Compiled Notes on Women in Islam

Converts

Increased Exposure to Islam

Writer/Narrator: Fadel Soliman; Produced for: Aljazeera

Fadel Soliman talks about how he used to get an invitation to give presentations concerning Islam about once every three months. After 9/11 he says that he was “besieged” by the invitations. “Islam was in the spotlight”, he goes on to say. Searches on the word “Islam” on google were double the searches of the sum of the other four major religions.

Number of converts increased significantly after 9/11. In a mosque in North Virginia Fadel Soliman used to witness conversions once or twice per week but in the month after 9/11 there used to be a conversion almost every day.
{On the matter of legitimacy, I am unsure whether Fadel Soliman is a resident of the US or not}

STRAIGHT PATH, ”NEW. Documentary.2015…Islam In Women great reverts to islam”, YouTube

Majority Female Converts

Although there are no firm statistics about women converting to Islam in Britain, it is possible that as many as three-quarters of British converts – an estimated 100,000 between 2000 and 2010, were female.

Source: Narratives of Conversion”, University of Cambridge

The number of Muslim converts in Britain has passed 100,000, fuelled by a surge in young white women adopting the Islamic faith.

The figure has almost doubled in ten years – with the average convert now a 27-year-old white woman fed up with British consumerism and immorality.

The survey of converts revealed nearly two thirds were women, more than 70 per cent were white and the average age at conversion was just 27.

Source: Jack Doyle, “How 100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim… and average convert is 27-year-old white woman”, The Daily Mail, January 5th, 2011

Jeffrey Lang talks about how newly converted men leave Islam more than women.

Source: Islam On Demand, “Questions and Answers – Jeffrey Lang and Aminah Assilmi”, YouTube

Fadel Soliman tells that the searches about “Islam women” were double than the searches for Islam and Jihad /violence/terrorism put together. He also observed that the women who embraced Islam were many more than the men.

Imam Ahmad Al Mufti, the director of Goteborg (second largest city of Sweden) Mosque (Goteborgs Moské) made the observation that during the past few years around 400 people embraced Islam “after reading, attending lecture[s] and coming to ask about Islam”. “Surprisingly, over 300 of them were women…”

Fadel Soliman, while checking the annual report of Discover Islam, an international organization based in the Gulf, the percentage of female converts remained around 70%.

According to Hanan, a Chinses convert and active member of Serving Islam team, in the year 2009-2010, over a hundred people embraced Islam and 97% of them were females. She also says that their Sunday classes are filled to the brim by sisters and only a handful of brothers.

Source: STRAIGHT PATH, ”NEW. Documentary.2015…Islam In Women great reverts to islam”, YouTube

“… more than 50% of the Latino converts they see are women. Many chose to wear head covering or Hijab.”

Source: “Latino Converts to Islam 2014 (PBS)”, YouTube (t=417)

 

Exposure to Christianity Helps Conversion to Islam

Mrs Ryan thinks the strength of her mother’s faith made it easier for her to understand her daughter’s conversion. She didn’t need to explain to her mother the need for spirituality in her life, as it was already an integral aspect of her mother’s life.

In fact Mrs Ryan thinks her religious and moral upbringing was the natural starting point for her journey to Islam. She recalls telling her mother:

“I’m coming from a place you began, it’s a continuance for me, and a fulfilment of the person, you wanted me to be.”

Source: Karen Millington, “The British women converting to Islam”, BBC, May 22nd, 2013

Conversion Stories

Aziza Braekevelt (Belgium):

“But, reading Qur’an is very difficult and quite mysterious. But a few words were very, how can I say, enlightened me, were very strong like the compassionate that mostly came back in that book. Even if I could not immediately associate with it, it felt that I need to follow a path.” She believes wearing the veil is a process, it takes time, but it is a responsibility.

Elisabeth Jachstadt (Germany):

“I went with a group of tourists into the Bazar area. And there was a man, it was Friday, and the man closed his shop just in front of us and he said that he’s going out to the Friday prayer, and I was telling him that I have a group of people with me who wants to spend all their money because they’re travelling tomorrow and how stupid he would be now to close his shop and not to take this money and just… I know that his prices are too high and he will make a hell of money. So, how come you just close your shop now. He told me: No, I am a Muslim, it is my duty to pray on Friday… I was just completely lost, everything I used to believe in was changing.”

She washed before reading the Qur’an because she had read about this etiquette and she didn’t want to be disrespectful to the religion.

She also talks about how she used to be a beachwear model and that she was uncomfortable with how her employers were only concerned with her body and not with her personality and she did not want to be treated as an object. She also says that she felt like mean are “eating me” when she wore bikini at the beach. She felt ashamed of how they looked at her and the words they used to say.

