Rafed English

Rights of Muslim Women

The Arabia of the seventh century was a setting in which the killing of baby daughters was common and women had few rights and were often mistreated. The Qur'an gave women the rights to hold title to property, to receive inheritance, to receive a dowry, to have a say in whom she chooses to marry, to be supported and protected by her husband, and other rights too numerous to list.

Dr. Riffat Hassan, a woman and Muslim theologian at the University of Louisville states, "I remember how stricken I felt when I first began to see the glaring discrepancy between Islamic ideals and Muslim practice insofar as women are concerned.' She believes women in other countries are largely unaware of the differences, for despite the important roles played by the wives of Muhammad, "the Islamic tradition has remained rigidly patriarchal . . . prohibiting the growth of scholarship among women particularly in the realm of religious thought. . . ." 4 Thus it follows that Muslim women have not been cognizant of how their human "rights have been violated by their male-dominated and male- centered society... [unaware] that Islam has given women more rights than any other religious tradition."' American-born women who have converted to Islam also have the challenge of feminist leadership as they interpret the rights that have been extended to women through the Qur'an. American women who have not been exposed to an Islamic culture have a unique, opportunity to sea the rights of women Islamically interpreted and practiced in the American setting. These ideas are affecting and, hopefully, changing incorrect customs which have developed in Muslim societies. The women suggest both frustration and gratefulness for such customs in the Muslim community, the ummah.

+Sometimes I feel Muslim women aren't given a chance to speak out about their opinions or views on things within the Muslim community. They are put in the back and hidden away. If I go to a lecture not in a masjid, I like to sit near the front, so I can see and hear the speaker. I am dressed Islamically, so why should I sit in the back just because someone thinks men cannot control themselves? Men need to take the responsibility for their own actions. Women cannot always be hidden so men won't think bad thoughts. We should dress and act so as not to promote that, but I still will not live my life locked up in a cage, or in the back row at a university lecture. I can live my life with respect and dignity, and live as a Muslim woman at the same time.

+As a Muslim woman I would like to see women take a more active role in society-be more outspoken instead of the silent shadows Western cultures see Muslim women as. Islam gives Muslim women many rights. One of the main reasons for hijab is to enter society. Muslim women should play an active part in being role models for children.

The move to recognize the rights of Muslim women is of great concern, and these rights are treasured by Muslim women in the United States and Canada. They believe that Allah, through the Qur'an 1400 years ago, set in place rights for women that have never, at any time, been equalled in the spiritual, intellectual, political, social, and economic areas of life. Some of these rights are reflected in the following in regard to maintenance and kindly treatment, education and a career, and being regarded as an equal with man before God but with roles that are somewhat different 3n their responsibilities.

41 have the same rights as other women. I have the freedom of education and career if desire. I think actually Muslim women are treated with a lot of respect. I've been married eleven years and my husband has never shown disrespect for me or tried to take away my freedoms of opinion or choice. We have argued about them but he hasn't tried to stop them. +My husband has been kind and generous to me and allowed me to make decisions in our home. I clean and decorate our home as I wish. I make it a place of peacefulness and rest-a place where all family members can relax and soothe their anxieties and forget their worries of the outside world. When I wanted to leave my teacher/ counselor position before our first child was born, he willingly accepted my decision to stay at home and never asked me to keep working to help pay our expenses.

+One area. I am grateful for in my position as a married woman is that I prefer to let someone else make the big decisions. My husband is the leader of my household, but as I tell my kids, I'm vice president. Also I am treated with respect as well as dignity. I like it. +As a Muslim woman, I have the tight to worship, to choose a good husband, and to lead a clean life. I have the right to be protected and not abused. I am grateful for a husband who puts his wife first into consideration, a husband who asks for and respects my opinion. I don't feel any -eal disadvantages as a Muslim woman. The only thing perhaps is in regard to finding outside employment. Sometimes, it's hard to find a job (especially with non- Muslims).

+Definitely I appreciate the right not to be hassled by men for dates, meetings, and obnoxious cliches and lines. I also am experiencing more freedom in my choices pertaining to my occupation, money I earned, and personal limitations according to my needs-not someone else's. +My becoming a Muslim gave me the courage to stand up against ignorance and to take charge of and responsibility for my life. My life as a Christian was continually filled with dilemma after dilemma in which I hoped my father or someone else would save me. My outlook on life was analogous to the faith. Unfortunately, such an immature outlook not only hinders personal growth but also affects self-esteem. Islam gave me the self-esteem to be able to make great decisions without being afraid to carry through with them.

Muslima [a Muslim woman] is not responsible for her support at all. The husband has to totally shoulder her support, including clothing and Islamic learning materials. Any money she gets, either child support from previous marriage, working, her mahar [dowry], her inheritance, or anything like that is hers to save or spend as she sees fit (as long as it falls under Islamic guidelines for halal). Her husband cannot touch any of it! If she is working, she can contribute to the household if she chooses, because she is taking time away from the house to work. The rest is hers and hers alone. My husband didn't realize this when we got married. When I explained it to him, he said that men sure got the short end of the stick! That is true! If I get a few dollars from somewhere, I can spend it on a new dress, or jewelry, or save it; but my husband first has to pay all the household bills before he can spend any money on himself Men have a lot of responsibility. I do worry about the household, but it is not ray responsibility to meet the bills every month My husband knows that it is his total responsibility.

The one right I have that's very important to me is not having to work and getting the chance to be with my daughter! It also is nice to have my husband provide for me at my standards and above without really asking. Nice home, clothes, the basics, and more. I feel the home is for the wife and mother, and I love it. I'm very, very grateful to have this opportunity, and it wouldn't be possible if I weren't married. There are no areas not open to me as a Muslim woman.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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