Every time we read a work on women in regard to marriage, the results of the study are mostly biased. Often, the points of view are dominated by patriarchal culture. The study of the rights and obligations in domestic lives is unfairly taken into account. The men always get advantages. As a matter of fact, many religions regard and posit human beings as “an integral creature”. They have been endowed a freedom by God. Men and women are equal. But, the reality that we see in daily life is different from the aforesaid divine concept of human being. The women always become complementary beings and the object of the husband. Why?

But, we will get a different perspective if we read the work titled “Women as Beloved One” by Rashid Ridha. By reading this work, the readers are exposed to see through the genuine and appreciative thoughts on women. This work of a Muslim commentator (ahli tafsir) discusses the position of women in Islam, including his in-depth study of the position of women in marriage. Rashid talks so much about the injustice that takes place in the society then analyze it with a critical and courageous viewpoint.  

Some problems which become Rashid’s concern, among others: are First, giving dowry to a woman who will be married. Rashid quotes the opinion of Muhammad Abduh, his teacher and also his companion, to refute the commentary saying that a dowry is only a substitute for the price of pleasure gained in marriage. According to him, a husband-wife relationship is a noble and glorious relationship. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala named a dowry with nihlah (QS. 4: 4). Nihlah is a gift of the husband to his wife as a symbol of relationship which is based on his responsibility in this world and in the hereafter as well as a sign of his love and affection. Another wisdom of granting dowry is that the man is expected to be the woman’s guardian in undergoing domestic lives. In addition, the dowry is a kind of respect from the man to the woman who becomes his wife.   

Second is the freedom of women in marriage and determining their spouses. Islam combines the right of a guardian to marry his daughter with her freedom to accept her future husband she wishes. Islam forbids the guardian to compel his daughter to be married to the man chosen by her guardian. On the contrary, Islam gives concession for women to decide their choices in accordance with their beliefs and thoughts. The practices of forced marriages until now still occur in some parts of the world. Though, forced marriage is obviously not appropriate with the teaching of the Prophet. Narrated by Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Do not you marry your women except after seeking approval from them”. 

Third are the essential elements in the marriage. In the marriage, at least three elements must be fulfilled which are summarized in the Word of God: “… He created for you from yourselves mates (husband/wife) that you may find tranquillity in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought (QS. 30: 21). These elements are sakinah (tranquility), mawaddah (loving), and rahmah (affection). These three elements must frame and underlie a marriage binding. 

Fourth are the equal degree and the meaning of leadership of the husband in the family. The biggest improvement contributed by Islam is with regard to the relationship of women and men which is mentioned in the QS. 2: 228, wa lahunna mislu l-lazi ‘alayhinna bi l-ma’ruf. This verse was revealed to rearrange the entire traditions which practically harm the women and also unbalanced obligations and rights within the society. The women are used to being given more obligations, whereas the men get more rights. In fact, in Islam, rights and obligations are directly proportional.  

For example, plenty of men with their courage oppress women arbitrarily, deprive their rights, and control their life, wealth, and children. Ibn Abbas ever said, “Because of this verse, I always make up for my wife, just as my wife makes up for me.” With such balanced comparison, again Rasyid quotes the opinion of Muhammad Abduh, “An honor given to the women are never given by any previous religions before Islam. There is no a single shari’a which gives such an honorable position to women better than Islam.” 

Fifth, in Tafsir al-Manar, part V, are elucidated about the lofty attitudes that men should perform against the women that is to protect them, treat them well, control them fairly, and meet their needs. Seemingly, Rashid looks wrathful if he sees the men due to their physical superiority act unjustly to women (page 75). 

Sixth, the criteria for pious women are stated in the Word of God, “… righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard…” (QS. 4: 34). The ulama interpret the word bima hafizhallahu as the right that Allah preserves for women. That right is the men’s duty to give dowry and livelihood. Likewise, the women must take care of their husbands’ rights, themselves, and husbands’ property when they are not at home (p. 76-79). By all means, the same matters are assigned to the husbands. They also have to keep the rights of the wives, themselves, property, and everything, including when the wives are not with them. 

In this 280-page work, Rashid does not merely discuss women’s rights and positions. In addition, he also talks about the issue of polygamy, talaq (repudiation), adab (ethics/morals), and the virtues of Muslim women, and the virtues of a mother over a father.

One of the distinctions of this book is its review of social commentary which is presented critically and analytically. Rashid (also his teacher, Muhammad Abduh) is well known as the champions of women’s interests, especially when discussing the relationship between men and women. It can be seen from his opinion when interpreting QS. 4: 1 in which he does not agree that women are created from men’s ribs. According to him, min nafsin wahidah is interpreted min jinsin wahid wa haqiqatin wahidah, that is from one similar type and one essence/substance. (Al-Manar, volume IV, p. 327) And, basically, Islam is a religion which stresses on a monogamous marriage, not polygamy.

This courageous work deserves to be a reference of discussion for anyone who concerns on women studies. By reading critically, the reader will find the big and factual ideas in the present time. The work of Rashid can be a “delicious dish” for all people, especially for the learner of fiqh munakahat (Islamic Jurisprudence on marriage) and Quranic commentary; for women activists as well as the husband and wife. This book can be the “main” reference for the dreamers of the realization of equality and justice between men and women from the Islamic perspective. With a complete elucidation and coherently written, this book deserves to read. Happy reading and change your viewpoint on the issues of women and marriage. [na]


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