She was offered double salary if she agreed to not wear the Hijab. She also lost her apartment which was provided by her employers. She tried to go back to the hotel where she used to work once, but was kicked out by the security.

She talks about the guy who was the first one to help her with her questions about Islam. She says that, he didn’t say, let’s go out, we’ll have coffee and then I will answer your question.

Priscilla Niels (Indonesia):

Sometimes men are looking at me and I don’t feel comfortable at all … In the past men looked at me like I was a [sic] object. I did not want them to look at me like I was a piece of meat. But that they respect me more.

Dr. Leila Ahmad (Professor in the Divinity School, Harvard University): Historically there is no evidence for this idea that Islam oppresses women.

Harmony Deknudt (Belgium):

“Islamophobes hurt the Islam in a way but on the other side they make publicity because of their bad behaviour and their hurtful things people will start to investigate by themself [sic] so they will go and look about Islam and so actually Islamophobes make publicity maybe it’s not intentional but they do it but yeah they hurt some people in a way.”

Amber Acosta (Connecticut, USA):

“… in an ironic way it was good publicity for Islam even though what the media was portraying was bad.” She believes that just like converting to Islam was a process wearing the veil is also a process. Initially she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to find work if she wore the Hijab.

Pauline Mudde (Netherlands):

She wanted to know more about Islam and the reason for it was that she “wanted to have more arguments about why this was such a horrible religion.” She “wanted to debate people about it”. “… in the beginning, I could still say, OK [inaudible word] this religion is bad because of this and this and this. But as I read more and more, I started to really feel, I started to feel I liked it” that there were things about it that appealed to me as a person as a human being. “I started to feel that, OK I hate it, but yeah, this and this and this is kind of cool about it”. After months of reading about Islam, I could no longer say that I hate it. “… the lists of things that I liked was just too long”. “… it really suited my way of thinking of how life should be”. She used to believe that this was a religion in which women are not allowed to learn, not allowed to work, not allowed to be human being. “After I converted I found out that all my misconceptions, all the ideas that I had about women in Islam were wrong and I found out that it’s liberating…” She says that now she is free from having to wear expensive clothes, shoes etc. “… I can focus on myself, I don’t have to focus on what everybody else thinks about me … You are valued for the person you are … having to be something that’s only there for being beautiful”

Karolien Cooreman (Belgium):

Being a married woman in Islam my husband has to provide for me. “I also have the liberty to choose if I stay at home and educate my child or not.”

Alizah Lau (Venezuela – China):

She talks about how she felt comfortable with just the Kalma in Arabic even though she didn’t know it’s meaning and how she tried to memorize it. She was happy that when she started wearing the Hijab, the women of her office started asking about it and because of this she was able to talk about Islam. “When I approached some of the male colleagues they… the way how they looked me was more respectful than before and that is when I felt like, OK this is what I call the honour of the woman.”

Professor Rasha Al-Disuqi (Al-Azhar University, Egypt): Hijab is a badge of honour. Some people tell me that when we wear the cover, we become more self-confident, surely, because the man does not look at her as just a body but he would like to speak to her, understand her. The women who decide to not cover up should not be looked down upon, they are as much respected and dignified as all other women in Islam.

Chung Wing Sze (Honk Kong):

She disliked the European culture, way of life.

Anna Stamou (Greece):

She talks about how “nasty” it is when women discriminate other women because of their outfits as she believes that it is very humiliating, generally in the world, to women (Muslim as well as non-Muslim) when attention is paid only to the outfit. Women get judged by what they wear not by who they are about what they believe in, if they are righteous, if they are educated.

The orator talks about the similarity between a Muslim woman’s Hijab and the head coverings of Mother Mary and Mother Teresa.

Na’ima B. Robert (United Kingdom):

A Niqab wearing woman about whom the newspaper “The Telegraph” wrote “That Muslim woman could be happier than you…”, she is also the chief-editor of Sisters magazine and prize winning author of many books.

“… seeing women wearing Hijab, that made me very, very, very upset. I disapproved of it 100%. Considered myself a feminist, cosmopolitan feminist and the sight of these women covering themselves, I felt sorry for them. I thought, you know, why do the men make them wear this, you know, what’s this all about.” One day she went to a festival and found a woman wearing a Hijab and she describes that woman as a very beautiful person with a face that “radiated light” and she decided that she is going to ask her “why she wears that ‘thing’ on her head?” without any judgement. Na’ima asks the lady that she is so beautiful so why does she cover herself? The lady smilingly replied: “Because I want to be judged for what I say and what I do, not what I look like.” This was the first time in her life that Na’ima had heard this idea. “When I saw these women, I saw them as weak, but now when she says that to me, when she says that she doesn’t need male attention, she doesn’t need male approval, I think maybe I’m the one who is weak and she is the one who is strong and I wonder whether I could be as strong as that.”

