of the
Worshipped Lord in Explaining Abi
Dawood's Tadition of the Prophet),
Vol.6, 2nd edition, Al-Madeena AIMunawara,
published hy: Muhammad
al-Muhsin al-Maltaba al-Salafiyah, p.
6 Al-Tirmidhi, Sunaa at-Tinnidhi,
aljaami Al Saheeh,(Al-Tirmidhi
Tradition of the Prophet), vol. 3, Cairo:
Mustafah al Baabi al-Halabi & Sons, p.
7 Muhammad Ali AI-Baar,Amal al-Amal
fi Al-Meezan, (Woman's Work on
Halancc), 1st edition, Jeddah:
Al-Saudeeyah, 1401 AH/1981, p.96.
8 Abaadi and al-Jawzia, op. cit., vol.6.
9 Al Sayed Saabiq, Fiqh al-Sunnah',
(Understanding the Sunnah), Vol.2,
Cairo, Daar Al-Rayyan Litturath,
1411 AH, p..338.
10 Madkur, op. cit p. 155-156.
11 AI-Nawawi, Saheeh Muslim, Sharh Al-
Namaon, compiled by Abdullah Ahmad
Abu-Zeina, Vol.5, kituab Al-Birr Wal-
Silah, Cairo, Maktbaat al-Sha'ab (no
date), 2nd edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa
al-Turaath al-Arabi, 1392 AH/1072,
12 Ahmad bin llanbal, 'Musnad al Imam
Ahmad bin Hanbal', (Ibn I lanhal's
Narrated Chain), Vol.3, Beirut, Al-
Maktab al Islaarhi, Daar al-Saader, p.
13 Abaadi, op. cit. Vol. 14, p.55.
14 AI-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol.5. p.486.
Right to Seek Knowledge
n Islam, knowledge of the religion is obligatory for every Muslim
man and woman. Therefore knowledge, in general, is respected and
highly appreciated in Islam. It is thus not surprising that scholars are
held in high esteem and arc praised in many verses from the Qur'an.
The deep respect for knowledge and those who possess knowledge is
evident in the following verse. Allah (SWT) says:
"Allah will raise to high ranks those that have faith and
knowledge amongst you. " [58:11]
The Almighty (SWT) also speaks highly of the excellence of scholars
and their superiority over the common people. He (SWT) says:
"Are the wise and the ignorant equal? Truly, none will take heed
but men of understanding. "[39:9]
Allah (SWT) has linked His testimony and the testimony of the angels
with that of the people of knowledge. This is indeed a privilege and
proof of their superiority:
"Allah hears witness that there is no god but Him, and so do the
angels and men of learning. He is the Executor of justice, the only
God, The Mighty, The Wise." [3: 18]
The first verses revealed to the Messenger (s) also stress the
importance of knowledge:
"Read in the name of your Lord who created,
created man from a clinging substance.
Read! Your Lord is The Most Bountiful One.
Who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know'' [96:1-5]
These verses were revealed to define the outlines of a religion based
on knowledge, as well as to establish the importance of this
knowledge. Hence, the first word revealed, spoken by the Angel
Gabriel was "Read". Reading is the key to knowledge and since
writing complements reading, Allah (SWT) Highlights this act by
saying ''Taught by the pen ". The pen was and still is the best and most
useful utensil used in transmitting and preserving knowledge, and has
left its impact on humanity over the centuries."1 By reading and
writing, a human being can acquire knowledge. This knowledge is
taught by his Lord since He is the one who has endowed us with
intellectual capacities and the five senses which permit us to receive,
learn and comprehend information.
Writing is also mentioned in Aayat "Ad-dain":
"O believers, when you contract a debt for a fixed period, put it in
writing. Let a scribe write it down for you with fairness; no scribe
should refuse to write as Allah has taught him. Therefore, let him
write..." [2:282]
The above verse emphasizes the importance of acquiring the
knowledge of writing. Allah orders us to do so: "put it in writing", "let
a scribe write", "therefore, let him write...". The importance of the
scribe is also stressed. It is mentioned twice in the same verse: "let a
scribe write it", "no scribe should refase".The knowledge of writing is
also a blessing and a gift from Allah.
Right to Seek Knowledge
Allah has ordered us to record our debts and contracts in writing.
Therefore, acquiring the knowledge of writing is a necessity and our
need for people who master reading and writing is great indeed. We also
learn from the autobiography of the Prophet (s) that the ransom of each
of his hostages in the battle of Badr was to teach ten Muslims to read and
write.2 He (s) used to say: "Acquiring knowledge is an obligation upon
every Muslim."3 The word 'Muslim' in this narration refers to both
Muslim men and women. The scholars have agreed that all the
commandments ordained by Allah apply equally to both men and
women.4 Hence, men and women are equal in terms of obligations. "It
is obligatory for every woman to pray, fast, to pay alms-tax (zakaat), to
perform pilgrimage, to correct her creed, to enjoin good and prohibit
evil, and to compete with others in doing good deeds. In fact all the
obligations enjoined upon the Muslim in the Qur'an and the Sunnah
are obligatory for every woman. Therefore, it is her obligation to
learn about her rights and duties and to put this knowledge into
practice. Teaching others about Islam is also important.
It is an established fact that Islam involves worship, conduct,
politics, sociology, economics and regulations dealing with issues of
every day life, the knowledge of which is not acquired automatically.
Rather, it is acquired through studying, learning and teaching. Islam is
indeed a vast, diverse, comprehensive and detailed religion. 5
Furthermore, women represent half of society. Consequently,
they share with men the burden of building this society. "They share
private and public responsibilities which require good education and
enough knowledge in order to fulfil the need of the individual and the
growing nation of Islam."6
Woman's education is vital for our society since she is the one
who produces future men and women. She is the primary school of
our children. From her they learn the foundation of humanness and the
basis of moral education. She is the one who produces either good or
bad members of society. Ibrahim Haafez was indeed correct when he
"For he who can teach our girls,
I say: Their ignorance, in the East is the reason of our failure.
A mother is her children's kindergarten,
If well prepared, a nation of decent stock, ours would be.
A mother is a garden.
If watered, flourishing white, it would be.
I am not saying, to let the women,
unveiled, wander amongst the men.
Teach our girls virtuousness;
In all situations, it is a firm righteousness.'7
The well-known poet Al-Rasaafi has also said:
"Morals are seed's, to be sown and watered
with noble hands.
If irrigated by a schoolmaster,
morals would flourish on virtuous stems.
Morals are best refined
in a maternal lap.
A mother's lap is a school,
educating boys and girls,
Do we aspire for perfection while,
Our children are raised in ignorant laps?
Isn 't knowledge in Islam
an obligation upon boys and girls?
Our mother's sea of knowledge
provided answers for every problem
Didn 't the Prophet (S) teach her
to become a glorious scholar?"
The female companions knew and understood the importance of
knowledge in Islam. They passionately competed amongst themselves
and endeavoured to gain sound knowledge. The Prophet (s) encouraged
their enthusiasm and allowed them to attend his study circle. How could
he not after his Lord had taught him to say: ''Lord, increase my
knowledge.. "(20:114) When the female companions heard
Right to Seek Knowledge
the Prophet saying: "When Allah wants to do good for a person, He
gives him sound knowledge in religion"8, they understood this
narration to be directed to both male and female Muslims and not
exclusively to men as some people seem to believe. They sought
sound knowledge and competed amongst themselves in doing good
Aisha (R) said: "How excellent are the women of the Ansaar!
They do not feel shy while learning sound knowledge in religion."9 The
women persevered in doing so and regularly attended study circles.
There they asked the Prophet various questions, some general and some
concerning women's issues. In a narration by Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudri, we
learned that some women requested that the Prophet (s) even set aside a
day for them because the men were taking all his time. In response to
their request he promised them one day for religious lessons and
commandments. Once during such a lesson the Prophet (s) said: "A
woman whose three children die will be shielded by them from the Hell
fire". A woman asked, "If only two die"? He replied, "Even two will
shield her from the Hell-fire". 10
The Prophet (s) showed kindness and affection to his female
companions. He encouraged them to seek knowledge and helped
them in comprehending and understanding their religion.
Knowledge should be sought by all men and women, whether
free-born or slaves. Abu Badra's father narrated that Allah's
Messenger (s) said: "Any man who has a slave girl whom he educates
properly, teaches good manners, manumits and marries, will get a
double reward."11 He also said, The man who has a slave girl whom he
educates, treats kindly, manumits and marries, will get a double
The female companions would gather and listen to the Prophet (s).
They would also pray with him in congregation even though they knew
that it is better for a woman to offer her prayers at home. They did so
because they were so eager to seek knowledge from the Prophet's (s)
own lips.
The books of history describe at great length the contribution of
'Aisha (R), the Prophet's wife, to the teaching and preserving of the
religion. Her knowledge was vast; she memorised and related
numerous narrations of the Prophet (s). 'Ataa' bin Abi Rabaah said:"
'Aisha (R) was a scholar, the most knowledgeable one, who provided the
best counsel." Also, Al-Zuhri said: "The knowledge of 'Aisha exceeds
the knowledge of all the mothers of the believers, (the Prophet's
other wives) as well as the knowledge of all the women put together.
And Hishaam Ibn 'Arwah said: "I never heard of anybody with more
knowledge in Islamic jurisprudence, medicine, and poetry than 'Aisha
The female companions eagerly sought to learn writing. Al -
Shaffa' Bint Abdullah taught writing to Hafsa (R) , the Prophet's (s)
wife with his approval."14 The female companions contributed to the
religion by directly relating some of the sayings of the Prophet (s).
The scholars of Hadith did not stipulate that the narrator should be a
man. Their criteria were based on the intellectual capabilities of the
narrator, their accuracy, righteousness and commitment to Islam. If
these four conditions were available, the narration would be
authenticated regardless of the gender of the narrator.
Therefore, the books of Hadith abound with names of female
narrators amongst the companions and those who came after them (Attaabi'iyaat).
Some of the scholars have devoted whole sections to
narrations related by women. For instance: The book of "Attabaqaat"
by Ibn Sa'd, "Al -Isaabah Fee Tamyeez As-Sahaabah", and
"Asadulgaabah Fee Ma'rifat As-Sahaabah".
For the last centuries Muslim women have been prevented from
seeking and acquiring knowledge., Consequently, illiteracy and
ignorance became widespread amongst Muslim women. Only in the
last twenty five years has this begun to change.
Previously, fathers had prevented their daughters from reading
and writing. They were confined to household tasks. If a father
wished to educate his daughter, he would only allow her to learn how to
read, since writing - they believed - was forbidden for them. A father
would only entrust his daughter to a teacher if the latter promised
not to teach his daughter how to write. In fact, some people claimed
Right to Seek Knowledge
that Islam prohibited women from seeking worldly knowledge
and even religious knowledge.This misconception was based on a
forged statement. It was falsely narrated that the Prophet said: "Do
not lodge your women in rooms and, do not teach them how to
Recently the scholars have confirmed that the narration
prohibiting women from reading and writing was a complete
fabrication. It was proved to be invalid and can no longer be used.
Men and women are equal when it comes to learning, reading and
writing religious and moral books, as well as books dealing with health
issues, home management, children's education, home crafts..etc.
This includes books of creed, explanation of the Qur'an, the
biography of the Prophet (s), books of Hadith, jurisprudence, Islamic
history and books describing the code of conduct of the companions
(R). These readings will bring women from the darkness of ignorance to
the light of knowledge. No wise person would question the positive
impact of such readings on both men and women.
However, women should be able to seek knowledge without
compromising in any way their modesty and chastity.
The most knowledgeable women were undoubtedly the female
companions of the Prophet (s) and those who came after them (At-
Taabi'iyaat). Amongst them were relaters and narrators of Hadith.
The scholars have mentioned that many scientific skills were
mastered by some. There are many texts of he Noble Qur'an whose
calligraphy comes from women from Damascus and Iraq. Some of
these women have been described as "Geniuses with-natural
eloquence."15 Nevertheless, scholars are divided into two groups
regarding the type of knowledge a woman should seek.
- One group limits her education to religious issues, as well as
home management and motherhood skills. They believe that she does
not need to learn sciences l ike chemi st ry, phys ics, maths,
This opinion prevailed in Egypt and was advocated by many. For
instance, Haashim Ibrahim used to say: "The place of a woman is at
home. Therefore, she should not seek any knowledge which would
take her away from her family. She should only seek an education
which will help her to grow into a perfect wife and a perfect
- Another group of scholars believe that women's education
ought to be comprehensive. A woman should seek all types of
knowledge without exception, even if the subject is contrary to her
nature, her physiological constitution and her primary role in society.
This group includes advocators of the so-called women's liberation
movement. At the head of the list we find Qaasim Ameen.
Both opinions are pertinent to a certain extent. Howeve r,
commenting on the first opinion, we say that a woman should acquire the
foundations of all different sciences so that she can understand the
mechanisms of everyday life. With this knowledge in hand, she will be
able to help her children in their studies. This is especially imporant as
it is the mother who is in charge of her children's education at home.
As far as the second opinion is concerned, we say that
undertaking a study without careful planning and thinking, like for
instance a study of sciences which are not compatible with women's
physiology and natural role in society is a waste of time and energy. It is
of no use to the woman herself, nor to her family. It will lead her to
neglect her responsibilities towards her family and her Creator. The
Prophet (s) said: "A woman is a steward of her husband's house and his
children and she is accountable for those who are placed under her care."17
The answer lies in between these two opinions. Islam has not
forbidden any knowledge of any science. On the contrary, it gave
women the right to seek unlimited knowledge. It gave her the freedom to
choose, select and decide. It is up to her to make the correct choice
which would suit her inherent instincts and agree with her physical
constitution as well as her natural role in society. This choice however,
should not lead her to overlook her most important role as a mother
and wife. Consequently, two different educational programmes
should be designed, one for each sex. Each programme would take
into account the different and separate specialisation of each sex and
help it to fulfil and perfectly achieve its role in society.
The scholars have divided the knowledge that a woman should
seek into two types of obligations:
Right to Seek Knowledge
1 Individual obligation. This includes correcting her creed,
strengthening her faith, improving her manners, perfecting her
home management skills, providing good education for her
children and attending to her children.
2 Collective Obligation: When the nation is in need of female
doctors, gynaecologists, nurses and teachers to teach in girls'
schools, then the nation should ensure that adequate numbers of
female doctors, nurses and teachers are produced. At this stage,
seeking the knowledge of such sciences becomes an obligation
upon Muslim women. Unfortunately, some people exceed the
limits and take part in activities that contradict the values and
principals of Islam. This of course should be avoided by every
Muslim woman, as well as every Muslim man. The purpose of
gaining knowledge is to acquire the skills necessary to become a
good Muslim member of society. Therefore careful thought and
planning is required by the Muslim woman regarding this issue.
1 Fee Dhilaal AI-Qur'aan: Sayyed Qutb, 9 AI-Bukhaari: vol1,p.41
vol 6,p.3932 10 Al-Bukhaari: vol1,p.34
2 Al-Raheeq Al-Makhtoom; Safi Al- 11 A,.BukhMri; vo,9 p,126
Rahmaan Al-Mubaarakfoori, p.256
12 Al-Bukhaari: vol 5, p. 176
3 Sunan Ibn Maajah: Al-Haafedh bin
Abdullah bin Maajah, vol ,1, p.80 13 Al-Isaabah fee Tamayuz Al-Sahaabah:
Ibn Hajar Al-'Asqalaani, vol 4, p.360
4 Huqooq Al-Nisaa' fee Al-Islam: 14 Ibid, vol 4, p:341
Muhammad Rasheed Ridah, p.18
5 AI-Mar'ahfeeAI-TasawwurAI-Islami: 15 Man'ul Ikhtilaat: Sheikh Muhammad
Abdi-lmu'taal Al-Jabari, p.58 Abdullah bin Zaid Aal Mahmood
6 Ibid 16 AI-Harakah Al-Nisaa'iyyah al-ladithah:
Drljlaal Khalifah, p. 114
7 Ustaaz Al-Mar'ah: Al-Shcik Muhammad
AI-Bijaam, p.63 17 AI-Bukhaan: vol 5, p.181
8 Al-Bukhaari: vol 2, p. 41-48
Right to Choose Her Husband
slam has restored women's dignity, given them freedom of choice,
established their rights and, most importantly, given them the right to
choose their husbands. Hence,every woman has been given the right to
accept or reject a suitor. It is a fact that not so long ago, women used to
be sold to their husbands as pieces of merchandise. They were neither
consulted nor even told that they had been given in marriage.
But despite clear Islamic teachings, many Muslim fathers still force
their daughters into marriages. This is not confined to those living in
remote villages and rural areas but also occurs in urban areas as well. If the
young woman protests and advocates her natural rights, she is often accused
of being insolent, disobedient and disrespectful of her culture and traditions.
Forcing a woman to marry, without her consent, is a violation of Islamic law
and transgresses the teachings of the Prophet (s) who said: "A matron should
not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should
not be given in marriage without taking her permission."1 The People
asked, "O Allah's Messenger! How can we know her permission? He said,
"Her silence indicates her permission'."
'Aisha (R) also narrated the following, "O Allah's Messenger! A virgin
feels shy. He said, 'Her consent is expressed by her silence'."2
The "matron" is the divorcee or the widow. "Consulting her" means
to ask for her consent as without it, her marriage is not valid.The
"virgin" is the young woman who has never been married before. Her
marriage is not valid without her permission or consent and if she does
not speak up and express her consent because of her timidity and
modesty, her silence will be enough.
Ibn 'Abbas (R) reported Allah's Messenger (s) as saying: "A
woman previously married has more right to her person than her
guardian. And a virgin should also be consulted, and her silence
implies her consent."3
Explaining this narration Al-Imam An-Nawawi says: "It means that
she has a right to her person and her guardian also has a right to her
person. However, her right is greater and more decisive. If her guardian
wishes to give her in marriage to a suitor whom he considers to be
suitable and she refuses, he cannot force her to marry him. On the
other hand, if she wishes to marry someone suitable and her guardian
refuses, he will be asked to consent to this marriage. If he does not, the
judge will allow her to marry without her guardian's consent. Hence her
right is established and has predominance.
As far as the virgin is concerned, she "should also be consulted. This
has been interpreted in two ways. Al Shaafi'ee, Ibn Abi Laila, Ahmad
and Ishaaq's interpretation is as follows: The guardian is commanded
to ask the permission of the virgin. If the guardian is the father or the
grandfather, he should ask her permission. If he gives her in marriage
without her permission, the marriage still is valid since the sympathy
of the father or the grandfather towards the daughter or
granddaughter is "absolute".
On the other hand, Al Awzaa'ee, Abu Haneefah and many others
amongst the "Kufiyoon" have given the following interpretation: The
guardian should ask the permission of every adult virgin and "her
silence implies her consent" is a condition that applies to every virgin and
to every guardian. In this case, the guardian should understand that her
silence is absolutely sufficient. However, the divorcee or the widow
should put her consent into words, even if the guardian is her father.4
Right to. Choose Her Husband
Therefore there are clearly two different opinions regarding the issue
of asking the permission of an adult virgin. The first opinion can be
summarized as the following:
1 Asking the permission of the adult virgin is "recommended."
2 The father can give his virgin daughter in marriage without her
3 Asking her permission is necessary in the absence of the
father as a guardian.
The second opinion is based on the belief that asking the permission of
the virgin is necessary whether the guardian is the father or not.
I am personally inclined to the opinion of the second group for
reasons which I shall illustrate later.
The first group have relied on the "absolute sympathy" of the
father or the grandfather, and so concluded that asking the
permission of the adult virgin is not necessary. It seems absolutely
illogical to assume that every father or grandfather will always be
sympathatic to his daughter or granddaughter. Often fathers and
grandfathers are ruled by traditions, personal desires and seek only their
own personal interests. It is therefore safer to stipulate that the
permission of the adult virgin is necessary.
The Prophet (s) has clearly given this right to every woman so
that her father or her guardian is not able to control her destiny or
cause her distress and misery by forcing her into a marriage solely to
serve his own personal interests.
In various narrations it has been shown that if a virgin, a widow or a
divorcee is given in marriage without her consent, the contract will be
pending until she agrees. Khansa' bint Khidaam reported that her father
gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that
marriage. She complained about it to Allah's Messenger (s) who
immediately declared the marriage to be "invalid. "5
Abu Bareedah also narrated that a young woman came to the
Messenger of Allah (s) and said: "My father has given me in marriage to
his nephew in order to compensate for his low status."The Prophet
gave her the right to decide whether to accept the marriage or reject it.
She said: "I agree to what my father has done. I just wanted women
to know that the decision is theirs and not their father's."6
These narrations clearly show the nobility and wisdom of Islamic rules
and regulations.
Concerning the right of the father to give his young daughter in
marriage before she reaches puberty and before asking her
permission, most of the scholars have agreed that the father does have
the right to do so. To prove this they refer to the marriage of the Prophet (S)
to 'Aisha (R) since Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Ibn Maajah and many others have
reported the following narration: "'Aisha (R) narrated that the Prophet
(s) made the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he
consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she
remained with him for nine years [i.e. until his death]."7
And the narration as reported by Muslim is as follows: 'Aisha (R)
reported that Allah's Messenger (S) married me when I was six years old,
and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine. She further said: We
went to Medina and I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair
had come down to the earlobes. Umm Rumaan (my mother) came to me
and I was at that time on a swing along with my playmates. She called me
loudly and I went to her and I did not know what she wanted of me. She took
hold of my hand and took me to the door, and I was saying Hah, hah (as
if I was gasping), until the beating of my heart was over. She took me to a
house, where there had gathered the women of the Ansar. They all blessed me
and wished me good luck, saying 'May you have a share in good.' She (my
mother) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and embellished me
and nothing frightened me. Allah's Messenger (s) came there in the
morning and I was entrusted to him."8
Al-Imaam An-Nawawi comments on this narration and says: "This
narration that 'Allah's Messenger married me when I was six..." and in
another version 'When I was seven...', clearly indicates that the father has
the right to give his young daughter in marriage without consulting her and
seeking her permission because at such an age, she has none to give.'9
Advocates of this opinion also quote the verse from the Qur'an
referring to 'iddah (And for those who have not menstruated. (65: 4).
This verse mentions the 'iddah (waiting period after a divorce and before
Right to. Choose Her Husband
re-marriage) of those who have not reached puberty, which means
that such girls can marry, since there is no 'iddah except for a divorcee
from an actual marriage.
The majority of Muslim scholars who agree with the above
opinion base their judgements on the above narration. But they are
divided into two groups in their interpretation of it." 10 One group
gives any guardian the right to give her in marriage. This group
includes Al Awzaa'ee and Abu Haneefah.11 The second group gives
this right only to the father or the grandfather, believing that otherwise,
the marriage is "not valid." This groups includes Al Shaafi'ee12,
Maalik13, Ahmad14 and the majority of Muslim scholars.
We thus notice that both groups allow the father to give his young
daughter in marriage. However, Al-Shaafi'ee and his students say
that it is better not to do so until the young girl grows into a young
woman. The father should then consult her and seek her assent to
avoid arranging a marriage she may dislike strongly. Commenting on
this, Al-Imaam An-Nawawi says: "This does not contradict the
narration of 'Aisha. What Al-Shaafi'ee and his students have meant is
that the father should not give her in marriage unless there is a 'special
honour' to be gained and a great 'advantage' to be taken by hurrying
the marriage, as in the case of 'Aisha. In such a case it is advisable not to
delay the marriage since the father is responsible for his child's
'welfare1 and 'interest 15
I personally admire Al-Shaafi'ee's comments but wish he had
chosen the word "must" rather than the attenuating expression: "it is
better not to". It must be made clear that:
1 No marriage can be compared with the marriage of 'Aisha to the
Prophet (s), the best of mankind. In marrying her the Prophet (s)
showed noble intentions and motivations which served the call to
Islam (da'wah). This marriage was also ordained by Allah
Almighty. Behind it lay a divine wisdom which was probably
linked to the role played by Abu Bakr, father of 'Aisha, in the call to
Islam and his friendship with the Prophet (s). The alliance
honoured Abu Bakr, the Veracious and the Righteous, and 'Aisha
herself was very proud of it. She said:
"I have been given what no other woman has ever been given:
The Prophet (s) made the marriage contract with me when I was
seven years old. The angel came to him with my image in his hand to
look at and he (s) consummated the marriage when I was nine years
old. I saw the angel Gabriel and I was the favourite wife of the
Prophet (s). I nursed him (s) when he was ill and only the angels
and I witnessed his death."16
Indeed no other woman can compare her marriage with that of the
righteous 'Aisha whose guardian had given her in marriage to the
Prophet (s) without asking her permission. Ibn Shabramah said:
"The marriage of the young girl who has not yet reached puberty is
not permissible. The Prophet (s) was ordered by his Lord to marry
'Aisha and this order had to be obeyed. This was a special case
exclusive to the Prophet (s) like his exceptional eloquence and his
marriage to more than four women."17
2 The disadvantages outweigh the advantages when a young girl is
given in marriage without her permission and without her prior
knowledge. Marriage in Islam aims to achieve a strong bond
between the husband and his wife. Their relationship should be
built on mutual understanding and both should strive sincerely to
achieve a happy marriage, showing mutual affection and mercy.
Allah (T) says:
"And of His signs is that He gave you wives from amongst
yourselves, that you might live in tranquillity with them, and He
has put love and mercy between you. " [30:21]
Hence, giving the young girl in marriage without her knowledge
and permission conflicts with the primary goals of marriage in Islam.
Right to. Choose Her Husband
How can tranquillity, love and mercy be achieved when the young girl
grows into a young woman and finds herself trapped in a marriage
she did not consent to, especially if her husband is old enough to be her
father or even her grandfather? Shocked by this bitter reality, she will
have no other choice but to submit to her unfortunate destiny. Some
scholars have kindly given her the right to obtain dissolution of the
marriage when she reaches puberty. These are scholars from Iraq: Al
Awzaa'ee and Abu-Haneefah." 18
In my opinion the right to dissolve the marriage, when she
reaches puberty, is of little value because the damage is already done.
Numerous consequences such as the difficulty of remarriage due to a
divorce must be considered. It seems obvious that no good can be
gained by forcing a child into a marriage. The marriage would have little
chance of achieving the goals of "tranquility, love and mercy" ordained by
Allah for marriage.
3 If we assume that Islam does give the father the right to choose the
husband for his young daughter, then this father is certainly
meant to be a righteous man who respects the limits set by Allah (T).
It is a father who assesses a suitor according to Islamic
jurisprudence, not according to his whims and desires or
according to man-made traditions and rules. Such a father does
not seek the pleasures and treasures of this world but only seeks the
pleasure and well-being of his daughter. This father would then
assess the suitor according to Islamic rules and criteria, stripped
of any trace of tradition, culture, racism or personal interest. But
how many men would truly do this?
4 Since the presumed "advantages" of such marriages motivated the
scholars and led them to come out with this interpretative
judgement, and since the primary objective of Islamic
jurisprudence is to implement justice and to condemn evil, the
notion of individual welfare should be reviewed constantly. Indeed
what is considered to be a great advantage in one century could be
considered to be a minor detail or even a disadvantage in the
century to follow. Secondly, the level of righteousness or
corruption, of the Muslim world, throughout the centuries,
should and must be taken into consideration. Therefore due to the
existence of corruption many Arab countries such as: Syria,
Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco do not allow a
guardian to give in marriage a young girl or a young boy before
she/he reaches the age of consent. This age varies from one
country to another.19 Some countries have set this age to eighteen
for males and sixteen for females, basing their judgement on the
teachings of Al-Imaam Abu Haneefah. Other countries have set
the legal age to fifteen, basing their judgement on the narration of
Abdullah bin 'Umar.
To give the father this right, solely on the basis of the marriage of
the Prophet (s) to 'Aisha (R) contradicts the Prophet's (S) own
words when he said: "A matron should not be given in marriage
except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in
marriage without taking her permission." It also contradicts
many other narrations I have mentioned earlier which give young
women the right to choose their husbands.
Obviously, in this case, the prophetic sayings contradict the
prophetic tradition. But this contradiction will disappear when
the marriage of the Prophet (s) to 'Aisha (R) is classified as a
practice exclusive to him as a Prophet, behind which lies a divine
wisdom, and Allah knows best.
Right to. Choose Her Husband
1 Al-Imam Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin
Ismaa'ccl AI-Bukhaari, 'Saheeh al-
Bukhaari' Vol.6, offset print, Istanbul
Daar al-Fikr, from Daar al Tibaa'ah Al-
Aamir (no date), p.135and Al-Imam
Yahya bin Sharaf AI-Nawawi, 'Saheeh
Muslim', Sharh al-Nawawi', compiled
by: Abdullah Ahmad Abu-Zeina,
Vo.3, Cairo, Maktab-at Al-Sha'aab (no
date), 2nd edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa,
Al-Turaath Al-Arabi, 1392 AH/1972,
2 ibid.
3 Al-Nawawi, op. cit. vol:3, p.576
4 ibid, p.575
5 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit. vol.6, p.135. -
6 AI-Haafez Abi Abdullah Muhammad al-
Qiqwini, 'Sunan Ibn Majah'. vol:i, Ibn
Majah, texts compiled by: Fu'aad
Abdulbaaqi, Vol i, Daar Zhyaa'al Kutub
al Arabeeyah, Abaas al-Baabi & Co. 1372
AH, 1955, p.602.
7 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit., Vol.6, p.135.
8 Al-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol.3, 'Kitaab al-
Nikaah' p.570
10 Abdurrahman Al-Jazairi, 'Al-Fiqh ala
al-Madhaahib al Arba'ah',
(Jurisprudence of the Four Juristic
Schools), Vol.4, Kitaab AI-Nikaah,
F.gypt, al Maktabah al Tijaareyah al
Kubrah, p.29.
11 Ibn Abidecn, op. cit. vol.3, p.66.
12 Al Shafi'ee, op. cit. Vol.8, p.163.
13 AI-Baajee, op. cit. Vol.3, p.266.
14 Taqiyudcen Al-.manbali, op. cit. part 2,
p. 150.
15 Al-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol.3, 'Kitaab al-
Nikaah' p.575
16 Al-Imam Ahmad Ibn I lajar Al-
Asqalaani,'Al-lsaabah fi Tamyeez al-
Sahaabah, (Being Right in the
Cognition of the Companions of the
Prophet), in the footnotes, 'Kitab al-
Isti'aab ti Asmaa al- Sahaaba', compiled
by: Abdullah bin Al-Baar al-Qurtubi,
Vol.4, 1st edition, Egypt, Beirut,
Maktab'at al Aadah, Daar Zhyaa al-
Turath Al-Arabi, 1328 AH, p.360.
17 AI-.Muhallah: Ibn llazm, Vol.9, p.459
18 llaashiyyat Kadd-ul Muhtaar: Ibn
'Aabideen, Vol.3, Kitaab al-Nikaah,
p.66 and Muslim, Sharh An-Nawawi,
Kitaab Al-Nikaah, p.577.
For more details see, Muhammad Abu
Zahra. 'Al-Wilaayah Ala al-Nafs',
(Guardionship towards the Individual),
Beirut, Lebanon, Daar al-Raa'd al-
Arabi, p.52-72, and 'Al-Ahwaal Al-
Shakhsiyah', (Personal Status Law in
Islam), 3rd, Daar al-Fikr Al-Arabi,
1377 AH/1957, p.108
Right to Seek Employment
Right to Seek Employment
slam is the religion that rewards labour, assiduity and hard work. It is
the rel igion of sacr i fice and giving. As Musl ims we are
encouraged to work and to undertake lawful jobs.
"Do what you will, Allah will behold your works and so will His Apostle
and the Faithful" [9:105]
Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi said: "Do what you will is addressed to all
mankind. "Allah will behold your works and so will His Apostle and the
Faithful", means that Allah (T) will make your deeds known to them. It
has been said, if a man worked in a rock with no doors nor
windows, his work would be made known to mankind, whoever he was.1
The wisdom behind the creation of mankind is revealed in the
Qur'an. Allah (T) says:
"He who has created life and death, so that We may test them as to
which of them do best. "[67: 2]
'We have made that which is on earth an ornament for it, so that We
may test them as to which of them do best." [18:7]
Allah (T) has made it clear that the wisdom behind the creation of
mankind is to test them and to put them through trials and then
reward them according to their deeds.
Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi also said: "To mankind this life is as
appealing as a ripe juicy fruit on a tree on a hot summer's day. Allah
(T) has made it available and within reach, so that He may see how
obedient human beings are to their Creator." Ibn Attiyah said: "My
father used to say: "Do deeds rveir, meaning to take what you deserve
and to spend by right, being a believer, to fulfil all religious
obligations, to stay away from what has been made unlawful and to
increase your optional religious acts of worship. I said: 'This is indeed a
concise and well-spoken statement.'2
All Muslims have the right to work and to earn profit. Islam has
given each individual the right to undertake any lawful job as long as
he or she meets the requirements. The Prophet urged his followers to
do so in many narrations.
Narrated Al-Qudaam (R): The Prophet (s) said, "Nobody has
ever eaten a better meal than that which he has earned by working
with his own hands."3
Explaining the above narration, Al-Imam Ibn Hajar says: "The
more general term "to earn" precedes the more specific part uby
working with his own hands" since earnings can be the result of manual
or other types of work. However, Al-Mawardi says: "The best sources of
income are farming, trade and crafts."
The scholars have different opinions concerning what is the best
job and usually conclude that it varies according to the individual and
according to the situation. However, any lawful job is better than
idleness which leads to humiliation and degradation. 4 Al-Imam
Ahmad bin Hanbal narrated, on the authority of Raafi' bin Khudaij:
"The Prophet (s) was asked about the best source of revenue. He (s)
replied: manual work and lawful trade."5
This narration praises manual work which includes all kinds of
professions and vocations. Al-Bukhari has also quoted a narration
which indicates that Abu-Bakr (R) used to trade like most of the
Prophet's companions. Indeed trade and business are strongly
Right to Seek Employment
encouraged. 'Aisha (R) narrated that when Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq was
chosen Caliph, he said, "My people know that my profession was not
incapable of providing sustenance for my family. As I will be busy
serving the Muslim nation, my family will eat from the National
Treasury of the Muslims. And I will practise the profession of serving
the Muslims."6
Explaining this narration, Ibn Hajar said: "By profession, Abu
Bakr (R) was referring to his source of income. A profession therefore is
whatever allows a human being to earn and to spend from his
earnings. Hence, Abu Bakr (R) is suggesting that his profession
enabled him to provide for his family. At this same time he is
apologising for taking from the Treasury in order to substitute for his
income as he will be expected to dedicate all of his time and energy to
serving the Muslims."7 From this above explanation, we can conclude the
1 Every job and every profession is regarded as a craft: hurfah.
2 Any lawful job is encouraged, and acceptable.
Aisha (R) narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "The best food is the
food you have earned and your children and their wealth are from
what you have earned." 8
He (S) urged his companions to work hard and to avoid begging for
money or food.
Abu Huraira (R) narrated that Allah's Apostle (s) said: "One
would rather chop wood and carry a bundle of it on his back than ask
somebody who may or may not give him."9
Islam has permitted women to undertake lawful professions and
crafts which are not incompatible with their femininity, or abuse their
dignity. Islam has even allowed the widow or the divorcee to work
during her iddah [waiting period before a second marriage, during
which she is supposed to stay in her house] because if her work is
necessary to her family and to the Islamic nation in general, she is
encouraged to carry on with her profession. Jabir bin Abdullah (R)
narrated that "My maternal aunt was divorced, and she intended to
pick her dates. A man scolded her for having come out (during the
period of 'iddah). She came to Allah's Prophet (s) and he said:
"Certainly you can pick dates from your palm trees, for perhaps you
may give charity, or do an act of kindness."10 The Prophet (S) thus
encouraged work for all, bearing in mind its good consequences on
the individual as well as the community.
However, Islam has not made "work" an obligation upon women
since the general principle in Islam is to divide obligations and
responsibilities between men and women, husband and wife. The
obligation of the man is to earn his living and to provide for his
children and the women in his family (mother, wife, daughter). On
the other hand, a woman is primarily in charge of her children,
husband and the management of her household. Islam has therefore
made it an obligation upon the husband to provide for his wife so that
she can devote her efforts and time to her important responsibilities at
home. Indeed the divine wisdom manifests itself in this harmonious
division of obligations and responsibilities. Allah (T) has ordained that
all men and women should devote themselves to their primary
roles.Only then can a higher and better productivity be achieved. He
(T) has ordered the husband to provide for his wife even though she
may be rich and has ordered the government to take over this
responsibility when she loses her provider.
Nevertheless, Islam has also given women the right to have
independent businesses, to trade, to give in charity...etc, in cases of
necessity or when a collective advantage can be gained, like nursing
and treating female patients, midwifery, educating young women and
other activities and social services involving women. The competent
woman is encouraged to go out and meet the needs of her community,
but only under the following conditions:
1 Her work must not consume her entire time and energy, thus
preventing her from fulfilling her more important role as wife and
2 Her career must not conflict with or remove her from her special
natural functions.
3 She should be able to exercise her profession with dignity and
modesty, avoiding temptations and situations which might arouse
Right to Seek Employment
suspicion and distrust. Indeed, many are the noble verses and
prophetic sayings that enjoin women to do so as well as to avoid
soft speech, perfume and adornment while working outside.
These texts will be discussed in detail later under the title
"Ethical Right [Hijab]."
