By Dr. Zakir Naik.
Socially Islam gives women four different status:
1. As a Daughter
2. As a Wife
3. As a Mother
4. As a Sister
i. Islam prohibits infanticide or killing of female infants. This is considered a serious crime of murder.
Surah Al-Takvir Chapter 81, Verses 8 and 9 (81 : 8-9)
“When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” (17:31), (6:15)
In pre-Islamic Arabia killing of female infants was very common and very often the moment a female was born she was buried alive.
Islam not only prohibits female infanticide, but it forbids all types of infanticide, irrespective of whether the infant is a male or female. It is mentioned in Surah Al-Anam chapter 6, Verse 151 (6:151).
“Kill not your children on a plea of want. We provide sustenance for you and for them. Come not near shameful deeds, whether open or secret. Take not life which Allah has made sacred.”
A similar guidance is repeated in Surah Al-Isra Chapter 17, Verse 31 (17:31).
“Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.”
In pre-Islamic Arabia killing of female infants was very common and very often, the moment a female was born, she was buried alive. However, after the spread of Islam in Arabia, Al hamdulillah, this evil practice has been discontinued for the last 1,400 years but unfortunately it is yet prevalent in India.
In a BBC documentary film titled “Let her die” shown in the programme “Assignments”, the statistics of female infanticide was given by Emetic Buchanan. It has to be a Britisher who came all the way from Britain to give us the statistics and make a documentary film in a country which has the maximum rate of female infanticide in the world. According to the statistics compiled by them, everyday more than 3,000 foetuses are being aborted in India on being identified that they are female. If you multiply this figure with the number of days in a year (365 days) we understand that more than one million female foetuses are aborted every year in India. It is practised maximum in the state of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. There are big bill boards and advertisements saying “Invest Rs.500/- and save Rs.500,000, signifying that you do tests like Amino sentesis or ultra sonography which cost about Rs.500/- and on identifying the gender of the foetus if it is a girl you can always abort her and thus save Rs.5,00,000/- which is usually spent in the upbringing of a girl and giving dowry in her marriage.
According to a report of the Tamil Nadu Government Hospital, out of every 10 female children born, 4 are put to death.
Female infanticide has been present in our country for centuries. No wonder the female population of India is less than the male population.
According to the 1901 census of India, there were 972 females for every 1000 males. According to the 1981 census, there were 934 females for every 1000 males in India and the latest statistics of 1991 tell us that for every 1000 males there are 972 females in India. One can realise from these census reports that the ratio of female population is declining every year. Earlier only female infanticide was being resorted to, but now with the advancement of Science and Medicines to suit this act, there has been added another crime of aborting female fetuses. It is no wonder, therefore, that the urban areas of Bihar and Goa showed 1054 and 1091 females respectively for every 1000 males and according to 1991.tically fallen to 911.
ii. Islam not only prohibits female infanticide but also rebukes the thought of rejoicing on the news of birth of a male child and not rejoicing on the news of the birth of a female child.
Surah Al-Nahl (Chapter 16), Verses 58 and 59 (16:58-59)
“When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkness, and he is filled with inward grief!
With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance) the choice they decide on?”
iii. In Islam the girl child is entitled to support, and upbringing and good treatment.
According to an authentic hadith related in Ahmed, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said, “Anyone who brings up two daughters properly they will be very close to me on the day of Judgment.”
According to another hadith whoever brings up two daughters properly and treats them kindly and justly shall enter paradise.
iv. There should be no partiality in bringing up of sons and daughters.
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) always spoke about justice and kindness towards a child whether it be a daughter or a son.
Once a person in the presence of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) kissed his son and put him on his lap and did not do the same for his daughter who was with him. The Prophet (Pbuh) objected and told the man that he was being unjust and that he should have also kissed his daughter and placed her on the other lap. The Prophet (Pbuh) not only preached about equal justice to sons and daughters but also practised it himself.
i.a. Islam does not consider “Woman as an instrument of the devil” as considered by the Bible. But rather the Qur’an calls her “Mohsana” - a fortress against Satan, because a good woman by marrying a man helps him keep a straight path in life.
b. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) declared that there is no Monasticism in Islam. He further ordained, “Oh you young men - whoever is able to marry should marry for this will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty” (Al-Bukhari).
c. It is narrated by Anas that the messenger of Allah (Pbuh) said, “when a man marries he has completed one half of his religion!”
