From Veil to Witness
By enforcing veil, doesn't Islam actually oppress women? isn't purdah a major reason for the backwardness of Muslim women?
Islam has instructed women to cover their body except face and palm. This is not only in favour of progress, but also helpful to it. Veil is not an oppressive thing for women; rather it provides them security.
Today in different parts of the world women who wear veils have been active as scientists, pilots, journalists, members of parliaments and writers. Masuma Ibthikar, one of the five vice presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, wears purdha. She had her higher education in the United States, and now she is an Associate Professor at Tehran University, and she is also a well known journalist. A renowned social worker, she has participated in international seminars. There are many other well - known journalists. There are many other well-known women who wear purdha such as: the editor of well-known Iranian women's journal `Mahjuba' as well as Professor at Tehran University, Turan Jamsheedyan; national Olympic vice-president and deputy chairperson of Parliament Faseeh Hashmi, the advisor to women's welfare department Shahla Habeebi, and Van Azeeza who has been a dynamic person in Malaysian politics. In modern times the veiled women of Iran and Afghanistan had been active in the battle fields. Purdha never stood as an obstacle for the achievements of Iranian women in sports and games like volleyball, basket ball, shooting, cycling, tennis, gymnastics, horse race, judo, karate and chess. Her dress, which was similar to purdha, was not at all an obstacle to her dedicated services to the Nobel Laureate, Mother Teresa. The nuns who serve in various fields wear dress similar to purdha. Covering parts of the body is not an obstacle for explorations and travel in the space, as it is proved from the experiences of cosmonauts. The men in the western countries wear pants, shirt, tie, stockings, cap and overcoat and cover all parts of their body, as Islam has required in the case of women, though the style of dressing is different in the case of women of these countries.
The neo capital colonialism and its product the commercial culture have succeeded in creating the impression that woman means her body and her physical charm. Her personality depends on beautification. This wide spread impression has also created an assumption that purdha is an obstacle for women's progress. The women who think that progress means going around cities and other crowded places exhibiting their body are actually abnormal in mind, as they derive pleasure while strangers gaze at them and admire at their physical charm.
It is better for women and more dignified to cover their body from the gazing eyes of lustful men. It is also more helpful for their security. For the same reason Islam has asked them to wear purdha. At the same time it has no negative effect on women's progress. It will be relevant to quote the words of M.P. Virendrakumar, Member of Parliament, on Iranian women after his visit to that country. ''Iranian women wear purdha. They don't cover face, but cover their head. Hundreds of women are seen in any picnic spot. When visited the headquarters of the Iranian News Agency, IRNA, most of the staff who worked there were women. Women drive cars in Tehran. There is no trouble at all, except that like one sees in New York the Iranians will not let their women become symbols of sex''. (Bhodhanam Weekly, Nov. 6, 1993)
Isn't it a discrimination to enforce purdha on women, while exempting men from wearing it?
This discrimination is natural. The physiological features of male and female are not alike. A man who is physically strong can overpower and rape a woman without her consent. But a woman, even if she is physically strong cannot do so on man without his consent. Such natural differences in the bodily features of male and female necessitates differences in dress. For the same reason all countries including India have framed laws for the protection of women. In countries where the persecution of women is a severely punishable offence legally, there are no corresponding laws to protect men from women's persecution. This fact clearly shows that women require more care and safety because of their physiological differences. For the same reason Islam has asked not to reveal her physical charm to others. Hence purdha ensures women's security. It is also more convenient. It is not an inconvenience or oppression of women.
Why only half in inheritance?
Islam has sanctioned woman only half of the inheritance compared to that of man. Isn't it an injustice and a cruel discrimination against her?
