Women in Islam
Women in Islam

The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.”(At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

 
Does Islam oppress women?
Status of women in Hinduism: 
Status of women in the ancient Greek civilization: 
Status of women in Judaism: 
Status of women in Christianity: 
Women rights in Islam.. 
A.     Spiritual Rights. 
B. Economical Rights. 
C. Social Rights of Women in Islam.
1.      As Mother. 
2. As daughter. 
3. As Wife. 
D. Educational Rights. 
F. Political Rights. 
Women and Men Equality in Islam.
Introduction. 
Equality in humanity: 
Equality in all religious duties: 
Women are charged with special assignments: 
Equality in Rewards and Punishments. 
Equality in honor and nobility. 
The best of you is the best to his women. 
Equality in social responsibilities. 
 

Does Islam oppress women?

We often read or hear about topics such as women oppression in Islam, inequality towards women in Islam and similar titles. But the questions remain: does Islam really oppress women? Is there any kind of equality between men and women in Islam? Does Islam support unjust treatment towards women? Did women enjoy better status before the advent of Islam? These are the types of questions worth being asked.
In order to evaluate the status of women in Islam, it is very important to look at how they were treated before the advent of Islam. This will help readers come to a fair and sound judgment having compared the status of women in Islam and their status in other religions, ideologies or philosophies. It is worth mentioning here that showing what previous religions offered women is not meant to criticize but rather offer the reader general information about women status throughout different periods.

Status of women in Hinduism:

According to The Laws of Manu, the most authoritative book for Hindus, women did not enjoy their rights. The following text reflects how women were treated in respect to one aspect of their rights, inheritance.
“Of the man who has an adopted (Datrima) son possessing all good qualities, that same (son) shall take the inheritance, though brought from another family.”
Laws of Manu, Chapter IX, 141.
Some Hindu communities practiced Sati by which a woman who is recently widowed either voluntarily or involuntary commits suicide as a result of her husband’s death. A well-known form sati is when a woman is burnt to death on her husband’s funeral pyre. Other forms of sati include being buried alive with the husband’s corpse and drowning. This heinous practice still ensues debates in the second decade of the twenty first century. 

Status of women in the ancient Greek civilization:

Although Greece was known for its popularity in various fields, women generally did not enjoy any good status reflecting their role in the community. The distribution of inheritance was unfair. In ancient Greece, the property of a woman, if she had any, was always separate from her husband’s property. It was the husband who used to have total control of the property during his life time. On the death of a husband, the control of property was passed to his children (if adult) or guardians. The only case in which a woman inherited property was through a male sibling.
Womenin ancient Greece were often seen to reflect submissive female image. They were restricted from taking part in outside events in which men were involved. 
In ancient Greece, women were deprived of political rights, while metics (resident foreigners) and slaves enjoyed such rights. The status of citizen wives depended on the number of sons who were citizens and daughters who could marry citizens.

Status of women in Judaism:

There are many articles showing the treatment of women according to the Jewish law. Haaretz, a well-known Israeli newspaper, published an article titled “Orthodox Judaism treats women like filthy little things” on 30th December, 2011[1]. The article says “If a man and a woman are drowning in a river, first they’ll save the man, ‘who is obligated to perform more commandments,’ whereas a woman’s ‘wisdom is only in the spindle.’ In fact, ‘words of Torah should be burned rather than being given to women.’
It further says:
“A daughter, commanded the sages, must not be taught Torah, because “the mind of woman is not suited to be taught, but [only] to words of nonsense. Women are light-minded and have little knowledge.”
For the sake of objectivity, readers are invited to find the references and read the Tractate Shabbat which sums up the attitude towards women.

Status of women in Christianity:

Despite being the religion of around a third of the world population, religion does not seem to be offering a promising status for women. The following verses from the Bible show how Christian women are to be treated.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul wrote: 
“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”
1 Timothy 2:11 - 14 reads:
“11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
What is actually more surprising is that men can buy and sell women just like any item of property. Exodus 21:7-8 reads:
“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed.” 
In The Dark Side of Christian History (1995), Helen Ellerbe comments on the Church’s treatment of women:
The second century St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” The Church father Tertullian explained why women deserve their status as despised and inferior human beings:
You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert that is, death even the Son of God had to die
[2].
The above as well as some other examples show that women under the laws of the Church were not given a much better status than what Judaism offers.
Status of the woman in Arab Society before Islam:
In the pre-Islamic Arabic, women were treated like objects or property. They were deprived of all rights. Women did not inherit and did not have the right to ask for inheritance because they do not fight in wars. Women did not have the right to express their opinion or the right to be consulted. Women were usually not allowed to remarry until the young matrimonial guardian would grow up and then decide whether he wished to marry her or give her in marriage to anyone else and take the dowry as long as she was not his mother. Women were treated as inferiors and were therefore deprived from the most basic human rights.

