This article is written by Vrinda Chauhan. Vrinda is currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons) from Aligarh Muslim University.
The sense of freedom, entitlement and liberation are the basic requisites any individual would want in life. Some struggle for it while others succumb to it but no one wishes to lead a life without any rights or privileges. Women and their representatives have been fighting for years up until now, for equal rights for them. But Islam has delineated the rights of women almost 1400 years ago, a time when feminism was not even heard of. Islam advocates for spiritual equality where both male and female have the same spirit, enjoying no superiority over one another in the spiritual sense. (Noble Qur`an 4:1, 7:189, 42:11). The two genders in Islamic perspective share equal rights but do have specific roles. This means that they may enjoy certain benefits in some cases but in total their rights are balanced.
Glancing at the rights a woman has been enjoined in Islam, be it economic rights, social rights and political rights one would find a fair representation of the fairer sex in the life and times of Prophet and also after him.
Islam gives women the right to inheritance, and to spend it as per her desire without even having to spend it on her household, which is the sole responsibility of the man in the house. This is in itself liberation from the worries of earning for the sustenance of the family from which women are exempted. But this does not mean Islam opposes the notion of women to take on a profession. Rather, Islam encourages the idea of female physicians, nurses and teachers in the society. But that comes with a condition of maintaining the proper conduct as prescribed by the Qur`an. For this, she is entitled to equal pay for equal worth of work.
Regarding the social aspect, women are rather favoured in this context where they are entitled to extra care and respect from their fathers, brothers, husbands and children. Oppression of a girl child is considered a disgrace. The parents who bring up their daughters well are promised of better rewards in the hereafter. The duty, not the right, the duty of education, as the Prophet said, is a duty on every Muslim, be it male or female.
During marriage, the bride is entitled to a gift from the groom in terms of mahr (dower) rather than the prevalent dowry which is the cause of a lot of social disgraces imparted on women. Islam allows the women to retain their identities and properties even after marriage and consider the relation to be that of partners rather than of master and slave. Even in the case of dispute both the partners have an equal say and are entitled to absolve the relationship. Even motherhood is a divine sanction in Islam where the Prophet has enjoined the Paradise to be at the feet of a mother.
Having pronounced all the above recognition of women in Islam it can be rightly said that Islam empowers women in a befitting manner.