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 Social Justice in Islam    by Professor A. R. Momin

Gender justice

An important dimension of social justice is gender justice. Islam has made a note-worthy contribution to gender justice. Islam strictly prohibited the pagan practices of female infanticide and child sacrifice. The Prophet described the birth of a female child as a sign of divine mercy and blessing. The honourable status of women in Islam is attested by a saying of the Prophet: "The word is an ephemeral thing, of which one takes temporary advantage; and among the things of his world nothing is better than a good, virtuous woman." He exhorted Muslims to be kind and considerate towards their wives. He declared: "The best amongst you is the one who is the most kind and considerate towards his wife." In an age when women's rights were virtually non-existent, Muslim women were given full rights to acquire, inherit and dispose of personal property without let or hindrance from relatives, including the husband.

The institution of Waqf (endowment of property for charitable purposes) played a highly important role in translating the ideal of social justice into reality. It was first instituted by the Prophet, who dedicated seven gardens of date palm for public welfare. The institution of Waqf had a profound and far-reaching impact on charitable activities and the promotion of learning in the Islamic world. A wide variety of charitable activities, including the establishment of public hospitals, asylums, libraries and caravanserais, children's education, care and rehabilitation of physically disabled people, and the provision of regular stipends for the poor and the destitute, were carried out under the auspices of the institution of Waqf. In the medieval period, a wide network of large and well-equipped charitable hospitals, including mobile medical units, existed in all cities and towns of the Islamic world from North Africa to Turkey and from Andalusia to India. Their expenses were met from public endowments. It is interesting to note that institutions of higher learning in medieval Europe borrowed the Islamic institution of Waqf. The earliest colleges in Europe were founded and supported by foundations and charitable trusts.

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