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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family Matrimonial Rights

Matrimonial Rights - Woman in the Pre-Islamic Arab Society

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Mr. An-Nadawi could summarize the life of women in the pre-Islamic Arab society by the following words:

“Women were the subjects of wronging and oppression. Their rights were violated and properties were extorted. They were deprived of their heritage, prevented –after being divorced or widow- from choosing husbands, and inherited just like properties or ri ding animals. They were also given deficient measures. Man could enjoy all of his rights, while woman enjoyed nothing. Even in food, there were definite meals allowable for men, but forbidden for women. Man also had the right to marry any number of women . They also hated the newborn girls to the degree that they used to bury them alive. They also used to kill girls so savagely. It happened that a newborn girl was kept alive until her father would come back from a journey that took, sometimes, months or even more. When that father came back, he would kill that girl who began to grow up mentally and physically! Some, furthermore, used to throw girls from tremendous heights.”

Woman in the Modern Western Civilization

After long strife and big sacrifices, woman could win her freedom and rights when the modern Western civilization came to its climax. Woman, hence, have been able to feel her being equal to man and share him in offices, shops, industries, and various soc ial activities. The Western woman has been glad at these gains that she could obtain after centuries of shedding tears and suffering misfortunes. Unfortunately, she has ignored the reality of the wrong and loss that she has to encounter in this field. If woman used the criterion of logic for comparing the gains that she has achieved with the losses that have befallen her, she would feel grief, disappointment, and damage. The propagandists of liberalism in this material civilization have certainly deceiv ed, beguiled, and exploited women’s innocence so meanly and cunningly. First, they exploited her to compete with man who demanded with raising the wages and decreasing the working hours, and she was deceived when she accepted to do men’s jobs with fewer wage. Because she has the ability to attract customers, they exploited her femininity in commercial fields so as to double their material profits, deriving benefit from the sexual potentials. After that, she has to do her feminine tasks, such as pregnanc y, giving birth, education, and household management in addition to her strife for seeking earnings so as to get rid of ghosts of hunger, because man, in most cases, had deserted his mission of securing her living.

In spite of the achievements of the European woman, she is, still, decided as loser according to the logical standards. This is because, as she sought freedom, lost her religion, morality, and dignity, and became in such a disgusting state of dissolutene ss and degradation. We have previously shown that the Western scholars themselves have testified to this fact. Let us focus more light on this fact through the following discussions:

Woman’s Liberation in Islam

With the rising of the dawn of Islam, the inconsiderate traditions and the ragged customs were thrown away. Instead, an everlasting constitution befitting the intellects and sound nature and escorts humankind all over ages was issued. One of the reformat ions of that constitution was rectifying and rehabilitating the values of women, by granting them all their material and moral rights in such a wise, moderate style away from negligence and exaggeration. During the luminous age of Islam, woman occupied a high rank that has never been achieved by women of any other nation.

Islam has shed lights on women’s reality and equality to man in the human concepts, principles, sanctity of soul, honor, and property, and gain of the afterlife rewarding. Thus, Islam has canceled all the pre-Islamic allegations of woman’s coming after m an in these fields:

“People, We have created you all male and female and have made you nations and tribes so that you would recognize each other. The most honorable among you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you. Allah is All-knowing and All-aware (49:13).”

“All righteously believing male or female will be granted a blessed happy life and will receive their due reward and more. (16:97)”

As some of the Arabs used to bury their newborn girls alive and kill them wrongfully, Islam, granting girls dignity and right to live, reproached the committers of such a crime and threatened them with painful punishment:

“And when the female infant buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed? (81:8-9)”

“Do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We will give sustenance to all of you. To kill them is certainly a great sin. (17:31)”

The pre-Islamic customs decided to control woman so wrongfully by coercing her to marry the one she does not like, preventing her from marriage, or inheriting her just like properties and giving the right to the heir to do anything with her—such as givin g her in marriage and seizing her dowry or preventing her from marriage until she redeemed herself or died so that he would inherit her. Islam freed woman from all these forms of slavery and granted her the right to choose for her marriage the one she se es well-qualified. As an Islamic law, it is inadmissible to give a woman in marriage before obtaining her satisfaction. Islam, also, deemed forbidden to inherit a woman coercively:

“Believers, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will as part of the legacy. Do not create difficulties for your wives in order to force them to give-up part of what you had given to them to set themselves free from the bond of marriag e, unless they have clearly committed adultery. Always treat them reasonably. If you dislike them, you could be disliking that which Allah has filled with abundant good. (4:19)”

One of the customs of the Arabs before Islam, and even some of the Western societies in recent times, was depriving women of ownership. Claiming that inheritance is a right dedicated to men of the tribe who defend it with their swords, the Arabs before I slam deprived woman of right of inheritance.

