Woman had to undergo patiently the above-mentioned treatment (to read the full article please follow the link at the end), which imprisoned her in the dungeon of humiliation and disgrace. Consequently, weakness and inferiority became her second nature; she was brought up in this environment and lived and died in it. Ultimately, the word ‘woman’ became synonymous with ‘weakness’ and ‘insignificance’ – not only in the conversation of men but even in the language of women themselves.
Look at any society, primitive or civilized, and you will find adages and proverbs reflecting on woman’s feebleness and unimportance. Take any two or more languages of different origins and unrelated developments, and you will find one thing in common: allegories, metaphors and similes connected with the word ‘woman’ to scold a coward, to rebuke a weakling and to chide a contemptible and despised person. An Arab poet said.
I do not know (and would that I knew), Whether the family of Hisn are people or women.
Such expressions may be seen in hundreds and thousands in every language.
These idioms and expressions were enough to show what human society believed about women, even if there were nothing recorded in the books of history and culture, because the ideas and ideals of a nation may clearly be gleaned from its language.
The only thing showing any consideration and care towards her is found in a few sentences of the Torah and in the admonition of Jesus to have mercy on her.
Then came Islam, the religion of truth and monotheism, accompanied by the Qur’an. Islam originated and initiated in her favor a system which the world had never known before, from the early dawn of humanity.
It set forth straight away against the dictum of the whole world, and rebuilt, for her, her natural place, which the world had completely destroyed, from the very beginning. It cancelled and dismissed as baseless their belief about her identity and their practice concerning her treatment.
1- HER IDENTITY
Islam declared that woman is as much a human being as man is. Every person, male or female, is a human being, whose substance and ingredients combinedly originate from two human beings – one male and one female, and no one has any superiority over the other except through piety.
O you people! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may recognize each other; surely the -most honorable of you with Allah is one among you who guards (him/her self) most (against evil); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware (49:13).
Allah clearly says that every human being’ originates and is made from two human beings, a male and a female, and they both jointly and in equal degree are the source of his existence; and everyone, male or female, is a combination of the substances taken from those two. Note that Allah did not say as the Arab poet had said: “And surely the mothers of the people are but receptacles”. Nor did He say like another poet.
Our sons are (those who are) the sons of our sons; and as for our daughters,
Their sons are the sons of distant men.
Instead He (Allah) declared that everyone was created from both male and female. All were, therefore, similar to each other. There could be no declaration more complete and more appropriate. Finally, He declared that being a male or a female or being born in a certain family or tribe is not the criterion of superiority. Superiority originates only from piety.
Also, Allah has said:
. . . that I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other . . . (3:195).
Here it is clearly said that endeavor is not repulsed and work is not wasted. And why? Because the one of you is from the other. This verse in this way clearly says what was implied in the words of the previous verse, “surely We have created you of a male and a female”: The man and the woman together are a single species, without any difference in their origin and root.
He goes on to say that the work of anyone from these two groups is not wasted before Allah; it will not be neglected, nor will its reward be given to another person; every soul is mortgaged against its own endeavors. It is not as the people have said that women were responsible for their mistakes, but so far as their good work was concerned, its reward should be given to the men.
Every male and every female get what he or she does, and there is no superiority except of piety. The virtues are a part of piety like faith with its various degrees, beneficial knowledge, balanced wisdom, good character, patience and forbearance.
Therefore, a believing woman (in various stages of the faith), or a learned and wise one, or one who is of noble character, will be superior in her own right, and higher in grade than those men, whosoever, who are not equal to her in these virtues. Because there is no superiority except of piety and noble character.
There are other verses of the same meaning, and rather clearer. Allah says.
Whoever does good, whether male or female, and he is a believer, We will most certainly make him live a happy life, and We will most certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did ( 16:97).
. . . and whoever does good, whether male or female and he is a believer, these shall enter the garden in which they shall be given sustenance without measure (40:40).
And whoever does good deeds, whether male or female and he is a believer, these shall enter the garden, and they shall not be dealt with a lot unjustly (4:124).
And Allah has condemned their disdain of the daughters in these words (and it is the most telling condemnation).
And when a daughter is announced to one of them his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Should he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge ( 16:58 – 59).
Obviously they hid themselves because they thought that a daughter was a disgrace for the father. They thought that she would soon reach marriageable age and would become a toy in the hands of her husband who would use her for sexual enjoyment – a shameful thing; and this shame would affect her family and her father; it was, therefore, better to bury her alive. (The original reason of this custom has already been described.) Allah severely condemned this practice in these words.
And when the buried alive shall be asked for what sin she was killed (81: 8 -9).
There has remained a residue of such superstitions among Muslims, a legacy of their pagan ancestors, which has not been washed away 6om their hearts. You will see them thinking that illicit sexual relations are a shame and disgrace for the woman (even if she repents) but not for the man (even if he continues in that sin); while Islam has declared that disgrace and evil belongs to the sin in which the man and the woman were equal partners.
2- HER VALUE IN SOCIETY
Islam has made the man and the woman equal in their will and action so far as the management of their lives is concerned. Allah said:
The one of you being from the other (3:195).
She is independent in her will and intention and independent in her action. The woman owns the products of her own will and action as the man owns his own without any difference whatsoever. For her is the benefit of what she earns, and on her is the responsibility of what she does.
According to Islam both are equal; the Qur’an confirms it and Allah shows the truth to be the truth by His words. Side by side, Islam recognizes two special qualities in her, by which the Creator has distinguished her from the man.
First, she is like a tilth for the creation and propagation of the human race. The species cannot exist without her. This distinction calls for some special rules concerning her life. Second, she has a comparatively delicate body and a sensitive perception. This has a tangible effect on her life and on the social and domestic responsibilities entrusted to her.
This is her value in human society – and also the value of the man may be understood from it. These two distinctions are the basis of all the rules that are common to both groups and of those that are reserved for either of the two. Allah says:
And do not covet that by which Allah has made some of you excel others; men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace; surely Allah knows all things (4:32).
It shows that the contribution made by each group to society is the criterion of the excellence granted to it. And it is this excellence which gives special status to one in comparison to the other. For example, man has been given preference over woman in the share of inheritance; while woman has been given preference over man by being exempted from the responsibilities of maintenance. And no one should covet the preference given to someone else.
There is another type of excellence, which results from the deeds of the doer, whoever he or she might be. For example, the virtues of faith, knowledge, reason, piety and other admirable qualities. And it is the grace of Allah, He gives it to whomsoever He wishes, and ask Allah of His grace.
The proof of the above statement is found in the words of Allah, following the above-mentioned verse:
Men are the maintainers of women . . . (3:34).
Source: “A Scientific Discourse about Woman” by Allamah Tabataba’i,