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Women in Islam

Women in Islam

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Published by Islamicscribd
During the last fifteen years since I came to accept Islam, I have been asked many questions about the Muslim way of life by non-Muslim friends and acquaintances. The ignorance of the ordinary educated Westerner about Islam is almost total; but the area where the vacuum of knowledge has been most effectively filled with misinformation is possibly concerning the role of women in Islam. Some non-Muslims ask such questions as “In Islam do you believe that women have souls?” and “Muslim women do not pray or go to Makka, do they?” and “Paradise is only for men in Islam, isn’t it?”

Fantasy and Escape

According to these assumptions, the Muslim woman is spiritually a non-person, existing in a world of shadows, oppressed and suppressed, from which she will at death pass into a sort of limbo for soulless non-entities. This impression has in the past often been fostered by Christian missionaries, some of whom may even have actually believed it to be true. Side by side with this image In the Western mind is another one projected by the entertainment media, that of the Muslim woman as a member. of the harem in the Hollywood versions of the Arabian Nights. Here she forms a unit in a flock of scantily-clad and birdwitted young ladies who lie around in palaces awaiting the opportunity to be noticed by their lord and master, the sultan.

These images are of course very appealing to the Western imagination-firstly of the mysterious and chaste veiled woman, living in fear of her jealous and brutal husband; she is the traditional maiden in distress, waiting for St. George to slay the dragon and rescue her; and secondly of the slave-girl, dazzling in silks and jewels, awaiting her master’s pleasure. Which Western man or woman has not at one time or another indulged in a fantasy in which he or she plays one of these roles? This is doubtless why the fantasy lingers so long. We want to believe that these women exist so that we can weave these day-dreams about them, though publicly we must condemn a situation so obviously contrary to the principles of women’s liberation.

This then is the fantasy, and as long as we recognise it as such, it is a pleasant form of escapism. But we are here to discuss women in Islam and to outline what is the role expected of a Muslim woman. Th& best source of information on this must be not tales of imagination and Hollywood’s choicest offerings but the source-book of Islam-that is the Qur’an, and the hadTth, the recorded sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad.

My intention is to bring to your notice some of those verses of the Qur’an and sayings of t~e Prophet Mu~ammad which relate to women, and to try to draw some conclusions about what these mean-or should mean-in practice, with regard to a woman’s life. I do not intend to describe the status of Muslim women In individual countries past or present, however, since this varies considerably from one period to another and one place to another due to the influence of regional customs stemming from pre-Islamic or modern cultural factors…

Foreword:

The West has known Islam for over thirteen centuries now, but it has generally known it in antagonistic terms as an enemy and as a threat. It is not surpri’sing therefore that our religion has been portrayed as a hostile, tyrannical, violent and even idolatrous religion and our culture has been painted in dark and dismal colours. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist and disfigure relations between Islam and the Western world. With the advance of knowledge and a greater contact between Europe and the Muslim world, intellectual, social, cultural and political and economic, we hope the old attitudes will change, giving place to better understanding and closer co-operation based on loyalty to facts, honest appreciation of areas of agreement and disagreement between us, and respect for differences. where we may disagree.

The International Islamic Conference held in London from 3rd to 12th April, 1976, has no pa
During the last fifteen years since I came to accept Islam, I have been asked many questions about the Muslim way of life by non-Muslim friends and acquaintances. The ignorance of the ordinary educated Westerner about Islam is almost total; but the area where the vacuum of knowledge has been most effectively filled with misinformation is possibly concerning the role of women in Islam. Some non-Muslims ask such questions as “In Islam do you believe that women have souls?” and “Muslim women do not pray or go to Makka, do they?” and “Paradise is only for men in Islam, isn’t it?”

