For many westerners the idea that "Islam oppresses women" is a well established fact. The rights of women in Islam, especially those living under an Islamic system, is a hotly debated topic where much misunderstanding exists.
Some of the statements made concerning Islam's treatment of women are ludicrous, fictitious and comical in some instances.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a discredited ex-Dutch MP, who lied about an arranged marriage to secure Dutch citizenship, is one of these so-called champions of Muslim women's rights. Her note to fame came after she wrote a screenplay for a film called Submission directed by the murdered film director Theo van Gogh.
The film's title is a direct translation of the word "Islam" and portrays four naked Muslim women after they have been beaten and raped by male members of their families. Verses from the Holy Qur'an concerning women are then superimposed on their naked beaten bodies. Someone with even the slightest knowledge of Islam knows that accusing the Qur'an of encouraging rape, especially by family members, is a ludicrous claim to say the least.
Unfortunately, when discussing the rights of Muslim women this level of argument is all too common.
Bush's recent speech on the Caliphate, cited examples from the Taliban to paint a picture of the Caliphate as "a land where women were imprisoned in their homes…girls could not go to school…women were publicly whipped."
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the Taliban's rule, how will the soon to be established Caliphate deal with women?
It's important to understand that the attack on Islam's treatment of women comes not from Muslim women themselves but from mainly from non-Muslims who have an outsiders view on the issue. This need many feel to "liberate" Muslim women from the shackles of their family prison or from the hijab are not shared by the majority of Muslim women.
In a poll conducted by The Gallup Organization, and reported in the New York Times article - Muslim Women Don't See Themselves as Oppressed, Survey Finds - showed clearly the aspirations and concerns of Muslim women. Their main concerns were the lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption. All concerns that only the Caliphate will address.
"The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa, the garment covering face and body, seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women's answers to the open-ended questions, the poll analysts said."
The survey also found that "an overwhelming majority of the women polled in each country cited "attachment to moral and spiritual values" as the best aspect of their own societies."
Islam is unique when it comes to treating the problems of men and women. In "man-made" systems and religions, where human beings (mostly men) decide their own values and legislative systems, women will inevitably suffer oppression and exploitation. Men don't understand what its like to be a women so how can they possible legislate laws for them?
Islam was revealed from the creator of men and women – Allah (swt). This ensures that women do not suffer under man-made laws that suit the interests of men only.
Islam recognises that men and women have different natures and therefore different roles to play in society.
Here are a few points regarding the position of women in the Caliphate:
Seeking knowledge is obliged on men and women. It's especially important for women to have a high level of Islamic education as they are the primary source of knowledge for their children whilst growing up.
It's obligatory on the Caliphate to provide the best education and medical services possible to its citizens. It is therefore necessary to have an abundance of women doctors, nurses and teachers to fulfil these roles.
Article 173 of the draft constitution states:
"It is an obligation upon the State to teach every individual, male or female, those things which are necessary for the mainstream of life. This should be obligatory and provided freely in the primary and secondary levels of education. The State should, to the best of its ability, provide the opportunity for everyone to continue higher education free of charge."
The primary role of a woman is a mother and a wife. She is not burdened with having to work to support herself. This burden falls on her male guardians – either her husband if she is married or her father or brothers. If she has no guardian then she is entitled to state benefits and not obliged to find work.
Having said this, women are allowed to work and play an important role in the society beside their role in the family. Women doctors, teachers, nurses, judges, police officers are all necessary for the society to function. Women may feel embarrassed discussing marital disputes or asking sensitive questions related to women only issues to a male judge. Women judges, especially in the family courts will be needed by the state.
Even if a Muslim women works she is under no obligation to spend money on the family. She may be rich but the burden falls on the man. The husband or family has no right to touch the finances of the women under his care. Muslim women must pay their taxes if they work such as Kharaj, ushr and zakat. Non-Muslim women citizens (dhimmi) are exempt from paying the Jizya (head tax) even if they work.
Women are obliged to voice their political opinions and account the Caliphate government. They can be judges, heads of government departments, members of the House of Representatives (Majlis ul-Ummah) and they can vote for the Caliph. Due to restrictions imposed by their creator – Allah (swt) who knows them better than they know themselves, they cannot hold the position of Caliph or any cabinet posts. Muslim women will have no issue with this as they work hard to obey their creator and gain His pleasure.
