The Honour Of The Woman
By Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Turkish women studying Islam
in the masjid
Introduction: Attitudes Toward Women in Islam
vs. the West
"Every society embraces the particular values that it
honours, respects, and protects. However, the subject that is
given such honour varies according to the viewpoint that the
society and the state are established upon. This attitude towards
honour will then consequently spread to shape the opinions of
the individuals within the society at large.
Within a capitalist state, empty rhetoric is often expressed
honour, care and protection given to the wife, mother, daughter
and career woman. However, behind such words, the reality is
very clear: the only object worthy of honour, care and protection
is money and the values of freedom and democracy. Hence, we observe
a situation in Western societies where the use of pornography
and images of naked women to sell products has become an acceptable
means due to its ability to create massive revenue.
Under the guise of personal freedom that stipulates that an individual
should live his life according to his own desires and under his
own accountability, we see an epidemic of crimes against women
ranging from sexual harassment and rape to domestic violence.
Women are encouraged by the male-run fashion industries to wear
as little clothing as possible to reveal their beauty to all.
We also see that slanderous allegations against the reputation
of women have become commonplace in the media and within society
at large. It is clear that the view of the woman being an economic
commodity for the man, or tool to simply fulfil the desires of
man, affects all levels of the society from the politicians,
police force, army and doctors, to the simple man on the street.
Such is the result of the capitalist ideology.
The antithesis to this situation is the deen of Islam where
the true preservation of the honour of the woman is viewed as
a life and death matter to be given the utmost care and attention.
This is exhibited by the society and state and at all stages
within the Muslim woman's life as a daughter, wife, and mother.
The Prophet (saw) said, "Whoever dies protecting his honour
dies shaheed." The woman is one of those honours placed
within the palm of the man as an amana (trust) from his Creator
Allah (swt) to be protected at all times. This attitude within
an Islamic State would also affect every level of the society
from the ruler, army, Qadis and to the man on the street.
An international view that has been propagated as to how the
woman can achieve respect and honour within the society is to
adopt the Western lifestyle, dress and to become a successful
career woman. Alongside this, women have been instructed to call
for the values of liberation, freedom, and equality and to aid
the transformation of the systems of ruling within their countries
to become more in tune with the Democratic system of government
that secures all freedoms of the capitalist West. In contrast,
the image portrayed of Islam is that it dishonours the woman
by forcing her to cover in the khimar and jilbab, by encouraging
early marriage, by commanding obedience to the father as a daughter
and to the husband as a wife and by allowing polygamy for the
man. The Western media, as proofs for their claim, repeatedly
cite the existent pseudo-Islamic states such as Afghanistan and
The Western world calls for the Muslim woman to lock the Qur'an
in the cupboard and disregard the rules and roles that emanate
from Islam. It calls for her to uncover her beauty so she may
be appreciated by men, to socialise freely with male friends
and colleagues so as to elevate her status, to pursue her career
at the expense of marriage and her marital duties and to call
for further freedoms within her society.
Unfortunately, many of our dear sisters have taken this path,
feeling that this will bring them the honour and protection that
they desire as Muslim women within society. It is an attack that
has been consistent over the past 150 years or so and this concept
has corrupted the mentality of the rulers, scholars and intellectuals
of this Ummah. Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge in the 19th century,
wrote a book entitled, Al Mara'at al Jadida (Modern Woman). In
this, he rebukes Egyptians for glorifying their Islamic past
and taking pride in their Islamic culture. He advises the Muslim
woman to take the Western woman as her role model in order to
elevate her status and the status of Egyptian society. He writes,
"This is our real ailment which needs to be eradicated first
of all. The first way to get rid of it is that we should make
our younger generations acquainted more and more with Western
civilisation and its conditions and circumstances ... We will
realise the value and importance of Western civilisation and
see for ourselves that no reform is possible unless it is based
on modern Western knowledge ... For this very reason we project
the people of the West as a symbol of perfection, insist on their
veneration as an ideal, and appeal to our countrymen to study
the position and status of the Western woman."
With this in mind, it is important for us to examine the true
reality of the status of the honour of the woman within the western
capitalist states and the consequences of the call for ideas
such as freedom and liberation. Has the achievement of a successful
career, a free lifestyle, and a greater voice in the parliamentary
process and democracy brought her the honour, status, protection
and security that she desired?
The Capitalist Western States and the Dishonouring
of the Woman
The greatest idol within the capitalist state is money. Consequently,
the main question that plagues the minds of the individuals within
the society is how to increase their material wealth. As a result,
the woman is not viewed as a human being that has certain needs
that require fulfilment, including the protection of her honour.
