|Role as mother|
Apart from her role as a wife, the Muslim woman has a very important role as mother. The status and value attached to parents in the Muslim world is very high. The Qur'an says:
"Your Lord has decreed that you should worship nothing except Him, and (show) kindness to your parents, whether one or both of them attain old age (while they are) still with you, never say to them 'Shame! nor scold either of them. Speak to them in a generous fashion. Protect them carefully and say: 'My Lord, show them mercy, just as they cared for me as a little child'" (-24).
Again Allah says:
"We have enjoined man to respect his parents; his mother bears him with fainting after fainting, while his weaning takes two years. Thank Me as well as your parents; towards Me lies the goal" (The Qur'an 31:14)
It is reported that a man came to the Prophet and asked:
"Messenger of Allah, who is the most deserving of good care from me?" The Prophet replied: "Your mother (which he repeated three times) then your father, then your nearest relatives in order".
In another hadith the Prophet has said: "
The Muslim mother has consequently a great feeling of security about the type of care and consideration she can expect from her children when she reaches old age. As the verse of the Qur'~ n quoted above indicates, thankfulness to parents is linked with thankfulness to Allah, and a failure in either of these respects is indeed a major failure in one's religious duties.
The principles of Islam made explicit in the Qur'an and hadith are belief and good conduct, and good conduct begins at home with one's closest relatives. A Westerner who has had close contact with a Muslim society cannot fail to be struck by the love and respect given to parents and the honour shown to old people in general, both men and women, as a direct application of these principles of Islam.
We have discussed a Muslim woman's status with regard to her husband and the children. What then of her relations with men other than her husband and her close relatives? This is where a considerable difference is found between Islamic practice and the customs now prevalent in the Western world. In the West, sexual relations outside marriage are still in theory generally considered a sin or at least vaguely undesirable, but in practice no steps whatsoever are taken to reduce the very high incidence of pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations in spite of the soaring rates of illegitimacy and venereal disease. On the contrary, in films, television and certain sections of the press there is every encouragement to consider pre-marital experience desirable and extra-marital affairs quite normal. Contraception or abortion is expected to conveniently get rid of any undesirable side-affects of this way of life.
In contrast with this uncontrolled situation, Islam advocates a number of specific measures to reduce the temptations towards sex outside marriage.
To begin with, the Prophet advised all people to get married if they could, so that their natural desires should have a legitimate and legal fulfilment.
Secondly, due to the permission for limited polygamy there is no necessity for there to be a surplus of unattached women is the society.
Thirdly women are directed in the Qur'an when they appear in public to cover themselves in a modest type of dress so as not to attract men.
Fourthly the Muslim way of life excludes the boy-friend/Girl-friend system, mixed parties, dancing between men and women, taking alcohol or drugs, and other facets of the Western way of life which are well known to provide the situation from which pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations develop. Social entertainments in Islam are generally either within the family and close friends of the family, or among men and women in separate groups.
Fifthly sex outside marriage is considered in Islam law not only as a sin but as a crime which is punished under the law in the same way as theft or murder. The punishment for it applies equally to the man and woman and is severe and deterrent in its effect.