By Abdellatif Sharaa
As the world began to get more open and societies started to get closer to each other by various means, something started to develop slowly, and turned from being local into something universal. Many started to speak about human rights until it became an issue taken up by the United Nations, which issued the Declaration of Human Rights, which was considered by many as a milestone in the history of human rights.
It was then the turn of women to demand their rights and suffrage movements began to surface not only in the West, but also in many of the countries on this side of the hemisphere. It is unfortunate that Islam was and is still being criticized for being anti-woman, of oppressing her and depriving her of most of her basic rights, and the fact is it is to the contrary.
Women in the pre-Islam (jahiliya) era were under extreme oppression, ill-treated and disrespected, until the arrival of Islam 1,442 years ago, which liberated women from all types of slavery and restored her status. Arabs during jahiliya used to be very ashamed when a girl was born, to the point that it was mentioned in the Holy Quran: “And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face became dark, and he suppresses grief * He hides himself from people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide.” (16-58, 16-59).
Fathers used to bury their daughters alive out of shame and to avoid any bad things that may occur later in life. Women in pre-Islam jahiliya used to be considered as property like anything in the house, to the point that her husband could gamble her away and worse, it used to be that the eldest son could inherit his father’s wife. That is how bad things were, until the arrival of Islam, which abolished all of the above and restored women to their deserved status.
Islam aims at having justice among people – all people – including religious justice between men and women in most aspects of life. Their duties and accountability in front of Allah (God) is equal without any discrimination, as Almighty Allah said in the Holy Quran: “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the beat of what they used to do.” (16:97)
In fact Islam guaranteed to the woman her right to marry if she chooses to do so, and cannot be prevented from it if she is able to meet her duties as required. Meanwhile, Islam allowed the wife to ask for divorce if her husband cannot give her due rights or cause her any harm. Islam gave women the right to get into business in any legal form, while allowing her to use her own money the way she wants and forbade others including her husband or other relatives to force her to spend on certain things and not on others.
Now, we really do not have the right to blame Islam for any behavior that does not respect women’s rights or deprives them of their freedoms, as many are the ignorant who are still among us.