Rights Of Expression
 

The Qur'an informs us that women in a Qur'anic society not only have the right to express themselves freely but she is in such a position that she may even argue and hold discussions with the head of the community.

The messenger of Allah (p) who was not only the divine emissary to his people but also the first head of the Islamic state, gave so much freedom in society that the people, including women were in a position to argue with him. The Qur'an records this in the Sura titled "Al-Mujadilah" (the title of the Sura itself means "the woman who argues"). We are informed:

"Allah indeed knows the plea of her who argues with you (O messenger) about her husband and complains to Allah, and Allah knows the contentions of both of you; surely Allah is Hearing, Seeing." (58:1)

Women are also to take an active part in public life. In Sura Al-Mumtahina we are informed of their public allegiance to the Prophet (See 60:12). Along with men, women were also included in these public discussions with the office bearers of the Islamic state: (See 60:10).

Right To Select A Life Partner

For the subject of marriage, the Qur'an has provided detailed guidance. We are told that marriage is the name of a contract between consenting adults who are believers in the divine values. It is clarified that women cannot be forced to get married and thus they have the right to express their will. The following verse tells us:

"O you who believe! You are FORBIDDEN to inherit women AGAINST THEIR WILL. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the dower you have given them -except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good." (4:19)

In Sura An-Nisa, the believing man is also given the permission to marry women of his choice, thus he too can exercise his free will. As reminded;

"If you fear that it will not be possible to find an equitable solution of the problems of 'Yatama' (widows and orphans in society) otherwise, then marry women of your choice among them, by twos, threes or fours (as the situation demands), but if you fear that you will not do justice, then marry only one.."(4:3)

Thus both believing women as well as men have been given the right to have a say in their marriage, i.e. women cannot be married forcefully and men also have been given the right to marry women of their choice, as the expression in Arabic reads, "fankihu maa ta'aba lakum" (4:3)

Then again in (4:21), regarding marriage it is stated that women have taken a 'meesaq' (contract) from men;

"And how could you take it when you have gone in unto each other and they (Your wives) have Taken from you a solemn covenant? <.meesaq'an ghaliza>"(4:21)

A contract or covenant ( "meesaq" in Arabic) requires the free consent of both parties in agreeing to that contract.

An agreement in which a person is forced to do something against his/her will does not constitute a "meesaq". If the woman has been forced into getting married or the will of the man has been manipulated by coercion then such an agreement does not become a contract or "meesaq". Thus for a contract of marriage to come about, both parties, i.e. the man as well as the woman have to use their free will in coming to terms and agreeing to live the rest of their lives with each other. If out of these two any one is forced or does not have their free will involved then such would not constitute a "meesaq".
Husband-Wife Relations


The main purpose of maintaining relations as a married couple is that love, compassion, and tranquility should develop between man and woman. In this way they live a life of harmony and become a source of solace to each other. The Qur'an says:

"And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect." (30:21)

The Qur'an has used the Arabic word "Zawj" for the husband-wife pair. This is an Arabic word which means such a pair which is complimentary to each other, and with the absence of one of its halves the other gets incomplete. Therefore the husband and wife should be as such that they provide fulfillment to each other's personality and become a source of nourishment for each other.

Thus the husband-wife relationship is not that of a boss and his servant, but one of mutual companionship and comradeship. To bring about such compatibility, it is essential that man and woman have a unified outlook of life and maintain a coordinated stance for various matters.
Such a life, in which the life-partners are in harmony with each other will definitely be a life of exhilaration, and situations where people of conflicting tastes, views and ideologies are bound together, may result in kindling the fires of discontentment. That is why the Qur'an has stated that believers should be paired with like minded persons only, as otherwise if they selected spouses from the opposing camps, then that would cause discord. Thus we are reminded:

"And do not marry 'Mushrik' (Polytheist) Women until they believe, and certainly a believing maid is better than a 'Mushrik' (Polytheist) woman, even though she should please you; and do not give (believing women) in marriage to 'Mushrik' men until they believe, and certainly a believing servant is better than a 'Mushrik' man, even though he should please you; these invite to the fire, and Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness by His will, and makes clear His revelations to mankind, that they may be mindful." (2:221)

The Qur'an has likened the husband and wife pair as "Garments" to each other, signifying the type of relations a Believing couple maintains:

"..They (your wives) are your garments and ye are their garments.." (2:187)

