Gender relations and women’s space, rights and status in Islam have been a perennial source of debate in the recent times. In a series of sermons in May 2011, Hadhrat Khalifatullah Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib has now reflected on various aspects of this wide-ranging issue. Reproduced below are extracts from the Friday Sermon of May 20, 2011.
“As a fundamental of its system, Islam holds that the woman is a human being; and she has a soul similar to that of man. The Holy Quran says: “O people! Be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same (kind) and spread from these two, many men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you.” (4:2)
Thus, men and women are quite equal to each other in their origin, their abode as well as in their place of return and are as such entitled to similar and equal rights. Islam gave her the right to life, to honour, and to property like men. She is an honourable being and it is not permissible for anyone to find fault with her or backbite her. No one is permitted to spy on her or hold her in contempt due to her functions as a woman. These are the rights that both men and women enjoy, there being no differentiation against either of them.
So, none can deny the fact that as human beings, man and woman are equal. Both make up the human race together as its equal constituent parts. Both are equal partners in building up community life, creating and bringing about civilisation, and thus serving humanity. Both have been endowed with hearts, brain and reasoning power and both possess feelings, desires and the other human instincts. Both stand in need of mental and intellectual training and education so that they may duly contribute to the happiness and welfare of society.
Men and women are also equal in their rights to realise their material needs in the world including similar rights to hold property and dispose of it as they should wish. The Holy Quran says: “Men shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and women shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, whether there is little or much of it; a stated portion.” (4:8)
“… men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace; surely Allah knows all things.” (4:33)
Islam occupies a unique position in that it recognized an independent economic status of woman and gave her the right to own, use and enjoy it in her own right without any intermediary trustee or mediator. Not only this but in the most important problem of her life, that is, marriage as well as her independent status was established. She could not be given in marriage without her consent; no marriage was valid unless she agreed to it. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: No widow should be married without consulting her; and no virgin be married without her consent, and her consent is her silence. (Bukhari & Muslim)
What I have said beforehand is sufficient to confute the allegation that Islam accords woman only a secondary status or that she is treated as subservient to man or that her role in life is, in the eyes of Islam, of no importance at all. For, if it had been so, Islam would not have attached so great an importance to the acquisition of knowledge for woman. That it did so goes to prove that Islam acknowledges an honourable and noble status for woman in life, in the sight of Allah as well as society.
Summary of the Friday Sermon is available here.