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مُساهمةموضوع: women and islam   الثلاثاء أبريل 08, 2008 5:32 pm

Women and Islam

The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic
texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world.[1] Sharia (Islamic law) provides for differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. Muslim-majority countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education.

Even where these differences are acknowledged, scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are unjust and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives. Conservatives argue that differences between men and women are due to different status and responsibilities,[2] while liberal Muslims, Muslim feminists, and others argue that more progressive interpretations of the role of women are more just.
[edit] Sources of influence
Islamic law is the product of Quranic guidelines, as understood by Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), as well as of the interpretations derived from the traditions of Muhammad (hadith), which were also selected by a number of historical Islamic scholars.[1] These interpretations and their application were shaped by the historical context of the Muslim world.[1] Furthermore, whether or not Muslims tended to follow these rules was dependent on the prevailing culture, which differed between social classes, local conditions, and regions.[citation needed] Quranic reforms, which in many regions improved the position of women relative to their situation prior to Islam, have often been undermined by the reassertion of tribal customs, or the use of such customs under the name of Islamic law. The spirit of the Quranic reforms may also have been modified by historical or cultural interpretations, reaffirming male dominance and perpetuating gender inequality.[citation needed]


[edit] Early historical background

Costumes of Arab women, fourth to sixth century.See also: Women in Arab societies#Arab women before Islam
To evaluate the effect of Islam on the status of women, many writers have discussed the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabia, and their findings have been mixed.[3] Some writers have argued that gender roles before Islam were relatively egalitarian, drawing on disparate evidence ranging from the marriage of Muhammad's parents to the worship of female idols at Mecca.[3] Other writers, on the contrary, have argued that women's status in pre-Islamic Arabia was poor, citing practices of female infanticide, unlimited polygyny, and patrilineal marriage.[3] Valentine M. Moghadam argues that in "Muslim societies, like many others, harbor[ed] illusions about immutable gender differences. There [was] a very strong contention that women [were] different beings- different often meaning inferior- which strengthens social barriers to women's achievement" (p. 5). She states that "women's legal status and social positions [were] worst in Muslim countries than anywhere else" (p. 3)[4]

Islam changed the structure of Arab society and to a large degree unified the people, reforming and standardizing gender roles throughout the region. According to Islamic scholar William Montgomery Watt, Islam improved the status of women by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce."[5]

In terms of women's rights, women generally had fewer legal restrictions under Islamic law than they did under certain Western legal systems until the 20th century. For example, restrictions on the legal capacity of married women under French law were not removed until 1965.[6]


[edit] Early reforms under Islam
Main article: Early reforms under Islam
During the early reforms under Islam in the 7th century, reforms in women's rights affected marriage, divorce and inheritance.[7] Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later.[8] The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood.[9] "The dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property."[10][7] Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a "status" but rather as a "contract", in which the woman's consent was imperative.[10][7][9] "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives."[7] Annemarie Schimmel states that "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work."[11] William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains: "At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards."[12] Haddad and Esposito state that "Muhammad granted women rights and privileges in the sphere of family life, marriage, education, and economic endeavors, rights that help improve women's status in society."[13]


[edit] Gender roles
Main article: Gender roles in Islam
In Islam, relations between the sexes are governed by the principle of complementarity rather than the principle of equality.[14][15] In many Islamic societies, there is a division of roles creating a woman’s space in the private sphere of the home and a man’s in the public sphere.[16]Because of this economic reliance of women on men, the Qur'an justifies that men should always be in charge over women.[17][18] A woman's primary responsibility is usually interpreted as fulfilling her role as a wife and mother,[19] whereas a man’s role is to work and be able to financially support his wife and family.[16] The Qur'an also directs men to honour their mothers[Qur'an 4:1] and strongly disapproves of parents who feel ashamed over the birth of a daughter instead of a son.[20] Islamic scholars maintain that the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, affirms women's religious and moral equality.[1][21][22]


[edit] Sex segregation
Main article: Sex segregation and Islam
See also: Purdah
Islam discourages social interaction between unmarried or unrelated men and women when they are alone, but not all interaction between men and women. This is shown in the example of Khadijah, a rich, twice widowed businesswoman who employed Muhammad and met with him to conduct trade before they were married, and in the example set by his other wives, who taught and counseled the men and women of Medina.

In strict Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, sex segregation has been or is strictly enforced. The Taliban treatment of women in Afghanistan is an extreme example of this. Even in countries where the sexes mingle socially, they generally remain segregated within the mosque (see Women in religious life below).


[edit] Financial matters
Islam gives women the right to own, which entitles them to have personal possessions. While women have fewer financial obligations than men, some of their financial rights are limited. Women's share of inheritance, as outlined in the Qur'an, is typically less than that of men. Women's right to work is also disputed.

According to Bernard Lewis, while Islam sanctions a social inequality between man and woman, Muslim women have historically had property rights unparalleled in the modern West until comparatively recently.[23]

In general, as Valentine M. Moghadam argues, "much of the economic modernization [of women] was based on income from oil, and some came from foreign investment and capital inflows. Economic development alters the status of women in different ways across nations and classes"[24]. This is a proof that since always the status of women was influenced by the economy of the region and its development.


