Status of Women Throughout the Ages

All posts in the Status of Women Throughout the Ages category

Women as Wives

Published September 14, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

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Allah, the Exalted, says in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Among His signs is that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find tranquility in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy.)

[Translation of the Holy Quran, 30:21]

One of the great signs of the Benevolence, Mercy and Power of Allah, the Exalted, is that He created for mankind mates, one from the other, so that they are comforted, satisfied and assisted by one another. The basic foundation of the society is the family, and the husband and the wife are co-partners in that family upon which a Muslim home is established. For the success of the family and the tranquility of the home, Islam grants each spouse certain rights and duties. We will only focus on the rights of the wives in the following section.

Dowry:

A dowry is the right of every bride at the time of marriage. A marriage contract is not considered legal and complete unless and until a dowry has been specified. This right cannot be forfeited, even if the bride approves, until after the marriage contract is completed. The dowry belongs to the woman entering marriage, and she has the freedom to do whatever she wants with what she owns after the marriage contract is fulfilled. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Give the women whom you marry their dowry with a good heart. If they remit any part of it to you, of their own good pleasure, take it and enjoy it fully without fear of any harm.)

[Translation of the Holy Quran,4:4]

The husband is not allowed to take anything back from the dowry if he decides later to divorce her; as Allah, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an: Read the rest of this entry →

Status of women in Jewish Society

Published September 12, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

Women in traditional Jewish society were not more fortunate than those previously described.

In the Old Testament women were described as follows: “I applied mine heart to know and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart snares and nets, and her hands as bands…

[Ecclesiastes(7:25-26)]

In the Septuagint, it says, “And if a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she pleases not her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he had betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he takes him another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. If he does not do these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money”.

[Exodus (21:7-11)]

Thus, if a Jewish woman got married, her guardianship was transferred from her father to her husband and she became as one of his possessions such as his house, his slave, his maidservant or his money or wealth. Jewish teachings and laws deprived the girl of her father’s inheritance if the father had other male children. In the Old Testament, the Septuagint, it says:

“And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, ‘If a man dies, and has no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughters’.”

[Numbers (27:8)]

Moreover, Jewish men never slept in the same bed with a menstruating woman, or ate with her or drank with her. Jewish men used to isolate themselves fully from a menstruating woman until she was completely free from her menses.

Status of women in Christian Society

Published September 12, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

Christian priests went to the extreme of considering the woman as the cause of “original sin” and the source of all catastrophes from which the entire world has suffered. For this very reason, the physical relationship between man and woman has traditionally been labeled as “filthy” or “dirty” even if it were officially done and performed within a legitimate marriage contract. Saint Trotolian says:

“Woman is the Satan’s pathway to a man’s heart. Woman pushes man to the “Cursed Tree.” Woman violates God’s laws and distorts his picture (i.e. man’s picture).

Wieth Knudesen, a Danish writer, illustrated the woman’s status in the middle ages saying:

“According to the Catholic faith, which considered the woman as a second class citizen, very little care and attention was given to her.”

In 1586 a conference was held in France to decide whether women should be considered as human beings or not. The conference came to a conclusion that:

“Woman is a human being, but she is created to serve man.”

Thus, the conference approved the rights for women as human beings, a matter that was previously in doubt and undecided! Moreover, those who attended the conference did not decide on full rights for the woman, but rather; she was a follower of man and a maidservant to him with no personal rights. This decision was in effect until 1938, when, for the first time, a decree wasissued to abrogate all the laws that forbid a woman from conducting her own financial affairs directly and opening a bank account in her own name.

Europeans continued to discriminate against women and deprive them of their rights throughout the Middle-Ages. It is also surprising to know that English laws turned a blind eye to the selling of one’s wife! The rift between the sexes, men and women, continued to increase, so much so that women became fully under the control of men. Women were stripped completely of all their rights and whatever they owned.

All that a woman owned belonged to her husband. For instance, until very recently women, according to the French law, were not considered capable of making their own financial decisions in their private ownership. We can read article 217 of the French law that states:

“A married woman has no right to grant, transfer, bond, own with or without payment, without her husband’s participation in the sale contract, or his written consent to it, regardless of whether the marriage contract stipulated that there should be a complete separation between the husband’s and wife’s possessions and ownership of various items.”

Despite all amendments and modifications, which occurred in these French laws, we can still see how these laws are affecting married French women. It is a form of civilized slavery. Furthermore, a married woman loses her surname (family’s name) as soon as she enters into a marriage contract. A married woman shall carry the family name of her husband. This, of course, indicates that a married woman will only be a follower of her husband and she will even lose her personal identity.

