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Introduction

Various calls for women's freedom, liberation and equal rights have been heard all over the world, and many slogans have been coined for the marches. In some societies women have indeed lived under oppression, cruelty and injustice, and have been denied basic rights of humanity. Nor is it denied that some Muslims have deviated from the Islamic principles and teachings. Islamic law, on the other hand, has collected women's rights in a comprehensive and balanced system of human rights and obligations. Close examination of the slogans propagated by the international women's liberation movements show that they revolve around three elements: women's liberation, equal rights with men and women's rights. We will examine them in the light of Islamic law and teachings, regardless of the practices of some of the ignorant and deviant Muslims.

Firstly, the word "liberation" indicates that there are shackles, bonds and restrictions in place, and secondly, that women are enslaved and must be liberated. This is ambiguous and misleading since absolute liberty is impossible, regardless of whether they are men or women. Mankind is naturally restricted by the limitations of innate limited abilities, and necessities of social organization. Both men and women must live in a social environment under certain laws, rules and regulations that govern and organize the various affairs of life. Does that mean that man is not free and independent in his actions, or that he is clear from the responsibility of his deeds? Can anyone be free of natural limits and legal restrictions? If they are slaves, then the question becomes, to whom? Any so called freedom and liberty has natural and legal limits, which, if exceeded, will lead to destructive activities that all recognize as indecent, uncivilized and criminal.

Islamic law decreed that both men and women seek freedom and liberation from idolatry, tyranny, exploitation and injustice. The divinely revealed principles and laws teach and advocate strict monotheism, justice and noble morality. Within this framework men and women have inter-dependent and complementary roles. Islamic law granted women the right to deal in many affairs within the society directly, rather than dealing via a guardian. Women in Islam are officially responsible and in charge of running all their affairs whether economical, social or otherwise, as in many societies. For her protection and maintenance, her father, brother, uncle and husband - the stronger sex - are obligated and legally bound to guard her honor and maintain her sustenance and proper living circumstances according to their abilities, throughout the stages of her life. Is this demeaning her position, or elevating it? Islam has forbidden men and women equally from being indecent publicly, and this translates differently for the two sexes for natural reasons. All must protect virtue in private, and guard themselves in public.

Islamic law protects women from intimidation and molestation, and this demands that no one of either gender commit acts that are sexually provocative or enticing to the other. For this reason Islamic law requires modest clothing for her protection when going out of the home, and prohibits open ended free intermingling, and any type of physical touching of the other sex. Islam illustrates the concept of freedom and liberty in such a way that individual behavior must not be harmful to the individual or destructive to the society at large, as graphically illustrated in the words of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) when he said in an authentic tradition:

"The example of a person who observes the laws of Allah and the person who violates them are examples of two groups of people who gathered on a ship and decided to divide their places. One group received the upper deck as their lot, while the other group received the lower part of the ship. Whenever the people in the lower part needed water they had to pass through the people on the upper deck. The people in the lower part thought to themselves:'If we drill a hole in our portion of the ship, we can have access to the water without disturbing the party on the upper deck.' If the group on the upper deck allows them execute their plan, all the people will be destroyed, and if they forbid them from doing so, they all will be safe"

[Bukhari #2361 & others]

A well-known German thinker and philosopher, Schopenhauer said:

"Grant woman total and absolute freedom and liberty for ONE YEAR ONLY, and check with me after that to see the results of such freedom. Do not forget that you (all), along with me, will inherit virtues, chastity and good morals. If I die (before then) you are free to say either: "He was wrong!"or "He hit the heart of the truth!"

An American female reporter, Helesian Stansbery, who is syndicated in over 250 newspapers, worked in the area of journalism and broadcasting for over 20 years, and visited numerous Muslim countries had this to say at the end of one of her visits to a Muslim country:

"The Arab-Islamic society is wholesome and healthy. This society must continue to protect its traditions that restrict both its males and females to a certain and reasonable degree. This society definitely differs from the European and American societies. The Arab-Islamic society has its own traditions that impose certain restrictions and limitations on women and give special respect and status to parents... First and foremost, the most strict restrictions and limitations are on absolute sexual freedom that truly threatens both the society and the family in Europe and the United States of America. Therefore, the restrictions that are imposed by the Arab-Islamic society are valid and beneficial as well. I strongly recommend that you adhere to your traditions and code of ethics. Forbid coeducation. Restrict female freedom, or rather, return back to the full 'purdah' (veiling) practices. Truly this is better for you than the sexual freedom of Europe and the United States of America. Forbid coeducation because we have suffered from it in the USA.

The American society has become sophisticated, full of all forms and terms of sexual freedom. The victims of sexual freedom and coeducation are filling the prisons, sidewalks, bars, taverns and whorehouses. The (false) freedom that we have granted to our young females and daughters has turned them to drugs, crime and white slavery. Coeducation, sexual freedom and all other types of "freedom" in the European and American societies have threatened the family and shaken moral values and ethics."

The question that poses itself to women's liberation advocates is: What is the truly the best, most beneficial and most protective system for the preservation of the honor, dignity and protection of women?