1.1       Background of the Study

Islam regards all human beings as people from one family and of the same mother (Hauwa’u) and father (Adam) who should be accorded due respect and be given all the necessaries of life which Allah provides for them. All human beings are by nature equal before their Creator, Allah as belonging to the human race regardless of all sorts of differences be it sex, tribe, colour, and the best among all people is he who fears Allah most.

The Almighty Allah declares in the Holy Qur’an:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know one another (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God, is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full Knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”[1]

Thus, both men and women under Islamic law are accorded equal rights and

opportunity, such as right to life, right to education, right to independent ownership, right to fair hearing, etc.

During the period of ignorance (Jahiliyyah) among the pre-Islamic Arab societies, women were extremely discriminated against. In fact, it was the Arab culture to bury female babies alive.”….shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on?”[2] Women were treated as properties and objects of sexual pleasure. In that era, the women were deprived of the most basic human right that are required for human existence such as right to liberty, property right, right to inheritance, etc.

But with the advent of Islam, the practice changed, and the foremost contribution that Islam made to elevate the social status of the women was to give them the right to life. On this basis, Islam forbade many inhuman practices committed against the women gender, such as infanticide and the treatment of women as mere chattels. It was highly critical of the attitudes of parents of rejecting their female children. Islam viewed the practice as a crime and murder. Along with saving the lives of women, Islam uplifted the status of the women gender and made sure they were treated equally with men in terms of respect, kindness, justice, etc.

Islam upholds the concept of equality between men and women, but this concept as mentioned by Islam doesn’t mean that men and women are identical. Islam noted their natural physical and emotional strengths and in this regard, the Shari’ah sets out their key roles in life. These roles are therefore, not a question of inferiority, but a question of natural capacity and proper functioning.

If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female and have faith, they will enter heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.[3] This also doesn’t mean that women cannot work or serve the society, or that men have no responsibilities for the household[4].

Islamic law has been criticised that it doesn’t give equal treatment to women gender by the Law of Inheritance but the critics failed to understand that what women do not get in succession, they get it from the responsibilities that men are obliged under the Sharia to provide for their maintenance.“…because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means…”5

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