Widowhood In Islam

Project and Seminar Material Under Islamic and Arabic Studies

Widowhood In Islam


Abstract


The patriarchal formulations of appropriate behavior for widows of different castes are reflected and are structurally integrated into the ideology and material relations of the caste system. The status of marginalized widows in different classes, castes, regions and religions of the different parts of the country has been analyzed. Widows are compelled to experience the difficulties and insecurity such as limited choice of remarriage, gender division of labor limiting the job opportunities, strong patrilineal family structure and pitiable economic support. It can thus be concluded from the above discussion that widowhood marks a transition from marital status which is not smooth, for it means not only a loss of status but also a loss of pride, privilege, prestige and independence. Widowhood brings about severe social ,economic and cultural deprivation. It may have deleterious effects not only because of sudden loss of spouse but because of lack of well defined cultural expectations regarding the role of widow. Although various efforts are made to work towards the reformation in order to improve the conditions of widows. But still, glaring gender discrimination exists over the centuries. Particularly for the widows who are facing a lot of problems and hardships in the family as well as the society because of traditional norms, cultural practices and beliefs within the society. The multiple layers of oppression increases the vulnerability and hence socially ostracizes them. Hence, the structure of widowhood Muslims is used as a means of their cultural reproduction and there prevails the stigma amounting to widowhood especially for the armed conflict victimized widows. This study tries to understand and describe the lived experiences of Muslim widows. This study is further designed to focus on the problems and sufferings faced by them in the current scenario by trying to evaluate the impact of socio-cultural, religious and political factors on the widows’ experiences.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1. Background of the Study

In the name of Allah the beneficent, the merciful

Islam is the religion that guides human beings in every aspect of life, be it in this world or in the hereafter. Therefore, every aspect of life has its sufficient reference in the glorious Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W). the following Qur’anic verse affirms the statement. Allah (S.W.T) says:

There is no moving (living) creature on earth,

Nor a bird that flies with its two wings but are communities like you. we have neglected nothing in the book, then to their lord they (all) shall be gathered!1

And in another verse Allah states:

…………And we have sent down to you the book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy and glad tiding for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah)2.

The religion of Islam has laid down rules and regulations governing any circumstance a woman happens to experience in life. Therefore, I will attempt to explore and analyze all the issues concerning widowhood in Islam and the prevailing understanding according to the contemporary life today using the relevant resources.


1.2. Statement of the Research Problem

Certainly, Islam has laid down rules that has to do with the issue of widows and what a woman in this position must do and what she must not do. But in this contemporary life, the practice of widowhood is understood differently. Therefore, could it be lack of understanding the concept of widowhood? Or is it because of the difficulties during this period that made the widows not to practice their responsibilities well? Or could it be negligence or being irresponsible? More importantly, can we conclude to say that it is because of lack of assistance or attention giving to the widows? Moreover, many Muslim women who happened to become widows do not have good knowledge on what they should or should not do in their widowhood, however in this situation, they may think that it is prohibited for them when necessary to go to school, hospital, working place e.t.c. All these problems will be discussed in the research.


1.3. Significance of the Study

This study will be of great benefit to widows when completed and also to the Muslim society at large. It will simplify and bring closer the views of scholars. When the findings of this research are adopted and implemented, the widows will receive more effective care in the society.


1.4. Aims and Objectives of the Study

  1. To bring out the concept of widowhood according to Islam
  2. To find out the difficulties encountered by the widows today
  3. To present the teachings of Islam with regards to widows
  4. To educate widows on their responsibilities
  5. To contribute in educating/enlightening the society on the need to assist widows.

1.5 Scope and Limitation

The scope of this research is based on widowhood from Islamic perspective within the opinions of the four school of thoughts and what is obtainable in the understanding of some Muslims within Kaduna metropolis.


1.6 Methodology of the Research

The method followed in conducting this research is the use of Qur’anic verses, the tradition of the prophet (S.A.W.) and their explanations as well as the Islamic references. In addition to consultation of various individuals in a form of interview, and also my understanding and experience on the cases of widows. All the information received was later transcribed into a simple language for the benefit of the Muslim Ummah.


1.7. Literature Review

Research has been conducted on the issue of widowhood from Islamic perspective and its understanding in the contemporary life. Here are the related available works on the subject.

