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                       The Role of Muslim Women
                         in an Islamic Society
The Role of Muslim Women in an Islamic Society and the stand of the 

Muslim Brotherhood regarding Womens" rights to vote, be elected, occupy public and governmental posts, and work in general.

(CONTINUATION)

It has been shown throughout the history of Islam that women took part in the First and Second Ba"yat al-Aqabah (pledges of allegiance). Furthermore, it was Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Mohamed (SAAS) who was the first to believe in, support and comfort our Prophet. It was Somayya who was among the first to be martyred upholding Islam. Al-Bukhari and Ahmed (reporters of the traditions of the Prophet Mohamed) cited Al-Rabiyya" the daughter of Mu"awadh as saying: "We used to participate in the battles with the Prophet of Allah. We gave water to the fighters, served them, and returned the dead and wounded to Medina."

Also Muslim, Ibn Majah and Ahmed (in their narrations) said that Umm Ateyya, the Ansari , said: "I accompanied the Messenger of Allah (SAAS) seven times, guarding the camp, making the food, treating the wounded and caring for the sick".

In his Sahih, Muslim reported Umm Sulaim, the wife of Abi Talha, as saying that she carried a dagger on the day of the battle, of Hunain. When the Prophet (SAAS) asked her about it she said, "I carry it so that I can defend myself against the enemies." The Messenger (SAAS) did not forbid this. Nusaibah, the daughter of Ka"b, fought in the wars of riddah (apostasy) at the time of the caliphate of Abu Bakr and she suffered many wounds caused by stabs and strikes.

A marriage is not valid in the Shari"ah of Allah without the approval, acceptance and consent of the woman and it is forbidden by the Shari"a that she be forced to marry someone that she does not accept.

The woman has full financial status that is no less than that of the man. She has the right, in the same way that a man does, to possess all types of wealth whether it be in the form of assets, real estate or cash. She has the right to use her wealth in any manner she wishes to as long as it is approved by the Shari"a. So she can buy, sell, trade, barter, provide grants and loans, incur loans, exchange assets etc. All these actions do not require the consent of any male whether this be her father, husband, or brother. In his sahih, Al-Bukhari titles one chapter: "A woman is permitted to free slaves and give gifts to someone other than her husband, unless she is mentally deranged." In this he reported that Umm al-Muminin, the wife of the Messenger of Allah (SAAS), Maimunah bint Al-Harith freed a girl born as her slave without asking for the Prophet"s (SAAS) permission. When she mentioned this to him he said: "If you had given her to your maternal uncle as a gift, your reward (with Allah) would have been greater."

In one saying, the Messenger (SAAS) said that women are less (than men) in mind, deen and fortune, however he has explained this saying in a manner that is consistent with the texts cited concerning the rights, dignity and honour of women.

The lesser degree in deen does not mean a lesser degree of Iman (Belief) or that she is less human, in that she cannot rise to the highest ranks. This only means that Allah Himself has exempted her from certain forms of ritual worship at certain times, such as prayers and fasting during her ha"id (menstruation periods) and during her nifaas (bleeding time after delivery). The lesser fortune only means that in some cases of inheritance a woman"s share is less than that of a man"s. The Messenger (SAAS) did not generalise this to other rights or to anything indicating a lesser status. The lesser mind is concerning the status of a woman"s testimony in certain matters like debts and sale contracts, and in hudood (punishments). It does not imply anything other than this and is not generalised to degrade women into being inferior to men.

Indeed, in this regard, it should be pointed out that there are certain matters which only accept the testimony of a woman and not that of a man. Furthermore, women are unanimously accepted as narrators of ahadith (the sayings of the Prophet Mohamed), and this means that their testimony in narrating ahadith is treated like that of a man. In addition to this a woman is responsible towards her duties to her faith and she has full independence in her right to possess, and in her right to make contracts. If she was supposed to have a lesser mind, the contracts and other dealings would have required the assistance of a male.