4 She should avoid mixing with men and being alone with one of
them since the Prophet (s) said: "No man should be alone with a
woman except when there is a mahram with her."11
Consequently, a respectable woman should not work in a place where she
would be expected to deal privately with men in a secluded place. Public
mixing with men is also to be avoided. Ibn Abi 'Amr bin Hamaas
narrated: "While entering the mosque, I heard the Prophet (s) saying
to the women: "Walk behind us and do not walk in the middle of the
roads." Hence, the women used to walk on the edges of the roads to the
point that their garments would catch against the walls."12
As long as the above conditions are observed, a woman has the
right to seek employment. She can choose any career that corresponds
with her abilities and natural disposition as a woman. However,
Muslim women should not seek employment merely for the sake of it,
overlooking religious instructions and familial responsibilities, blindly
imitating the West.
Indeed, Islam's attitude to women's employment is very different to
that of the West. In western countries there is no difference
between men and women in this respect. They are both forced to
work to earn their livings and support their families. At the same time
the western woman is also expected to fulfil her natural duties as
mother and wife.
"Women's employment" has been highlighted endlessly by the
media as a general trend in our society and numerous campaigns have
been launched to urge women to seek employment. When such
campaigns were first launched in the West, women were tempted to
go out and work in order to affirm their so-called equality with men.
Unfortunately, many eastern countries have followed this example,
thus transgressing the laws of nature and ignoring women's inherent
roles and responsibilities.They shout the same western slogans,
overlooking the invaluable teachings of Islam which, by their divine
nature, differ from man-made western traditions and ideologies.
Some of the arguments which they have generally put forward to
convince women to seek employment are the following:
1 Prosperity and general welfare can only be achieved by obtaining
employment. As women represent half of society, half of the
population would be unemployed if women did not go out to
2 Employment helps women to understand the realities and facts of
the world. It develops their intellectual capacities and encourages
self-confidence and assertiveness.
3 Employment helps women to increase their family's income or to
sustain themselves in the absence of a provider.
These arguments are weak and can be refuted easily:
1 Despite their claims, half of the population is not unemployed.
Women do play an important and vital role in our society. They
are the ones who give birth to future members of society, bringing
them up and educating them. Men are responsible for economic
growth and production and women for the growth of population
and human product ion. Both responsibi l i t ies require
specialization. Producing good members of society requires
complete devotion of time and effort. A mother is responsible for
her children's ethical values and general behaviour. This requires
constant attention to their intellectual, physical and spiritual
development. This makes the mother's natural tasks more
important than her contribution to economic development.
At the same time, women's responsibility is more demanding
and time consuming, for human production is more important
than material production. Ironically, in the West where women are
urged to seek employment, particularly in the United States, the
unemployment rate is ever increasing and men are unable to find
jobs. From Al-Riyadh News magazine [issue No 5096] I quote the
fol lowing: "At this moment America is facing the highest
unemployment rate ever. This has led to an increasing number of
patients suffering from psychological problems and an increasing
number of drug addicts. Unemployment has caused financial
Right to Seek Employment
problems for many American citizens and doubled the deficit of the
government's budget."
2 Intellectual development and increased cultural awareness are not
necessarily acheived through employment. Often they can be
better acheived by acquiring a broad education, extensive reading,
attending lectures and conferences as well as socialising with
people of knowledge. It is hard to believe that many of the
mundane, manual labour positions held by women can in anyway
increase their intellectual capabilities.
3 As far as providing a supplement to the family's income, or even
providing the main income in the absence of a provider is
concerned, Muslim women have been led to work because their
society has failed to meet its responsibility towards the poor, the
widows, the orphans and the invalids. Allah (T) has ordered the
Muslims to allocate a share of the public treasury for such people.
He (T) says:
"...And in their wealth is a due share to the petit ioner and the
deprived. "[51:19]
The Prophet (S) also said, "There is no believer except that I am the
closest of people to him both in this world and in the Hereafter. Recite
if you wish:
"The Prophtt is closer to the believers than their own selves." [33:6]
So if a believer leaves some property then his relatives will inherit that
property; but if he is in debt or he leaves poor children, let those
(creditors and children ) come to me, for I am his sponsor."13
As for those who claim that women's employment will help achieve
equality with men, I say: It has certainly achieved their equality with
men in terms of distress, hardship and toil, but not in wages and esteem.
Al-Bahi Al-Khuli says: "The UN has not been able to establish equal wages
for men and women because employers are still adamant that men's
productivity surpasses that of women".
Sociologists, psychologists and critics agree that this trend
(women employed outside the home) has affected the purest and the noblest
inherent role of women in society and has left the members of families
suffering from dissolution, immorality and indecency."14
The main consequences of women working have been, in my opinion,
a deficiency in women's primary role as mothers and wives. This has led to
the dissolution of families, delinquency and immorality among
teenagers, an increase in accidents and crimes of which children are the
main victims.
Such are the consequences of the so-called "women's liberation
movement" which has taken many Muslims far away from the
invaluable wisdom of their religion.
1 Abi Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi,
Al-Jaami li-Ahkaam Al-Qur'aan, Vol.4,
Ilcirut, Dar /.hyaa' al-Turaath al
Arabi,(no date), Cairo, Dar al Sha'b,
Kitab al-Sha'ab 92, A-Qasr al-Ayni,
(no date)P.309
2 Ibid,Vol. 5, p 3972
3 Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, Fath al-Haun hi
Shtirli Saheeh ul-Hukhaari, compiled
and edited by: Abdulaziz Bin Baaz,
Vol 4, printed by Al-Matba'ah al
Salafiyah, (nodate), p.303.
4 Ibid.
5 Ahmad Bin ! lanbal, Musnad al Imam
Ahmad liin Hanbal, Vol.4, Beirut, Al-
Maktab al Islami, Daar Al Saader, p.
6 AI-Asqalaani, op. cit. vol.4, P-303
7 Ibid.
8 Abi Isa Muhammad bin Savvrah,
Sunan al- Tinmdhi-al-Jaami 'al Saheeh,
(Al-Tirmidhi's Traditions of the
Prophet, The Authentic Collection),
Vol.3, Cairo, Mustafah al-Baabi al I
lalabi & Sons p.630, No.1358.
9 AI-Asqalani, op. cit. p.303.
10 Al-Imam Yahya bin Sharaf al-Nawavvi,
'Saheeh Muslim-Sharh al-Nawawi',
compiled by Abdullah Ahmed Abu
Zeina, Vol.3 'Divorce', ( Ciro,
Maktabaat al-Sha'ab (no date), 2nd
edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa al-Turaath
al-Arabi, 1392 AH/1972., p.703
11 Ibid. vol.3 'Pilgrimage' p.489
12 Abittayeb Muhammad Shamsuddin
Abaadi, Sharh al-Haafsz Ihn al-
Qayyem uljaivziya, Awn al-Ma 'hood,
shark Sunan Ahi Darvnnd, Vol. 14 2nd
edition, Al-Madeena al-Munawara, al-
Maktaba al Salafiyah, vol: 14, p.190
13 AI-Asqalaani, op. cit. Vol.8, p.517.
14 Al-Bahi al-Kholi, Al-hlam Wa al-
Mar'ah al-Mu'aasirah, (Islam and
Modem Woman), 3rd edition, Kuwait,
Daar al Qalam, p.221
15 Dr Muhammad Ali Al-llaar, Amal al-
Mar'ahfial-Meezan, (Woman's Work
on Balance), 1st edition, published and
distributed by: Al-Daar al-Saudeeyah,
1401 AH/1980, p.810.
Ethical Rights
The Ethical Right (Hijab)
ome people may wonder how the lawful Hijab1 can be considered
to be an ethical right for women. For many, the hijab appears to
represent repression and oppression. But for those who want to
comprehend the divine wisdom that lies behind it, they will see why
it is considered an ethical right. In Islam, a woman covers to protect
herself from any potential threat to her honour and dignity.
Islam teaches that prevention is better than cure. It has therefore
laid down a set of rules regarding the mixing of men and women.
Addressing both sexes, but beginning with men, Allah (T) says:
"Say to the believing men to turn away their eyes and to preserve
their chastity. This is purer for them. Allah has knowledge of all
that they do. " [24:30]
In his explanation, Ibn Katheer says Allah orders the believers to
lower their gaze and to turn their eyes away from what is unlawful. If
one should accidently glance at what is unlawful, the believer should
turn away his eyes as quickly as possible. Abu Zar'ah bin 'Amr
narrated that his grandfather Jareer bin Abdullah al-Bajali (R) asked
the Prophet about the accidental glance and He (s) ordered him to
turn away his eyes.2
Then similarly addressing women, Allah (T) says:
"Say to the believing women to turn their eyes away (from
temptation) and to preserve their chastityand not to show their
beauty except such as normally appear; to draw their headcovers
over "juyubihinna" (i.e. their faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to
reveal their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their
husbands' fathers, their sons, their step-sons, their brothers, their
brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, their slaves, male
attendants lacking in sexual desire, and children who have no
knowledge of sex. And let them not stamp their feet [in walking] so
as to reveal their hidden adornments.
Believers, turn to Allah together in repentance, that you may
prosper, "[24:31]
Allah Almighty has prohibited women as well as men from looking at what
has been made unlawful. He (T) has also ordered them to preserve their
chastity.3 Hence, women are expected to cover themselves and to
hide their adornments as well as their natural beauty except from the
relatives mentioned in the above verse. In all other situations, Allah (T)
has ordered women to draw their headcovers over their chests and to
avoid drawing attention to their hidden adornments. He (T) concludes the
verse by reminding them that repentance is the key to salvation.4
Allah (T) has clearly ordered women to abide by certain rules:
I. To turn their eyes away from temptation.
This is an order from Allah(T) to the believing women. Ibn Katheer said:
women should turn their eyes away from what has been made unlawful for
them. Consequently, many scholars believe that women should do so
whether they are looking with or without desire. They have brought
forward the evidence of the following narration related by Abu Daawood
and Al-Tirmidhi. Al-Zuhri narrated that Umm Salama said: "I went to the
Messenger of Allah (S) and there was Maimunah. Then Ibn Umm
Maktoom came and the Prophet (s) ordered us to leave. He (s) said:
Conceal yourselves from him. We said: Is he not blind and cannot see
us? He (S) replied: 'What about you; can you not see him?'5
Ethical Rights
However, another group of scholars believe that it is permissible for
a woman to look at men if there is no evil intent. The Prophet (s) used to
let 'Aisha (R) watch the Ethiopian men playing with their spears on
the day of Eid.6 Aisha (R) narrated that "The Prophet (s) was
screening me with his garment while I was looking at the
Ethiopians who were playing in the courtyard of the mosque. (I
continued watching) until I had watched enough."7
2. To preserve their chastity.
Allah (T) has also ordered women to "preserve their chastity"'(ie, guard
their private parts). To explain this further, Ibn Jubair said: "To
preserve it from illegal sexual acts"; Qataadah and Sufyaan said:
"From what has been made unlawful for them" and Muqaatil said:
"from illegal sexual intercourse." However, Abu 'Aaliyah said:
"Elsewhere in the Qur'an, these words refer to illegal sexual
intercourse, but in this verse (24:31), they mean that no one may see the
private areas."8
3. To cover their adornments.
In his explanation, Al-Qurtubi says: "Allah (T) has ordered the
believing women to cover their beauty, except those mentioned in the
verse, in order to stay away from and prevent temptation". Ibn
Mas'ood said: The adornments "normally display'eif (24:31) are the
clothes, and Ibn Jubair added: The face. Al Awzaa'i and Ibn Jubair
added: The face, the hands and the clothes. Ibn 'Abbas, Qataadah and Al
Masoor Ibn Mukhramah said: What are "normally displayed are: kohl,
henna (to the forearms), earrings, and rings. However, since what are
normally displayed while praying and performing piligrimage
are the face and hands, Al-Qurtubi said that only these (the face and
hands) are the excluded parts mentioned in the verse (24:31).9
Abu Daawood narrated on the authority of 'Aisha (R) that Asma,
daughter of Abu Bakr (R) came to see the Prophet (s) and she was
wearing thin garments. The Prophet (s) turned his eyes away from
her and said: "O Asma, when a young woman reaches puberty she
should only reveal this and that", and he (S) pointed to his face and
hands." 10
Al-Qurtubi mentions the opinion of Ibn Kuwaiz who said that "If
a woman is very attractive and revealing her face and hands can create
"fitnah" (ie, temptation) then it is better that she should cover her whole
body."11 Therefore women should conceal their hair, neck and bosom.
Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi said: "The reason being that women at that
time used to cover their hair and place their head cover to the back,
thus revealing the necks and ears." Allah (T) has therefore ordered
the believing women to draw their headcovers all over "juyubihinna"
[i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms.] When the believing women
heard the divine order, they quickly obeyed, applied it and submitted to
it. Aisha (R) narrated: 'May Allah bestow His Mercy on the early
emigrant women (Ansaar). When Allah revealed: "they should draw
their veils over juyubihinna..., they tore their aprons and covered
themselves with them."12
The wisdom behind this divine order is to protect the individual as
well as society from temptation and adultery.13 Hence, women are
allowed to show their beauty and to reveal their adornments in front of
their husbands and the relatives whom they cannot marry and who will
not normally desire them.14
Sayyed Qutb has elaborated further saying, "The wisdom behind
such restrictions is preventative; in different verses, Allah (T) forbids
women from intentionally drawing attention to their hidden
adornments, thus arousing latent sexual desires. Allah (T) says: "And let
them not stamp their feet [in walking] so as to reveal their hidden
adornments." [24:31] This order results from a deep knowledge of the
human soul, its components and their interaction. Indeed, the
imagination can be most dangerous in triggering sexual desires. The
Noble Qur'an presents an exhaustive illustration of human nature and
finally guides the believers to the way of repentance. Allah (T) says:
"Believers, turn to Allah together in repentance, that you may
prosper.' 124:31]15
Commenting on the above verse, Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi says that
"it should not be forgetten that what we are aiming at is modesty."16
Ethical Rights
Al Tirmidhi narrated that the Prophet(s) said: "Every (unlawful)
gaze is sinful, and every woman who perfumes herself and passes by the
people so that they smell her scent, is sinning."17
Allah (T) has stressed the importance of such modesty in order to
prevent "fitnah" (temptation). Therefore, a woman who does not
abide by the above rules of modesty is committing a great sin indeed.
The Prophet (s) has clearly and strongly forbidden women from
attending the mosque wearing perfume. He (s) said: "Any woman
who perfumes herself should not pray 'Isha with us.18
Ibn Katheer narrates: "Women in the pre-Islamic period of
ignorance used to walk around with silent anklets, but would stamp their
feet in walking to inform men of their presence. Allah (T) has forbidden
the believing women from following their example and from
intentionally revealing or suggesting their hidden adornments as well as
wearing perfumed oil before leaving the house."19
This verse, ''Let them not stamp their feet [in walking] so as to reveal
their hidden adornments", is a prohibition of any movement that might stir
men's emotions and awaken their latent sexual desires since such
behaviour contradicts the principles of modesty and discretion. In fact,
regulations regarding the hijab are revealed in detail in Surat An-Nur.
They are more general in Surat Al-Ahzaab in which Allah (T) says:
" O Prophet, enjoin your wives, your daughters and the wives of
true believers to draw their cloaks [jalaabeeb] all over their
bodies. That is more proper, so that they may be recognised and
not molested. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." [33:59]
Aisha (R) narrated the experience of Sauda (the wife of the
Prophet (S) who was asked by Umar bin Al-Khattaab to think of
a way by which you should not be recognised on going out. When
Sauda reported this to the Prophet (s) he replied "You (women)
have been allowed to go out for your needs."
Umar did not want the Prophet's wives to be seen in public. He said to
the Prophet (s). " O Messenger of Allah, what if you screened your
wives." 'Urnar kept saying the until verse of al-Hijaab was revealed.
Then 'Umar exaggerated in the sense that he did not want them to
appear before the public even when fully covered. He was prevented
from that and Allah(T) allowed women to go out for their needs in
order to prevent hardship."20 This narration is an evidence against
those who prevent their wives from going out of their houses because
they incorrectly interpret Allah's words: "And stay in your houses and do
not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance. "[33:33]
From the preceding verses and narrations, we conclude that the
hijab is an obligation upon every Muslim woman. All true believers
should abide by the rules of Allah, the Great, the Almighty. However,
Islam does not prescribe a specific "Islamic outfit". A Muslim
woman has the right to select any outfit as long as it fulfils the
following requirements:21
It must cover the whole body except that which has been has been
Allah (T) says:
"Say to the believing women to turn their eyes away (from
temptation) and to preserve their chastity; and not to show their
beauty except such as normally appears; to draw their headcovers
over "juyubihinna" and not to reveal their beauty except to their
husbands, their fathers, their husbands'fathers, their sons, their stepsons,
their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their
women, their slaves male attendants lacking in sexual desire, and
children who have no knowledge of sex. And let them not stamp
their feet [in walking] so as to reveal their hidden adornments.
Believers, turn to Allah together in repentance, that you may
prosper." [24:31]
Allah (T) also says:
"Prophet, enjoin your wives, your daughters and the wives of true
believers to draw their "outer cloaks" all over their bodies." [33:59]
Ethical Rights
"To draw" meaning "to let down" so as to cover the whole body and
the feet as understood from the following narration:
Umm Salama (R) asked the Prophet (s): How long should the trail of
women's cloaks be? He (s) said: Let them drop it the length of a handspan.
She said: Their feet would be revealed. He (s) replied: Then let
them drop it the length of one cubit (aprox. 13 inch) and no more. 22
2. It must be loose and non- transparent.
It should not reveal the skin, nor describe the body. If tight, the hijab will
suggest the shape of the body, highlight its femininity, suggest hidden
charms and make the woman more desirable to the beholder. This
clearly violates the purpose of the hijab. The Prophet (s) has warned
the women who "will be naked in spite of their being dressed",
who wear tight and see-through clothes in order to highlight their
physical beauty. He (s) has also condemned the women who cover parts
of their bodies, leaving the rest displayed, saying: "Of the people of Hell
Fire there are two types whom I have never seen: one possessing whips
like tails of oxen and they flog people with them. The second are
women who are naked in spite of their being dressed, who are seduced
(to wrong paths) and seduce others with their hair high like camel
humps. These women will not enter Paradise and they will not
perceive its odour, although its fragrance can be perceived from such
and such a distance."23
3. It should not resemble the dress of men.
The Prophet (s) has forbidden women from wearing men's clothes
and vice versa. He (S) has cursed the people who do so. Abu Huraira
(R) narrated that : "The Prophet (s) cursed the man who wears the
dress of a woman and the woman who wears the dress of a man."24
4. It must not be perfumed:
This is clear from the narration, mentioned earlier in which the
Prophet (s) prohibited women from using perfume before leaving
their houses.
It is clear from the above mentioned verses and narrations that
the hijab is an obligation upon every Muslim woman. Scholars and
jurists agree upon this fact. However, as far as covering the face and
hands is concerned, scholars and jurists hold two different opinions:
One group believe that the face and hands are "'awrah" and
ought to be covered. This group includes the school of the
Hanaabilah and some Shaafi'eeyah. 25
The second group believe that the face and hands are not
part of a woman's "awrah" and must not necessarily be
covered. This group includes the Hanafeeyah school, the
Maalikeeyah and some Shaafi'eeyah.26
Each group has presented evidence from the Qur'an and the
prophetic tradition. Nevertheless, after studying both opinions, I have
come to the following conclusions:
1 All the Imams agree that the face and hands should be
covered if revealing them would cause "fitnah. "27
2 In a situation where no "fitnah" is to be feared for both the
individual and the society, the face and hands can be
uncovered. It is also allowed to do so for a compelling
necessi ty, such as when buying, selling, presenting a
testimony, or for medical reasons.
3 Covering the face and hands when there is no risk of "fitnah"
is a good deed and a pious act which will be rewarded on the
day of judgement. It is an imitation of the Mothers of the
Believers (the prophet's wives) and the virtuous female
companions. I personally advocate the first opinion which
says that the face and hands should be covered with or
without the risk of "fitnah".
Islam takes into consideration the needs of mankind. Its rulings
and regulations are adjusted accordingly. Its objective is to block all
the ways that lead to "fitnah" without inhibiting our every day tasks
which are necessary to our survival as individuals as wel l as
Ethical Rights
communities. Hence, there is no clear evidence from the Qur'an and the
Sunnah that prohibits women from revealing their hands and faces in
cases of hardship and difficulty. However, the evidence against
revealing their beauty (ie, bodies and adornment) is clear and strong in
the Qur'an and the Sunnah and this causes no inconvenience
whatsoever in their daily lives.28
Allah (T) has made the the hijab an obligation upon every
believing woman in order to protect her chastity and preserve her dignity.
Indeed, time has proven that adornment, free mixing of men and women
and disobedience to divine wisdom can only lead to general corruption
and dissoluteness,29 which have manifested themselves in the following
ways: an increase in the prevalence of adultery, sexually transmitted
diseases, illegitimate pregnancies and divorce. 30
The rules regarding the hijab are there to protect the individual, as
well as the society, from temptation and disobedience to Allah (T). May He
(T) guide us all to His Straight Path.
1 The covering of the whole body.
2 Al-Imam Yahya bin Sharat al-Nawawi,
Saheeh Muslim Sharh Al-Nawawi;
compiled by: Abdullah Abu Zeina, Vol.
4, Cairo: Maktabaat al Sha'ab (no date),
2nd edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa Al-
Turath Alarabi, 1392 AH/1972.
3 Al-Imam al-l lafez Imaadudccn Ibn
Kathcer, Tafteer Al-Qur'aan Al AJheem,
Vol.3, Makkah, Beirut, Daar AI-Baaz,
Abbas Ahmad Al-Baz, Daar al Ma'rif,
1388 AH/1969, p.281.
4 Ibid. p.283
5 Abittayeb Muhammad Shamsudden
Abaadi and Sharh AI-Haafez Ibn Al-
Qayyem al Jawziya, Ami al-Ma 'hood
Sharh Sanaa Abi Davuod, vol. 11, 2nd
edition, AI-Madeena al-Munawara, al-
Maktaba al-Salaflyah, vol.11, p.169.
6 Ibn Katheer, op cit, vol. 13, p.283.
7 Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Path al Baari hi
Sharh Saheeh al Bukhaari, The
Creator's Enlightmem about the
Kxplanation of Al-Bukhari, Authentic
Tradition of the Prophet), Sahcch al-
Bukhaari, compiled and edited by
Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, Vol.9, Madina
Munawwara: al Matba'ah al Salafiyah
(no date), p.336.
8 Ibn Kathccr, op. cit. vol.3, p.238.
9 Natural beauty as well as artificial
adornments (make-up, jewellery
10 Abu Dawood said: This narration is
'MursaP, since Khalcd bin Duraik did
not reach Aisha.
11 Ali Abdullah Muhammad al Qurtubi,
Al-jaami' It Ahkaam AI-Qur'aan, Vol.6,
Beirut, Daar Zhyaa al Turath al-Arabi,
(no date), (.Mm, Daar al-Sha'ab, Kitab
al-Sha'ab 92, al-Qasr al-Ayni (no date),
12 Al- Asqalaani, op. cit. Vol.8, p.489.
13 Ibid.
14 Sayyed Qutb, Fi Dhilaal al-Qur'aan,
vol.4, No.7, Beirut, Daar al-Shurooq,
1391 AH/1978, 1394/1976, p.2513, and
all Qurtubi, op. cit. vol.6, pp.4624-4627
15 Sayyed Qutb, Ibid. vol. 4, p. 2514.
16 AI-Qurtubi, op. cit. vol. 6, p.462.
17 Abi Isa Muhammad bin Saworah
al- Tirmidhi, al-Jaami'alSahceh,
Vol.5, Cairo, Mustafah al-Baabi al I
lalabi & Sons. vol.5.
18 Abaadi op. cit. Chap.6, No.is7, p.231.
19 Ibn Kathcer, op. cit. vol.3, p.285.
20 'Rub al-Ma'aani fi Tafseer al Qur'aan
al Adhcem wa al Sab al-Mathaani',
(The Spirit of Meaning in the
Explanation of the I loly Quran and the
Oft-repeated seven verses), Vol.22, 2nd
edition, Beirut, edited and published by
Idaarat al Tibaa'ah al Muneeriyah,
Daar Zhyaa al Turaath al Arabi, p.88.
21 For more details see Muhammad
Nasseruddcen al-Albaani, Hijaab
al-Mar'ah al Muslimahftal-Kilaab wa
al- Sumuth, 3rd edition, Beirut, al-
Makub Al-Islaami.
22 AI-Tirmidhi, op. cit. Vol.4, P.223
23 AI-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol. 4, Kitab al
Libas, p.340.
24 All-Imam Abi Abdullah Muhammad
Al- Bukhaari, Sahteh Al-BMaai,
offset print, Istanbul, Daar AI-Fikr,
from Daar al-Tibaa'ah Aamira (no date),
25 Abdulrahman Al-Jazairi, Al-Fiqh Ala
al-Madhaahib al-Arba'ah, Vol.I, Egypt,
Al-Maktabah al-Tijaaryah al-Kubrah.
vol.1,p. 192.
26 Al Imaam Shamsuddeen Ibn
Qudaamah, Al-Muglmi Wa al-Sharh al-
Kabeer, (The Sufficient, Jurisprudence,
and the Great Explanation). Vol. i, new
Edition, Beirut,
Ix-hanon, Daar al-Kitaab al-Arabi, 1392
AH/1972, vol.i, p.637.
27 Al-Jazairi, op. cit. vol.i, p.162.
28 Abul A'laa al-Mawdoodi, Al-Hijaab,
(The Veil), 2nd edition, 1405
AH/1985, p.310.
29 Dr Kamel Salaamah al-Duggas,
Mankaj Sooritl AI-Noorfi Islaah an-
Nafs Wai Mujtama, (The Method of
Sura 'Al- Noor' in the Reform of the
Individual and Society), 2nd edition,
Jeddah, Daar al-Shurooq, p.230, taken
from Al- Manaar Magazine, article by:
Rasheed Ridah, p.486.
30 Dr Muhammad Ali Albaar, Amal
Al-Mar'ah fi Al-Mcczaan, tst edition,
Madina AI-Munawwara: Al-Daar
al-Saudeeyah, 1401 AH/1981, p.136
Religious Rights
Religious Rights
slam has established women's eligibility for worship and other
religious obligations. This is stated clearly in the Qur'an and
confirmed by the Sunnah. The following four sections of this chapter will
discuss women's religious rights and then their legal status regarding
several key issues.
1 Women's Eligibility for Religious Obligations:
1 The conditions for religious obligations, are fulfilled in women.
The scholars have agreed that the conditions for responsibility are:
Islam, puberty and mental fitness, with no difference between men and
women. Allah (T) has addressed His commands to both men and women,
(Adam and Eve), since the dawn of humanity:
"And We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise
and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things
therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you
both will be of the wrongdoers." [2:35]
And when Allah (T) disapproved of their disobedience, He (T)
directed His rebuke to both of them:
"...And their Lord called out to them: Did I not forbid you that
tree...?" [7:22]
Moreover, in order to establish women's independence from and their
equality with men in terms of religious responsibilities, their pledge of
allegiance was taken separately. Allah (T) says:
"O Prophet! When believing women come to you to give you the
pledge that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah,
that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual
intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not
utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will
not disobey you in anything just, then accept their Pledge, and ask
Allah to forgive them. Verily, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most
Merciful" (60:12)
Al-Bukhari mentions the following narration related to the above verse
in his book of interpretation of the Qur'an: 'Urwa narrated that 'Aisha (R)
the wife of the Prophet (s), said, "Allah's Messenger (s) used to test the
believing women who came to him to pledge allegiance in accordance
by this verse. Aisha (R) said, "And whoever of the believing women
accepted the condition (as laid down in verse 60:12), Allah's Messenger (S)
would say to her: "I have accepted your pledge of allegiance."1
2 The verses of the Noble Qur'an are revealed to all human beings, men
and women.
This is clear from the recurrent vocative style of the Qur'an: "O
Mankind", "O People", in which Allah (T) addresses all human beings,
men and women, of different races and different languages, without
differentiating between men or women, black or white, poor or rich, king
or servant, and regardless of any other man-made hierarchy. The
Noble Qur'an is revealed for all human beings, and for all times. Hence,
Allah (T)'S commands, warnings and promises involve men and women
3 The verses clearly indicate that men and women are equal in terms of
religious obligations. Allah (T) says:
Religious Rights
"The Muslim men and women, the believers men and women, the
men and the women who are obedient, the men and the women who are
truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the
women who fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity
and the men and the women who remember Allah much [with their
hearts and tongues], Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a
great reward." [33:35]
Hence, Allah (T) has established the equality of men and women in
terms of worship and commitment to religious rights and obligations.
Relating the incident on which the above verse was revealed, Tirmdhi
narrated that Umm 'Ammarah, an Ansari woman, came to the
Prophet (s) and said: "I can see no reference to women in the
Qur'an", then the above verse was revealed [33:35].3
Sayyed Qutb said that in verse 33:35 men and women are both
mentioned together. This is one of many different aspects in which
Islam honours women and establishes their dignity. This verse is also a
confirmation that men and women are equal in terms of their
relationship with their Creator, in worship, religious obligations and
moral conduct.4
Similarly, the following verse compels both men and women to
obey Allah (T) and His Messenger(s). Allah (T) says:
"It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His
Messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any
option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His
Messenger, has indeed strayed in a plain error." [33:36]
Al-Qurtubi said: "This verse was first revealed when the Prophet (s)
came to ask for the hand in marriage of Zainab, his cousin, and she
accepted thinking that he (s) wanted her for himself. When she found
out that he was asking her for Zaid, she disliked it and did not
consent. When the verse was revealed, Zainab submitted to Allah's
order and gave her consent."5
Although the verse was revealed for a particular incident, its
rulings apply to all men and women, in all situations.
4 The call to Islam [Dawah] is a duty upon every Muslim man and
woman. Allah (T) says:
"Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to
righteousness, enjoining good and forbidding wrong, and such men
shall surely triumph." [3:104]
Allah (T) has made it a duty upon all Muslims to enjoin good and to
forbid evil, without differentiation between men and women in this
very important religious duty. He (T) also says:
"The true believers, both men and women, are friends to each
other. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil; they
attend to their prayers and pay the alms-tax and obey Allah and His
Apostle. On these Allah will have mercy. He is the Mighty, the
Wise." [9:71]
Hence, Allah(T) has made these two attributes (to enjoin good and
forbid evil) inseparable from true believing men or women. In return,
Allah (T) has promised them mercy and a great reward. Many are the
verses and prophetic sayings that generalise this command and make it
an obligation upon every Muslim. Allah (T) says:
"By Time, man is in loss, except those who believe and do
good works and exhort one another to truth and to patience. "
The Prophet (s) emphasised the importance of this religious
obligation even more. He (s) said: "He who amongst you sees
something abominable should change it with his hand; and if he has
not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue;
and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should abhor it
from his heart, and that is the weakest of faith."6 Thus emphatically did
the Prophet (S) order every Muslim man and woman to enjoin good
and forbid evil.
Religious Rights
II] Women's responsibility for obligatory and optional acts of
Believing men and women are equally responsible for their obligatory acts
of worship (prayers, alms-tax, pilgrimage etc.) with no difference
between a man or a woman. Both are eligible for the corresponding
optional acts of worship (i.e. additional prayers, charity...).
Muhammad 'Izzatt Duruza wrote, "Scholars who have explained the
meanings of the Qur'an, agree that whenever Allah (T) addresses the
believers in the Qur'an, in a plural or a singular form, in every matter
related to rights, obligations and moral conduct, He (T) is addressing
both men and women with no specification of one sex or the other.
Men and women are also equally responsible for applying the
commandments of Allah (T) and fulfiling their obligations in their
different aspects (spiritual, physical and financial). Both men and
women will be held accountable for their acts (whether lawful or
unlawful), fulfilment or non-fulfilment of duties, ethics, and private
and public behaviour, and will be judged accordingly. Again, there will
be no differentiation between men and women.7
Although women go through natural cycles which affect three
pillars of the religion (prayer, fasting and pilgrimage), this does not
affect the principle of women's eligibility for these obligations. Each of
the three pillars affected by a woman's menstrual cycle or
postpartum bleeding will be addressed separately below:
Prayer: The five daily prayers are an obligation upon every Muslim
man and woman. Allah (T) says:
"Attend to your prayers and pay the alms-tax"
[2:110] "For prayer is a duty incumbent on the
faithful, to be conducted at appointed hours." [4:103]
However, women are forbidden from praying during menstruation
and postpartium bleeding. Unlike men, women are exempted from
praying in congregation in the mosque. Their mosques are their
homes and as an encouragement, Allah (T) has made it better for
women to offer their prayers in the intimacy and privacy of their
homes. The Prophet (S) said: "Do not prevent your wives from going to
the mosques. Yet, their houses are better for them."8
Islam has thus taken into consideration the fragile constitution of
women and their important responsibilities at home. To make it an
obligation upon women to go out to the mosque every day, five times a
day to offer their prayers would certainly have caused inconvenience,
hardship as well as frequent unnecessary mixing with men. Also,
women's congregational prayers in the privacy of their homes is equal to
the congregational prayers of men in the mosques. Allah(T) has
lightened this responsibility for them without diminishing their
rewards or exempting them from such an important religious
2. Fasting: Fasting the month of Ramadan is an obligation upon
every Muslim man and woman. Allah (T) says:
"O believers, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those
before you; perchance you will guard yourselves against evil." [2:183]
"The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur'an was
revealed, a Book of guidance with proofs of guidance
distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore, whoever of you is
present [at home] in that month, let him fast. "[2:185]
Although women are forbidden from fasting in Ramadan during
menstruation and postpartum bleeding, they do have to make up for
the missed fasts as soon as possible.
Moreover, Islamic Jurisprudence excuses pregnant and breast -
feeding women if they suspect that fasting can affect their health or
the health of the foetus or the baby. Similarly, they should make up
for the days they miss as soon as they can. The ruling in this case is
similar to the one of sickness. Al-Hasan Al-Basri was asked about the
ruling concerning a pregnant or a breast -feeding woman, and he
replied: "What illness is greater than pregnancy? Such a woman
should break her fast and make up for the lost days as soon as she
Religious Rights
can." Although all scholars agree upon this, some scholars [e.g. Al
Shafi'ee and Ahmad] have said that she should make up for the
missing days and pay ransom.9 Other scholars such as Abu Haneefah
believe that as long as she makes up for the missing days, paying
ransom is not necessary.10 What is certain however, is that a pregnant or a
breast-feeding woman is perfectly allowed to break her fast during
the month of Ramadan.
3. Hajj (pilgrimage): Women (as well as men) are commanded to
perform pilgrimage at least once in their lives. Allah (T) says:
"Pilgrimage to the House is a duty due to Allah for all who
can make the journey." [3:97]
However, a woman should be accompanied by a mahram11 on her
pilgrimage. The Prophet (s) said: "It is not lawful for a woman who
believes in Allah and the Hereafter to travel for more than three
nights' journey except when there is a mahram with her."12 Islam thus
forbids women from travelling without their mahram regardless of the
destination. Another narration by Muslim confirms this prohibition.
Ibn 'Abbas (R) reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (s) delivering a
sermon and making this observation: "No person should be alone
with a woman except when there is a mahram with her, and the
woman should not undertake a journey except with a mahram." A
person stood up and said: Allah's Messenger, my wife has set out for
pilgrimage, whereas I am enlisted to fight in such and such battle,
whereupon he (s) said: "Go and perform Hajj with your wife. "13
Explaining the above narration, Imam An-Nawawi says: 'The
Imams have agreed that a woman should perform Hajj at least once in
her life if she can make the journey since Allah (T) says: "Due to
Allah is "pilgrimage to the House.." [3:97], and the Prophet (s) said,
"Islam is built on five (pillars): the testimony of belief (shahadah), the
establishment of prayer, payment of zakaat, the fast of Ramadan, and
Pilgrimage (to Makkah).14 The physical and financial capability of both
men and women to make the pilgrimage is measured according to the
same criteria, with no difference between them.
However, the four Imams have not agreed upon the issue of the
mahram. Abu Haneefah says that the Hajj does not become an
obligation upon a woman unless the distance between her house and
Makkah is less than the journey of three nights. Al-Shaaffee does not make
the mahram a condition for a woman's pilgrimage to be accepted. His
condition is "the woman's safety" and her safety can well be achieved
by the company of her husband, a mahram or "trustworthy women".He
also says that the Hajj does not become an obligation upon her and a duty
to fulfil unless one of these three companions is available. The majority
of the scholars, however, believe that a woman cannot perform the Hajj
without a mahram. 15
As far as Jihad is concerned, Allah (T) has made it an obligation upon
men only. Nevertheless women can still participate in Jihad by preparing
food for the soldiers, distributing water, nursing the injured etc.
III] Responsibilities and Rewards:
Men and women are equal in terms of responsibilities and rewards, and
every human being is individually responsible for his or her acts. Allah (T)
"Every soul will be held in pledge for its deeds. "[74:38]
And He (T) says:
"On the day when every man will come pleading for himself and
when every soul will be requited for its deeds, they will not be dealt
with unjustly." [16:111]
Women are thus worthy of religious obligations and worship.Their deeds
are equally assessed, judged and rewarded. Some men and women will
be rewarded by Paradise for their righteous deeds; others by Hell fire for
their sins. Allah (T) says:
"The believers who do good works, whether men or women, shall
enter Paradise. They shall not suffer the least injustice." [4:124]
Religious Rights
Explaining the above verse, Sayyed Qutb concluded that the verse
established the equality of the two halves of humanity in terms of
actions and rewards. He also said that Allah (T) sets Imaan (true
belief in Allah) as a condition for the good deeds to be accepted.
