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Status of Women in Islam

"Why is it that so many women who have been born and brought in Europe and America are willing to reject their 'liberty' and 'independence' to embrace a religion that supposedly oppresses them and is widely assumed to be prejudicial to them?" This is a question that I found on one of the sites while surfing around, and I found it an interesting question and which I'd like to draw this article around.

Can Islam be prejudiced to women, and yet appeal to women? Can Islam lower the status of a woman and still have more women embracing it as their way of life than men? According to an article written by Lucy Berrington in the Times Magazine (London) dated 9th Nov. 1993: "It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly. In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million "

How can the case of those women be explained?! Well, I could say that there are only one of two choices that one can decide upon. Either all those women who choose Islam don't know what they are doing or that they discovered Islam is not prejudice to them as others have yet to discover. New convert to Islam since September 11, US Navy petty officer, Heather Ramaha. "Islam gives us Elevation; not Degradation"

In the Noble Quran Allah (Arabic word for God) says:
"Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the Sight of Allah is the believer who has Taqwa (i.e. piety and righteousness)and loves Allah most. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." The Holy Qur'an(49:13)

"I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other. The Holy Qur'an(3:195)"

On the light of those verses, Islam declares that it has not come to disadvantage women, but in fact has been revealed to elevate women ever since 1400 years ago, when women in many parts of the world and especially in the western societies were considered objects that are owned and with little to no rights in the society they live in.

Before any other religion or system in the world Islam gave a woman the right to inherit, the right to vote and voice her opinion, the right to trade invest and improve herself financially, the right to own - buy and sell, the right to seek knowledge and have a good education, the right to work and has even gone further to oblige the males in every stage of her life, whether it was a father, brother or husband ... It's their duty before God to take care of her, to spend on her, to provide her with the food , clothing and shelter that she needs, to provide her with a good education, to protect her from anything that can harm her and to never hesitate to put their lives in stake for her if the need calls them to do so. "As a modern westerner with a career, of course I had to look into Islam's attitude to women - I couldn't be oppressed all of a sudden. But I discovered that it is pro-women and pro-men; in Islam, women had the right to vote in the year 600. Men dress modestly, women dress modestly; neither should flirt with the eyes, but rather they should lower their gaze. I think it's unhealthy to flaunt your sexuality - it attracts the wrong energy back." (MTV Presenter Kristiane Backer after being a Muslim) "Since I called myself a feminist, my early reading centered around women in Islam. I thought Islam oppressed women. In my Women's Studies courses I had read about Muslim women who were not allowed to leave their homes and were forced to cover their heads. Of course I saw hijab as an oppressive tool imposed by men rather than as an expression of self-respect and dignity. What I discovered in my readings surprised me. Islam not only does not oppress women, but actually liberates them, having given them rights in the 6th century that we have only gained in this century in this country: the right to own property and wealth and to maintain that in her name after marriage; the right to vote; and the right to divorce." (Karima Slack, an American feminist from secular humanism to Islam)

Some Muslim societies today lack those values. Some people may rightly ask then, why do we see some Muslim societies lacking those values? There is a beautiful and very true example I heard from a lecture by an American Muslim called Khaled Yaseen, who said that every person can be a father; but if a father does not turn out to be a good father then it's not fatherhood that we would blame. Similarly, Islam is a rule and order. A Muslim who does not act according to that rule and order then by all means its not Islam that should carry the blame.

Karla, a young Blonde haired Blue eyed young American from Washington DC who is a recent convert to Islam said in an interview made with her: The main question people seem to ask, is "How could you, an educated American woman convert to Islam--a religion that oppresses women?" They are quick to try and equate the rights of women in Afghanistan with the rights of Muslim women everywhere. Basically, what I tell them, is that the Qur'an gives women more rights than the Bible does--in print. That was one of the things that first drew me to Islam. Unfortunately today, Islam is no longer the leader in women's rights. I had a choice--deny what I believe (i.e. that There is only one God, and that Muhammed is a Prophet of God)...or accept what I believe, but work to change the problems that exist within the Muslim community. I chose the latter.

In the world today, one could say that the Taliban government in Afghanistan have been considered as the top example of Women Oppression in Islam. But what's ironic is that even when a woman falls captive in the hands of those supposedly most hateful men in the world, Islam does not fail to win her heart.

Yvonne Ridley is an award-winning journalist of more than 25 years standing and author of two books, In The Hands of the Taliban and Ticket to Paradise. She has spent the last 10 years working for several prestigious Fleet Street newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Independent on Sunday and The Sunday Express. She has also expanded into television and radio producing several documentaries from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yvonne hit the headlines in September 2001 when while working for the Daily Express she crossed illegally into Afghanistan and was subsequently held captive by the Taliban for 11 days. Following her release, she read the Qur'an as she had agreed to during her captivity, and converted to Islam in the summer of 2003.

Last but not least I would like to conclude by the blessed sayings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him:
"It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them."
"The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives."
"Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."

By Noor Al Haqq

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