Thus as nothing comes between us and our garments, then such should be the outlook that believers are to maintain towards their spouses. A garment also protects us from the variation of climate and guards our shame, similarly a couple which considers the divine values as guidance for life, should protect each other from the harmful effects of society and guard each others weaknesses. The Believers are instructed that they should treat their spouses with mercy and compassion and should not be harsh on them, even though something about their wives may seem displeasing to them:

"O you who believe! It is not lawful for you that you should inherit women forcefully. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the dower you have given them , unless they are guilty of manifest indecency, and treat them kindly; then if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing while Allah has placed abundant good in it." (4:19

POLYGAMY

The Quranic laws are not meant for just one individual but they are intended to provide betterment to the whole society at large.

In a community there might emanate a situation when the relaxation of the rule of one-man, one woman as a married couple becomes a necessity in the overall interest of the society. For example, pro longed war or some natural calamity may reduce considerably the number of young men in the society thereby leaving a large number of widowed women, generally with children and un-married girls un provided for.

These women and children must be protected and looked after in the fulfillment of their needs without the expense of lowering their dignity and honor. Establishing orphanages, old homes or even making these destitutes otherwise economically independent is no remedy to such a situation.

The problems like these are much deeper in nature and call for the support and assistance of the whole society. In view of this the Qur'an has relaxed the condition of monogamy, but it should be noted that it is for such instances only. Polygamy, is not for satisfaction of lust or ego boosting of man but it is linked with a special situation of society and that being to provide assistance to the widowed and destitute women. The following verse informs us this situation and the conditional rule linked to polygamy:

"If you fear that it will not be possible to find an equitable solution of the problems of 'Yatama' (widows and orphans in society) otherwise, then marry women of your choice among them, by twos, threes or fours (as the situation demands), but if you fear that you will not do justice, then marry only one.."(4:3)

The above verse needs our attention. It says two things.

(1) Marrying more than one wife is conditional if it is feared that (which in Arabic means widowed and orphaned people in society, i.e. those left in isolation.) are not being provided for equitably in society.

(2) If one feels that he cannot do justice between his wives then he has to marry only one wife. Hence polygamy is in direct relation to justice and fair treatment of wives, otherwise the man is called to marry only one woman.

It should be clear that polygamy is not an obligation, but it is a marriage under special conditions and if a man is not able to do justice then he has to marry only one woman. People may argue that nowadays there may rarely be any woman who might be willing to have another woman brought as a rival into her home.

This argument may seem valid in the present pattern of life where personal interests come first, but it looses ground when a person has his ideal of life revolutionized by the Quran and which makes his or her mental outlook of life to such a way that his or her thinking becomes like that as described in the following verse:

"The Believers prefer others over themselves though they might have to undergo hardships."(59:9)

In communities marred by conflict and calamities, polygamy would be a way out to give the helpless women protection and assistance in a dignified manner. In a society where the number of men are reduced due to some reason, and there is a surplus of women of marriageable age, then would it not be gesture of mercy on that woman who has no where to go, if any man were to provide her shelter in his home and his first wife were to accommodate her new unfortunate sister?

HOURIS

One of the objections raised against Islam is that it informs us of some beautiful maidens known as "Hoor" which will be reserved for the men of paradise as objects of luxury. Quite often, the Clergy, under the influence of the literature which was compiled and authenticated in those days when true Quranic government of Muslims was overtaken by that of the despotic rule of Monarchs and Theocracy, characterizes some verses of the Qur'an where the word "Hoor" occurs, to be as such.

However, it should be understood that the Arabic word "Hoor" which occurs four times in the Qur'an is plural of "Ahwar" which is for the masculine gender and "Hawrau" which is for the feminine gender. Thus the word "Hoor" is not restricted to the female gender only, but represents both men as well as women. Its basic meaning is the whiteness of the eye (Lane's Lexicon, Qamus, Muhammad Asad: "The Message of the Qur'an")

, and also signifies a clean and pure intellect of a person, free from vile intentions. From this word also comes the word "Al-Hawariyun" which has been used in the Qur'an for the disciples of Jesus Christ (p), as they were persons having purified souls. In the Qur'an, where it is mentioned for the believers in a state of heaven:

"..and We shall pair them with companions of pure eyes.." (52:20)

Then it does not imply a relationship as a husband and wife, but simply means that in "Jannah" the believers will have companions of pure intellect, which will include, men as well as women.