Family, Marriage and Gender

  • Family is considered the foundation of Islamic society; marriage and parenthood are highly valued.
  • Children are expected to care for their parents throughout the ageing process and consider it an honour doing so.
  • The father or the eldest son is responsible for the family.
  • The Qur’an condemns pre-marital sexual intercourse and homosexuality.

There are three types of marriage contract in Islamic traditional law that differ in the delegation of the authority to divorce.
  • Under a Talaq (unilateral) contract, the husband has the ultimate authority in divorce. A wife cannot separate from her husband without his consent. He must also be the financially responsible individual in the relationship and claim the cost of the divorce (especially if children are involved).
  • Under a Tafwid or Ismah (delegation) contract, a husband can elect to delegate the right of talaq (divorce) to his wife as a stipulation in the marriage contract, either prior to the contract being signed or during the marriage. This delegated authority gives a wife the same rights to divorce without losing her right to the mahr (financial duty paid by the husband to the wife after divorce).

“Under Shari'a law, the male has a unilateral right of divorce and the right of custody of male children older than seven years and female children older than nine years. If a wife were to leave home with her children, or if a husband believed his wife had committed adultery, he could exercise his traditional paternal rights by immediate repudiation, which involves the thrice-repeated 'I divorce you'. However, Shari'a law imposes a number of costs and conditions upon the husband before the immediate repudiation becomes the final act of divorce. The husband believes that in following Shari'a law he is exercising his natural religious rights.”

Gender Customs
In the eyes of God, men and women are equal. However, they have different responsibilities and standards of social compliance in society. The male is considered the financially responsible individual and the woman is the homemaker. She should be modest and virtuous while he should be capable and responsible.

Islamic teachings emphasise that Muslims should be respectful and modest around the opposite gender. Thus, there are many Islamic principles detailed in the Qur'an that guide Muslims on how to behave accordingly. For example:
  • Genders may eat or socialise in separate quarters.
  • Genders should be segregated in prayer.
  • Physical contact between genders is discouraged unless they are related.
  • One should lower their eyes when greeting someone of the opposite gender to respect their modesty.
  • Both men and women should cover certain parts of their body to respect the other gender.

Women's Rights
There are misconceptions about the exclusion of women in Islam as many Islamic countries have oppressive laws that prevent them from equally participating in civil and public society. For instance, Muslim women are prohibited from working, driving or leaving their houses without an accompaniment in some states. It is important to identify these examples of the subjugations of women as the result of cultural beliefs (predominantly in Middle Eastern/Gulf/Arabian region), not a religious teaching. The teachings of Islam do not profess such exclusion; the Qur'an does not forbid Muslim women from working, travelling, etc. The Prophet Mohammad described women as the "twin halves of men", deserving of the right to an education, the right to choose their husband and the right to seek divorce.
Where do we get our statistics?