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Review Of Islamic Law In The Context Of Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (Part 3)

Written by: Dr. Mohammad Ali Faghihi

Published on: August 13th, 2019


Part 1 | 2 | 4

Part III: Islam, A Pioneer In Establishing Basic Equalities

1. Right to freedom of thought and expression

This right should be ensured for any creature that thinks and has the power of speech. Therefore, gender is not an issue and this tight can be avail to both.

When we are talking about freedom of thought and expression, Islam’s viewpoint should be differentiated in two broad categories: 1) necessity and suitability; 2) implementation.

 

Necessity and suitability: Islam’s remarks in this area are more descriptive and defined, necessary and suitable freedom of expression. Then, it presents its own viewpoint. Since thinking is a means of discovering realities of the world, then free thought will make it possible for man to recognize realities. However, in most theories, they talk about freeing human thought of external factors that have been imposed on it, while Islam also emphasizes on freeing human thought of internal limitations. If the main goal of thinking is to recognize realities, all barriers in this way should be removed. As put by Imam Ali (AS) “There are many minds that are slaves to worldly desires of their owners.” He, who wants to discover the truth, should be ready to overcome all internal and external barriers.

Definition of freedom of expression: Expression is a tool at the disposal of human beings to give voice to their thoughts and ideas and should be limited by no internal or external obstacles. Islam maintains that expression should be logical and useful, because it should arise from thought. It has been frequently said in the Quran that “Say: bring your arguments if you are telling the truth?” This implies that “if your argument stems from compassion and does not contain insult.” Imam Ali (AS) has been quoted as saying, “When a faithful man is going to say something, they first think about it to see whether it is useful or not, if it is possible to be harmful, they would keep it secret. However, hypocrites say whatever occurs to their minds.”

Implementation: After explaining the necessities of freedom of expression, Islam will not oppose those who do not follow the above lines. There are frequent mentions of “they said” and “they say” in Quran, which shows that the opponents of Islam were free to talk and Islam talked to them through a language of logic and tolerance. Chapter Kafiroun (Infidels, 109) says, “For you is your religion and for me is mine.” Or “For us is (responsibility for) our deeds, and for you is (responsibility for) your deeds.” Although Quran describes true religion and proposes it to people to accept it. However, it does not impose it on them and is ready to listen to atheists. When opponents of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) tried to annoy him with their words, he just listened to them and did not try to muffle their voice.

Addressing the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), God says, “And have patience with what they say, and leave them with nobility (dignity).” (Qur’an 73:10)

Women also enjoyed that freedom. Like men, women attended ceremonies at Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) mosque, both for prayers and sometimes expressed their viewpoints, raised questions (especially with regard to the rights of men and women) and sometimes even argued with Prophet (PBUH), who treated them with leniency. Few examples are as follows:

 

“Allah has indeed heard the statement of the woman who pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to Allah. And Allah hears the arguments between both sides among you: for Allah hears and sees (all things).” (Qur’an 58:1)

A woman from Ansar’s tribe called Khoulah (other names have also been recorded), who belonged to Khazraj clan, was the wife of “Ows ibn Samit”. During an argument, her husband, who was a bad tempered man, told her that “you are like the backside of my mother to me!” This was the worst type of divorce among Arabs at that time. Such a woman could not go back to her husband and was not free either to marry another man. So this was the worst situation to happen to a married woman.

After a short time, the man regretted what he had done, but since, this type of divorce could not be revoked, he told to his wife “l think you may never become my wife again.” The woman answered “Don’t say this. Ask Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).” Since the man was shy, he allowed the woman to go and ask the question.

The woman went to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and said, “O Messenger of God! My husband “Ows ibn Samit” married me at a time that I was young and wealthy. He used up what my family had given me and now that l am not young and my family has dispersed, he has irrevocably divorced me. Is there any way, that we can go back to our normal life?” Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “You cannot live with him!” She insisted that the man is the father of her children and she loves him most. But Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) repeated that they cannot go back to their previous life.

After a lot of insistence, the women looked to the sky and prayed “O God! I complain to you about my distress and extreme need. Please, send an order to your prophet and solve my problem.”

