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The Qur'an and the Economic Independece of Woman

Islam, 1400 years ago, laid down the following law:

"Men have a portion of what they have earned and women have a portion of what they have earned" (Surah an-Nisa, 4: 32).

In this verse the Holy Qur'an has recognised the title of both men and women to the fruits of their labour.

In another passage the Qur'an says: "The men have a portion of what (their) parents and the kin left and the women have a portion of what (their) parents and the kin left." (Surah an-Nisa,4 :7)

This verse confirms the title of woman to her inheritance, which was not recognised by the pre- Islamic Arabs.


The Holy Qur'an granted economic independence to woman thirteen centuries earlier than Europe, with the difference that:

(1) The considerations which motivated Islam were purely human, moral and divine. There did not exist any such motives as the greed of the mill-owners of England who, to fill their own bellies, passed a law and then proclaimed loudly through-out the world that they had officially recognised the rights of woman, and had established equality between man and woman formally.

(2) Islam gave equal rights to woman, but did not disrupt the basis of her domestic life, nor did it instigate the wives and daughters to revolt against their husbands and fathers. Islam brought about a great revolution, but did so calmly and safely.

(3) According to Will Durant all that the Western world did was to save woman from the drudgery of household work and to foist on her the drudgery in stores and factories. In other words, Europe opened one shackle and bound her hands and feet with another. Islam delivered woman from the slavery of man, in the house as well as in the field, and took off from her shoulders every obligation to meet her own or her family expenses. According to the Islamic point of view, she has every right to earn money, to keep it safe and to develop her wealth, but at the same time she should not be put under the pressure of the compulsions of life, which may ruin her beauty and vanity, which always go hand-in-hand with mental satisfaction.

But alas! The eyes and ears of some of our writers are so closed and blocked that they are unable to perceive the most obvious historical facts and philosophical truths.

Criticism and Answer

A lady, criticising the law of maintenance, says that it requires a husband to provide food, clothing and shelter to his wife in the same way as an owner of a horse or a mule is required to provide fodder and shelter for his animal.

May we ask the critic how she has come to the conclusion that a husband owns his wife or that ownership is the reason why her maintenance has been made obligatory on him. What sort of ownership is this that the master cannot even ask his bondsmaid to give him a glass of water? What sort of ownership is this that whatever the bondsmaid earns belongs to her and not to her master? What sort of ownership is this that the bondsmaid can, if she likes, ask for wages for the slightest service done by her to her master? What sort of ownership is this that the master has no right to force his bondsmaid even to suckle his child, who is by the way her child also?

Secondly, is it a fact that a person whose expenses are borne by another person becomes a slave of the latter? According to the law of every country in the world, it is the responsibility of the father, or the father and mother both, to bear the expenses of the children. Can it be said that the children are owned by their parents? Islam has made it obligatory on the children to support their parents, if they are in need of pecuniary help. Does this mean that, according to Islam, the parents are owned by their children?

Adapted from the book: "Woman and Her Rights" by: "Shahid Murtaza Mutahhari"

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