The Status of Women in Islam
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The Important Role of Women in Society

Deep consideration of affairs relating to Muslim women`s rights, status and their role in their communities is of utmost importance for improving any society and mankind as a whole. Some of the unique qualities and abilities that women possess are of the human races greatest advantages and assets.
Amongst all of her various important roles in society, it can be argued that the most vital and unique of them is that she is the very first support system of the child, the precious reproduction vehicle of humanity through which mankind continue to exist as a race.
For a time, woman is literally one with her child; at its first stage of life, inside of his/her mother’s womb, a child feeds directly from he utrients and is physically attached to her body.
It is no surprise then that at the first stages of external life, after being born, his/her strongest bond is with its mother; naturally, he/she responds most to her care and guidance. A poet once said,” A mother is like a school.
If you prepare her well, you have prepared a society of nobility.” What is interesting is that many scholars of the religion of Islam argue that the opposite of this poem can prove true as well; the absolute demise of a society is inevitable if its women are neglected and/or corrupt. So, while it is undeniable that men are normally physically larger and stronger than women and possess other qualities which women do not, women also have many qualities and extraordinary internal and external abilities which men do not have.
This being established, one could imagine that when the special qualities of women and/or men are overlooked, neglected and are not utilized to their potential, society is negatively affected and ultimately rendered deficient relative to the extent of negligence that occurs with respect to these issues.
Some argue that an ideal society must consist of men and women existing as equals; they insist that men and women are equals in the sense that there is nothing that men can do that women shouldn’t be allowed to do and nothing that woman can do that men shouldn’t be allowed to do. The problem is that such an approach disregards the facts mentioned above which are that the special abilities and qualities of both men and women are meant to be and must be recognized and utilized for the betterment of society.
The truth is that men and women are partners, counterparts, and though in some aspects of life they may play the exact same roles and be involved in the same variety of activities, there are roles which are only truly suitable for men and others which are only truly suitable for women.
Islam teaches that the man in a family has been charged by His Creator with the responsibility of providing for and sheltering his family and though a woman may work, it is not her responsibility to provide for the family. Her most crucial role is running the affairs of the home and taking care of and nurturing the children. Even though it is not impermissible in Islam for her to have assistance with these important responsibilities from relatives and helpers, Islam teaches that it is primarily her responsibility that home and children are well cared for; she has been created with the innate qualities to do so better than anyone else.
The good education and development of children can be, and usually is, severely hindered when parents are not around home to provide that special care for their offspring.
This fact is emphasized with regards to the mother because of the extra special bond that is naturally shared between mother and child. Her children are in dire need of that special nurturing that springs from her deep and uniquely compassionate love for them.
The abundance of patience and affection which women have been naturally endowed with for their children must not be ignored or wasted. Again, Islam does not prohibit women from working outside of the home, but recognizes woman’s unique abilities and special knack for running a home and caring for her children and sets that as priority.


The True Liberation of Women
History tells that many old societies practiced and/or condoned the mistreatment and degradation of women. In the past, men of various societies saw women as insignificant beings unworthy of rights like ownership, the right to choose her spouse and many other basic human rights. The Qur`an tells of the absolute hideous behavior of men in the past whose faces would become dark with sadness when they were informed that their wife had delivered a female child.
Some would even bury their daughters alive out of shame. Only male children were considered assets to their family. Their usefulness in wars and the likes was believed to be of superior benefit. In addition, some men would inherit a woman when her husband died as if she was a part of his wealth.
Some of the first groups of people who were introduced to the religion of Islam were plagued with such ill treatment of women. Islam, through the teachings of the Qur`an and the prophet Muhammad, immediately sought to eradicate such practices and successfully restored women to their rightful status of honor. Its teaching instilled in its followers that man and woman are of one origin.
They are sister and brother, offspring of the same mother and father, Adam and Eve. Man has no uniqueness in this regard. Islam teaches that there is nothing that makes a man nobler than a woman or a woman nobler than a man except through mindfulness of the Creator, doing that which pleases Him and abstaining from that which displeases Him. So, the person who is better in this aspect is best, man or woman.
In Islamic legislation, men and women are given similar rights. However, in cases where there are particular rights and privileges specified for one gender excluding the other, there is always a great wisdom and reasoning behind it.
For example, women in Islam are not required to offer the otherwise mandatory five daily prayers during the days of their menstrual cycle, yet are still promised full reward as if they had prayed those prayers. Such a concession is allotted by All Mighty God only for women.
There are concessions for men and women who miss prayer due to forgetfulness or having slept through a prayer time, yet when they remember or wake up they must make the prayer they’d missed. Notice, though, that men are never excused from offering the obligatory prayers in the manner in which women are excused during their menstrual cycle; whenever men miss a prayer, they must make it up. In other cases, one gender may not be excluded from a particular privilege, but may receive less authority or less of a portion of a particular thing than their counterpart, but for a just cause. An example of that is manifest in Islamic inheritance laws.
Men are allotted twice the amount of women in inheritance. So, a man inherits from his father twice the amount of his sister for example. This is because of the great responsibility which men are charged with in Islam of supporting their families as well as helping their parents, extended family and in-laws.
For every single case like these, there is an explanation uncovering the perfect wisdom behind it.

Women and Work
Muslim women have worked outside of their homes since the very advent of Islam, over 1400 years ago, yet Islamic teachings has set conditions and boundaries for a woman to work outside home which are primarily set to protect the honor, respect and chastity of both men and women.
The natural attraction between women and men and the overwhelming power of the beauty of women are affairs, which, if ignored, are bound to lead to many vices in society. Islam teaches that there is no problem with a woman working outside of the home so long as the boundaries demonstrated in Islamic law, are upheld.
In societies in which there are no firm boundaries set between men and women in the workplace, flirting, sexual harassment and extramarital relationships find a haven. So, Islam prohibits a woman from working in an environment which does not preserve her honor and protect her. In some cases, some women absolutely have to work because they have no one to take care of them financially. According to Islam, such women are not receiving their God-given right to be provided for by the likes of their husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles. However, if relatives cannot provide, it is the responsibility of the state to provide for them.
In many modern day societies, women are encouraged to get out, work and provide for themselves. “You are no different than a young man” young ladies are often told. “You are not something private to be left behind at home” others may tell them. Some even argue that in societies where most women are housewives, half of society is left useless offering no contribution.
They say that women must get out and work alongside men in order to truly contribute to society. Well, women in Muslim societies are far from being useless; rather, they often contribute more to the betterment of our societies than men do.
They do work that the majority of men are incapable of doing well. Who is it that organizes the affairs of the home so well and plays a primary role in raising the children well? Who is it that takes upon herself the running of the household in its entirety? Who can really fill the shoes of a woman when she leaves the home to work? Is it not the case that half of a person’s life is spent at home or even more? So, if men and women all leave their homes to work, it is likely that the affairs of the household will not be cared for properly.
Societies which have not adequately facilitated the concept of the housewife and have forced women to work leaving the home empty or the children to be raised by strangers suffer from the ill effects of troubled homes more than societies that support, praise and encourage women who tend to their homes and children. However, women in Islam have the right to work, but not forced, if they can manage to take care of their primary duties toward husband and children.
It the responsibility of the society to arrange a healthy environment for women to work in an atmosphere of respect and honor.

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