An Appraisal Of The Impact Of Gender Equality On Women’s Right To Work Outside Matrimonial Home In Islamic Law

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An Appraisal Of The Impact Of Gender Equality On Women’s Right To Work Outside Matrimonial Home In Islamic Law


Abstract


This objective of this study focused gender equality as it relates to women’s right to work under Islamic Law. The study examined the relationship between Islamic gender fairness and the applicable restrictions on women’s right to work outside their matrimonial home.

The study adopted a descriptive qualitative approach and as well one of the traditional methods of gathering information, i.e. the secondary sources. A sizeable percentage of secondary sources that is used came from published and unpublished works which include materials extracted from: Archives, Newspapers, discussions, Conference papers, Magazines, Internets, Books, and Articles in journals e.t.c. Using the theory of Natural Law, findings from the study revealed that there is no restriction in Islam that says a woman cannot work or have a profession. On the contrary, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women physicians, nurses, and teachers.

However, if a woman chooses to work, it must be with the consent of her husband. She is also entitled to equal pay, not for equal work, but for work of equal worth. Findings from the study revealed that despite the notable role of Islamic law in lifting the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabia, biases in (mis)interpreting Islamic teachings over time have failed to free women from discrimination. Rather, these biases have linked ‘Islam’ to the persistent subjugation of women. the study therefore recommends that Greater exploration of linkages between women’s rights organizations and activists and progressive sources of Islamic law is needed, including engagement with both sharia and law faculties, clinical programming focused on women’s rights under Islam, and outreach to religious leaders at a community level.


Chapter One


Introduction

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 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? 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. This also doesn’t mean that women cannot work or serve the society, or that men have no responsibilities for the household . Islamic law has been criticized 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

With the coming of Islam to Nigeria in the eleventh century, women especially in the Northern part of the country were restricted to their matrimonial or parental homes. Women then concentrated on their primary duties only which is mainly domestic. While men at that time were fully ready to carry out their fundamental responsibilities of providing maintenance and protection to the entire family. As a result of proper religious education, these responsibilities were known and respected by men who conducted them with religious spirits, giving them full control of their families. Thus, the family system was moving smoothly with a kind of stability attained within the family.

For the same reason, women on their part knew their limits, they therefore try their best not to over-step their bounds through respect and care for their husbands, children, the parents and relatives of the husbands. This restriction of women is made to avoid free interaction between the two sexes in view of the provisions of the Qur’an which states: “And stay quietly in your houses. And make not a dazzling display, like that of the former times of ignorance…”

This issue brings about the movement calling for “women’s liberation” and efforts towards liberation. This implies that there are certain limitations, restrictions and bonds in place. Women liberation indicates that women are enslaved, and they must be liberated; that is not the case, indeed under the Sharia.

Men are naturally restricted and have many limitations due to their limited abilities and capabilities. Men in general, in any given society, primitive or civilized, live under certain laws, rules and regulations that normally govern their life and organize all the various affairs of life. However, Gender Equality is a topical issue, genetically ascribed to religion where its causes are purely non-religious. It originates from economic, social, cultural or political affairs.

Men are responsible in connection with performance of the economic and social responsibilities; therefore, the maintenance of women is the basic obligation of men under Islamic law as per the provisions of the Holy Qur’an where the Almighty Allah states: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means…”.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

The question of equal opportunity between men and women is a topical issue, by ascribing or attributing gender inequality and its causes to religion. While for Islam, the teaching of equal opportunity between men and women is part of its jurisprudence and fundamental teachings. People with western orientation have adopted and subscribed to the idea of attributing inequality to religion and particularly the Shari’a arguing that the Shari’a discriminates against women and that there is no gender equality between men and women in Islam. In addition to that, they maintained that Shari’a deprives women of their right of movement and in fact they are prisoners within the four walls of their houses. They made reference to the Islamic Law of Inheritance“….to a male, a portion equal to that of two females…and the provisions of the Shari’ah on purdah.

However, if this wrong conception continues to persist within the society, it will create a black image on the Shari’ah regarding women’s rights in Islamic law. Thus, it is against this background that this research intends to look into and/or examine the legal position of gender equality and the way it affects women’s right to work in Islamic Law. Whether in Islamic law women are allowed to work outside matrimonial home side by side with men? If so, is that as of right or privilege? Are there any conditions required to be fulfilled? Therefore, this research work will examine the impact of gender equality on the right of women to work outside home in Islamic Law.


1.3 Objective of the Study

The principal aim of this research work is to examine the impact of gender equality on women’s right to work and to highlight the correlation between gender justice and available limitations to the women’s right to work outside home in Islamic law.

