Woman and her Economic Status in Islam

Woman and her Economic Status in Islam

Under Islam, the woman is given the same economic freedom as the man. This freedom is legally defined as the person’s ability to be an owner and to have legal protection for his/her ownership. This is a human right that has been acknowledged in all constitutions and ideologies except communism.

According to the majority of the scholars and historians, women in Arabia before Islam were deprived of the right to act freely regarding their money or possessions. The woman herself was a tradable good that could be transferred from one man to another. She had no right in inheritance or in the dowry paid by her husband.

However, with the advent of Islam, the woman’s status improved dramatically. This is because Islam sees that the woman enjoys the same economic rights as the man and that her competency is unlimited except concerning that which is prohibited by Allah, The Almighty, or His Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

The following are some aspects of the Islamic viewpoint in this respect:

1- The woman has the full legal right to earn money through lawful means and to practice trade and all allowable businesses. Allah, The

Almighty, Says (what means): {For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned.} [Quran 4:32]

Earning leads to ownership, hence, Allah, The Almighty, addresses man and woman Saying (what means):

{O you who have believed, do not consume one another's wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent...} [Quran 4:29]

{O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned.} [Quran 2:267]

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said to women: “Give in charity, even if it is from your jewelry.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

2- Islam states that the woman is absolutely equal to the man and that she may act freely regarding her money and property without the interference of anyone whatsoever. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means):

{And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgment, release their property to them. And do not consume it excessively and quickly, [anticipating] that they will grow up. And whoever, [when acting as guardian], is self-sufficient should refrain [from taking a fee]; and whoever is poor - let him take according to what is acceptable. Then when you release their property to them, bring witnesses upon them. And Sufficient is Allah as Accountant.} [Quran 4:6]

{And for you is half of what your wives leave if they have no child. But if they have a child, for you is one fourth of what they leave, after any bequest they [may have] made or debt.} [Quran 4:12]

Consequently, the woman has her own independent financial personality as she may bequeath or borrow just like the man. Shaykh Rasheed Ridha  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said in Tafseer Al-Manaar, “Islam aborted the practices of the Arabs and non-Arabs regarding depriving the woman from the right of ownership and limiting her ability in acting regarding what she owns. Islam also removed the authority of the husband over his wife’s money and possessions. Under Islam, the woman has the right to own and act regarding her possessions legally. She is also entitled to receive a dowry and to be financially supported by her husband even if she is wealthy. All of this is included in the Quranic rule: {And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable.} [Quran 2:228]

This comprehensive and general rule states that the woman is equal to the man in everything with the exception of one degree, which is Qawaamah (Guardianship): {Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.} [Quran 4:34]

Within the context of speaking about the woman, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Abduh  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “This sublime rank to which Allah, The Almighty, raised the woman, was not achieved in any other religion or legislation. No nation before or after the advent of Islam has achieved this rank for women. Even the European nations, who claim that they have given special care for the woman and taught her arts and sciences, are lagging behind Islam in this regard. The laws of some of these nations still deprive the woman of the right to dispose of her money without the consent of her husband. These nations still deprive the woman of many of the rights given to women under Islam more than thirteen centuries ago. Moreover, women in Europe were like slaves in everything no more than fifty years ago; the European woman was like the Arab woman during the pre-Islamic era, or even worse.”

3- Under Islam, the woman became an inheritor after she had been part of the inheritance. Islam declares its appreciation of the woman and respect for her rights by entitling her to a share in inheritance contrary to the Arabs before Islam and many other ancient peoples. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means): {For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much - an obligatory share.} [Quran 4:7]

While we find that this right had been established for the woman under Islam, the European woman remained for more than twelve centuries after the advent of Islam deprived of many of the rights granted to the Muslim woman.

4- The Sharee‘ah stated that the woman is entitled to receive and own the dowry within the marriage contract after it used to be given to her guardian. In Islam, the dowry is exclusively for the woman and no one has the right to take even a penny of it without her consent. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means): {And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.} [Quran 4:4]

This verse entails some very important rules:

- The dowry is exclusively owned by the woman, and her guardian has no right in it.

- The husband should give her the dowry willingly

- She is entitled to give the dowry to her husband as a gift and the husband is allowed to accept it.

- This verse applies to virgins and previously-married women.

Allah, The Almighty, stresses these rules in many other Quranic verses. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means):

{And it is not lawful for you to take anything of what you have given them unless both fear that they will not be able to keep [within] the limits of Allah. But if you fear that they will not keep [within] the limits of Allah, then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself.} [Quran 2:229]

{O, you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality.} [Quran 4:19]

The Sharee‘ah also ordained man to provide for the woman whether it is his mother, daughter, sister or wife, because the woman is disposed by nature to stay at home to manage its affairs and bring up the children. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means):

{Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing, according to what is acceptable.} [Quran 2:233]

{Let a man of wealth spend from his wealth, and he whose provision is restricted - let him spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not charge a soul except [according to] what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.} [Quran 65:7]

Islam even allows the woman, whose guardian or husband does not provide for her, to take from his money what suffices her according to what is acceptable. Hind, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “O Messenger of Allah, Abu Sufyaan is a stingy man and does not give me and my children adequate provisions for maintenance unless I take something from his possession without his knowledge.” The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said to her: "Take from his possessions enough to suffice you and your children reasonably.” [Al-Bukhari , Abu Daawood, An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Maajah]

Islam honored and dignified the Muslim woman and guaranteed economic security for her when it obliged the man to provide for her to dedicate her life to her fundamental and sublime mission in life – which is to take care of her house, husband and children - and being far away from the worries of making a living.

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