Women rights in Islam

There are endless debates and controversies over women’s rights in Islam. When talking about such rights in the context of Islam, we are talking about a divine constitution which specifies the rights and duties of the followers of Islam. This includes the Muslims’ relations with Allah (the Creator), their relations among themselves and their relations towards non-Muslims. Islamic Sharia (law) identifies the laws which stipulate for the rights and duties of those living within the jurisdiction of the Islamic state. The Islamic Sharia stipulated for rights to men and women equally in various instances, especially in terms of their spirituality.
Being the religion of around 1.6 billions, Islam clearly draws the lines of women’s relationships with Allah, themselves and men. Women rights in Islam are commensurate with their status and aim to meet all possible needs of women at any stage of their lives. Such rights aim to enable women invest their potentials and play their unmatched roles in society. In addition, the uniqueness of their status in Islam makes Muslim women the most privileged to practice a religion which promoted and divinely guaranteed their humanity. It is worth mentioning here that non-Muslim women have benefited from such rights only very recently. 
The following sections explain women rights in Islam. Rights are broadly divided into six categories:
1.Spiritual rights.
2.Economical rights.
3.Social rights.
4.Educational rights.
5.Legal rights.
6.Political rights.

A.     Spiritual Rights

Islam makes it crystal clear that women and men are completely equal before Allah in regard to rights and duties.
“Every soul, for what it has earned, will be retained.” Quran (74:38).
“And their Lord responded to them, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of (any) worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another.” Quran (3:195).
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer - We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward (in the Hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do.” Quran (16:97).
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women.” Quran (4:1).
“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with (definite) preference.” Quran (17:70).
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” Quran (49:13)
“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” Quran (33:35).
The above Quranic verses show the highest level of equality between men and women. Islam grants the same religious rights for men and women and does not favor one over the other in this regard. Just like men, women pray, fast and go to haj (pilgrimage). However, women have some advantages over men. Muslim women are exempted from performing their daily prayers and fasting during the menstrual periods. They are also exempted from the same for forty days after childbirth. In addition, Muslim women are also exempted from fasting during pregnancy. Such women can make up the fasting at any time of the year and they do not have to make up for the prayers missed for any of the above mentioned reasons.
The exemptions here are meant to account for certain physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy, period or after child birth. Despite of that, women are spiritually equal to men in all aspects.

B. Economical Rights

Islam has established full equality between men and women giving them the same rights to contract, enterprise, earn and possess. The property of a Muslim woman is as sacred as that of a Muslim man. If harmed, she gets the same amount of compensation as that of a man.  
Any adult Muslim woman, single or married, has the right to own and dispose of her property without the consent of any.
Islam has permitted women to work in any job conditioned that the job is not prohibited. Quran and Sunnah do not prevent Muslim women from working, as long as the work type is not among the works prohibited in Islam. Prohibited jobs include, but not limited to, serving alcohol or pork or any item prohibited in Islam.
Islam ensures financial security for women
Generally speaking, Muslim women do not bear any financial burdens. However, certain situations may force some women to bear such financial burdens. In case there is no one to provide for a Muslim woman or what her husband provides is not enough to meet the basic needs, that woman may work in order to meet some needs. Aisha (the prophet’s wife) said that ZainabbintJahsh used to work and pay sadaqah (charity) from the money she earns.

In addition, Muslim men must pay dowry to Muslim women. There is no specific limit to the amount of dowry.  “And give the women (upon marriage) their (bridal) gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.” Quran (4:4).

C. Social Rights of Women in Islam

The Islamic Sharia has secured all aspect of social life for women. Be she a mother, a sister, a daughter or a wife, a Muslim woman’s social status is guaranteed in Quran and Sunnah. The following points shed light on the different roles a woman plays in the Muslim society.

