Marriage and Relationships Women and Islam

Islam and Women

ISLAM AND WOMEN (This is the gist of the address delivered by Hazrat KhalifatuL W, Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, to Lajna Imaillah – Ahmadiyya Ladies’ Organisation — on August 12, 1989, at the. Annual U.K. Convention held at Islamabad, Tilford, U.K.) Hazrat Khalifatul Masih commenced Ms address with reference to some religious slogans which had been uttered by a lady from Ghana. He said that when he visited Ghana on tour, thousands of Ahmadi ladies dressed in white greeted him at the airport chanting songs and slogans of welcome. When Pakistani Ahmadi ladies in London saw this welcome on video they wondered why it had never been their practice to do so. He said that after recitation from the Holy Quran and also of a poem he would call upon those Ghana Ahmadi ladies who are present to demonstrate similar chantings. Hazrat Khlifatul Masih then described an interesting event about an Ahmadi lady who was attending the conference and who had been anxious to dedicate a child to the service of Islam in accordance with his new Devotee Scheme. She became pregnant but was advised by her doctors to have an abortion due to complications. She insisted, however, to have the child. At the time of birth she suffered from brain failure and the doctors said that there was no hope of her recovery. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih said that on the request of some of her relatives he prayed earnestly for the survival of the mother and child so that it would be a sign of the truth of Ahmadiyyat. Immediately her condition started to improve and she regained consciousness much to the surprise of the doctors who had expectecd her to die. Nevertheless, they said that they believed that her mental abilities were damaged beyond repair. It is by the Grace of God that you have just heard her recite a portion of the Holy Quran and you see her leading a normal life again. There have been numerous similar examples which ever continue to occur thereby proving the efficacy and acceptance of prayer. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih described the ecstatic condition of his heart when he heard the songs of welcome from men, women and children in different dialects glorifying Islam as he travelled from country to country in Africa. He found the part played by children to be most heart-warming. He was particularly impressed by his visit to Sierra Leone where the Ahmadiyya Community has established 154 schools including 27 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 5 Secondary schools in which children of all religions study without descrimination. The amazing unifying factor was that all of them chanted the Kalima with one deep voice. If men could express their religious zeal by calling out slogans then why should not women have the same right? Some wrong ideas have been adopted by Muslims regarding listening to spiritual songs and listening to the voices of women. Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqua, wife of the Holy Prophet of Islam, used to address large gatherings attended by men. What is forbidden is listening to those kinds of musical songs which can contaminate and beguile the minds of men. He noted a contradiction which no one seems to object to where Muslims listen to songs by women on television and radio but object if a Muslim lady recites a spiritual lyric or poem out of love for the Holy Prophet of Islam. A sense of balance should be created. We have to present the position of Ahmadi women in the correct Islamic way and, at the same time, we have to be cautious in considering the pros and cons in every step taken. An Ahmadi lady should always keep in mind her spiritual status in her daily behaviour. At this point Hazrat Khalifatul said that he now wished to continue his uncompleted speech of last year on the topic of Islam and Women. The Holy Prophet of Islam laid such emphasis on the exalted position of mothers that no other religion or civilisation can produce such admirable teachings concerning mothers. With regard to parents the Holy Quran states: Thy Lord has commanded, that ye worship none but Him, and that you show kindness to parents. If one or both of them attain old age with thee, never say to them as much as ugh nor reproach them, but always address them with kindly speech. And lower to them the wing of humility out of tenderness. And say, ‘My Lord have mercy on them even as they nourished me when I was a little child.’ (17: 24,25) Hazrat Khalifatul Masih said that the modern world had forgotten and ignored these teachings, and that in advanced countries respect and care for parents is declining day by day. The younger generations discard their parents and this insensitivity is demonstrated openly in Western countries without the slightest prick of conscience. Most cases of suicide among elderly people are due to their unfulfilled desires to enjoy the company of their children. He said that he was not pointing out this state of affairs just to criticise the West as, infact, he also points out the ills in 6 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Eastern society and always Muslims to follow the moral teachings of Islam. And We nave enjoined, on man to be good to his parents-his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years — and said, Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. Unto Me is the final return. And if. they contend with thee to make thee set up equals with Me concerning which thou hast no knowedge, obey them not, but be a kind companion to them in worldy affairs, and in spiritual matters. follow the way of him who turns to Me. (31: 15,16) Commenting on these verses Hazrat Khalifatul Masih said that they explain the duties and obligations of children towards their parents even if they endeavour to make them associate partners with God. They should always be grateful to them and especially to their mother who bore them in travail and attended to their needs. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih then quoted some authentic reports of sayings and incidents in the life of the Holy Prophet. In the following report the Holy Prophet laid great stress on showing more kindness to mothers than fathers: Hazrat Abu Hurrairah reported that the Holy Prophet was asked: ‘0 Messenger of Allah to whom should I be kind?’ The’Holy Prophet replied: ‘To your mother’. ‘To whom after that?’ Again the Holy Prophet replied: ‘Be kind to your mother’. A third time they asked: ‘To whom after that’. He answered: ‘To your father’. The writer reports in the same book: My grandfather (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Holy Prophet: ‘To whom should I be kind?’ The’Holy Prophet replied: Be kind to your mother, sister, brethren, slave and your kith and kin. This is an obligatory right and you should always keep in view the rights of your dear ones.’ The subject of Jehad (striving in the way of Allah) said Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, is well known to all of you. He quoted the instance of a man who offered to fight in a battle. The Holy Prophet asked him if his parents were alive to which he replied in the affirmative whereupon the Holy Prophet told him to go and serve them as this would be his jehad. In reply to a question as to how people can serve their deceased parents the Holy Prophet mentioned four ways: (1) Regularly pray to Allah for them and ask Him to forgive them their sins. (2) Fulfill their unfulfilled promises. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 7 (3) Respect their friends. (4) Be kind to their relatives. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih remarked that while Islam calls for kind treatment to both parents preference has often bden given to the mother for whom the Holy Prophet reserved a position of very hight status. One way of being kind to one’s mother is to be kind to her relatives. This was practised by the Holy Prophet. It has been reported by Hazrat Abu Tufail that when the Holy Prophet’s foster mother visited him he spread a sheet of cloth for her to sit on. He gave her the rights of-a real mother. He also showed the same kindness to the kith and kin of his foster mother and on many occasions showed exceptional kindness to the people of her tribe. Turning to the subjectpf Islamic divorce Hazrat Khalifatul Masih stated that the Holy Quran provides comprehensive te’achings and guidance on the topic where as he could find little about it in the teachings of other religions. The Holy Quran teaches that if a marriage agreement has been broken after the promised amount of dowery has been announced then the bridegroom should pay half of it to the rejected lady. Furthermore he should even give her what he can afford even if a promised amount of dowery had not been announced. After divorce a husband has no right to reclaim a penny of what he had given to her. The opponents of Islam say that Muslim women have no rights and that she is treated like a slave or piece of property. This is not true. No other religion or society provides such considerate laws for the welfare of women as does Islam. Non-Muslim nations could benefit from them. Other religions do not stipulate, for instance, entitlement of any share of inheritance for women except in the case where they have no brothers. Islam prescribes fixed percentages of inheritance for sons and daughters and also for near relatives. Western scholars object to the Quranic teachings granting males double the share of females. It should be kept in mind, however, that in the first place Islam has apportioned a share for females and secondly that the financial responsibility of maintaining the family rests entirely upon the husband which is a sort of special position. Husband should not ask their wives to contribute towards the expenses of the home. Whatever wives earn or possess is their own over which husbands have no control. As it is the husband’s responsibility to provide all the needs for his wife and home it is not unfair that his share of inheritance should be double; -and it is baseless to suggest that on this account women have been suppressed. In olden times women were not only deprived of inheritance but they were also considerd just as chattels. 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Hazrat Khalifatul Masih said that the period of menstruation has been declared by some religions to be a time of such impurity that women are not even allowed to cook or touch the utensils while Islam only forbids sexual intercourse during that period. Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqua used to eat and drink with the Holy Prophet and he would drink from the same glass and place from which she drank. He would even bite meat from a bone at the same spot from which she had eaten. It is unfortunate that sometimes even Ahmadis are unkind to their wives although he had often reminded them about the matter. As long as men do not discharge their duties properly towards women they will not progress nor will the status of Islam be re-established in the world. No one ever protected the rights of women more than the Holy Prophet of Islam. Even his companions complained about the rights and attention he bestowed upon them. The Holy Prophet taught that the best person was he who treated his wife and children the best and that he was the best example. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih urged Ahmadi men and women to follow the example and teachings of the Holy Prophet otherwise home life would become a hell instead of a paradise. He was so considerate that he said that husbands should not return home after long absence without giving some advance notice to make any needful preparations. The Holy Prophet also said that if a husband disliked something about his wife then he should look at and consider those things which he likes about her. This applies to both men and women as no one is perfect. This practice is essential for the reformation of society and should be observed by eveybody. The Holy Prophet used to assist his wives by doing different kinds of household chores, sewing his clothes and repairing his shoes. Women should compete with men in good works, said Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, and this would re-establish her rightful position in the world. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih continued by saying that he wanted to speak on one or two responsiblities of the ladies. While it is true that sometimes husbands are unduly harsh and unjust to their wives, they themselves should sometimes be prepared to share the blame for the behaviour of their husbands. He said that sometimes he has observed that while a husband is attentive to his wife’s needs she will become ill-tempered and show ingratitude over a slight fault or slackness and complain that he has never done her a favour in his life; or if she experiences a little discomfort on a journey she will loose her temper with her husband despite how much he has endeavoured to care for her. Such incidents happen every day and Hazrat Khalifatul Masih stressed the need to observe Islamic ideals in maintaining a harmonious life in the home. He said that if wives (continued on page 16)