44) Patriarchial systems speak to the woman of her obligations while to the man they speak of rights. Is this not evident in the Qur’an also?

No. The Qur’an speaks to both man as well as to woman
concerning their duties and rights. “Divorced women shall wait
concerning themselves for three monthly periods. And it is not lawful
for them to hide what Allah hath created in their wombs, if they have
faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better
right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation.
And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them,
according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them and
Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (Qur’an 2:28). This is the clear and
unambiguous statement of the Qur’an. How then can it be said that
the Qur’an, which contains this declaration is the creation of a
patriarchial system? In reality, there is no other religious text, like the
Qur’an, which deals with the rights of the woman in so clear and
exhaustive a manner.
If the impact of the rights which the Qur’an allowed – nay,
achieved – for the woman is to be fully appreciated, the position of the
woman during the time of its revelation must first be understood. Greek
philosophers considered woman to be the very personification of the
devil. The Roman law was such that it granted complete freedom for
the male to even murder his wife. The Indian woman was given the
religious advise to immolate herself at the funeral pyre of her husband.
The attitude of the Jews towards the woman, the cause of sin, was
most cruel. No better was the case of Christianity which followed in
the footsteps of the Jewish religion. Even as late as the 16th century,
the subject of discussion amongst the church fathers was the question
as to whether or not woman did possess a soul. As for the Arabia
before Prophet Muhammad (), the condition of the woman there
was even worser off. She was not even allowed to have the right to
live. It was a society which was ever ready to bury alive the infant if
it was a female. It was in such a social context that the Qur’an first
began to speak on the rights of woman.
The rights accorded to woman by the Qur’an may be summarized
as follows :
1. The right to live. The Arabs were a people who, on knowing
that one’s wife had delivered a female child, contemplated killing it(Qur’an 16:59). The moral level of contemporary society, which, through
modern technological devices, identifies the sex of the embryo and on
learning that the child to be born is a female, one resorts to killing it in
its embryonic stage itself, is hardly above that of the Arabs of primitive
times. The Qur’an criticizes that narrow- mindedness which would
not permit the girl child to live. (Qur’an 16:59, 81:9). It declares that
like man, she, too, has the right to birth and to life.
2. The right to own property : The Qur’an has given the woman,
like the man, the right to earn wealth. The view of the Qur’an is that all
her earnings, whether it be through her personal efforts or by way of
inheritance, belongs to her and to her alone. None, not even the husband,
has the right to take anything, whatsoever, of her earnings without her
explicit permission. “And in no wise covet those things in which Allah
hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to
men is allotted what they earn; But ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah
hath full knowledge of all things.” (Qur’an 4:32)
3. The right to inheritance : It is the Qur’anic recommendation
that daughters, too, have a share in the wealth of their parents. In
reality, no other religious scripture has declared the right to inheritance
of the woman. Even in Europe, which boasts to be very civilized, the
right to inheritance for women was recognized and put into effect only
since the last couple of centuries. The Qur’an had, however, declared
and brought into effect the law fourteen centuries ago that women
had the right to inheritance. “From what is left by parents and those
nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women,
whether the property be small or large – a determinate share.” (Qur’an
4. The right to choose a mate : Islam recommends that while
putting forth marriage proposals, the likes and dislikes of the woman
must be seriously considered. None, not even the father, has the right
to marry off his daughter to a person whom she dislikes. Prophet
Muhammad() had said, “The widow is not to be given in marriage
without her consent. The virgin is not to be given in marriage without
consulting her for her acceptance. Her silence constitutes her
acceptance’’ (Bukhari, Muslim)
5. The right to education and free thought: The Qur’an’s view is
that women have the right to education and free thought. This view is,
however, not restricted to mere advice. The Prophet had practically
demonstrated this. The great yearning for knowledge exhibited by the
woman who followed the Prophet is universally acknowledged. For it
can be seen from the history of the times that women used to always
approach the Prophet and his wives to acquire knowledge. Indeed it is
seen in the hadith reported by Imam Bukhari that the Prophet had set
aside one day for his discussions with them.
6. The right to criticize: Islam provides the woman with the
right to criticize and question. The incident wherein quoting from the
Qur’an a woman once criticizes the Caliph Umar when he prepared to
control the value of Mehr as men were finding it difficult to pay their
due to the constant increase in its value and wherein he corrected
himself saying: “Everybody – even an old woman – knows better than
Umar.’’ (Muslim), is quite well-known.
The first verses of Surah Mujadilah (Those who question) were
revealed in response to the questions put by a woman companion who
argued with the Prophet concerning the traditions of lihaar which
prevailed during the time of Jahiliyyah. This makes it quite clear that
even women were permitted to discuss matters freely with the Prophet
when it came to the issue of their rights. It is especially relevant that at
no point in these verses has the argument raised by the woman been
frowned upon.
7. The right to take part in social activities: Although it is only
natural that men take part in politics, Islam has granted the freedom to
participate in matters pertaining to the nation to the woman also. Islam,
however, does not compel women to take part directly in the campaigns
for freedom of belief. But Muslim women did take part in helping out
those who were fighting in the field of battle. History does give us
accounts of woman-companions of the Prophet who proceeded to the
battlefield accompanying the men, prepared food for them, distributed
water and nursed the wounded. There has been in Islamic history
even those precious few who, under dire circumstances, went with
the men to very thick of the action on the battle field. Indeed, it wasAyesha, the Prophet’s wife, who led her side in the Battle of the Camel
which transpired as a result of the contention , and the opposition to it,
that Ali was not to be elected as Caliph until the assassins of Caliph
Usman were apprehended and punished.
8. The right to dower: It is the right of the woman being married
to recieve Mehr. The woman has the right to demand the Mehr of her
choice through her guardian. It is the duty of the man to give this
dower. The dower which is given to her is then considered as the
wealth of the woman. None can take from it except with her permission.
“And give the women (on marriage) their dower as an obligation; but
if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it
and enjoy it with right good cheer.” (H.Q. 4:4) – this is the
commandment of the Qur’an.
9. The right to divorce: The woman has the right to get a divorce
under circumstances wherein she becomes unable to live with her
husband. The divorce from the woman’s side is referred to by the two
terms Khul’a and Fasq. The first is the divorce wherein the dower is
also to be returned while the second is the one in which it is not
returned. In any event, Islam does not force the woman to live with
a husband whom she does not like. Under compelling circumstances,
she can recieve a divorce.

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