For many years, people have reckoned Islam. This is mainly because of its strict and inflexible laws. Islam, which relies on Sharia laws, revolves around relationships. Sharia laws define relationships between God and man, and between human beings. Islamic laws, which have been in existence for the last 14,000 years, define the expected behavior of Muslims, the relationships between them and other human beings, and their duties to God.
However, these laws tend to favor men as compared to women. This has led to the oppression and seclusion of women (Abou El Fadl 2001).1 However, advancement in technology and globalization among other factors are essential to Muslim women. These channels give the Muslim women a platform to voice their opinions. With time, these women are gaining more opportunities to air their opinions. Today, Muslim women in the Arab world and in Western countries can comfortably raise issues on matters concerning them.
Marriage has been among the key issues affecting Muslim women. These women have been participating in debates in order to voice their opinions on issues of marriage arrangements, procedures, expectations, rights, and roles among other issues. This paper analyzes the issue of marriage and its importance to Islamic women. It considers the views of several authors of Islamic texts on this issue.
Just like in other religions, marriage is very important in Islam. Islam dictates that marriage should only happen between two Muslims, who are of opposite sexes. The man pays for the bride’s dowry and then the marriage rituals take place. After marriage, they both take their roles while conforming to the Sharia law. The man bears full authority over his wife and has a duty of providing to the wife, whose duty is to serve the husband. Islam allows men to marry more than one wife. However, it restricts a woman to only one husband.
Marriage is important to Muslim women as it affects them. After all, they have to get married at one point of their lives. Marriage is important to Islamic women as the Islamic laws recommend it. Issues concerning marriage include the expected roles of women, divorce, and duties of husbands among other issues.
Women need to understand issues of marriage to know how to go about their marriage issues. They have to know how to be good wives, mothers, and daughter-in-laws. Further, they have to know how to manage their homes effectively. Therefore, women have to understand all issues surrounding marriage in Islam in order to enjoy prosperous marriages.
Kecia Ali, an author of Islamic texts, focuses on the laws that govern marriage institutions in Islam. She addresses the issues of dowry payments, marriage, slavery, and the role of women in marriage. According to her, women have rights to express their views on marriage. She acknowledges the fact that Muslim women have sexual needs and desires, which are not considered. Further, she addresses the issue of oppression of women in Islam (Ali 2010). 2
In her work, Kecia portrays the Islamic man as being superior to the Islamic women. She brings out the issues of sex and ethics expected in Islamic marriage institutions. She shows how these issues favor men over women. Kecia considers the man as the ultimate source of authority in a marriage. She shows this by writing that men act as the segmenting factors in marriages. According to her, the man has a responsibility of fending for his family, protecting his family, and guarding the virtue of his wife/wives (Ali 2006).3
Islam, gender, and social change, a book by Yvonne Haddad and John Esposito addresses the issues of modernity that have an impact on Islamic laws of marriage. They show how the world views Islamic women and proceed to give their concept of women in Islam. They document that religious scriptures guide the roles of Islamic women.
According to them, the Quran and Sharia laws provide parameters on the behavior of the men and women in marriage institutions. They acknowledge the fact that Islam is a male dominated religion and culture. They attribute this to the fact that features of women are indecent. Based on this, Muslim women should not expose their bodies or even their voices (Haddad and John 1997).4
These writers portray God as the source of authority in Islam. According to them, Muslim men only follow Gods law, which gives them dominance over women. They clarify that the Holy Quran is specific on the rights of women.
Abdul-Aziz in her article, “crisis of male epistemology in Islamic jurisprudence”, explains the issues facing Islamic women. She uses the Islamic jury system to explain her position on this issue. She documents that in Islam women face segregation and seclusion. She writes that men manipulate the laws to work in their favor.
In her article, she attributes the source of power in Islam to God. She uses the example of Prophet Muhammad’s family to explain this. She writes that during the prophet’s time men and women had full access to the laws. The mantle of handling women related issues rested on women.
For instance, Aisha, the prophet’s wife was responsible for handling issues related to women (Sachedina n.d). 5 Abdul-Aziz is of the opinion that Muslim women have equal rights to men. For example, as parents, sister, brothers, and as relatives the two genders are equal. Therefore, God is the ultimate source of power.
All the articles portray several similarities and differences in terms of the way the articles relate to the Islamic teachings. All the three writers acknowledge the authority of God in Islam. Islamic religious doctrines and laws clearly state that God is the overall authority in the world. The writers acknowledge God’s power by writing that humankind follows the rules that God put in place.
However, the ideas of these authors vary. Each author has a different approach regarding hierarchy of authority in Islam. Some of the authors argue that men are second to God while others are of the opinion that the position of the two is level. For instance, Kecia is of the opinion that men are superior to women. Abdul-Aziz and Yvonne attribute all power to God. These authors agree that men and women have equal rights. According to Islamic doctrines, man and woman are equal to God.
Since men are unfamiliar with issues affecting women, they should allow women to handle issues affecting them. This will ensure more content and happy women.
Ali, Kecia. Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2010.
—. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and Jurisprudence. London: Oneworld, 2006.
Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. London: Oneworld, 2001.
Haddad, Yvonne and John Esposito (Ed). Islam, Gender, and Social Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Sachedina, Abdulaziz. Crisis of Male Epistemology in Islamic Jurisprudence. n.d. https://www.virginia.edu/.
1 Khaled Abou El Fadl,Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. (London: Oneworld, 2001) 384.
2 Kecia Ali, Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2010), 272.
3 Kecia Ali, Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and Jurisprudence (London: Oneworld, 2006), 142.
4 Yvonne Haddad and John Esposito (Ed), Islam, Gender, and Social Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 288.
5 Abdulaziz Sachedina, Crisis of Male Epistemology in Islamic Jurisprudence.