When asked about why she chose the Niqab, she says: “I actually liked the Niqab, I like the idea of privacy, I liked the idea of … my face not being on show for just anybody to see.” She also gives devotion to Allah as another reason.

She continues that the media needs symbols of backwardness and oppression, and it has chosen Niqab as that symbol to call for gender rights.

The right-wing parties give the reason for banning the veil as against European values.

“By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes. For women, the customs involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. The entire ensemble was colloquially known as “widow’s weeds” (from the Old English waed, meaning “garment”).”

Source: Mourning, Wikipedia

Dr. Leila Ahmad (Professor in the Divinity School, Harvard University) – who grew up in Egypt in an era when colonial ideas of “the backwardness of Islam” were normal – when she saw some of her students in America wearing the Hijab she began by assuming that the fact they were wearing the Hijab was something anti-feminist, something patriarchal, something fundamentalist anti-Western Islam. She also says that some people of her generation are actually angry of women wearing the Hijab today. She elaborates that the Hijab actually helped women in gaining more freedom and rights in Egypt.

Harmony Deknudt (Belgium) believes that the Hijab ban in schools is hypocritical. If a girl can wear a mini skirt in school then why can’t a girl come protected to school [wearing a Hijab].

Al-Shifa’ bint Abdullah used to be the administrator of the market in Madina. She was like a policewoman and held people accountable for any cheating that might happen in the market. Women also used to be jurors giving juridical verdicts. Women used to put lanterns on their doors to invite people to learn from them. A’isha (ra) used to correct the Sahaba on numerous verdicts that they gave concerning Islam.

Na’ima B. Robert says, “Freedom is in the eye of the beholder.” I consider people involved in unhealthy lifestyles as unfree.

Fadel Soliman tells that one of the common things that nearly all the 12 converts highlighted as the attraction of Islam was “freedom”.

“… [The Prophet] relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them.”
(Qur’an 7:157)

He states that Amber told him something that he had heard many converts say that she did not convert to Islam, it was inside her, all she had to do was find it.

Fadel Soliman’s last words (in the documentary): “If any society or individual oppresses women or discriminates against them it is against Islam not because of it.”

STRAIGHT PATH, ”NEW. Documentary.2015…Islam In Women great reverts to islam”, YouTube

Others

A Japanese Muslimah who was “really against Islam before, but Alhamdulliah, came to this right path through watching your [Zakir Naik] lectures on the internet”.

Source: “[LIVE][081115]Dr Zakir Naik Live in Tokyo (II)”, YouTube (t=13122)

Similar recount by Scottish Muslimah Maya Wallace. She was impressed by how her Muslim friends were humble and how never to any point did they just say to her “just believe, just have faith, we know this is the truth”. She also talks the covered sweet example for Hijab, which apparently had a positive effect on her. That it wasn’t something that men want but rather God wants it.

She also had some difficulty reading the Qur’an, she said that it was like “Shakespeare” to her. The Qur’an challenge to produce a verse like it according to her the most important verse for her.

Source: “Scottish Sister Maya Wallace Tells How She Convert to Islam”, YouTube

Angela Murray, a native American, talks about how it felt weird when a lot of the things that she read in the Qur’an were the same as she had heard from her grandfather and she was like “I’ve been doing this my whole life and I just never knew it.”

Source: “12 New Muslims Share Their Journey to Islam”, YouTube

 

White Female Converts as “Trophy” Converts

Come to actually think about it, it looks kind of disgusting. I mean the practice is completely understandable but still that does not stop it from being an repugnant act.

A key revelation of the study was the heavily disproportionate attention, bordering on obsession in some cases, given to white, female converts to Islam by both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike.

This is often to the detriment of African-Caribbean converts, thought to be the largest ethnic group of converts to Islam, who are often ignored and left feeling isolated by both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Added Suleiman: “White converts can be regarded as ‘trophy’ Muslims and used in a tokenistic fashion by various sections of society, including the media. African-Caribbean converts remain largely invisible, uncelebrated and frequently unacknowledged. They can feel like a minority within a minority and this is something that must be addressed. I found this part of the conversion narratives hardest to bear.”

‘But we also find that not all conversions are equal socially in the eyes of some members of the heritage Muslim community. The conversion of white women seems to be more socially valued than African women by some.

Source: Female conversion to Islam in Britain examined in unique research project”, University of Cambridge

Miscellaneous

“Judging by what the media tends to write about Islam, you would expect liberal-minded, intellectually-engaged women from non-Muslim backgrounds to give it a wide berth,” Professor Yasir Suleiman, who is chairing the meetings and the project’s leader, said.

