Social Scientist. v 4, no. 43 (Feb 1976) p. 70.


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Status of Women: Islamic View

IN DISCUSSING the position of women in Muslim society, the rights granted by the Koran and the actualities of the present conditions should both be taken into account. One difficulty is the ('divine" nature of the Koran. Any deviation or addition runs the risk of being termed un-Islamic or un-Koranic, making it unacceptable to a large number of believers. As Muslim society everywhere is governed in one way or the other by Islamic precepts, one cannot ignore the injunctions of the Koran and the Hadith literature. It is against this background that one should view the efforts of the modernists for radical changes within the framework of reference of the sacred teachings.

The society in which the Prophet lived was altogether different from any that we know at present in Arabia or elsewhere. The Islamic law therefore has little relevance to our times. Laws do not make a society, but are the products of the requirements and demands of the existing social and economic structure. It will therefore be inappropriate to depend exclusively on the Koran or Hadith for guidance in the innumerable novel situations that present themselves. This is a point to remember in dealing with the rights of women.

The rights conferred on women by Mohammed represented a vast enhancement of the status in which they were held in pre-Islamic Arab world. Islam arose in a tribal society. Inevitably the tribal stamp is prominently noticeable in its socio-political laws and even the moral code. In the social setup, families and chiefs wielded all power and the glory. Chiefdom rested on the twin qualifications of birth and wealth. The Prophet belonged to a respectable family but his lowly occupation of camel driver was enough to engender opposition from the wealthy. He advocated equality on the basis of piety and good works.

Social life of the Arabs in pre-Islamic times was characterized by a passionate addiction to drinking, gambling and music. "Dancing and singing, as in other eastern countries, were practised by a class of women occupying a servile position, who were called Kiyan . . . and whose immorality was proverbial9^.1 Pre-Islamic Arabs

carried their aversion to women so far as to destroy, by burning alive,



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