Bernard Shaw, the well-known English writer says:

“The moment a woman marries; all her personal possessions become her husband’s in accordance to the English law.”

Lastly, there is one more injustice that has been imposed upon the woman in the Western society which is that a marriage bond is made to last forever, in accordance with legal and religiousteachings. There is no right of divorce (according to Catholicism, at least). Husband and wife are only separated from each other physically. This separation may have contributed to all sorts of social decay and corruption, such as having affairs, mistresses, boyfriends, girlfriends, as well as possibly prostitution, and homosexual and lesbian relations. Moreover, a surviving widow is not given the chance to remarry and lead a normal married life after the death of her husband.

No doubt, what is called modern western civilization and which endeavors to dominate the globe, is indebted to the Greek and Roman traditions for its civil foundations, and to the Judaic-Christian traditions for its ideological and religious foundations. The abuses mentioned above collectively led, due to gradual and eventual effects of technological and social modernization, to the expected and natural reaction: movements demanding women’s rights in the society, led by thinkers, educators, lobbyists, and human rights and women right’s activists.

The pendulum was set to swing in the other direction, and they demanded absolute equal rights and liberation from male chauvinism and abuses. In many of the modern secular societies, women are indeed given numerous equal rights, but at the same time, equality has exposed them to the molestation and double standards rampant in the immoral materialistic culture that markets her as an object of sexual desire, for sale, contract or rent. The ensuing breakdown of the family unit, and the widespread sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, and criminal deviancy from sexual liberation, has led to some counter reactions in the society, especially from the religious conservatives, but apparently, the trends are too strong to turn the tide back.

In this global context, and from this historical legacy, we will present the salient features of women’s rights in Islam and shed light on some common misconceptions in order to show the superiority of following Allah’s guidance rather than men and women guiding each other by whim and desire.

Status of women in Indian society

Published September 12, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

 

In Indian society women were treated generally as maids or slaves as if they had no will or desire of their own. They had to follow their husbands in all matters. Women were given as payment for loss to a gambling opponent. To show devotion, they were forced to burn themselves alive by jumping onto the funeral pyre of their husbands after their death. This practice, called “sutti” continued until the end of the 17th century when this custom was outlawed in spite of the dismay it caused the Hindu religious leaders. Although outlawed formally, “sutti” was widely practiced until the end of 19th century and still continues in some of the remote areas of India.

In certain regions of India, women are offered to the priests as concubines, or as prostitutes to be exploited. In others, they were sacrificed to the Hindu gods to please them or seek rain. Some Hindu laws even declare that: “The predestined patience, the blowing wind or tornadoes, death, hellfire, poison, snakes and fire are no less evil than women”. It is also stated in Hindu religious books, that “When Manna [the Hindu god of creation] created women he imposed onto them the love of bed, seats, decoration [make-up], filthy lust (of all types and kinds), anger, rebellion against honor and dignity and evil attitudes, behavior and conduct”.

In the teachings of Manna Herma Sistra concerning women, one can read:

“A woman may live without a choice regardless of whether she is a little girl, a young lady or a mature woman. A young girl is under the command and choice of her father. A married woman is under the command and choice of her husband. A widow is under the command and choice of her male children, and she may never become independent (after the death of her husband). A widow may never remarry after the death of her husband, but rather, she must neglect all that she likes in terms of food, clothes, and makeup until she dies. A woman may not own or possess anything, as whatever she may gain or acquire shall go straight and immediately to the ownership of her husband”.

  • Refer to ‘Hindu Inter-caste Marriage in India”, Chapter 3 [Forms of Marriage] part 2 [Polyandry], by Haripada Chakraborti.

In some rare cases, a woman had several husbands at the same time.(1) No doubt this made her as a prostitute in society.

  1. Refer to ‘Hindu Inter-caste Marriage in India, & Chapter 3 [Forms of Marriage] part 2 [Polyandry], by Haripada Chakraborti.

Status of Women in Chinese, Greek & Roman Socities

Published September 12, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

Status of Women in Chinese Society

Women in Chinese society occupied a low and degraded status. They were customarily assigned the most despised and least important jobs and positions. The male child was looked upon as a “gift” from the gods, and treated accordingly. As for the female child, she had to endure multiple hardships, like the binding of her feet in order to cripple her from running and other customs. A Chinese proverb says:

“Listen to your wife, but never believe what she says.”