1.      As Mother

The Quran makes it mandatory for Muslims to be kind to their parents. The following verse stresses this point:
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age (while) with you, say not to them (so much as), “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” Quran (17:23).
and
“And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up (when I was) small.” Quran (17:24).
Such type of kindness to parents is also stressed in another verse:
“And We have enjoined upon man (care) for his parents. His mother carried him, (increasing her) in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the (final) destination.” Quran (31:14).
The Holy Quran also states:
“And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning (period) is thirty months.” Quran (46:15).
A man came to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and asked: “O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most deserving of my company?” He (the prophet) replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?’ He said, “Then your father.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari: 5626and Muslim: 2548) 
IbnMas’ood narrated:
“I asked Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him): “O Prophet of Allah: What is the act that Allah deems most rewarding?” 
He said: “Offering the prayer in its proper time.” 
I asked: “What’s next, O Prophet of Allah?”
He said: “Being kind and dutiful to your parents.” 
I asked: “What’s next, O Prophet of Allah?”
He said: “Striving in the cause of Allah.” (Bukhari 5625 and Muslim 139).
Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas narrated:
“A man came to the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) and asked his permission to go for jihad. The prophet asked the man: “Are your parents alive?” The man said: “Yes”. The prophet said: “Then go back to your parents and be the best and kindest companion for them.” (Muslim: 2549)
The above Quranic verses as well as the hadiths reflect the level of respect and obedience children should show to their mothers. Compared to fathers, mothers deserve more care than fathers given the suffering they go through to bring up children. Islam recognized the matchless roles mothers play and therefore ensured that they get the highest levels of respect, care and kindness.

2. As daughter

There are several verses in the Quran which stress different rights for women as daughters. Examples of such verses include:
“He creates what he wills. He gives to whom He wills female (children), and He gives to whom He wills males.” Quran (42:49)
Allah also warned those who kill their daughter in fear of shame or poverty:
“And when the girl (who was) buried alive is asked (8). For what sin she was killed”. Quran (81:8-9).
“…..and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them.” Quran (6:151).
Female infanticide is a crime that Allah has warned against. However, some societies are still committing this heinous crime today. It is totally unacceptable to deprive one of live based on gender. A woman is Allah’s creation and is worthy of live just as man is.
 
The following hadith shows the reward for those who care for daughters or sisters:
“If a person has three sisters or two daughters or two sisters and educates them and gives them their rights, he will be rewarded heaven on the day of judgment”.
 
 

3. As Wife

As a wife, the Muslim woman has different rightsonherhusband.The rights of wives can be broadly categorized into two types: financial rights (nafaqah) to cover the material needs of the wife and the right to good treatment. Many versesoftheHolyQuranas well as different hadiths are listed below to show how the Quran and Sunnah as two main sources of Islamic Sharia guaranteed the rights of wives.
“It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her.” Quran (7:189).
The aboveQuranicverse asserts that Allahcreated human beings, be they men or women, fromoneoriginso they can live a peaceful life.
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give though.” Quran (30:21).
The above verse shows that Allah shows us some signs in this life to reflect his mercy on us. He created spouses like yourselves so that the husband may find rest in his wife. He created love between the husband and wife so that each can love the other. This love reflects Allah’s mercy on us.
Allah says:
“And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them - perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” Quran (4:19).
The lessons which husbands can learn from this verse is that they should be kind to their wives in order to have a peaceful life. It is natural that husbands may not like every behavior of their wives. They however should seek their level best in overcoming small life hardships so that they achieve the ultimate goal in one’s life, pleasing Allah.
The Messenger of Allah emphasizes the good treatment towards wives:
“The best among you is the best towards his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” 
Another hadith:
“A believer must not hate a believing woman (i.e., his wife); if he dislikes one of her traits he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim)
 
Some rights for women as wives:
  1. Mahr(dowry):
Islam made it compulsory for husbands to pay mahr amount to their wives according to the marriage agreement. There is no specific amount for mahr which can be monetary or in-kind. Allah says:
“And give the women (upon marriage) their (bridal) gifts graciously.” Quran (4:4)
2.
“Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable.” Quran (2:223).
The nafaqaincludes providing all necessities of life and meeting the wife’s needs within the husband’s ability.

D. Educational Rights

The first word in Quran which was revealed to Mohammed was “read”. The first five verses from the first chapter which was revealed to Mohammed are about educating mankind.
“Proclaim! (or Read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created― (1) Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: (2) Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful― (3) He Who taught (the use of) the Pen― (4) Taught man that which he knew not. (5)” Quran (96:1-5).
The first instruction to Mohammed and humanity as a whole was about education. This instruction applies to all regardless of their gender.
Islam made it compulsory to seek knowledge:
“Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.. And say, O my Lord! increase me in knowledge.” Quran (58:11)
“And whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth.” Quran (2:269)
The following are hadiths which highlight the importance of seeking knowledge:
The Messenger of Allah said, “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen (religion).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet said, “Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.” (Al- Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet said to 'Ali (May Allah be pleased with him), “By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The Messenger of Allah said, “Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” (Muslim).
The Messenger of Allah said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: SadaqahJariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased).” (Muslim).
The Messenger of Allah said, “He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.” (At- Tirmidhi).
The Messenger of Allah said, “The superiority of the learned over the devout worshipper is like my superiority over the most inferior amongst you (in good deeds).” He went on to say, “Allah, His angels, the dwellers of the heaven and the earth, and even the ant in its hole and the fish (in water) supplicate in favour of those who teach people knowledge.” (At-Tirmidhi).
The Messenger of Allah said, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.” (Abu Dawud and At- Tirmidhi).
The Messenger of Allah said, “He who is asked about knowledge (of religion) and conceals it, will be bridled with a bridle of fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Abu Dawud and At- Tirmidhi).
The Messenger of Allah said, “He who does not acquire knowledge with the sole intention of seeking the Pleasure of Allah but for worldly gain, will not smell the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection.” (Abu Dawud).