Without Imaan no action will be accepted, and every good deed
without Imaan will be overlooked. This is most natural and logical
since only Imaan in Allah (T) can provide us with correct intentions
and make our good deeds come from within ourselves as natural and
consistent as Allah (T) has intended them to be. Not merely as a
reaction to one's whims and desires, nor as a transient impulse that
obeys no divine order.16
The verses that refer to the equality of men and women in terms of
actions and rewards are numerous. Allah (T) says:
"Be they men or women, those that embrace the faith and do
what is right We will surely grant a happy life; We shall reward
them according to their actions." [16:97]
Hence,on the Day of judgement, each individual will be rewarded
according to his or her actions, and not according to status or gender.17 A
good action will entail a reward, and a sin will entail punishment. He
(T) says:
"Those that do evil shall be rewarded with like evil; but those that
have faith and do good works, both men and women, shall enter
the Gardens of Paradise and receive blessings without
A bad deed will entail punishment and a good deed will be rewarded
twice by the Most Merciful, with no difference between males and
females.This reward will be Paradise which is indeed, the best of all.
Allah (T) says:
"Allah has promised the men and women who believe in Him
gardens watered by running streams, in which they shall abide for
ever.He has promised them goodly mansions in the gardens
of Eden. And approval from Allah is greater. That is the
supreme triumph." (9:72)
Thus, Allah (T) has promised those who believe in Him, men and women,
the Garden of Eden.
Allah (T) has also established that men and women who have
migrated, have been expelled from their homes or suffered
persecution for His cause, will be equally rewarded. He (T) says:
"You are [offspring] of one another. Those that emigrated or were
expelled from their homes, and those that were persecuted and
fought and were killed for My cause, shall be forgiven their sins
and admitted to gardens watered by running streams as a reward
from Allah; it is Allah who holds the richest recompense." [3:195]
The above verse was first revealed when Umm Salama (R) said to the
Prophet (s): "O Allah's Messenger, I can see no mention of women in the
Qur'an as far as Hijrah is concerned." Then, the verse "Those that
emigrated..." was revealed. 18
Explaining the verse Ibn Katheer says: "Allah (T) is informing us that
no man or woman will be denied a reward that he or she deserves. He (T)
will equally reward His servants, men and women, according to their
deeds. 19
Ad-Dhahak said: "Your men are like your women in terms of
obedience and your women are like your men in terms of
obedience."20 Obedience means complete submission to Allah (T)'s
commands some of which have been mentioned in the above verse, for
example: Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah or Hijra from the land of
disbelief to the land of Islam, migration from one's land for the sake of
Allah (T), Jihad, endurance of difficulties and hardship for His sake etc..
In his explanation of the same verse (3:195), Al-Khatib says:"you are of
one another" this clearly indicates that men and women are equal in terms
of punishment and rewards.21
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IV] Women's legal status in terms of Hudood and Qisaas. A.
HUDOOD (Punishments stipulated in the Qur'an) 22
Islam is based on justice, and men and women are equally punished for
their sins just as they are equally rewarded for their good deeds.All form
of punishments are the same for men and women. I shall illustrate
this with a few rulings for different crimes and explain how they were
implemented at the time of the Prophet (s) and the righteous
1. Fornication and adultery (zina):
Allah (T) says:
"The female and male fornicator shall each be given a hundred
lashes. Let not pity for them detain you from obedience to Allah, if
you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day; and let their
punishment be witnessed by a number of believers." [24:2]
Ibn Katheer said: "In this verse, Allah (T) pronounces His sentence upon
those who commit fornication. People of knowledge have studied
this subject in detail. In applying the above sentence, they differentiate
between the married adulterer and unmarried fornicator. All the scholars,
except Abu Haneefah, agree that the sentence should be a hundred lashes
for the unmarried, plus he should be expelled from their country for
one year. Abu Haneefah believes that the fornicator should be given
the choice to emigrate or to stay in his country.
However, the majority of the scholars, have presented the
evidence of the following narration and disagreed with Abu
Haneefah: Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khaalid (R) narrated: While we
were with the Prophet (s), a man stood up and said: "O Prophet (s), I
beseech you by Allah, that you should judge us according to Allah's
Laws." Then the man's opponent got up saying, "Judge us according to
Allah's Law and kindly allow me to speak." The Prophet (s) said,
"Speak", He said, "My son was a labourer working for this man and he
committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife, and I gave one
hundred sheep and a slave as a ransom for my son's sin. Then I asked
a learned man about this case and he informed me that my son should
receive one hundred lashes and be exiled for one year, and the man's wife
should be stoned to death." The Prophet (s) said, "By Him in whose Hand
my soul is, I will judge you according to the Laws of Allah (T). Your one
hundred sheep and the slave are to be returned to you, and your son has to
receive one hundred lashes and be exiled for one year. O Unais! Go to the
wife of this man, and if she confesses, then stone her to death." Unais
went to her and she confessed. He then stoned her to death." 23
Also, Al-Qurtubi said: "In this verse (24:2), Allah (T) has
specified the two genders, male and female although, it would have been
sufficient to use the generic word 'the fornicator.' But, it has been said
that both men and women are specified in this verse in order to
emphasise the fact that they should receive the same punishment with
no difference between the male and females."24
Hence it is clear from the above verse that the unmarried
adulterer and fornicators should receive 100 lashes each, in a public place
and before the crowd. Also, in this verse, Allah (T) warns the Muslims not
to compromise His Law and to carry out His sentence as described in the
verse and to have no mercy upon those who transgress His set limits.
Indeed, those who refrain from doing so are not true believers.
The verse specifies the punishment of the unmarried fornicators only.
However, the narration that follows, clearly specifies the
punishment of a married adulterer or adulteress. If she or he
confesses, he or she is stoned to death [rajm].On this, have agreed all
scholars and people of knowledge.25
In order to avoid any compromise, delay or slackness in carrying out
this sentence, especially since it is only stipulated in the tradition (Sunnah)
and not in the Qur'an, Umar (R) said: "I am afraid that after a long
time has passed, people may say, "We do not find the verses of stoning in
the Holy Book", and consequently they may go astray by leaving an
obligation that Allah has revealed. No! I confirm that the penalty of rajm be
inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse if he is already
married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession."
'Umar added, "Surely Allah's
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Messenger (s) carried out the penalty of Rajm, and so did we after him."26
Hence, equity and justice between men and women manifest
themselves in all the penalties related to fornication in the verse that
follows. Allah (T) says:
"The fornicator (or adulterer) may marry only a fornicatress or
an idolatress; and the fornicatress (or adulteress) may marry only a
fornicator or an idolater. The believers are forbidden such
marriages." [24:3]
2. Defamation [wrongly accusing a righteous woman of
adultery or fornication]
After establishing the punishment for fornication and explaining the
dangers, ill-consequences and atrocities of such crimes, Allah (T)
establishes the punishment for defamation in the following verses. Allah
(T) says:
"Those that defame honourable women and cannot produce four
witnesses shall be given eighty lashes. And do not accept their
testimony ever after, for they are great transgressors - except those
among them that afterwards repent and mend their ways. Allah is
Forgiving, Merciful."
Explaining the above verse, Al-Imam Ibn Katheer says: "This verse
establishes the penalty which should be carried out on whoever accuses
a free, adult and virtuous woman of illegal sexual intercourse. The same
penalty (80 lashes) applies to those who accuse a righteous man of adultery,
on this have agreed all the scholars and people of knowledge."27
The legal verdict in this case is a physical punishment of 80 lashes,
and a greater mental punishment that those who defame innocent men
or women will have their testimony forever rejected and will no longer be
regarded as "trustworthy." This is indeed an efficient deterrent that
protects people's honour.
Although "Those" at the beginning of the verse is in the masculine
form in Arabic and is followed by "honourable women", this does not
mean that one sex takes preference over the other. Rather, the syntax
reflects an overwhelming tendency which is that very often, it is a
man who accuses a woman of adultery.
Imam Al-Qurtubi said: "Allah (T) has specified "honourable
women" because in their case, such a defamation is uglier with grave and
serious repercussions.However, defamation against men is also included
in the meaning of the verse and all scholars agree upon this fact. Az-
Zuhri said that the meaning actually refers to the "Honourable
souls", which includes both honourable men and women." 28 Indeed,
this legislation reflects the equity and justice of Islamic Law, and the
extent to which it dignifies the daughters of Eve. Islam has granted her
moral security and protection, and has prevented anyone from
abusing it.29
3. Li'aan or Mulaa'anah (Oath of Accusation of Adultery)"30
Although this concerns women only, the legislation reflects the
dignified and respected position of women in Islam. When a man
accuses his wife of committing adultery, the procedure adopted is
different from that concerning defamation in general. This ruling is to
be taken from the following verses in which Allah (T) says:
"And those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses except
themselves, let one of them testify by swearing four times by Allah
that his charge is true, calling down in the fifth time upon himself
the curse of Allah if he is lying. But they shall spare her the
punishment if she swears four times by Allah that his charge is
false and calls down Allah's wrath upon herself if it be true."
"Were it not for Allah's grace and mercy on you and that
He is Forgiving and Wise, [He would immediately uncover your
sins and hasten your punishment]. "[24:6-10]
In his explanation, Ibn Katheer says: "These noble verses come as a
relief for the husband who charges his wife of illegal sexual
intercourse and who is unable to produce a testimonial proof other
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than his own. In this case both husband and wife have to take the oath as
described in the verse. The husband has to take his wife to the Imam
and charge her with adultery in front of him. The judge will ask the
husband to testify by swearing four times by Allah that his charge
against his wife is true. Al-Shaafi'ee and many other scholars believe
that this is enough evidence against the wife. Hence, she becomes
forbidden to her husband and the penalty of adultery should then be
carried out unless she swears four times by Allah that her husband's
charge is false, and a fifth time calling down Allah's wrath upon herself
if his charge was true.
The legislation discussed in the previous paragraph only concerns
the women charged of adultery by their husbands. An average man
would not deliberately accuse his own wife of adultery in public
unless it was true. Therefore, the wife has the right to the fifth oath so
that she can be spared the penalty if she is innocent or call upon
herself the wrath of Allah (T) if her husband's accusation is true.
Indeed, Allah's wrath is reserved for those who know the truth and
deny it.
Finally, Allah (T) reminds His people of His Mercy and the equity
of His law which guides His slaves out of their difficulties and
hardships." 31
Indeed, to ask the husband to bring four witnesses in order to
prove that his wife is a adultress is difficult and sometimes impossible.
Al-Qurtubi related the incident about which the above verses were
revealed. Ibn 'Abbaas narrated that "Hilaal bin Umayyah accused his
wife of committing illegal sexual intercourse with Shaarik bin
Sahmaa' and filed the case before the Prophet (s). The Prophet (s)
said to him, "Either bring forth the witnesses or receive the legal
punishment (lashes) on your back." Hilaal then said, "By Him Who
sent you with the Truth, I am telling the truth and Allah will reveal to
you what will save my back from the legal punishment." Then
Gabriel came down and revealed to him: "And those rvho accuse their wives
and have no witnesses except themselves, .... "(24:6-10) "32
When the verses of defamation were first revealed the people were
wondering amongst themselves and asking various questions: "Sahl
bin Sa'd narrated that a man came to Allah's messenger (s) and said,
"O Allah's Messenger! Suppose a man saw another man wi th his
wife, should he kill him, because of which you might execute him
(as punishment) or what should he do? So Allah revealed
concerning their case what is mentioned in the order of
mulaa'ana. Allah's Messenger (s) said to the man, "The matter
between you and your wife has been decided". "So they did mulaa
'ana in the presence of Allah's Messenger (s) and I was present
Allah has thus delivered the truthful husband from the burden
of presenting four witnesses and allowed him to prove his case
through mulaa'ana. However, this legislation does not undermine the
case of women. It is very probable that distrust and excessive
jealousy can lead a husband to wrongly accuse his wife of
committing adultery. Therefore, Allah (T) has given her the means
to protect her dignity and the honour of her family by rejecting
her husband's oaths. Indeed, the equity of Islam and the mercy
of Allah (T) upon His slaves is reflected in this legislation. Allah
(T) has given both men and women the chance to conceal their lies in
this world and the chance to escape punishment in the Hereafter if
they truly repent.
Moreover, if the legislation concerning defamation has given
women protection, the procedure of Li'aan has given them an even
mightier one. Indeed no other religion, man-made set of laws,
customs, or social traditions have ever honoured women in this way.
On the contrary, men have always had the right to execute revenge
and even to kill their wives on the mere suspicion of adultery,
without giving them the chance to speak or to refute the charge.
Islam provides secur ity, digni ty and respect for women
through i t 's legislation.
4. Stealing: The legal punishment concerning theft is the same for
men and women. Allah (T) says:
"As for the man or woman who is guilty of theft, cut off their
hands to punish them for their crimes, a deterrant [punishment]
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enjoined by Allah. He is Mighty, Wise. But whoever repents and
mends his ways after committing evil shall be pardoned by Allah.
Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." [5:38-9]
Allah (T) has ordered that the hand of the thief who steals the
property of others should be cut as a punishment for his crime.The
execution of this penalty has been established by the following
tradition: 'Aisha (R) narrated: "The Quraish people became very
worried about the Makhzoomiya lady who had committed theft. They
said, 'Nobody will speak to Allah's Messenger(s) and nobody dares do
that except Usama who is a favourite of Allah's Messenger'(s). When
Usama spoke to Allah's Messenger (s) about that matter -, Allah's
Messenger (s) said, 'Do you intercede to violate one of the legal
punishments of Allah?' Then he got up and addressed the people,
saying, 'O people! The nations before you went astray because if a
noble person committed theft, they would to leave him, but if a weak
person among them committed theft, they would inflict the legal
punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatimah, the daughter of
Muhammad committed theft, Muhammad would cut off her hand!"34
The above narration clearly indicates that there is no difference
between the noble and the poor, the man and the woman in applying
this legal punishment. This Makhzooraiya lady was one of the most
noble of Quraish, as were Banu Abdu Manaaf. However, when the
former was found guilty of theft, the Prophet (s) applied Allah's legal
punishment. 'The first man who had his hand cut off by the: Prophet
(T) was very respected among his tribe, Ibn Nawfal bin Abdumanaf,
and the first lady was Marrah bint Sufyaan bin Abdul'aSad who
belonged to Bani Makhzoom.'35
If after this the thief, man or woman, sincerely repents, Allah
(T)will accept his or her repentance and he or she will again be
regarded as a believer. 'Aisha (R) narrated: The Prophet (s) cut off the
hand of a lady, and that lady used to come to me, and I used to convey
her message to the Prophet (s), and she repented, and her repentance
was sincere.' Abu Abdullah said, 'If a thief repents sincerely after his
hand has been cut off, his testimony will be accepted.'36
5. Al-Hiraabah [Armed robbery]:
"Even though this is referred to as "grand theft", al-haraabah does not
resemble an ordinary theft which consists of taking other's money
secretly and privately. Al-haraabah is the act of going out in a group
with the intention of waging war (ie, threatening and terrorizing)
people to steal their property."37 Allah (T) says:
"Those that wage war against Allah and His Apostle, and spread
disorders in the land shall be put to death or crucified or have their
hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the
land. They shall be held in shame in this world and sternly
punished in the next, except those that repent before you overcome
them. And know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" [5:33,34]
These verses establish the punishment of the outlaws who spread
mischief throughout the land, who gather themselves into clans,
spread fear and anguish amongst the Muslims, transgress the sanctity of
their persons and steal their property. The legal punishment for this
crime was confirmed and executed by the Prophet (s). 38
5. Alcohol:
Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol. Allah (T) says:
"Believers, wine and games of chance, idols and divining arrows are
abominations devised by the devil. Avoid them, so that you may
prosper. The devil seeks to stir up enmity and hatred among you by
means of wine and gambling, and to keep you from the
remembrance of Allah and from your prayers. Will you not
abstain from them?" [5:90,91]
The prohibition of alcohol came progressively because the Arabs were
very fond of wine and addicted to it. Alcohol is prohibited to both
men and women. Any transgression of this divine law will entail a
legal punishment. The Messenger (s) and his righteous Caliphs
punished the people who drank wine: Anas bin Maalik narrated: The
Prophet (s) had a drunk beaten with palm-leaf stalks and shoes. And
Abu Bakr gave forty lashes."39 We also learn from the following
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narration that the legal penalty consists of forty lashes: Ibn Nu'maan
narrated that, "When al-Waleed bin 'Aqbah was brought drunk
before the (Caliph) 'Uthmaan, the latter said to Ali: 'He is your
paternal cousin so apply on him the punishment', so Ali did and said:
'The Prophet (S) gave forty lashes, Abu Bakr forty, 'Umar eighty
(when drunks became mischievous and disobedient) and both are
The scholars have disagreed upon the legal number of lashes. Abu
Haneefa and Maalik say eighty lashes and Al-Shaafi'ee says forty.
Imam Ahmad has related two incidents in which the number of lashes
was forty in one and eighty in the other."41
The penalty for drinking is applicable to every person eligible for
religious obligations, hence it applies to every adult and sane man or
woman.All legal punishments are executed to observe Allah's limits
and His right. They are equally applicable without differentiation
between men and women. This is also true of the penalty for sorcery
and riddah (apostasy).
B. Qisaas {Legal Retribution}:
Allah (T) has forbidden the deliberate killing of a human being, and
reserved for those who do so an abode in Hell fire. As for those who kill
unintentionally, Allah (T) says:
"It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer except by
mistake. He that kills a believer by mistake must free one believing
slave and pay blood money to the family of the victim, unless they
choose to give it up as charity. If the victim be a believer from a
hostile tribe, the penalty is the freeing of one believing slave. But if
the victim be a member of an allied tribe, then blood money must
be paid to his family and a believing slave set free. If a man
cannot afford to do this, he must fast two consecutive months.
Such is the penance imposed by Allah: He is Knowing, Wise. He
that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell for ever. He shall
incur the wrath of Allah, who will lay His curse on him and
prepare for him a woeful scourge." [4:92,93]
The Prophet (s) said: "The biggest of the great sins are: (i) to join
others as partners in worship with Allah, (2) to murder a human
being, (3) to be unkind to one's parents (4) and to make a false
statement."4 2
It is unlawful to kill a Muslim except under three conditions. The
Prophet (S) said: "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has
the right to be worshiped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be
shed except in three cases: In retaliation for murder, a married person
who commits adultery and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and
leaves the Muslims."43 The sanctity of a believing soul is precious indeed and
it is utterly forbidden for a believer to deliberately kill his brother in
Islam.The one who does so shall submit to the law of Qisaas stipulated by
Allah. He (T) says:
"O believers, Qisaas is decreed for you in bloodshed: a free man for
a free man, a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. He who is
pardoned by his aggrieved brother shall be prosecuted according to
usage and shall pay him a liberal fine. This is an alleviation from
your Lord and Mercy. He that transgresses thereafter shall have a
painful punishment." [2:178]
Ibn 'Abbaas (R) reported that: The Law of Qisaas was prescribed for
the Children of Israel, but the Diyya (blood money) was not ordained
for them. So Allah said to this Nation (Muslims):
"O believers, Qisaas (legal retribution) is decreed for you in
bloodshed: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the
female for the female. He who is pardoned by his aggrieved
brother (not wanting to kill the killer by accepting blood money in the
case of intentional murder) shall be prosecuted according to usage
and shall pay him (to the relative of the killed person) a liberal fine.
This is an alleviation from your Lord and Mercy [in comparison to
what was prescribed for the nations before you]. He that transgresses
[i.e. kills the killer after taking the blood money) thereafter shall
have a painful punishment." 44
The following verse further clarifies the legislation, Allah (T) says:45
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"We decreed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a
nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds Qisaas.
But if a man charitably forbears from retaliation, his remission shall
atone for him. Those that do not judge in accordance with Allah's
revelations,it is they who are the unjust." (5:45)
Consequently, the majority of the scholars have agreed that there is no
difference between men and women in retaliation, and Ibn Qudaamah
said: "The man is killed for killing the woman and the woman is killed
for killing the man." This is the opinion of most of the religious
scholars, including Al -Nakh'i, Al-Sha'bi, Al-Zuhri, 'Umar bin
Abdul'azeez, Maalik, People of Madinah, Al-Shaafi'ee, Ishaaq, and
It has been authenticated that the Prophet (s) executed a Jewish
man who had beaten an Ansari girl to death. Also, Abu Bakr bin
Muhammad narrated that the Prophet (s) sent a letter to the people of
Yemen which contained religious obligations and rulings and he (s)
specified that "a man is killed for killing a woman." The people
accepted this fact since both men and women are human beings and
each receives the penalty for defamation when one of them accuses
the other of illegal sexual intercourse. Hence, killing one sex for the
other is like killing one person from one sex for another person from
the same sex, and in either case, nothing should be added to the
Qisaas ordained by Allah, and is a religious obligation.46
Men and women are thus equal in terms of qisaas, so a man's
blood can be shed for shedding a woman's blood and vice versa.47
Diyya {Blood money}:
All scholars have agreed that the diyya of the free Muslim was
originally a hundred camels. The Prophet (s) wrote to the Yemenites
saying: "There is a Diyya of a hundred camels for the soul and the
man is killed for killing the woman. As for the people who possess
gold, the Diyya is one thousand Dinaars."48 Ibn 'Abbaas narrated that: "In
the time of the Prophet (s), a man killed another man, so the Prophet
set his Diyya at twelve thousand."49
The first narration thus states the diyya of the believing soul
without specifying male or female. Nevertheless, scholars have
suggested that the Diyya of the free believing woman is half of that of a
free believing man.50 This opinion, however, is unusual and
contradicts the tradition of the Prophet (s), and consensus of the
The Diyya must be the same for everybody because human
nature is one and men and women are equal before Allah (T). Hence,
they have the right to life equally. Since the human soul is one, there
should be no difference between one sex or the other as far as Diyya or
compensation are concerned.51 Indeed, the generalization in the
following verse is very clear. Allah (T) says: "He that kills a believer
by mistake must free one believing slave and pay blood money to the
family of the victim."52
However, if the quotation from the book of Amr bin Hazm is true
that the diyya of the woman is half that of the man53 this may be based
on the principle of "benefits according to responsibilities."
There is no doubt that the punishment of a deliberate murder is by
Qisaas whether the victim was a man or a woman according to the
principle "a soul for a soul" since men and women are equal in terms of
their humanity. However, in the case of an unintentional killing and
similar cases, the punishment will consist of a small compensation or
imprisonment. Men are usually bread-winners and maintainers of their
families, so the financial sufferings are greater if the man is killed.
However, if the victim was the mother, the suffering will be more abstract
and emotional and no price can compensate for it. It is important to bear
in mind that blood money is not the price of a dead soul, as there can be
no such price. Instead, it is a small material compensation for the financial
sufferings of the deceased's family. Again, this judgement is based upon
the Islamic principal of "division of duties and responsibilities" which
does not require a woman to be the breadwinner.
Nevertheless, in a society where the woman is not exempted from
such responsibilities as providing sustenance for herself and her
family or if the victim was a woman who was the sole breadwinner in
the family, then her blood money should be equal to that of a man."54
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Hence, even according to the second opinion, Islam does not
underestimate women or discriminate against them with men. Rather, it
honours them and once again establishes their equality with men.
Allah (T) says:
"...call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men
cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge
fit to act as witnesses; so that if one of them errs, the other
can remind her..."[2: 282]
In economic affairs related to wealth and property, the testimony of
two women is equivalent to that of one man. In order to therefore
pronounce a judgement or prove a case, the testimony of two men or the
testimony of one man and two women is needed. This fact is not related
to women's humanity, nor does it affect their dignity and equality
with men." 55
Indeed, it does not affect women's status but takes into
consideration her primary role as mother and wife which require her
presence in the home when most businesses are being conducted
outside the home. However, in affairs concerning women exclusively
such as pregnancy, birth, sexual defect and puberty, the evidence of
one woman is enough. The evidence given by scholars is the clear text of
the verse which refers to economic affairs only and also criminal cases
where hudood punishments are involved.
This is indeed a burdensome responsibility which has been
lightened for women. "The precaution regarding a woman's
testimony in cases where it is unusual for her to be a witness is solely to
avoid doubt and suspicion related to her evidence. Islamic
jurisprudence accepts women's testimony in the affairs concerning
them or which involve women more than men. Hence, this decision is not
based on differences in dignity, eligibility or capability between men
and women. It is merely a way to establish the truth and to repel any
suspicion in the making of judgements.This is natural for any judicial
system that cares to establish justice."56
1 Ibn I iajar al-Asqalaani, Falli al-Baari hi
Sharh-Saheeh a I Imam Abi Abdullah
Muhammad Ibn Ismaa 'eel al-Bukhaari,
compiled and edited by: Abdulaziz bin
liaaz, vol.8, Madina AI-.Munawwara:
al-Matba'ah al-Salafiyah (no date),
2 Muhammad Shaltoot, Tafseeral-Quraan
al-Kurecm, (The Explanation of the
Holy Quran), 5th edition, Daar al-
Shurooq, 1973, p. 113.
3 Abi Isa Muhammad bin Isa bin Sawrah,
Sunan al Tirmidhi al-Jaami' al-Saheeh,
Vol.5, 'Tafseer al Qur'aan', Cairo,
Mustafah al-Baabi al-Halabi & Sons.
4 Sayyed Qutb, Ft Dhilaal al-Qur 'aan,Vol.
5, legitimate editions No.7 and No.1,
Beirut, Daar al-Shurooq, 1398 AH/1978,
L394AH/L976, p.2863
5 Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin al-
Ansaari al-Qurtubi, Al-Jaam'' li-
Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, Vol.5, Beirut,
Daar Ihyaa' al-Turaath al-Arabi, Cairo,
Daar al-Sha'b, Kitab al-Sha'b 92, al-
Qasr al-Ayni, no date, p. 5268
6 Al-lmam Yahya bin Sharaf'al-Nawawi,
Saheeh Muslim - Sharh al-Navawi,
compiled by: Abdullah Ahmad Abu
Zeina Vol.1, 'Kitaab al-Imam', Cairo,
Maktbaat al Sha'b (no date), 2nd
edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa al-Turaath
al-Arabi, 1392 AH/1972, p.227.
7 Muhammad Iz/at Daroozah, Al-Mar'ah
ft al-Quraan wa al-Sunnah, (Woman in
the Quran and Sunnah), Beirut, Sidon,
al-.Maktabat Asrcyah Publications,
1387 AH/1967, p.32.
8 Abittaycb Muhammad Shanisudden
Abaadi and Sharh AI-I laafez Ibn Al-
Qayyem al-Jawziya, Awn al-Ma 'bood,
Sharh Sunan Abi Dawood, Vol.2, 2nd
edition, AI-Madeena AI-Munawwara:
al-Maktaba al Salatlyah, p.274.
9 Compensation tor a missed or wrongly
practised religious duty, usually in the
form of money or foodstuff or offering
10 Muhammad Ali al-Saabooni, Rawaa
'yal-Bayaanfee Tafseer Ayaat AIAhkam,
(The Marvels of Elucidation in
the Explanation of the Verses on
Ordinances), Vol.1, Daar Al-Qur'aan
al-Kareem, 1931 AH/1972, p.209.
11 A Male, whom a woman can never
marry because of close relationshilp
(e.g. a brother, a father, an uncle... etc.
or her own husband).
12 Al-Nawawi, op. cit. Vol.3, 'Pilgrimage',
p. 484
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid. Vol.1 'Kitab al-Imam' p.176
15 Ibid, and Sayyed Sabiq, Fiqh Al-
Sunnah, Vol.1, (sec p.98, #9), p.634.
16 Sayyed Qutb, op. cit. Vol. 2, p.762
17 Al-Qurtubi, op. cit. vol.5, p.3790
18 Al-Waahidee, Ashaab al-Nuzool, Beirut,
Daar al - Kitaab al Ilmiyya (no date),
19 Al- 'Imam Imaaduddeen Abu-Fidaa Ibn
Kathcer, 'Tafseer al-Qur'aan al-
Adheem', Vol.1, MakkahAIMukarramah,
Beirut, Daar al-Baz
Abbas Ahmad al-Baz, Daar al Mar'rif,
1388 AH/1969, p.441.
20 Al-Qurtubi, op. cit. vol.2, p.1561
21 Abdulkareem al-Khatceb, AI-Tafseer
al-Qur'aani Ii al-Qur'aan, (The Quranic
Explanation of the Quran), vol. 2,
Dar al-lfikr al Arabi, 1970, p.674.
22 (Plural of I ladd) Allah's boundary
limits specified punishments Al-qisas=
Law of equality in punishment for
wounds etc. in retaliation.
23 Al Imam Aki Abdullah Muhammad bin
Religious Rights
Ismaa'eel Al-Bukhaari, Saheeh al-
Butnaari, vol.8, offset print, Istanbul,
Daar al Fikr, from Daar al-Tibaa'ah al
Amira (no date), p. 24.
24 AI-Qurtubi, op. cit. vol.5, P.4552.
25 Sayyed Sabiq, op. cit. vol.2. p.408.
26 AI-Bukhari, op. cit., p.25.
27 Ibn Katheer, op. cit., Vol.3, P-264.
28 Al-Qurtubi, op. cit., Vol.5, P-4564.
29 Sayyed Sabiq, op. cit. vol.4, P 2490.
30 An oath which is taken by both the wife
and the husband when he accuses his
wife of committing illegal sexual
31 AI-Qurtubi, op. cit., Vol.5,Sura 24:6-10.
32 AI-Nawawi, op. cit., Vol.3, AI-Li'aan,
33 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit., Vol.8, p.16.
34 AI-Qurtubi, op. cit., Vol.3, P-2157
35 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit. Vol.8, p. 18.
36 Abdulqaader Audah, AI-Tashm'al
Jmaa'iAl-Islami, Vol.2, 5th dition,
1388AH, p.639.
37 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit. Vol.8, p.18.
38 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit. Vol.8, p.12.
39 Al Hafez Abi Abdullah Muhammad Al-
Qizwini, Sunan Ibn Maajah, texts
compiled by: Fu'aad Abdulbaaqi, Vol.2,
Daar Ihyaa al-Kutub al-Arabeeyah,
Abbas AI-Baaki & co. 1372 AH/1955,
40 Sayyed Sabiq, op. cit. Vol.2, p.395.
41 AI-Bukliaari, op. cit. Vol.8 p.36.
42 Ibid., p.38.
43 Ibn Hajar AI-Asqalaani, op. cit. Vol.8,
44 Al-Qurtubi, op. cit. Vol.1, p.623
45 Ibn Qudaamah, op. cit. Vol.9, P-377.
46 Ibid.
47 AI-Bukhaari, op. cit. Vol.8, p.37.
48 Al-Haafez Jalaaluldcen al-Suyooti,
Sunan al-Nasaa 'i, (Al-Sayooti
Explanation of Al-Nasaai Tradition of
the Prophet), footnotes by: Al-Imam al-
Sindi, edited by: Sheikh Hasan al-
Mas'oodi, Vol.8, 'AI-Qasaamah', al-
Matba'ah al-Maktabah al-Khaarijilyah,
49 Ibid.,p.44.
50 Ibn Qudaamah, op. cit., Vol.9, p-531-
51 Dr Muhammad Abdul Hameed Abu
zaid, 'Makanatu al- Mar'ah fee al-Islam',
p. 170.
52 Ibid.
53 see AI-Mughni, op. cit., p.531-532.
54 Dr Al-Shcikh Mustafa al-Sibaa'i,' Al-
Mar'ah bayn al-Fiqh wa al-Qaanoon',
(Woman Between Jurisprudence and
Law), 5th Edition, Beirut, Al-Maktab
al- Islaami, p.37.2:282.
55 Ibid.,p.31.
56 Ibid., p.32.
Political Rights
slam is the true religion ordained by Allah (T) for mankind. A
religion in which women represent one of the two halves of
humanity. Islam has acknowledged the important role of women in our
society and its impact on our political life. Therefore, women have been
given political rights which reflect their dignified, respected and noble
status in Islam. Some of these rights are the following:
Mutual consultation is a very important principle in Islam. It is the
methodology established by Islam for the creation of a successful
nation which invites its members to advise and consult one another.
Allah (T) says:
"And those who answer the call of their Lord, and who conduct
their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend of what We
have bestowed on them. " [42: 38]
Ibn Katheer wrote in his explanation: "who conduct their
affairs by mutual consultation", means that they do not issue
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any endorsements concerning matters such as wars or equally
important affairs unless they consult each other and advise
one another.1 Allah (T) says: "...and ask forgiveness for them and
consult them in the affairs..." [3:159]
Since Muslims are told to conduct their Affairs by mutual
consultation, it is a duty upon all Muslim men and women to express their
opinion if they feel that by doing so they can offer valuable advice and
wise counsel for the benefit of the Muslim nation, as well as to comply with
the principle of enjoining good and forbidding evil. Allah (T) says:
"Let there arise out of you a nation that shall call for
righteousness, enjoin justice and forbid evil. It is those who are
successful” 2
Explaining the above verse, Ibn Katheer noted that "... there should be
amongst the Muslim nation a group which is in charge of calling for
righteousness, enjoining good and forbidding, evil, as it has been
authenticated that it is a duty upon every Muslim to enjoin good and forbid
evil. Abu Huraira (R) narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "He, who amongst
you sees something abominable, should change it with the help of his hand;
and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his
tongue; and if he has no strength enough to do it, then he should abhor it
from his heart and this is the least of faith."3
Surah At-Tawba, which was the last Surah to be revealed,
establishes that enjoining good and forbidding evil is a duty upon every
muslim man and woman.4 Allah (T) says:
"The true believers, both men and women, are friends to each other.
They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil; they attend to their
prayers and pay the alms-tax and obey Allah and His Apostle." [9:71]
Enjoining good and forbidding evil is to be manifested by speech, action
and written commands in order to forbid what is unlawful and establish
righteousness. The Prophet (s) has made sincere advice the basis of
religion if not the religion itself. It is narrated on the authority of Tamim
ad-Daari that the Apostle of Allah (s) observed: The religion is
Naseeha [sincerity and well-wishing]. Upon this we said: For whom?
He replied: "For Allah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders
and the general Muslims."5
Explaining this narration, Imam An-Nawawi said: "This
narration is very important indeed, it is the pivot of Islam.
"Commenting upon it, Imam Abu Sulaiman Khattabi has said:
Naseeha is a very comprehensive term and it stands for all those
virtues and deeds for which the counsel is given. The Naseeha for
Allah (T) implies that one should possess the sincere belief that there
is no deity worthy of worship except Allah (T) alone and that no
partner is to be associated with Him."
The naseeha in the case of Allah's book means that it should be
sincerely believed as a revelation from the Lord. Naseeha for the
Messenger signifies that his prophethood must be affirmed with
perfect sincerity of heart. Naseeha for the leaders and rulers implies
that they should be respected, obeyed, advised and given support in
all those affairs which they conduct according to I slamic
jurisprudence and reminded and brought to the straight path when
they deviate from it. Naseeha for Muslims is that they should be
advised in all matters concerning the good of this world and the
hereafter, their life, honour and dignity should be protected, and a
sincere endeavour made to ameliorate their understanding of the
Indeed, the truth is that to enjoin the good and to establish justice
are the main characteristics of the Muslim nation. 7 In fact, freedom to
express one's opinion is guaranteed in Islam as long as this opinion is
expressed for the general welfare of the nation and does not lead to a
greater evil being imposed on the Muslims in general, or to Fitnah
(discord) being developed amongst themselves. On this basis, Islam
has encouraged men and women to express their opinions and to
speak freely without fear or reluctance. Islam does not delegate this
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duty to a specific group or race. It is a duty upon every Muslim who
cares to apply the principles of mutual consultation, enjoining good
and forbidding evil.
Consequently, Muslim women have always had the right to
express their opinions and to offer their advice. The Prophet (s)
listened to their counsel and very often acted upon it. One famous
example is an incident that took place after the Prophet (s) had signed
the Hudaibiyah Treaty. When the peace treaty had been concluded, the
Prophet (s) ordered his companions to slaughter their sacrificial
animals, but they resented this treaty and were too depressed to obey
the Prophet's order. The Prophet (S) repeated the same instruction
three time, but to no avail. He (s) then went and told his wife Umm
Salama about the attitude of his companions and their disobedience to
him. She advised him that he himself should go out and without
addressing any of his people, slaughter his animal and have his head
shaved. Seeing that, the Muslims started to slaughter their animals
and shave their heads.8
The above mentioned incident is a perfect example of how a
woman's advice was given and acted upon for the good of the Muslim
nation. The right of freedom to express one's opinion applies to every
member of society regardless of age, social status and gender.
