When the Quran was revealed, Islam was revolutionary in all social aspects, not least in the realm of women’s rights. Before Islam, women were literally seen as bad omens in many superstitious traditions. Now, men had to learn to appreciate women and respect them. We’ve already covered the fact that, in Islam, knowledge is a must. We also know that Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, was very knowledgeable when it came to Islamic jurisprudence and was an advocate for women to be granted the rights attributed to them in the Quran. She was engaged in defending the equal values, equity and dignity prescribed to women in Islam. Her feminism was a fruit of the revelations to both men and women to do good and bring justice to the world, which led her to eventually become a political figure. So, what are some of those rights?
The term is intimidating, even frightening to many people – but what does it really mean? Just as Jews submit to the jurisdiction of Rabbinic courts and Christians submit to Christian Conciliation tribunals, Muslims have sharia. But it is important to note that in the end, the national law presides. Sharia is the religious law taken from Islamic tradition – namely the Quran and teachings of the Prophet. The
principles are based on fairness, bringing justice, eliminating prejudice and alleviating hardship. The Prophet delivered different judgements depending on the context, so there is no one-size-fits-all judgement. Jurists must be deeply versed in the Quran and sunnah to issue a verdict.
American jurist Abed Awad explains: “Sharia is morethan simply law in the perspective sense, it is also the methodology through which a jurist engages the foundational religious texts (Quran and sunnah) to search for Divine will. As a jurist-made law, the outcome of the process of ascertaining Divine will is called fiqh, which is the moral and legal anchor of a Muslim’s total existence. Everything from what the Muslims eat, to how they treat animals and protect the environment, to the way they conduct commercial trade, to the way they solemnise their marriage and to the way their estate must be distributed at death is governed by Sharia, for Sharia dictates every aspect of an observant Muslim’s moral life. Therefore, Sharia is extremely personal to the majority of Muslims regardless of their level of religiosity.”
Ten rulings from the Shariah that improved women's status after the rise of Islam
- Women are entitled to inherit wealth.
- Women have the right to choose their husband and to refuse a marriage proposal, and so cannot be forced into marriage. Furthermore, they have the right to initiate divorce.
- The dowry is paid directly to the bride and not to her male relatives.
- Female infanticide is strictly forbidden and a punishable act. Baby girls are considered a blessing.
- Regulations defined marriage as part of a contract between a man and a woman.
- Men must financially support their wives – even, for a short period, after divorce.
- Married women have full control of their own money, and can choose to contribute to the household expenses as they wish. Women also have full control of their property.
- Women have the right to keep their own family name after they marry.
- They have the right to vote and express their opinions publicly.
- They also have the right to work (or not) and to hold a leadership position.
Excerpt is from Big Little Steps by Mathilde Loujayne