Rather, she is viewed as an economic commodity to be exploited
by whoever wishes to make money. In existence is a capitalist
dominated world where the pornography industry generates $7 billion
every year, a figure greater than the whole of the so-called
"legitimate film and music industries" combined. In
the US, pornography films gross $1 million every day, and in
Britain 20 million copies of pornography magazines are sold every
year, producing revenue of £500 million. It is therefore
clear that men are encouraged to simply view women as objects
to gratify their sexual desires. Is this the honour that the
Muslim woman seeks from the adoption of the idea of freedom?
Could it be possible that the successful working woman is not
seen in this light due to her material achievements and service
within the society, such as the doctor, manager, engineer, secretary
or teacher, and rather her male colleagues view her with respect
and honour? It is naive to think that in a society that is drenched
with the culture of personal freedom and opinion, that the workplace
or office would be a haven from such degrading mentality and
behaviour. If we examine the issue of sexual harassment in the
Western states, within those institutions that should theoretically
exemplify morality such as the governments that look after the
affairs of the people and the police force and army, we see the
true picture of the male view towards their female colleagues.
In a survey conducted in the UK among the British Civil Service,
70% of the respondents claimed to have been sexually harassed
at work. A survey in nine US states, examining a period of 5
years, stated that 60% of the female lawyers interviewed had
been sexually harassed, a third by colleagues, 40% by clients,
and 6% by judges. In the 1998 study by the Yale University School
of Medical Researchers it was discovered that amongst the female
soldiers of the American army serving in the Vietnam or Gulf
war, 63% had experienced physical and sexual harassment during
their military service, and 43% reported rape or attempted rape.
If these are the professionals who claim to uphold the law, then
what can be expected from the rest of the society? A successful
career within the capitalist state has not given the woman the
status that she dreamt of. Is this the honour that the Muslim
woman seeks when she strives day and night to build her career
and neglect her family, children, and other Islamic obligations?
Some may claim that Western women achieve harmony and honour
in the home, if not in the public arena? This is a delusional
idea. The BBC reported that nearly 25% of women in the UK face
domestic violence at some stage in their life. Police are called
to an incident of domestic violence every 60 seconds and receive
1,300 calls each day related to this. Domestic violence kills
two women each week in the UK. Professor Betsy Stanke from University
of London was quoted as saying, "What this shows is that
men in Britain, like men around the world, also beat their wives."
Is this the honour that the Muslim woman seeks by adopting the
Western lifestyle and culture and by forsaking the Islamic culture?
If we study the ultimate form of dishonour that a woman can
experience, that of rape, we find shocking statistics illustrating
the reality. In the US, a rape occurs every minute, and in the
UK, one-third of women have been sexually abused by the age of
18. Also, there was a 500% increase in the reporting of rape
between 1996 and 1997. In addition, the sentence for rape can
be as low as 180 hours community service. The recent case of
a middle-aged woman raped by a group of youths along a canal
in West London clearly illustrates how low the honour of the
woman has become within this society. She was raped by a 15 year
old and 18 year old, while others watched and encouraged the
episode, the youngest being 11 years old. Perhaps more shocking
than this was that a girl actually held down the victim while
her friends raped the woman. It appears that even women no longer
value their honour. It is not surprising that the majority of
women in the West do not feel safe on the streets at any time
of the day. Is this really the honour that the Muslim woman seeks
by calling for the Western capitalist system, democracy and freedom
to be implemented over her? The reason for this horrific reality
is clear: the implementation of man-made law.
Allah (swt) says:
"If the truth had been in accord
with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth and all beings
therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay we have
sent them their admonition but they turn away from their admonition"
[TMQ Al-Mu'minun: 71].
Allah (swt) also says:
"Whoever follows My Guidance shall
neither go astray, nor fall into distress and misery. But whoever
turns away from My Reminder (That is, neither believes in the
Qur'an nor acts on its orders) verily, for him is a life of hardship,
and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection"
[TMQ Ta-Ha: 123-124].
The Current Reality of the Muslim World and the
Dishonour of the Woman
However disgusting the statistics may prove, nothing can compare
to the distress from understanding the reality of the Muslim
world today. Our societies, if not mirroring the status of the
Western picture, are rapidly approaching this. This is as a result
of the domination of capitalism over our lands, the infiltration
of the Western culture based upon freedom and democracy, and
the absence of a true Islamic State, the Khilafah, to protect
the honour of the Muslim woman.