'Umar (R) the second Caliph, renowned for his passionate
character, had noticed that his people were asking for excessive
amounts of dower and he feared the consequences. He stood on the
pulpit and started his sermon by severely reprimanding the people
and ordering them not to exceed a certain amount of dower. He then
ordered the people who had done so to put the excess in the treasury of
the Muslims. On hearing this order, a woman amongst the crowd stood
up and shouted: "O 'Umar! have you not heard what Allah Almighty
has revealed regarding this matter? He (T) says: "If you msh to take a
wife in the place of a divorced one, do not take from her the dowry you have
given her even if it be a mountain of gold. That would be improper and
grossly unjust." [4:20] Being reminded of this verse, 'Umar withdrew
his order and said: "I am wrong and she is correct.'9
Surah Al-Mujadilah (The Disputation) unfolds the story of a
woman who disputed with the Prophet (s) and advocated her rights in
refusal of her husband's ill-treatment. Allah (T) heard her complaint
and revealed the following:
"Allah has heard the words of her who pleaded with you
concerning her husband and made her complaint to Allah. Allah
has heard the arguments of both of you.Verily, Allah is All-
Hearer, All-Seer." [58:1]
Consequently, on the basis of the Qur'an and the tradition of the
Prophet (s), freedom to express one's opinion is an established right to
be enjoyed by every Muslim woman as long as she abides by the rules
and regulations of her religion in exerting this right, as we have seen
from the above mentioned examples. Based on the Qur'an and the
tradition of the Prophet(s) (Sunnah), freedom to express one's opinion
is an established right of every Muslim woman.
For the believing women who emigrate from the country of disbelief
and embrace Islam, Islam has ensured protection and care, thus
adding another advantage to the list of women's rights. Allah (T) has
ordered the believers to help women who have left their homes
escaping persecution in the land of the disbelievers and who wish to join
the Islamic community by accepting Islam as their religion. Allah (T) has
ordered us to shield and protect such women, to help their integration
into society, to guard them from disbelieving parents and relatives, to
pay compensation to their husbands if necessary, and finally to provide
them with a dignified and tranquil existence. Allah (T) says:
"Believers, when believing women seek refuge with you, test them.
Allah knows best their faith. If you find them true believers do not
return them to the infidels; they are not lawful for the infidels,
nor are the infidels lawful for them. But hand back to the
unbelievers what they have spent Nor is it an offence for you to
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marry such women, provided you give them their dowries." [60:10]
We conclude the following:
1 It is an obligation to protect, safeguard and uphold the rights of
Muslim women.
2 It is a duty to guard the believing women from the infidels who
otherwise would seek revenge through them.
3 It is a duty to pay compensation to the emigrant women's
husbands if they ask for it.
4 The emigrant women have the right to re-marry and to ask for
Some writers have made an analogy between these rights and the
status of political refugees. However, the differences are great and
obvious. Firstly, the above rights are granted by Allah (T) to "all"
emigrant women who embrace Islam, regardless of their race, colour or
nationality. The status of political refugees is given to "some" people
who very often are politically or militarily involved. Secondly, a
believing woman would never be returned to her infidel relatives, but
a political refugee can be returned to the enemy whenever and however
the host country requires, depending on the fluctuation of the overall
political situation. Thirdly, the Muslims would pay compensation
to the husbands of emigrant women. This would not apply to any
political refugee in any country.
In fact there is no comparison between man-made international
laws and divine legislation ordained by the Lord of the Heavens and
the Earth for the welfare of mankind. My aim is to illustrate the
advantages that Muslim women are able to enjoy under the legislation of
Islamic Jurisprudence. These legislations have dignified, honoured and
give women immense protection, thus enabling them to lead tranquil
and respectable lives.
Moreover, after studying the evolution of International Law from the
dawn of civilization until the 2oth century, I have not encountered any
legal right which equals the right given to an emigrant Muslim woman.
Equity and justice are further manifested in Islam when we see that
the Prophet (s) would receive the oath of allegiance from both men
and women.They would pledge to worship Allah alone and to obey
his Messenger(s). Allah (T) says:
"O Prophet, if believing women come to you and pledge to
associate in worship nothing with Allah, to commit neither theft,
nor adultery, nor child-murder, to utter no monstrous falsehoods,
and to disobey you in nothing just, accept their allegiance and ask
Allah to forgive them.Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." [60:12]
The above verse was revealed after the treaty of Hudaibiyah, and
according to it, the Prophet (s) used to test the believing women who
migrated to him. 'Urwa narrated that 'Aisha (R) the wife of the
Prophet (s) said, "Allah's Messenger (s) used to examine the believing
women who migrated to him in accordance with this verse:'10
'Aisha (R) said, "And whoever of the believing women accepted
the conditions assigned in the verse, Allah's Messenger (s) would say to
her, "I have accepted your pledge of allegiance." He would only say that,
for, by Allah, his hand never touched any lady during that pledge of
allegiance. He did not receive their pledge except by saying, 'I have
accepted your pledge of allegiance for that.'
The day of the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet (s) received the
pledge of allegiance from men as well as women whom he (S) regarded as
independent and active members of the Islamic nation. They came to
the Prophet (s) and pledged themselves to accept Islam as their
religion, to worship Allah (T) alone and associate no partners with
Him, to respect Allah's set limits and to avoid that which is unlawful,
such as adultery, theft, killing and other crimes. They also pledged to
obey the Prophet (s), to oppose none of his orders, to be quick in
obeying him and to avoid what he had not allowed. This pledge of
allegiance, with the commitment and responsibility it involved, could not
but reflect the independent and important role played by women in
Islam. The pledge involved a number of conditions. They are as
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One: To associate in worship nothing with Allah.
This was the first condition. Indeed to associate partners with Allah is
the greatest sin that will never be forgiven. Allah (T) says:
"Allah will not forgive setting up partners with Him and He will
forgive whom He will all other sins." [4:116]
"He that worships other gods besides Allah shall be forbidden
paradise by Allah, and his abode shall be in the Fire." [5:72]
Two: Not to steal
The woman who steals shall have her hand cut off. Theft refers to
stealing in general.
Three: Not to commit fornication or adultery.
Indeed adultery is one of the ugliest and biggest sins and can lead to a severe
punishment. Allah has warned women and ordered them not to be tempted
into unlawful sexual intercourse.
Four: Not to murder their children.
In the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, people used to murder their female
children. Islam aimed to put an end to that pagan practice. Abortion is one
way of murdering a soul, especially if it is done for trivial, personal and
non-medical reasons. Therefore, abortion may only be carried out if the
mother's life or health is threatened by the pregnancy. Ibn Hajar said:
"Allah (T) has specified infanticide in particular because it involves two
crimes at the same time: murdering a human soul as well as cutting the
relation of one's womb."11
Five; .To utter no monstrous falsehood.
The literal phrase is: " ...nor produce any He that they have devised
between their hands and legs." This is an allusion to pregnancy and child
birth. The above words therefore mean that a woman should not falsely
attribute the paternity of her illegitimate children to her lawful husband, thus
intentionally uttering slander, forging falsehood and thereby adding to the
monstrosity of her original sin. Ibn Hajar said: "Allah (T) has specified the
hands and feet, because most of our deeds, good or bad are carried out by
Six: Not to disobey the Prophet (S) in anything just.
All the orders of the Prophet (s) should be obeyed and his guidance
followed. Indeed the Prophet (S) has only forbidden evil and enjoined
all that is good. Therefore, everything he has forbidden should be
When granting women the right to give their pledge of alliance,
Islam has also granted them the right to discuss and seek full
understanding of its binding conditions. Indeed, women have the
right to question and to express their opinions, especially in matters
related to their religion. In a famous incident, the Prophet (S) told
Hind : "...to associate in worship nothing with Allah."
She replied: "By Allah, I did not hear you imposing such a
condition on men."
The Prophet (s) said: "...to commit neither theft..."
Hind said: "Abu Sufyaan is closefisted, I take from his money to
feed myself and the children."
He (S) said: " Are you Hind bint 'Atubah?"
She said: "May Allah (T) forgive you Messenger of Allah, let
bygones be bygones."
He (S) said: "...nor adultery..."
She said: "Does a free noble woman commit adultery?"
He (s) said: "...nor infanticide..."
She said: "When young, we brought them up; when adult, you
killed them." ( referring to her son Handhalah bin Abi Sufyaan who
was killed during the battle of Badr).
On hearing this, 'Umar bin Al-Khattab (R) laughed and the
Prophet(s) smiled and said: "...to utter no monstrous falsehood..."
She said: "Falsehood is ugly indeed. Allah (T) has only allowed
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what is noble and wise." When the Prophet (s) finally said, "to
disobey, you (the Prophet(s)) in nothing just", she replied "By Allah, we
have not come to you in order to disobey you."13
The Prophet (S) has also forbidden women from bewailing the
dead. "Umm 'Atiya (R) narrated that we took the oath of allegiance to
Allah's Messenger (s) and he recited to us: "....to associate in worship
nothing with Allah...", and forbade us to bewail the dead.14
Concerning the words "...to disobey you in nothing just", Al-Imam At-
Tabari has said: "The Prophet (S) forbade women from bewailing the
dead because the pagan Arab women used to tear their garments open,
scratch their faces, pull their hair and invoke destruction and ruin
while lamenting over the dead."15
It is thus clear that the Prophet (s) accepted the pledge of
allegiance from women, and treated men and women equally while
doing so. 'Ubaadah bin As-Saamit narrated: "While we were with the
Prophet, he said, Will you swear to me the pledge of allegiance that
you will not worship anything besides Allah (T), will not commit
illegal sexual intercourse, and will not steal? Then he recited the
verse concerning the women.The Prophet (s) often added, 'Whoever
among you fulfils his pledge, will receive his reward from Allah(T),
and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal
punishment (Qisaas), his punishment will be an expiation for that sin;
and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah screens him, then it is
up to Allah to punish or forgive him'."
Indeed the important position that women occupy in Islam is
embodied in their pledge of allegiance and the stress put upon its
validity. Similarly, the specification in the Qur'an of other relevant
rights has not been neglected.
Jihad was made a duty upon the Muslims in the year 2 AH. Allah (T)
says in the Qur'an:
"Fighting is decreed for you, much as you dislike it. But you may
hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing
although it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you do not." [2:216]
Jihad comes next in importance after religious obligations. Ibn
Mas'ood narrated, 'I asked the Prophet (s) 'Which deed is loved
most by Allah (T)?' 'He (s) replied, 'To offer prayers at their earliest
stated times.' I said 'What is next?' The Prophet (s) said, "To be good
and dutiful to one's parents.' I asked 'What is next?' The Prophet (s)
said 'To participate in Jihad for Allah's cause."16 And the reward of
Jihad is great indeed.
There are seven conditions for Jihad: Islam as religion,
adulthood, good understanding, freedom, manhood, freedom from
disabilities and availability of the cost. 'Aisha (E), the mother of the
believers, narrated: "I asked the Prophet (s) if the women were to
participate in Jihad and He (s) replied, For you is a jihad without
fighting: Hajj and Umra (Pilgrimage and lesser Pilgrimage)"17
Jihad is a collective duty: When a group of Muslims are fulfilling the
duty of Jihad, it ceases to be an individual obligation upon every Muslim.
This is a judgement upon which all scholars have agreed."18
Ibn Qudaamah says: "Jihad is a duty upon the Muslims. If one group
is already fighting the enemy and protecting the land, this duty ceases to be
an individual duty. If not, Jihad remains an obligation upon every Muslim
since Allah (T) says:
"The believers who stay at home - apart from those that suffer from
a grave impediment - are not equal to those who fight for the cause of
Allah with their wealth and their persons. Allah has given those
that fight with their wealth and their persons a higher rank than those
who stay at home. He has promised all a good reward. "[4:95]
The Prophet (s) used to participate in Jihad with his companions as well as
by sending armies."19
Jihad is also an individual duty: When the enemy invades a
Muslim country, all the inhabitants of this country should go out and fight
the enemy. In this situation, it is unlawful for anyone to refrain from
fighting. Allah (T) says:
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"O you who believe! Fight the infidels who dwell around you."
Commenting upon this, Sheikh Mohammed Shaltoot said: "When the
infidels invade a Muslim land, every Muslim should go out in order to
fight and repel them. In this situation, the woman is allowed to go out
without her husband's permission, the child without his father's
permission, and the slave without his master's permission." Allah (T) says:
"Whether slightly or well-equipped, march on and fight for the
cause of Allah, with your wealth and your persons." [9:41]
In such situations, where human life and property are endangered,
Islam invites men and women to work together for the restoration of
peace and harmony.20
Sayyed Qutb wrote: "Allah (T) has not made jihad a duty upon
women. At the same time, He (T) has not forbidden them from
participating in jihad when the need arises. Women participated in
jihad and fought in several battles at the time of the Prophet (s).
However, such incidents are rare and exceptional since Allah (T) has
not prescribed jihad for women as He (T) did for men."
Jihad has not been made a duty upon women because it is they
who give birth to the soldiers who fight in Jihad. A woman is more
physically and psychologically prepared for that. She possesses a
natural disposition that helps her prepare her sons to fight their way
through life as well as in jihad. By doing so, she renders a better
The divine wisdom has decreed that women should devote
themselves to their important and vital duties for the survival of the
nation. They are first of all mothers and guardians of their houses.
These are permanent duties which do not cease when their husbands go
out for jihad. Their children will always need the protection and care of
their mothers, and the homes will always need their guardians. This
important fact was pointed out by an Ansari woman, Asma bint Yazeed
when she said to the Prophet (S): "As you go out to fight in Jihad, we,
the women, will spin your clothes, bring up your children and guard
your wealth."
Allah (T) has created men with a predisposition to fight and carryweapons,
and created women with a predisposition that enables them to
carry out different but equally important duties. However,
although jihad is not prescribed for women, they can still volunteer in
the fields of their specialization.
Women can also participate in fighting when jihad becomes an
individual duty. The female companions did so whenever they were in
danger or witnessed the heat of the battle. Some of them fought with
swords in the battle of Uhud when the Muslims were surprised by
their enemy and the Prophet (s) was surrounded by only a small
number of soldiers. When the female companions saw that the life of
the Prophet (s) was in danger, and that Islam and all the Muslims
Were threatened, they rushed forward to protect the Prophet (s).
Umm 'Umaarah Nusaibah bint Ka'b pulled out her sword to protect the
Prophet (s), stood against the infidels and fought vigorously. Ibn
Hisham said: "Umm 'Umaarah Nusaibah bint Ka'b fought in the
battle of Uhud."22
Cont inuous tradi t ions have reached us relat ing women's
participation in jihad throughout Islamic history. They took it upon
themselves to transport the injured, nurse the sick, distribute water to
the soldiers, and other different services. Such services were vital and
very necessary. Had Muslim women not provided them, the armies
Would have been obliged to designate some of their much needed
Soldiers to fulfil them. Fortunately, Muslim women have always been
there to render these services when required.
The Mothers of the believers (the wives of the Prophet (s))
accompanied him in his military expeditions with other female
Companions. Anas (R) narrated, "On the day of Uhud, I saw 'Aisha
bint Abi Bakr and Umm Sulaim, hurrying with their water skins.
Then they would pour the water in the mouths of the people, and
return to fill the water skins again and came back again to pour water in
the mouths of the people."23 Commenting on this narration, Imam An-
Nawawi says: "The women would accompany their husbands in the
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military expeditions and distribute water and treat the injured during
the battles".24
The following narration also confirms that women participated in
jihad. Imam An-Nawawi said: "During the military expeditions,
Several tasks were delegated to women, such as distributing water,
nursing the injured...etc. Every woman would nurse her husband or
her mahram. When treating the wounds of other people, they would
limit physical contact to the strict minimum and to the absolutely
necessary."25 They were all true believers, who possessed sound
knowledge of their religion and respected the limits set by Allah (T)".
Ar-Rabee' bint Mu'az narrated: We used to take part in holy battles
with the Prophet (s) by providing the people with water and other
services, as well as bringing the killed and the wounded back to
These narrations depict the nature of tasks which were assigned to
women in the battlefields. 'Umm 'Atiyyah (R), an Ansari woman said:
"I took part with the Messenger of Allah (s) in seven battles. I would
stay behind in the camp of men, cook their food, treat the wounded
and nurse the sick."27 From the above mentioned narrations it is clear
that although jihad is not prescribed for women, when necessary they
are allowed to assist in certain areas of specialisation."
Najda bin 'Aamir wrote to Ibn 'Abbaas inquiring of him about
five things. Ibn 'Abbaas said: If I had not the fear of committing sin by
concealing knowledge I would not have written to him. Najda wrote
to him saying (after praising the Almighty and invoking blessings
on the Holy Prophet): Tell me whether the Messenger of Allah (S)
took women to participate with him in Jihad; (if he did), whether he
allotted for them a regular share in the booty; whether he killed the
children of the enemy; and how long would an orphan be entitled to
consideration as such, and for whom the Khums (fifth part of the booty)
had been allocated. Ibn Abbaas wrote to him: You have written asking me
whether the Messenger of Allah (s) took women with him to
participate in Jihad. He did take them to the battle and sometimes they
fought with him. They would treat the wounded and were given a
reward from the booty, but he did not assign a regular share for them.
And the Messenger of Allah (s) did not kill the children of the
enemy. Also you have written to me asking me when the orphanhood
of an orphan comes to an end. By my life, if a man has become
bearded but is still incapable of getting his due from others as well as
meeting his obligation towards them, he is yet an orphan to be treated
as such, but when he can look after his interests like adults, he is no
longer an orphan. And you have written to me inquiring about Khums.
(In this connection) we (the kinsmen of the Messenger of Allah (s))
used to say: It is for us, but those people (i.e. Banu Umayya) have denied
it to us."28
Commenting on this narration, Al-Imam An-Nawawi says: "Ibn
Abbaas was reluctant to correspond with Najda, as he was a Khariji -(an
extremist sect who held distorted views). However, he feared that by
not giving him the knowledge he asked for, he would be
committing a sin and so resigned himself to answering his
In Islam, women as well as men have the right to offer shelter and
security to anyone, even an idolater or a war enemy. Allah (T) says:
"If an idolater seeks asylum with you, give him protection so
that he may hear the Word of Allah, and then convey him to
safety. For they are ignorant people." |9:6]
Az-Zamkhashri said: "This verse indicates that if an idolater comes to
you after the sacred months have elapsed and asks for protection in
order to learn about Islam, he should be granted this protection and
his safety guaranteed until he hears the Words of Allah. If after that
he does not accept Islam, he should be escorted to his land and his
people amongst whom his life and his property are safe." 30 Az-
Zamkhashri has thus explained how shelter and peace should be
offered and what the person offering the protection should do.
Ibn Katheer said: "This right is to be granted to those who travel
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from the land of the enemy to the land of Islam in order to convey a
message, attempt a peace treaty, reconciliation, or simply carrying the
Jizyah tax or concluding a business...etc. The stranger should ask the
Imam or his delegate to offer him shelter and peace during his stay
among the Muslims until he returns back to his land and people."31
Elaborating further, Sheikh Mohammed Shaltoot says: "The right
of asylum has been extended to oblige every Muslim to protect the life
and property of the person granted asylum during his stay among
them. This should be observed and respected by all the Muslims even if
the asylum is granted by one of the lowest social status."32.
"Asylum can be granted by a man or a woman, a free-born
Muslim or a slave. It is immediately and automatically valid but it
should be made official by the approval of the ruler or the commander of
the army."33
Nevertheless, some conditions must be met before asylum is
granted; the refugee should not be a threat to Muslims. If the refugee
is suspected of being a spy or an enemy, or if his presence
undermines the position of the Muslims, the Imam can invalidate his
right to asylum and protection."34
Protection is granted when the person who grants the protection
promises to do so, and assent is given by the person who asks for
protection, or vice versa. Both forms of agreement took place in the
days of the Prophet (s). When granting protection to the people of
Quraish on the day of the conquest of Makkah, he (S) declared:
"Those who enter the house of Abi Sufyaan, those who keep their
doors shut, and those who enter the Mosque will be safe."35 This
statement was an obligation from the Prophet (S) and whoever
assented and complied by his conditions was safe. In another incident,
Sufyaan bin Umayya asked the Prophet(S) for his protection, and the
Prophet assented to it."36
Islam has given women the right to grant asylum and protection to
the enemy. Umm Haani, the daughter of Abu Taalib narrated in an
authenticated tradition, " I went to Allah's Messenger (s) on the day of
the conquest of Makkah.... I said, 'O Allah's Messenger! My brother
'Ali has declared that he will kill a man to whom I have granted
asylum. The man is so and-so bin Hubaira.' Al lah's Messenger (s)
said, "O Umm Haani! We will grant asylum to the one whom you have
granted asylum."37
And so the Prophet (s) has bound every Muslim to respect the
pledge given by a Muslim woman, to consent to her wishes and not to
harm the person to whom she has offered shelter and protection, even if
this person is condemned to death.
In another narration, two men from Banu Makhzoom sought
shelter in Umm Haani's house. She locked them in, hurried to the
Prophet (s) and told him what had happened. On hearing her story, he
(s) gave her his approval. At-Tirmidhi related: "Umm Haani said: I
granted asylum to men of my relatives and the Prophet (s) said, "We will
grant asylum to whom you have granted asylum."38 Owing to the wealth
of evidence from the tradition of the Prophet (s), women's right to
give sanctuary has been established in Islam. In man-made laws and
throughout the centuries, even men have never enjoyed such a right, let
alone women. By granting her such a privilege, Islam acknowledges
the equality of men and women and gives each woman the opportunity
to be an active and valuable member of society.
To be in a position of authority in Islam means to assume religious as
well as civil responsibilities.39 This applies to the Caliph of the state, the
Emir of the province, the Commander of the Army...etc. On the basis of
the principle of "division of duties and responsibilities," such positions
of authority can only be assumed by men. Allah Almighty has created
men and women with different physical and psychological
predispositions to prepare them for their different, yet equally
important roles in society. If a woman were to assume a position of
authority, she would be required to travel constantly in order to fulfil her
duties. Her job would also involve long hours of free mixing and social
interaction with the opposite sex, which is forbidden in Islam.
Moreover, women's biological constitution is different from that of
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men. Women are fragile, emotional and sometimes unable to handle
difficult and strenuous situations. Men are less emotional and show
more perseverance.
Indeed Islam would have never denied this right to women were it
not for the general benefit of the nation. The divine wisdom has
decreed that a woman's natural and primary career is her home with
her children, and that men should provide for their families. Both
responsibilities require full attention and complete devotion. Hence, for
a woman to be in a position of authority would mean neglect and
inattention to her family. The Prophet (s) was very clear on this
subject when he (s) said: "The people who appoint women as rulers will
never be successful."40
Nevertheless, women can occupy less strenuous executive
positions which do not conflict with their natural and primary roles as
mothers and wives. 'Umar (R), the second Righteous Caliph
appointed Ash-Shaffaa' bint Abdullah Al -'Adawiyya to the
management of the Sooq. (market)41"Umar (R) would listen to her
advice. He took care of her and sometimes would delegate to her
some affairs of the Sooq. This has been narrated by her two
grandsons, Abu Bakr and 'Uthmaan, the sons of Ibn Abi Huthmah."42
'Umar may have delegated such responsibilities to her because
she mastered writing, possessed vast knowledge and was a virtuous
Hence Islam has dignified and honoured women by providing
and defining for them the rights and responsibilities in all aspects of
the political sphere of their nation.
1 Al-lmaam al-Hafez Imaduddecn Abu al-
I'idaa Ismaa'cel Ibn Katheer, Tafseer al-
Qur'aan Al-Adheem, Vol.4, Makkah Al
Mukarramah, Beirut, Daar al-Haaz,
Abbas Ahmad Al-Bax, Daar al-Marifah,
1388 AH/1969, p 118
2 Abi Abdullah Muhammad bin al
Qurtubi, Aljuami Ahkaam Al-Qur 'nan,
Vol. 7, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa al-Turath al
Arabi, (no date), Cairo, Daar al-Shaa'b,
Kitaab al Shaa'b 0.2, AI-Qasr al-Ayni (no
date), p 5856
3 Al-Imam Yahya bin Sharat'al-Nawawi,
Saheeh Muslim - Sharh An-Naaaivi,
compiled by: Abdullah Ahmad Abu
Zeina, Vol.i, "Kitab al-Iman", Cairo,
Maktab'bat al-Shaa'b (no date), 2nd
edition, Beirut, Daar Zhyaa al-Turath al-
Arabi, 1302 AH/ 1972, p 238
4 Ibn Katheer, vol, 1 , p 390
5 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. Vol.1 , "Kitab
Al-Imaan", p 237
6 Ibid.
7 Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, Path al-Bauri hi
Sharh Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Vol i ,
Beirut, al-Maktab al Islami, Daar al
Soader, P 137
8 Al-Haafcz Abi Abdullah Muhammad
al- Qizwini, Sunan Ibn Mitjah, texts
compiled by: Pu'aad Abdulbaaqi, Vol.2,
Daar Zhyaa al-kutub al Arabeeyah,
Abbas al-Baaki & Co. 1372 AH/1955,
p.957. Imam Muhammed bin
Muhammed bin Salmaan, Jam 'al
Fawaa 'id minjaami' Al- ifsool ma
Majmaa 'al zawaa 'id, (Collecting
Benefits from the Compiler of
Fundamentals and the Collection of
Additions) Kitab al-Iman, AI-Madinah
al-Munawarah, printed by: Abdullah
Hashim AI-Yamani al-Madani, 1381
9 Ibid. Vol.2, p. 126. This quotation is
part of a long narration by: AI-Messwar
bin Makhramah.
10 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol 1, p. 468
11 Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, op.cit., Vol
8, p. 636
12 Ibid, Vol I, p. 64
13 Ibid.
14 Al-Qurtubi, op.cit., Vol.8, p.655O and
Al Asqalani Al-Isaabahfee Tamyeez As-
Sahaabah, compiled by: Abdullah bin
al- Barr al Nameeri al-Qurtubi, Vol.4,
ist edition, Egypt, Beirut, Matba’at al
Aadah, Daar Zhyaa al-Turath al-Arabi,
1328 AH, p.425
15 Ibn Hajar AI-Asqalaani, Path al Baari,
op.cit., vol 8, p. 637
16 Al-Tabaari, op.cit., vol 28, p 51
17 1Ibid, vol 8, p. 638
18 AI-Asqalaani, "Path al Baari", op.cit.,
vol 10, p. 400
19 Ibid vol 6, p. 75
20 Al-Imam Shamsuddeen Ibn Qudamah,
Al-Mughni wa al-Sharh al-Kabeer, Vol
10, new edition, Beirut, Daar al Kitaab
al-Arabi, 1392 AH/1972, p. 366
21 Ibid, p. 365
22 Mahmood Shaltoot, Al-Islam Aqidah
wa-Sharee’ah: (Islam as a Creed and
Legislation), 2nd edition, Jeddah, Daar
al-Shurooq 1390 AH p. 228.
23 SayyedQutb, Ft DhilaalAl-Qur’aan:
2, legitimate editions Nos.i&z, Beirut,
Daar al-Shurooq 1398 AH/1978. 1394
AH /1976, p. 644..
24 Abi Muhammad Abdulmalik bin
Hishaam al-Aamiri, As-Seerah AnPolitical
Nabamyyah, (The Prophet’s iography),
edited, corrected and commented by:
Taaha Abdul Ra’oof Sa’ad, Vol 3, new
edition, Beirut, Lebanon, Daar al Jeel,
1975, p. 29.
25 AI-Asqalaani, “Path al Baari”, op.cit.,
26 Al-Nawawi, op.cit., vol 12, "Kitaab Al-
Jihad was-Seeyar”, p. 190
27 Ibid., vol 4, p 470
28 AI-Asqalaani, "Fath al Baari", op.cit.,
29 Al-Nawawi, op.cit., vol 4., “Aj-Jihad”,
P. 475.
30 Al-Kishaaf 'an Haaaa 'iq At-tanzeel wa
'Uyoon Al-Aqaa meet. .." (The Revealer of
the Truths of revelation and Best
Opinions on ways of interpretation),
Kitaab al Intisaaf feemaa tadamanuhu al-
Kashaaf min al-i'tizaal by AI-Muneer al-
Iskandaraani al-Maaliki, Vol 2, Beirut,
Lebanon, Daar al ma'rifah, p. 174
31 Ibn Katheer, vol 2, Sura 9:6.
32 Mohammed Shaltoot, Tafseer Al-Qur’an
Al-Kareem, 5th edition, Daar-al Shurooq,
1973, p. 622.
33 Sayyed Sabiq, I'iqh As-Sunnah, vol 2,
Cairo, Daar al Rayyan Li-Turath,
1411 AH, pp. 694 – 695
34 Muhammd Shaltoot, Tafseer Al-Qur'an
Al-Kareem, 5th edition, Daar-al
Shurooq,1973, P .622
35 Ibn Hishaam, op.cit., vol 4, p. 34
36 Ibid.
37 AI-Asqalaani, Path al Baari, op.cit., vol
6, p. 195.
38 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., p. 141 Al-
Tirmidhi said: "This Hadith is Hasan,
39 Dr Abdulwahaab Ash-Shishaani,
Huqnoq Al-insaan ma Huriyaatuhu:
Asaaseeyah Fi al-Nidhaam Al-slaami
wal Nudhum Al- Mu'aasirah, (Man's
Rights and Basic Freedoms in the
Islamic and Modern Laws), 1st edition,
1400 AH/198o, p. 689
40 AI-Asqalaani, Path al Baari, op.cit., vol
13, p. 46.
41 Ibn I lazm (died in 456 Al I), AIMuhalluh,
(The Ornamental Book on
Jurisprudence), compiled by:
Abdurrahman al-Jazair, Vol 9, "Ashshahaadaat",
Egypt, Idarat al-Tibaa'ah
al- Munecrah, 1349 AH, p. 429.
42 AI-Asqalaani, Al-haahah fee Tamyeez
As-Sahuubah, op.cit.,vol 4, p 341.
Economic Rights
In Islamic jurisprudence, the same legal judgements and verdicts
apply to all persons eligible for religious worship unless, an exception
or a restriction is mentioned in the Qur'an, or observed in the
tradition of the Prophet (s). As I have already shown that women are
eligible for religious worship according to the Qur'an and the
Sunnah, it follows that women should be eligible for the same
economic rights as men. Right to ownership is established in the
Qur'an and the Sunnah and includes the right to possess moveable
property, real estate, farming land...etc. Allah (T) says:
"And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you excel
others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, and for
women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Al lah of
His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever Knowing of everything."
Umm Salamah (R) once said to the Prophet (s): "O Messenger of
Allah! Men go for Jihad and women do not; and we only inherit half
of their share. Then, Allah Almighty revealed the above verse.1 We
understand from this narration that one should not covet the favours
Economic Rights
which Allah has given some more than others. We also understand
that such "favours" can be material or spiritual. Ibn Jareer narrated
that 'Ataa' bin Abi Rabaah said: "This verse forbids a Muslim from
envying the favours bestowed by Allah (T) on another Muslim, and
forbids women from wishing to be men so that they could fight in
Jihad." Ibn Jareer continued: "Men and women are equally rewarded
according to their sex; a good deed will entail a reward, and a sin will
entail punishment." This statement has also been interpreted as
referring specifically to inheritance; meaning that each man or woman
will get his or her appointed share."2
Abu Ja'far said: "The verse has been interpreted in different
1 It means that men will get what they deserve; they will be
rewarded for their obedience to Allah (T) and punished for their
disobedience. The same rule applies to women; Bushr bin
Mu'aadh said:"Yazeed narrated on the authority of Sa'eed that
Qataadah said concerning this verse (4:32): "In the Pre-Islamic
period of Ignorance, women and boys did not have any share in
inheritance. Only the men who worked and were breadwinners
inherited. When it was revealed that women should inherit and
receive half the share of men, women said, "If only our share were
equal to that of men"; and the men said, "Let us hope that we will
be favoured in rewards as we are in inheritance."
2 The verse implies that for men is a share of inheritance, and for
women is another share of inheritance. However, in the verse
Allah says: "...there is a reward for what they have earned...", and
since the inheritance is not "earned" by the heir but inherited, the
best interpretation would be that both men and women will be
rewarded for the good things they have earned and punished for
the evil things they have earned. "To earn" refers to "work", and
"earner" refers to the one who works."3
The latter seems to be the most acceptable interpretation, because as Ibn
Ja'far said, "what they have earned" in the verse, refers to the result
of one's work and the profit made by one's effort. Both men and
women are eligible for ownership, and the sanctity of this right should
be protected.
The verse forbids covetousness, envy and jealousy. It promises
men reward for the good things they have earned and gained.
Likewise, the verse promises women reward for the good things they
have earned and gained. The verse also establishes tha t Allah
Almighty is the One who bestows His favours upon mankind; that
men and women should ask His forgiveness and rewards; and that
Allah is the Knower of everything. It is important that this verse not
be separated from the three verses that precede it:
"O you who believe! Devour not your property among yourselves
unjustly except if it be a trade amongst you, by mutual
consent. And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is most Merciful
to you." [4:29]
"And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall
cast him into the Fire, and that is easy for Allah." [4:30] "If you avoid
the great sins from which you are forbidden, We shall remit from
you your misdeeds, and admit you to a Noble Entrance." [14:31]
In the above verses, Allah Almighty warns mankind from consuming
the properties of one another. Verse (4:32), therefore, would logically
refer to women's eligibility to lawful ownership, investment, earnings
and to the sanctity of their property as such.4
Other verses have also established women's eligibility for
ownership: Allah (T) says: "...and offer prayer, and give Zakat (Almstax),
and obey Allah and His Messenger..." [33:33] In this verse, Allah
(T) orders women to pay Zakat, which in itself is proof that women
are eligible for ownership.
"For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women; for
devout men and women; for men and women who are patient; for men and
women who humble themselves; for men and women who give charity; for
men and women who fast; for men and women who guard their chastity;
Economic Rights
and for men and women who remember Allah much -for them all has
Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward." [33:35] In this verse,
Allah (T) praises the women who give charity. Ibn Katheer says:
"Charity is given for the poor and people with disabilities who cannot
earn their own bread nor have a bread-winner. The excess money
should be given to those people as an act of charity and beneficence
towards the creation of Allah (T)."5 Hence, if women had not
possessed the right to ownership, they would have not been able to
give charity, and Allah(T) would not have praised them for doing so.
Allah (T) also says: "O you who believe! Spend of the good things
which you have earned." [2:267] In this verse, Allah (T) urges all the
Muslims, men and women to spend from their individual earnings.
Ibn Katheer said: "to spend", means to give in charity; Ibn 'Abbas said,
"of the good things which you have earned", means from the wealth you
possess. Mujahid said, "from the profit which Allah (T) has made it
easy for them to gain in trade;" Ali and as-Sudi said, "from the good
things such as gold, silver, fruit and crops bestowed by Allah upon
Islam has made every woman the mistress of her own property
and made her eligible for inheritance after she had been denied this
right in the Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance.6 Allah (T) established the
rules of inheritance by revealing to mankind His Laws of Inheritance:
"There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by
parents and those nearest related, whether [the property be] small
or large - a legal share." [4:7]
Allah (T) has also established women's right to a dowry. He (T)
"Give women their dowries as a free gift." [4:4] He (T) then says:
"...do not take from her [the dowry] you have given her even if it be a
heap of gold. That would be improper and grossly unjust." [4:20] Indeed,
there are many Qur'anic injunctions and narrations which prove that
women are legally eligible for ownership.They also have the right to
trade, to bargain, to manumit slaves, to give guarantees, to give
charity, to give counsel, to delegate, to contract...etc.
Zainab (R), the Prophet's wife, was known as the Mother of the
needy. She would spin and knit, dye, make bead ornaments and sell
her work in the market, and then distribute the money amongst the
poor.7 And in one incident, the Prophet (s) went to Fatimah (R), his
daughter, and found a gold chain in her hand. The Prophet (S) said, "O
Fatimah, would you be pleased if the people were to say that Fatimah
the daughter of Muhammad has a chain of fire on her hand?" Then he
(s) left without sitting. She took the chain, sold it, and bought the
freedom of a number of slaves.When that reached the Prophet (S) he
said, "All praise be to Allah who has saved Fatimah from the fire."8
From this narration we understand that a woman has the right to sell,
buy and manumit. Ibn Hazm said: "A woman has the right to sell as
soon as she reaches puberty. This includes the adult whose father is
alive, the adult whose father is dead, the married woman, the divorcee
and the widow; they all have the right to sell and buy."9
"The donations or alms given by the married woman, the
unmarried woman whose father is living, the orphan girl, the person
deceived in a transaction, the sick, the one who is on the brink of
death, as well as those given by an unmarried orphan girl, are similar to
those given by a free-born man."10
Consequently, a woman, whether married or unmarried, does
have the right to ownership and the right of disposal over her
property. Her property does not have to be placed under the
guardianship of her husband, because being a woman does not entail
such financial restrictions. This opinion is held by the major schools of
thought.11 Controversy regarding this matter manifests itself in two
One: At what age should the finances be handed over to the
female inheritor?
The scholars are divided on this issue. One group believes that
when the young woman reaches puberty, and her adulthood is
Economic Rights
evident, her money should be turned over to her, even if she does not
marry. A mature woman has the right to dispose of her money and
property as she sees fit. This group is represented by 'Ataa', Ath-
Thawri, Abu-Haneefah, Ash Shaafi'ee and in one narration by
Ahmad, Abu Thaur, Ibn Al-Mundhir and Ibn Qudamah.12
The second group believes that the young woman cannot acquire
her money unless she marries and gives birth to a child, or until a year
has elapsed after her marriage. This group is represented by Imam
Malik, Imam Ahmad in one narration, 'Umar and As-Sha'bee. They
have presented the following evidence: Shareeh narrated, "I pledged to
'Umar not to accept the donation of a young woman until a year had
elapsed after her marriage, or until she had given birth to a child."13
This opinion however, is based on weak evidence.
I personally advocate the first opinion for the authenticity of its
evidence which has been illustrated in the beginning of this treatise.