“It seems to be a religion that clashes with our ideas about modernity. Yet the paradox is that there is a noticeable number of well-educated, intellectually-engaged women with high-flying careers who are choosing to become Muslims. So the question is, how do we explain this?”

Despite the myriad reasons for women converting to Islam – which, contrary to popular belief, often do not involve marriage – the project team say that a consistent, emerging theme is that many stressed a strong sense of continuity with the past. Although outsiders view conversion as a break with a previous life, and in extreme cases apparently “racialise” white converts as if they have somehow become non-white by joining the faith, the women who make the change retain many of their fundamental beliefs and relationships.

Why they convert is a highly complex question, however. In some cases, women simply came into contact with the Qur’an and found that it struck a spiritual chord – sometimes one that, given their background, they initially found it hard to accept. Other cases recorded in the discussions included those of journalists who, dispatched by their editors to write a piece about the restricted lives of female converts, were in practice won over to the merits of Islam itself.

… Women who are attracted to Islam because it seems versatile and inclusive, for example, sometimes find themselves struggling with the more conservative views of Imams. Others have encountered a sense of triumphalism from some “heritage Muslims”, who are keen to show off white converts to the wider world because of their social origins, rather than because of their beliefs.

Source: Narratives of Conversion”, University of Cambridge

… Fear of immigration, Islam and conversion to it are a proxy for views on race, prejudice, anxiety and fear.”

… a common approach among many coverts was the adaptation of Western style dress to accommodate Islamic concepts of modesty and decency.

Source: Female conversion to Islam in Britain examined in unique research project”, University of Cambridge

The report found many converts keep their faith a secret, afraid to share their spiritual journey with family and friends.

But there are problems facing all British Muslim women, whether recently converted or born into the faith, they all face a general lack of inclusion in mosques.

The research shows the huge variety of experience and challenges Muslim converts face, and some of these challenges are universal.

“I hope she realised as a Muslim girl I was a better daughter, maybe a better mother, a better wife I don’t know.”

Source: Karen Millington, “The British women converting to Islam”, BBC, May 22nd, 2013

Converting to Islam in the UK as a woman is “not for the faint-hearted” according to a report released yesterday by the University of Cambridge which finds converts are stigmatised by the wider community, stereotyped by the media and often shunned by their family and non-Muslim friends.

Source: Jonathan Este, “Converting to Islam ‘not for the faint-hearted’, report says”, The Conversation, May 20th, 2013 (Backup Link)

Hijab

“I’m proud to be Muslim I don’t shy away from it … but actually in terms of negativity and positivity I think there are many more positive things that have happened as a result of me wearing [the hijab] than not.” Mrs Ryan said.

Source: Karen Millington, “The British women converting to Islam”, BBC, May 22nd, 2013

There is also greater depth to the hijab than is thought to be the case among heritage Muslims and the non-Muslim majority in Britain. There is a distinction to be made between wearing the hijab and being worn by it. This puts the convert women in control. The hijab signals modesty, but it is not intended to hide beauty.’

Source: Female conversion to Islam in Britain examined in unique research project”, University of Cambridge

Nine out of ten women converts said their change of religion had led to them dressing more conservatively. More than half started wearing a head scarf and 5 per cent had worn the burka.

Source: Jack Doyle, “How 100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim… and average convert is 27-year-old white woman”, The Daily Mail, January 5th, 2011

“Because I’m not very skilled I’m wearing what you could call a one-piece hijab – you just pull it over your head. But I’ve discovered the scope is endless. There are all sorts of options.”

So says Jess Rhodes, 21, a student from Norwich in the UK. She had always wanted to try a headscarf but, as a non-Muslim, didn’t think it an option. So, when given the opportunity by a friend to try wearing the scarf, she took it.

Rhodes is one of hundreds of non-Muslims who will be wearing the headscarf as part of the first annual World Hijab Day on 1 February.

For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and divisiveness. It’s a visible target that often bears the brunt of a larger debate about Islam in the West.

“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab,” says organiser [Nazma]Khan [World Hijab day founder], who moved to New York from Bangladesh aged 11. She was the only “hijabi” (a word for someone who wears the headscarf) in her school. “In middle school I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja,'” she says. “When I moved on to college it was just after 9/11, so they would call me Osama Bin Laden or terrorist. It was awful.

“They [Rhodes’ parents] were worried I would be attacked in the street because of a lack of tolerance.”

Rhodes herself was concerned about the reaction, but after eight days of wearing the headscarf she has actually been surprised by how positive it has been.

“I can’t explain it really but people have been really very helpful, especially in shops,” she says.

She [Esther Dale, a practising Mormon] says she knows the stigma that surround the headscarf and hopes this is an opportunity to help combat that.

“I knew that it’s about modesty of behaviour, not just clothing, and that it’s a faulty assumption that women only wear it if they’re forced to – especially in the US. That’s not at all the truth,” she says.

