“Do women in Islam have any rights?”
This is a question lingering in the minds of many people around the world. We cannot blame them entirely as the modern media often portrays Muslim women as controlled and dependent people, restricted from showing their faces in public.
Is it true that Islam demands to kill girls like Malala because women do not have the right to study? Do Muslim women allow their men to have multiple wives?
Is polygamy accepted?
Islam was a religion created much later than many of the ancient religions in the world, and it was probably the first one to limit the number of wives a man can have to four. It might be surprising to hear, but no other religion restricts a man in the number of wives he can marry.
Starting from folk religions to Judaism and Taoists, men are free to have as many wives as they want. The Chinese and the Japanese kings had imperial palaces filled with hundreds of concubines, and the Greek and the Roman Empires had numerous wives.
It is essential to understand the social, political, and theological implications of marriages before talking about Islam for allowing men to have multiple wives. Islam was the first religion to grant the power of inheritance to women and hence the restriction on the number of wives to divide the property fairly.
Islam gives its women these five main rights, most of which the world doesn’t know.
- Muslim women have the right to inherit property from their father, brother, husband, and son.
- They can divorce easily and choose another life partner.
- Muslim women need not change their last name after marriage.
- Muslim women can learn, earn and control businesses and choose a career they like.
- The men pay the dowry (mahr) to get a suitable wife and not the other way around like in traditional dowry.
The right to divorce
Muslim women have always had the right to divorce, and their divorce process is one of the easiest and most respectable ones in the world. Separating because of irreconcilable differences, parting as friends, and the couples working together to co-parent were a part of Islam right from its beginning.
The concept of divorce is still not tolerated in conservative Christianity, and there are several cultures where women get separated only if they prove their husband abuses them. In contrast, Islam allowed their women to leave the men if they chose to live independently or marry someone else.
Property inheritance rights
Such freedom is possible only because Muslim women inherited property to live independently from various males in their families like father, brother, and son. The men who fathered a child were still obligated to provide for their children and the woman.
Fathers, brothers, and sons were obliged to take care of their female family members and provide them with the necessities of life and protection.
Taking husband’s last name
Muslim women did not change their name with each marriage, which gave them a distinct sense of identity. Several religions of the East did not have the wife taking the husband’s last name. Only Western religions like Christianity stressed this factor, branding women as part of certain clans. The practice spread to other faiths later, but the core Islamic laws do not force any women to take on their husband’s last name.
Education and career
Islam, being a relatively young religion, incorporated several good things for various religions worldwide. Many scholars have noted the similarity of the religious rituals between Judaism and Islam. Judaism was one religion that stressed women’s education and working rights enormously.
Islam also had similar principles, and it allowed their women to learn, earn, work, control business, and have a career. Several Muslim queens directed various departments helping their kings with their strategies and brains, earning their service. It was common in Mughal courts of India for a capable woman to handle foreign affairs and other government issues along with other ministers.
The legendary Khadīja b. Khuwaylid, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, was a strong businesswoman and one of the richest women of her time. Their daughter Fāṭima al-Zahrā was also an elite who contributed enormously to spreading Islam through her money, strategies, and faith.
Several wives of Prophet Muhammad fought along with him in wars wielding shields and swords, riding horses, and handling bow and arrows. They were well educated, trained in war strategy, and fought with men as equal companions. This is further proof that Islam is not against women participating in these activities.
Marriage and Dowry
Islam and many other Eastern religions did not have the practice of dowry, and notable religions like Hinduism had “Sri Dhan.” It insisted the male inherited the cattle, land, and other assets the father earns, and the females inherit jewels, costly things, wells, and things controlled by their mother.
The practice of giving Mahr to the bride by the groom’s family is like insurance, registering a part of their property or inheritance in the bride’s name. The property ensured financial freedom for the woman, and this practice is widespread even today in many Indonesian, Philippines, and Thai cultures.
Entry into religious places
Another common misconception about Muslim women is that they cannot enter religious places. It is not true as Islam provides them different ways to follow their faith, and they do take part in all religious activities. It is a misconception that women are not allowed into the mosques; but rather, they have the freedom to pray from their homes. It is mandatory for the males to attend public prayer and mingle with others for social reasons. Muslim women of all ages can visit Mecca and Madina and visit a mosque if they choose to do so.
Islam provides all the rights the normal women get in every religion and even more to their women. But every religion gets shaded due to local laws and changes, and Islam is no exception. The tense political situations in the Middle East and the suppression of women in human history influenced Islam too. Thanks to the views and clarity of many Muslim women, this notion about Islam mistreating women is changing slowly but steadily.
Thomas Jackson is a professional essay writer and an active member of writing clubs in New York. In various essay writer reviews, he ranks as a top writer. He has written some songs as well, and has been into it since his school days. He gets inspiration from live music concerts and performances for his friends and family.