Two: Can a woman dispose of her money without her husband's consent? The
scholars are again divided into two camps. The first group says that she
can do so when giving donations or paying indemnity. This opinion is
also held by the contemporary scholar, Sheikh Muhammad 'Izzat
Duroozah. The second group says that she cannot dispose of her
money without her husband's consent. This opinion is held by scholars
such as Sheikh Muhammad Naassiruddeen Al-Albaani. The following
authentic narrations clearly indicate that women have the right to
dispose of their money without her husband's consent:
1 Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (S) said, "If a woman gives
something (ie. in charity) from her husband's earnings without his
permission, she will get half his reward."14
2 'Aisha narrated that the Prophet (s) said, "If a woman gives in
char i ty from her house meals, wi thout wast ing ( ie. Being
extravagant), she will get the reward for her giving, and her
husband wi l l also get the reward for his earning, and the
storekeeper will also get a similar reward. The acquisition of the
reward of none of them will reduce the reward of the others."15
Hence, the Prophet (s) has encouraged charity which is not
corruptive or extravagant.
3 The other narration involves Asma bint Abi Bakr As-Siddeeq (R).
Asma reported that she came to the Prophet (s) and said:"Apostle
of Allah, I have nothing with me, but only that which is given to
me by Zubair: "Is there any sin for me if I spend out of that which
is given to me (by Zubair)? Upon this, the Prophet (s) said:
"Spend according to your means; and do not hoard, for Allah will
withhold from you."16 The Prophet (S) clearly and openly invited
Asma to spend from her husband's money. It is also clear that
Asnna would have spent from her own money if she had any,
before applying to the Prophet (s) for permission to spend from
her husband's money. This indicates that Asma (R) had assumed
that she would be free to spend from her own money if she had
any, without anybody's permission, and the Prophet (s) did not
object to her assumption. On the contrary, he allowed her to
spend from her husband's money wi thout her husband's
Based on the above presented evidence, the opinion held by the first
group is more widely accepted. Therefore, we can conclude that
women in Islam are fully eligible for ownership and she also have the
right to dispose of their money without their husband's permission.
This of course, applies only when a women has reached puberty, and
her adulthood is discerned. However, she can ask for her husband's
consent as an act of kindness and respect. Islam allows women to
spend, wisely and without being extravagant, from their husband's
money without their husbands' prior permission.
Islam has provided effective social security for women by securing for
them provisions and means of support throughout their lives. These
provision are to be provided by the father, the husband or the son.
Economic Rights
Islam has also exempted women from all financial responsibilities and at
the same time, it has secured their civil and economic rights. A
married woman will possess her own fortune and will be financially
independent from her husband, who is responsible for providing for her
and for their household. Indeed, Islam has shown infinite care and
mercy towards women by making their maintenance a duty upon their
male relatives.
This maintenance includes food, clothing and
accommodation.When a baby girl is born, her maintenance is her
father's duty and when she marries, it becomes her husband's duty. If
her husband dies, this duty is delegated to the son, and if she has
none, to her closest male relatives. It is clear from the Qur'an and the
authentic tradition that men should assume this responsibility. The
allowance paid to the wife for her own maintenance and that for the
maintenance of the children are usually mentioned together in the
Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet (s), and it is very difficult to
treat them separately. I shall therefore quote arguments applying to
both to prove that the maintenance of the young girl (and
maintenance of children generally), and the maintenance of the wife
are the duties of the father and the husband respectively. Allah(T)
"Let the rich man spend according to his wealth and the poor man
according to what Allah has given him." [65:7] This verse makes the
fathers responsible for the maintenance of their children whether
male or female, and each father should provide for his children
according to his means. Ibn Katheer says, "The father or the
guardian should spend on his children, the poor according to his
means and according to what Allah (T) has given him. Indeed, Allah
does not burden a soul with more that it can handle." He (T) says: "Allah
does not charge a man more than He has given him.17(2:286)
And in another verse, Allah (T) says: "Do not give the feeble-minded
the property with which Allah has entrusted you for their support; but
maintain and clothe them with its proceeds. " [4:5]
Ibn Katheer says, "Allah (T) has forbidden us to give to those of
weak understanding control over property, wealth and businesses.
Hence, children, the mentally ill and the sick require the guardianship of
a parent or a relative. The verse also mentions kindness towards the
family and the obligation upon the guardian to feed, clothe and offer
good advice to those who are under his guardianship."18
The obligations of the father and the husband towards the family
are clearly stated in the following verse:
"Mothers.... must be maintained and clothed in a reasonable
manner by the father of the child." [2:233]
This means that the husband should provide maintenance for the mother
of his children. He should provide food and clothing according to the
standards of the country they live in. In doing so, he should be neither
extravagant nor too thrifty. He should spend within his means whether rich or
poor. Ad-Dahak said, "If a man divorces his wife and she continues to
suckle his child, he should continue to provide provision and clothing for
her in a reasonable manner."19 This verse indicates that alimony should be
given to the divorcee as long she continues to suckle the baby.
Besides paying alimony to the divorced mother and providing food
for the child, scholars have deduced from the following verse that the
husband should also provide accommodation. Allah (T) says:
"Lodge them in your own homes, according to your means. Do not
harass them so as to make life intolerable for them. If they are
with child, maintain them until they deliver their burden; and if,
after that, they give suck to their children, give them their pay
and consult together in all reasonableness. But if you cannot bear
with each other, let other women suckle for you." [65:6]
The verse states that the father should continue to provide
maintenance and accommodation for his estranged wife if she
continues to fulfil her main duty (suckling the baby). Ibn Katheer says
that, "Allah (T) orders the believing men, in case of a divorce, to provide
accommodation for their wives during their waiting period ('iddah). "Lodge
them in your own homes" means "in your own dwelling."20
Allah (T) has also explained why men have authority over women, one of
the reasons being that men have to spend on them. He (T) says:
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"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because of
what Allah has given one of them over the other, and because they
spend (to support them) from their means.' [14:34]
This verse refers to the dowry, maintenance and means of support which
Allah (T) has granted to women through His Book and the tradition of
His Prophet (s)."21 Indeed there are many sayings which are related to
this subject.
From the tradition of the Prophet (s), we also quote the following
statement reported by Jaabir: "It is your duty to maintain and clothe
them in a reasonable manner." It means that women are exempt from
earning a living because it is the duty of the husband to do so. Most
scholars have agreed that this is an obligation upon the husband to
provide maintenance for his wife, the mother of his children.
Although they have not specified an exact amount of money, they
have agreed that the provision should be enough to meet the wife's
needs. "Start first by supporting your dependants" means that you
should start with those for whom you have an obligation to provide.
"To provide" means to maintain one's family by ensuring that they
have enough food and clothing. This statement urges fathers and
husbands to give this obligation a priority over other religious
The Prophet (s) said: "Fear Allah and treat your wives kindly.
They have been entrusted to you by Allah and have been made lawful to
you by the word of Allah, and it is your duty to maintain and clothe them
in a reasonable manner."23 (Reported by Jaabir) With these words
the Prophet (s) secured the women's right to maintenance and provision
throughout her life span.
When the father of Hakeem bin Mu'aawiyah Al-Qasheeri asked
the Prophet (s) as to what is the right of a wife upon her husband? He
(S) said: "Feed her as and when you feed yourself; clothe her as and
when you clothe yourself; do not strike her on the face; do not abuse
her and do not separate yourself from her except inside the house."24
'Aisha (R) also narrated that Hind bint 'Utba said, "O Allah's
Messenger! Abu Sufyaan is a miser and he does not give me what is
sufficient for me and my children. Can I take of his property without
his knowledge?" The Prophet (s) said, "Take what is sufficient for
you and your children, and the amount should be just and
From this hadith it is clear that the husband should spend on his
family but the hadith does not specify an exact amount. If the
husband does not fulfil this obligation, his wife is allowed to take from her
husband's money the amount she needs to provide for herself and the
children without his knowledge."26
Indeed, divine wisdom has decreed that men and women have different
duties and responsibilities in life. The wife has to give birth, educate the
children and supervise the management of her household. She is also a
lawful companion for her husband. Divine justice has decreed that the
man should be responsible financially towards his family so that his wife
will have no need to strive and earn her living as well as fulfilling her
numerous duties as mother and wife. He should maintain her by
providing what she needs from food, drink, clothing and accommodation in
a just and reasonable manner. It is the husbands legal duty to do so and if he
neglects this responsibility, the wife has the right to ask for divorce. 27
This is a financial right for women. It is a present given by the groom to his
bride at the time of marriage. In the pre-Islamic period of ignorance, this
right was exhorted from women in different ways. The father or the guardian
used to treat the marriage as a transaction, in which the dowry constituted
the retail price of the young woman. He would sell her to whoever he liked
as long as he could get the price he wanted. An alternative practice was that
of Shighaar. This was a type of marriage in which they would exchange
daughters or sisters without mahr, since each woman was considered
the mahr of the other. This was basically a transaction between two people
where men were the winners and women were the losers, and this type
of marriage was abolished by Islam unconditionally.
Islam has established sublime and noble objectives for the
marriage of two human beings. Islam has also established the dowry as an
exclusive right for women. It is a legal financial right that nobody can
violate. Allah (T) says:
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"And give to the women their mahr with a good heart." With these words,
Allah (T) has decreed that mahr is an obligation upon men, towards their
new wives. It is worth mentioning that once 'Umar (R), the second caliph,
ordered the people not to set excessive amounts of dower. However, he
later withdrew his order."28 Today, it has become a trend for the father
or the guardian of the bride to take her dower and spend it on her
trousseau or other household items, even on new furniture for her
house. According to Islamic Jurisprudence, this is not legal because
such expenses are the husband's duty and the Mahr should be for the
bride exclusively. It is a divine right granted and secured for all women
by Allah (T) who says:
"Wed them with the permission of their own folk and give them their
mahr according to what is reasonable" [4:25] "This verse means that mahr
should be given to the female bond slaves with willingness, justice
and without discrimination with the free born women."29 Women of
the Book also have the right to Mahr if a Muslim man intends to
marry one of them. Allah (T) says:
"Lawful to you in marriage are chaste women from the believers and
chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and
Christians) before your time, when you have given their due mahr." [5: 5] In
this verse, Allah (s) states that it is lawful for Muslim men to marry the
chaste and free born women from among the believers as a
preamble to what follows; "and chaste women from those who were
given the Scripture before your time." As they are chaste and pure,
they should be given their mahr willingly and with good heart."30 It is
consequently an obligation upon the groom to give his bride the
amount of dowry set at the time of marriage. If later he refuses to do
so, his wife has the right to claim it and to take it from him against his
will. It is a duty which must be observed by the husband, unless his
wife allows him a certain time to be able to gather the amount stated at
the time of marriage, or discharges him from his obligation in
consideration of his difficult financial situation, or as an act of
generosity and kindness.31 Allah (T) says:
''...but it shall be no offence for you to make any other agreement
among yourselves after you have fulfilled your duty. Allah is Knowing,
Wise." This means if after an amount of dowry has been set, and the
bride exempts her husband from the bridal money or from a certain
amount of it, she and her husband will not be committing a sin. The
scholars have agreed that there is no limitation concerning the value of
the mahr since Allah (T) says:
"If you wish to have a wife in the place of a (divorced) one, do not take
from her the dowry you have given her even if it be a heap of gold. That
would be improper and grossly unjust." [4:20] Ibn Katheer says, "This verse
suggests that small amounts of dower can be set at the time of
marriage. Sahl bin Sa'd narrated that a woman came to Allah's Messenger
(s) and said, "O Allah's Messenger! I have come to you to present myself
to you (for marriage)." Allah's Messenger(s) glanced at her. He looked
at her carefully and fixed his glance on her and then lowered his head.
When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man
from his companions got up and said, "O Allah's Messenger! If you are
not in need of her, then marry her to me." The Prophet (s) said, "Have
you got anything to offer?" The man said, "No, by Allah, O Allah's
Messenger!" The Prophet (s) said, "Go to your family and try to find
something." So the man went and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, I
have not found anything." The Prophet (s) said, "Go again and look for
something, even if it were an iron ring." He went and returned, saying,
"No by Allah, O Allah's Messenger! I could not find even an iron ring,
but this is my Izaar (waist sheet)." He had no upper garment. He
added, "I give half of it to her." Allah's Messenger (s) said, "What will
she do with your Izar? If you wear it, she will have nothing over herself;
and if she wears it, then you will have nothing over yourself." So the
man sat for a long period and then got up to leave. When Allah's
Messenger (s) saw him leaving, he ordered that he be called back. When
he came, the Prophet (S) asked him "How much of the Qur'an do you
know?" The man replied, "I know such and such chapters," naming
them. The Prophet (S) said, "Can you recite them by heart?" He said,
"Yes." The Prophet (s) said, "Go, I marry her to you for what you know
of in the Qur'an as mahr,"32
The Prophet (s) did not allow any marriage without a mahr.
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Indeed, knowledge is more important and more precious than money
and by teaching his wife, the husband will be compensating for the
amount of money he would have had to pay as mahr, and which his
wife might have had to pay as a fee for another teacher.
Hence, there is no set limit for the amount of dowry in Islam. We
learn from the tradition that the companions of the Prophet (s) used to
pay what they could afford. Anas (R) narrated that Abdulrahmaan paid
the equivalent of the weight of a kernel in gold,33 whereas the Prophet
(S) said, "When you marry, do so even with an iron ring."34
In fact, Allah (T), the All Wise, has prescribed mahr and made it a
condition for the marriage contract to be valid, so that the groom
would realise his responsibility towards his bride, and so that she
would understand that it is his job and his duty to strive and provide, to
maintain and support, to sustain and look after her and their future
family. This mahr is also a symbol of the fact that the wife will
deserve her husband's devotion, sympathy, care and compassion, and
that he will assume his responsibilities, support and assist her
throughout their marriage.The mahr also symbolises the husband's
willingness and desire to seek this union. This indeed, has a great
impact on the bride herself.
Yet some people think that the mahr is the bride's retail price or
even an indemnity paid to her father or a transaction by which the
woman becomes lawful for her husband.To refute this kind of
prejudice, I simply quote the following hadith:
Jaabir narrated that the Prophet (s) said in his farewell speech,
"Fear Allah and treat your wives kindly. They have been entrusted to
you by Allah and have been made lawful to you by the word of
Allah."35 The mahr is consequently a right which honours women and
symbolises the husband's commitment to care and look after his wife
throughout their marital life.
The importance of women's welfare in Islam is reflected by their
eligibility for inheritance. This was a revolution in women's rights at
that time, since the pagan Arabs and many ancient nations did not
allow women to inherit. Inheritance was exclusively for men who, as
they said, "...carried the swords, defended the tribe and protected the
land." The misery of women extended even beyond that because
instead of inheriting from their relatives, women were inherited by
their relatives. A woman was considered part of the deceased's
estateto be inherited like any other object, and of course, any other
animal. The closest man in relation to the deceased would inherit his
wives. With the revelation of the Noble Qur'an such humiliation was
eliminated. Allah (T) says:
"O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their
will, and should not treat them with harshness that you may take back part of
the dower you have given them." [4:19] Regarding this verse, Ibn 'Abbas (R)
said, "If a man died, his relatives had the right to inherit his wife. One of
them would marry her if he so wished. If not, they might or might not allow
her to marry anybody else because they had more right to her than her
own relatives. Therefore, this verse was revealed."36
Islam abolished this pagan practice, put an end to the oppression
suffered by women throughout the pre-Islamic period of ignorance,
restored women's dignity, established their humanness and
strengthened their social position by granting them the right to
inheritance instead of being inherited and humiliated as they were
before.37 Women have a legal share in the estate to be inherited, and this
share is stated clearly in the noble Qur'an:
"There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents
and those nearest related, whether the property be small or large -a legal share."
[4:7] Sa'eed bin Jubair said that, "The pagan Arabs used to bequeath their
property to adult men only. They did not allow anything for women and
children. Therefore, Allah (s) revealed this verse which indicates that in
principle, we are all equal in the eyes of Allah Almighty and therefore
eligible for inheritance, even though there are some differences in the
shares allocated to different members of the family."38
Commenting on the same subject, Sayyed Qutb says, "According to
this general principle of equality, women in Islam have been granted the
right to inheritance and the rights of young children have been secured.
The pagan Arabs used to assess each individual according to his or her
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financial productivity and his or her ability in the battlefield; Islam
however, with its divine principles, has looked at individuals as human
beings, and assessed them according to their humanness which is an
intrinsic property that does not desert any individual. As a second stage,
Islam has taken into account the practical obligations of each
individual vis-a-vis his family in particular and his society in
The verses below explain and specify women' s shares of
inheritance in different situations. Allah Almighty has revealed to the
people a fair and legal distribution of property among their children
and relatives. He (s) says:
"Allah commands you as regards your children's inheritance; to the
male, a portion equal to that of two females; if there are only daughters, two
or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is
half. For parents a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left
children; if no children, and the parents are the only heirs, the mother has a
third; if the deceased left brothers or sisters, the mother has a sixth. (The
distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have
bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or
your children, are nearest to you in benefit. [These fixed shares] are
ordained by Allah. And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise." [4:11] In his
explanation of the above verse, Imam Al-Bukhari has related the
following: Jaabir bin Abdullah narrated: "I became sick, and I asked,
'O Allah's Messenger! What shall I do regarding my property? How
shall I distribute it?' The Prophet(s) did not reply until the divine
verses on inheritance were revealed."40
Another hadith has been reported regarding the revelation of the
verses of inheritance. Jaabir narrated that the wife of Sa'd bin Ar -
Rabee came to the Messenger of Allah (s) and said, "O Messenger of
Allah ! These are the two daughters of Sa'd bin Ar-Rabee, the martyr
who was killed on the day of Uhud. Their uncle has taken their
money and left nothing for them. They will not marry if they do not
possess any property." The Prophet (s) replied, "Allah (T) will settle
this question." The verses of inheritance were then revealed. The
Prophet (S) readily sent a message to the girls' uncle saying, "Give
two thirds to the daughters, one sixth to the mother and keep the rest
for yourself."41
Both narrations are authentic. It is immaterial after which of these
two incidents the verse was revealed. What matters is the content of
the verse in which Allah Almighty instructs the parents concerning
their children, and presents to them the laws of inheritance with set
shares for each of their children. Ibn 'Abbaas (R) narrated that,
"During the early days of Islam, the inheritance used to be given to one's
offspring and the legacy used to be bequeathed to the parents. Then Allah
cancelled what He wished from that order and decreed that the male
should be given the equivalent of the portion of two females, and for the
parents one-sixth for each of them, and for one's wife one-eighth (if the
deceased hadchildren) and one-fourth (if he had no children); for one's
husband one-half (if the deceased had no children) and one-fourth (if she
had children)."42
The next verse reveals the set share ordained for the deceased's wife. Allah
(T) says:
"In that which your wives leave, your share is a half if they have no
child; but if they leave a child, you get a fourth of that which they
leave after payment of legacies that they may have
bequeathed or debts. In that which you leave, their share is a
fourth if you leave no child; but if you leave a child, they get an
eighth of that which you leave after payment of legacies that you may
have bequeathed or debts. If the man or woman whose
inheritance is in question has left neither ascendants nor
descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of them gets a
sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of
legacies he or she may have bequeathed or debts, so that no loss is
caused. This is a Commandment from Allah; and Allah is Everknowing,
Most-Forbearing." [4:12]
"They ask you for a legal verdict. Say: "Allah directs about Al-
Kalaalah (those who leave neither descendants nor ascendants as
heirs). If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister, but no child, she
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shall have half the inheritance. If (such a deceased was) a woman,
who left no child, her brother takes her inheritance. If there are two
sisters, they shall have two thirds of the inheritance; if there are
brothers and sisters, the male will have twice the share of the female.
Thus, does Allah make clear to you (His Law) lest you go astray.
And Allah is the All-Knower of every thing." [4:176]
It was not easy for the Arab Muslims to overcome the traditions they had
inherited from their fathers in order to abide by Allah's Laws,
especially when it came to giving to female children the money that the
men had always inherited according to pagan laws. The divine Laws
of inheritance were not readily welcomed and appreciated by the
Arabs due to the pagan culture and traditions embedded in their minds
and hearts. They were astonished, even incredulous. They used to
say to one another, "The woman is given a quarter or an eighth; the
daughter is given half; even the young boy is allocated a share!? He who
does not fight the enemy or seize the spoils!? Do not mention this verse
at all, so that the Messenger of Allah (s) may forget it; or shall we ask
him so that he may change it? Some of them said, "O Messenger of
Allah! Do you allocate to the daughter half the property of her father
although she does not ride the horse, nor fight the people? Do you
allocate a share for the young boy who does not make us any
However, the divine Law must be enforced and the divine Will
must be obeyed. Only then can women's rights be protected.
The Laws of inheritance ordained by Allah (T) have established
justice and put an end to women's oppression. This divine justice is
based on the principles of "division of responsibilities", and "benefits
according to responsibilities", which have wide applications. Islam has
exempted women from all financial responsibilities and has handed
them to men. A man has to meet all the financial needs of his family by
providing for his wife, children and female relatives. He also has to pay
the dowry to his bride, as well as any financial penalties. It is therefore
natural and just that men should be given twice as much as women to
enable them to meet their various financial obligations.
Imam An-Nawawi explains "The divine wisdom has taken into
account the heavy duties assigned to men such as providing for the
family, the guests, and the visitors; as well as consoling the beggars,
paying financial penalties and many other obligations; and Al lah
knows best."44 Indeed, the authentic tradition of the Prophet (s) has
confirmed and supported Allah's commands in this respect. The
following narration has dignified and honoured Muslim women
uncompromisingly by preserving their right to inheritance. Sa'd bin
Abi Waqqaas narrated, "I was stricken by an ailment that led me to the
verge of death. The Prophet (s) came to pay me a visit. I said, "O Allah's
Messenger! I have much property and no heir except my single
daughter. Shall I give two-thirds of my property in charity?" He said,
"No." I said, "Half of it?" He said, "No." I said, "One-third of it?" He said,
"You may do so though one-third is also too much, for it is better for you to
leave your off-spring wealthy than to leave them poor, asking others for
help. And whatever you spend (for Allah's sake) you will be rewarded for
it, even for a morsel of food which you may put in the mouth of your wife."45
Although Sa'd (R) had an only daughter, the Prophet (s) protected and
insisted on her right to her father's wealth, and explained to Sa'd the
wisdom behind his judgement. Therefore it is evident that Allah (T)
does secure the women's right by prescribing set shares for each condition
of her life: as a daughter, a sister, a mother, or a wife.
Economic Rights
1 AI-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Tinnidhi, al-
Jaami'al Saheeh, Vol.5, Cairo, Mustafah
al-Baabi al-l lalabi & Sons, p.237.
2 Ibn Katheer (see footnote #1, p.196),
Vol 1, p.488.
3 AI-Tabari (for full information, see
footnote #16, p. 196), Vol.8, p.267.
4 Muhammad Izzat Daroozah, "AITafseer
al-Hadeeth", (see p.90, #32 for
full infomation), Vol.6, p.63.
5 Ibn Kathee, op.cit. Vol.4, P-488
6 Ibid. Vol 1, p.321.
7 Ibn I lajar AI-Asqalaani, Al-Isaabahfi
Tamyyuz As-Sahabah, (see p.149 #22)
8 AI-Hafez Jalaaluldeen al-Suyooti, Sunan
al-Nisaa 'ee, (see p. 169, #50) Vol.8, p.
9 Ibn Hazm, L-7/8
UHALLA, vol.9,
(seep.io8#69), p.54.
10 Ibid. p. 160.
11 Abdurrahmaan al-Jazairi, Al-Fiqh 'aalal-
Madhaahih al-Arba 'ah, Vol.2, p.352, (see
p.116, #14).
12 Ibn Qudaamah, Al-Mughni, Vol.4,
p.517, (see p. 197, #29)
13 Ibid, Hadith narrated by Sa'eed in his
14 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.3, p.7.
15 Ibid, Vol, 3, p.7.
16 Al-Nawawi, "Saheeh Muslim...", Vol.3.
(see p. 196 #3), "Az-Zakat", p.68.
17 Ibn Katheer, op.cit. Vol 4, p.383.
18 Ibn Katheer, op. cit. Vol 1, p.452.
19 Ibid, p.283.
20 Ibid, Vol.4, Sura 65:6.
21 Ibid, Vol. 1,p.491.
22 Ibid.
23 Al-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3. "Al-Hajj".
24 Abaadi, op.cit., vol. 6. p.180
25 AI-Asqalaani, "I'ath al-Iiaari", op.cit.,
vol.g. p.507.
26 Ibid.
27 IbnQudaamah, op.cit., vol.g, p.243.
28 Ibn Katheer, vol.1, p.461.
29 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 475.
30 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., vol.2, Sura 5:5.
31 Aboo al-A'laa al-Mawdoodi, Huqooq al-
Zawjceyah, (Marital Rights) a critical
study of "The law of Personal Affairs",
translated by Ahmad Idrecs, (.MTU, al-
Mukhtaar al-lslaami, p.26, and aljaza'iri
AI-FiqH 'ala al-Mahaahib al-Arb
'ah,op.cit., Vol 4, p. 157.
32 AI'Asqalaani, "Path al-Baari", op.cit.,
Vol.g. p. 180.
33 Ibid, p.204.
34 Ibid, p.216.
35 Al-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3, "Al-
Hajj", P.344.
36 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit, Vol.5, p.178.
37 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.6, p.69.
38 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., Vol. 1, p-454.
39 Sayyed Qutb, "Fi Dhilaal al-Qur'aan",
Vol l,(seep. i97#33).p.s88.
40 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.8, p.3.
41 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, p.414.
42 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.8, p.7.
43 AI-Tabari, op.cit., Vol.8, p.32.
44 Al-Nawawi, op.cit., Vol. 4, "Kitaab al-
Faraa'id", p.137.
45 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.8, p.5.
Obligations of
Women in Islam
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
devoted Part Two to the rights of women in Islam. Part Three will
now focus on a study of women's duties and obligations in Islam. In
an attempt to approach the material systematically I have chosen to
divide the duties into three parts according to the different phases in a
woman's life:
Part one: Duties as a young woman.
Part two: Duties as a wife.
Part three: Duties as a mother.
In exchange for the various rights granted to tier by Islam such as the
right to life, care, sustenance, respect, education, kind treatment,
financial and political rights, a young woman has to fulfil various
obligations, including the following:
[1] Her obligation towards her Creator
The first obligation upon every human being is to believe and realise
that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah (T) and that
none should be associated with Him in worship. Allah (T) says:
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
"Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship." [4:36]
Ibn Katheer says, "Allah Almighty orders us to worship Him alone,
and to associate no partners with Him. Since He is the Creator, the
Provider, the Benefactor, the One who confers benefits upon His
creation at all times and in all situations. Therefore He deserves to be
worshipped alone without associating any of His creation in worship
with Him."1
The noble sayings of the Prophet (s) have explained to mankind
their obligation towards their Creator, which is the affirmation in the
Oneness of Allah (Tatwheed), without associating anything in worship
with Him (Tawheed Al-'Ibaadah). This however, entails certain
responsibilities such as obeying Allah and His Messenger by
observing the commands of Allah (T), which are revealed in the Noble
Qur'an and conveyed by the Sunnah of the Prophet (s), staying away
from what Allah (T) has made unlawful, true belief (Imari) in Allah
(T), His Books, His messengers, the day of Judgement, as well as in
predestination. It also includes fundamentals of faith and religious
practices such as prayer, zakat, pilgrimage, fasting and all those laws
which Allah has given to regulate the individual and collective life of
Muslims. Indeed, all these are prerequisites for Iman. This has been
further elucidated in the noble Hadith.
'Umar bin Al-Khattab narrated: "One day we were sitting in the
company of the Messenger of Allah (T), when there appeared before us
a man dressed in extremely white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black.
There were no signs of journey on him. None amongst us recognised
him. At last he sat before the Prophet (s). Resting his knees against
his knees and placing his palms on his thighs, he said: 'Muhammad,
inform me about Islam.' The Messenger of Allah (T) said: 'Islam
requires that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay
Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the
House (Ka'aba) if you are able to make the journey.' He (the inquirer)
said: 'You have told the truth'. He (the inquirer) then said: 'Inform me
about Iman (faith)'. He (the Prophet) replied: 'That you affirm your
faith in Allah, in His angels, in His books, in His messengers, in the
Day of Judgement, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree,
both good and evil'. He (the inquirer) said: 'You have told the truth'. He
(the inquirer) again said: 'Inform me about Ihsaan. He (the Prophet)
said: 'That you worship Allah as if you are Seeing Him, for though you
don't see Him, He, verily, sees you'. He (the inquirer) again said: 'You
have told the truth'. He (the inquirer) again said: 'Inform me about the
Hour (of Doom)'. The Prophet (s) remarked: He who is questioned
knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it). He (the
inquirer) said: 'Tell me some of its indications'. The Prophet (s) said:
'That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will
find barefooted, destitute shepherds of goats vying with one another in
the construction of magnificent buildings'.
'Umar bin Al-Khattab said: "Then he (the inquirer) went on his
way, but I stayed with the Prophet (s) for a long while. He then said to
me: 'Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: 'Allah and
His Messenger know best'. He (the Prophet) remarked: 'He was
Jibreel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of
Imam An-Nawawi has written that, "This narration comprises a
comprehensive explanation of all the religious obligations, the visible
ones, and the ones which come from within ourselves such as abiding by
injunctions, the actions of our organs, sincerity of our intentions and
self-restraint from bad deeds. Moreover, this hadith is the main
reference for the science of Islamic Jurisprudence.3 It also clarifies the
duties of every woman, including the daughter towards her Lord:
Belief in Allah (T)
To attest to the existence and the Oneness of Allah; that He is the
One who creates, provides sustenance for His creation, rules over the
universe, and upon Him only depends the management of this
universe. Also, to testify that Allah has no partners, He is above His
creation, and nothing of His creation resembles Him. Nothing is to be
identified with Him, and no human attribute is to be identified with
His divine attributes. He is the only deity worthy of worship, and no
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
act of worship should be directed to other than Allah. He is indeed
perfect, devoid of any imperfections. Describing Himself, Allah (T)
"There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-
Seer." [42:11]
Indeed, Allah is One and unique:
"Say: He is Allah, the One.
Allah, the Self-Sufficient.
He begets not, nor ibas He begotten,
And there is none equal or comparable unto Him." [112]
Belief in the Angels
To attest to their existence, and to their being- as described by Allah (T)-
Allah's honoured slaves:
And they say: "The Most Beneficent has taken a son. Glory to Him.!
They are but honoured slaves. They speak not until He has spoken, and
they act on His command." [21 -.26-27]
And to attest that the angels perform different duties as described in the
Qur'an and by the Prophet (S). Imam Ibn Hajar says that, "Allah(T)
has given precedence to the angels over the books and the prophets
according to the actual order in which Allah (T) sent down His
Revelation, via His angels, to His prophets. However, this does not
necessarily imply that the angels should be favoured over the prophets."4
Belief in Allah's Books
To attest to the divinity of these books, and to the fact that their
contents are the truth revealed by Allah (T), Lord of the heavens and the
Belief in the Prophets
To attest to the prophethood of all the messengers of Allah (T) whom He
has told us about in His noble Book, starting with Noah and concluding
with Muhammad (s). These are the Messengers to whom Allah (T) has
chosen to convey the Message. They were the bearers of the Message, the
sinless, sent by Allah (T) to be an example and a guide for their peoples.
This belief requires the belief in Muhammad (s) as the Last of the prophets;
Allah (T) says:
"Muhammad (S) is not the father of any man among you, but he is the
Messenger of Allah, and the Last of the Prophets." [33:40]
And that his Message was directed to all mankind, regardless of race and
language; Allah (T) says:
"Say (O Muhammad (s)): "O mankind! Verily, I am the
Messenger of Allah to you all." [7:158]
Belief in the Day of Judgement
To attest to the reality of the day of Resurrection and the day of
Judgement, that this day is undoubtedly a certitude, and that with it is
completed the purpose of the creation of mankind. It is the Day of
Judgement and Retribution, when every soul will be rewarded for its good
deeds or punished for its evil deeds. Allah (T).says:
"So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it. And
whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it." [99:7-8]
On that day every soul will be rewarded either with the felicity of
Paradise, or with the severe punishment of the Hell Fire.
Belief in the Divine Decree, its Good and its Evil To attest to the
Divine Decree mentioned in the Noble Qur'an. It is the order by which
Allah (T) has created the universe, tied effects to causes and made them
established natural laws. The fact that Allah (T) created mankind with the
opportunity and the freedom to choose between good and evil with no
compulsion or constraint is an example of this divine ordinance.
Al-Khitaabi says: "Many people believe that the Divine Decree
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
means that Allah (T) obliges His slaves to abide by a pre-ordained
fatalism. However, the whole principle of the Divine Decree is far from
being what they imagine it to be. It consists of Allah's pre-knowledge of
His slaves' actions and their emanation with Allah's pre-ordinance, who also
generates the good or the evil aspects of these actions."5
The Prophet (s) said, "Islam is built on five pillars: testifying that there
is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His bond slave and messenger,
the establishment of prayer, payment of Zakat, Pilgrimage to the House
(Ka'aba) and the fast of Ramadan."6 These five pillars are the result of
one's true faith in Allah. They represent the main obligations upon every
Muslim who has accepted Allah as lord, Islam as religion, and Muhammad
(s) as Allah's prophet and messenger.
A young Muslim woman has to fulfil all her legal obligations, in terms
of acts of worship, general conduct and morals. Only by doing so will she
be able to prove the sincerity of her faith and her belief in Allah.
The narration quoted earlier clarified the meaning of the third level
after Iman and Islam which is the level of Ihsaan (perfection of faith). Ihsan
means sincerity in worshipping Allah and constant awareness of His
presence. It also means reverence and complete submission to Allah (T),
with the awareness that He is All-Knowing, well-acquainted with what we
reveal and what we conceal. If the daughter or young woman attains the
level of Ihsan, she will have fulfilled her duty towards her Creator. The
level of Ihsan is indeed the level of ultimate certainty and sincerity of one's
faith in Allah (T).
[2] Obl igat ions towards her parents
It is a duty upon every daughter to be dutiful to her parents. Indeed, in the
noble Qur'an, dutifulness to one's parents has been associated with one's
primary duty, which is the worship of Allah (T) alone, and associating none
in worship with Him. Allah (T) says:
'Worship Allah and associate none with Him in worship, and do
good to your parents..." [4:36]
Dutifulness to one's parents has also been paired with the prohibition of
associating partners in worship with Allah (T).
"Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what your Lord has
prohibited you: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good
and dutiful to your parents..." [6:151]
Many other verses in the Qur'an convey a similar message. Allah (T) says:
"And when we took a covenant from the Children of Israel,
saying: Worship none but Allah and be dutiful and good to
parents..." [2:83]
Ibn Katheer says, "This is indeed the ultimate right and the most
important of all; the right of Allah (T) upon His slaves to worship Him
alone, joining nothing in worship with Him. Then comes the right of
Allah's creation where the priority is given to parents. Therefore, Allah
(T) has associated His right upon His slaves with the parent's right upon their
children. He (T) says: "Give thanks to Me and to your parents - unto Me is the
final destination. "[31:14]."7
Allah's command to His slaves to be dutiful to their parents is
emphasised, highlighted and detailed further when He (T) says:
"And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And
that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them
attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect,
nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour." [17:23]
These verses have established the rights of parents upon their
children in a conclusive and decisive way with the use of the
expression: "Andyour Lord has decreed'. This has a powerful linguistic impact
on the style in which this order has been formulated. It conveys the
notion of a definite and undeniable obligation. Imam Al-Qurtubi says,
"'Allah (T) has decreed' means that Allah (T) has ordered, enjoined and
prescribed." Ibn 'Abbas, Hasan and Qataadah said that, "In this context
"decree" does not refer to a legal sentence, but rather, to a legal injunction. '8
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
Regarding the above verses, Sayyed Qutb says: "With such
beautiful words and expressive imagery does the Qur'an arouse the
sentiment of dutifulness and the feeling of mercy in the hearts of the
children, so that they will be reminded of their duty towards their
elderly parents who exhausted their energy in looking after them until
they had no more to spend. In these verses, the duty of obedience and
dutifulness to one's parents is expressed in the form of a decree
ordained by Allah (T), with the notion of an emphatic order which
comes after Allah's asserted order to worship Him alone".
[3] Obl igat ion to seek knowledge
A young Muslim woman should learn about Islamic tenets, conduct,
acts of worship, lawful and unlawful deeds. In other words, she should
possess sound knowledge of her religion. In fact, she is required to
learn what should normally be learnt, and her ignorance does not
absolve her from her individual obligations towards Allah (T). The
Prophet (s) has said, "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every
Muslim."9 He (s) has made the knowledge of Islamic teachings a
religious duty upon everyone and an obligation upon every Muslim
man and woman.
It is agreed that women's responsibilities include gaining
familiarity with one's religion, offering the prayers, fasting, paying
alms-tax, performing pilgrimage, enjoining good, forbidding evil,
performing good deeds etc. A Muslim woman will only be aware of
these responsibilities by seeking the knowledge of her religion.