The status of women in the Chinese society was not much better than that of the pagan pre-Islamic Arab and the Indian societies.

Women in Greek Society

Among the Greeks, women were degraded to the extent that men claimed that women were nothing but the epitome of evil. There was no system to protect women in that society. They were deprived of the rights to education; bought and sold like any other commodity; deprived of the right of inheritance; and considered as minors with no rights to make any transactions regard to possessions and wealth. Women were subjected to the will of men throughout their lives. Divorce was an absolute right of men. The common situation of women in the society led some Greek thinkers to say:

“Woman’s name must be locked up in the house, as it is the case with her body.”

Gustave Le Bon, the French thinker, stated about the status of women in the Greek society in his book “Arab Civilization”:

“Greeks, in general, considered women to be the lowest creatures of the low. They were useful for nothing other than reproduction and taking care of the household affairs. If a woman gave birth to an ‘ugly, retarded or handicapped’ child, the man could take the liberty to kill the (unwanted or undesirable) child”.

Demosthenes, the well-known Greek orator and thinker said:

“We Greek men enjoy the company of prostitutes for sexual pleasure; ‘girl-friends’ and ‘sweet-hearts’, to care of our daily needs, and we marry to get ‘legitimate’ children”.

From this licentious double standard, and depraved morality, we can see what fortune women had in such a society based on the statement issued by one of their top rank, well-known thinkers.

Woman in Roman Society

A woman in Roman society was also looked upon as an inferior being that could not run her own affairs. All authority was in the hands of men who totally dominated all private and public affairs. Men even had the authority to sentence their wives to death in certain cases when accused of specific crimes. The authority of man over woman in the Roman society included the right to sell her, punish her with tortuous punishments, send her into exile or kill her. The woman in Roman society had to listen to and obey all commands given by the man. And they were deprived of the right of inheritance.

Women in the Pre-Islamic Societies and Civilizations

Published September 12, 2012 by AbdulJabarAzimi

Women suffered great injustices in the pagan Arab society and were exposed to diverse kinds of humiliation prior to the mission of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him). They were treated like material property to be disposed of at the whim of the male guardian. They were not entitled to inherit from their parents or husbands. Arabs believed inheritance should only be granted to those who had martial abilities, like being able to ride a horse, fight, gain war booties and help protect the tribe and clan territory.

Since women in the pagan Arab society did not generally have these qualities, they were themselves inherited like any moveable commodity after the death of an indebted husband. If the deceased husband had adult sons from other marriages, the oldest son amongst them had the right to add her to his household, just as a son inherits other chattels of his deceased father. She was unable to leave the house of her stepson unless she paid a ransom. As a general practice, men had the freedom to acquire as many wives as they desired with no set limits. There was no system of law and justice that would forbid a man from committing any injustice towards his wives. Women had no right to choose, or even consent to being chosen as a partner for marriage; they were simply given away. Women were forbidden to remarry if a husband divorced them.

In the pre-Islamic era of Arabia, fathers commonly became extremely angry and disgraced with the birth of a female child into their family. Some considered it an evil omen. Allah, the Exalted, describes the father’s reception of the news about the birth of a daughter:

(When the news of (the birth of) a female is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil (and shame) of that which he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor, or bury her in the dirt? Certainly, evil is their decision…)

[The Holy Quran, 16:59]

Women were not even able to practice some of the most natural of rights. For instance eating certain types of foods was allowed only for males. Allah, the Exalted, records this in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And they say: What is in the bellies of such cattle (whether milk or fetus) is for the male alone, and forbidden from our females, however, if it was born dead, then all have shares therein…)

[The Holy Quran, 6:139]

The hatred of female babies prompted Arabs to bury them alive. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an with reference to the Day of Requital:

(And when the female buried alive shall be questioned: for what sin was she killed?)

[The Holy Quran, 81:8-9]

Some fathers used to bury their female children alive if the child was leprous, lame or with birth defect. Allah (The Almighty) states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin.)

[The Holy Quran, 17:31]

The one honor afforded to women during the pre-Islamic era was the protection of her person, family and tribe, and the revenge against any who humiliated or dishonored her, but even this was more for male pride, dignity and tribal honor than a concern for the female gender.

This situation of women in the Arab society led Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph of the Muslims (may Allah exalt their mention) to say, as reported by Muslim:

“By Allah, we didn’t use to think that women had anything until Allah revealed about them what He revealed in the Qur’an, and distributed to them what He distributed…”

[Sahih Bukhari #4629 & Muslim #31]