On Women and Islam
By Fethullah Gülen
The Qur’an invites people to form a family life and points out many wisdoms and benefits of marriage. “And Allah has given you wives of your own kind, and has given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?” (16:72).
The Qur’an views marriage as a serious commitment on the part of the husband and wife; it is a covenant between the husband and wife. It speaks of the rights of the husband and the wife. “If you wish to divorce one wife and marry another, do not take from her the dowry you have given her, even if it be a talent of gold. Is it appropriate to take this by making up reasons for divorce and intentionally sinning? How can you take it back when you have lain with each other and put your heads on the same pillow and entered into a firm contract? That would be improper and grossly unjust” (4:20-21).
In addition to this, the Holy Book, in principle emphasizes what is good and consistently declares that spouses should do what is good towards each other.
“O you who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) you should put constraint upon them that you may take away a part of that which you have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein Allah has placed much good.” (4:19).
In order to strengthen the ties of marriage, the Qur’an places more responsibility upon the husband’s shoulders. It also imposes part of the responsibilities upon the community, in the case of a disagreement between spouses. It views divorce, which God dislikes, as the last resort when reconciliation becomes impossible.
“O Prophet! When you (men) divorce women, divorce them for their (legal) period and reckon carefully the period, and keep your duty to Allah, your Lord particularly about the rights of your wives. Expel them not from their houses nor let them go forth unless they commit an immorality such as adultery. Such are the limits (imposed by) Allah; and whoso transgresses Allah’s limits, he verily wrongs his soul. You know not: it may be that Allah will afterward bring some new thing to pass. Then, when they have reached their term (a three month period), take them back in kindness or part from them in kindness, and call to witness two just men among you, and keep your testimony upright for Allah. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day is exhorted to act thusly. And whosoever keeps his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him.” (65:1-2).
Another Qur’anic verse says:
“When you divorce your wives, lodge them where you dwell according to your wealth, and do not pressure them to leave through harassment. And if they are with child, give them their expenses until they give birth to their child. After you cut your relationship with them, if they continue to suckle your children, give them their due payment. Resolve the issue of payment due with kindness amongst yourselves according to your legal customs. If the mother of the child, by not suckling the child causes problems, the father should pay for another woman to suckle his child. Those who are wealthy should give according to their wealth. Those who have limited income, let them give according to their wealth from what God has given them. God makes people responsible only according to their capacity. God bestows ease after difficulty.” (65:7).
Thus, the Qur’an as in many cases, in this matter, in addition to reminding the spouses about their duties towards one another, emphasizes the main principles of human morality, and invites individuals to be respectful to God and virtuous towards each other. Such an atmosphere of respect is necessary for the continuation of humane and legal relations. That is because institutions, such as marriage, with a unique aspect of privacy, can hardly be controlled by outsiders. As a matter of fact, it is a considerable issue to refer to a judge or a referee in the case of disagreement between spouses. Yet, the fundamental issue is to prevent the problems from the very beginning, or to solve them at the very time of occurrence. This is, in a great deal, related to the personality, ethics, and characteristics of the two parties. It is highly difficult to keep the harmony of married life through various philosophical and legal orders, without putting the faith of God in the heart without a sense of self-criticism and respect for people.
The Qur’an, in various places, draws attention via emphasis on the warm atmosphere of the home “And one of the signs of His existence and power is this: He has created for you helpmates in order to make you feel comfortable with one another, and He ordained between you love and mercy. There are lessons in this sign for those who reflect.” (30:21).
Islam addressed women and men equally and raised women, with its remarkable breath, to a blessed position. It took women from being objects for men to the level that paradise laid under her feet. After the emergence of Islam, no one could force such a gentle creature to adultery, whoredom, and impurity. She would not be treated as property; she could not be accused of impurity. Such an accusation would result in a severe punishment on the part of the accuser. “And those who accuse honorable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony – They indeed are evil-doers. Save those who afterward repent and make amends. (For such) lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. As for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves; let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies, (swearing) by Allah that he is of those who speak the truth; And yet a fifth, invoking the curse of Allah on him if he is of those who lie.” (24:4-7). Female children would not be looked down upon. Infanticide would be prohibited. “Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! The slaying of them is great sin.” The Qur’an has declared. Even if she is physically different, this is not a reason to be looked down upon.