Specifically the study seeks to:

  1. To examine the Islamic perspective on the concept of gender equality with a view to highlighting the established socio-economic rights of women under Islamic law.
  2. To examine the concept of work and the right thereto in Islamic law.
  3. To highlight the role of Islamic Law in the protection of women’s right to work within and outside matrimonial home.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the Islamic perspective on the concept of gender equality with a view to highlighting the established socio-economic rights of women under Islamic law.
  2. What is the concept of work and the right thereto in Islamic law.
  3. Highlight the role of Islamic Law in the protection of women’s right to work within and outside matrimonial home.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The people or group of peoples who would benefit from this research work are many; with special interest by Law student in the University, Legal academics, Legal practitioners, and Judges, States and Human Right activists. Given the fact that many misconceptions and negative stereotypes exists about the meaning of the term gender equality and the status of women’s rights to work in Islamic law, this research will thus prove and elaborate that there is no legal system that has elevated the status of women as the Islamic legal system. The research work is therefore necessary because it will demonstrate that the common contention that, women are somehow inferior to men, and Islam is a religion of men, is wrong.


1.6 Scope of the Study

This research work focuses mainly on the discussion of gender equality as it relates to women’s right to work under Islamic Law. However, the discussion was limited to an examination of the relationship between Islamic gender fairness and the applicable restrictions on women’s right to work outside their matrimonial home.


1.7 Limitation of the Study

The major limitations of this study is that the newness of the topics as assigned by the project supervisor posed a big challenge to the researcher. Lack of material such as textbook, journals, internet print-outs relevant to carry out the research and renovation of school library were banners to the study. The researcher also encountered some constraint that was likely to hamper the pace of the study including the respondents unwillingness to participate in the study by refusing to give answers to the survey instrument, to overcome this kind of limitation, the researcher explained the purpose of the study to his respondents and solicited for their cooperation. Despite all these limitations, the research was successfully carried out.


1.8 Research Methodology

This study focused mainly on gender equality as it relates to women’s right to work under Islamic Law. The study therefore adopts a qualitative approach and as well one of the traditional methods of gathering information, i.e. the secondary sources. A sizeable percentage of secondary sources that is used came from published and unpublished works which include materials extracted from: Archives, Newspapers, discussions, Conference papers, Magazines, Internets, Books, and Articles in journals e.t.c.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

This objective of this study focused gender equality as it relates to women’s right to work under Islamic Law. However, the discussion was limited to an examination of the relationship between Islamic gender fairness and the applicable restrictions on women’s right to work outside their matrimonial home.

The study adopts a qualitative approach and as well one of the traditional methods of gathering information, i.e. the secondary sources. A sizeable percentage of secondary sources that is used came from published and unpublished works which include materials extracted from: Archives, Newspapers, discussions, Conference papers, Magazines, Internets, Books, and Articles in journals e.t.c. Using the theory of Natural Law, findings from the study revealed that there is no restriction in Islam that says a woman cannot work or have a profession. On the contrary, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women physicians, nurses, and teachers. However, if a woman chooses to work, it must be with the consent of her husband. She is also entitled to equal pay, not for equal work, but for work of equal worth.


5.2 Conclusion

This study has attempted a historical account of the global struggle for recognition of the rights of women over the years and across cultures and civilizations around the world. It also considered the existing biases in the application of women’s rights under Islamic Shari’a law (whether owing to misinterpretation, culture or politics). We observed that, despite the notable role of Islamic law in lifting the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabia, biases in (mis)interpreting Islamic teachings over time have failed to free women from discrimination. Rather, these biases have linked ‘Islam’ to the persistent subjugation of women.

By analyzing the historical struggle for the recognition of the rights of women around the world, and comparing same with the position under Islamic Law, the study concludes that indeed, women’s rights have always been protected under Islamic law; however it is deep-seated societal norms, culture, tradition and politics that build up biases against the rights of women, under the pretext of Islamic dictate. In view of the above findings, it is recommended that more awareness should be raised on the rights of women under Islamic law.


5.3 Recommendation

Base on the findings of the study, the researcher therefor make the following recommendations:

  1. Greater exploration of linkages between women’s rights organizations and activists and progressive sources of Islamic law is needed, including engagement with both sharia and law faculties, clinical programming focused on women’s rights under Islam, and outreach to religious leaders at a community level.
  2. Women’s rights organizations, activists, and legal aid organizations have noted that they would benefit from greater access to legal resources and experts on sharia. Such demands might be met by institutes of learning, international donors, or Islamic legal professionals.
  3. Engagement needs to be expanded between counselors, family law lawyers who frequently defend women’s rights on the one hand and sharia law faculty or other proponents of Islamic law on the other. These engagements could be built into legal clinics at universities or incorporated in annual conventions hosted by the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association.
  4. Women’s rights activists and organizations should evaluate their engagement with religious leaders, especially at the community level, to determine whether their current work might benefit from or be harmed by engaging with wider Islamic legal arguments.
  5. An independent evaluation of community legal and religious literacy programs should be the cornerstone of further engagement on religious dialogue. As such evaluations are carried out, they may generate lessons learned and best practices on Islamic engagement to promote women’s rights that should then be widely disseminated. Further legal and religious literacy programs should be designed in line with findings of independent evaluations.
  6. Donors should continue to support both public legal awareness of women’s rights under Islamic law and practical assistance to enforcement of those rights at a community level.

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