Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gender Equality in the Holy Qur’an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal

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Gender Equality in the Holy Qur'an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal

"But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone." (Al Qur'an 4:125)
By Dr. Lutf ur Rehman. Nashville, USA
With the advent of modern education and inclusion of women in the workforce over the last two centuries, the patriarchal nature of societies is also in a state of flux. Over the course of human history, men have dominated the role of leadership in these societies. Even today a great majority of human population lives in this arrangement. It worked well when physical strength was an asset. Most of the work was done manually and fighting in the army required physical strength. Men had a great advantage over women in this area. Therefore the societies were aligned to suit their interests. Women were assigned to a subservient role and were mostly confined to home and domestic work. Over the course of human history this role of women – rearing children and caring for the home and her husband – became their normal function in the society. They were not included in the affairs of men and were considered inferior in many ways. Men literally owned their women like livestock and property. Women had no rights – their fate was decided by the word and wishes of their men. They were not given education, had no say in their marriage, could not own property, and required permission of their men folk to do anything in their lives. Any woman who would not follow such norms in the society was punished and sometimes even killed by her own father, brother or husband, and it was considered honorable for men to do so. Political and religious systems were often used to perpetuate such oppression of women. 
Christian Arab writer, Norma Khouri noted, honor killings originate from the belief that a woman's chastity is the property of her family, a cultural norm that comes "from our ancient tribal days, from the Hammurabi and Assyrian tribes of 1200 B.C."[i]  Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has also noted that honor killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take actions against the female adulterers in their family were "actively persecuted."[ii] The Roman law of 'pater familias' gave complete control to the men of the family for both their children and wives. Under these laws, the lives of children and wives were at the sole discretion of the men in their family. 
In the sixth century Arabia, men were ashamed if a daughter was born in their household. Many who considered themselves courageous and brave would bury their daughters after their birth to get rid of the shame. The practice was considered honorable. Qays bin Asim, ancient leader of Banu Tamim is credited by some historians as the first to kill children on the basis of honor. It is recorded that he murdered all of his daughters to prevent them from ever causing him any kind of dishonor. This is the time which was called the time of ignorance or "Jahiliyyah" by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). He brought a message which was forward looking, open minded and based upon principals of justice for all – men and women. Holy Qur'an is the Word of God and a lasting source of guidance for all Muslims for all times. 
Let us examine if Qur'an accepts or prescribes an inferior role for women?
Read in the Muslim Times.

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