There does exist a gap between the rights of women
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
outlined in the Quran, and the prevalent reality in the
Muslim world. However, images of Muslim women as
ignorant, oppressed and submissive are stereotypical.
The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to those of men but they
They do no justice to the large number of Muslim women
are not necessarily identical.This difference is understandable because men and
whose conviction in Islamic concepts of family
women are different, in their physiological and psychological make-up.
cohesiveness, happiness and individuality ensures their
sense of self-fulfillment.
The status of women in Islam, is an issue that is
that women are inferior to men.Thus it is perhaps
pertinent in present times; both due to the divergence
more apt to refer to the Islamic approach on
of cultural practices in the Muslim world from the
gender relations, as one of “equity” rather than the
Islamic perspective and the erroneous perception
commonly used word “equality”, which could be
in the West, that Islam subjugates womenfolk.
misunderstood to mean equality in every minute
aspect of life, rather than overall equality.
A dispassionate study of the primary sources of
Islam, along with an analysis of the position of
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women in societies where Islam was implemented,
actually proves that for women, Islam is a special
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT
The sacred text of the Glorious Qur’an and the
history of early Muslims bear witness to the fact
“Prior to Islam,” write the authors of The Cultural
that women are considered as vital to life as men.
Atlas of Islam, “a woman was regarded by her par-
ents as a threat to family honor and hence worthy
Islam refuted the idea that Eve tempted Adam to
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of burial alive at infancy. As an adult, she was a sex
disobey God, and thus caused his downfall. The
object that could be bought, sold and inherited.
Qur’an says that they both disobeyed, and negates
From this position of inferiority and legal incapac-
the idea that women are a source of evil.
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ity, Islam raised women to a position of influence
and prestige in family and society.”
In a world where women were no more than
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The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to
time when the religious circles argued over
1 . 8 7 7 . W H Y. I S L A M
those of men but they are not necessarily identical.
whether women were human or not, possessing
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This difference is understandable because men and
souls, Islam proclaimed:
women are different, in their physiological and
psychological make-up. With this distinction in
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of
A N I C N A P R O J E C T
mind, there is no room for a Muslim to imagine
a male and a female.” [Al-Qur’an 49:13]
Prophet Muhammad (p) helped with household chores,
of the deceased kin’s property, a share that depends
Status of women in Islam
although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced
on her degree of relationship to the deceased and
in the community were immense.”
the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one
“O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord,Who created you from a single person, created of like nature
can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the
his mate, from them scattered countless men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your
The responsibility of maintaining social and moral
deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to
values lies on both men and women. Both must refrain
other relations or in favor of any other cause, the
mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you.” Al-Qur’an 4:1
from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of
Law will not allow him to do so.
people other than their legitimate spouses or cause evil sus-
Men and women are of the same family, and as such
Prophet (p) replied, “Your mother.”The man asked, “Who
picion of their morality.
Women are exempt from all financial liabilities. As a
have similar rights and duties, and their Lord prom-
is next?” The Prophet (p) said, “Your mother.” Again the
wife, a woman is entitled to demand of her prospec-
ises them in the Glorious Qur’an:
man asked, “Who is next?”The Prophet (p) repeated, “Your
Women are entitled to freedom of expression just as men are.
tive husband a suitable dowry that will be her own.
mother.” The man asked for a fourth time, “Who is next?”
Among the early Muslims, women participated in public
She is entitled to complete provision and total main-
“Never will I waste the work of a worker among you,
The Prophet (p) then replied, “Your father.”2
life, especially in times of emergencies. It is reported in
tenance by the husband. She does not have to work
whether male or female, the one of you being from the
the Qur’an and in history that women not only expressed
or share with her husband the family expenses. She
other.” [Al-Qur’an 3:195]
On another occasion,when a man came to the Prophet (p), and
their opinion freely but also argued and participated in
is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she pos-
expressed the desire to join a military expedition, the
serious discussions with the Prophet (p) himself as well as
sessed before it, and the husband has no right what-
Thus, in the Islamic tradition, a woman has an
Prophet (p) asked him if he had a mother.When he replied
with other Muslim leaders. They were not shut behind
soever to any of her belongings.As a daughter or sis-
independent identity. She is a responsible being in
that he had, the Prophet (p) advised him, “Stay with her, for
iron bars or considered worthless.
ter she is entitled to security and provision by the
her own right and carries the burden of her moral
Paradise is at her feet.”3
father and brother respectively.That is her privilege.
and spiritual obligations.
If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and par-
As daughters, women have a right to just and equitable
THE ECONOMIC ASPECT
ticipate in handling the family responsibilities, she is
treatment from their parents.The Prophet(p) gave glad tid-
Islam grants women equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to
quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honor
THE SOCIAL ASPECT
ings to those who did not insult their daughters or favored
earn and possess independently. A woman’s life, her prop-
Women have as much right to education as men do.
sons over daughters.4
erty and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she
Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad
commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of
It is thus clear that the status of women in Islam is
(p)1 declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incum-
A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage pro-
a man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she
very high. Islam has granted them rights that match
bent on every Muslim, male and female.This decla-
posals, and her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of
gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position
beautifully with their duties.What Islam has estab-
ration was very clear and was largely implemented
the marriage contract. A marriage is based on mutual
lished for women is that which suits their nature,
by Muslims throughout history.
peace, love and compassion. Dr. Jamal Badawi, a Canadian
gives them full security and protects them against
Islamic scholar, states in his book Gender Equity in Islam:
Islam has given women a share of inheritance. Before Islam,
disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels
Islam elevated the position of women in society and
women were not only deprived of that share,
treated them on an equal footing with men, and in
“The husband is responsible for the maintenance,
but were themselves considered as property to be
some cases, as a mother for instance, clearly gave
protection and overall leadership of the family within the
inherited by men. Out of that transferable property Islam
1 (p) here stands for “peace be upon him”
them precedence over men.Thus when a man asked
framework of consultation and kindness. The
made an heir,
acknowledging the inherent
2 Reported by Bukhari
3 Reported by Ahmad, Basa’i and Al-Baihaqi
Prophet Muhammad (p): “Who is most entitled to
mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does
individuality of women. Whether the woman is a wife or
4 Reported by Ahmad
be treated with the best companionship by me?” the
not mean ‘subservience’ by either party to the other.
mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share
5 Al-Qur’an, 2:178; 4:45, 92-93