What does International Women’s Day have to do with Islam

Women’s Right to Fair Treatment

Women’s Day is a reminder that we still have not secured freedom from oppression for women. Isn’t it time that we deliver women the rights that Islam gave them 1400 years ago?  

O mankind we have created you from a male and female and we have made you into tribes and nations in order to know one another.

Indeed the most honourable of you before Allah is the one who has the best conduct. (49:13)

We have honoured the children of Adam (17:70)

Honouring the Children of Adam

The human race has been honoured by Allah Almighty. Honouring mankind extends to all humanity not just one section of society to the exclusion of others. This is why Allah Almighty stresses the importance of justice throughout the Qur’an.

Justice is not an ideal but an imperative.

Allah Almighty has forbidden oppression. He has not allowed us to bully, harass, subjugate or persecute any person in the world.

The best way to honour the Children of Adam is to treat them with fairness. And this is why so many verses talk about the prohibition of oppression (dhulm) in any form, whether this is social, political, economic, or in any other guise. The most common oppression is social oppression, which is widespread and more often than not, we turn a blind eye to it.

Islam came to end oppression

Before the revelation descended on the Prophet (peace be on him) jahiliya (ignorant) practices towards women and children, orphans and the weak, and vulnerable were prevalent.

To restore equality and justice to the community, Allah Almighty revealed surah Nisa and surah Talaq focusing on women’s issues.

International Women’s Day

8th March every year is International Women’s Day, and some might say ‘What does it have to do with us? It is biddah it has nothing to do with us.’ Actually this day is a reflection of social oppression. Why do certain countries celebrate Independence Day? To mark their liberation. Women’s Day is a reminder that we still have not secured freedom from oppression for women.

Being the best to your family

Surah Nisa examines the social oppression of women, orphans and the weak in the community. Allah Almighty addresses this issue in the Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be on him) encouraged us to deliver justice and be fair towards women and children. He said:

The best among you are the best towards their family.

In other words, the best men are those who are the best towards their wife, children, and the weak. In his Last Sermon at the Farewell Hajj, the Prophet (peace be on him) emphasised certain actions. These have been narrated in Sahih Muslim, with Nawawi’s commentary, and Khandhelwi who wrote a 400 page book on the Farewell Hajj and the Final Sermon. In this he said:

 ‘Treat women kindly’ (Bukhari and Muslim)

The oppression of women

Why did he need to say this? Because oppression was common – forced marriages, trapping women in dead marriages, depriving them from their rightful inheritance, burying girls alive, beating them and the long list goes on. Unfortunately this list is still existence. Forced marriages, injustice in divorce, and abuse are still happening today. Many women are not allowed to open their mouths and ask for their rightful share in inheritance. In the modern world we still have inequality in employment, in salary and leadership positions.

Going beyond justice to the opposite extreme

No wonder we have International Women’s Day to highlight the plight of women. It is a reflection of their continued oppression. Nevertheless we shouldn’t be carried away by the trendy waves, there are sincere people who want to bring justice to women, but some have gone too far in bringing justice.

Do not overburden women with more than they can bear. You cannot ask a man to be a women and do all her jobs and vice versa. Allah Almighty endowed men and women with certain qualities and enabled them to do certain tasks better than the other. Each one complements the other. They need each other. We cannot erase biological, emotional and psychological differences.

Honouring the weak by delivering justice

When we read surah Nisa we see that Allah Almighty talks about the mustadafeen – those who are weak, and this includes women, children and orphans. Defending them is how we honour them- by treating them equally. This is true justice. It is not just a label we stick on top. It is is principle we practice. In this day and age there are plenty of titles and buzz words but in reality the practice is void and fake.

We want to be genuine. We have to bring more justice into our community and this is what the shariah supports – fair treatment for everyone. In the hadith Qudsi Allah says:

I have made oppression forbidden on myself and made it forbidden among you so do not oppress one another. (Muslim)

Treating children fairly

In a beautiful example of justice within the family, a man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and asked him to witness that he was gifting his son a garden. The Prophet (peace be on him) could easily have said, ‘I witness it’ but instead he asked if the man had gifted a garden to all his children equally. When the man replied in the negative, the Prophet (peace be on him) said he would not witness injustice. The Prophet (peace be on him) taught us to give gifts equally between children in our lifetime.

Yet many parents give more to their sons in their lifetime than their daughters. This is injustice. The overarching principle is avoiding injustice. We must deal fairly with everyone, starting from our parents and siblings and wives and children.

May Allah enable us to be the people of justice and fairness.

Khutbah delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim at UKAMCCC on 9th March 2019

Transcribed by A Khan

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