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omen have always been seen at the periphery and considered ‘other’ in a patriarchal set up which resulted in the birth of ‘Feminism’ in a sharp reaction. There is a general misconception about feminism. Contrary to the common belief, feminism ensures gender equality and promotes equal rights of men and women. Forget a non-Muslim, even a majority of present-day Muslims doesn’t know that Islam has given its women many rights. Now it is to be understood if feminism is compatible with Islam or not.
Islam has given its women several rights. If one follows Islam closely and reads the scriptures (Quran & Hadees), they will find that Islam not only elevates the status of women but also breaks the myth of Muslim women being oppressed, passive, and neglected part of society, imprisoned in four walls and focuses more on the women’s position. The Holy Prophet (saw) also said:
“Treat women well, for they have been created from a rib. The rib is most curved in its upper part, so that if you try to straighten it out, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain intact. Therefore, follow my advice on giving fair treatment to women” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab An-Nikah).
This Hadith clearly points that women are naturally more delicate and sensitive than men and therefore being harsh and imposing on them will only serve to break rather than changing them. Women think differently from men, have different ideas and views and thus should not be forced to change or adopt anything with force or harshness. This is where Islam differs from current thinking in the West. In Islam, men and women have similar rights even though they may be of different gender. Islam has always advocated the dignified status of women. The Quran and Hadith contain several references acknowledging women’s rights and encouraging men to be kind to women. Prophet Muhammad PBUH said:
“Treat women nicely.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). He also said: “Women are twin halves of men.” (Jami’ al-Tirmidhi).
Prophet PBUH emphasized on treating women, especially daughters without harshness and violence:
“Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise.” (Musnad Ibn Hanbal, Hadith No. 1957).
Islam has especially safeguarded women’s right to education. The Prophet’s (PBUH) assertion can be seen through this particular illustration of Hadith. It was narrated that Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) offered Eid prayer, then he delivered the sermon. And he thought that the women had not heard him, so he went over to them and reminded them (of Allah) and preached to them and enjoined them to give in charity.” The first words of the Quran specifically stress upon education. It says,
“Read. Read in the name of Thy lord who created; [He] created the human being from blood clot. Read in the name of Thy lord who taught by the pen: [He] taught the human being what he did not know” (96: 1-5).
The above Hadiths and Quotes from Quran bear testimony to the fact that Islam is not only compatible with feminism but it allows its women to have more than what feminism limits them with. All we need is to actually read the scripture for it is only then will we be able to understand that women are regarded highly in an Islamic society who are encouraged to participate actively for its betterment just like the men. The need of the hour is a better understanding of the religion vs. women rights amongst Muslims through which they may set an example to their counterparts from other religions.