The Islamic view concerning woman differs greatly from the views held by religious and secular systems which preceded Islam. For example, Islam does not consider Eve the cause of Adam’s fall into sin nor does Islam maintain that she deserves to be cursed as some religion assert. Islam holds that it was Satan who gradually deceived both Adam and Eve, as is explicitly stated in the Qur’an. Nor does Islam view woman as being inferior to man, but considers both to have come from the same source. God says in Qur’an:
”O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord, who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from the twain has spread abroad a multitude of men and women.” (Surah Al-Nisa 4:1) The Qur’an address both man and woman in calling them to perform their duties and brings our attention to the possibility lies in the following citation from the Qur’an:
“And God cites an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said, “My Lord! Build for me a home with thee in paradise and same me from Pharaoh and his deeds.” (Surah Al-Tahrim 66:11) There should be equality between man and woman with regard to their humanity, they should equally have the right to redress before the law concerning their duties as well as their rights. For example, the woman has the right to education enshrined in the prophetic traditions: “To seek knowledge is the duty of every Muslim.” She also has the right to possess property and dispose of it in any Islamicaly acceptable way that she wishes without being placed under any interdict by man. God protects her rights in the Qur’an in the following verses:
“And it is not lawful for you that you take from women aught of that which you have given them.”
(Surah Al-Baqara 2:229)
She has the right to choose the husband she likes, as has been previously mentioned, and she has her own legally distinct personality because Islam insist that she keep her family name when she gets married and not take her husband’s family name as is done in some nations. The Qur’an refers to this equality between the two, saying:
“And women shall have rights equivalent to the duties according to what is equitable, but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:228) It is true that there are some differences in certain cases concerning men and women, based on differences in natures and their role on society. For example, the testimony made by two women in court, in some instances, is considered legally equivalent to the testimony forwarded by one man. This particular circumstances is based upon the fact that woman’s participations in public life is, generally speaking, relatively less than man’s because her home commitments and the raising of her children requires that she remains home more. Additionally, women are affected mentally, physically and psychologically by their monthly periods, and by the physiological changes which take place during pregnancy and delivery. Modern medical studies have confirmed that women, in these cases, are like patients and the recurrence of these physical indisposition may affect her memory and cause her to forget what she one witnessed. With regard to this, the Qur’an states:
“And call to witness, from among your men two witness. And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as you approve of as witnesses, so that if one errs (through forgetfulness) the other will remember.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:282)
Men are also in charge of women t home, for the latter have a more tender and easily excitable nature which is Suited to nursing and motherhood. Moreover, since her husband has the responsibility of providing for her and the household, it would be unfair to deny him the right to supervise it. Similarity, due to the nature of her work at home, the woman does not keep in touch with the outside world in the same way a man does. Supervising the household demands complete acquaintance with all that takes places outside the home so that the family as a social unit may adapt itself and its behavior to the social mores.
The Qur’an gives clear reasons for conferring the responsibility of leadership on man: “Men are in charge of women, because God has made one of them to excel the other and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).” (Surah Al-Nisa 4:34) In some cases of inheritance for example, the woman receives half the share that the man takes. This particular circumstances is based upon the fact that throughout her life, her livelihood is guaranteed and she is actually nor responsible for supporting others. When she is a young lady, her father has to support her; when she is wife, her husband support her; if she becomes a poor widow, her relatives are responsible for her, and if she is left without well-to-do relatives, the Islamic government is obliged to provide for her. Hence, the differences in inheritances are due to differences in their roles and financial responsibilities.
Another example of differences may be found in the right to pronounce divorce. In Islam, only the man has the right to pronounce divorce because it is he who suffers the most financially as a result of divorce by having to pay for the support of the woman and her children. It should also be noted that although woman’s temperament and emotionality are perfectly suited for child bearing has been given to man as long as the woman trusts him and gives him leadership, but if she is suspicious of his conduct or if her trust in him is unsure, she may dictate certain conditions before marrying him. One of these conditions could be the right to pronounce divorce herself when she wants. Also, if a woman notices that she is being continually wronged, physically abused of her husband is absent for long periods of time, she can ask the courts for an annulment. She may also ask the courts for a court-initiated divorce (Khula) if she finds that she despises her husband and can not stand living with him, on condition that she pay back her dowry. Likewise, she can take her case to court and ask for a divorce if her husband is incapable of supporting her, or if he fails to meet any of the duties of marriage. Thus, God has granted woman plausible options within the framework of marriage and divorce though some contend that she is powerless in Islam.
However, according to Islam. No woman should be appointed head of state or be placed in extremely sensitive political position. When the Persians appointed the daughter of the Chosroes as their Empress, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “A nation that gives its leadership to a woman will surely fall!” This statement is based upon the fact that such serious posts require constant intellectual alertness, which most women cannot always exercise, especially in the afore-mentioned cases. Moreover, human experience shows that women, in general, do not have the natural tendency or aptitude to assume such high-pressure undertaking.
A final example of differences lies in the fact that a Muslims woman cannot legally marry a Christian or a Jew, but a Muslim man may marry a Christian woman or a Jewess. The difference exists because of the real differences between the status of the husband and wife. A Muslims man has the right to be in charge of a non-Muslim woman, but he does not have the right to hurt the religious feelings of his non-Muslim wife since Islam commands him to respect all the divine message of pre-Qur’anic scripture and believe in all prophets sent before the advent of Islam. If he behaves in a way that violates the respect due to the two prophets, Jesus and Moses, he is no longer a true Muslim. But Christian and Jews neither believe in Islam nor in the Prophet of Islam. Hence, they may abuse the religion of their Muslim wives, which could lead to permanent dispute or apostasy on the part of the woman. If, however, the husband embraces Islam, the marriage would consider legal.