“It’s a good chance to educate people that you can’t make an accurate judgement about someone based solely on what they’re wearing,” says Dale.

Organisers of this event say they were fed up with seeing the words “oppressed” or “subjugated” when it came to discussing the Muslim head-covering.

They reject the notion that women only wear hijabs at the insistence of a father or a radical member of the family.

Rhodes says it’s a choice she will continue to make.

“I will wear it from time to time,” she says of her hijab. “I’m saying to the world, my beauty is for my family and my partner. Any woman can wear this.”

Source: Catrin Nye, “Hijab for a day: Non-Muslim women who try the headscarf”, BBC, January 31st, 2013

Professor Suleiman said: “Not all women wear the hijab consistently – some wear it sometimes and not at others. It is largely dictated by the person’s individual journey modulated by geography. In a big city like London you can wear the hijab and it is invisible. In a small town in the Midlands, on the other hand, it is far more noticeable. Locality plays an important part in the experience of the convert.”

Source: Jonathan Este, “Converting to Islam ‘not for the faint-hearted’, report says”, The Conversation, May 20th, 2013 (Backup Link)

Voices Against the Hijab

The hijab has been a frequent target of criticism from people like Maryam Namazie, a vocal ex-Muslim and campaigner, who sees the garment as a form of oppression.

“Millions of women and girls have been harassed, fined, intimidated and arrested for ‘improper’ veiling over the past several decades,” she wrote in a blog post about the Iranian women’s football team’s hijabs.

“Anyone who has ever taken an Iran Air flight will verify how quickly veils are removed the minute the airplane leaves Iranian airspace.

“And anyone who knows anything about Iran knows the long and hard struggle that has taken place against compulsory veiling and sex apartheid.”

Source: Catrin Nye, “Hijab for a day: Non-Muslim women who try the headscarf”, BBC, January 31st, 2013

Feminism

Women’s rights are a highly charged political issue within Muslim communities and while participants were not unanimously supportive of feminism as defined in the West, the need to raise the status of women within Muslim communities was fully acknowledged. Attempting to realise the practise of these rights has proven more difficult to achieve. Participants were especially critical of the concept of Sharia Council/courts operating in Britain in terms of the courts’ potential to jeopardise the rights of women.

Source: Female conversion to Islam in Britain examined in unique research project”, University of Cambridge

Sharia courts operating in Britain came in for criticism as a “Mickey Mouse courts based on 7th century interpretations of Islam”.

Source: Jonathan Este, “Converting to Islam ‘not for the faint-hearted’, report says”, The Conversation, May 20th, 2013 (Backup Link)

It was very surprising for Dr. Leila Ahmad to discover that some of the strongest Feminists were Hijab wearing women. These women wouldn’t call themselves as Feminists, at-least not in the sense that the word is used in the secular West.

Professor Rasha Al-Disuqi (Al-Azhar University, Egypt):

Secular Gender Feminism sees women as a single entity, it would see women as emasculated that they are macho, that they can do anything , maybe that would be contrary to their natures but they can do anything.

Equity Feminism is more like the Islamic concept. It includes the rights women have been given fourteen centuries ago. Women are not considered as single entities. They are a part of families.

The orator says that before the Battle of the Trench both Muslim men and women voted for deciding where to fight the battle.

Na’ima B. Robert talks about why so many women are willing to subject themselves to this “oppressive” religion. She says, “… it is about changing your lens, because you see oppression where others see freedom, you see liberation where others see chain…” She later says that according to her definition Prophet Muhammad was a feminist.

STRAIGHT PATH, ”NEW. Documentary.2015…Islam In Women great reverts to islam”, YouTube

She was known in society for her intelligence, political savvy, and activity in fighting for women’s rights.[24] Umm Salama was a woman most gifted in judgment.[25] She was active in the movement for women’s rights in early Islamic society too. She once asked Muhammad a very political question, “Why are men mentioned in the Koran and why are we not?”[25] In a response from heaven to Muhammad, Allah declares that the two sexes are of total equality as members of the community and believers. It doesn’t matter the sex, as long as the person is faithful and has the desire to obey Allah, they will earn his grace. This act by Umm Salama, sets the precedence and shows that women could go directly to Muhammad when unsatisfied with a gender role associated with them in society. This action by Umm Salama represented a veritable protest movement by the women.[26] Umm Salama possessed very good judgment, rapid powers of reasoning, and unparalleled ability to formulate correct opinions.[27]

Umm Salama acted as Muhammad’s advisor during negotiations concerning the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah with the Meccans in 628 AD (6 AH)[28] One of the main objects of this treaty was to determine the relations between Muhammad and the Muslims of Medina with the Quraysh in Mecca. The treaty was aimed at achieving peace between the two groups … This treaty was essential since it established a 10 year peace deal between the two groups.

