This article forms part of the series ‘ Muhammad – A Beacon of Hope, a Shining Star’ – an initiative to recall and appreciate the messages and lessons behind the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, its relevance, and connection to life today, for both Shi’a Muslims and the rest of the global population.
And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Qur’an: 21:107)
Amidst people who were at each other’s throats for the tiniest thing, and who knew not the worth of human life, there rose a man who taught them the value of life. At a time when man was governed and haunted by superstitions, Muhammad (S) taught them the significance and virtue of knowledge. In an era long before woman was even considered a human by any faith, let alone be given her rights to live, Muhammad (S) demonstrated respect to women by standing up for his daughter, Fatimah (S), whenever she entered the room.
In an era when humanity had lost its dignity, a time when people were sunk in ignorance and inherited women as property, a period where men were accustomed to burying their daughters alive at birth and women were mistreated to the highest degree, Muhammad (S) was sent as a mercy to humans.
For the sake of brevity of this article, we shall glance only at Muhammad (S)’s advent as a mercy to womankind.
Muhammad (S) was the practical demonstration of the book sent through him. He elevated the status of woman and the Qur’an is a witness to the changes he made to the barbaric and inhumane society.
1. The right to live
“And when the girl-child that was buried alive is made to ask. For what crime she had been slain?”
2. The right to inherit
He not only put an end to the practice of women being inherited, but women were given the right to inherit.
‘To the men belongs a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and to the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be little or much, a legal share’
So, women were entitled to succession rights and to a share in their families’ fortunes. In addition to the right to hold and manage their own property, including the mahr (dowry given by her spouse), which changed to being their (the women’s) property and not that of the father or the husband.
3. The right to decide her marital status
With regard to marriage, the consent of the woman was made a condition for the validity of marriage. Marriage became a contract between husband and wife, and so did the mode of termination of marriage change therewith. In pre-Islamic times it was a contract between husband and the woman’s guardian, with the woman as an object (as though on sale), to be bought or disposed solely as men willed.
4. Equal rights to woman
From being treated like a property, Muhammad (S) placed a woman at a place where the only differentiating factor between them was placed to be God consciousness.
Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him.
5. The right to education
His words echo loud and clear, across the global Muslim populations.
‘Acquiring knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim man and Muslim woman’
As we celebrate the birth of Muhammad (S) born in 570 CE, we also recognize the rights he gave women long before the secular world did, as the timeline shows:
- 1769 – The colonies adopt the English system decreeing women cannot own property in their own name or keep their own earnings.
- 1826 – the first high school for girls opens in Boston but quickly closes.
- 1839 – The first US state (Mississippi) grants women the right to hold property in their own names – with permission from their husbands.
- 1866- The American Equal Rights Association is founded
- 1900 – By this year, every state had passed legislation granting married women the right to keep their own wages and to own property in their own name.
“It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognized the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times. It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls.”
(The Life and Teachings of Mohammed, 1932).