Once during a question and answer session somebody asked me does this imply that if I marry twice I will complete my full religion? The Prophet (Pbuh) considered marriage for a Muslim as half of his religion because it shields him from promiscuity, fornication, homosexuality, etc, which add to half the evil in society.
Secondly, only after you marry do you have an opportunity to become a husband or wife, a father or a mother and thus perform your duties as either as a husband or as a wife; as a father or as a mother. Whether you marry once or twice you are yet fulfilling only half your deen.
ii. a. According to Islam marriage is a blessing and bounty on both men and women.
In Surah Al-Rum Chapter 30, Verse 21 (30:21)
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts)”.
b. In Surah Nisa Chapter 4, Verse 21 (4:21)
The Qur’an refers to marriage as a “Misaq” that is a sacred covenant or agreement between husband and wife.
iii. a. In Surah Nisa Chapter 4, Verse 19 (4: 19)
“Oh! You who believe, you are forbidden to inherit women against their will!”
b. Islamic law requires the consent of both the parties before marriage. In matters related to marriage a woman cannot be forced by anyone including her father. Parents can help and advise the daughter on marriage but cannot impose or force his will. There have been cases where Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) had given the choice of continuing or invalidating certain marriages where the consent of the daughter was not taken (Ibn Hambal No.2469).
c. Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it _Ibn Hanbal No.2469).
In another version, the girl said : “Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)” (Ibn-Maja, No.1873).
iv. Woman in Islam is considered to be a home-maker and not a housewife because she is not married to the house.
v. In Islam, when a woman is married to a man it is not that she is married to a master so that she should be treated like a slave but she is married to her equal and should be treated like a partner with love and dignity.
The Prophet (Pbuh) said the most perfect believers are those that are best in character and behaviour and those that are best to their families (that is to their wives) (Ibn Hambal No.7396).
vi. a. The rights of husband and wife are equal in all respects except in the aspect of leadership in the family.
In Surah Al-Baqarah Surah 2, Verse 228 (2: 2228)
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable but men have a degree of advantage over them.”
Here a degree higher does not mean in superiority but refers to responsibility. The Qur’an has stated in Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4, Verse 34 (4 :34).
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given one more (strength) than the other because they support them from their means.”
The Arabic word used is “Qawwam” which many a time is mistaken for superiority but is actually derived from “Iqama” meaning to “stand up for” in the same fashion as Iqama is given before prayers that is “standing up for prayers.”
Therefore men are not one degree higher in superiority or dictatorship but one degree higher in standing up for responsibility.
b. According to the commentary of Al Tabari the word ‘Qawwam’ means a degree higher in responsibility and service and not superiority. Therefore it is the duty of the man to see that he provides security and maintenance to women and this should be carried out with mutual consent.
vii. Even if there is lack of affection or liking between husband and wife this is not a justification to be unjust and not compassionate.
In Surah Al-Nisa Chapter 4, Verse 19 (4:19)
“Live with them (wives) on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing Allah brings about through a great deal of good.”
viii. There is a system of divorce in Islam which is to be applied only in extreme cases where the problem between the husband and wife is too grave to be solved and the continuation of married life would be counterproductive. The method of divorce is clearly spelt out in the Qur’an in Surah -Al-Talaq in Chapter 65 and in Surah Al-Baqrah Verses 227 to 242.
According to Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), among the permissible things in Islam, the most hated in the sight of Allah is divorce. It is as though the heavens shatter (metaphorically).
There is a great deal of misconception and myth about the system of divorce in Islam, not only among the non-Muslims but also amongst the Muslims, who think that men have the exclusive right to give divorce.
Following are the ways of dissolution of marriage in Islam.
a. By the unilateral will of the husband.
b. By the unilateral will of the wife (if the marriage contract so specifies).
c. By the judgment of a Muslim judge (Kazi). After a reasonable complaint lodged by a wife against her husband on grounds such as ill treatment, lack of support, etc., or any other legitimate and satisfactory reason.
d. ‘Khula’ where even if the husband is not at fault and if the wife does not like staying with the husband. She need not specify the reason for seeking a ‘Khula’. An incident of Khula had taken place during the time of Prophet (Pbuh) where he commanded the husband to give divorce.
e. Many westerners have the misconception that Polygamy is compulsory in Islam and that Islam ordains that all Muslim men should marry four wives.
The true fact is that monogamy is what is preferred in Islam. The Holy Qur’an is the only religious book on the face of the earth which has the following phrase in its directives to men, “marry only one”.