Source: Umm Salama, Wikipedia

During the reign of ‘Umar, women participated in law making. ‘Umar made a proposal of a certain regulation concerning marriage. A woman in the mosque stood up and said, “‘Umar, you can’t do that.” ‘Umar did not tell her, “Shut up, you are a woman, you have nothing to do with politics, etc.” He asked, “Why?” She made her argument on the basis of Quran. In front of everybody, he stood up and said, “The woman is right and ‘Umar is wrong,” and he withdrew his proposal. That was the spirit in the early days of Islam.

Source: Women’s Rights in Islam, Islam’s Women

 

Marriage

Prenuptial Agreements

Conditions on cases of Polygyny, Mahr (Dowr), Divorce, Education and Employment can be stipulated in the prenup.

A great deal of heartache can be avoided by a woman in her marriage if she, as the bride-to-be, agrees to and signs a carefully considered Prenuptial Agreement (also known as a Marriage Contract or Domestic Contract) that guards her rights before entering into wedlock. This is the crucial first step which will guarantee her rights throughout her marriage, because if problems should arise later on in the marriage, ignorance of the law will not be allowed as an excuse for the woman’s failure to secure her rights.

Whether you are a woman living in an Eastern Muslim country, or a woman living in a Western secular country, a carefully considered Prenuptial Agreement will prove to be an important asset to your marriage because (and most couples don’t know this) the standard Marital Contracts that Mosques use, often do not claim those rights for women that are hers and these could be lost if not agreed upon in her Prenuptial Agreement. Particularly for women who live in Eastern Muslim countries, you cannot assume that because your country is governed for the most part by Muslim Law that your Islamic rights will be specified in this standard contract or that your rights will be protected if need be by your country’s law. This may not be the case.

Just as either the husband or the wife may decide to increase or decrease the funds held in their joint account, so too can they add any number of mutual rights and obligations into their Marriage/Prenuptial Contract. Nothing is carved in stone – everything can be changed, altered and amended. All that is required is a certain amount of good will and a sincere desire to live happily ever after.

… a wife may acquire from her husband the authorization to divorce herself from him at any time without assigning any reason. This is called delegation of authority/authorization by the husband to the wife, leaving it as her option to do what she likes, known as mashiat.

For example and without going into great detail, Imam Abu Hanifah is of the opinion that a divorce cannot be declared without a good reason. This means that as long as the marriage has no problems of compatibility, etc. divorce cannot be given. Imam Abu Hanifah is also of the opinion that the thrice repeated pronouncements of divorce cannot be made all at once. This means that there must be a gap of one menstrual period between each pronouncement of divorce despite his acknowledgement that even under these circumstances, the divorce will still be technically enforceable. This opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah is a minority opinion and as such does not enjoy the status of a generally accepted legal opinion (fatwa). If the husband and wife prefer to follow Abu Hanifah’s minority opinion, then they are free to insert a clause to this effect in the Prenuptial Agreement.

Source: Rabia Mills, “Women’s Rights in the Islamic Prenuptial Agreement: Use Them or Lose Them”

Polygyny

Source: “SISTERS ONLY POLL ON POLYGYNY”, ifoundislam.net, August-November, 2014

Modesty in Clothing

In the past men used to draw pleasure from staring at women’s bodies because generally women in those times didn’t have a choice. Nowadays, men draw pleasure from staring at women’s bodies because women think it is a sign of their independence from men.

Psychologist Susan Fiske’s Research

“Are you beach body ready?”

This tagline of a London-based ad campaign spurred activist vandalismprotests and more than 70,000 Change.org petition signatures. Why? Consumers are fed up with yet another sexist, fat-shaming advertisement promoting the so-called “beach body” standard.

Despite these many efforts made months ago, Protein World, the brand behind the ad, brought the exact same campaign to New York City this past weekend, Gothamist reported.

The message that our bodies aren’t good enough is directed at both women and men, but women bear the brunt of it, especially since they’re largely expected to expose more of their bodies on these beaches than men.

But merely eradicating these ads and even the entire concept of the “beach body” overlooks the deeper systems of sexism at the root of these damaging standards. Here’s what our “beach body” obsession reveals about us:

Our obsession with “beach bodies” reveals how normalized female objectification is.

A 2009 Princeton University-based study led by psychologist Susan Fiske revealed how commonplace objectifying women — especially those who reveal their bodies in any way — truly is.

The study found that when men were shown images of “scantily clad” women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lit up. Some men included in the study even had zero brain activity in the area of the brain used to gauge another person’s thoughts, feelings or intentions, according to National Geographic’s coverage of the study.

