Women in Islam

Today, female feticide is a major problem in our country while the right to life is the most fundamental of human rights. Today, technology is used to kill a girl child even before it is born which the earlier cultures did after the girl child was born.

This is due to the preference of male over female offspring. Female infanticide in different cultures suggests that the birth of a baby girl represents shame and distaste. Bringing a daughter into the family is seen as dishonourable and a burden to family members, especially the parents.

Prior to the advent of Islam, female infanticide was rampant in Arabia. Baby girls were buried alive the moment they emerged from their mother's womb. A quick disposal was always the easiest; to eliminate any embarrassment the child could cause to the family and tribe.

Islam severely condemned this selection of one gender over the other. The Qur’an warned that the crime of female infanticide against innocent children would be questioned on the Day of Judgment and the perpetrators of this abominable sin would be severely punished not only in the hereafter but right here in this world also. Thus, Islam emphatically put a stop to this abhorrent practice. The Qur'an says;  "When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?" (16: 58,59).

Prophet Muhammad quickly overturned such gender preference both by admonition and by his own example. He enjoined men not only to shun the practice of female infanticide but also to give women equal treatment when he 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 into Paradise," He and his wife Lady Khadijah were blessed with four daughters, all of whom they cherished dearly despite the overwhelming ill-feelings harboured by the society toward daughters at that point in time.

Muslim women, after the abolishment of female infanticide, were granted a stream of rights. Islam declared them equal companions to men in all respects, gave them the choice of a spouse and respectful treatment of a wife; gave them right to divorce, and encouraged remarriage of widows. It gave them the right to inheritance, the right to earn and also the right to learn. Islam was the first religion to really respect women's rights - rights that western women only achieved less than one hundred years ago.

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