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Abuse of Women's Rights

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I am interested in converting to Islam. So I am reading up as much as possible, as well as speaking to many people about this. One subject worries me greatly and that is the behavior of Muslim men who do not live according to the teachings of Islam. I don’t understand how Islam can give all these rights to women and then place the man as the head of the household in a position to abuse the woman’s rights. For instance, how can she hold on to her personal wealth if he tells her to hand it over? I do not know one Muslim family where the man is not abusing his position in some way. Thank you for your response.

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Thank you for your question.
I’m happy to hear that you are reading about Islam. But when you talk to Muslims about it, you have to know whether they really know much about their own religion!

Sadly, it is true that there are many Muslims, men as well as women, who do not live up to the teachings of Islam, just as there are many Christian men and women who do not live up to the teachings of Jesus. You must always judge Islam by what its books say, not by what Muslims do.

Many of the Muslims in the UK are first and second generation immigrants from countries where traditions often go against the teachings of Islam. If you met Muslims who were of British descent and reverts, or the children of reverts, most likely you would find them closer to the teachings of Islam in how they treat their wives. If you do not know one family in which the husband does not abuse his wife’s rights, you just don’t know enough Muslims yet!

Islam calls for both men and women to be educated, to learn to read and write, and to know their religion. If women knew their rights, they would be less likely to let themselves be abused in this manner.

A Muslim woman has the right to handle her own money. She does not have to support the family. Her husband has no right to demand that she contribute to the household expenses or that she hand over to him her money, no matter what its source is.

A woman who does give her money to a demanding husband is either ignorant of her rights or is allowing her rights to be abused! She should keep her own money, either in a bank account, such as an interest-free checking account, or in a rented safe deposit box.

There are, of course, times when the woman may wish to contribute to the family expenses, or when circumstances may make her feel the need to do so. She is free to share the expenses of the family, and God will reward her for it. The point is that she does not have to do so, and her husband has no right to demand that she do so.

She could just as well demand that he works two jobs, rather than that she work and pay expenses. But that might not be possible, for example if he is ill, nor might it be the best solution. That is for each couple to decide by the mutual consultation that the Qur’an orders, in Surah Ash-Shura 42, verse 38:

{And those who respond to their Lord and keep up prayer, and their rule is to take counsel among themselves, and who spend out of what We have given them.}

I may note here that some exegetes of the Qur’an have inferred from two verses (An-Nisaa’ 4:34 and At-Tahrim 66:7) that whenever a husband is unable to support his wife, he is no longer her caretaker. Many scholars see that she is not obliged to remain at home – should he request it.
Here, she is entitled to have the marriage annulled. He is no longer a caretaker or entitled to oblige her to remain at home, because he has vitiated the objective of protecting her by marriage, for the aim of marriage is her security.
When any woman is considering a marriage proposal from any man, Muslim or non-Muslim, they should have long discussions to ascertain that they have the same understanding of the role and rights of each spouse. This is especially important if they were raised in different cultures.

Equally important is that the woman ascertain the man’s immigration status if he is not a citizen of the country they are living in. It is not uncommon, especially in Western countries, for men to marry in order to gain residence in the country, and a man who marries for that reason is more likely to abuse his wife’s rights.

I hope I have not painted a negative image of Islam by admitting that there are Muslims — men and women — who do not live up to their religion. I do believe that Islam is the true guidance from God, and I do believe that people everywhere would be happier if they chose to live by its rules.

Where we do not have Islamic courts to protect our rights, we have to be educated to know and assert our rights. Also, we have to be careful in choosing spouses. That goes for men as well as women.

I hope that you will keep reading, Rosemary, and, again, judge Islam by what the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad teach, not by what you see people doing. May God guide you and all of us to the Truth.
Thank you and please keep in touch.
Salam.

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