Furthermore, she should seek the knowledge of some worldly sciences
which will assist her in fulfilling her duties as a wife, mother, sister,
daughter and as a valuable human being who represents the other half
of our society and who actively contributes to the prosperity of our
The female companions of the Prophet (s) were fully aware of
their responsibilities, and they competed for knowledge with the male
companions. They attended the study circles and requested to learn
from the Prophet (s) about the facts of their religion. So, when a
woman came to Allah's Messenger (s) and said, "O Allah's
Messenger! Only men have been benefiting from your teachings, so
please devote to us some of your time, a day on which we may come to
you so that you may teach us from what Allah has taught you." He (s)
said, "Gather on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a place."
They gathered and Allah's Messenger (S) came to them and taught
them from what Allah (T) had taught him. He then said, "There is no
woman among you who has lost three of her children but that they
will screen her from the Fire." A woman amongst them said, "O
Allah's Messenger! If she lost two children?" She repeated her
question twice, whereupon the Prophet (s) replied, "Even two, even
two, even two!"10
Thus, they sought sound knowledge of the religion and competed in
performing good deeds so much that 'Aisha (R) said, "How
excellent are the women of the Ansar! They do not feel shy while
learning sound knowledge in religion."11 They asked the Prophet (s)
about everything that related to the religion, including minor and
major details relating to women's issues.
Aisha (R) narrated: "A woman asked the Prophet (s) about the
bath which is taken after the end of the menses. The Prophet (s)
explained in detail the method of purification. Imam Ibn Hajar said,
From the fact that the Prophet (s) discussed such a matter it is
evident that it is permissible for a woman to ask a scholar even about
private matters."12
Moreover, the Prophet (s) himself encouraged the female
companions to attend the study circles in order to listen to his
teachings.13 He (T) also urged them to go out for 'Eid (Festival)
prayers and listen to the very important sermons he (S) delivered on
these occasions: Ayyub narrated that Hafsa (R) said, "We used to
forbid our young women from going out for the two 'Eid prayers. "A
woman came and stayed at the palace of Bani Khalaf and she narrated
about her sister whose husband took part in twelve holy battles along
with the Prophet (s), and her sister was with her husband in six of
them. She, the woman's sister, said, "We used to treat the wounded,
look after the patients and once I asked the Prophet (s), 'Is there any
Obligations of the Daughter in Islam
harm for any of us to stay at home if she doesn't have a cloak?' He
said, 'She should cover herself with the cloak of a companion and
should participate in the good deeds and the religious gatherings of the
Muslims.' When Umm 'Atiya came, I asked her whether she had heard
it from the Prophet (s). She replied, 'Yes,….."
The Prophet (s) therefore, did not exempt women from
participating in religious gatherings even though they had no
cloaks to cover themselves with, because he did not want them to fail
in acquiring the knowledge of their religion.Thus the Muslim woman
was fully aware of her obligations and responsibilities, and eager to
learn and teach the facts of her religion.
1 Ibn Katheer, "Tafscer al Qur'aan al-
Adheem", Vol 1, (see p.196 #1), p.493.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Al-Asqalaani, "Path al-Baari", Vol, 1.
(see p. 196, #7), p. 117.
5 AI-Nawawi, "Saheeh Muslim", op.cit.,
Vol.1, "Al-Iman". p.131.
6 Ibid. Vol 2, "Al-Iman", p.101.
7 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., Vol 1. p. 19.
8 AI-Qurtubi, "Al-Jaami'li Ahkaam al
Qur'aan", Vol 10 (see p.196 #2), p.237.
9 Ibn Maajah, "Sunan Ibn Maajah", Vol
1, Chap.17, (see p.196 #8) p.70.
10 AI-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol. 8. p.149.
11 Ibid, Vol.1, p.41.
12 Ibid. Vol.1,p.8o.
13 AI-Asqalaani, op.cit. Vol 1, p.417
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
slam aims to promote peaceful and successful marriages based on
mutual assistance between the husband and wife. Undoubtedly, the
stronger the families are, the more united nations will be, since the
family is the centre of any healthy and stable society. Islam has
therefore attached great importance to the family, and has dealt
seriously with the different issues related to it. Among the aims of
marriage are:
Allah (T) says in the Qur'an:
"And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from
among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has
put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed
Signs for those who give thought." [30:21]
Allah (T) also says:
"He it is who has created you from a single person, and He has created
from him his wife, in order that he might dwell in security with her."
[7:189] Ibn Katheer says: "In order that he (the husband) might find
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
affection and peace in her company. Indeed no affection exchanged
between two human souls is greater than the one exchanged between
the husband and his wife.'1 The Noble Qur'an has described the
relationship between the husband and the wife beautifully; speaking of
men and women Allah (T) says, "They are garments for you and you are
the same for them." [2:187]
'A garment adheres to the human body, covers it and protects it
from the elements. The metaphor of the garment suggests that the
relationship which exists between the husband and his wife is similar to
that which exists between the body and the garment. Their hearts and
souls are connected to one another, they shield one another and they
protect one another from anything that could corrupt their morals
or jeopardise their honour and dignity; and these are indeed the
requisites of true affection and mercy.2
The husband and the wife are joined together in marriage in order to
live together and to satisfy their inherent sexual desires lawfully.This
was pointed out by the Prophet (s) who said, "O young people!
Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him
lower his gaze and guard his chastity, and whoever is not able to
marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes the sexual desires.'3
Allah (T) says in the Qur'an:
"And Allah has given you wives of your own kind, and has given you,
from your wives, sons and grandsons..." (16:72)
Allah Almighty has conferred upon His slaves a great gift which is the
ability to produce children and grandchildren, and for this, He(T)
should be gratefully praised.
The Prophet (s) has also said, "Marry the loving and fertile
woman for I will compete with the other Prophets in the numbers of my
followers."4 One of the main and most important purposes of marriage is
thus increasing the numbers of the Muslim nation.
In order to achieve these three objectives, Allah (T) has enjoined
different duties upon husbands and wives while giving them their
mutual rights according to the principle of rights according to
responsibilities, so that they may live together in harmony. Among the duties
of the wife are the following:
FIRST: The wife should be devoutly obedient to the husband
according to what is just. Allah (T) says:
"Therefore, righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard
in his absence what Allah would have them guard." [4:34]
Allah (T) has described the righteous women as obedient and
guardians for their husbands, which means, according to As-Sudi and
others, that "they guard their chastity and their husband's
property."5Explaining this verse Sayyed Qutb said, "Devoutly obedient means
that the wife is willingly obedient, she chooses to be obedient, she loves to
be obedient and she wishes to succeed in being so; she does not obey
simply because she is forced and obliged to do so. Because of this Allah
(T) has described her as devoutly obedient rather than simply "obedient".
This attitude is the one befitting the mutual affection, love, protection
and care which exists between the two halves of a single soul".
Hence, it is natural that the righteous woman guards the sanctity of
the bond of marriage and protects her chastity in the absence and
obviously in the presence of her husband.
The Prophet (s) has been reported as saying: "The best of
women is the one who pleases her husband when he looks at her, obeys
him when he asks, and does not oppose him in anything he dislikes as
regards herself and her wealth."6 The primary duty of a wife is thus to
obey her husband in all that is lawful. However, if he invites to what is
unlawful and displeasing to Allah (T), she should not obey him. The
Prophet (s) said, "There is no submission in matters involving disobeying
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
or displeasing Allah. Submission to the husband is obligatory only in
what is good and reasonable." 7 Under the chapter, "A woman
should not obey her husband if he orders her to do something sinful,"
Imam Ibn Hajar says, "A woman is urged to obey her husband in
everything, except in what is unlawful and displeasing to Allah.
Therefore, if a husband invites his wife to commit an unlawful act,
she should refrain from doing so."8
A woman should also guard the wealth entrusted to her by her
husband, look after his household and shield his offspring. The
Prophet (s) has been reported as saying, "All of you are guardians and
are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a
guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian and is responsible for her
husband's house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and
are responsible for your wards.'9 According to this hadith, a wife is
responsible for the education and upbringing of her children, the
management of her household including the servants, and the welfare
of other dependants. She should strive to better their condition and
to fulfil her role as a guardian. The Prophet (s) also said, "Allah (T)
will hold each one of you accountable for his/her wards."10
The wife is expected to be obedient to her husband because men
are the maintainers of women; Allah (T) says:
"Men are the maintainers of women because of what Allah has
given one over the other, and because they spend (to support
them) from their means." [4:34]
This divine injunction descr ibes the man as the Qawwaam
(maintainer & protector) of his wife. But the man's role of leadership
in relation to his family does not imply dictatorship over his wife. On
the contrary, Islam emphasises the importance of taking counsel and
mutual agreement in family decisions.
The verse does give us the reason why men are described as
maintainers. Men have always assumed the role of providing food,
waging war against the enemies and protecting their families and
communities. The father thus maintains and sustains his daughters,
and the husband protects, safeguards, supports and provides for his
wife. The man has been put in charge of his home but this is a
responsibility and not a privilege which undermines women's rights
as many have come to believe. Instead it is based on the Sharia
principle of benefits in accordance with the scale of responsibility, as well as
on men and women's different temperaments and physiological
differences, which make the man suitable for leadership of the family.
The children are attributed to their father.
It is the husband's responsibility to provide a house
and to sustain his family.
It is the husband's responsibility to protect and safeguard
his family given his natural physical strength.
Again, this leadership does not imply tyrannical authority but is a
leadership of duties and responsibilities. Since a leader's duty is to do
justice, he can only assume his authority if he is fulfilling his
obligations towards his dependants. In appointing the man to the
leadership of his family, the divine providence has taken into account the
different inherent dispositions of men and women. Describing
Himself, Allah (T) says:
"Should He not know what He created! And He is the Subtle,
the Aware." [67:14]
I have therefore attempted to elucidate the main principles on which
the family is based in Islam so that this notion of leadership may be
understood as intended by Allah, and so that Muslim women may
willingly assent to men's right to the leadership of the family and
consequently be able to fulfil their own prescribed duties.
In summary, the main principles are the following:
When Allah (T) prescribed obligations for both men and women, He
also prescribed rights for both of them so that they could sense deeply
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
and be aware of the divine justice. Only then will they be able to give,
sacrifice and consequently lead a happy and peaceful life. This
principle of equity in terms of rights and duties is embodied in the
following verse. Allah (T) says:
"...And due to them (ie, wives) is similar to what is expected of
them according to what is equitable." [2:228]
Explaining this verse, Imam Al-Qurtubi said, "It means that the wife has
marital rights over her husband as he has over her. "Therefore, Ibn
'Abbaas has said, "I beautify myself for my wife as she beautifies herself for
me and I do not like to indulge in exercising all of the rights that I
possess over her so that she should not exercise all the rights that she has
over me because Allah (T) has said 'And women shall have rights similar to
the rights against them, which means that just as women are expected to be
obedient to their husbands, men are expected to treat their wives kindly
and according to what is equitable."11
Muhammad 'Izzat Duruzah says, "Everything that a man expects and
demands from his wife according to what is lawful such as obedience,
reliability, honesty, loyalty, kind treatment and companionship,
compassion, respect, faithfulness, dutifulness, entertainment,
understanding, thoughtfulness, care, fulfilment of various duties,
abstinence from dispute, aggressiveness, contentiousness,
peevishness, vulgarity, insolence, arrogance, hautiness, demanding
the impossible...etc, is also to be expected and required by the wife from her
husband."12 Then, Allah (T) continues and says:
"... and men have a degree over them..." (2:228]
In this verse, men may appear to have privileges over women but this would
contradict the first half of the same verse, "And women shall have rights
similar to the rights against them." The logical explanation would be that "the
degree" refers to the Quwama (maintenance and protection), which I have
explained earlier, and Allah (T) knows best.
The relationship between the husband and his wife is based upon the
principle of mutual consultation. Islam rejects a relationship of
dictatorship and tyranny between the man and the woman. Allah(T)
describes the faithful believers as the ones who "conduct their affairs by
mutual consultation." (42:38) The Noble Qur'an indicates that every
decision concerning both the husband and the wife should only be reached
after mutual consultation. Allah (T) says:
"...If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due
consultation, there is no sin for them." [2:223]
Hence if the the divorcee has the right to be consulted by her ex-husband
in order to reach mutual consent for the advantage of their baby, then
logically, the actual wife who is in charge of the management of her
husband's household must also be consulted in family decisions.
The Noble Qur'an has described the relationship between the
husband and the wife as just and fair, which are the fundamental
attributes of every sincere relationship. Allah (T) says:
"...and let each of you accept the advice of the other in a just way."
Explaining this verse, Ibn Katheer says, "It means that you should deal
with each other in a just way, without causing harm to one another."13
Allah (T) also says:
"..And live with them honourably." [4:19]
Ibn Katheer says, "This verse means that you (the husbands) should address
your wives with loving words and treat them kindly and you should
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
improve your appearance as much as you like them (your wives) to
beautify themselves for you."14 Consequently, it is important that every
marriage should be based on the aforementioned principles and the
maintenance of the family delegated to the husband in order to achieve
a harmonious and well-balanced human organisation.
SECOND OBLIGATION: The wife should satisfy her husband's
desire for sexual intercourse.
In other words, the wife is required to fulfil her sexual duties
towards her husband. She has no right to abstain except for a
reasonable cause or legal prohibition. Indeed, the tradition of the
Prophet (S) has confirmed and emphasised this important duty
through various narrations. Abu Huraira (R) narrated that the
Prophet (s) said, "If a woman spends the night deserting her
husband's bed, then the angels send their curses on her till
morning."15 Abu Huraira (R) also narrated that the Prophet (s) said, "If a
man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him,
then the angels send their curses on her till morning."16
For these reasons and many more, the Prophet (s) has said, "A
woman should not fast (optional fasts) except with her husband's
permission if he is at home," lest it would prevent her from fulfilling
her duties towards him if he wished to have sexual intercourse. The
divine injunction has emphasised this duty, since fulfilling one's
sexual desires is the primary objective of marriage and is one of the
most important duties of Muslim women towards their husbands.
Nevertheless, Islamic injunctions have not overlooked the equally
important sexual rights of women. 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin Al -'As
narrated that the Prophet (s) said, "O 'Abdullah! Have I not been
informed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?", I
(Abdullah) said, "Yes", O Allah's Messenger!' He (s) said, "Do not
do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave it at other times;
stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a
right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right
over you."17
Imam Ibn Hajar wrote that Ibn Bataal said, "Having emphasised in
the preceding chapter, the right of the husband over his wife, the
Prophet (s) in this chapter emphasises the right of the wife over her
husband. He (T) says that the husband should not exhaust himself in
observing optional acts of worship so as to become unable to provide for his
wife and fulfil his sexual duties towards her."18 The Prophet (s) prevented
'Abdullah from exhausting himself so that he could have enough strength
to give his wife her due rights, and this is indeed the ultimate manifestation
of Islamic justice.
In order to ensure a pleasing and satisfying interchange of this right
between the husband and the wife, the divine legislation has set many
incentives for it. The Prophet (s) said, "In man's sexual intercourse
with his wife there is a Sadaqa (good deed). So, when lawfully satisfying
their sexual desires, both the husband and the wife are rewarded. The
wisdom behind this is that each of them should be keen to please the
other and to give or receive with pleasure, contentment and gratitude.
THIRD: The wife should not allow anyone to enter the house without her
husband's permission.
The house belongs to the husband, who is at the same time the
maintainer and the protector of his family.The wife should show respect
for her husband's feelings by not admitting to her house anyone he does
not wish her to receive. The Prophet (s) has been reported as saying: "You
have your rights upon your wives and they have their rights upon you.
Your right is that they shall not allow anyone you dislike to step onto your
furnishings or allow any you dislike to enter your home, and their right is
that you should treat them well in the matter of food and clothing."19
"Furnishings" in the above narration refers to all kinds of
furniture such as carpets, chairs, mats, cushions...etc. It certainly does not
refer to the bed or any prohibited intimacy, since the wife is not allowed to
offer the opportunity for anyone to do that regardless of her husband's
opinion, whether he is present or absent and whether he likes it or dislikes
it. Indeed, the meaning refers to the entertaining and reception of ordinary
visitors. Imam An-Nawawi says, "You must not allow in your house anyone
whose visit your husband dislikes, whether this person is a man, a woman or
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
one of the wife's mahrams; indeed the prohibition includes them all. "The
scholars have said that the wife must not permit anyone (man, woman or
mahram) to enter her house unless she knew or thought that her husband
would not mind their visit.
FOURTH: The wife should always be clean, tidy, presentable and
cheerful before her husband.
This is one of the main duties that a wife should fulfil.When the
Prophet (s) described the ideal wife he (s) said, "The best wife is the one
who pleases her husband when he looks at her, obeys him when he orders
and does not disobey him in anything regarding her person or her wealth."20
In every day life, a human being perspires and is exposed to dirt,
which results in unpleasant body odour. Islam has therefore
emphasised the importance of cleanliness and made it obligatory upon
Muslim men and women to have complete baths in certain situations, such
as after sexual intercourse and at the end of menstruation, and to wash their
limbs at least five times a day.
The Prophet (S) encouraged the Muslim women always to be clean
and even taught them how to wash after the menstrual period.21 Thus did the
Prophet of mercy and guidance teach the women the fundamentals of
cleanliness and purification (taharah) so that they would always be clean
and attractive.
As for the attributes of cheerfulness and a smiling face, these are
important when greeting friends, family and especially when
interacting with one's husband. Abu Dharr reported: Allah's Apostle (s)
said to me: Do not consider anything good to be insignificant even if it is
that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance."22 And in another
narration the Prophet (s) says, "Even your smile at seeing your brother is
considered as a Sadaqah."23
FIFTH: The wife is expected to fulfil her duties in managing the house.
The tolerant laws of the Shariah stipulate that the husband and the
wife should collaborate in managing their everyday familial life. Since the
husband is in charge of the family budget, and to him falls the
responsibility of providing sustenance for his family, the wife is
expected to assist by personally preparing the food, cleaning the
house and managing its affairs, or by supervising the servants who
normally carry out these tasks because she is the guardian of her
house and responsible for her household.
Exactly who does the housework depends on the customs and
traditions of a given country, or to the mutual consent of both the
husband and the wife. It is worth mentioning that the majority of
scholars say that the husband cannot oblige his wife to do the
housework in his house, since she is his wife and not his servant. He
also has no right to dismiss his wife's servant, but should pay him for
his services according to the couple's needs. Imam Ash-Shaafi'ee and
the Kufi scholars say that the husband is responsible for his wife's
expenditure as well as that of her servants, if any."24
We also conclude from the authentic narration mentioned in the
chapter, "The working of a lady in her husband's house", that the wife
volunteers to do so in order to assist her husband in managing their
household affairs, or simply to help him when he is unable to employ a
servant. Fatima (s), the daughter of the Prophet (s), set an example for all
women by helping her husband around the house until once she went to
the Prophet (S) complaining about the painful effects of the stone
handmill on her hand. In another narration, Fatima (R) came to the
Prophet (S) asking for a servant. He (s) said to her, "May I inform you of
something better than th,at? When you go to bed, recite Subhaan Allah
thirty three times, Alhamdulillah thirty three times, and Allaahu Akbar
thirty four times."25 So when Fatima (R) complained about the injuries on
her hand from the stone handmill, her father, the Prophet (s) did not order
her husband Ali (R) to spare her such a chore by employing a servant or
by carrying out all the work himself. Indeed, if it had been in Ali's
capability, the prophet (S) would have ordered him to do so just as he
ordered him to pay Fatima's Mahr before the marriage even though this
was not obligatory when the bride consented to a delayed payment. So
how could the prophet (s) order him to do what was not obligatory and
fail to order him to do what was obligatory if indeed providing a servant
for one's wife was obligatory?
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
Nevertheless, Ibn battaal narrated that some scholars have said:
"We do not find any indication as to the Prophet (S) enjoining Fatima
to work inside her house; she did so because she was a kind
companion with a noble character."26 Similarly, Asma (R), daughter of
Abu Bakr also used to work and care for her husband' s property
inside and outside the house. Asma narrated that, "When As -Zubair
(her husband) married me, he had no real property nor any slaves nor
anything else except a camel which drew water from the well, and his
horse. I used to feed his horse with fodder, draw water, sew the
bucket for drawing it, and prepare the dough, but I did not know how
to bake bread. So our Ansari neighbours used to bake bread for me,
and they were honourable ladies. I used to carry the date stones on
my head from Zubair's land given to him by Allah's Messenger (s),
and this land was two third Farsakh (about two miles) from my
Asma (R), the noble woman of the Quraish, did herself carry out
such exhausting tasks in consideration of her husband's difficult
financial situation, since he "had no real property nor anything else
except a camel which drew water from the well and his horse." Indeed
Fatima and Asma (R) are two ideal examples of compassion and kind
companionship between the husband and the wife.
It seems that the Prophet (S) did not give Fatima a servant lest it
became a legal obligation upon the husbands. In fact, the Prophet
(S) intended that the relationship between the husband and the
wife should be based on mutual assistance. Therefore, he
advised his daughter and his son-in-law to say SubhaanAllah thirty
three times, Alhamdulillah thirty three times and Allaahuakbar thirty
four times so that Allah (T) may give them enough strength to work
and carry out their everyday tasks. He (s) thus guided his daughter
and her husband to what was best for them.
Abu Bakr (R) later sent a servant to Asma's house to groom her
husband's horse, and to relieve her from those chores normally
done by men. By doing so, he has shown how the wife's parents
should tolerate the financial situation of their son-in-law and offer
their help when necessary.
From these examples we conclude that it is recommended that a
woman should work in her house, manage its affairs and try to improve it
as much as she can. She should do so willingly in consideration for her
husband's financial situation. In return, the husband must show mercy to
his wife and employ a servant for his wife if he has the means to do so
and leave to her the responsibility of supervising and directing the
servant (s). If however, he cannot afford to do so, then he should follow
the example of the Prophet(s) by helping out his wife around the house
as a way of showing affection and gratitude for her continuous efforts.
When 'Aisha (R) was asked, "What did the Prophet (s) do at home?" she
replied, "He used to work for his family, and when he heard the Adhaan
(call for prayer), he would go out."28
These are the duties of the wife towards her husband. Among the
mutual duties of husbands and wives to each other are the following:
[1] Not to divulge each others secrets.
The husband should not divulge the secret of his wife and vice versa.
The Prophet (s) has been reported as saying, "The most wicked
among the people in the eyes of Allah on the Day of Judgement is the
man who goes to his wife and she comes to him, and then he divulges
her secret."29 Explaining this hadith, Imam An-Nawawi said, "This
hadith prohibits the husband from divulging his wife's bedroom
secrets by describing what takes place between them while satisfying
their sexual desires (actions, sounds...etc.). The prohibition also
applies to the woman since they are both eligible for religious duties and
responsibilities." 30
[2] Mutual advice and mutual encouragement to do good deeds and
follow the right path. Allah (T) says:
"0 you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a
Fire, the fuel of which is Men and Stones, over which are angels
stern and severe, who disobey not the Commands they receive from
Allah, but do that which they are commanded." [66:6|
Ad-Dahhak & Muqaatil said, "It is a duty upon the Muslim to
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
teach his family, relatives, neighbours and slaves what Allah (T) has
permitted or forbidden for them."31
Having discussed the duties of a woman towards her husband during
his life, I would also like to discuss some of her duties towards him after his
Islam has enjoined upon women to complete a waiting period of four months
and ten days after the death of their husbands. During this period, the
widow should stay at home to express her sorrow for her husband's death.
She should not adorn herself and only go out when necessary. During this
period she should also show respect and loyalty for her deceased husband by
avoiding any form of betrothals leading to marriage until the end of her
'iddah. Allah (T) says:
"And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they shall wait
(as regard their marriage) for four months and ten days, then when
they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin for you if they dispose of
themselves in a just and honourable manner. And Allah is well-
Acquainted with what you do." [2:234]
Explaining this verse, Ibn Katheer says, "This is a divine order
directed to women whose husbands have died and left them behind. They
shall complete a waiting period ('Iddah) of four months and ten days. This
applies both to the women who did consummate their marriages before
the death of their husbands and those who did not."32
"Shall waif means that: They (the women ) should be patient, not
hurry into marriage and not leave their marital homes but stay there during
the night."33
In the tradition of the Prophet, mourning has been described as
follows: Umm Habeebah narrated: I have heard Allah's Messenger (s)
saying, "It is not lawful for a lady, who believes in Allah and the Last Day,
to mourn for a dead person for more than three days unless he is her
husband for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days."34 Four
months and ten days is thus the waiting period that a widow should complete.
If she is pregnant however, her 'Iddah' comes to end with the birth of the
baby as Allah (T) says:
"And for those who are pregnant, their 'iddah is until they
deliver." [65:4]
Therefore, the iddah of pregnant widows can be shorter or longer than four
months and ten days, depending on the stage of their pregnancy. The iddah
can thus extend up to nine months, or be reduced to a few days only, as was
the case with Subai'a Al-Aslamiya: Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet
(s) narrated that a lady, from Bani Aslam, called Subai'a became a widow
while she was pregnant. Abu As-Sanaabil bin Ba'kak asked for her hand in
marriage, but she refused to marry him and said, "By Allah, I cannot marry
him unless I have completed one of the two prescribed periods." About ten
days later (after having delivered the baby), she went to the Prophet (s) and
he said, "You can marry now."35
Abdullah bin Abdullah narrated that his father had written a letter
to Ibn Al-Arqam asking him to ask Subai'a Al-Aslamiya about the verdict
that the Prophet (s) had given her. She said, "The Prophet (s) gave me
his verdict that after I gave birth, I could marry."36 These two hadiths
indicate clearly that the waiting period of a pregnant woman comes to end
when she delivers the baby.
Obligations of a Wife in Islam
1 Ibn Kathcer, Tafscer al Qur'aan al-
Adheem, Vol 6, (see p.196 #1). p.274.
2 Aboo al-A'laa al-Mawdoodi, Huquoq al-
Zawjeeyah, (see p.227,#44) p. 19.
3 Al-Bukhaari, Sahcch al-Bukhaari, Vol 6,
(see p.go #23). p.117
4 Al-Suyooti, Sunan al-Nasa'ai, Vol.6,
"An-Nikaah". (see p.i&9 #50)
5 Ibn Katheer, op.cit. Vol.4, P-49'
6 Al-Suyooti, op.cit., Vol.6, p.68.
7 AI-Nawawi, Saheeh Muslim, Vol.12.
Al-lmaarah, p.227.
8 AI-Asqalaani, Path al-Baari..., Vol.9.
(seep.196#7), p.304.
9 Ibid. p.299.
10 Al-Tirmidhi, "Sunan al-Tirmidhi",
(sec p.226 #1), p.208, No.11705.
11 AI-Qurtubi, Al-Jaami'li Ahkaam al
Qur'aan, Vol 3 (see p. 196 #2), p. 123.
12 Muhammad Izzat Daroozah, AI-Mar'ah
Fi al-Qur'aan Wa-al-Sunnah, (see p. 90 #
16), p.30.
13 Ibn Kathcer, op.cit. Vol 4, p.373.
14 Ibn Kathcer, op.cjt. Vol 1, p.466.
15 Al-Asqalaani, op.cit., vol.9. p.294.
16 Ibid.
17 AI-Asqalaani, op.cit., vol.9. P-153-
18 Al-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.6, p.399.
19 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.3, chap.1,
20 Al-Suyooti, op.cit., Vol.6, p.68.
21 Muslim Al-Nawawi, op.cit., Vol.10.
Al-Nikaah, p. 54.
22 Ibid, Vol.5, AI-Birr Was-Sila., p.483
23 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, p-340.
24 Al-Asqalaani, op.cit. Vol 9, p. 507.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
27 Al-Asqalaani, op.cit. Vol 9, p.319.
28 Ibid, Vol 9, p.507.
29 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.io. Al-Nikaah.
30 Ibid.
31 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., Vol. 4, p.391.
32 Ibn Katheer, vol.1, p.284.
33 Al-Qurtubi, op.cit, Vol.3, p.176.
34 Al-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol.6, p.185.
35 Ibid, p.185.
36 Ibid.
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
llah (T) has enjoined upon parents to bring up their children in a
correct manner and to give them all the care they need to grow up
into sound and healthy adults. The importance and great impact of early
education are stressed in the Prophet's statement, "There is none
born but is created in his true nature. It is his parents who make him a
Jew or a Christian or a Magian just as beasts produce their young
with their limbs perfect. Do you see anything deficient in them?"1
This hadith draws the attention of psychologists and teachers to the
extreme importance that ought to be given to children's education from
their earliest ages. Allah (T) has created all children with their true and
inherent natures, a nature common to all human beings. They are as
malleable as dough in the fingers of the educators who can shape their
minds according to their own wills. The Prophet (s) has made an analogy
with the beasts who produce perfect young. In fact, it is the human hand
that alters or disfigures the perfect and amazing divine creation, and the
Prophet has attributed this change to the parents of the child. The mother
is the one who rocks the cradle, nurses the baby and moulds the child.
She makes him into a Jew, a Christian or a Magian from his early age,
depending on her own religious and educational background. The future
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
inclinations and religious ideology - which is the most important part of
the education of a new-born baby - are often determined by the type of
education he receives from his parents. This early education becomes a
vital factor in the making of a future Muslim or disbeliever. Children
have been entrusted to their parents and it is their responsibility to offer
them a well-planned upbringing since the Prophet (S) has said, "On the
day of Judgement every one of you will be held responsible for his
dependants."2 Contrary to what many may think, children's care,
development, upbringing, guidance, instruction and education are
immensely difficult and extremely important tasks. Each child will go
through many different phases, each requiring special attention and
different guidance. Each child is born with inherent dispositions
liable to both good and bad inclinations, and it is the parents' duty to
direct their children to the right path in order for them to grow up as
pious, good and righteous adults.
Children's education must encompass three aspects: physical,
intellectual and spiritual. This is the responsibility of both parents
and each of them is expected to fulfil his or her role. Their roles
overlap each other and one parent may replace the other during a
temporary or permanent absence (eg. death).In such cases the mother
has to fulfil many duties and it is therefore difficult sometimes to
differentiate between the duties of the mother and the father. I shall
illustrate the various responsibilities which can be undertaken by the
mother even though they are normally assigned to the father, and then
those which are exclusive to men (e.g. guardianship at the time of
Children are usually, especially in their early ages, entrusted to
their mothers. They are necessarily influenced by her language and
manners and will sometimes embody her whole character because she is
the mould into which the future generation is shaped. This fact
stresses the extreme importance of the mother's role in her children's
upbringing, especially in the early pre-school years of their lives
during which the father's participation - without being unimportant -is
more limited.
In Islam, the mother has an independent responsibility: she is the
guardian of her husband's house and is responsible for her family's
household. Regarding this responsibility, the Prophet (s) said, "All of
you are guardians and responsible for your wards. The ruler is a
guardian; the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian
and is responsible for her husband's house and offspring; and so all of
you are guardians and are responsible for your wards."3
A guardian is usually concerned with his or her dependants' wellbeing,
always trying to make decisions to their advantage.
Consequently, she has total responsibility over her husband's
household including relatives, children, servants, furniture, goods and
money. This responsibility is far from being easy and demands all her
The mother has to direct her children, nourish them and monitor
their growth, teach them the facts of their religion, shield them from
evil and open their eyes to what can harm them.
The mother's responsibilities towards her child actually start while
it is still an embryo in her womb and continues throughout his
upbringing and education. These responsibilities include the
The mother-to-be should not consume anything that could harm the
embryo or perform any act that could kill it because Allah (T) has
imposed a commitment upon every mother not to kill her child. In the
verse dealing with the women's pledge of allegiance, Allah (T) says:
"O Prophet ! When believing women come to you to give you
the Pledge... that they will not kill their children." [60:12]
Imam Al-Qurtubi says, "This verse means that women should not kill
their daughters nor abort embryos."4 Ibn Katheer says, "The verse
refers to the killing of the child after its birth as the pagan Arabs used to
do whenever they feared poverty. The prohibition also includes the
killing of the embryo as some ignorant women might do so for
immoral and similar reasons."5 If she does so, she will deserve Allah's
punishment, as Allah (T) says:
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
"And when the female buried alive shall be questioned: For
what sin was she killed." [81:8-9]
Consequently, the mother has no right to abort the embryo except when
her own life is threatened by the pregnancy. In this case, abortion is
permitted according to the principle of "choosing the lesser of two
evils." The person who should make this judgement is a trustworthy
Muslim doctor. The mother is thus the guardian responsible for the
embryo's safety until it comes to this world in which he or she will need
further attention and care.
Allah (t) says:
"The mothers shall suckle to their children for two whole years, for those who
desire to complete the term of suckling." [2:233]
So the mother should suckle her baby for two whole years. Ibn Katheer
says, "This is an instruction from Allah (T) to the mothers to complete the
suckling term which lasts for two years."6 During this period mother's milk
is very important for the baby's healthy physical and psychological
development.There are two different opinions regarding the
interpretation of "shall suckle"; is it a right or a duty? The majority of the
scholars however, understand it as being a duty to be fulfilled by the mother
for her children. Nevertheless, "for those who desire to complete the term of
suckling" is a proof that completing the term of suckling is not obligatory.
The mother can shorten or extend the period of breast feeding as long as
no harm is being done to the child.
Whether an obligation or an option, breast feeding remains very
important for the baby. The mother is often guided by instinct and
responds with her unique maternal affections. However, in some
unusual cases, the mother may refuse to breast-feed her child. These cases
should be duly assessed and dealt with accordingly, bearing in mind that
this is a religious duty - her main duty as a mother - for which she will be
held accountable on the day of Judgement, unless there is a medical or
other major reason that prevents her from doing so, especially after the
importance of breast-feeding has been medically and internationally
proven. This has been confirmed by recent medical research which has
stressed the importance of the mother's milk during the first two years of
the infant's life and its consequences on the child's physical development
and psychological balance.Indeed, from the first day of his life, the baby is
dependent entirely on his mother's affection and mercy.
The child is in need of his mother's affection as much as he is in need of
food and drink. The mother normally recognises and responds to this need
The Prophet (s) described maternal affection as a virtue when he (s)
said, "The best women who ride camels are the righteous among the
women of Quraish. They are the kindest women to their children in their
childhood and the most careful of the property of their husbands."7
Islam is indeed a merciful religion and encourages mutual mercy among
the Muslims as demonstrated by the following hadith: "Abu Huraira (R)
narrated that Allah's Messenger (s) kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali while Al-Aqra'
bin Haabis At-Tameemi was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra' said, "I have ten
children and I have never kissed anyone of them." Allah's Messenger (s) cast
a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be
treated mercifully."8 The Prophet (s) thus showed that children need love,
affection and mercy. He (s) also taught his companions how to do so, as well
as how to kiss, cuddle and play with their children. 'Aisha (R) narrated that,
"A Bedouin came to the Prophet (s) and said, "You (people) kiss the boys!
We don't kiss them." The Prophet (s) said, "I cannot put mercy in your
hearts after Allah has taken it out of them.'9
The Prophet (s) himself would play with his grandchildren as well as
with the children of his companions.Usama bin Zaid narrated: "Allah's
Messenger (s) used to put me on one thigh and put Al-Hasan bin Ali on his
other thigh, and then embrace us and say,'O Allah! Please be Merciful to
them, as I am merciful to them."10
Allah (s) will be merciful to his slaves because of their mercy to their
children and will grant Paradise to the mother who cares for and shows
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
affection to her daughters. 'Aisha (R) reported: A poor woman came to me
with her two daughters. I gave her three dates. She gave a date to each of
them and then brought the last date to her mouth in order to eat it, but her
daughters expressed their desire for it. She then divided that date
between them. This kind treatment of hers impressed me and I mentioned
the incident to Allah's Messenger (s). He said: Verily Allah has assured
Paradise for her, because of this act of hers, or He has rescued her from
Hell-Fire."11 By receiving affection from their parents, children will
learn to be merciful and benevolent to others and will grow up as healthy
and sound adults.
The mother and father should share the task of choosing a nice and
appropriate name for their baby. Abi Al-Dardaa' narrated that the
Prophet (s) said, "On the Day of Resurrection you will be summoned by
your names and the names of your fathers, so let your names be beautiful."12
Choosing a pleasant and agreeable name for the baby is the
responsibility of both parents, although it would be sufficient if only one of
them did so. It is stated in the Qur'an that the wife of Imran chose her
daughter's name. Allah (T) says:
"Then when she delivered her child (Mary), she said: "O My
Lord! I have delivered a female child, - and Allah knew better
what she delivered, - "And the male is not like the female, and I
have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You for her and for
her offspring from Satan, the outcast." [3:36]
A mother who wishes to make the right choice regarding her child's name
should follow the Sunnah by choosing the recommended names in Islam and
avoiding the disliked ones.13
Abu Wahab Aj-Jasha'ee (R) narrated that the Prophet (s) said: Name
after the prophets; the most pleasing names to Allah (T) are Abdullah and
Abdurrahmaan, the most truthful names are Haarith and Humaam and
the ugliest names are Harb (war) and Mirrah (bitter)."14 It is clear
from those two hadiths that the best names are Abdullah and
Abdurrahman, both of which mean the slaves of Allah (T). Ar-Rahman
(The most Beneficent) is one of Allah's ninety nine attributes. The best
names after these are the names of the Prophets.
The prohibited names include Malik Al -Amlaak (The king of
Kings). Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (s) as saying: "The
vilest name in Allah's sight is Malik al-Amlaak (The king of kings)."
The narration transmitted on the authority of Shaiba contains these
words:"There is no king but Allah, the Exalted and Glorious."
Sufyaan said: "Similarly, the word Shahinshaah is also the vilest
appellation."15 The name Abu Al-Qaasim is also prohibited as it was the
kunya [title] of the Prophet (s).