Fiske and her team also found that men largely associated bikinis with “I” action verbs (like “I grab”) and images of modestly dressed women with third person action verbs (“she grabs”), suggesting that men largely see women as sentient humans rather than objects only when not distracted by their bodies.

These male subjects “are responding to these photographs as if they are responding to objects and not to people with independent agency,” Fiske told Scientific American of this research in 2009.

But the problem is not about what women wear or bikinis themselves: It’s about a culture that encourages and facilitates objectifying attitudes among men. It’s the same cultural root that produces other forms of objectification, like the fact that 85% of American women report having been catcalled before the age of 17, according to a recent Hollaback! report.

Striving to be ‘bikini-ready’ questions what female empowerment really means.

After they were first introduced in 1946, bikinis were considered a major moral offense. Louis Réard, the inventor of the swimsuit, had to hire a stripper to debut the design as professional models refused to wear the outfit in public, according to Time. Additionally, the bikini was initially banned in Belgium, Italy, Spain and Australia and declared sinful by the Vatican.

While the sexual revolution and women’s movement began to buck the moralistic standards that promoted these attitudes — and pop culture icons like Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress popularized the bikini itself in the 1950s and 60s, according to Time — women are still inarguably held to moralistic standards of dress. In fact, one need look no further than persistently sexist dress codes that label women “distracting” and shame them for daring to reveal any part of their body.

Plenty suggest that directly challenging sexist, moralistic standards by deliberately flouting them is the most empowering response. But just because the moralistic standards that uphold bikinis (or women’s “scantily-clad” bodies more generally) as sinful are sexist and restrictive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that wearing little or showing off one’s body is empowering.

Ariel Levy explored this in her groundbreaking book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Supposedly empowered female sexuality is modeled after pornography and other heterosexist standards designed by and for the benefit of men, she argues. As a New York Times review of the book put it, women end up “confusing sexual power with power, so that embracing this caricaturish form of sexuality becomes, in their minds, a perverse kind of feminism.”

The bikini body obsession pushes back on what constitutes empowering clothing.

While some point to the burqa as an oppressive clothing forced upon women, skimpy articles of clothing can be equally considered byproducts of patriarchal oppression.

“Singling out the burqa as the only article of clothing patriarchal enough to merit legal regulation – or even strident criticism – is racist,” Sarah Seltzer wrote in a 2009 RH Reality Check article. “Most fashion, from the corset of yore to the bikini to the FLDS prairie dress to the Nike sneaker (made by women in sweatshops, marketed to Western women), tends to hew in some way to patriarchal norms. So the quandary we grapple with, as feminists, is how to acknowledge that fact without alienating, targeting or harassing groups of women for the way they dress.”

While many have put forth the argument that in light of unattainable standards of beauty, wearing bikinis no matter one’s size is a disruptive, empowering choice, true empowerment for many may mean shirking bikinis altogether in favor of wearing whatever makes them feel most comfortable.

We can talk about rejecting beach body culture all we want, but we can only consider ourselves truly liberated once the systems that create that culture are eradicated.

Source: Julie Zeilinger, “What Our Obsession With So-Called “Bikini Bodies” Says About Us”, Mic, June 2nd, 2015

Men also remember these women’s bodies better than those of fully-clothed women, Fiske said. Each image was shown for only a fraction of a second.

This study looked specifically at men, and did not test women’s responses to similar images.

A supplementary study on both male and female undergraduates found that men tend to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as I “push,” “handle” and “grab” instead of the third-person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” They associated fully clothed women, on the other hand, with the third-person forms, indicating these women were perceived as in control of their own actions. The females who took the test did not show this effect, Fiske said.

That goes along with the idea that the man looking at a woman in a bikini sees her as the object of action, Fiske said.

The findings are consistent with previous work in the field, and resonate, for example, with the abundance of female strip clubs in comparison to male strip clubs, said Dr. Charles Raison, psychiatrist and director of the Mind/Body Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Raison was not involved in the study.

Previous research found that people tend to similarly dehumanize those who are homeless or drug addicts, although the phenomenon in this case is somewhat different, Fiske said. People have reactions of avoidance toward the homeless and drug addicts, and the opposite for scantily clad women.

The broader purpose of the research was to explore circumstances under which people treat one another as the means to an end, Fiske said.

Past studies have also shown that when men view images of highly sexualized women, and then interact with a woman in a separate setting, they are more likely to have sexual words on their minds, she said. They are also more likely to remember the woman’s physical appearance, and sit closer to her — for instance, at a job interview.

Both women and men have something to learn from this line of research, Raison said. Women should be aware of how they are perceived when wearing provocative clothing, and men shouldn’t let feelings of impersonal sexual longing interfere with their more personal relationships with other women, including female friends. “Many men make foolish choices because of sexual attraction,” he said.

