As of today, there is still a strong debate regarding women’s rights and Islam. I will concentrate the analysis on women and their status in the society and how it changed during the years. The importance of marriage in Qur’an. What does Qur’an say about their role in the family and marriage? How they should comport in family and how should they treat their husbands? I will also break down the marriage issues. How is divorce interpreted in Qur’an and how is it commonly understood today by the society?
At the second part of it, I will analyze how Qur’an sees sex related issues. What is allowed and what is not? How is polygamy perceived by Muslims today and what does Qur’an say about this issue?
Another main topic of my research is the education of women in Muslim societies. What is the perception that Muslim believers have of how women should dress and act in the society? I will analyze a perspective through the years and how did women’s role emancipate until today. How does the future look for Muslim women?
I chose to analyze this topic because I want to learn more and go into details of women’s role in Qur’an. I also wanted to know what the perception of believers regarding it, is today and what are the counter arguments. Also, the other more modern and pedagogical interpretations of women issues in the Qur’an. I also want to have my well-informed perspective on it and understand better the past and have a vision of how Muslim women’s future will look like.
The goal of this research paper is to understand the Qur’an’s topics related to women’s issues. The women’s role perceived by the family and all of the society. I want to clarify the misinterpretation that is done to the Qur’an during the years, as well. Does Qur’an support women or discriminate them as it is commonly understood by western cultures?
Marriage is a very important sacred bond in Qur’an. “The Qur’an indicates that the real and natural way to gain peace and satisfaction in life is through a husband-wife relationship.” Islam sees marriage as important and beneficial for men, women and the society as a whole.
Women are treated differently in different verses in Qur’an. In Qur’an it mentions that men and women are equal before him, and morally women are going to answer for their actions before him at the day of judgement. Same as men will. They also have the same ownership rights of the land inherited same as men. As we know from the history, it is important to mention that prior to Qur’an women had no inheritance rights. So, at that time Qur’an started it was revolutionary and in defense of women. Unlike today’s general perception of it, that in Qur’an women are discriminated. Meanwhile these verses are not bold enough to speak about women’s rights and their equality to men compared to the ones that give women explicit ways to act in the family.
There are other verses that are commonly interpreted as if men are superior to women. In one of them is mentioned that women inherit half of their brother’s wealth portion because it is assumed that her husband will support her financially. In other scenarios such as legal procedures it is required for two women to testify that equals to one man. This is clearly an inferiority behavior because it is assumed that women are not educated enough like men are regarding other non-domesticated issues. Qur’an’s message is unity and “common agreement” between spouses which is used several times with the term taradi. 3 The two spouses after mutual agreement and consultation should come to a decision that is best for their families. People have the wrong impression that women should obey men as in reality men should take care of their spouse financially. Women and men can commonly decide if they want children and expand their families. They discuss and decide together.
Qur’an is commonly perceived as it gives some priorities to men in their role in society, which is not the truth. The majority of Muslim society sees men as the protector and provider of the family and women as taking care of children and their husbands. The wife’s main role is in the “domestic sphere” which is more suited for their nature. Women are not seen as the ones that can make decisions beyond their work in the house. Man is seen as the head of the family and clearly is interpreted as superior compared to women. However, in Qur’an there is no indication that mothering is the only exclusive role of women even though they are the ones that give birth and take care of children, but this does not mean that women must only be mothers.
As far as divorce issues, a man can divorce his wife only and simply by saying “I divorce you” and can take her back up to three times. Once again, we understand that women have no saying and the men can make decisions related to marriage as per their judgments.
According to Islam, a divorced woman or a widow has the right to remarry without any shame.
Sexuality issues are another problematic topic in Qur’an, and it mentions that a woman can’t have sexual intercourse before marriage. She must be a virgin when she marries her husband. This is the reason why they get married at a very young age. Their husbands should be the one to see and enjoy their bodies. It is thought that one of Mahammad’s wives Aisha, got married to him when she was 6 years old, and they consumed their marriage at the age of 9 years old. This is unbelievable in today’s society and it is certainly forbidden by law. It was then, that women were required to cover themselves and be protected by sexual harassments, since they all can look the same. I don’t agree with that practice and I don’t justify the fact of marriages at such a young age when these so-called women are still children.
The practice of polygamy is one of the most concerned issues of women and Islam. In Qur’an is mentioned that a man can have up to four wives if he can treat them fairly. Some
modern scholars claim that Muhammad wives were widows, and he married them not for his sexual desires but to take care of them since they were unprotected. 4 We must also consider the context of these lines. At that time polygamy was commonly accepted by many religions and cultures that a man would marry as many wives as he wanted. What Qur’an did was limiting the number of wives to four (under certain conditions) 5 In Qur’an it is clearly written that a man must treat all women equally and if he cannot do that, then he must marry only one. History has shown that this is misinterpreted and abused at times. I think that the right approach to it is by educating people about Islam and the right interpretation of Qur’an. Before taking this class, I did not know all the conditions why a man can marry more than one wife. For example, in Qur’an is fairly accepted that a man can marry again, if his wife is sick and cannot fulfill her duties as a wife, but not to abandon or divorce her when she needs him the most. In the holy book a second marriage is more normally accepted than having an extra-marital affair. Before reading the scholarly sources, my interpretation of Qur’an was that Muslims can marry another wife if the first one was not good enough according to them, or because they just wanted to marry someone else. But, as I mentioned above, in fact it is not so.