Honour killings, domestic violence and mistreatment of wives is completely prohibited by Islam. The aim of marriage is to achieve tranquillity through a partnership between husband and wife.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, "The one who has the most perfect Imaan (belief) amongst you is the one with the most beautiful morals and the best of you is the one who is best to his wives." [Tirmidhi]
RULE OF LAW
Men and women are treated equally under the law. The only differences are when it comes to the number of witnesses required to convict a person. Generally, two women witnesses are equal to one male witness. This doesn't mean that women have half the status of a man as some claim, rather this law is decreed not by man but by the women's creator – Allah (swt). Again women accept this position willingly as obedience to Allah (swt).
Much has been made of Islam's adultery laws saying they unfairly target women. Examples are cited from Pakistan and from under the Taliban.
The adultery law applies equally to men as it does to women. For a court case of adultery to be proven, four trustworthy witnesses whose testimonies are thoroughly investigated, must testify to have seen the actual penetration. If the accuser cannot provide these four witnesses he himself will face lashing. If the accused women testifies under oath that she was raped then even with four witnesses she wouldn't face punishment.
It should be noted that in ordinary court courses for example for theft and murder require 2 witnesses. Adultery requires 4 witnesses who MUST see actual penetration. In practice, its virtually impossible to get 4 witnesses to this crime. The evidence for all adultery court cases during the early years of the Caliphate was confession and NOT witnesses. The harsh punishment for adultury (stoning to death) is a detterant punishment showing the society the strong value of marriage. An example adultery court case is given below.
Some Muslims in Basra became critical of the conduct of Mugheera. Among them was Abu Bakra Thaqeefi whose house across the street faced the house of Mugheera. One day a strong wind blew and the windows of the houses of Abu Bakra and Mugheera got opened through the force of the wind.
Abu Bakra saw through his window that in this house Mugheera was locked up in an uncompromising state with a woman. He thought that the woman was Umm Jamil. He had some friends with him, and they also saw Mugheera involved with a woman.
Abu Bakra Saqeefi wrote to Umar accusing Mugheera of adultery. The report was endorsed by four witnesses who had seen Mugheera in an uncompromising state with a woman.
Umar took prompt action. Umar appointed Abu Musa as the Governor of Basra and removed Mugheera from the office. Mugheera was summoned to Madina to face the trial. Abu Bakra and the other witnesses who had made the complaint were also summoned to Madina.
At the trial, Mugheera pleaded not guilty. His defense was that the woman in question was his wife and not Umm Jamil. With great indignation he averred that Abu Bakra and the men with him had no right to interfere in his privacy.
Abu Bakra on the other hand maintained that the woman was Umm Jamil. Three other witnesses corroborated the statement of Abu Bakra. The fourth witness Ziyad stated that he had seen the event, but he had not seen the face of the woman and did not know who she was. The other witnesses were cross examined, and it was found that there were some weak points in their evidence. They were asked whether the woman had her back or her face toward them. They said that she had their back to them. They tried to make out that even from her back she could be identified as Umm Jamil. They argued that the scandal of Mugheera and Umm Jamil was very common in Basra, and that lady was none else but Umm Jamil.
Under the Quranic law in order to press the charge of adultery definite evidence of four witnesses was necessary. As in this case the fourth witness was not sure of the identification of the woman, Mugheera was given the benefit of doubt and acquitted. Abu Bakra and his companions who had leveled the charge were punished with lashes for making a charge which could not be established.
Women in the Caliphate are obliged to wear the headscarf (khimar) and the long dress (jilbab). They are not obliged to cover their faces, although if they want to follow this Islamic opinion and wear the burqa they can.
Hijab is not an issue for Muslim women as the survey cited above makes clear. The west has an obsession with the hijab and women's clothing in general. In France, the home of Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent they became so obsessed they banned the hijab. This oppression of women, forcing them to remove their clothing and walk around in clothing more pleasing to men's eyes, would never happen in the Caliphate. The fact that countries have to ban the hijab, shows the growing number of Muslim women that love the hijab and want to wear it. It also shows the complete failure of the western views of women that are pushed as "universal values" for humanity.
Before those in the west jump to conclusions about Muslim women start making up rules for them, they should ask Muslim women what THEY want. The Gallup Organization survey makes it clear that what Muslim women want is Islam and the unity of the Muslims, i.e. the re-establishment of the Caliphate.