In the Qur’anic view of creation, Adam is created first and Eve is created from the same leaven (2:187). This Qur’anic picture reminds us that men and women are both equally humans. They are two entities that complete one another, as the Qur’an presents. The difference between both is based on certain purposes and designs and is not ontological. The Qur’anic verses that give the impression of the superiority of men over women are expressions with regard to certain capacities. “Do not desire something that God has given more of to someone else other than you. Men have the share of what they have earned, and women have the share of what they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things.” (4:32). The Qur’an reminds us of these differences, and that being from a certain gender should not be seen as a reason for complaint. There is no difference at all as far as human relationships are concerned. Whoever gains, gains for him or her.
As stated above, with regard to humanity and human relationships with God, there is no difference between women and men. They are equals concerning their rights and responsibilities. Woman is equal to man in the rights of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of living a decent life, and freedom of finance. Equality before the law, just treatment, marriage and founding a family life, personal life, privacy and protection are all among the rights of women. Her possessions, life and dignity are assured like that of men. Violation of any of these rights results in severe punishment.
Yes, woman is free and independent before law. Her femaleness does not limit or invalidate any of her eligibilities. When her rights are violated, she can seek for justice just as men can. If someone takes her possessions wrongly, she has all rights of reclamation. Considering some qualities of women and men, Islam has developed certain legal prescriptions: for example, women are exempted from certain charges such as military services, going to war, taking care of the financial obligations of a family and herself, etc.
As for testimony, yes, the Qur’an says that when you cannot find two men to testify, find one trustworthy man and two women, for if one forgets, the other will remind her. (2.282). It is not acceptable to deduce any meaning from this verse to indicate the superiority of men over women in humanity and in value. The fundamental issue here is the realization of justice.
This is not a matter unique to women. The testimony of some male Bedouins has been rejected when the matter is related to the rights and realization of justice. The issue of testimony is related to a strong commitment to communal life. The involvement of witnesses in all segments of social life—even today a reality—the lack of witnessing many aspects of the life of people are always possible for some men and women. This issue of testimony in the Qur’an relates to oral testimony with regards to financial matters and loans. Otherwise, the testimony of women in writing, when needed, is accepted as equal by some scholars of Islamic law.
I’m Learning the Names of Allah (II) – Zoey the Zebra
Author/Translator/Orator: Nur Kutlu
Zoey the Zebra learns that as-Sani means that Allah makes everything in its best shape and form. We are all made differently but are all creatures of Allah. This story helps our children to understand and appreciate our differences and similarities. The books of the series, “I’m Learning Allah’s Names” each take one of the ninety-nine names of Allah and explain them to children through animal characters and their adventures. The child then forever has a very clear story to which they can connect the meaning. At the end of each book, there is a paragraph of explanation about the story and questions to make sure that the children understands the content and the meaning of each name.
Publisher/Manufacturer: Timas Kids
Purchase: $5.36 + Tax & S/H
February is Black History Month, or National African-American History Month. Since 1976, this month has been designated to celebrate the social, cultural and political achievements made by African-Americans and recognize the role they have played in American history.
Nearly every teacher in the United States devotes lesson plans designed to educate children on the importance of Black History Month. Here’s what you can do as a Muslim parent:
Written by Terri Arain
All children, no matter how creative, imaginative and self-sufficient, will at one time or another experience a case of boredom or restlessness. Here are some suggestions to help you alleviate boredom in your little one on those snowy days.
- Washing Windows
Fill a spray bottle with water and ¼ cup white vinegar. Give your child the bottle and cleaning cloth and let her help you wash the windows, bathroom counters, or kitchen appliances. She will love to be your helper and work alongside you while you do some of your own cleaning. (My 10 year old loves this!)
- Sharpen a Pencil
Although you may not think that this activity would hold your child’s attention for long, you may be surprised! Your preschooler will no doubt have a lot of fun sharpening pencils. Give him a pencil sharpener, all of the pencils in the house, and a small plate or bowl to catch the shavings.
