One of the distinguishing characteristics of international law at the dawn of the twenty-first century is its tremendous advancement in the sphere of women’s human rights. One of the reasons is that women’s engagement in a country’s sociopolitical, economic, and cultural life is strongly tied to its progress. There is no doubt that women have had a low status throughout history and have been frequently oppressed, but with the rise of human awareness and the quick progress of the humanities and social sciences, this subject has been raised that what is the true status of women in society and the family, and how may they reclaim their lost rights?
In fact, in today’s world, it is being attempted with the idea that the cornerstone of an individual’s dignity and honor is humanity rather than gender. Human rights campaigners, on the other hand, are paying more attention to the plight of women in the Middle East.
In the ongoing debate about Islam, the status of women is a contentious issue. While many opponents feel that Islam is fundamentally responsible for women’s oppression, others point to patriarchal and tribal cultures as contributing factors to women’s precarious condition. Islamists, on the other hand, are striving to promote a purist, rigorous interpretation of Islam while propagating outdated roles.
Muslims’ perspectives on women’s rights
Muslim apologists have consistently highlighted that men’s domination over women and the violation of their rights under Islam is an unfounded and weak position. In this regard, they continue to accept that Islam has strongly regarded women, for instance in terms of their motherhood, to the point where it is obliged to honor them, and that their happiness is agreeable to Allah and even elevated his right over the father’s, emphasizing the importance of taking care of her in the old age and handicap, and all of these examples are also contained in the book.
The following is also mentioned in the defense against criticism:
– Feminist ideals or anti-woman attitudes are frequently at the root of these arguments.
– In Islam, men and women have rights and responsibilities that are founded on commonalities as well as natural and developmental distinctions, with the goal of intelligently regulating social relations.
– The line “the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you” is mentioned in the Qur’an.
– The highest Islamic programs aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. Islam shattered the foundations of ethnic, racial, sexual, and financial domination, uniting all human beings, rich and poor, Arabs and non-Arabs, black and white, and ugly and beautiful.
The Quranic Verse on Women’s Role
In order to investigate these cases and allegations, one needs to consult Islamic history, Qur’anic verses, and hadiths and documented narrations, which provide the clearest explanations and interpretations on the subject of women’s role in Islam.
First and foremost, it should be emphasized that the religion of Islam, in general, asserts that religious orders come to instruct mankind and are independent of time and place. This aspect clearly testifies to the book’s originality, which distinguishes it from the circumstances in the Arabian Peninsula at the time; in other words, Islamic laws and precepts are superior to other views and beliefs at any time, and it is not sufficient to be satisfied with the fact that Islam dealt with superstitious and ignorant traditions of the time. However, it is also debatable if Islam attempted to combat superstitions and manifest humanity’s status.
The purpose of this part is to look at the status and rights of women through the lens of Quranic verses.
Men’s guardianship over women
Let’s start with Surah Al-Nisa verse 34,
Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially. And righteous women are devoutly obedient and, when alone, protective of what Allah has entrusted them with. And if you sense ill-conduct from your women, advise them ˹first˺, if they persist, do not share their beds, but if they still persist, then discipline them gently. But if they change their ways, do not be unjust to them. Surely Allah is Most High, All-Great.
First and foremost, it refers to men’s guardianship over women and claims that it is the source of gender superiority. This section contradicts the verse that states, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Muslim apologists underline that the Qur’an alludes to fiscal stewardship in this regard, because in traditional society, men are often responsible for satisfying women’s needs. The Qur’an, on the other hand, allocates responsibility to man in a broad and direct manner in all dimensions, and in doing so, it grants permission for any misuse in the name of responsibility and guardianship. But then he refers to honorable women as submissive women, emphasizing men’s authority over women.
In the second part, Allah uniquely recommends advice, inattention, and even physical punishment to chastise the disobedient sinful woman. It should be mentioned that, according to the books of law and hadiths, corporal punishment should be light and mild in order to avoid fractures and injuries, as well as bruising of the body. Prescribing this brief corporal punishment is enough to break women’s character and harms their morale and it is always used as a tool to oppress women in Islamic countries.
Women Status in Islam
Also According to Surah Al-Baqarah verse 223, the role of women in Islam is explained as:
Your wives are like farmland for you, so approach them consensually as you please. And send forth something good for yourselves. Be mindful of Allah, and know that you will meet Him. And give good news to the believers.
This verse was revealed to suggest that there is no restriction on having intercourse whenever you desire. Of course, the analogy of women to the field refers to the women’s wombs and the position of the sperm in the womb, and it is used to avoid directly mentioning the word in the Qur’an, despite the fact that the Qur’an contains many such examples.
The situation of women as war captives
Islam goes even further and completely disregards moral rules. Take a look at Surah Al Nisa verse 24:
And also forbidden to you are all married women (muhsanat) except those women whom your right hands have come to possess (as a result of war).