Mohammad Fadel Rashid (n.d) in his book Minhaj al-Muslim “Path of Muslim”. The book discusses many aspects of dealings in Islam. The book is in two volumes (2Vol.), and it consists of five sections and chapters. Section one has Seventeen Chapter, section two carries Fourteen Chapters, Section Three has Twelve Chapters, Section Four has Fourteen Chapter and Section Five comes with Thirteen Chapters and the most relevant to my research work is chapter six of the section five. The author in the Seventh theme of chapter six highlighted the definition of Iddah, Rules, Wisdom and its kinds.

Abdulrahaman I. Doi (1404AH) in his book title “Shari’ah; The Islamic Law” the book contain chapters dealing with different aspect. The author in chapter 13, discussed the meaning of Iddah and Its types likewise he examine the conduct and manner on how to treat a woman during Iddah.

In the book of Sayyid Sabiq (1996), title the Doctrinal Writings of the Holy Prophet’s Sunnah “Fiqhus-Sunnah” Vol.III. The book consist of many aspect of dealings in Islam which among them is where the author examined the concept of Iddah, its kinds and the categories of women entitled to Iddah.

M.M. Khan (2011) in his book titled Islamic Law and Divorce. The book is in 2 volumes discussing different aspect related to divorce in Islam. The author in vol.2 page 153-156 discusses the period of Iddah, Rules and conducts of Iddah.

Muhammad M. Abdul-fattah (1425/2014), in his book “Al-fiqhul-muyassiruminal Qur’an Was-Sunnah” Vol.2. The author in page 838, explain the meaning of Iddah (Waiting Period) of a Divorce and Iddah of Khul’ a.

All the above mentioned works are more to do with the explanation of the juristic opinions while in my work I will concentrate more on the challenges facing widowhood in Islam and the possible ways to curve and reduce them in our contemporary society.


1.8. End Notes

  1. Dr. Muhammad Muslim Khan, Dr. Muhammad Taqi-uddin Al-Hilali the Noble Qur’an,Darussalam 2011, Qur’an 6:38.p245
  2. Opcit Qur’an 16:89p493.

Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendation

Widowhood is something inevitable in most women’s life. Islam has enjoined deep concern for them. The injurious cultural practices which have crept into Islâm in this regard are unfortunate. Nevertheless, the society, the Muslims especially, must put realistic arrangements in place for widows.

From the analyses, it is revealed that the female headed households endure greater economic drawback. Prevalence of low income is higher in them and the economic crisis is more accentuated by the denial of property and inheritance rights. Lack of education makes it more complicated for them to secure a job which adds to their miseries. The female headed households have amplified responsibilities of their children concerning their education and marriage post husband’s demise. Social and economic deprivation leads to ill health and higher mortality risks among them. Thus in a nutshell, financial crisis, lack of identity and the feeling of insecurity are the major issues faced by the widows. But among Muslims, widows have a respectable status, no restrictions on remarriage, food, jewellery, dress etc. They are treated well and no discrimination is posed against them according to the Quranic revelations.

To appreciate the rights of a widow it is essential to understand her position in society, her economic status and her state of empowerment. It is also necessary to look at customary law, statutory law and actual practice. Though customary and statutory law might give a widow certain rights, in actual practice none of these rights might be effective because she is not socially empowered to assert those rights and fight for them. It is in this context that one needs to look at the historical background and the present position. Also, it may be asserted that the provisions for widows fail to realize the objectives with which they are launched. First and foremost is the problem of enforcement of laws as well as the implementation of schemes. In relation to laws, it may be asserted that they remain only on paper as the widow is unable to break the shackles of sociocultural traditions and assert her rights.

Introducing pension for widows but keeping the monetary value of widows’ pensions is a continuing source of grievance, since the value often does not keep up with fluctuations in the ever-changing cost-of-living indices, or with expectations. As for the pension schemes, firstly the amount is meager, a widow can neither sustain herself nor her family. Even the provision for employment of a widow in case of death of husband while in service fails to provide relief as majority of the workforce is in the unorganized sector where such laws are not applicable.

Combined with the structural drawbacks of rigid procedure for eligibility as well as complex bureaucratic arrangements, delays and corruption, one has a situation where the widow remains bereft of all financial assistance.

Further, even where the widow does manage to get financial aid or inherit property, her ownilliteracy, lack of legal knowledge as well as the strong socialization into the socio-cultural traditions and patriarchal set-up prevents her from utilizing these. None of these schemes or policies attempts to empowerthe widow to be able to deal with her problems. All the schemes treat her merely as a recipient of state (readmale) generosity, a beneficiary of dole-outs. The result is her continuing subordination and in some cases increasing exploitation.


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