Jaabir bin 'Abdullah reported:"A child was born in the house of a
person among us, and he gave him the name of Qaasim.We said: We
will not call you by your kunya until we ask the Prophet (s) about it.
Whereupon he (s) said, "You may call yourselves by my name, but not
by my kunya."16 This companion wanted to call his son Qaasim and
thus adopt the kunya of Abu-Al-Qaasim for himself, but the Prophet
(s) prohibited him from doing so. Jaabir narrated, "A boy was born to
one of our men, and the man named him Al-Qaasim. We said to him,
"We will not call you Abu Al-Qaasim, nor will we respect you for
that." The Prophet (s) was informed about that, and he said, "Name
your son 'Abdur-Rahmaan.'17
The mother should be aware of this prohibition in order not to
commit the mistake of calling her child Al-Qaasim, especially as many
people do call themselves Abu-Al-Qaasim because they are unaware of
the legal judgement regarding this kunya. My objective has been to
clarify this issue so that the-mothers may follow the Sunnah in
naming their sons and daughters.The Sunnah encourages parents to
choose the most beautiful names for their children, and the Prophet
(s) used to change ugly names to better ones. Ibn 'Umar reported that
'Umar had a daughter who was called 'Aasiya (disobedient) and
Allah's Messenger (S) gave her the name of Jamila (beautiful)."18
These hadith prove the responsibility involved in naming children
and the importance of choosing suitable names.The age at which the
baby is named is to be decided by the parents.This can be
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
immediately after birth since the Prophet (s) has been reported to have
said, "This evening I had a child whom I have called Ibrahim."19 Or they
can wait until the seventh day, as the Prophet (s) said,"The new-born
is pledged by three things: "An 'aqqeeqah to be slaughtered for him on the
seventh day, a name to be given to him and the shaving of his head."20 It is
also recommended that the Adhaan should be called in the new-born's
ear and that the Tahneek [sweetening] of his mouth be observed.
[5] CALLING THE ADHAAN & TAHNEEK * It is the Prophet's
(s) tradition to call the Adhaan in the ear of the new-born baby, just
after his birth. Abi Raafi' narrated: I saw the Prophet (s) calling the
Adhaan in the ear of Al Hasan (the Prophet's grand-child) as soon as
Fatima gave birth to him."21
According to Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziya, the wisdom behind this
tradition is that, "The sublime words of the Adhaan, which celebrate the
glory and majesty of Allah (T) as well as the Shahaada by which Islam is
embraced, should be the first thing to reach the ears of a human being. It
seems as if the new-born is being taught the slogan of Islam when he or she
first enters this world, in the same way as he is taught the word of Tawheed
when he leaves this world. It is not improbable that the Adhaan reaches and
affects his heart, even though the new-born may not know it."22
* It is also the Prophet's (s) sunnah to perform tahneek of the new-born's
mouth with a date. Abu Musa reported: "A child was born in my house and
I brought him to Allah's Prophet (s) who gave him the name of Ibrahim and
rubbed his palate with dates."23 Imam An-Nawawi says, "This hadith
teaches us that tahneek should be performed for the new-born child,
this is indeed Sunnah with unanimity (of the scholars). This Sunnah also
requires that the act of Tahneek should be carried out by a pious man or
Imam An-Nawawi adds, "The scholars are unanimous upon the fact
that the tahneek of the new-born, just after birth, should be performed by
the use of dates or some other sweet substance."24 It is thus possible to use
honey instead of dates.
Tahneek consists of chewing some dates and putting a little bit on the tip
of the finger (or dipping the finger in honey) and then putting it inside the
baby's mouth. He or she will start to lick the dates and to suck the finger.
The person who is performing tahneeh should then gently rub the palate of
the child with it. The wisdom behind this seems to be that the new-born
infant will be prepared to suck his or her mother's breast and to absorb her
The 'aqeeqah ceremony involves the sacrifice of two sheep on the seventh
day after the birth of a male child, and one sheep after the birth of a
female child. The 'Aqeeqah ceremony after the birth of a baby is a duty
upon the parents towards their newly born infant. Salmaan bin 'Amir Ad-
Dabbi narrated: I heard Allah's Messenger (s) Saying, "Aqeeqah is to be
offered for a newly born, so slaughter for him, and remove harm from
him."25 "Remove harm from him" refers to the shaving of the baby's head.
This is confirmed by many other hadith in the books of tradition
(Sunnah), including the following saying quoted earlier."The new-born is
pledged by three things: An 'aqeeqah to be sacrificed for him or her on the
seventh day, a name to be given to him and the shaving of his head."26
The tradition of the Prophet (s) has also confirmed that one sheep
should be slaughtered for the girl and two for the boy. Aisha
narrated," When the Prophet (s) was asked about 'aqeeqah, he (s) ordered
two sheep of similar shape and age for a boy and one sheep for a girl."27
The scholars have different opinions about the religious verdict concerning
'aqeeqah. Some have said that "It is a confirmed tradition" and others have
said, "It is a duty." The majority opinion that 'aqeeqa is a Sunnah is based
on the statement of the Prophet (s): "If a child is born to one of you and he
wishes to sacrifice (an animal) for him or her, let him do so." Those who say
that the 'aqeeqah is a duty have based their opinion on the hadith quoted
earlier: "The new-born is pledged by three things: An 'aqeeqah to be
sacrificed..." This narration suggests that the new-born infant is held until
the 'aqeeqah ceremony and other rituals have taken place. Such an
interpretation leads us to the conclusion that this tradition is in fact a duty.
Whether a duty or a recommendation, the 'aqeeqah should be
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
performed in compliance with the tradition of the Prophet (s). The mother
should therefore celebrate the birth of her baby on the seventh day
and ask her husband or the guardian of the baby to arrange the sacrifice.
She should also have the baby's head shaved, and give in charity the
equivalent of the hair's weight in gold or silver.When Fatima (R) gave
birth to Al-Hasan, the Prophet (s) told her: "O Fatima! Shave his head and
give in charity the equivalent of his hair's weight in gold."28
The mother should not forget to invite guests to eat from the meat of
the 'Aqeeqah, and it is preferable that the organs of the sheep should be
separated without breaking the bones since 'Aisha (R) has been reported as
saying, "The meat should be cooked in whole pieces; it can be eaten,
offered to the invited guests and given in charity."29
By fulfilling these rites, the mother's hope will be that Allah (T) may
bless her child and that the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) will be established
instead of the innovations which are continuously invented by
many mothers while celebrating the birth of their children.
Circumcision is a religious duty. Abu Huraira reported: "There are five
natural acts: Circumcision, shaving the pubes, cutting the nails, plucking
the hair under the armpits and clipping the moustache."30 Imam An-
Nawawi said, "circumcision means that the foreskin of the male sexual
organ is cut away so that the organ becomes entirely visible. The
guardian of the baby boy should have him circumcised before puberty, but
the correct way is to do it on the seventh day after the birth."31
It is not obligatory that circumcision be performed specifically on the
seventh day. It is, however, recommended that the boy should be fairly
young so that he may not be physically or psychologically affected by
the operation. The scholars have different opinions regarding the
religious verdict of circumcision.32 Is it a command (wajib) or is it
Sunnah? Imam Maalik, Ash-Shaafi'ee and Ahmad b. Hanbal say that
circumcision is wajib, basing their opinion on the following narration:
A man came to the Prophet (s) and said, I have embraced Islam.The
Prophet (s) told him, "Then shave off the hair of disbelief and get
Imam Abu Haneefah and some companions of Ahmad b. Hanbal say
that circumcision is a sunnah, basing their opinion on the statement
of the Prophet (s): "Circumcision is a sunnah for men, an honouring act for
This is the legal verdict regarding the circumcision of men.
Circumcision for women is allowed but is not ordered because the
aforementioned hadith is weak. When the Prophet (s) prescribed
circumcision for the Muslim nation he specifically referred to Muslim men.
There is no proven or authentic evidence that the Prophet (s) ever ordered
a woman to be circumcised - and Allah (T) knows best.
This is the second phase, and it focuses on the overall education of the
child during which he or she should be physically, intellectually and
spiritually prepared.
Physical education
The objective of this is to keep the child healthy and strong and to
protect him or her from various diseases and ailments.
Intellectual education
The mother should communicate correct, useful and diverse
knowledge to her child so that he or she may develop a sharp mind and
keen observation that will allow him to interact with society, attain selfconfidence
and become an active member of the nation.
Spiritual education
This involves teaching the child the correct religious ideology and
principles. The child should become used to the different acts of
worship, acquire the virtues of Islam and adopt the excellent manners of true
believers, so that he or she may grow up as a righteous Muslim who will
enjoin good and forbid evil.
In his book "Ihyaa' 'Uloom ad-Deen," Imam Al-Ghazaali says,
"Note that the spiritual education of children is one of the most
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
important duties of the parents. The child has been entrusted to his
parents; at this stage the child will receive whatever the parents dictate
and will follow whatever he or she is taught to follow. If the child is
directed to the right path, he or she will continue in it and win the good of
this world and the hereafter. The parents, teacher or educator will share
the reward with the child. If on the other hand, the child is ignored or
taught that which is evil, he or she will be ruined indeed, and his
educator or his guardian will also be held responsible for the offence
which has been done to the child.
Allah (T) says: "O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families
from a Fire.." [66:6]
It matters not how much the father protects his child from the fire of
this world if he does not protect him from the Fire of the hereafter.In
order to do so, he should refine and educate his child by teaching him good
morals and by keeping him or her away from bad company."35
These three issues will be discussed in detail below.
In order for her child to become a strong and healthy adult, every mother
should apply the relevent teachings of the Prophet (S), which can be
summarised as follows:
[i] Keeping the body, surroundings and clothes clean Good health relies
mainly on good hygiene. The Noble Qur'an has actually dealt with one of
the main principles of a good and healthy way of life, which is
cleanliness, and has paid attention to both individual and public hygiene.
Tahaarah (cleanliness and purity) is a basic condition of worship in Islam.
Prayers cannot be offered unless the person who is praying, his clothes and
the place where the prayer is being performed are pure and clean. The
importance of purity and cleanliness is further manifested in the saying
of the Prophet (s): "Cleanliness is half of one's faith."36
The Muslim mother should therefore keep her house clean and free
from impurities and dirt so that the members of her family can pray in it.
Moreover, the house of a woman is her mosque, and Allah (T) says:
"We commanded Abraham and Ishmael that they should purify My
House (the Ka'ba at Makka) for those who are
circumambulating it, or staying, or bowing or prostrating
themselves (in prayer)." [2:125]
Imam Al-Qurtubi says, "The command in this verse applies to all houses
of Allah (T) (mosques), and since the mosque of a woman is her house,
she should keep it clean. Allah (T) has specifically mentioned the
Ka'ba because it is the greatest place of sanctity."37
Children should be taught the fundamentals of tahaarah such as
istinjaa', wudoo and ghusl from a very early age. They should be trained
and supervised by their mothers in order to ensure a thorough
implementation of Islamic hygiene. Girls should be given separate and
additional lessons in the rulings related to haid (menstruation) when she
is about to reach puberty. She should also be taught the fundamentals of
tahaarah which are specific to haid, such as how to keep her clothes clean,
the best methods of hygiene during the menstruation period and how to
perform ghusl at the end of it, in compliance with the tradition of the
Prophet (S).
Indeed the Prophet (s) himself used to teach the female
companions, and his wives would help him by communicating their
knowledge to the inquiring women whenever he (s) felt shy of going into
detail.This part of a young woman's education is very important because
upon it depend her health, general hygiene and physical well-being.If
children are brought up knowing the manners of tahaarah, they should
cont inue to pract ise them throughout thei r lives. Tahaarah
includes a number of areas of concern.
i) Toilet manners: Including how to relieve oneself and how to
cleanse oneself afterwards.
If the child is not taught to do so properly he or she will fail to comply
with the standards of tahaarah during adulthood, thus being liable to severe
punishment. Ibn 'Abbaas reported: The Messenger of Allah (s) passed by
two graves and said: They (their occupants) are being tormented, but they
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
are not being tormented for grievous sins. One of them used to spread
gossip and the other did not avoid being defiled by urine. He then called for
a fresh twig and split it into two, and planted it on each grave, saying:
Perhaps their punishment will be mitigated as long as these twigs remain
Failing to clean and purify oneself after answering the call of nature
will invalidate prayer. The mother needs to pay special attention to
teaching tahaarah manners to her children. It has been authenticated that
the Prophet (s) cleaned his private parts with water after answering the
call of nature. Anas bin Maalik narrated: Whenever Allah's Messenger
(s) went to answer the call of nature, I along with another boy used to carry
a jug full of water (for cleaning the private parts)."39
He (s) also taught toilet manners to his companions, telling them,
"None of you should hold his private parts with his right hand while
urinating, or wipe himself with his right hand in the privy, and should not
breathe into the vessel from which he drinks."40
ii) The mother should teach her children how to use the siwaak
(toothstick or toothbrush) several times during the day in order to keep
their teeth clean and healthy and in order to comply with the Sunnah of the
Prophet (s) who said, "The use of siwaak is purifying for the mouth and
pleasing to Allah."41 Islam has paid special attention to mouth
hygiene, and the Prophet (s) stressed the importance of using the
siwaak, saying, "Were it not that I might over-burden the believers, I
would have ordered them to use the siwaak at every prayer."42
Imam An-Nawawi says, "This hadith reflects the importance and the
excellence of using the siwaak at all times, regularly and
Modern science has finally explained the wisdom behind the use of
the siwaak. Under the title "Hygienic Importance of Siwaak", we note the
following: "Good dental care and hygiene contribute to the improvement
of our overall health and protect and guard us from various diseases.
The fact that the mouth is the gateway to the digestive system and the
respiratory system, and is in permanent contact with the environment,
makes it an ideal and perfect target for many bacteria.These bacteria
are harmless for the healthy person. They can however, become
dangerous if mouth hygiene is being neglected or if the person falls ill
and his immunity system becomes weak. This shows the importance of
regular dental care and effective mouth hygiene.
Below are some of the infections and diseases which are the result of
poor dental care and mouth hygiene:
[1] Tooth Decay [2] Plaque [3] Tartar [4] Mouth & Gum Infection
[5] Thrush [6] Ulcerous infection.
These diseases are dangerous; they affect the teeth and the mouth
and can also affect the body as a whole due to dangerous inter-mixing of
digestive, respiratory, nervous, and eye secretions."44
On the basis of these arguments, we conclude the importance of
using the siwaak, keeping the teeth clean and the many advantages of
complying with the tradition of the Prophet (S) in every aspect of our
3) The mother should teach her children how to perform wudoo
(ablution) because prayers are prescribed for them from the age of
seven.Wudoo reflects the importance of cleanliness in Islam. It is has
been prescribed for the Muslims so that they may stay clean and fresh all
day long. Wudoo includes washing the face, hands, forearms and feet
five times a day. These parts of the body are constantly exposed and
most used in our daily activities, and therefore most likely to get dirty.
Allah (T) thus orders Muslims to perform wudoo,saying:
"O you who believe! When you intend to offer prayer, wash your
faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe over your heads and
wash your feet up to ankles." [5:6]
The following tradition has explained this verse and described the
ablution of the Prophet (S)."Abdullah bin Zaid bin 'Asim al-Maazini
reported that he saw Allah's Messenger (s) perform the ablution. He
rinsed his mouth, then cleaned his nose, then washed his face three
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
times, then washed his right forearm thrice and then the left forearm
thrice. He then took fresh water and wiped his head and then washed his
feet till he cleaned them.'45 "Fresh water" means with water other than the
water left on his hands."46
iv) The mother should also teach her children how and when to
perform ghusl (complete bath).
Ghusl is important for both our health and our well-being. For this
reason, we find that in Islam ghusl isjm obligation in some cases and
Sunnah in others. In order for the Muslim to stay clean, the Prophet
(s) has stressed the importance of having a complete bath before the
weekly congregational prayer and established this as a minimum so
that the people should not become slack in this respect."Abdullah bin
'Amr narrated that the Prophet (s) said, "When anyone of you comes for
Friday prayer, he should take a bath."47 Abu As-Sa'id al-Khudri related
that the Prophet (s) said, "Bath on Friday is incumbent upon every adult
The mother should thus encourage her children to take regular
baths and to keep clean at all times, so that this becomes part of their
daily routine. In addition to this, Islam is also concerned with the
cleanliness and purity of the garments; Allah (T) says:
"And your garments purify!" [74:4]
Purity of one's garments is a basic condition for different acts of
worship, a fact that calls for special and constant attention regarding the
clothes being worn. A Muslim does not only clean and spruce himself
up for special occasions only, but he should always keep his garments
tidy, clean and free of impurities. Special attention should be paid on
social events, congregational prayers and festival occasions. Allah (T) says:
"0 Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing clean
clothes) to every place of prayer." [7:31]
The Prophet (s) took care of his appearance. He (s) always appeared at
his best and paid special attention to the cleanliness and appearance of
his garments. He (s) would regularly mend his clothes and polish his
shoes, and invite his companions to keep their garments tidy and clean and
to wear the best ones on public occasions. Whenever one of them would
attend Friday prayers in his working garment, he (s) would say, "What if
every one of you bought two garments, other than the clothing of his
profession, to wear on Fridays!"49
He (s) also encouraged them to use perfume so that the other
Muslims who were praying or gathered for social events in public places
or in the streets would smell only pleasant smells. He (s) strongly
urged them to comply by these etiquettes and said: "If a person takes a
bath on Friday, purifies himself well, uses such perfume as is
available, and goes to the mosque, where he does not thrust himself
between two persons already sitting there, his sins committed since the
previous Friday are forgiven."50
In general, the verses of the Qur'an and much of the tradition
strongly urge the Muslims to use their garments as a means of
adornment and concealment at the same time, and to use oils and
perfume as a manifestation of their internal purity and beauty.
This refers to the compliance with the tradition of the Prophet (s) in
everything pertaining to eating and drinking. The mother needs to be
aware of the following guidelines.
1) The food should be nutritional, non harmful, and containing all the
required nutrients necessary to the development of the child.
Allah (t) says:
"O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for
you." [2:172]
2) The food should be lawful. Allah (T) says:
"O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth..."
(2:168) The mother should insist that the family's food should be lawfully
obtained. Jaabir (R) reported the Prophet (s) as saying, "No (human)
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
flesh produced by unlawful earnings will enter Paradise, and the flesh
which has been thus produced is more deserving of Hell Fire."51 The
Muslim woman should fear unlawful earnings and urge her husband
not to bring home the equivalent of even a mustard seed of it, even if
this means going to sleep on an empty stomach.
3) Meals should be taken at regular intervals in order to keep healthy
and to allow enough time for the body to absorb the food, as well as in
compliance with the tradition of the Prophet (s) and his companions
who ate only when hungry and stopped eating before their stomachs
were full, thus allowing enough place for drink and air intake. They
followed the advice of the Prophet (s) who said, "If he (man) wants to
fill his stomach then he should fill one third with food, another third
with drink and leave one third empty for easy breathing."52 In fact, it
has been medically proven that the stomach needs four to six hours to
fully digest the food, so we should all comply with the health rule that
says: "Eat at regular intervals, and chew your food well."53
4) To eat and drink in moderation. Allah (T) says:
"...and eat and drink but be not excessive, certainly He (Allah)
likes not extravagance." [7:31]
This verse invites mankind to eat and drink with moderation, and exhorts
them not to be extravagant by overeating and drinking. Allah (T)
describes the faithful believers as moderate and non
"And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor
niggardly, but hold a medium between those." (25:67)
One of the characteristics of the faithful believers is that they adopt a
medium way between extremes in everything, including eating and
drinking. Therefore, the Muslim should not eat until full, as doing so
will cause indigestion and other complications.
As for his words "For a person a few mouthfuls are sufficient to
keep his back straight", they attest to his prophethood since modern
science has discovered only recently that our average daily need is not
measured by its quantity, but by its nutritional value and whether it
contains a good and balanced proportion of the main nutritive
elements such as proteins, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. A
heavy meal becomes a burden on the stomach that is difficult to digest."54
If the mother follows thesehealth rules and teaches her children to
do so, she will protect them from obesity, a problem which limits their
a b i l i t i e s a n d a c t i v i t i e s a n d l e a d s t o ma n y d a n g e r o u s
diseases.Consequently, the children will stay heal thy, active and
strong. Regarding this subject, Umar bin Khattab, the second
righteous caliph said, "Beware of the feeling of satiety; it slows you
down for prayer, harms your bodies, and provokes illness. Eat and
drink in moderation, it is better than extravagance, healthier for the
body and makes you better worshippers."55 The Arabs also used to
say, "Satiety takes away perspicacity."
By following these rules, the mother will keep her children healthy
and strong, as well as pleasing Allah (T) and the Prophet (s).
Indeed the Muslim woman who fears Allah (T) and abides by the
guidance of His messenger (S), knows exactly her duties towards her
family. She is moderate and not extravagant, follows the example of
the Mothers of the Believers (the prophet's wives) in managing her
household, is content with what is little and lawful, avoids what is
extravagant and unlawful, and thus saves herself and her husband
from the punishment of the Hell Fire.
The mother's responsibilities are great indeed, and on her depend
the happiness of her family in this world, and her place in Paradise in
the hereafter. Her main duty in this world is to look after her small
kingdom, that is to say, her family. Among her many other duties is to
teach her children the etiquettes of eating and drinking, which are
taken from the tradition of the Prophet (s). She should do so while
her children are still young, as soon as they start to help themselves
from the table. The Prophet (s) did so with his children, teaching
them, advising them and observing them while eating.
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
[1] The children must remember Allah (T) by saying "Bismillah" at the
beginning of every meal, and eat with their right hands. Many hadith urge
Muslims to comply by these rules. 'Umar bin Salama reported: I was
under the care of Allah's Messenger (s), and as my hand used to roam
about in the dish he said to me: Boy, mention the name of Allah and eat
with your right hand and eat from what is near to you."56
The Prophet (s) stressed the importance of teaching children these
etiquettes while still young so that they become a natural and
permanent part of their eating habits. This is suggested in the
following hadith. Hudhaifa reported: When we attended a dinner with
the Messenger of Allah (s) we did not extend our hands to the food until
Allah's Messenger (s) had extended his hand and commenced eating.
Once we went with him to a dinner when a girl came rushing in as if
someone had been pursuing her. She was about to lay her hand on the food
when Allah's Messenger (s) caught her hand. Then a desert Arab came
there as if someone was pursuing him. He (S) caught his hand, and then
said, "Satan considers that food lawful on which Allah's name is not
mentioned. He has brought this girl so that the food might be made lawful
for him and I caught her hand.Then he brought a desert Arab so that the
food might be lawful for him. So I caught his hand. By Him, in Whose
hand is my life, it was Satan's hand that was in my hand along with her
hand."57 So the Prophet (s) did not allow anybody, young or adult, to eat
without remembering Allah (T) and saying Bismillah.The importance of this
was demonstrated for his companions in a practical manner. The reason
behind it is that Satan considers lawful the food on which Allah's name has
not been mentioned. Therefore, it is very important that the mother should
observe and teach her children the etiquettes pertaining to eating and
drinking and to implement the tradition of the Prophet(s) in her house.
The mother should also teach her children to drink while sitting
because the prophet (S) forbade that a person should drink while
standing. Anas reported that Allah's Apostle (s) forbade that a person
should drink while standing. Qataadah reported: "We said to him; What
about eating? Thereupon he (Anas) said: That is even worse
and more detestable."58
It is therefore better to eat and drink while sitting because even
though the Prophet (s) drank while standing, there is a consensus of
opinion among the scholars that the prohibition of drinking water
while standing is not absolute but is a disapproved act. "Ibn 'Abbaas
reported: I served the water of Zamzam to Allah's messenger (s), and he
drank it while standing." 59 Imam An-Nawawi says, "The
prohibition in the first hadith shows disapproval of the act. However, by
drinking the water of Zamzam while standing, the Prophet (S)
demonstrated the permissibility of the act. Hence, there is no
ambiguity nor contradiction between the two hadith."60
Among the etiquettes of drinking is also that one should not
breathe into the vessel from which one is drinking.Abu Qataadah
reported on the authority of his father that Allah's Messenger (s)
forbade breathing in a vessel."61 Furthermore, the Prophet (s) used to
drink in three sips so that he (S) could breathe three times outside the
vessel while drinking. Anas reported that Allah's Messenger (s)
breathed three times in the course of a drink and said: It quenches
the thirst better,is healthier and more wholesome."62
In order for the child to be fit and strong, his parents should ensure
that he or she gets the best physical training possible, including
different physical exercises. In doing so, the parents will be
submitting to Allah's order who says:
"And make ready against them all you can of power, including
steeds of war..." [8:60]
So everything that could help the children attain physical strength
should be done. It is a duty upon the Muslim to keep fit; to do so he
should exercise regularly and choose the type of exercise which builds up
his muscles and develops his stamina, such as archery horse racing,
riding and swimming. On one occasion, the Prophet (s) recited the
above verse and then said: "Verily this power is archery! Verily this
power is archery!"63
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
Islam encourages the Muslim to aim high, to perfect his skills and to
achieve moral and physical strength.The Prophet (s) said, "The strong
believer is better and more pleasing to Allah (T) than the weak believer;
persist in doing what benefits you, seek the help of Allah (T) and never
despair."64 This hadith encourages young people to benefit from their spare
time and to turn it to their advantage by learning and practising what is
useful and beneficial. The companions were well aware of the importance
of physical training and encouraged their children to acquire different
skills which strengthened their bodies and improved their physical
The mother should pay special attention to her children's health by treating
them as soon as possible when ill, bearing in mind that failing to do so can
sometimes lead to fatal consequences. Indeed, seeking medical treatment
when necessary, is a legal duty upon every Muslim. "Jaabir reported
Allah's Messenger (s) as saying: There is a remedy for every malady, and
when the remedy is applied to the disease it is cured with the permission
of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious."65 This hadith is proof that every illness
has a cure, and that one should seek treatment when needed.
Usaama bin Shareek narrated: I was with the Prophet (S) when the Arabs
of the desert came and asked him, "O Messenger of Allah (s). Should we
seek treatment?" Upon that the Prophet (S) replied, "Yes, O servants of
Allah (T) seek treatment! Indeed, Allah has not created a disease without
creating its cure except for one, which is old age,"66 It is prohibited
however, whatever the illness is, to seek treatment through magicians,
charlatans and fortune-tellers. This is a form of Shirk (associating partners
with Allah (T)) with severe consequences and great punishment from Allah
(T). If the mother finds one of her children in desperate need for help, she
should take him or her to a specialised doctor who will prescribe adequate
Allah (T) has favoured mankind over all other living beings, and has
blessed us with the human mind which has vast intellectual abilities.
It is important that the mother should stimulate her children's
existing abilities and talents at a very early stage and help them to develop
other skills.The mother who ignores this important part of her children's
education will deform the creation of Allah (T) and hand over to our
society what is nearer to an animal that a human being. Indeed, what
differentiates us from animals is our mind and its amazing capacities, a
fact which should be understood and appreciated by every mother so
that she may be able to help and encourage her children to develop their
intellectual abilities.
In the first verses that were revealed of the Qur'an, Allah (T) ordered
his Messenger (s) to:
"Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created. Has
created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the
Most Generous, Who has taught (the writing) by the pen."
By reading and writing, human beings are able to acquire new
knowledge and develop their minds.Ibn Katheer says, "Among His
blessings is that Allah (T) has taught the human being that about which
he had no knowledge. By this knowledge Allah (T) has dignified
Adam and distinguished him and his kind from the angels. Knowledge can
be abstract, stored in the human mind; it can also be manifested by the
tongue when we speak or write it down, hence it can be mental, verbal or
graphic. Traditionally, (by the tradition of the Prophet (s) and his
followers), knowledge was preserved in manuscripts."67
Reading constitutes the first stage of intellectual education, so to read
was the first divine order directed to the Messenger (s) and the Muslim
nation after him.
Writing constitutes the second stage of acquiring and transmitting
knowledge, therefore Allah (T) has bestowed upon His servants the ability
to write by the pen.Sa'eed reported Qatadah as saying, "The pen
(knowledge of writing) is a great divine gift, without which no religion
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
would have been preserved and our own situation would have been far
from good.
Allah's generosity is manifested in the fact that He (T) has taught
mankind that about which they had no knowledge and He has taken
them from the obscurity of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Allah (T)
has also stressed the importance of writing skills because of their
various advantages which He (T) only knows. Indeed without this
skill, no scientific knowledge would have been transmitted, no
legislation would have been recorded and no tradition, or books
revealed by Allah, (t) would have been preserved, and consequently, we
would never have been guided to the straight path."68
The Prophet (s) therefore insisted that Muslims should learn to
read and write and we learn from the tradition that the ransom of
some of the captives in the conquest of Badr was to teach ten Muslims to
read and write.69 Furthermore, seeking knowledge is a religious duty
and an obligation upon every Muslim. The Prophet (s) has been reported
as saying: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim."70
The mother thus needs to pay special attention to her children's
education. She should teach them their religion and introduce them
to the different sciences that would help them achieve a satisfactory and
respectable academic level and allow them to benefit the Muslim nation
in the future. A Muslim is not content with one kind of knowledge but
seeks any knowledge which will be beneficial and advantageous to
him and to the Muslim community in general.Indeed Allah (T) has
praised knowledge and those who seek knowledge, saying:
"Allah, the angels and those having knowledge bear witness that
none has the right to be worshipped but He. He maintains His
creation injustice. None has the right to be worshipped but He, the
All-Mighty, the All-Wise." [3:18]
"Say: "Are those who know equal to those who know not?" It is
only men of understanding who will remember. " [39:9]
The Muslim never tires of seeking knowledge and like the Prophet (s),
he always says:
"My Lord! Increase me in knowledge." (20:114]
The Prophet (s) would teach his companions sound knowledge of the
religion and then order them to pass this knowledge on to their
families and relatives. Abu Sulaimaan, Maalik bin Huwairith
narrated: "We were a few young men of about equal age and we came to
the Prophet (S) stayed with him for twenty nights. Then he thought that
we were anxious for our families, and he asked us whom we had left
behind to look after our families, and we told him. He was kind-hearted
and merciful, so he said, 'Return to your families and teach them and
order them and offer your prayers in the way you saw me offering my
prayers, and when the stated time for the prayer arrive, then one of
you should pronounce its call, and the eldest of you should lead the
others in prayers.'"71
So, the mother should ensure that her children are receiving a
valuable amount of knowledge. To do so, she is advised to organise
their time wisely, so that they may get enough sleep and be able to get up
and go to school early every morning. The mother should also
cooperate with the school by explaining to her children what seems
difficult for them to understand, by monitoring their progress in the
different subjects, and by keeping the father informed of their school
results. She is also advised to visit her childrens' school as regularly as
possible in order to inquire about their academic results as well as
about their general moral behaviour, the latter being as important as
the former.
The mother should draw her children's attention to the surrounding
environment and the various signs which attest to the presence and
mightiness of Allah(T). This will help the children to develop their
observation and deduction skills. Contemplation and reflections are
two acts which have been praised in the Qur'an since they enable
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
mankind to increase their knowledge about their Lord and to
recognise the manifestations of Allah's mightiness and glory at every
moment of their lives. Allah (T) says:
"Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the
alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of
understanding. Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and
lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the
heavens and the earth, saying: "Our Lord! You have not created
all this without purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the
torment of the Fire, "(3: 190-191)
Throughout history Muslim mothers have paid great attention to the
physical and intellectual education of their children. This was
especially obvious in the way Bedouin mothers used to bring up their
children in the desert.lt has been narrated that once Al-Fadl bin Zaid
met the son of a Bedouin woman and was very impressed by him. He
went to the mother of the child and asked her about the education he
had received. Upon this the woman said: "When he was five years old I
handed him over to the teacher. There he was taught the Qur'an and its
recitation, poetry, introduced to his ancestor's exploits and
instructed in the glorious feats of his fathers and grand-fathers. When he
reached puberty, I transferred him to the back of the horse until he
became an accomplished rider, took up arms, and went among the
houses of the neighbourhood, carefully listening to the cries of the
caller."72 This is indeed a beautiful example that expresses the
ultimate concern of the Bedouin mother about her son's education, and
I hope that it will serve as a guide for the mothers of today.
In addition to all this, the mother should familiarise her children
with the transmitted supplications that the Prophet (s) used to recite,
such as those on going to sleep and getting up from bed, leaving and
entering the house, before and after a meal, entering and leaving the
toilet, and getting into and out of transport. These supplications will
benefit the child in this world and in the hereafter, so he should be
asked to repeat them as often as possible so that his or her tongue will
always be engaged in the remembrance of Allah (T), thus following the
guidance and the example of the Prophet (s).
Islam takes great interest in the spiritual aspect of human education
since mankind is created as a body and a soul. Describing the creation of
Adam, Allah (T) said to the angels:
"So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him the
soul which I created for him, then fall down prostrating
yourselves unto him. " |15:29|
When a human being devotes most of his efforts to his physical
training at the expense of his spiritual education, he will loose the
main characteristic which differentiates humans from animals. It is
therefore important that parents should pay special attention to the
spiritual part of their child's education in order to create a righteous
person who devotes his skills to the promotion of good and the
welfare of his community. Spiritual education is indeed what makes
the child capable of differentiating between virtue and vice, good and
Scientists and reformists have recently been calling for a revival of
spiritual and religious education. Western sociologists, educationalists
and psychologists have finally realised the importance of religion and
spirituality in human education and in achieving a healthy
society.This recognition follows much disappointment after years of
attempting to exclude any form of religious belief (spirituality) from
their lives. This secular thrust has only resulted in an increase in
social problems and moral decay.
[ 1 ] The mother should start by teaching her children the
fundamentals of faith from their earliest youth to help them become
righteous adults, faithful believers with correct understanding of the
religion and devoted members of the Islamic nation who enjoin good
and forbid evil. Correct 'aqeedah (religious belief) is the origin of all
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
virtues, the incentive of all perfections and most importantly, it is the
pivot of Islam.
The mother needs to teach her children the facts of the religion
including such concepts as Iman (true belief) in Allah (T), the angels,
the divine books, the messengers,especially the last messenger
Muhammad (s), the questioning by the angels in the grave, the
torment of the grave and the Day of judgement, punishment and
reward, Paradise and Hell Fire.The mother needs to begin by
teaching her children to say the words Laa Ilaaha illallaah (there is no
deity worthy of worship except Allah). These words should be the first
heard by the newborn baby and the first uttered by him later.
Secondly, she should explain to her children the meaning of these
words by drawing their attention to the manifestation of Allah's glory
and mightiness in their surroundings, in a simple and progressive way
according to their level of understanding. As the children grow older,
she can allow herself to go into further details and more depth in her
explanation until they comprehend and assimilate the full concept of
Thirdly, she should implant the love of Allah (T) and His
messenger (s) in their hearts. She needs to teach them to be conscious of
Allah, to fear Him, to rely on Him, to depend on Him, to seek His help,
to obey none except Him and to fear none except Him. She should
also develop in their hearts and minds the awareness of Allah's glory and
greatness through various stories from the Qur'an as well as through
natural elements and daily activities.The most successful approach to
a child's spiritual education is the narration of heroic stories, popular
among children because they satisfy their vivid and extraordinary
Stories of the prophets and their miracles are easily found in the
Qur'an and similarly interesting stories can also be found in the
biography of the Prophet (s). These readings will satisfy not only the
childs' imagination but will also teach him the facts of his
religion.Taught through this medium, these lessons will forever be
implanted in his mind.
After this preliminary phase, the mother should offer her children
regular advice and permanent guidance concerning devotion in
worship, reliance on and complete submission to Allah (T). The
Prophet (s) used to protect and educate the young companions by
offering them regular advice and counsel. Ibn 'Abbaas (R) narrated:
One day I was behind the Prophet (S) and he said to me: Young man, I
shall teach you some words of advice: Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will
protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find him in front of you.
If you ask, ask of Allah. If you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if
the nations were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they
would benefit you only with something that Allah had already
predestined for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with
anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already
predestined for you.The pens have been lifted and the pages have
If implanted properly in the child's mind and heart, these
fundamentals of faith will forever shield him from disbelief and
apostasy and prevent evil ideologies from staining his beliefs. It is also
important that the mother should be able to differentiate between
lawful and unlawful matters in every aspect of her life so that she may
pass her knowledge on to her children and help them to integrate
them in their every day lives, according to the rules and regulation of
[2] The mother should familiarise her children with the various acts of
worship such as fasting, praying, paying alms-tax and pilgrimage. She
should slowly, patiently and progressively introduce her children to the
prescribed five daily prayers until they get used to them since Allah (T)
"And enjoin prayer on your family, and be patient in that. " [120:132]
Although addressed directly to the Prophet (s), these commands are
addressed to all the Muslims of the world. In his explanation, Imam Al-
Qurtubi says, "In this verse Allah (T) orders the Prophet (s) to enjoin
prayer on his family and to observe them patiently and regularly."74
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
Patience and perseverance are necessary when introducing children to
daily prayers. The mother should start when her children reach seven
yearf, old in compliance with the Prophet's order. 'Amr bin Shu'aib
narrated that the Prophet (s) said, "Order your children to offer prayer at
the age of seven and strike (i.e, discipline) them at the age of ten if they do
not, and let them sleep in separate beds."75 This hadith clearly indicates that
parents should start teaching their children to offer their daily prayers at the
age of seven in order to get them accustomed to it as early as possible.
