Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Women's roles, rights and obligations
Spiritual status As stated in the Qur'anic verses from the last message, women are considered to be the spiritual equals of men, and they have the same religious duties. This is all the more important when we consider that the main goal of a Muslim is to serve Allah, and that this world is regarded as no more than a testing-grounds to prepare oneself for eternal life after death.
Therefore, worldly accomplishments, fame, wealth and power simply do not have the same attraction for a Muslim, whose main focus is on the Next World. The Qur'an repeatedly draws our attention to the fact that the time we spend in this world is short and unpredictable, and what really counts is our character, how we treat others, and what we do with the blessings Allah has given us. In this context, home and family are of paramount importance, since stable families are essential to the rearing of well-adjusted children who will transmit their faith and values to the next generation.
According to a well-known Arab proverb, 'The mother is a school.'
Social roles Islam supports the traditional division of labour whereby women assume the main responsibility for home while men are responsible for their financial support, but with an important difference: motherhood and homemaking, like a Muslim's inner life, are not considered to be less important or rewarding than a professional career. Indeed, motherhood is one of the most important professions, and competent mothers who can successfully run a warm and welcoming home, and raise a family of happy, confident and well-disciplined children are becoming increasingly harder to find. Muslim wives and mothers are granted the respect due to all women for the struggles and sacrifices they make for the sake of their families.
Furthermore, Muslims consider it unfair to burden women with both the physical and emotional demands of motherhood and the professional demands of the workplace, which end up exhausting so many women and destroying family life for the sake of economic gain. Muslims often express sympathy for women in the West, who often suffer from sexual exploitation and abuse at home and in the workplace, while being unappreciated in their traditional roles.
Western women who seek to be respected must often dress and behave like men, and are expected in practise to neglect their children's needs for the sake of their careers. In Islam, femininity is appreciated, and Muslim women may seek a higher education, work outside the home or volunteer their services to benefit the community as long as their primary responsibilities are taken care of. Any money that a Muslim woman earns is her own, to spend as she likes; men remain solely responsible for maintaining the family.
Although Muslim parents traditionally play an important role in arranging introductions and helping to choose marriage partners for their children, both husband and wife must freely agree to the marriage. Prophet Muhammed S.A.W granted girls who had been forced into marriages against their will the right to have their marriages annulled.
The relationship between husband and wife in Islam is an interdependent one, based on love and tranquillity. The Qur'an says, And of His signs is this: He created spouses for you from among yourselves that you might find comfort in them, and He put between you love and mercy. Surely there are signs in that for people who reflect. (Qur'an 30:21)
Both parents should strive to establish a stable, loving home and partnership. Major family decision-making should be through consultation and discussion. As the provider, the husband is expected to take the lead, as he is accountable to Allah for his care of the family.
If no agreement can be reached, the wife should be supportive as long as her husband does not ask her to do anything that contravenes religious law. This works well as long as each spouse behaves maturely and treats the other with respect, kindness and consideration.