Women: Position in
Q693 :Islam provides equal rights to men and women,
but it is a fact of life that men dominate women. A woman must obey
some men in all matters and she is never free to act according to her
will. In young age, she lives in her father's house, obeying him. She
must also obey the man in whose house she finds herself, whether he is
her brother, husband or son (in her old age). In some cases she has to
share her husband with other wives which inevitably causes her mental
torture. Moreover, why should a girl bring dowry to her husband. Is
A693 : May I begin by answering your question where
it ended. I am with you. Why should a girl bring dowry for her husband?
Why indeed, when it is totally unfair? Why when Islam has provided for
the reverse type of action? Islam wants man to pay a meher or a dower
to his wife at the time when he gets married to her. This is something
that she can claim by right, and she can determine its level. A woman
can decide that her maher, i.e. dower, is a large or small amount. When
the man agrees to it, he must pay it at the time when the marriage
contract is made. If she allows payment to be postponed, it remains due
at any time she demands it. If the husband dies without paying it, it
remains a preferred debt which must be paid out of the man's estate.
She has full right to do with it what she likes. Her husband may not
interfere in that. Why, then, should a woman pay her husband a dowry?
I can tell you that this practice is un-Islamic. It is found in certain
Muslim communities, but it is borrowed from other traditions from the
pre-Islamic days of those communities. You will find it, for example,
among Muslims in India, and you find the same practice in the Hindu
society. Therefore, it can be said to have been borrowed from Hinduism.
May I suggest that this practice is not only unfair to the woman, but
it is unfair to the man, because what happens in practice is that a
father of moderate means starts to think about his daughter's marriage
from the time she is very young. He starts saving for her dowry. A
brother who travels abroad for better employment considers saving for
his sister's dowry one of his main priorities. Indeed, he often delays
his own marriage in order to see that his sisters are suitably married.
They cannot have decent marriages unless he is ready to pay their
dowries. This is certainly unfair and this practice cannot be
sanctioned by Islam. You speak of a woman being dominated by her men
folk. And you cite her supposed obedience as evidence, supporting your
claim. I do not think that Islam built its social order on the basis of
women's obedience in the way you have mentioned. Rather the opposite.
The Prophet has repeatedly said: "Take good care of women." It is clear
that this order is given to men who are required, by Islamic law, to
look after their women. In return, a woman has to be respectful. And
that respect does not mean slavish obedience. Indeed, the Prophet has
encouraged mutual consultation in family affairs between men and women.
He himself practiced that. Moreover, he has given the best example of
the proper treatment of women. In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet is
reported to be "in the service of his household", whenever he was at
home. Now the Prophet's household consisted of his wives and daughters.
He did not have a brother or a father to look after and his sons died
in infancy. He never went about ordering his wives or daughters when he
was at home. On the contrary, he looked after them and served them. To
follow his example is a duty required of all Muslims. There is in
practical fact a difference between what people do and what Islam
requires. Responsibility for that discrepancy should not be placed at
the doorstep of Islam. It is people who either abide by what Islam
requires of them or pay little regard to it. Hence, it is they who bear
the responsibility. Equality between men and women is emphasized in
numerous Qur'anic verses and Hadiths. To say that they are unequal
because men want their women to obey them is to place responsibility
for violating the law on the law itself, when that responsibility lies,
fairly and squarely, on the person who perpetrates it. You bring the
question of polygamy. I have often explained that we have to look at
the permission Islam grants to a man to marry up to four wives at the
same time as a legislation to emergencies. The permission is granted in
order to provide a solution to many social problems that may occur at
the individual and social levels. If that solution involves some
bitterness for individual members of the community, I can tell you that
its absence will result in a much worse situation for individuals and
the society as a whole.
Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )