STATUS OF WOMEN
The Islamic faith advocates and demand complete equality between men and women. Women hold and have held many positions of authority and leadership in the Muslim community throughout history. In Muslim-majority countries women today work as physicians, businesswomen, engineers, lawyers and have served as heads of state.
There are many verses in the Quran and prophetic sayings that speak to the issue of women’s rights. They include the following:
Equal responsibilities and reward: “For the men who acquiesce to the will of God, and the women who acquiesce, the men who believe and the women who believe, the men who are devout and the women who are devout, the men who are truthful and the women who are truthful, the men who are constant and the women who are constant, the men who are humble and the women who are humble, the men who give charity and the women who give charity, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who are chaste and the women who are chaste, and the men and women who remember God a lot, God has arranged forgiveness for them, and a magnificent reward.” (Qur’an, 33:35)
“And their Lord answered them, ‘I am never unmindful of the work of a worker among you, male or female. You are from each other.’” (Qur’an, 3:195)
“Whoever does right, male or female, and is a believer, We will revivify with a good life; and We will pay them their due according to the best of what they have done.” (Qur’an, 16:97)
Right to earn money: “. . . to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn.” (Qur’an, 4:32)
Right to inherit: “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.” (Qur’an, 4:7)
Rights of a daughter: “Whosoever has a daughter and does . . . not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will make him enter into paradise.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)
“Whoever has three daughters and treats them kindly, they will be a protection for him against the Fire.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)
“Parents cannot force daughters into a marriage.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)
Rights of a wife: “The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)
In Muslim-majority countries women are involved at the highest levels of education, employment, and politics, with many female physicians, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. Muslim women have even served as heads of state in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Kosovo, Mauritius, and Pakistan.
In most Muslim communities, Muslim women work outside the home. Increasing numbers of Muslim women throughout the world are employed in various high level professions, including medicine and engineering.
Domestic violence and spousal abuse violate the Islamic principle of respect for human dignity and may even violate the principle of respect for life in severe cases. According to classical Islamic law, spousal abuse is grounds for a Muslim woman to initiate divorce. The vast biographies of prophet Muhammad (saws) record him as never having hit a woman or even a child and as condemning those who did.
There are many hadith (prophetic sayings) encouraging the seeking of knowledge that have led numerous Muslim women in history to become scholars, writers, and teachers of both men and women, as noted in the previous question. These include sayings such as “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” In fact, the first word revealed in the Qur’an was “read,” an injunction directed at both men and women.
There is a fundamental Islamic principle that to seek education and knowledge is not only a right but an obligation incumbent on both men and women, and there is nothing in Islamic texts or teachings, that limits a girl’s right to seek education and knowledge. Those who limit women’s rights to education are doing so based on local social influences and understandings, not on religious texts.
Throughout Muslim history, as verified by historians, there have been thousands of female Muslim scholars, many of whom were teachers of renowned male scholars. Some notable examples include:
- Rabi’ah Bint Mu’awwad, a great scholar of fiqh (jurisprudence), who taught scholars of Medina
- A’isha bint Sa’d bint ibn Abi Waqqas, whose pupils included Imam Malik
- Sayyida Nafisa, the granddaughter of Hasan, whose pupils included Imam Shafi’i
- A’isha bint Abu Bakr, wife of the Prophet and narrator of over 2,000 hadith (prophetic sayings)
There are also many active female Muslim scholars today.