In February this year, Reuters reported the case of three former
Bosnian Serb commanders convicted by the United Nations War Crimes
Court for rape and sexual enslavement of dozens of Muslim women
in the area of Foca, in southeast Bosnia, during the Bosnian
war. Prosecutors said the three men took women and girls as young
as 12 to a variety of "rape houses" for brutal beatings
and assaults. Many women were so forcibly abused that they suffered
permanent harm. One woman, identified as "witness 75",
was raped for three hours by 15 men. One 15-year-old girl described
a knife wielding man who threatened to gouge her with a crucifix
and forced her to drink alcohol. He made her assume a Serb name
as he raped her. She described the horrific experience of being
raped, "I remember he was very forceful. He wanted to hurt
me. But he could never hurt me as much as my soul was hurting
Such realities are not few in number. Our sisters continue to
suffer such humiliation worldwide from Kosovo, to Palestine to
Kashmir, due to the absence of the protection of the Islamic
State. The infiltration of freedom into our lands has brought
with it rape, domestic violence, sexual perversion and prostitution
engaged in by Muslim men. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every
two hours. In March 1998, a case came to the attention of the
Pakistani courts of a 14 year old school girl named Naumana Tabbasum
who was gang raped in a governmental building in Peshawar by
the section officer of the local government department and three
of his colleagues. They had threatened to kill her parents if
she revealed the truth. Is it not the government that should
be the protector of the people and not its enemy? There are numerous
reports also of police in Pakistan stripping women naked and
parading them in public.
Muslim women continue to suffer
In Bangladesh, prostitution has been legalised, and it is
said that the rate of abortion there of girls between 15 and
49 is 28/1000, almost the level of that within the US. Domestic
violence is also reaching epidemic levels in the Muslim world.
In Pakistan, there is a shocking statistic of domestic violence.
It is said that 70% of women are subjected to violence in their
homes. A new style is used in the Asian sub-continent called,
"stove burning" where the woman is set on fire for
reasons ranging from not bearing sons to not having added enough
salt to the food. Lahore newspapers report over four cases of
women injured per week from such treatment, and two hospitals
in Pakistan stated that 500 women had burned to death as a result
of such incidents in the past three years.
The reason for such problems is clear: the idea of personal freedom
where the man can fulfil his desires and behave in any way he
pleases. The consequences on others within society, and the honour
of women, are dire. It is evident then that a call for the Western
way of life, the adoption of the Western culture and the capitalist
system can bring nothing but humiliation, dishonour, and insecurity
for the Muslim woman.
The Organisations that Bring the Dishonour
of the Muslim Woman to the Muslim Lands
The infiltration of Western culture and the introduction of the
capitalist laws within the Muslim lands are not chance events.
Calculated moves are taken by the Western states to constantly
redefine the Islamic social system and attack the identity of
the Muslim woman. They stand guilty of having exported the degradation
of the woman within their societies to the sisters of the Muslim
countries. The styles used include the Western media, the Non-Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) functioning within Muslim lands and institutions
such as the United Nations.
In June of last year, 188 nations from amongst Muslim and non-Muslim
countries, and 1250 NGOs world-wide, gathered in New York for
an International Women's Conference entitled "Beijing +
5". The objective was clear: to accelerate the standardisation
of the relationship and roles of the men and women within society
of all the nations of the world to be in line with the capitalist
values. If we examine certain aims established through the discussions,
this is openly apparent: "Ensure that women of all ages
can fully realize their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination
and violence, by developing legislation, disseminating information,
and promoting accessible and affordable services." "Discourage,
through media and other means, customary laws and practices,
such as early marriage, polygamy ... " In Bangladesh, the
NGOs aided the introduction of the legalisation of prostitution
and continue to call for the freedom of the women within the
We should realise that the underhanded objectives behind such
events is to drive the Muslim woman further away from her role
and duties defined by Islam and to drive a wedge between her
and the obedience to her Creator. Truly, we should understand
the danger from taking our solutions from these institutions.
It is a call for women to discard their honour and to lead them
away from the beauties and rewards of Jannah.
Allah (swt) warns us in the Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Take not into
your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to
corrupt you..." [TMQ Ale-Imran: 118].
Allah (swt) also says:
"O you who believe! Follow not
the footsteps of Shaytan. And whosoever follows the footsteps
of Shaytan then verily he commands Al-Fahisha (indecency) and
Al-Munkar (evil). And had it not been for the grace of Allah
and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure
from sins" [TMQ An-Nur: 21].