In Qur’an though it does not mention anything about women’s education on how to pursue it or not since at that time education was not known. That is why a lot of Muslim don’t let their wives to study because in their minds it is interpreted as it is not allowed which is not the case. I think this is the way that the patriarchal society saw and treated women but not based on religion. Instead in different verses in Qur’an it is mentioned that man should marry a wise wife because she is the one who is going to raise and educate their children. Qur’an does not forbid women to go to work either. This is another misunderstanding of people. Both women and men have equal rights about education and work. However, it is true that most Muslim countries do not allow women to get educated. For example, until 1956, women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to be educated. 6 These countries are more patriarchal, but their beliefs are not based on Qur’an. They are based in society’s rules. Nowadays more women are getting educated and a lot of movements around the world are promoting women’s education.
There are also a lot of misinterpretations about marriage. Qur’an advises man to listen and respect their wife but in today’s society that role is perceived as controlling, and the person who decides for everything. Women in today’s Muslim society are considered guilty and the ones to be blamed if a divorce occurs. Instead in Qur’an it mentions that there is no shame and the divorced women have the right to re-marry. Marriage is very important in Qur’an and the interpretation of male domination is based on tradition and not on religion. Qur’an mentions that both men and women are equal before him and they both should cooperate and decide in their families.
In Qur’an, men have different roles in the family compared to women. The differences between men and women are made because of women’s nature, since they are more sensitive and biologically and physically different from men. Islam points out these differences but does not treat them as inferior, instead as defenseless. Islam gives different rights to men and women that are different from the western world but does not diminish the women’s rights. “Islam was partly to blame for the inferior status of women, but the economic and political conditions have also played a major part” 7
Polygamy issues are misunderstood during these times. Qur’an makes it clear that a man can marry different women under certain conditions. For example, if they are in need or if they need financial help or taking care of their children. One of the main rules is also that the husband must treat all women equally or he must marry only one. The main thing was not that man should marry them for his sexual desires as it is broadly interpreted today.
Regarding the way they dress, in Qur’an there is a different interpretation of what is commonly understood. Both men and women are expected to be dressed simply. Specific traditions of wearing in some countries are more culturally accepted rather than religious principles.
I think in today’s society Qur’an must have a different interpretation. Everyone needs to adapt to it and the context of that period. Today’s society has changed a lot and Muslim women have more rights as they had before. Now, in Muslim families the women have a saying in important matters and are respected a little more by their husbands. In this aspect, we notice the patriarchal society and the interpretation of it and not of Qur’an’s rules. In fact, Qur’an was revolutionary at that period of the time that it was written, and protected women and their role in the society.
Things are rapidly changing in the world and the educated people in the West are trying to do “pedagogical reading” of the Qur’an and promote a different interpretation. Women’s role in Muslim society has changed a lot. They have more economic, political and social rights but there is still a long way to go on these issues. For example, Muslim women in Pakistan have become the subject of global modernity projects. 8 Even though they face a lot of difficulties in working outside of home, a lot of progress is done, and I think women should speak up their voices and get stronger. Media also should play a role in educating and emancipating the society.
I strongly support the idea that what was missing during these years, is that women need to give their perspective of Qur’an’s interpretation. Since Qur’an was mainly interpreted by men and their perspective on it, now it needs to have a woman’s viewpoint. It is not Islam, but the patriarchal society that incorporates the rules and diminishes the women’s role.
- Jawad, H.A. The Rights of women in Islam: An Authentic Approach. Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. EBCSOhost. https://web-a-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.sju.edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzQ1MTZfX0FO0?sid=94d24cc3-eb5a-426a-98ab-[email protected]&vid=7&format=EB&rid=3
- Ruthven, Malise, Islam a Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 102.
- Lamrabet, Asma, and Inc Recorded Books. Women in the Qur’an : An Emancipatory Reading, Kube Publishing Ltd, 2016. EBSCOhost. https://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzEzNDYxODRfX0FO0?nobk=y&[email protected]&vid=6&format=EB&lpid=lp_21&rid=0
- Ruthven, Malise, Islam a Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 105.
- Ali, Kecia. Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam, Harvard University Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.sju.edu/lib/sjuniv-ebooks/reader.action?docID=3300889.
- Nouf, Alsuwaida. “Women Education in Saudi Arabia”. Journal of International Education Research 12. 4 (2016) p.112. Web. 18 April. 2020. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1117657
- Elias, Jamal J. Key Themes for the study of Islam. Oneworld publications, 2010, p.160.
- Khurshid, Ayesha. Islamic tradition of Modernity: Gender, Class and Islam in a Transnational Women’s Education Project 20. 1 (2015) p.104. Web. 18 April. 2020. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0891243214549193