Another narration says that the woman said, “O God! You are aware of my situation. So have mercy on me. I have young children. If l leave them with my husband they would be wasted and if I take them with me, they would starve.” It was then that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) received divine revelation in the form of the said Quranic verse. He said, “Fetch your husband.” Then he recited the verse to the husband and asked “Can you free one slave as atonement for what you have done?” He answered, “If I do that, nothing would be left for me.” Prophet Mohammad (PBHU) said, “Can you fast for two consecutive months?” He answered, “If I delay my meal three times, I may lose eyesight and go blind.” Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) asked “Can you feed 60 poor people?” He said, “No, unless you help me.” Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “I will help you.” In this way they returned to their normal life.

 

Key points about the above mentioned verse are as follows:

  1. Women enjoyed freedom of expression and opinion and they were allowed to speak their minds quite freely.
  2. The woman not only asked her question, but also argued with Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). In return, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did not get angry with her or threaten her.
  3. Most importantly, the woman’s request is heard and God makes that kind of divorce null and void while considering atonement for the man as punishment for what he had done.
  4. Another example of freedom of expression for women has been mentioned in “Nour ul-Theqlain”, which says, “When Asma’, the daughter of Amis, returned from Abyssinia along with her husband, she went to the wives of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and asked, ‘Has Quran said anything about us?’ They answered ‘No.’ So, she went to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and said, ‘Most women are disappointed and at loss.’ Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) asked ‘Why?’ She answered ‘Because they have not been mentioned in a good way like men?’ It is then that the Almighty God revealed Verse 35 of Ahzab Chapter to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) saying that men and women are the same from the viewpoint of virtues.”
  5. One day a woman belonging to Ansar tribe went to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and started to talk about equality of women with men in terms of spiritual rewards and such affairs as jihad (holy war).
    Her remarks were so logical and eloquent that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) lauded her and told his companions, “Have you ever heard a woman talk so eloquently?” They said no and said that they never thought a woman could go that far. Therefore, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did not chide her and, instead, encouraged her.

 

2. Right to education

The right to education is among those rights that are special to human beings because every creature with the power t0 think wants to develop that ability and find answers to questions. Therefore, they start to learn and this is a natural right of humans regardless of gender. 1t should be noted that in Europe, due attention was not paid to education of women until the 18th century. Naiibn Sa‘doun writes in his book “Womens Rights” that “It was only in 1893 that women were permitted to enter high school and get diploma. The first high school for girls was established in Karlsruhe. After 1901, women were allowed to enroll for all academic courses.”

In Canada, women were admitted to Mortensen educational institute only after 1867 while some universities including that of Ontario only admitted women after 1869.”

In France, Falloux Act was approved on March 15, 1850 to assure free education in that country and obligated establishment of primary school for girls in all urban locations whose population exceeded 800. The first woman to obtain a diploma in l86l was Julie Daubié.

The First verses of Quran which were revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) talked about reading and learning: “Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He, taught (the use of) the pen; taught man that which he knew not.”

Here, Man is a general form of address which includes both men and women. It was already said that everywhere that Quran uses the world “Man” it is a general address because in verses 36-39 of Chapter Qiyamat, Quran say, “And of him He made two sexes, male and female.” Therefore, man or woman is not an issue here. Both of them should learn and many verses of Holy Quran have encouraged them to learn regardless of their gender. Consider the following examples:

1. Are those who know, equal to those who do not know?

2. God elevates those of you, who believe and those who are knowledgeable.

3. According to Holy Quran, one of the main objectives of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who has been sent to guide all people, was purification and education of people teaching them the Book of God.

 

In short, Quranic verses have encouraged women to learn and there have been many educated women in the Islamic world and there is not even a single instance when Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) prevented women from learning.

Hazrat Fatima (AS) the daughter of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the first teacher of women and her house was the first school for women. Her sermon after demise of her father at Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) mosque where Ansar and Muhajir Muslims had gathered is full of monotheism, philosophy of Islamic orders, as well as attention to social and political affairs, which needs suitable comments and is the sign of how knowledgeable she had been.

There is a tradition from Imam Sadeq (AS) who had been asked about women making hajj pilgrimage on behalf of men. He said that if the woman had already done her hajj pilgrimage and is mature, it would be of no objection and noted that many a woman who is more knowledgeable than men.

 

3. Suffrage

Suffrage, or the right to vote, has nothing to do with gender because every human being has the right to determine his/her fate. Islam recognized this right for women from the very beginning while the west only recognized it centuries after the advent of Islam.