This verse demonstrates that Muslims can have sex with women who have been seized and imprisoned in war, and since it is highly improbable that any prisoner of war would wish to have sex with the enemy, it is reasonable to conclude that Muslims in war can rape female prisoners on the opposing side. It’s worth noting that whether or not she has a captive husband has no bearing on her sentencing since the phrase specifically refers to married women.
This inhumane sentencing was carried out during Muhammad’s time; in fact, Muhammad did exactly the same thing with Safiyya bint Huyayy, Muhammad married her after he took her.
According to the Quran, a man’s testimony is often given twice the weight of a woman’s. Furthermore, for certain sorts of crimes, a woman’s testimony is not accepted at all. According to Surah Al-Baqarah verse 282:
And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses, so that if the one erreth (through forgetfulness) the other will remember.
It could be argued that excluding women from testifying in certain criminal cases is in their best interests. Furthermore, providing evidence is a responsibility, not a right, and thus relieving women of a painful burden should not be considered a breach of human rights. This remark, which has become a standard response among apologists, is, nevertheless, deceptive and distracting. Instead of pursuing the right to equal testimony, pro-rights women’s campaigners object to the discriminatory nature of the prevailing standards. The underlying idea, namely that women are less reliable than males, is what makes this a gender inequity and a source of concern for women’s rights campaigners. Women, according to this traditional view, are not rational beings, but rather emotional beings with a proclivity for amnesia. As a result, it is believed that female statements should not be given full weight and should not be recognized in all circumstances, but only in those that are less essential and when they are accompanied by men’s testimonies. What needs to be tackled is this discriminatory attitude toward women, which prevents women from holding positions of decision-making authority, such as functioning as a judge.
Ownership and Inheritance
Although the Quran recognizes women’s equal right to ownership, their financial and ownership rights are sometimes restricted. The law of inheritance is the first and most important example of inequality. It’s worth remembering that inheritance and family law are inextricably linked. The family system plays a major role in determining which family member is entitled to inherit.
Allah directs you concerning your children: for a male, there is a share equal to that of two females. But, if they are (only) women, more than two, and then they get two-thirds of what one leaves behind. If she is one, she gets one-half. As for his parents, for each of them, there is one-sixth of what he leaves in case he has a child. But, if he has no child and his parents have inherited him, then his mother gets one-third. If he has some brothers (or sisters), his mother gets one-sixth, all after (settling) the will he might have made, or a debt.
The biggest obstacle to these rules being modified and fundamentally amended to reflect gender equality is that the Quran’s rules for women’s inheritance are deemed everlasting. In reality, Islamic jurists see inheritors’ shares as immutable because they are dealt with in the Quran (primarily in Sura al-Nisa), and even upheavals and advances in the modern world cannot persuade them otherwise. As a result, they continue to rely on antiquated justifications for these discriminatory rules.
Polygamy in Islam
While women are only allowed to enter into one marriage at a time under Quranic law, it is a man’s religious and legal right to marry multiple women.
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hands possess [i.e., slaves]. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].
According to Surah Al-Nisa verse 3, males can only have up to four permanent wives at a time, and it should be noted that polygamy is one of the most contentious problems in women’s rights disputes.
Women are recognized in the Quran as dependent on males and as incomplete human beings who require male supervision and control. Women are still treated as second-class citizens under Islamic norms, despite the fact that Islam guarantees equality for both genders. There are countless other examples in the Quran that we did not discuss that attempt to limit women’s social lives and deprive them of their rights.
As previously stated, a woman’s evidence in court is given half the weight that a man’s testimony is given. A similar attitude toward women can be found in the Quran, which states that women are entitled to half of what men are entitled to. In the same way, it grants men significantly more privileges in marriage and divorce than women. Most importantly, only a male can enter into multiple marriages at the same time (up to four permanent marriages and in some cases an unlimited number of temporary marriages are allowed for men).
Arguments based on assumptions about innate, natural differences between the sexes, such as saying that women are weaker and more emotional by nature, making them unfit for hard work or decision-making roles, have long been used to rationalize and justify gender inequities. It is also stated that women were created primarily for the purpose of providing pleasure to males and producing children, functions that confine them to the home, requiring men to guard and provide for them.
The patriarchal management of women and the establishment of gender roles has resulted in a framework that demands women’s allegiance to their husbands and is based on the idea of male superiority and female inferiority. It plainly insists on gender-stereotyped roles and expectations, resulting in men’s economic, social, and political supremacy and women’s dependence. The old patriarchal bias in Islamic rules persists, which can only be regarded as systemic subordination of women, which is unquestionably a human rights violation. Furthermore, Islam is failing to meet its duties under international human rights agreements such as the UDHR and the ICCPR to treat men and women equally.
As a result, it is true to say that Islam is responsible for significant violations of women’s rights in the Middle East due to its resistance to social changes and demands from women’s rights organizations to guarantee gender equality and place control of women’s minds and bodies in women’s hands, as well as its violation of international human rights obligations.