F. Political Rights

Many verses in the Holy Quran assert the support between men and women in all aspects. Allah says:
“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another.” Quran (9:71).
Voting is a right which Islam granted for women more than 14 centuries ago. Women made a pledge to prophet Mohammed indicating:
1.that a Muslim woman has an independent personality and can make a pledge the way a man can.
2.the women’s pledge was a pledge of Islam and obedience to the prophet.
Women at early stages of Islam participated in jihad as part of Sharia policies. Umm Salamah (the prophet’s wife) gave an advice to the prophet on how to make Muslims obey his commands at the time of the Treaty of Hudaibiya.
There are many activities women can participate in on the political level. Examples of such activities include:
1.Expressing opinion on political matter related to the state and working in different positions in the same.
2.Participating in electing representatives in different councils.
3.Participating in electing the president.
4.Nominating for the membership of presidential, legislative and local councils as make permissible by some scholars
[3].   

Women and Men Equality in Islam

Introduction

The call for equality between men and women dates back to Plato who, according to Elaine Hoffman Baruch, “[argued] for the total political and sexual equality of women, advocating that they be members of his highest class, those who rule and fight”. In the present era, different marches, campaigns, activities and programs are organized to support ‘equal rights’ for women. Activists of various backgrounds assumed the mantle of liberating women from oppression and inequality. Examining how different societies treated women through different historical periods shows that women have experienced different forms of oppression, brutality and inequality. They have also been denied some of their basic human rights stipulated forth in different constitutions. Inequality can result from a number of factors including, but not limited to, society, culture, and religion.
Be they local, regional or international, women’s movements galvanize activists to towards granting equality for women. Political, social and economic equality remains the main theme of most marches, campaigns or activities organized to promote women’s rights. In its general meaning, equality between men and women has always been challenged by the difference in gender, society, culture or religion.
The following sheds light on the notion of equality (some may refer to it as justice) between women and men in Islam:

Equality in humanity:

Women and men alike have feelings, personal status, and special characters, Allah says:
“O mankind! fear your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person” [Quran, 4:1]
“O mankind” here includes men and women.
(and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship) . Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.)
[Quran, 4:1]

Equality in all religious duties:

In Islam, women and men have equal religious duties. Allah says:
“Verily, the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women, the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast), the men and the women who guard their chastity and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).”
[Quran, 3:35]
“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life, and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter).”
[Quran, 16:97]
“So their Lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another”
[Quran, 3:195]

Women are charged with special assignments:

Prophet Mohammed said:
…The woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring. [Agreed upon]

Equality in Rewards and Punishments

Men and women have similar rewards for obedience and penalties for disobedience in this world and the Hereafter. Allah says:
“Whoever does righteous acts, whether male or female, while he is a believer, verily, to him We will give a good life, and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.”
[Quran, 16:97]
 (Surely for men who submit to Allah and for women who submit to Allah, for believing men and for believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for steadfast men and steadfast women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for fasting men and fasting women, for men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity, for men who remember Allah much and for women who remember Allah much, for all of them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward.)
[Quran, 33:35]

Equality in honor and nobility

Women are equal to men regarding chastity, integrity and personal honor and respect. For instance, those who falsely accuse a chaste woman of adultery or fornication are publicly punished, just as if a man is slandered. Allah says:
“And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty lashes, and reject their testimony forever. Indeed, they are those who are disobedient to Allah.”
[Quran, 24:4]

The best of you is the best to his women

In Islam, a man who honors, respects and deals with women justly, is considered righteous. A man who mistreats women is unrighteous. The Prophet of Allah said:
The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.”(At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

 

Equality in social responsibilities

Men and women have similar responsibilities to reform societies. They are to enjoin good and forbid evil equally. Allah says:
(The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakah (Obligatory Charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)
[Quran, 9:71]
 
 
 

[1]http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/orthodox-judaism-treats-women-like-filthy-little-things-1.404505
[2]Joan Smith, Misogynies: Reflections on Myths and Malice (N.Y Fawcett Columbine, 1989:66)].
 
[3]The Liberation of Women at the Time of the Message by Mohammed Abu Shaqqah.