When Islam prevailed, these false traditions were cancelled and women were granted all their rights of possession and inheritance. Islam, also, decided their shares of inheritance, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, or other titles:

“Men and women will both be rewarded according to their deeds, rather pray to Allah for His favors. Allah knows all things. (4:32)” “Male and female are entitled to their legal share in the legacy of their parents and relatives, whether it be small or large. (4:7)”

Islam has also imposed upon husbands to cover the needs of their wives even if they are rich and wealthy.

Thanks to the principles and ethics of Islam, Muslim woman could be the ideal examples of rationality, faith, and high nobility. Islam has also raised women’s social ranks to the degree that they could dispute with even the caliphs—the highest authority in the Islamic state:

Omar ibn al-Khattab, once, was addressing to people not to exaggerate in dowries, but an ordinary woman opposed him saying: “You have no right to say so.”

He asked: “Why?”

She answered: “This is because God says: ‘Do not take back the dowry which you had paid even if what you paid was a large amount of gold. To do this is a slanderous act and a manifest sin (4:20).’”

Hence, Omar unsaid declaring: “Omar was wrong, and a woman was right.”

History has recorded bright pages about the glories and heroic situations of Muslim women, and narrators could not hide their admiration of such situations; therefore, they related them with fascinating styles showing their esteem and wonder:

Naseeba al-Maziniyya used to participate in the campaigns of the Prophet (s) with her son. In one of the battles, her son wanted to flee, but she attacked him saying: “Son, do you want to leave God and His Messenger?” Hence, her son was back to the battl e, but a man attacked and killed him. As she saw this situation, she took the sword from her son’s hand and attacked that killer and could kill him. Referring to her situation, the Prophet (s) addressed to her: “God bless you, Naseeba.”

This lady used to stop in front of the Prophet (s) so as to protect him. Because of that, she was injured heavily. 32

The following is another story showing heroic situations of a lady:

During his reign, Muawiya –the Umayyad caliph- performed the hajj and, during his stay in Mecca, he asked about a black, fat lady from the tribe of Banu Kinana. She was residing in al-Hujoun and was named ‘Daramiyya al-Hujoun.’ When he was informed that she was still alive, he summoned her, and she was brought before him.

He said: “How are you, daughter of Ham?” 33

She answered: “You should not have dishonored me for my belonging to Ham. I am a woman from the tribe of Banu Kinana, and from the tribe of your father.”

He said: “You have said the truth. Do you know why I summoned you?”

She answered: “None but God knows the unseen?”

He said: “I summoned you to ask you why you have loved and supported Ali and hated and antagonized me.”

She requested: “Will you allow me not to answer you?”

He said: “No, I will not.”

She said: “Well, you have insisted. I have loved Ali for his justice among the subjects and for his equitable distribution. And I have hated you for you fought those whom are more deserving than you are of this position and for you asked for that which i t is not rightful for you to ask. I have supported Ali for the obligation of the loyalty to him that was declared by the Prophet (s), and for he loved the poor and reverenced the religious. And I have antagonized you for you shed the respectful blood, so wed discord among Muslims, ruled unfairly, and issued judges according to your own caprices.”

Muawiya said: “Therefore, your belly is puffed up, is it not?”

She said: “Listen you, it is Hind whom is cited as example of puffed bellies, not me.” 34

Muawiya said: “Listen you, stop it. I have not meant something disgraceful. I have only intended goodness.”

Hence, she stopped.

Muawiya then asked her: “Did you see Ali?”

She answered: “Yes, by God, I did.”

He asked: “How was he?”

She answered: “He was not seduced by the authority that seduced you and was not engaged by the grace that engaged you.”

He asked: “Did you ever hear his words?”

She answered: “Yes, by God, I did. His words polished hearts from blindness in the same way as oiling polishes rust.”

He commented: “You have said the truth. Do you have any need that I can settle for you?”

She wondered: “Will you really settle my need if I say it to you?”

He answered: “Of course I will.”

She said: “Then, I want one hundred red she-camels with their male and cameleer.”

He asked: “What do you intend to do with these?”

She answered: “I will feed the babies with their milk and feed the adults with their meat, win noble deeds through them, and use them for reconciling the disagreeing tribes.”

Muawiya said: “Well, if I give you these camels, will I occupy the same position that Ali occupied in your heart?”