- Write a Story
Look in your local library for information on making books with children. This was one of my favorite childhood activities growing up. Stories turned into books will be treasured for years to come. Write a story with your child about events in her life-a story in which she is the central character. Begin the story by saying, for example, “Today is a special day for (child’s name) because she is going to _____________.” Write the story down, including your child’s responses, and illustrate the story with drawings, photos, or pictures cut from magazines. Your child can help you choose and glue the pictures.
- Indoor Tent
Every child loves camping inside the house! My children have spent hours playing in the living room while I am cooking dinner. Place a sheet or blanket over a table to make the indoor tent. The more creative option is to stabilize the four corners of a sheet on different objects in a room such as couches, chairs, and tables. Place books on the corners or simply tuck them in the creases of the couch. Put a special snack inside and give your child a flashlight. If you like, furnish the tent with pillows and a blanket, and let them camp out all morning while you are making the pancakes!
- Living Room Picnic
Brighten the coldest days by having an indoor picnic. Spread a tablecloth on the floor of your living room and use outdoor dishes or paper plates. Don’t forget your sunglasses!
- I Love You Because…
Ask your child, “Why do you love Daddy?” Write her responses on a sheet of plain or construction paper, and have your child decorate it with crayons or markers. Place the “love note” as a surprise in Dad’s lunch the next day. You can vary the questions you ask your child, such as, “What’s the funniest thing Daddy ever did?” Or do this for friends or grandparents and other relatives. Some of the answers you get may be priceless!
- Play With Boxes
Your child can put boxes of all sizes to good use. My kids have made trains and forts for themselves and their stuffed animals. My 8 year-old created a claw machine and a basketball game where you can earn homemade tickets to win a prize. They have built dollhouses and cars. You can be sure she will think of something new every time she plays with these boxes.
- Fruit Kebabs
Have your child create fruit kebabs by putting pieces of fruit onto small wooden skewers, wooden Popsicle sticks, and plastic coffee stirrers. As your child works, talk to him about the different types of fruit, their colors, smells, and tastes. Serve kebabs for dessert or a tasty snack.
- Fabric Fun
Call me a hoarder but I love fabric! I have a garbage bag of stained clothes that were not suitable for goodwill but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them in the landfill either. Give your children a pair of scissors and a needle and thread. Ask them to cut squares of fabric, all the same size if possible, out of the collection of shirts that you have spread out on the floor. Some may have cute patterns or appliqués that would make for really interesting squares. When they are finished cutting, have them sew the squares together the best that they can. If your children are older, you may be able to keep this as an ongoing project and make a blanket. If your children are younger then maybe frame what they have cut and haphazardly sewn together. Artwork is artwork!
- Snow Graffiti
Give in and venture outside! Give the kids spray bottles full of water that’s tinted with food coloring to decorate the white canvas in your backyard.
IQRA’ International Educational Foundation mourns the loss of one of the pioneer organizers of American’s Muslim community, Dr. Maher Hathout, who succumbed to liver cancer on January 2, 2015 at the age of 79.
Born in Egypt in 1936, Dr. Hathout moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s. He began volunteering at the Islamic Center of Southern California, became its chairman and spokesperson. He went on to work with the center’s founders on several initiatives, including the Islamic Information Service, “The Minaret” magazine and the New Horizon full-time Islamic school system. He also co-founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East and Claremont Lincoln University. He was a charter member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations and served as Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
Dr. Hathout was the first Muslim invited to give the invocation at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. He received several awards over the course of his life, including the George Regas Courageous Peacemaker Award, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California’s Lifetime Service Award, the South Coast Interfaith Council Award and the Los Angeles County John Allen Buggs Award for excellence in human relations.
Dr. Hathout was a heavily involved in interfaith activities and he worked with many organizations and individuals to promote causes for peace and justice and he served on the board of directors of the Interfaith Alliance.
Dr. Maher Hathout is survived by his wife, Dr. Ragaa Hathout, two sons and several grandchildren.