Status of Women and Family in Imam Ali’s (AS) Opinion
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Woman is a delicate creature with strong emotions who has been created by the Almighty God to shoulder responsibility for educating society and moving toward perfection. God created woman as symbol of His own beauty and to give solace to her partner and her family.
Women’s status in Imam Ali’s (AS) opinion
Due to high importance that Islam attaches to women, there are many recommendations about venerating and respecting women and being kind to them. Islam lauds women and Imam Ali (AS) has quoted Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as saying that “Nobody respects women but those who are dignified and generous and nobody insults them but those who are mean and contemptible.” In another tradition, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) appreciates a mother noting, “The entire respect that a child has for his/her mother would not be equal to one day of suffering that she has underwent to bring him/her to this world.”
In pre-Islamic Arab society, people considered no value for women and girls and some tribes even went as far as burying their female infants alive. However, after the advent of Islam, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did his best to change women’s status and promote new attitudes toward women. Every time that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) saw his daughter, Fatemeh (AS), he greatly respected her and kissed her brow. Basically, respect for women is prominent in traditions as well as the conduct of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his progeny. Ali (AS) has been quoted as saying, “Girl is good deed and boy is bounty. Good deeds are rewarded while people are held accountable for bounties.” He has also been quoted as saying that “He who has a daughter will avail of blessing and forgiveness of God.”
A major issue which has been addressed by leaders of Islam is to keep women out of the way of harm, both physical and psychological. In our time, inattention to this issue has caused many women to fall victims to moral and sexual assaults. Anthony Giddens, a Western sociologist, has noted that sexual abuse of women has become ordinary in the West and it also includes working women.
A British journalist has noted that violence against women is escalating in the United States, adding, “Every day a number of women fall victims to violence of their husband or friends and are killed. The violence has dramatically increased after terror attacks of 9/11. It may look strange for a society like the United States, but this is a reality that women continue to be victims of violence as well as moral and administrative corruption or are abused in many ways.”
Imam Ali (AS) enumerates ways to prevent physical as well as psychological damage to women and notes that women can take part in economic, political and social activities while behaving in such a way as to keep off offenders. Imam Ali (AS) advises women to cover their bodies properly when they get out of their homes to shoulder social responsibilities or attend public places.
Although chastity is good for everybody, it is even better for women.
Therefore, Imam Ali (AS) has noted in Epigram 474 of Nahj-ul-Balagha, “The reward given to a combatant killed for the cause of God would not be bigger than the reward of a chaste person who is able to do sin, but stays away from it. Verily, a chaste person is an angel among angels of God.” Today, women in many parts of the world guard their human status in proper ways.
Nadia is older daughter of a British – Asian family who is studying medicine. She has chosen Islamic code of dress and says, “As a woman, I want to remain chaste and modest. Observing hijab (Islamic dress) will protect me against social harm.” She adds, “I am honored to have Imam Ali (AS) and Fatemeh (AS) as my role models.”
Imam Ali (AS) has considered modesty, caution and being calculating as major characteristics of any Muslim woman. It seems that women should be both modest and firm in social encounters because this would prevent evil men to harm them. Imam Ali (AS) has also noted that women should be wise in social interactions to prevent others from exploiting them and look at them as a consumer commodity. Imam Ali (AS) has opined that a Muslim woman should be calculating and protect honor and property of their spouses. Therefore, if a woman is modest, calculating and cautious, she would be able to take constructive and effective steps.
Woman’s status in family
Marriage and family formation is among basic needs of all human beings which will help them prosper. Undoubtedly, relations among family members are important and leave their mark on the society. At present, Western thinkers are concerned about collapse of family institution and growing number of single parent families and are trying to find solutions for this problem. An American researcher has noted that modern families which are not the result of legal marriage lack good resources for upbringing of their children and cannot help shape moral conscience of their offspring. He says that such families are doomed to collapse. Today, 22 percent of children are born out of wedlock, while the figure was only 11 percent in 1970. Therefore the situation is alarming.
Islam attaches great significance to family institution. Men and women are supposed to do their part in social, religious and educational system of families. Imam Ali (AS) has noted that “woman oversees domestic as well as her husband’s affairs.”
Through good supervision over family, a woman can create a warm and understanding atmosphere and lay suitable grounds for a healthy, vivid and successful family life.
Imam Ali (AS) did his best to make women understand true value of women and know that they need attention and kindness more than anything else and do not deserve to be treated harshly and violently. Imam Ali (AS) has been quoted as saying, “God will not accept prayer and good deeds of a man who harasses his wife and he is among the first people to enter the Hell.”
Imam Ali (AS) has also noted, “every man who is unfair to his family cannot be hoped to do good to others.” In other words, such a person would not be qualified to undertake social responsibilities and cannot even be trusted to manage a family life. Since women are susceptible to emotional upheavals, they should be able to rely on their spouses in such times. At the same time, a woman should give solace and comfort to her man.
Most family problems are due to trouble caused by one of the spouses. Sometimes domestic problems are a result of quibbling over trivial matters or illogical demands on the part of wife or man. Imam Ali (AS) maintains that such demands are detrimental to the marital life and calls on both men and women to love each other and do not ask for something that would end in resentment. During nine years of his marital life with Fatemeh (AS), Imam Ali (AS) had a warm and affectionate relationship to his wife. When he was asked about their marital life, Imam Ali (AS) said, “I bring God as witness that I never made Fatemeh (AS) angry and never made her do anything. Fatemeh (AS) was also like that and she never made me angry and never disobeyed me.”
Since the main goal of marriage is to attain peace of mind and produce offspring, criteria used for choosing one’s spouse should be such that they would guarantee establishment of a lasting family relationship. Imam Ali (AS) has frequently explained about suitable criteria for marriage. One of those criteria is that man and woman who are intent to marry should be similar in social status and rank. They should understand each other and have common ideals and ideas as much as possible so as to supplement each other.
He has advised both men and women to choose a spouse that would match them in status. From the viewpoint of Islam, similar status, religion, culture, and personal characteristics constitute major factors which will cement a marital relationship. Apparent feathers such as intelligence and age may be also taken as additional criteria.
Therefore, to prevent future problems, men and women should pay due attention to each other’s characteristics and select a spouse which matches them more closely. It is through correct selection that one can provide his/her spouse and children with a calm, healthy and productive home environment.