[edit] Financial obligations
A woman, when compared with her husband, is far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she is encouraged to keep her maiden name. She has no obligation to spend on her family out of such properties or out of her income after marriage. A woman also receives a mahr (dowry), which is given to her by her husband at the time of marriage.[25] Women, unlike men, also have the right to be supported financially.[21][26]


[edit] Inheritance
Main article: Islamic inheritance jurisprudence#Women and inheritance
In Islam, women are entitled the right of inheritance,[Qur'an 4:7] but often a woman's share of inheritance is less than that of a man's. In general circumstances, Islam allows females half the inheritance share available to males who have the same degree of relation to the deceased.[27] Some argue that this difference derives from men's obligation to support their wives financially, while the women's share would be entirely at her own disposal.[1]

In most Muslim nations, the law of the state concerning inheritance is in accordance with this law.[citation needed]

The Qur'an guarantees women the right to inherit a proportion of their father's estate. A widowed woman inherits a portion of her husband's estate.


[edit] Employment
Women are allowed to work in Islam, subject to certain conditions, and even recommended to do so should they be in financial need.[28] This is supported by the Quranic example of two female shepherds ([Qur'an 28:23]).[28] Islam recognizes that the society needs women to work for the sake of development. In general, women's right to work is subject to certain conditions:[28]

The work should not require the woman to violate Islamic law (e.g., serving alcohol), and be mindful of the woman's safety.
If the work requires the woman to leave her home, she must maintain her modesty.
Her work should not affect more important commitments, such as those towards her family.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to organize work for women, so that she can do so in a Muslim atmosphere, where her rights are respected.[28]

However, the employment of women varies over fields in Islamic law. Whereas women may seek medical treatment from men, it is preferred that they do so from female physicians. It is also preferred that female schools, colleges, sports centers and ministries be staffed by women rather than men. On the contrary, there are disagreements between Islamic schools of thought about whether women should be able to hold the position of judge in a court. Shafi`ites claim that women may hold no judicial office, while Hanafites allow women to act as judges in civil cases only, not criminal ones. These interpretations are based on the above quoted Medinan sura (verse) [Qur'an 4:34].[29]

Even when women have the right to work and are educated, women's job opportunities may in practice be unequal to those of men. In Egypt for example, women have limited opportunities to work in the private sector because women are still expected to put their role in the family first, which causes men to be seen as more reliable in the long term.[30] Patterns of women's employment vary throughout the Muslim world: as of 2005, 16% of Pakistani women were "economically active" (either employed, or unemployed but available to furnish labor), whereas 52% of Indonesian women were.[31]


[edit] Legal and criminal matters
The status of women's testimony in Islam is disputed. Some jurists have held that certain types of testimony by women will not be accepted.[32]. In other cases, the testimony of two women can equal that of one man.[32][Qur'an 2:282][33] The reason for this disparity has been explained in various manners, including women's lack of intelligence,[34] women's temperament and sphere of interest,[35] and sparing women from the burden of testifying.[36] In other areas, women's testimony may be accepted on an equal basis with men's.[32][37]

Commentators on the status of women in Islam have often focused on disparities in diyyat, the fines paid by killers to victims' next of kin after either intentional or unintentional homicide,[38] between men and women. Diyya has existed in Arabia since pre-Islamic times.[39][40] While the practice of diyya was affirmed by Muhammed,[40] Islam does not prescribe any specific amount for diyyat nor does it require discrimination between men and women;[38] the Qur'an has left open its quantity, nature, and other related affairs to be defined by social custom and tradition.[38] Traditionally, however, diyya for a woman is half that of a man;[41][42] this is currently codified in the laws of some Muslim-majority countries such as Iran.[43]


[edit] Rape
Islamic criminal jurisprudence does not discriminate between genders in punishments for crimes.[citation needed] In case of sexual crimes such as zina (fornication), however, women may be found guilty more easily than men, because of the visible evidence of pregnancy; without a pregancy, four witnesses are required to file a zina case.[44] The difficulty of prosecuting rapists and the possibility of prosecution for women who allege rape has been of special interest to activists for Muslim women's rights.[45] In the past decades there have been several high profile cases of pregnant women prosecuted for zina who claim to have been raped.[46][47][48] [49]

The overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars believe that there is no punishment for a woman coerced into having sex.[50] According to a Sunni hadith, the punishment for committing rape is death, there is no sin on the victim, nor is there any worldly punishment ascribed to her.[51] However, the stringent requirements for proof of rape under some interpretations of Islamic law, combined with cultural attitudes regarding rape in some parts of the Muslim world, result in few rape cases being reported; even the cases brought forward typically result in minimal punishment for offenders or severe punishment for victims.[52] It can be difficult to seek punishment against rapists, because a zina case cannot be brought without four witnesses, even for rape cases. Some scholars, however, treat rape instead as hiraba (disorder in the land),[53], which does not require four witnesses. The form of punishment and interpretation of Islamic law in this case is highly dependent on the legislation of the nation in question, and/or of the judge.[/center]
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