The word “economy” often brings money to mind. When we talk about the economy, people assume we must talk about money. But what does this mean for the millions of women in Afghanistan who work without pay? Are they excluded from our economy because they contribute no monetary value? What does it mean for women who have been deprived of the right to inherit and the right to own property?
Everyone has the right to discuss and participate in the economy. But Afghan society still holds odd conceptions about the value of women in our economy, and many people are not ready to accept women’s economic independence. Yet it’s obvious that women are an important part of the economy in every country. Failure to acknowledge this contribution is nothing short of fraud.
Afghan women must now work to improve their economic status. They must earn the respect they deserve from their families and learn to become more self-reliant and integrated into the economy. To do this, we first need to examine how our government, religion, traditions, and culture view women’s role in the economy.
Afghanistan is an Islamic republic; most of the rules in Afghanistan stem from Islamic rules. We therefore need to understand the Islamic approach to women’s participation in economy.
According to the verses of Quran Sharif, Islam does not oppose women’s participation in the economy. Even at the time of Mohammad, peace be upon him, women worked in different fields of trade, agriculture, and general services, and Mohammad selected Khadija, a trader, as his wife. Islam permits and encourages women to work in society and even says that a husband should not have a share in his wife’s income.
Islam defines rights of inheritance for a woman according to her relationship with the deceased. Here are the rules:
Inheritance law for a sister:
When a man or woman dies and has siblings but neither parents nor living children, the legacy for every sibling is one sixth (Qur’an, Alnisa, 11). This means that parents and children have priority but if there are neither, the siblings inherit.
Inheritance law for a mother:
If the deceased person has living children and living parents, the legacy amount for the deceased person’s mother or father is one sixth. If the deceased person doesn’t have children, the legacy share for the mother is one third (Qur’an, Alnisa,12).
Inheritance law for a wife:
If a woman’s husband dies and he has no children, the woman inherits one fourth of the assets. If he has children, the woman inherits one eighth of the assets, and the rest belongs to his children. (WCLRF Community of Afghan Civil Society).
Inheritance law defined by the constitution:
The Afghanistan constitution says that a woman can acquire her inheritance not only by religious authority, but also by law. That is, both Islamic law and the constitution allow women to claim an inheritance (Afg. constitution, article 2008, 2009, and 2010).
Dowry or Mehria
In Islam, a dowry secures the economic situation of a woman after marriage. Dowry can be an amount of money or possessions and is given to a wife by her husband. A dowry belongs to the woman only, not to family members or the husband, and should be given to the woman out of love (Qur’an, Alnisa, 4).
In Islam, nafaqa is the financial obligation of a husband to provide for a wife, including her food, housing, clothing, and expenses. It is the husband’s duty to provide it during the marriage even if the woman is very rich. However, a woman may, if she chooses, provide for herself. Sometimes in the case of separation or divorce the woman can ask for nafaqa because when there is a divorce the woman is not allowed to marry again for a period of time. (Qur’an, Baqara, 233; Afg. constitution, article 117).
Afghan constitution and policy
Article 3 of the Afghanistan constitution says that Afghan laws must not be contrary to Islamic law. Constitutional laws are checked by the Supreme Court in Afghanistan to ensure that they are not in opposition to Islam.
Based on this review of Islamic and constitutional law, we see that Afghan women have the right to freely participate in the economy. Islam is a complete religion, full of laws to administer and manage every aspect of society.
However, current customs and traditions are often separate from Islamic law. Unfortunately, since the Taliban’s rule, many people have come to misunderstand Islam and what Islam asks us to do. There remains confusion in people’s minds between the tradition and culture forced upon them by the Taliban, and the real Islamic law.