She answered: “This will never happen. A great difference lies between Ali and you.”

He said: “By God I swear, Had Ali been alive, he would not have given you a single camel.”

She answered: “Of course he would have never done it. Furthermore, he would not have given a single hair of a camel so long as they are within the public treasury.” 35

Let us now mention another story in this regard:

Az-Zarqaa bint Edi was a strong lady from Kufa who stopped, during the battle of Siffeen, among the rows of Imam Ali’s army calling loudly at them with statements of the highest degree of encouragement on fighting. Her words were so affective that they u rged even the coward to fight, the absconder to attack, the peaceable to go into battle, the fugitive to assail, and the unstable to resist.

A long time after the battle, Muawiya summoned her. When she attended, he asked her: “Do you know why I summoned you?”

She answered: “Except God, nobody knows the unseen.”

He asked: “It was you who rode the red camel during the battle of Siffeen and stopped between the rows of the soldiers kindling the fire of war and urging on fighting, were you not?”

She answered: “Yes, it was I.”

He asked: “What for did you do so?”

She answered: “Chief of the believers, the head died, the tail was amputated, that which departed will never come back, time is changeable, he who thinks will realize the truth, and matters will surely be followed by others.”

He said: “You have said the truth. Now, do you still remember your words in that situation?”

She answered: “No, by God, I do not. I have forgotten.”

He said: “How excellent you are! I do remember you when you said: ‘O people! Pay attention and think well. You have been engaged in a seditious affair. You have been covered by the gowns of gloom that took you away from the very course. It is surely a blind, deaf, and mute ordeal that does not respond to the whooping and does not become mild to its leader. A lantern cannot shine in sunlight, stars cannot shine in moonlight, and mules cannot win over mares. Likewise, nothing can cut the iron except the i ron. We will surely lead him who seeks guidance and we will surely answer him who has questions. O people! The right has certainly gained its long-sought goal. O Muhajirs and Ansar! Be steadfast against difficulties, for the reunification shall very soon be achieved, the word of justice shall very soon prevail, and the right shall very soon overcome the wrong. For sure, the right and the wrong are not the same. (Is he then who is a believer like him who is a transgressor? They are not equal.) Go on figh ting and be steadfast. It is certainly that women’s dye is henna, while men’s is blood. Patience surely achieves the best result. Wage war without regression, for this day will be followed by other alike days.’

These were your words of urging on fighting, were they not?”

She answered: “Yes, they were.”

Muawiya said: “You are the partner of Ali in every single drop of blood that he shed during that war.”

She answered: “Chief of the believers, God may reward you excellently and keep you in safety for such great tidings that you have born to me. You are, now, surely worthy of telling good news and pleasing the sitters.”

He wondered in astonishment: “Has my accusation been great tidings in your sight?”

She answered: “Yes, by God, it has. Had I been actually participating him!”

Muawiya laughed and said: “Verily, your loyalty to Ali after his death is more astonishing than your love for him during his lifetime.” 36

Let us now cite a third story in this field:

On the day of Ashura, the mother of Wahab ibn Abdullah ibn Khabbab al-Kelbi said to her son: “Son, stand up to support the son of the Prophet’s daughter.”

He responded: “Of course, mother, I will do without showing any neglect.”

Hence, the son proceeded for fighting, reciting his famous rajaz.37 When he attacked, he could kill a number of the enemies. He then returned to his mother and wife, saying proudly: “Mother, are you satisfied?”

She answered: “I will not be satisfied before you fight until you will be killed before al-Hussein (a).”

When his wife shouted at him, ‘By God, do not distress me,’ his mother said: “Son, do not listen to her words. Go to fight in front of the son of the Prophet’s daughter so that he will intercede for you before God on the Day of Resurrection.”

He listened to his mother’s words and went on fighting. He could kill nineteen horsemen and twelve soldiers before his hands were cut. Seeing this, his mother took a post and came towards him shouting: “I may sacrifice my father and mother for you, fight for protecting the Immaculate—the harem of the Prophet (s).” When the son tried to convince her to go back with the other women, she hanged to his clothes saying: “No, I will not go back before I will be killed with you.”

Imam al-Hussein (a) intruded in the situation to say: “God may reward you and your family excellently. Join the other women.”

Only then, she went back, and her son went on fighting until he was martyred. 38

How great the difference between such honorable, virtuous women and the modern Muslim ones, most of whom call to primping up, casting away the Islamic traditions, and imitating the Western women in their showing off and dissoluteness, is!