“The suggestion might be that there’s some hard-wiring there that can interfere with the average man’s ability to interact on deeper levels with really hot looking stranger women in bikinis,” he said.

Women may also depersonalize men in certain situations, but published research on the subject has not been done, experts say. Evolutionary psychology would theorize that men view women as objects in terms of their youth and apparent fertility, while women might view men as instrumental in terms of their status and resources, Fiske said.

Another avenue to explore would be showing images of men’s wives and girlfriends in bikinis, Raison said. He predicts the objectifying effect would not happen in this context.

Source: Elizabeth Landau, “Men see bikini-clad women as objects, psychologists say”, CNN, April 2nd, 2009

 

 

 

A recent study by Oxford academic, Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi, on the women of Islam reveals that wives, girls and widows once not only taught the basics of the Islamic faith, but preached in the great mosques of Damascus, Cairo, Medina and Jerusalem.

Source: Bettany Hughes, “Bettany Hughes: Is religion good for women?”, BBC, September 14th, 2012

The Spiritual Aspect

The sacred text of the Glorious Quran and the history of early Muslims bear witness to the fact that women are considered as vital to life as men.

Islam refuted the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God, and thus caused his downfall. The Quran says that they both disobeyed, and negates the idea that women are a source of evil.

In a world where women were no more than objects of sexual gratification for men, and at a time when the religious circles argued over whether women were human or not, possessing souls, Islam proclaimed:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female.

[Al-Quran 49:13]

O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you.

[Al-Quran 4:1]

Men and women are of the same family, and as such have similar rights and duties, and their Lord promises them in the Glorious Quran:

Never will I waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other.

[Al-Quran 3:195]

Thus, in the Islamic tradition, a woman has an independent identity. She is a responsible being in her own right and carries the burden of her moral and spiritual obligations.

The Social Aspect

Women have as much right to education as men do. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (p) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history.

Islam elevated the position of women in society and treated them on an equal footing with men, and in some cases, as a mother for instance, clearly gave them precedence over men. Thus when a man asked Prophet Muhammad (p): Who is most entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me? the Prophet (p) replied, Your mother. The man asked, Who is next? The Prophet (p) said, Your mother. Again the man asked, Who is next? The Prophet (p) repeated, Your mother. The man asked for a fourth time, Who is next? The Prophet (p) then replied, Your father.
(Bukhari)

On another occasion, when a man came to the Prophet (p), and expressed the desire to join a military expedition, the Prophet (p) asked him if he had a mother. When he replied that he had, the Prophet (p) advised him, Stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.
(Ahmad, Basai and Al-Baihaqi)

As daughters, women have a right to just and equitable treatment from their parents. The Prophet(p) gave glad tidings to those who did not insult their daughters or favored sons over daughters.
(Ahmad)

A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals, and her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the marriage contract. A marriage is based on mutual peace, love and compassion. Dr. Jamal Badawi, a Canadian Islamic scholar, states in his book Gender Equity in Islam:

The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does not mean subservience by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad (p) helped with household chores, although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in the community were immense.

The responsibility of maintaining social and moral values lies on both men and women. Both must refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of people other than their legitimate spouses or cause evil suspicion of their morality.

Women are entitled to freedom of expression just as men are. Among the early Muslims, women participated in public life, especially in times of emergencies. It is reported in the Quran and in history that women not only expressed their opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet (p) himself as well as with other Muslim leaders. They were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless.

The Economic Aspect

Islam grants women equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. A woman’s life, her property and her honour are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of a mans in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position would get.
(Al-Quran, 2:178; 4:45, 92-93)

Islam has given women a share of inheritance. Before Islam, women were not only deprived of that share, but were themselves considered as property to be inherited by men. Out of that transferable property Islam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent individuality of women. Whether the woman is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kins property, a share that depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favour of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so.

Women are exempt from all financial liabilities. As a wife, a woman is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honour are safeguarded.

Conclusion

It is thus clear that the status of women in Islam is very high. Islam has granted them rights that match beautifully with their duties. What Islam has established for women is that which suits their nature, gives them full security and protects them against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life.

There does exist a gap between the rights of women outlined in the Quran, and the prevalent reality in the Muslim world. However, images of Muslim women as ignorant, oppressed and submissive are stereotypical and do no justice to the large number of Muslim women whose firm conviction in the Islamic concepts of family cohesiveness and happiness, and their own individuality, ensures their sense of self-fulfilment.

Source: http://www.ifoundislam.net/revert-supports/basics-of-islam/259-status-of-women-in-islam.html

“NEW. Documentary.2015…Islam In Women great reverts to islam”, YouTube

The following article contains the names of many female Hadith scholars.

Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi, “Women Scholars of Hadith”, Jannah.org