Muslim society over the centuries has treated women as second class citizens. It’s been this way since the beginning of time. Women are treated in this manor for a number of reasons, but all leading back to the Quran. Women are considered inferior to men, are treated unfairly in marriage, and even are oppressed legally, but all are approved of in the Quran.
It describes in detail the way that a woman is to be treated and the way a women should treat her husband. The Quran expresses the equality of the sexes in the following. “And their Lord answereth them, `I will not suffer the work of him among you that worketh, whether of male or female, to be lost. The one of you is the issue of the other.”(Q 3:195) So while the Qur`an holds the works of men and women in equal regard and acknowledges that they are completely interdependent to their very existence, They are not regarded as having equal worth as people. The fact that men are a step above the women and superior to them is evident in the following verses. “And it is for the women to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness; but the men are a step above them.”(Q 2:228) “Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other.”(Q4:34) Women are thought of as being lower in intellect and spirituals in comparison to men. In the Quran it states, “And of His signs is that He created for you, of yourselves, spouses, that you may repose in them.”(Q 30″21) This causes many Muslims to look at women as creations like the animals and plants and other useful things created by Allah. Muslims believe that women are lacking many of the traits that men possess. The believe that women are lacking gratitude as well as intelligence. The Hadith speaks of this subject saying, “Women are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favours and the good (charitable) deeds done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, `I have never received and good from you.” Also women are not reliable witnesses due to their lack of intelligence and their emotional state.
It is said that, “Women was made to bear and feed children. Therefore she is very emotional. And she is forgetful, because if she did not forget how it is to give birth she would not have another child. That is why she will not be as reliable a witness as a man.” Women have so many things separating them from men in the Muslim society. It is believed that every woman has ten awrah. (translation: the external genitals, especially of the female, Latin- something to be ashamed of ) It is perceived that women are awrah and that is one reason that all women must not show any part of their body along with staying in the house. It is believed that the woman’s place is in the home and that she shouldn’t even leave the house to pray at the mosque, but rather she is closer to Allah while inside the home. Some groups such as the Malikiyah and Hanafiyah do allow the woman’s face to be shown, but only if the face is not naturally beautiful and makeup is not worn. It is thought that Allah decreed that the face be veiled not for the chastity of the woman, but for the chastity of the men who might look at her. For this defeats the woman’s biggest evil her sexuality. It is believed that a woman’s way to paradise is through her husband. All the man’s needs must be met before anything else may be completed. If a woman is cooking and her husband desires sexual pleasures it is better to let the food burn than to deny her husband. This is true because if the husband is not satisfied then he be cannot at peace to pray to Allah therefore the woman is in bad favor with Allah and all the angels until she satisfies her husband again. There is never anything that a woman can do to repay her husband for taking her as his wife. It is a noble sacrifice for a man to share his life with a woman; she being deficient in mind, religion, and gratitude. There is no sacrifice she can make to repay the favour he has done for her. The rights of Muslim women and men are as you might expect them to be. The women’s rights are very simple as stated in the Quran, “It is that you shall give her food when you have taken your food, that you shall clothe her when you have clothed yourself, that you shall not slap her on the face, nor revile her, not desert her except within the house. Other than that she has no rights, he has the right to beat her if she does one of four things.
One if she doesn’t wear the fineries wanted by the husband. Two if she refuses sexual intercourse. Three when she is told to bath and she refuses. Fourth when she goes abroad without permission of her husband. These are all legal caused for a man to beat his wife. It is also the right of the man to marry up to four wives and to have as many slave girls as he sees fit. Adultery is one of the worst sins a man can commit so Allah allows him to have four wives and as many slave girls as needed to satisfy his lust. Again freeing him from his lust allows him to be more at peace and better able to pray to Allah. There is one provision dealing with slave girls though, a man is only allowed to have sexual intercourse with a slave girl if he has paid the extra amount of money to the seller for that benefit. Men also have all the rights after a divorce in matters dealing with the custody of a child. “The conditions of the custody of the children is as follows. First the wife should not reject Islam. If she rejects Islam, she has no right to the custody of the children. Second, she must be of good character for if it was proven that she is corrupted by illicit sex, or theft, or has a low trade such as a professional mourner, or a dancer, she loses her right to custody. Third, she is not allowed to marry anyone except the father of the child. If she remarries, she has no right to custody, unless her new husband is related to the child as a paternal uncle. But if she marries a foreigner she has no right to custody. Fourthly, she must not leave the child without supervision. Especially if the child is a female, because females need protection. So if the mother had to go outside for a long period and so neglect her child, she has no right to the custody of the child. Fifthly, if the father is poor, and the mother refused the custody of the child except for payment, and his aunt said “I will look after him for free, “then the aunt will have the right to the custody of the child. To follow the religion of Islam is not a condition to the right of custody, for if the husband is married to one of the people of the Book, she has the right to custody as long as he is safe from apostasy, or corruption.
But if that is not so, such as he say her taking the child to a church, or feeding him pigs meat, or giving him wine, then the father has the right to take the child from her, and sanity is a pre-requisite that is agreed upon by all” A husband may be one of the only things a woman may choose under Islam. Marriages are no longer forced by fathers and this practice is actually discouraged. If a man knows that a father is trying to force a marriage it is his obligation not to marry the woman. Every woman must marry of her own free will or the marriage is null and void. This is also true if a dowry isn’t included in the marriage. A dowry is given to the father for the securing of the sexual rights of the woman. This is also true outside of marriage. If a man has sexual intercourse with a married woman, by mistake, thinking that she was his wife, then he must pay to her and not to her husband a dowry equal to her social worth. This is even stated in the Quran in 4:24 when it is said, “Such wives as you enjoy thereby, give them their wages apportionate.” Under Islam when a couple is married the property and everything on it don’t belong to the couple as a whole, but rather remains the husbands. This forces the wife to rely on the husband for her daily needs. (i.e. food,clothing,sexual pleasure) This gives the man a very large advantage because the woman cannot survive without his support and a man may refuse support for a number of reasons.
1. If she leaves the house without his permission
2. If she refuses to give herself to him
3. If the woman is a renegade
4. If the woman who obeys the husband’s son or his father or kiss either with lust or anything that might put her relation with her husband on a prohibited degree.
5. If the marriage contract is imperfect (i.e. if she had sex with someone by mistake, the man thinking she was his Wife)
6. If the wife is too young to have sex
7. If the wife is imprisoned even if innocent
8. If the wife doesn’t surrender herself in his home on the day due to illness.
9. If a wife was raped
10. If a wife goes to perform a pilgrimage (she in this case would not be under her husband’s care at this time)
These instances of inequality among men and women of Islam where not the isolated or uncommon examples.