Complete Texts of some of Imam’s Speeches Concerning the Position and Rights of Women in the Islamic System
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Incessant greetings to the women of Iran! Peace be upon you, respected ladies. May the mercy of God be upon you, lion-hearted women, whose noble efforts have delivered Islam from the fetters of enslavement to foreigners. The peace of God the Blessed and Exalted be upon the nation of Iran, upon the ladies and the men.
Courageous sisters, you fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and ensured the victory of Islam. I thank you, women of Iran and women of Qum. May God and the Imam of the Age be pleased with you. Carrying your infants in your arms, you came into the streets and supported Islam with your ardent demonstrations.
I have heard what happened in Qum and other cities; I have heard what happened in Chahar Mardan. I take pride in all the courageous deeds accomplished by the women of Iran, in Qum and other cities for you have been in the vanguard of our triumph and have encouraged the men. Our men are indebted to your courage, lion-hearted women; I am indebted to both the honourable men and women.
Islam has particular regard for women. Islam appeared in the Arabian Peninsula at a time when women had lost their dignity, and it raised them up and gave them back their pride. Islam made women equal with men; in fact, it shows a concern for women that it does not show for men. In our revolutionary movement, women have likewise earned more credit than men, for it was the women who not only displayed courage themselves, but also reared men of courage. Like the Noble Qur’an itself, women have the function of rearing and training true human beings. If nations were deprived of courageous women to rear true human beings, they would decline and collapse. It is the women who strengthen the nations, who make them brave.
In the earliest age of Islam, the women participated in wars together with the men. The position of women is a high one. Women in Islam enjoy a high rank. We saw how in this movement the women, the honourable ladies, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the men, in front of them even, in the line of battle. They lost their infants and youth, but still they bravely resisted the enemy.
We want our women to attain the high rank of true humanity, not to be a plaything in the hands of men, in the hands of depraved men. Women must have a share in determining their destiny. Women in the Islamic Republic must vote. Just as men have the right to vote, women too have that right. In this recent period, the women were degraded. One of the great acts of treachery committed against our nation (by the former regime) was that they robbed us of our human resources, they reined in the power of our youth and that of our women, they degraded our women, betrayed our nation.
They turned our women into playthings, into something akin to dolls. Our women were warrior-like, but they wanted them to be profligate pleasure-seekers. They insulted woman’s dignity; they wanted women to become mere objects, a possession to pass from one hand to another. God, however, determined otherwise.
Islam grants woman a say in all affairs, just as it grants man a say. Just as men should avoid corruption, so too should women. Women should not allow themselves to be playthings in the hands of dissolute youths, they should not degrade themselves and, God forbid, come out into the streets dressed up and made up, placing themselves in full view of depraved men. Women must act like true human beings; they must be pious.
Women enjoy a dignified position; they have free will just as men have. God created you free beings and gave you dignity. Just as God has laid down laws for men imposing restrictions to prevent them from becoming corrupt, so too He has laid down laws for women. These are for your benefit; all Islamic laws are for the good of society. Those who want to see women as playthings in the hands of dissolute men are traitors.
Women should not be tricked, they shouldn’t imagine their station in life calls for them to come out into the streets dressed up and made up, with no veil and scantily dressed. This is not the role of women; this is the role of a doll. Women must be brave, they must involve themselves in the fundamental destiny of the country, [and] they are the makers of true human beings, the educators of mankind.
May God protect you women of Iran, you women of Qum, from the dangers presented by corrupt people, people who in reality are animals (not human beings). Just as hitherto you have always participated in our country’s movements, just as you partook in this movement and played a role in its victory, so too now you must continue to participate and rise up again whenever the need arises. The country belongs to you.
God willing, the hands of foreigners, of venal elements and plunderers have been severed, they have left and the country is yours, yours to rebuild. All the people of Iran, men and women alike, must repair the ruins that the previous regime has bequeathed to us; the hands of men alone will not suffice to accomplish the task. Men and women must collaborate in this respect.
There is one particular point concerning women to which attention should be paid. When women wish to marry, there are certain prerogatives they can stipulate for themselves that are contrary neither to the shari‘a nor to their own self-respect. For example, a woman can stipulate that if her future husband turns out to be of corrupt moral character or if he mistreats her, she would possess the right to execute a divorce.
This is a right that Islam has granted to women. If Islam has imposed certain restrictions on both women and men, it is for the benefit of both. All Islamic laws, be they those which permit or those which prohibit, are for the benefit of all. Similarly, just as Islam has granted man the right to divorce, it has also granted it to woman, on condition that the parties stipulate at the time of the marriage that if the husband behaves in a certain manner, the wife will have the right to execute a divorce.
Once the man has accepted such a stipulation, he can never repudiate it. Apart from making it possible to include such a stipulation in the marriage contract, Islam forbids the husband to mistreat his wife; if he habitually mistreats her, he is to be punished and the mujtahid will grant the wife a divorce.
May God adorn all of you with dignity, health, happiness and perfect faith and character.
Peace be upon you, beloved and respected ladies. (163)
6 March 1979 (15 Isfand 1357 AHS)
Adapted from: “The Position of Women from the Viewpoint of Imam Khomeini (r.a.)”