In many other religions, women have had to fight for their rights and dues, and their struggle, in many cases, is still ongoing. Christian women, for example, have had to struggle to make their voices heard, and have gone to the extreme of changing the text of the Bible to make it less "sexist" and more "acceptable" to women. Islam, on the other hand, has justly granted women their rights without them having to ask, let alone demand and fight.
“For Muslim men and women for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise - for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:35]
A number of Islamic virtues are mentioned here, but the primary message of this ayah is that these virtues are applicable to both, women as well as men. Both sexes have human rights and duties to an equal degree, and the rewards of the Hereafter are available to men and women alike. Each individual will be judged according to his or her deeds. Gender is simply not an issue in this matter.
“And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: Never shall I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another...” [Surah AI-'Imran, 3:195]
Allah has granted the prayers of the Believers, and has told us that He will not let the labour of any individual go to waste. Everyone will reap the reward of his or her efforts. A woman may achieve this just as a man may. Man and woman alike are members of the human race, created from the same source and joined by Islam as partners in life and in reward.
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their action.” [Surah An-Nahl, 16: 97]
The spiritual equality of women to men in Islam is abundantly clear, so nobody should fall for the prejudiced view propagated by the Islamaphobes in the Western media.
From the time a child is conceived, Islam gives glad tidings to a woman regardless of the gender of the foetus.
The pregnant woman is held in the highest esteem, and her patience in bearing the discomforts of pregnancy is regarded as an act of virtue which brings her closer to Paradise. If the baby is a girl, this opens up further opportunities for the parents to attain Paradise. In stark contrast to the attitude of the pagan Arabian society which buried female babies alive (and the modern jahiliyyah in which many societies views the birth of a girl as bad news), the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave the glad tidings of Paradise as the reward for the one who welcomes a daughter, brings her up properly, provides a sound education and arranges a good marriage for her. In another hadith, it is stated that the fire of Hell will not be permitted to touch one who goes through trials and tribulations because of a daughter, but still does not hate her, and treats her well.
The Qur'an expressively forbids killing babies, whether by infanticide or abortion, for fear of poverty or losing face in the community:
“Say: Come, I will rehearse what Allah has (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want - We provide sustenance for you and for them - come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom.” [Surah Al-An’am, 6:151]
The Qur’an also tells us that the innocent girls who were slain for no other reason than that they were female, will be asked on the Day of Judgement for what sin they were slain:
“When the female (infant) buried alive, is questioned - for what crime she was killed.” [Surah At-Takwir, 81:8-9]
The crime is that of the parents, not of the child. Parents should not think that they are at liberty to do whatever they like with regard to their children. It is almost beyond belief that in the modern world the practice of infanticide, in the epithet of abortion, can be allowed to exist. China is currently experiencing an epidemic of this barbarism, under its strict population control laws; families are allowed only one child, and most parents want sons, so girls are abandoned and allowed to die, or are killed, so that the parents may have another child, hopefully a boy. The Western nations, which are so quick to condemn China, are not so far behind in savagery, except they have sanitised infanticide in the guise of abortion.
Not only does the Qur'an protect the female infant from being murdered by ignorant parents, but it describes her birth as good news, and grants her the right of inheritance from her father, husband and brother, and gives her the right to own property and conduct business transactions independently and in her own right.
“When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the news that he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dusts Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on.” [Surah An-Nahl, 16:58-59]
This ayah refers to the period of Jahillyyah, just before the advent of Islam, when it was the custom of the pagan Arabs to bury female infants alive. Islam totally forbids such crimes, but sadly this evil practice is still continuing in many communities, where women are not valued and are seen as a burden. At the very least, the birth of a girl is resented and she may be neglected whilst the best food and education is given to her brothers; at the worst, modern technology is exploited so that if a female foetus is detected via an ultrasound scan, it may be aborted, whilst a male foetus will be carried to full term.
The spiritual equality of the sexes in Islam extends to the worldly plane, and education is required both for male and female. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim male and female". He also urged Muslims to "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave".
The importance of seeking knowledge cannot be over-emphasised. All Muslims are urged to educate themselves, to act upon their knowledge, and to convey it to others.
“... Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge.” [Surah Fatir, 35:28]
It is only those with knowledge and understanding who will be truly conscious of the glory and transcendency of Allah. They will understand the transience of the present world and the permanence of the Hereafter, and thus they will be concerned about their future and will strive to attain knowledge of the Divine guidance.
Islam promotes the education of both sexes. Islamic history, from the very beginning, records the names of numerous female scholars, foremost among whom is 'A'ishah, who was one of the greatest narrators of ahadith. Not only was she responsible for conveying over two thousand ahadith, but the great men of her time used to consult with her on matters of fiqh (jurisprudence).
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