Letters to the editor for 6/2

June 02, 2002

Clarifications on the status of women in Islam

By Syed Qasim Burmi

The issue of women in Islam has been the subject of much controversy and misunderstanding. Many question why Muslim women are encouraged to stay home, wear Hijab (head cover), receive a smaller share of inheritance compared to their male counterparts and stand behind men during prayers. They then erroneously conclude that Islam does not give proper respect to women.

This paper is an exposition of what Islam stands for and has contributed toward the restoration of women's dignity and rights.

Islam considers men and women equal but not identical, recognizes their natural differences and establishes rights and responsibilities appropriate for them. According to Islam our Creator (called Allah by Muslims) created men and women with complimentary natures. Quran (believed by Muslims to be the exact words of the Creator) while referring to spouses says (2:187) "They are your garments and you are their garments" Like garments, spouses are supposed to provide protection and cover each other's fault.


Islam does not blame Eve or women for Prophet Adam's (Peace Be Upon Him, PBUH) first mistake and holds both jointly responsible for their actions.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who Muslims follow said, "Acquiring knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim." This applies equally to men and women and negates any notion that women are not supposed to pursue education in Islam.

Islam recognizes the enormous amount of work women do for the family like carrying, suckling and rearing the babies. To expect a woman to share the duty of being bread earner for the family is a gross injustice. However, Muslim women are free to pursue additional morally acceptable careers.

It is true that in certain cases Muslim women receive less in inheritance compared to men. This is consistent with the variation in financial responsibilities of men and women ordained by Islam where men (be it husband, father, brother or son) are solely responsible for the maintenance of their families and female counterparts and cannot ask the women to work outside to support. On the contrary a woman's earnings and properties are hers and no one including her husband has any claim on that.

During prayers in congregation (which is optional for women) Muslim women stand in separate lines behind men. Muslim prayers involve actions and motions that may be distracting if members of opposite sexes pray together or women pray in front of men.

Another issue of much discussion is Hijab, which does not appear to be unique to Islam. Nuns wear similar attire and Jewish women apparently are supposed to cover their heads in synagogues. Hijab, practiced voluntarily by many Muslim women especially in the West, appears to free everyone from excessive preoccupation with women's physical appearances.

As regards polygamy, many prophets like Abraham, Solomon (Peace Be Upon Them) who came before the advent of Islam were polygamous. Islam, however, regulated polygamy by putting conditions that men are allowed to have a maximum of four wives provided they can deal with them equitably and with justice. This is a permission and not a recommendation in Islam. This appears to provide a decent solution when women outnumber men for various reasons like wars, longevity and prevent immoral relationship between members of the opposite sex. Interestingly U.N. Demographic Data (1996) reveals that 51 percent of the world's population is female and 49 percent male.

Muslim women are encouraged to keep their maiden names after marriage, which reiterates Islam's respect for their individuality.

The following sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) further illustrate the respect Islam shows to women:

"The world and all things in it are precious and the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman."

"Paradise is at the feet of mothers."

"The most perfect believer is the best in conduct, and the best of you is the one who is the best to his wife."

Islam thus raised women to a status of high esteem unparalleled in history. Unfortunately fallacies and myths about Islam taint this fact, as the true message of Islam has not yet reached the American society at large.

The article was submitted on behalf of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland.

This county's state reps accomplished little in '02

To the editor:

I just signed our income tax forms for the year 2001.

A thought crossed my mind; why not hold our elections the first Tuesday after April 15. Our minds would be fresh on how our hard-earned money was spent, at the state and federal levels.

Now I wish to address our governor and elected officials and their two major accomplishments.

First, they gave themselves a $11,991 raise for three months' work, bringing their salary to $43,500. How many in Washington County would like that for 12 months' work?

This may be the best bit of legislation that they did. Now maybe we can attract top professionals to head our General Assembly.

The Herald-Mail Articles