Islam: Securing the Honour of the Woman
Having established that the call for the adoption of the Western
woman's dress, lifestyle, goals and systems will bring nothing
but humiliation to the Muslim woman and her society, it is crucial
that we understand that Islam is the only way of life, and that
the Khilafah is the only ruling system that brings the woman
honour, protection and elevation in society. We can observe how
Islam brings the honour, dignity and tranquillity to the woman
in three ways: having a correct aim in life, honouring the Muslim
woman in society and securing her honour under the Khilafah.
1. Having the Correct Aim in Life
There is no doubt that the greatest honour in life is to be
a Muslim. The greatest honour that can be bestowed upon the human
being is to be a servant of Allah (swt) and to gain the pleasure
and blessings of the Creator with every action performed in accordance
with His command. Allah (swt) says: "But honour belongs
to Allah and His Apostle, and to the believers but the hypocrites
know not" [TMQ Al-Munafiqun: 8].
The greatest honour in life
is to be a Muslim
Success is ensuring that not one minute passes without securing
the rewards of the Hereafter by the pursuance of the fulfilment
of the obligations to Allah (swt) in every area of life. Whether
in ibadat, as a wife, a mother, daughter, fulfilling the contract
of a job, covering her awrah with the khimar and jilbab in the
public arena, segregating from the men or carrying the da'wa
to make Allah's (swt) word the highest by the work for the re-establishment
of the Khilafah.
Allah (swt) says:
"For Muslim men and women, for
believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful
men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant,
for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who
give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women
who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much
in God's praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and a
great reward" [TMQ Al-Ahzab: 35].
The greatest tranquillity is in the knowledge of the promise
of Allah (swt) of the rewards of Jannah (paradise) for those
men and women who restrict themselves to His limits and fulfil
all of His obligations in life without discrimination. Truly,
this is the greatest honour and success of all, to be in the
company of the Prophets, the pure companions, and Insha'Allah
to spend eternity in nearness to Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) promises:
"The righteous (will be) amid gardens
and fountains (of clear-flowing water). (Their greeting will
be): 'Enter ye here in peace and security.' And We shall remove
from their hearts any lurking sense of injury: (They will be)
brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity).
There no sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever)
be asked to leave" [TMQ Al-Hijr: 45-48].
We see then, for a Muslim woman, to fulfil the duties of wife
and mother in Islam is a great honour. For her to obey her husband,
or to serve him meals, or bring comfort to his life is not oppressive
but an honour; for, she receives the pleasure and rewards of
her Creator. The same can be said for the man fulfilling his
role as a husband of providing for the family, consulting with
the wife over affairs and being constantly observant over her
physical and emotional welfare.
The Prophet (saw) said, "Among
my followers the best of men are those who are best to their
wives and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands.
To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the
reward of a 1000 martyrs..."
For the mother to nurture her children physically, emotionally
and with the Islamic culture, by feeding them, bathing them,
playing with them and smiling at them, is a great honour.
The Prophet (saw) has said, "When
a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive
a reward as if she had granted life to a being, and when she
weans her child, the angels pat her on the back saying, 'Congratulations!
All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again'"
[Riyadh al Salihin].
He (saw) also said, "During pregnancy
until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling
period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who
is guarding the borders of Islam" [Al-Tabarani].
2. The Honour of the Muslim Woman in Society
Allah (swt) has commanded the man to view the woman as an
honour to be protected at all times, whether it is his mother,
wife, daughter or any woman within society. The Prophet (saw)
once told Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra), "Shall
I not inform you about the best treasure a man can hoard? It
is a virtuous wife who pleases him whenever he looks towards
her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her."
On another occasion, he (saw) said, "The
world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious
thing in the world is a virtuous woman." In his last
sermon to the Muslims, he reminded them, "O
People, it is true that you have certain rights, with regards
to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that
you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and
with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them
belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do be kind
to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."
He (saw) has also said, "Whosoever
has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult
her, and does not favour his son over her, God will enter him
A man at the time of the Prophet (saw) came to him and asked,
"I have carried my mother single handed around the Ka'ba
seven times, does this repay the kindness she showed me as a
child?" The Prophet replied, "It
does not even repay one contraction of the womb." This
is the way that Allah (swt) has described the honour of the woman.
Within an Islamic society, such an understanding will affect
the men within the society at large, who will view the woman
as an honour, regardless of whether she has a career or not.
They will not belittle the position of the wife and mother but
regard it with the highest of esteem. This can be illustrated
by an example at the time of the Khilafah of Umar bin Al-Khattab
(ra) when a Jew was found killed. Umar asked the people if they
knew about the matter, whereupon a Muslim called Bak'r bin Shad'dakh
appeared before him and said, "I have killed him."