Fantasy and Escape

According to these assumptions, the Muslim woman is spiritually a non-person, existing in a world of shadows, oppressed and suppressed, from which she will at death pass into a sort of limbo for soulless non-entities. This impression has in the past often been fostered by Christian missionaries, some of whom may even have actually believed it to be true. Side by side with this image In the Western mind is another one projected by the entertainment media, that of the Muslim woman as a member. of the harem in the Hollywood versions of the Arabian Nights. Here she forms a unit in a flock of scantily-clad and birdwitted young ladies who lie around in palaces awaiting the opportunity to be noticed by their lord and master, the sultan.

These images are of course very appealing to the Western imagination-firstly of the mysterious and chaste veiled woman, living in fear of her jealous and brutal husband; she is the traditional maiden in distress, waiting for St. George to slay the dragon and rescue her; and secondly of the slave-girl, dazzling in silks and jewels, awaiting her master’s pleasure. Which Western man or woman has not at one time or another indulged in a fantasy in which he or she plays one of these roles? This is doubtless why the fantasy lingers so long. We want to believe that these women exist so that we can weave these day-dreams about them, though publicly we must condemn a situation so obviously contrary to the principles of women’s liberation.

This then is the fantasy, and as long as we recognise it as such, it is a pleasant form of escapism. But we are here to discuss women in Islam and to outline what is the role expected of a Muslim woman. Th& best source of information on this must be not tales of imagination and Hollywood’s choicest offerings but the source-book of Islam-that is the Qur’an, and the hadTth, the recorded sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad.

My intention is to bring to your notice some of those verses of the Qur’an and sayings of t~e Prophet Mu~ammad which relate to women, and to try to draw some conclusions about what these mean-or should mean-in practice, with regard to a woman’s life. I do not intend to describe the status of Muslim women In individual countries past or present, however, since this varies considerably from one period to another and one place to another due to the influence of regional customs stemming from pre-Islamic or modern cultural factors…

Foreword:

The West has known Islam for over thirteen centuries now, but it has generally known it in antagonistic terms as an enemy and as a threat. It is not surpri’sing therefore that our religion has been portrayed as a hostile, tyrannical, violent and even idolatrous religion and our culture has been painted in dark and dismal colours. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist and disfigure relations between Islam and the Western world. With the advance of knowledge and a greater contact between Europe and the Muslim world, intellectual, social, cultural and political and economic, we hope the old attitudes will change, giving place to better understanding and closer co-operation based on loyalty to facts, honest appreciation of areas of agreement and disagreement between us, and respect for differences. where we may disagree.

The International Islamic Conference held in London from 3rd to 12th April, 1976, has no pa

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Published by: Islamicscribd on Jul 13, 2012
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02/26/2014

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(J
Islamic Council of Europe,
1978/1398
A,H,
ISBN 0
86037
004
6
All
rigills
rrservrd,
No
pari
of
this
publication
may
be
reproduced
or
transmllted
In any
form
or
by
anymeans,
wI/haul prior permission,
Prepared
under
the
auspices
of:
THE ISLAMIC FOUNDATION
223
London
Road,
Leicester LE2
t
Z
E
United
Kingdom
rei:
(0533)
700725
Cover
design
by:
Sultan
H.
Farooqui
Printed
by
Superprint (Graphics) Glasgow Ltd.,
27
Seamore Street, Glasgow G20 6UG.
 
Contents
Foreword Salem AzzamPreface Khurshid AhmadChapter I
Woman in
Islam:
B.
Aisha
LemuFantasy and EscapeSpiritual Status
of
WomanIntellectual StatusRelations Between the SexesRights and ObligationsMarriage inIslamDivorceRight to InheritanceRole as MotherSex and SocietyDressRole DifferentiationPolygamySumming UpChapter II
Family Life in
Islam:
Fatima HeerenThe Islamic ApproachStructure
of
Muslim FamilyThe Family as a Cradle
for
Human SocietyThe Education ProcessIslamic DutiesTraining
for
LifeII The Family
as
Guardian
of
DesiresArranged MarriagesPolygamyDivorceWoman's Status
l\l
The Family and Character-Building
IV
The Family
as
RefugeChapter III
Discussion
PolyandryInheritanceCovering the FaceDress
3

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