Moreover, at seven the child is still malleable, uncorrupted and easily
directed by his or her parents. If introduced gently, the prayer will become
an integral part of the child's routine and a cherished act of worship. He or
she will then discover the pleasure of obeying, praising and thanking Allah
(T) for His many bounties and experience the many other advantages of
If the child reaches ten years of age and refuses to observe prayer after
three years of training, his parents are then allowed to resort to some form
of punishment. In fact, if the child is not made to pray at this stage, it will
be very difficult to get him to do as the years go by.For the same reason,
the child should be encouraged to fast for a few days in Ramadan, starting
from the age often according to his or her abilities.
It is also wise that he or she should be introduced to other forms of
worship at this stage such as pilgrimage and the lesser pilgrimage.
Note that the second part of the Prophet's command is "let them sleep
in separate beds". Children over the age of ten are no longer allowed to
share their beds. This is a moral guidance and an importance aspect
of children's psychological education which ought to be observed by all
Muslim parents. In addition, the mother should teach her daughter to be
modest by urging her to wear decent clothes, making her realise that her
body is to be covered and not to be displayed so that when she grows older
she will find no difficulty in observing the Hijaab. If she has been gently
and progressively introduced to it, she will be happy and pleased to
comply by its rules. If the mother follows this strategy, she will happily
discover that it is her daughter's modesty even before the prescribed Hijab
which will prevent her from displaying herself before people.
[3] The mother should raise her children according to the excellent
morals and behaviour of Islam.To do so she should teach her child the
importance of virtuous deeds in a simple manner according to his
level of understanding.Good manners, true belief in Allah (T) and
religious worship are closely related, as the Prophet (S) said, "I have
been sent to implement noble character."76 The excellence and
importance of noble character and good manners are clear in the
Prophet's following statement:"On the Day of Judgement the dearest
and closest to me, as regards my company, will be those persons of the
best moral character."77
There are many hadith which urge Muslims to acquire good
manners and which praise the excellence and superiority of the people
who do so.The Prophet (s) has also urged parents to give their
children moral education and to teach them good behaviour.
Hence Ibn 'Abbaas (R) reported the Prophet (s) as saying, "Be
generous towards your children, teach them good behaviour!"78
The best gift that the parents can offer to their child is good
character and excellent behaviour. Ayub bin Musa narrated that the
Prophet (S) said, "There is no better gift a father can offer to his child
than good manners."79 Islam has gone even further to consider that
giving a decent moral education to one's children is better than giving
sadaqah (charity). Samaak bin Harb narrated that the Prophet (s) said,
"It is better for a man to refine his child than to give a measur e in
charity."80 Indeed, Islam has insisted upon good manners and
behaviour as regards children's education because it is at this
particular stage that these qualities are best acquired.The mother is
the main per son responsible for her chi ldren's manner s a nd
behaviour. She is their first school in which they receive their first and
most important lessons. She is the focus of their attention in her
speech, manners and general behaviour. Therefore, it is important
that she should teach them Islamic morals and ethics, starting with
the Islamic way of greeting and asking permission before leaving or
entering somebody else's room or house. Then she should teach them
to be truthful and righteous, honest and unselfish, kind to their
neighbours and helpful to the weak, loving and caring to others,
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
generous towards the poor and the needy, and caring of relatives and
Similarly, the mother should prevent her children from acquiring
bad habits and characteristics such as lying, stealing, backbiting,
gossiping, swearing, abusing, mocking, showing off, ill -thinking,
pride, vanity, depravity and selfishness. She should do so using every
possible educational strategy,such as gifts and punishment, praise and
condemnation.Given the great influence which the mother has on her
children, the Prophet (S) insisted that muslim women should set the
perfect example for their children's moral education. He (S) therefore
never failed to advise and instruct the female companions on that
matter. Abdullah bin 'Aamir narrated: My mother called me while the
Prophet (S) was sitting in our house. She said, "Come here and I will
give you something!" The Prophet (s) then asked her, "What did
you want to give him", and she replied, "I wanted to give him some
dates."The Prophet (s) said, "If you had not given him something,
your statement would have been recorded as a lie."81 Even this little
incident did not escape the attention of the Prophet (s). He feared
that the mother had been lying in order to call the child, which was
the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately, some mothers do this, and the
child then begins to imitate his mother, eventually learning to
construct bigger and bigger lies.
Telling lies is the biggest vice and every statement which involves
the slightest distortion of the truth is absolutely forbidden in Islam,
even in the form of a joke. The aforementioned hadith has been
intended as a lesson for the mother who lies to her children or
undermines their Islamic morals and ethics by any other form of
misconduct. Moreover, when the mother is constantly telling lies in
order to quiet her children, occupy them with something, force their
obedience or simply please them, her children will learn not to trust
her and will never ever take her guidance and advice seriously.
"During the first years of their lives, children develop most of their
habits and moral characteristics through copying and imitation.
Therefore, they need an ideal, a model and a good example to follow that
combines all the virtues of Islam. The Islamic view is that setting the
good example is the best and the most successful way of education and
without a living example Islamic teachings cannot be illustrated. To be
understood these teachings ought to be reflected in the feelings,
the behaviour and the way of thinking of a human being. For this
reason, parents should set a good example for their children so that
they may be able to comprehend and assimilate Islamic morals and
ethics.The child who hears his father telling lies will never learn to be
truthful and the child who sees his mother cheating his father, sister or
brother will never ever learn to be honest."82
Consequently, every mother should strive to set a good example
for her children, and to follow the guidance of the Prophet (s) in their
education. As the child grows older, the mother should teach him to
ask permission before entering the rooms of other members of the
family. Allah (T) has ordered Muslims to do so when He (s) says:
"Oyou who believe! Let those among your legal slaves and slavegirls,
and those among you who have not come to the age of
puberty ask your permission on three occasions; before morning
prayer, when you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and
after the 'Isha (late night) prayer. These three times are of
privacy for you, other than these times there is no sin for you or for
them to move about, attending each other. Thus Allah makes
clear the Verses [of this Qur'an] to you. And Allah is All—
Knowing, All-Wise." [24:58]
Allah (T) thus commands parents to teach their young children and
their servants to ask for permission on three occasions:
[1] Before morning prayer: When the members of the family are still or
could still be in night clothes or undressed.
[2] After the noonday prayer: When many people rest, relax and put on
light clothes.
[3] After the late night prayer: When people take off their day clothes
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
and get ready to go to bed.
Allah (T) has called these moments, the "three times of privacy".
However, He (T) has not prohibited the members of the families from
attending each other at other times lest it causes hardship and
inconvenience for them.
Parents should pay special attention to this divine command and
teach their children to ask for permission before entering their rooms at
the three stated times of privacy. Sayyed Qutb says, "Many people fail
to implement these etiquettes in their households, thus ignoring serious
psychological, moral and nervous repercussions. They think that
servants will not look at their masters' uncovered parts , or that young
children who have not yet reached puberty will fail to take notice.
Nevertheless, psychologists have discovered that adults are extremely
influenced by childhood images. Allah (T) the All-Knowing is teaching
His servants good manners and noble behaviour so that their hearts,
minds and feelings may remain healthy, pure and unstained."83
Note that when the children reach puberty they are expected to ask for
permission to enter at all times.
In educating her children the mother should, in addition to her
maternal love, mercy and affection, make use of various educational
strategies such as rewards, punishments and gifts and she should be
affectionate but firm. The mother should also be just when dealing
with her children and should never favour one above the other since the
Prophet (s) has been reported as saying, "Fear Allah (T) and treat your
children equally."84 Even though this particular statement refers to
giving the children equal gifts, it also implies that equality of
treatment should be observed at all times and in al l matters.
Favouring one child over the other will arouse feelings of jealousy,
envy and resentment, and cause deep psychological problems,
whereas justice and equity help the children to be kind, loving and
merciful to one another.
Excellent spiritual and moral education is to be found in the advice
given by Luqman to his son. Allah (T) says:
"And when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: "0 my
son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in
worship with Allah is a great "injustice" indeed.
And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful to his parents. His mother
bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his
weaning is in two years - Give thanks to Me and to your parents, - unto
Me is the final destination.
But if they both strive with you to make you join in worship with Me
others about whom you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but
behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who
turns to Me in repentance and obedience. Then to Me will be your return,
and I shall tell you what you used to do.
O my son! If it be (anything) equal to the weight of a grain of
mustard-seed, and though it be in a rock, or in the heavens or in the
earth, Allah will bring it forth. Verily, Allah is Subtle, Well-Aware.
O my son! offer prayer, enjoin good, and forbid evil, and bear with
patience whatever befalls you. Verily! these are some of the important
commandments [ordered by Allah].
And turn not your face away from men in pride, nor walk in insolence
through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not the arrogant boaster.
And be moderate in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the
harshest of all voices is the braying of the ass. " (31:13-19)
This is the best advice a mother can offer to her children, hoping that
Allah (T) will guide them and reward her efforts with success.
Finally, the mother should personally fulfil her obligationss towards
her family rather that delegating her responsibilities to strangers such as
educationalists, servants and baby-sitters.The Prophet (s) clearly said,
"Every woman is a guardian in her husband's house and she is
responsible for her wards."85 Indeed, her responsibilities towards her
family are hers exclusively. However, there is no harm in employing
servants to whom she can delegate worldly tasks such as housework and
cooking so that she may have more time to devote to her children and
thus the opportunity to fulfil her role to the best of her abilities.
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
No t e s
1 AI-Nawawi, Saheeh Muslim.Vol.5.
AI-Qadar, (same as note #3 on p. 196)
2 AI-Tirmidhi, "Sunan al-
Tirmidhi", (sec #1 p.226 ), No.
1705, p.208.
3 AI-Asqalaani, Path al-Baari, Vol,
9. (sec #7 p. 196), p. 299.
4 Al-Qurtubi, Al-Juami' Li-Ahkaam
AI-Qur'aan, Vol.17, p.72.
5 Ibn Katheer, op.cit., Vol. 4, p.354.
6 Ibid, p.284.
7 AI-Bukhaari, "Saheeh al-
Bukhaari", vol 6, p. 130.
8 Ibid, vol.7, P.75.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid, p.76.
11 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.16. "AI-Birr
was-Sila Wal-Adab". p.180.
12 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, "Awn
Al-Ma'bood...", (same as note #47 on p.
197) vol. 13, p.296.
13 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. AI-Adab, vol. 14,
14 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, op.cit.,
vol. 13, p.293.
15 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.14, p.1222.
16 Al-Bukhaari, op.cit., Vol 7, p.116.
17 Ibid.
18 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.13. "Al-Adab",
19 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, op.cit.,
vol. 8, p.398.
20 AI-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, P-101
21 Ibid, p.97.
22 Ibn-Qayyim Al-Jawziah (691-751 AH),
"Tuhfat al Wadood bi Ahkaam al-
Mawlood", (A Gift from the Loving
(Lord) regarding the Rights of
Newborns), Cairo, Al-Matabah Al-
Qayyimah, p.25.
23 AI-Nawawi, op.cit.vol.14.Al-Adab,
24 Ibid.
25 Al-Bukhaari, op. cit., Vol 6, p.217
26 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, p.101.
27 Ibid, p. 96.
28 Ibid, p.99.
29 Ibn Qudaamah, Al-Mughni, vol.3, P-
30 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.4. "Al-
p. 146.
31 Ibid.
32 Ibn-Qayyim Al-Jawziah, op.cit.,
33 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, op.cit.,
vol.2, "Al-Tahaarah", Abu Daawood
said "This is a weak hadith".
34 Reported by Ibn AI-Qayyim in his
"Explanation of Sunan Abu Daawood"
in Awn Al Ma 'abood, op.cit., p. 185. He
says this hadith is "Munqati".66:6.
35 Al-Imaam Abi Haamed Muhammad
bin Muhammad AI-Ghazaali, (died in
505 AH), Ihyaa-Uloom Al-Deen ("The
Revival of the Religious Sciences")
with Kitab Al- Mughni An Haml Al-
Asfaarfi AI-Asfaar Fi Takhrccj Ma fi
Al-Ihyaa Min Al- Akhbaar, by Al-
Iraaqi, Vo;.3, Cairo, Egypt: Matba'at
Al-Istiqaamah, p.72.
36 Ibid.
37 Al-Qurtubi, op.cit, Vol.1, p.500.
38 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3. "Al-
Tahaarah". p.200.
39 Al-Bukhaari, op. cit., Vol 1, p.250.
40 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3. "Al-
Tahaarah". P.159.
41 Al-Suyooti, "Sunan Al-Nasaa'i",
Vol.1. (same as note #50 on p. 169)
42 AI-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3. "Al-
43 Ibid.
44 Salaahuddeen Al-Hanafi, (The
Arak - Al-Siwaak, Toothbrush").
Unpublished PhD
dissertation,University of
Damascus, 1382 AH/ 1962, p.24.
45 Al-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.3. "AITahaarah".
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid, Vol.6, "Al-Juma'a", p. 132.
48 Ibid.
49 Ibn Maajah, "Sunan Ibn Majah", Vol.1,
(same as note #8 on p.ig6) p.248.
50 Ibid.
51 AI-Khateeb AI-Tabreezi, "Mishkaat Al-
Masaabceh", (The Niche of Lanterns),
compiled by Muhammad Naaser Al-
Albaani, Vol.2 "Al-Buyoo", 2nd edition,
Beirut: AI-Maktab Al-Islaami, 1399 AH
/1979-, P.845.
52 AI-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, "Az-Zuhd",
53 Sabri Al-Qabbani, Al-Ghidhaa laa at
Dawaa, (Food., not Medicine), 6th
edition, Beirut: Daar al-ilm li al-
Malaayecn, no date, p.572. '7:31 '25:67.
54 Abdulhamced Diyaab and Ahmad
Qarmooz, op.cit., p. 129.
55 Ali Fikri, Ahsan al Qissas, Vol.3., P.134.
56 Al-Nawawi, op.cit. vol.n. "Al-Ashriba",
vol.11, p.193.
57 Ibid.
58 Ibid.
59 Ibid.
60 Ibid.
61 Ibid.
62 Ibid.
63 Al-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.5, P-270 and
Ibn Maajah, op.cit., Vol.2, p.940.
64 Ibn Maajah, op.cit., Vol.2, "Az-Zuhd",
p.1395- No. 4168.
65 Al-Nawawi, op.cit. vol. 14. "As-
Salaam", p.191.
66 AI-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, "At-Tibb",
p.383, No. 2038.
67 Ibn Kathecr, op.cit., Vol. 4, p.528.
68 AI-Qurtubi, op.cit, Vol.2, p. 120.
69 Ameen Duwaidaar, Suwar Min Hayaat
Al Rassool, (Pictures from The
Prophet's Life), Cairo, Egypt: Daar AIMaarif,
1968. p.322., op.cit., Vol.10.
"Al-Nikaah", p.54.
70 Ibn Maajah, op.cit., Vol.1. No.17,
71 Al-Bukhaari, Vol 7, "Al-Adab".
72 Abdullah Nasseh Ulwaan, "Tarbiyat Al-
Awlaad fi Al-Islaam", (Upbringing
Children in Islam), Beirut/Aleppo,
Daar Al-Salaam Publications, no date,
73 AI-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, "Sifat Al-
Qiyaamah", p.667.
74 Al-Qurtubi, op.cit, Vol.7, p.263.
75 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, op.cit.
Vol 2, "As-Salaah".
76 Al Mautaqob/Sharh Muwatta Al-Imam
Maalik Al Buaji, Vol 7, p.213.
77 Ibn Al-Atheer Al-Jazari,Jaami Al-
Ussool fi Ahaadeeth Al-Kasool, (The
Compler of Fundamentals of the
Messenger's Tradition), compiled and
commented by: Abdulqaader Arndoot,
Vol.4, ist Edition, published and
distributed by: Maktabat
Obligations of the Mother in Islam
AI-Halawaani, printed by Al-Malaakh,
Makktabat Daar AI-Bayaan, p.6.
78 Ibn Maajah, op.cit., Vol.i, "Al-Adab",
79 AI-Tirmidhi, op.cit., Vol.4, "AIBirr
Was-Sila", p.338.
80 Ibid, p.337.
81 Abittayeb Muhammad Abaadi, op.cit,
Vol.13, "Al-Adab", p.335.
82 Muhammad Qutb, Manhaj AI-Tarkiyah
Al-Islaamiya, (Method of Islamic
Education), 2nd Edition, Beirut, Cairo,
Jeddah: Daar Al-Shruooq, p.221.
83 Sayyed Qutb, Fi Dhilaal Al-Qur'aan,
84 Al-Bukhaari, op. cit.,Vol 3, "Al-Mibah",
85 Al-Asqalaani, op. cit., Vol, 9, "Al-
Nikaah", p. 299.
In the Name of Allah, the most Beneficient, the most Merciful
hrough an examination of the different positions held by women in
ancient civilisations prior to Islam, followed by a study of the status
of women in various religions and particularly in revealed religions
along with an examination of historical texts, I have arrived at some
conclusions without, I hope, any excessive judgements on my part.
It is clearly evident that throughout history women have suffered
from intense degradation. They had more obligations than privileges.
They were expected to fulfil endless duties and were denied even the
basic rights. However, this aspect of human history remains neglected
and even when examined it is often superficial or apologetic and
almost always biased.
I therefore strongly recommend that an effort be made to reexamine
thoroughly the situation of women throughout history. I also
suggest that Muslim historians rewrite history in an objective and
scientific manner based upon thorough examination, rearrangement
and correction of information so that the researcher will be able to
pronounce fair and accurate judgement.
My journey of discovery has led me to conclude that once we
reorient our approach in a comprehensive manner we will be able to
see the great favours bestowed by Islam on humanity and on women in
Through the course of studying this subject, it became clear to me
that the very few privileges enjoyed by women every now and then in
other cultures were subjected to the will of male legislators in order to
benefit their personal interests. They were certainly not preoccupied
with honouring and dignifying their women, because they soon
afterwards repossessed what they had given and extorted what they
had granted!
Consequently, this unstable situation that varied according to
man-made laws, has led many students and researchers to pronounce
incorrect and contradictory judgements by using feeble arguments to
support their opinions regarding the position held by women during
those centuries. The first chapter proved to be the hardest and the
most difficult to compile, given the small number of reliable
references available and the difficulty in distinguishing between the
authentic and the fabricated ones. Therefore, as well as checking the
authenticity of various historical texts I had to study closely, analyse,
comment upon and draw conclusions from each text. This was a very
difficult task which required much time and effort but it was a
natural prerequisite to the study of the status of women in Islam.
In that chapter I also commented that jahiliyyah (ignorance)
does not refer to a specific lapse of time, but rather it refers to a set of
rules which contradict those ordained by Allah. Whenever these rules
are to be found we are bound to find Jahiliyyah in the absolute
meaning of the word, whether it be the paganism of the Greeks, the
Romans, the Jahiliyyah of Abu-Jahl or the ignorance of the 20th
century. Even adherents of revealed religions such as Judaism and
Christianity, in their ignorance, contributed to the subjugation of
women by persecuting them and considering them to be an impure
and evil creation.
The main references for the second chapter, which deals with the
rights of Muslim women, are the Qur'aan and the authentic Sunnah. I
referred only to the opinions of the scholars and people of knowledge
to ensure that I understood clearly what they had stated so that I was
not expressing my personal point of view.
The obvious conclusions of this comprehensive study can be
identified easily by the reader. I have confirmed with definite proofs
that Islam is the only religion which has asserted the humanity of
women, honoured them, and liberated them from the burden of manmade
degradation which has pursued them throughout history.
I have proved on the basis of the Qur'aan and authentic Hadith of
the Prophet (s) that women have the same right to worship as men
and are similarly obliged to fulfil their religious duties. They are equal
with men in terms of restrictions, retribution and reward: if they
observe the limits set by Allah, then they are expected to go to
Paradise; if not they risk the punishment of Hellfire. Allah says in the
"Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam)
men and women, the believers men and women (who believe
in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are
obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the
men and the women who are patient, the men and the women
who are humble (before Allah), the men and the women who
give charity, the men and the women who fast, the men and
the women who guard their private parts (from illegal sexual
acts) and the men and the woman who remember Allah often
(with their hearts and tongues). Allah has prepared for them
forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise). (33.35)
I have also proved on the basis of the Qur'aan and the Authentic
Hadith of the Prophet (s) that:
Islam has honoured and valued women since it forbade parents to
see the birth of a baby daughter as an evil omen, as was the case in pre-
Islamic paganism and cont inues to be in "modern day
Jahiliyyah". Islam has ordered us to cherish women throughout the
different phases of their lives.
Islam encourages both men and women to seek knowledge and
makes it a duty upon them to learn about their religion. Men have to
make access to such knowledge easy for women, so that they can act
upon it and be able to worship their Lord correctly.
Islam has granted wives, mothers and daughters the right to
inheritance, regardless of their age, their financial status or the
amount to be inherited. This is a divine right granted by Allah which cannot
be amended nor distorted.
Islam has liberated women from the injustice and oppression of men
and has given them equal rights. "And they (women) have rights (over their
husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their
husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.)" (Qur'an:
2:228). It stipulates that men should be in charge of the family "But men
have a degree over them"; (Qur'an: 2:228) which is a degree of
responsibility and not of superiority.
Islam has given every woman the right to choose her husband . This
is clear in the Qur'aan and the Hadith of the Prophet (S).
Muslim women are eligible for the same financial rights and duties
as men and they have full control of their money including the right to
purchase, retail, deposit, stipulate, make advanced payment, exchange,
pre-emption, allotment, preordainment, tenancy, guarantee,
preventative composition, consignment, endowment and emancipation. At
this stage, I discussed two debatable issues:
1 "At what stage should the young girl be given control over her
inherited property?"
2 "Does the wife have the right to spend her own money without
her husband's consent?"
I have proved with evidences from Islamic Jurisprudence that the girl
should be treated equally with the boy, that her money should be paid to
her as soon as she reaches the age of consent and that she can use her own
money without her husband's permission.
Islam entrusts the young girl to the tutelage of a guardian, who is
expected to protect her ; not to oppress her and take control over her
As far as family issues are concerned, such as marriage and divorce,
Islam has put an end to the despotism of men which was prevalent in Pre-
Islamic times of ignorance. Women were then under the mercy of men who
treated them according to their whims and desires. Men used to divorce
their wives as many times as they pleased without any limits, rules, or
conditions, whereas Islam has set the limit to three divorces, after which
she cannot be returned by the husband.
I have explained why men and women are treated differently in some
cases and made it clear that this does not affect their equality in terms of
humanity, dignity and merit. Rather it is divine wisdom which decrees
that their very different natures require different functions. Thus I
have clarified and dissipated the doubts issuing from the fact that a
man's testimony is equivalent to that of two women and that his share of
inheritance is twice as much as hers. I have also dealt with the issue of
blood money and other controversial matters, proving beyond all doubt that
these differences do not affect women's equality in front of their Lord,
nor their social esteem. Differences are only in their biological
constitutions and their complementary functions in society.
Under the section "the political rights of women", I have proved, with
legal evidences and logical argumentation, that women have the right to
participate in Jihaad and have pointed out that its abrogation is unjustified.
Indeed Islam has allowed women an even greater right: the right to
give sanctuary. This privilege is an extreme act of honour, giving her a
status equal to that of men. Man made legislation such as the "so called"
International Law of the Modern West has never given men, not to
mention women, this right.
This privilege is undoubtedly the climax of women's rights in Islam
and the undeniable proof of their high esteem and respectable position.
The third chapter is devoted to the duties of women. This chapter is
unique in terms of its systematic co-ordination and accuracy since I
collected the necessary information from wherever I expected to find it,
from both the old and modern books. I then reviewed, arranged and
extracted the rulings without negligence or exceeding the limits of an
objective judgement. After further observation and thorough examination
I arrived at a number of conclusions. I would like to stress one in
Despite my efforts to find out more about the duties of women
through various readings, observation and personal experience in
da'wah, I found that their rights largely exceed their duties.
This is a spectacular fact which invites Muslim scholars and
Muslim women in particular to ponder over the divine wisdom behind
such a clemency. This reality is also a retort to those feminist authors who
claim to be the liberators of women. Their call to freedom, addressed
to Muslim women is but an invitation to liberate women from a religion
that has dignified, honoured and cherished them, and is actually an
invitation to return to Pre-Islamic oppression, despotism and tyranny
of male legislators.
I have also realised that man made laws have in fact enslaved
women, submitting them to the cupidity and caprice of human beings, and
that Islam is the only solution and the only escape.
The rights of Muslim women are granted by Allah and they cannot
be altered or replaced. Women have gained these rights without a
feminist rebellion or a suffragette movement, without flaunting or
abusing their femininity as the Romans and the Greek did previously and
as the women in the west continue to do today. Women were and still are
abused, humiliated and treated with contempt. The modern "liberated"
woman in addition to performing her natural roles of motherhood and
house management is expected to go out to earn her living, and often that
of her family as well. Thus she is expected to be the man and the woman
at the same time! Unfortunately some Muslim women are advocating the
right to enjoy this miserable situation and to be equal with these "liberated"
women, when they should be extremely proud and grateful to Islam, the
only religion that affirms their humanity, dignity and equality with men.
These are some of the conclusions of my treatise, which I have
presented to the reader as an example of a scientific and objective
research. This is solely to seek the truth for its own sake. Finally I praise
Allah and ask Him to accept this modest work as a sincere attempt to
seek His pleasure. I also ask Him to help me to do whatever is
pleasing to Him and to guide me to the Straight Path. Every success is
from Allah alone, on Him I rely and to Him I shall return.
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66 Jaami ' al- Ussoolfi Ahaadeeth al-
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67 Al-Jamaal al-Bashari:
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68 Jarimat al-Ziwaaj bi Chair al-
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69 Al-fins al-Naa 'im fi Dhilaal al-
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70 Haashiyat Radd al-Muhtaar 'Ala
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71 Haashiyat al-Shahaab or, 'Inaayat
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72 Hum al-Uswah: Siddeeq Hasan
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73 Huqooq al-Insaan wa Hurriyaa!uhu
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74 Al-Hadaarah al-Masmyah: John
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75 Hadaaral al-'Arab: Gustave
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76 Huqooq al-Insaan fi al-hlaam:
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77 Huqooq al-Nisaa' fi al-Islaam wa
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78 Hijaab al-Mar 'ah al-Muslimah fi al-
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79 Huqnoq al-Mar 'ahfi al-hlaam:
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93 Dhakhaa 'ir al-Arab: Jamharat
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95 Al-Ruh: al-Imaam Shamsuddeen
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96 Al-Raheeq al-Makhlmim, a treatise
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97 Al-Risaalaat al-Kubrah:. Saniyah
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98 Rahmal al-hlaam It al-Ntsaa':
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99 Rnnh al-hlaam: Sayyed Amir AH,
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100 Zaad al-ma 'aad ji Huda Khair al-
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101 Al-Zawaaj rva al-Talaaq wa Huqooq
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102 Al-Zawaaj fi al-Sharee'ah alhlaameeyah:
Ali Hasbullah
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103 Al-Zawaaj al-Islami Amaam al-
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104 Sunan al-Tirmidhi al-Jaami'
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105 Sunan al-Nasaa 'i: Explanation by
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106 Sunan Ibn Maajah: al-Haafez Abi
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107 Sunan al-Daarami: Daar al-Kutub
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108 Al-Seerah al-Nabawiyah: Abi
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109 Stlsilal al-Akaadith al-Saheehah:
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110 Stlsilal al-Ahaadilh al-Da 'eefah wa
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132 Fathul 'Aliy al-Maalikft al-Falwa
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139 Qadtyat Tahdeedal-Nasl fi al-
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142 Al-Kitaab al-Muqaddas, Old & New
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145 Kilaab al-Halal wa al-Maalft
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146 Lubaab al-Nuqoolfi Asbaab al-
Nuzool: Jalaluddeen al-Suyooti
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147 Lisaan al-'Arab al-Muheet: al-
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148 Libaas al-mar'ah wa Zinatuhafi al-
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149 Luzoom al-Talaaq al-thalaathfi
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150 Al-Muhalla: Ibn Hazm, died in 456
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152 Al-Ma 'jam al-Mufahras li Alfaaz
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ma 'an Musnad al-Daaramt wa
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153 Mu 'attaa Maalik: 4th edition
154 Al-Muwaafaqat fi Usoolal-
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156 Musnad al-Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal:
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157 Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh: al-Khateeb
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158 Majma'al-Bayaanft Tafieeral-
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159 Muqaaranal al-Adyaan al-
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160 Mukhtasar Tafseer Ibn Katheer.
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Kareem, Beirut
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162 Al-Mabaadi' al-shar 'eeyah ft al-Hajr
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163 Al-Mar'ah Mundhu al-Nash 'ah bain
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Dr. Ahmad Ghunaim Matba'at alkeelaani,
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164 Al-Mawaareeth fi al-Sharee'ahal-
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170 Markaz al-Mar'ah fi al-hlaam:
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and many other writers. Translated
into Arabic by Muhammad
Abdulazeez al-Sadr, owner and
writer in al- Shabaab newspaper
Printed & published by Mustafa
Muhammad, owner of Al-Maktabat
al-Tijaariyah Muhammad Ali,
Egypt 1st edition, al-Matba'ah al-
Rahmaaneeyah, 35, al-Kharanfish.
177 Al-Mar'ah wa al'Amal: Nabaweeyah
Moosa, the principle of 'al-
Mu'alimaat al-Ameeriyah' school-
Alexandria, ist edition, all rights
reserved to the writer al-Malba 'ah
al-Walaneeyah - Alexandria
'Aleeyah Muhammad
178 Al-mar'ah fi al-Jaahileeyah: Habeeb
Afandi Alzayaat al-Dimashqi,
printing paid for by the subscribers
of al-Dhiyaa' a special publication
for the year 1889- 1899,this treatise
is given free. Not to be sold or made
available in bookshops. All rights
reserved Matba'at al-Ma'aarif,
Alfajaalah St. Egypt
179 Al-Mar'ah ft Admaanha al
Thalaalh: Fataat wa Zawjan wa
Umman": a contemporary study
discussing women's education,
duties & rights tawards her family
and other people she might deal
with throughout her life. By
Muhammad Mas'ood: Manager of
press section in the Ministry of the
Interior 1st edition, 1343 AH/1925,
180 Al-mar'ah fi al-hlaam Bintan wa
Zaurjah wa Umman: Dr Layia Hasan
Sa'duddeen, PhD in comparative
literature, Ayn Shams University ,
Cairo Maktabat al-Risaalah al-
Hadeethah Saahat al-Jaami' al-
Husaini, P.O.Box 6600, Amman,
181 Maseeral al-Mar'ah al-Sa 'udeeyah,
Ilaa 'am: Soheilah Zein Al-
'Abideen Hammad ist edition v
1402 AH/1982, al-Daar al-
Sa'udeeyah li al-nashr wa al-
Tawzee', Jeddah
182 Al-Mar'ah ft al-hlaam:
Dr. al-Sheikh Sobhi al-Saaleh
Institution of'Women in the Arab
World Studies' - Kulleeyat Beirut
al-Jaami'eeyah. ist edition - al,
Mu'assasah al-'Arabiyah li aldiraasaat
183 AI-Mar 'ah wa al-hlaam:
Ahmad Zaki Tufaahah ist edition,
1979 Daar al-Kitaab Allubnaani,
Daar al-Kilaab al-Masri
184 Al-Muslimah al- 'Asriyah 'Inda
Baahilhat al-Baadiyah Malak
Hanafi Naasif. Abdulmuta'aali al-
Jabri 3rd edition - 1401 AH /I981
Daar al-Ansaar, Cairo
185 "Makaanat al-Mar'ah bayn al-
Islaam wa al-Qawaaneen al-
'Aalammeeyah": Salem al-
Bahnasaawi -Daar al-Qaiam.Kuwait
186 "Al-Mar'ah al-'Arabeeyah fi
Jaahiliyatiha wa Islaamiha":
Abdullah 'Afeefi al-Maktaba al-
Tijaariyah al-Kubra Matba'at al-
Istiqaamah, Cairo
187 Al-Mar'ah al-Jadeedafi Markazuha
al-Ijttmaa 'ee: Muhammad al-Sibaa'i
Printed & Published by Husain
Hasanain, Matba'at al-Sa'aadah,
188 Makaanaki Tuhmadi: Ahmad
Muhammad Jamaal 4th edition,
Tihaamah publications, Saudi
189 Al-Mar'ah al-Tunisiyah: Nazeeha
Kahl 'Ayyaat Daar al-'Amal
190 "Al-Mar'ah fi al-Shi'r al-Jaahili":
Dr. Ahmad Muhammad al-Hoofi
2nd edition, Cairo. Printing &
Publishing committed by: Daar al-
Fikr al-'Arabi - Matba'at al-Madani
191 Al-mar 'ah hayna Du 'aat al-hlaam
tea Ad'iyaa'al-Taqaddum: 'Umar
Salmaan al-Ashqar ist edition, 1400
AH/1980 Maktabat al-Falaah,
192 Al-Umoomah rva al-Tufoolah fi alhlaam:
Abdulghani Ahmad Naaji
Daar al-I'tisaam
193 Al-Mar 'ah al- 'Arabeeyah wa al- 'Air:
Louis Shaid Walinard, translated
by Shawkat Yusuf Daar al-Jeel,
Beirut, Daar Dimashq li al-tibaa'ah
194 al-Mar'ah wa al-'Amalfi America:
Robert W Smith Translated into
Arabic by Dr. Husain 'Umar
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195 Al-Mar'ah min khilaalal-Aayaat
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196 Al-Mar 'ahji Mukhlalafal- 'Usoor:
Ahmad Khaaki Daar al-Kutub al-
Misriyah 1947 Printing &
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197 Al-Mar'ah fi al-hlaam:
Dr Ali Abdulwaahed Waafi
2nd edition, Daar Nahdat Misr li
al-tab' Walnashr, Cairo
198 A Mar 'ah Ji al-Qadeem wa al-
Hadeelh, volumes 1-3: 'Umar Rida
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199 Al-Mar'ah ft 'Aalamai al-'Arab wa
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200 Al'Mar'ahJl al-Qur'aan: Abaas
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201 Al-Mar'ah Dhaalika -Allughz:
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202 Makaanat al-Mar'ah fi al- Shu 'aon
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203 Al-Mar 'ah bayn al-Fiqh wa al-
Qaanoon: Dr. al-Sheikh Mustafa
al-Sibaa'i 5th edition, al-Maktab al-
Islaami, Beirut
204 Maaza 'An al-Mar'ah: Dr.
Nuruddeen 'Itr Daar al-Fikr,
Damascus, 4th edition
205 Mir'aat al-Mar'ah: Muhammad al-
Hajari Ismaa'eel al-Kitaab al-Awal
Tunis, 1964
206 Manhaj al-Tarbiyah al-hlaamiyah:
Muhammad Qatab Daar al-
Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah 2nd edition
207 Muhaadaraah hawla Tahreer al-
Mar'ah: Alexandra Colontale
Translated by Henriette Aboodi
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208 Markaz al-Mar'ah ji al-hlaam:
Ahmad Khayrat Daar al-Ma'aarif,
2nd edition
209 Maanjif al-hlaam ft Ta 'leem al-
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Muhammad Abduh al-Nayjeeri,
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210 Masaader al-Haqq fi al-Sharee 'ah
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211 Nafahaat min al-Sunnah:
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Mabaadi' wa Qawaa 'id
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Mubaarak, ist edition, 1392
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213 Nidhaam al-hlaam, al-'Aqeedah wa
al-'lbaadah: Muhammad al-
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214 Nisaa' Lahunna jl al- Taarikh alhlaami
Naseeh: Ali Ibraahim Hasan
Maktabat al-Nahdah al-Misreeyah
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215 Nisaa'al-Nabee 'alayhi al-Salaal
wa al-Salaam: Dr. bint al-Shaati'
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216 Nayl al-Awtaar, Sharh Muntaqa al-
Akhbaar min Ahaadeelh Sayyed alkhayaar:
al-Sheikh Muhammad
bin Ali bin Muhammad al-
Shawkaani Last edition Printing &
Publishing committed by: Sharikat
wa Matba'at Mustafa al-Halabi &
Sons, Egypt
217 Nttsb al-Raayah li-Ahaaadeeth al-
Hidaayah with important fine notes
known as Bughyac al-Alma'i fi
Takhreej al-Zayla'i": Jamaluddeen
al-Hanafi al-Zayla'i 2nd edition, al-
Maktabat al-Islaamiyah, owned by
al-Haaj Riyaad al-Sheik
218 Hamsah fi Udhun Hawaa':
Ibraahim 'Aasi 3rd edition, Daar
al-Qalam, Damascus, Beirut,
219 Al-Waseet: al-Sanhoori
220 Al-Wilaayah 'Ala al-Nafs:
Muhammad abu Zahra Daar al-
Raa'd al-'Arabi, Beirut, Lebanon
221 Wadheefat al-Mar'ahj fi Nadhar alislaam:
Dr.Kamaal Jawdah abu al-
Ma'aati Daar al-Huda li al tibaa'ah,
Cairo 1400 AH
1 Liivaa ' al-Islaam: religious, social &
educational magazine Matba'at
Daar al-Kitaab al-'Arabi, Egypt
2 Noor al-Islaam: first volume, a
scholarly and religious magazine,
issued by 'Masheekhat al-Azhar'
Muharram 1341-1354 al-Matba'ah
al-Hadeethah, Cairo
3 Jareedal al-Riyad: Issue NO 5096
13.6.1402 AH / 7.4.1982 AD