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Is the Muslim practice especially in some parts of the Muslim World in the present age in accordance with Qur'anic ideals?

Muslim men never tire of repeating that Islam has given more rights to women than has any other religion. Certainly, if by “Islam” is meant “Qur’anic Islam” and the “Islam” practiced by the Prophet, his Companions and the later, pious generations, the rights that it has given to women are, indeed, impressive. Not only do women partake of all the “General Rights” mentioned in the foregoing pages, they are also the subject of much particular concern in the Qur’an. However unfortunately, some national and geographical customs and traditions have clouded the status of women in some Muslim communities. However, we must point out that it is not Islam which is responsible for this, nor is Islam unable to educate its followers. But there are many factors behind this dichotomy between Islam and the practice of some Muslims.

Islam abolished female infanticide; true, but, one of the crimes in some countries is the murder of women by their husbands. These so-called “honor-killings” are, in fact, extremely dishonourable and are frequently used to camouflage other kinds of crimes.

In some societies, female children are discriminated against, for it is customary to regard a son as a gift, and a daughter as a trial, from God. Therefore, the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration while the birth of a daughter calls for commiseration. Some girls are married when they are still minors, even though marriage in Islam is a contract and requires that the contracting parties are both consenting adults. Even though so much Qur’anic legislation is aimed at protecting the rights of women in the context of marriage, in some cultures women cannot claim equality with their husbands.

Although the Qur’an presents the idea of what we today call a “no-fault” divorce and does not make any adverse judgements about divorce, some Muslim societies have made divorce extremely difficult for women, both legally and through social penalties. Although the Qur’an states clearly that the divorced parents of a minor child must decide by mutual consultation how the child is to be raised and that they must not use the child to hurt or exploit each other, in some Muslim societies, women are deprived both of their sons (generally at age 7) and their daughters (generally at age 12). It is difficult to imagine an act of greater cruelty than depriving a mother of her children simply because she is divorced.

Although polygamy was intended by the Qur’an to be for the protection of orphans and widows, in practice some Muslims have made it the Sword of Damocles which keeps women under constant threat. Although the Qur’an gave women the right to receive an inheritance not only on the death of a close relative, but also to receive other bequests or gifts during the lifetime of a benevolent caretaker, some societies have disapproved greatly of the idea of giving wealth to a woman in preference to a man, even when her need or circumstances warrant it. Although the purpose of the Qur’anic legislation dealing with women’s dress and conduct, was to make it safe for women to go about their daily business (since they have the right to engage in gainful activity as witnessed by Surah 4: An-Nisa’ :32 without fear of sexual harassment or molestation, some societies have put many of them behind veils and shrouds on the pretext of protecting their chastity, forgetting that according to the Qur’an, confinement to their homes was not a normal way of life for chaste women but a punishment for “unchastity”.

Woman and man, created equal by God and standing equal in the sight of God, have become unequal in some Muslim societies. The Qur’anic description of man and woman in marriage: “They are your garments/and you are their garments” (Surah 2: Al-Baqarah: 187) implies closeness, mutuality, and equality. It is one of Islam’s cardinal beliefs that each person -man or woman- is responsible and accountable for his or her individual actions.

However, despite everything that has gone wrong with the lives of many Muslim women down the ages due to patriarchal culture formed by local customs and traditions, there is hope for the future. There are indications from across the world of Islam that a growing number of Muslims are beginning to reflect seriously upon the teachings of the Qur’an as they become disenchanted with capitalism, communism and other materialistic ideologies. As this reflection deepens, it is likely to lead to the realization that the supreme task entrusted to human beings by God can only be accomplished by establishing justice which the Qur’an regards as a prerequisite for authentic peace. Without the elimination of the inequities, inequalities, and injustices that pervade the personal and collective lives of human beings, it is not possible to talk about peace in Qur’anic terms. Here, it is of importance to note that there is more Qur’anic legislation pertaining to the establishment of justice in the context of family relationships than on any other subject. This points to the assumption implicit in much Qur’anic learning, namely, that if human beings can learn to order their homes justly so that the human rights of all within its jurisdiction - children, women, and men - are safeguarded, then they can also order their society and the world at large, justly. In other words, the Qur’an regards the home as a microcosm of the “umma” and the world community, and emphasizes the importance of making it “the abode of peace” through just living.

 

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