The Quran addresses everyone, men and women, equally: {The Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the worshipping men and worshipping women, the truthful men and truthful women, the pious men and pious women, the alms-giving men and the alms-giving women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who are chaste and the women who are chaste, the men who remember Allah much and the women who do likewise, Allah has prepared a forgiveness and a great reward for all.} (Surat Al-Ahzab (33), ayah 35). Allah also says: {It is not for a believing man or woman, when Allah and His messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any option in their decision.} (Surat Al-Ahzab (33), ayah 36) and {Say to the believers to lower off their gaze and be chaste for this is more pure for them and God knows what they do. Say to the believing women to lower off their gaze and be chaste.} (Surat Al-Nour (24), ayah 30).

As for the Qawwaamah (directing role) that men have over women as mentioned in Allah"s saying {men are the protectors and maintainers of women} (Surat Al-Nisa" (4), ayah 34), this should not be understood as an absolute and general attitude in all things and for all men over all women. The above verse goes on to an explanation of the matter. {For what Allah has favoured some of them over others and for the money they spend.} This determines that a directing role is confined to the family alone and to matters only concerning the husband and wife relationship. As was said earlier the husband has no such directing role over the financial assets of his wife. All her decisions concerning her own property are valid and the husband can not nullify any of them. None of these decisions require the husband"s permission.

This Qawwaamah is merely a matter of leadership and directing in exchange for duties that should be performed. For it is the husband who pays the dowry in marriage, it is he who provides the house, its furniture, and all its needs and it is he who provides for the wife and children. He cannot force his wife to pay for any of these expenses even if she is wealthy. In most cases, the husband is older and it is the husband who is usually the breadwinner of the family and mixes more, with a wider range of people. Every type of group including the family must have a leader to guide it within the limits of what Allah has ordained for there can be no obedience for a human being in a matter involving disobedience to the Creator. It is the husband who is qualified for that leadership.

This role is not one of repression, hegemony, or tyranny but one of kindness, love and gentleness. It directs to the right path in wisdom and benevolence. It is fundamentally based on consultations, as the Quran speaks of the Muslims as {having their affairs in consultation among them.} (Surat Al-Shura (42), ayah 38); this being a general injunction. There is also a specific order in Quran for consultations in the affairs of marriage: {Should they (husband and wife) wish to separate from each other in agreement and upon consultation then they can do so blame lessly.} (Surat Al-Baqara (2),ayah 232). Similarly, in divorce: {And it is not lawful for you (men) to take back (from your wives) any of your gifts which you have given them, except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah (e.g. to deal with each other on a fair basis). Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives something for her freedom} (Surat Al-Baqara (2), ayah 229). Add to this Allah"s saying: {Live with them (wives) in honourably (kindness). If you hate them, it may be that you hate a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of Good.} (Surat Al-Nisa" (4), ayah 19). Other texts in the Shari"a indicate in a clear manner that marital life is based on comfort, gentleness and love and they categorically set out the meaning of Qawwaamah and its limits. Qawwaamah does not mean that women are lower or that they have less rights, Qawwaamah means, as Allah has indicated, that men are responsible for what they spend.

The general rule, therefore, is equality between men and women. The exceptions are from Allah, the All-Knowing and All-Aware because it is He who knows His creation best and the exceptions are in those specific characteristics that distinguish the female from the male. These differences are due to the separate functions that have been accorded to the male and the female. It is because of these complimentary and necessary distinctions that a man becomes attracted to a woman and a woman becomes attracted to a man and a marriage can be a happy, constructive and a healthy one.

The woman"s nature as the mother means that there are certain virtues which Allah has made specific to her such as the protection of her honour and the honour of her offspring. For example, religious texts ordained that the woman"s body, except for the face and the hands, should be covered in front of all except those who are a mahram (those she is forbidden to marry). And that a woman should not sit in private with a man who is not mahram.

Furthermore, the female has a greater sense of modesty and sensitivity. Hence, though she should demand her rights and practise them accordingly, this practice should be such that her modesty, dignity, virtue and sanctity be preserved.

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