In 1897, Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) by resorting to legal means and avoiding of violence. In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) founded Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) because she had noted that more powerful means should be used to achieve a positive result. The Daily Mail called them suffragettes. The WSPU launched a campaign of protest in 1912 on the basis of targeting property and avoiding violence against any person. Initially this involved smashing shop windows, but ultimately escalated to burning stately homes and bombing public buildings including Westminster Abbey. Pankhurst was imprisoned several times.

In May 1913, the House of Commons rejected a bill on women’s suffrage, but a new bill was approved before the end of World War I, on February 6, 1918, allowing women aged 30 years or older to vote.

On May 24, 1918, the Canadian women were given the right to vote and in 1919, they were permitted to run for the parliament.

In 1890, National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) brought the local associations together in fighting for women’s suffrage in western American states in 1914 and established a national entity in 1920.

The situation was the same in the European countries.

However, in the primitive society of Arabia, Islam highly respected women and realized their right to swear allegiance to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Women took part in gatherings where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was present and asked questions from him. They also worked as nurses and relief workers during wars. They even accompanied Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his hajj pilgrimage. Also, just in the same way that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) established brotherhood relationship among Muslim men, he established a similar relationship among Muslim women.

However, the story of swearing allegiance to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is as follows:

Verse 12, Chapter Mumtahinah says, “O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter, then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

This shows that contrary to some claims that Islam has no respect for half of the human society, that is, women; it has counted them in the most important issues of Muslim society. One example was the oath of fealty to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that Muslims took in Hudaibiyah (in 6 AH) and another time they did it after the conquest of Mecca. Something happened during taking the oath or” fealty, which is worthy of mention here.

One of the women who took the oath of fealty to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) after the conquest of Mecca was Hind, the wife of Abu Sufiyan, who had created painful scenes in the history of Islam, including the killing of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) uncle, Hamza, during the war of Uhud.
Although, she was finally appeared to accept Islam, what happened during her taking the oath of fealty showed that she still held her past notions. Therefore, it is no surprise that following her lineage, unprecedented crimes were committed against the progeny of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in later years.

Interpreters of Quran have written that Hind was wearing a mask when he went to see Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) while he was standing on Mount Safa with a group of women around him. When Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “I accept your oath of fealty provided that you give up polytheism,”
Hind protested to him and said, “You are calling for a commitment from us that you did not require from men (because Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had only asked men to observe their faith and take part in jihad)”

Ignoring her, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) added, “And you shall not steal.”Hind said. “Abu Sufiyan is a stingy man and I have taken things from his property. I don‘t know whether he will forgive me or not?” Abu Sufiyan, who was present there, said “I forgive you for everything that you have taken from my property in the past.”

It was then that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) smiled and recognized Hind. He said, “Is that you Hind?” She answered, “Yes, O Messenger of God. Forgive the past, so that, God will forgive you.”

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) added, “And do not commit adultery.” Hind said, “How could a free woman do this?” Some of the people who knew about Hind’s past records laughed at her words.

Then, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) added, “And do not kill your children,”

Hind said. “We raised them as children, but when they grew up, you killed them! And you know better than that.” She meant her son Hanzala who was killed by Imam Ali (AS) during the war of Badr.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) smiled and continued, “And don’t use libel.” Hind said, “Libel is immoral and you only invite us to those things that are good and moral.”

When Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “And never disobey me.” Hind said, “If we wanted to disobey you, we wouldn’t have been sitting here.” Of course, this was not true, but according to teachings of Islam, Prophet Mohammad (BUH) had to accept her remarks. This story will help us reach a number of conclusions:

  1. The women attended by their own free will without being forced to do so.
  2. It was not a blind allegiance, and its subject was moral and transparent issues.
  3. To ‘swear their allegiance, women did not do any special act (like establishing associations and issuing communiqués or taking part in demonstrations), but they were accepted by the leader of Islam simply due to their presence there. The end of the Quranic verse, which calls on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to pray to God to forgive them, clearly indicates that their deed has been appreciated by God.
  4. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) forgave a woman who had treated his uncle in a violent and unfair manner during the war of Uhud.
  5. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) allowed the women to express their viewpoints and even protest to their remarks.
  6. He asked them to obey him in good things.

The above verse clearly shows that the women had been called upon to obey Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in just matters. Although Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is infallible and will never do wrong, but this may be used as a model for all Muslim societies. That is, their orders should only be obeyed when they conform to the teachings of Quran and Islam.

Therefore, those who call for unconditional obedience to rulers are far from Islam, because what they say, neither conforms to wisdom, nor to teachings of Islam.