According to the Islamic law woman need not to bear any economic liability under any circumstances. She has only rights. All liabilities under any circumstance fall on man. The man must bear all expenses of wedding including those of the bridal clothes. At the same time he must pay his bride's dower. After that it is his responsibility to look after her and the children. Even if both man and wife are earning members, the wife need not meet the expenses of anyone in the family including her. It is the duty of the man to spend on the food, dress and shelter etc of his wife, even if she is employed. If the husband, who has no income dies protection of his orphaned children falls on the father of the deceased, his brothers, nephews or uncles. The responsibility falls on those people who should have inherited his wealth in the absence of his own children. The married woman must be looked after by husband, and the unmarried woman by father, and in the absence of father by her brother. The sons are responsible to look after the mother. So under no circumstances the woman has any kind of financial liability. If she volunteers to spend owing to love and mutual relationship it is a different matter. Yet Islam has sanctioned her inheritance, and entered her dower on men in order to guarantee her safety and dignity. Woman has been granted right and freedom to keep her wealth for herself and to promote it further. Islam has protected the rights of woman in all her states - as mother, daughter, wife and sister. Being well protected in all her states, she has no need for wealth. Still Islam has granted her right of inheritance, so that there should not be any harm to her nobility and respect.
Marriage without consent
Is it true that Islam permits the guardian of a woman to marry her off without her consent?
No. Islam doesn't permit the marriage of a woman without her consent. If the guardian does so, the woman has right either to accept or reject it.
The prophet says: ''If the woman is a virgin she has more right than her guardian to decide her business. Permission must be sought to marry off a virgin. Her silence is considered as her willingness''
(Muslim, Tirmidi, Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibnu Maja)
Once a girl came before the prophet and complained to him of her father who compelled her to marry a person without her consent. So the prophet allowed her to marry according to her will
Another young woman came to prophet and said ''My father has married me off to my nephew, so that he (father) can overcome his short comings through me''. So the prophet allowed her to decide according to her will. Then the woman said; I have accepted what my father has done. My purpose was to teach women that in this matter fathers have no right''
All these instances prove that the right and freedom to decide in the matter of marriage belongs to women.
The Islamic law is such that if witnesses are women two are required instead of one man. Isn't it an injustice and discrimination against women? Isn't this approach indicative of male domination?
The fact that two women witnesses are required in the place of a male witness is not a general law in Islam with regard to witnessing. It is applicable only in the case of economic transactions. Generally women are not involved in economic transactions, or in buying and selling things. So the requirement regarding two female witnesses is only a step to ensure that the transaction is free from any mistake. The Quran has clearly shown that there is no difference between man and woman when they make solitary evidence and oath regarding the accusation of sexual offence against the spouses. (24: 6-9)
Witnessing in other cases is likewise. The Quran says about divorce: ''Thus when they fulfil their term appointed, either take them back on equitable terms, or part with them on equitable terms; and take for witnesses two persons from among you, endured with justice, and establish the evidence (as) before God'' (65:2). About bequests, the Quran says: ''O ye who believe! When death approaches any of you, (take) witnesses among yourselves when making bequests, - two just men of your own (brotherhood) or others from outside if ye are journeying through the earth, and the chance of death befalls you (thus)'' (5:106)
In some special cases pertaining to women such as menstruation and child birth, it is difficult for men to be witnesses. The Islamic scholars are unanimous that in these cases only women are acceptable as witnesses.
One of the basic sources of all economic, social, political and administrative laws in Islam is the tradition of the prophet (Hadith). With regard to reporting of the sayings of the prophet, the reports of the women are considered equally strong and authentic, as reports of men. There is no discrimination here on the basis of gender difference. So in authentic works of the tradition of prophet there are a lot of Hadiths reported by women. Regarding one of the bases of Islamic laws (hadith) which is the testimony of all testimonies, Islam has granted women equal status with that of men. Islam has taken a different position with regard to testimony in cases of transactions, merely as a means of ensuring accuracy and to prevent possible lapses. It is not any discrimination, neglect or injustice.
Some scholars like Abu Haneefa and Tabari have expressed their views that women are eligible for holding very important positions, including that of justice. There cannot be any discrimination with regard to law and justice; otherwise the authentic scholars would not have approved of women occupying the position of judges, who are themselves, guardians of law.