It has been considered for years that Islam does not give equal rights to men and women, and consider women only subject of comfort for males. This opinion has been delivered time and time again by renowned women activists but their basis of arguments being only the alleged facts. Their main argument is against the permission given towards polygamy in Islam. But many scholars who have gone through the pain in studying what Islam actually says have different opinion. They agree, in general, that Islam’s approach to polygamy is most balanced and rational and is based on the moral, psychological and physiological demands of men and women (The Independent 13).
It should be remembered that taking more than one wife is only permissible, not ordained by the Quran – as some ‘progressive’ activist would like to believe. The Quranic verse that allows polygamy should be read in the context it was revealed. The Verse says, “And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two, three and four, but if you fear that you may not do justice to them, then (marry) only one” (4: 3). This verse was revealed after the battle of Uhud. In that battle, many Muslim men died and as such a great social problem for the protection of widows and orphans arose, necessitating an institutionalized polygamy for a convenient solution of the problem.
Some of the eminent Western scholars who actually studied Islam, quite blatantly criticized the Western and other self proclaimed writers for venting their opinion as facts. In her book The Life and Teachings of Muhammed, Dr. Annie Besant, the renowned English leader of Theosophical Movement, says: ” There is pretended monogamy in the West, but in reality, there is polygamy without responsibility; the mistress is cast off when the man is weary of her … the first lover has no responsibility for her future, and she is a hundred times worst off then the sheltered wife in a polygamous home. “When we see thousands of miserable women who crowd the streets of Western towns during the night, we must surely feel that it does not lie in the Western mouth to reproach Islam for polygamy. It is better for woman, happier for woman, more respectable for woman to live in polygamy, united to one man, only with a legitimate child in her arms and surrounded with respect, than to be seduced and then cast out into the streets perhaps with illegitimate child outside the rule of law, uncared, unsheltered, to become victim of any passer-by, night after night, rendered incapable of motherhood despised by all. “You can find others,” continues Annie Besant, “stating that religion Islam is evil because it sanctions a limited polygamy. But you do not hear as a rule the criticism … that monogamy with a blended mass of prostitution was a hypocrisy and more degrading than a limited polygamy. “… it must be remembered that the law of Islam in relation to women was until lately, when parts of it was imitated initiated in England, the most just law, as far as women are concerned, to be found in the world. Dealing with property, …rights of succession,… cases of divorce, it was far beyond the law of the West, in the respect which was paid to the rights of women. Those things are forgotten while people are hypnotized by the words monogamy and polygamy and do not look at what lies behind it in the West – the frightful degradation of women…”
Divorce in Islam
The next point of confrontation regarding women is the issue of divorce. It is a well accepted thought that Islam allows the husband to get rid of his wife on his free will, any time he likes by uttering a particular word three times repeatedly. This idea is totally baseless and has got nothing to do with Islam is quite clear when one takes the pain of studying it. first of all, the marriage in Islam is a social contract, and it can be dissolved if it proves, in any way, injurious or incompatible to the wife or to the husband. The wife has been given as much right to obtain the divorce as the husband. But the process of divorce has been set with a time limit of three months, so that a major decision like this is not taken in a moment of anger, and then both of them reproaches it after their anger vents out. This has been clearly instructed in the Holy Quran, but made unnecessarily confused by some elite class to suite their own purpose. On the Timing of divorce: ” O Prophet! if ye do divorce woman, divorce them at their prescribed periods, and count (accurately) their prescribed periods: And fear Allah, your Lord: And turn them not out of your houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of open lewdness ” (LXV: 1). On waiting periods for divorced women: ” Divorced woman must wait three monthly courses. And it is not lawful for them to hide what Allah has created in their wombs, if they sincerely believe in Allah and the last day…” (2:228) Thus a clear three months period is mandatory before the final pronouncement is to be given. Each pronouncement of Talaq has to be made with a month’s increment between it, so that their is chance that the couple repents and decide to continue their life together. After all, the prophet’s saying goes ‘Divorce is most disliked by Allah among all permissible things.’ As women have got full rights to decide on to their separations, they also have full rights to chose partners in marriage, which is against what the ‘learned’ class would like to believe. No marriage in Islam is valid unless the bride and the bride-groom give their verbal consents regarding their marriage.
Status of Women in Islam
The status given to the women by Islam is another point of conflict as most of the “literate lots” would very much like to believe that women in Islam are still unliberated. However, it would be pointless to defend Islam by saying that Islam did give Women full equality in all respect to men (as some scholars defending Islam tried to do), as in reality, Islam does recognize the fact that women and men have their differences on the basis of their physical and physiological aspects, which is clearly stated in the Holy Quran in the following verses: “… Wives have the same rights as the husbands have on them in accordance with the generally known principles. Ofcourse, men are a degree above them in status, and above all is Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” (2: 228). “Men are in charge of women because Allah has made the one superior to the other and because men spend their wealth on women” (4: 34).
Thus, in Islam, men and women have absolute equality in stature, but with a complete difference in labor. Being subjected to the responsibility of taking care of the house-holds, is considered somewhat degrading nowadays, forwarding the possible idea that Islam has kept women away from nation building. But if we are to consider Napoleon’s saying that ‘Give me a good mother; I will give you a good nation’, then we can see that in reality nation building starts at home, and failure to learn correct guidance at home would lead the generations to degrade, without even being concerned over it. In fact the Islamic concept of household is that it is the smallest unit in the greater organization of the Nation as a whole. The home is a little kingdom where authority is exercised by both husband and wife.