Sisters of Men… Women…. Supporting the Development Movement
Prof. Ahmad at-Tayyeb
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar
 
   
     
 
The Islamic Shari'ah stated that men and women share the same rights and ‎duties, since Islam is the first system in the world to liberate women from all the unjust ‎restrictions imposed on them. In fact, the social system before Islam subjected women ‎to injustice and marginalization; Thus, Islam came to support women, as mothers, ‎sisters, daughters or wives and guaranteed them all their rights‏.‏
Thus, it is a grave mistake to consider the marginalization of the eastern women ‎from which they suffer is due to the teachings of Islam; this is totally a false claim. In ‎fact, this suffering is because of the violation of the teachings of Islam that are ‎concerned with women, and preferring to apply obsolete traditions and customs which ‎have nothing to do with Islam, rather than applying the judgments concerned  with ‎women in the Islamic Shari'ah. As a matter of fact, Muslim women have suffered from ‎imposing restrictions on them that have nothing to do with the Islamic Sahri'ah, which ‎led to the emergence of several problems like spinsterhood, disinheritance… etc. In fact, ‎the Muslim society has lost a lot of its creative energy, when we, as Muslims, allowed ‎the marginalization of women to take place and excluded them from the positions of ‎influence in our societies‏.‏
‏ ‏In my view, there is no issue that has exhausted the minds of thinkers and ‎researchers as much as the issue of women’s rights. Indeed, our contemporary Arab and ‎Islamic library contains thousands of books, and research papers that tackled such an ‎issue and studied it thoroughly; however, this issue sounds as if it has never been dealt ‎with‏.‏
For me, the issue of women rights can be studied from three perspectives, which ‎are‏:‏
First: the perspective of Islam, which has done justice to the Muslim women and ‎unshackled them from restrictions imposed on them by civilizations contemporary to the ‎advent of Islam such as the Greek civilization and its two well-known poles, Plato and ‎Aristotle, the Roman Constitution, the Indian religions and other holy books and texts ‎that made women carry the burden of the Original Sin. The Arab Jahiliyyah (Before ‎Islam) deprived women from the right of living, the right of education, the right to own ‎properties, the right of inheritance… etc‏.‏
However, amid these suffocating circumstances, Islam had appeared and settled ‎this issue; as a matter of fact, at that time, Islam could have ignored  all the subjugations ‎and grievances women were suffering from, without being subjected to any blame or ‎reproach. At that time, the whole world was against giving women their rights and ‎human dignity; nevertheless, Allah revealed his Qur'anic order, as he says: "women shall ‎have rights similar to those due from them, with justice" (Q:‎‏2:228‏‎) and "do not retain ‎them in harm to transgress" (Q:‎‏2:231‏‎), while the last words of Prophet Muhammad (bph) ‎was: "women are sisters of men". Additionally, Islam stopped the crime of Female ‎infanticide forever and guaranteed the Muslim women rights, by which they preceded ‎their counterparts by fourteen centuries. Moreover, Islam gives women the right of ‎inheritance, education, the right of choosing their husbands, the right to have an ‎independent financial status, the right to keep their family names so that a wife does not ‎get dissolved in her husband's character, and finally Islam equaled between men and ‎women in relation to their duties and responsibilities.‎
It is known that these rights should make the woman a creative component in the ‎society that is as important as man or even more important. It is true that Prophet ‎Muhammad said: "… If I prefer one to another, I would prefer women to men". ‎However, this preference is not as making amends to an oppressed, but it draws ‎attention to the advantages and specifications that distinguish women from men.‎
As for the second perspective, it is the perspective that is affected by traditions ‎and norms more than Quran, Sunnah, and the explicit texts that elevate women and their ‎academic, social and human status. This perspective would have returned women to ‎their lives before Islam; it limits many of the rights Islam granted women and calls for a ‎strange jurisprudence that imposes isolation and alienation on women to which they ‎have almost got accustomed. It is worth mentioning that Islam came to liberate women ‎from this siege and make them bear the responsibility for constructing and developing ‎the society.‎
‎   ‎Furthermore, the third perspective is the western modernity that is associated ‎with special concepts and new philosophies that shunned many fixed values in the ‎histories of these societies and its ideologies. I would say –in brief– that there is a sharp ‎difference between modernity with all its cautions and modernization that is interaction, ‎diligence and renewal of religious and moral heritage to make use of its treasures. ‎Needless to say that modernity with its western concept is not the ideal model which ‎deserves to be circulated and marketed internationally and globally. ‎
Then we would wonder- is modernity the ideal alternative to a society that ‎preserves values of family and motherhood despite associated religious transgressions?  ‎Or should we accept this fact and try to change it or renew it based on our different ‎identities and cultures, since the other alternatives are definitely destructive and ‎catastrophic in both the materialistic and moral sense
‎   ‎Moreover, the Arab and the Islamic world is in dire need today to elevate the ‎status of women and their role in supporting the movement of progress and community ‎development, especially in the light of the current challenges that the Arab and Muslim ‎communities are witnessing. And this requires us to glorify the role of women, honor ‎them, to be fair with them, exploit their wasted energy, and respect their rights granted ‎by Islam.‎

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