Umar (ra) was astonished and asked him for the reason. The man
explained that a Muslim brother had gone on Jihad and consigned
his family members to him to look over in his absence. When he
arrived at the house of the brother, he had found the Jew inside
reciting poetry slandering the reputation of the brother's wife
by implying that he had spent the night with her in his absence.
As a result, he killed him to protect the honour of the woman
who had been placed under his protection. On hearing all the
details, Umar (ra) exempted him from paying any ransom.
3. Honour of the Muslim Woman Secured by the Khilafah
Having understood the command of Allah (swt) to ensure the
honour and security of the Muslim woman within the society, we
should ask ourselves why such a reality is not present today.
The examples of how the woman faces shame and humiliation from
pornography, to rape, to domestic violence every day in the Muslim
lands and societies has already been detailed. The reason is
clear, it is due to the absence of the Khilafah system. The question
that now needs to be addressed is "How can this reality
of the honour of the woman be secured once again within a society?"
The answer is simple; it can only be through the re-establishment
of the Khilafah. Then, we will have the ability to propagate
the correct viewpoint to the individuals within the society through
the education system and the media, and we will have the
authority to enforce the appropriate punishments upon those who
Let us examine two examples to illustrate how the honour of
the Muslim woman was protected under the Khilafah of the past,
compared to the reality of the world today.
The first example is that of slander against the reputation of
an individual. Today, this is not seen as a severe crime, but
Islam views this as a serious issue and has prescribed lashings
as the punishment for such an action. During the Khilafah of
Umar (ra), a slave girl complained to him, in his capacity as
the Khalifah, against her master by saying, "My master has
accused me of adultery and punished me by forcing me to sit on
fire. Thus my private part is burnt." Umar (ra) asked, "Has
your master seen you committing adultery?" She replied in
the negative. Umar (ra) asked, "Have you made any confession
before him?" She answered "No." Thereafter, Umar
(ra) called that man and asked, "Do you punish like the
punishment of Allah?" He said, "I had developed suspicion
about the slave girl." Umar (ra) asked, "Have you seen
her committing adultery?" The master denied to have seen
her doing so. Umar (ra) asked, "Has she confessed about
doing so?" The master again said "No!" Upon this,
Umar (ra) said, "I swear by the one who holds my life that
had I not heard the Prophet (saw) saying that a slave cannot
take ransom from his master and a child from his father, I would
have certainly taken revenge on you." Afterwards, Umar (ra)
gave the master 100 lashes and freed the slave girl. Such is
how the honour of the woman is protected under the Khilafah through
its authority, which ensures the implementation of the hudud
of Allah (swt).
The second example is also cited during the Khalifah of Umar
(ra). While he was visiting Syria, a Jew came to him and complained
that a Muslim had beaten him badly. Umar (ra) asked one of the
companions, Suhaib (ra), to find out who was guilty of the action.
The accused was Auf bin Malik Ashjai (ra) who was brought in
front of Umar (ra) and asked to explain his actions. He replied,
"Let it be known to you that the plaintiff was driving away
a Muslim lady on his ass and on the way he gave her a jerk so
that she would fall from the ass, but when she did not fall he
pushed her. When she fell down, he mounted on the lady and lay
with his face downward." The father and husband of the woman
confirmed his story. Umar (ra) ordered for the Jew to be killed.
It can be seen clearly from such examples that in order to establish
the rule of Allah (swt) in protecting the honour of the Muslims
within the society, it requires the presence of the structures
of the Khilafah. During the time when the earth was blessed with
the cool breeze of the Islamic State, harmony was brought to
societies and tranquillity to individuals in turmoil. Women felt
secure in their homes and on the street. It is not a successful
career in itself, financial independence or the fewer clothes
that are worn, that brings a woman honour and success, but the
abiding of the commands of her Creator and the establishment
of the Islamic State over her.
The Islamic State brought true honour to the woman who had, for
so many years, been viewed simply as a commodity and object to
satisfy the desires of men. For 1400 years the woman remained
protected, safe and valued. With the loss of her shield, the
Khilafah, she has once again become an economic commodity in
the palm of the capitalist and an object of desire within the
capitalist way of life. The protection of the honour of the Muslim
in the society is not an option but an obligation. The responsibility
then is for the believing man and woman to work with all their
efforts to re-install the body that will achieve the fulfilment
of this obligation within the society: The Khilafah!