Imam Ali (AS), in his famous letter in which he introduced Malik Ashtar to people of Egypt, when appointing him as their ruler, asked them to obey him in whatever that conformed to justice and truth.

4. The right to security

Security is one of the basic demands of humans in their lives without, which life would be a bitter experience. Absence of security entails violence. When Imam Ali (AS) explains about the situation of Adam before his descent, he mentions security as one of the features of Adam’s life in Eden. Or when Quran invites people to worship God in Chapter Quraish, it describes God as He who has fed them from hunger (economy), and has made them immune against fear (secure).

Islam attaches great significance to security. It not only intends to make the outside, but the inside of human beings. The word “Iman” (faith) has been derived from “lmani‘” which means security in Arabic. Therefore, the right to security has been recognized by all human beings and has nothing to do with gender. Women enjoy every right that has been recognized for men.

Security means protection against all forms of violence, oppression and aggression against this existence. That existence consists of life (security to live), good reputation (security of reputation), property (financial security), employment (job security) as well as security in manifesting one’s religion and beliefs.

A full discussion of Islam’s viewpoints on security and mentioning many Quranic verses and traditions related to the issue will require compilation of an independent book. A brief discussion of various forms of security follows:

Living Securely:

The lives of all human beings should be secure against any form of aggression and this is not only the order of God, but has been upheld by various Quranic verses and traditions:

“…if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people.” (Qur’an 5:32)

Security of Reputation:

Prohibition of backbiting, slander, libel, and swearing at others and injunction to think well about other people only aims to assure security of other people’s reputation.

Since security of reputation is very important to human beings and sometimes they are even ready to give up their stolen property just to keep their reputation secure, Islam has considered strict punishments for those who infringe upon privacy of other people, especially with regard to sexuality. It does not allow anybody to utter slander against anybody else by charging them with adultery or fornication. The following verses are but examples:

  1. “Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous Penalty.” (Qur’an 24:23)
  2. “And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors. Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct); for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 24:4)

In the first verse, chaste and believing women are the main subject while the second verse reflects on chaste women without saying anything about their faith. There are traditions that stipulate that, even pagan women cannot be slandered and charged with indecent acts.

Financial Security

There is a well-established rule in Islamic jurisprudence, which says, “People have command of their property,” that is, nobody has the right to encroach upon their property and also, men have no right to seize their spouses’ properties even their marriage portion. Prohibition of usurpation and stealing aims at realizing people’s financial security. Imam Ali’s (AS) remarks with regard to stealing anklet of a Jewish woman indicates recognition of financial security from the viewpoint of Islam.

Job security

Not only people’s occupations should be safe from any encroachment, but they should also feel secure at workplace. The value of their labor and their salary should not be affected by their gender.

Security of domicile

Where a person resides, their domicile, should be completely secure. Hence, unauthorized entry into any person’s abode has been strictly forbidden in Islam. Even looking into a person’s home without his/her consent is not permitted.

Emotional security

Islam has prohibited lecherous looks at strangers. Also, prohibition of illegal relationships and the necessity of observing hijab (Islamic dress code) all aim at preventing people’s emotions to be played with. No man or woman is allowed to play with the emotions of another through coquetry or deceitful promises.

 

5. Right to ownership and economic independence

One of the main rights of which women have been deprived in the course of history and that deprivation still continues in some societies is encroachment upon their right to ownership and property while Quran has recognized that right many centuries ago.

“To men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn.” (Qur’an 4:32)

The word “earn” indicates that women enjoy economic independence and can be owner of what they earn.

A woman’s ownership is realized through her own efforts as well as through what she gains as marriage portion, gift, alimony, heritage, and so on. Such ownership is not conditional and nobody has the right to deprive a woman from it.

ln Europe, however, it was only in past few centuries (in about 1872) that women’s ownership and property rights were recognized and a relevant act allowing ownership by married women were approved.

There is a tradition in Da’aim al-Islam, which says, “A woman may set a slave free and use her property without asking for her husband’s permission and her husband has no right over her property.”

Imam Baqer (AS) as been quoted as saying that “One day a group of people arrived in Imam Hossein’s (AS) home and said ‘We see things at your house that we don’t like.’ Imam Hossein said ‘When we marry our wives, we pay their marriage portion in full, so that, they could buy whatever they wanted and nothing of their property belongs to us.’”

Continued here in part 4.

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