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More Than 1400 Years Ago, Islam Offered Women This

A Look at the Status of Women throughout History

Women in Islam

In Arabia, women used to live under conditions similar to that of the Ancient World. Men used to marry dozens of women and buried female children alive. With the arrival of Islam, such barbaric traditions were demolished and the status of women has risen to the extent that no any other social system could compete with it.

Islam views both men and women to be equal in the sight of Allah and equally responsible in their (religious) duties as outlined for them in the Qur’an. [4:124] In social context, however, “Islam fully recognizes the biological differences of men and women and the different demands these differences impose on the life course of believers.”[14]

First of all, in an Islamic marriage, husband and wife co-operate with each other in kindness and peace (30:21) working hand in hand to better the society and bring up the next generation; violence, abuse and ill-treatment that used to be common cannot be tolerated. “They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187) 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also said: “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives.”

Mistakenly, non-Muslims (and Muslims) frequently raise the issue of guardianship (qawamah) of a husband over his wife in Islam and bring the Quranic verse (4:34) as proof: “Men are qawwam (the protectors and maintainers) of women…”

However, being qawwam over women actually means always being present, protecting and maintaining women in a proper manner; providing stability and constant source of support; being a guardian[15] – features most wives certainly want in her husband. This also requires looking after women’s emotional and psychological needs as well,[16] which is often more important for them than money and provision. In the sight of Allah, what makes one better is solely his or her level of taqwa.  (49:13)prophet-muhammad-women

For 1400 years, Muslim women have enjoyed many rights women in other societies hardly possessed until recently. For example, brides can decide whom they wish to marry; a woman’s direct consent is actually one of the conditions of a valid marriage. Second, Islamic Law fully acknowledges the right of woman to her money, real estate, and other properties which does not transfer to the husband upon marriage. Muslim women have the right to seek divorce (khul’a), remarry and even inherit.

Although, Islam holds motherhood in the highest esteem (“Be dutiful to your mother, as Paradise is at her foot.”[Ahmed, Nasai] and Quran 46:15), Muslim women are respected as independent human beings; singles, widows, and infertile sisters are certainly not cast out in an Islamic society.

Women can perform many roles besides motherhood, if they wish, providing important contributions to the community while not worrying about the finances as even though they work, their guardian is still responsible for them and the family’s provision. We can have a glimpse at early Islamic history to ascertain. Khadijah, the successful trader and first wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), great scholars like Aisha bint Abu Bakr or Umm Al-Darda’, or Layla bint Abdullah, the first woman to hold public office are just some of the few great examples to mention.

Once, a woman argued with Caliph Umar ibn Khattab in the mosque when he wanted to limit the amount of a woman’s dowry. She proved her point and caused him to declare in the presence of people: “The woman is right and ‘Umar is wrong.” This occasion indicates that Muslim women are also involved in serious discussions along with men. As a matter of fact, even the Prophet (PBUH) would consult his wives in the most sensitive matters.

Hence, we can conclude that in the milieu of today’s value-free Western and oppressing Muslims societies, which practice cultural Islam rather than Islamic culture, we can clearly see that Islam is the only system that ensures justice between men and women by believing that God provides the best unbiased source of knowledge about how men and women should live their lives. Islam appreciates women, gives them equal rights, and encourages them to be productive members of the society – as mothers, wives, educators, or otherwise.

 

First published: March 2016


[1] Smith, D. N., Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Women, retrieved 17 December, 2015 from https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_philosophy/v021/21.4smith.pdf

[2] Thomson, J. C., Women, money and law in ancient Athens, (July 2010), retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/womenandmoneyinancientathens.htm

[3]  Thomson, J. C., How secluded were Athenian women (July 2010), retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/secluded.htm

[4] Thomson, J. C., Women in Sparta (July 2010), retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/spartanwomen.htm

[5] Thomson, J. C., Women in Ancient Rome (July 2010), retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/women_in_ancient_rome.htm

[6] Thomson, J. C., Augustan Reformation (July 2010), retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/augustanreformation.htm

[7] European Socrates Program, Womens politics: The feminist movement, retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.helsinki.fi/science/xantippa/wee/weetext/wee214.html

[8] The Guardian, A brief history of divorce (September 2009), retrieved 17 December 2015 from  http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/19/divorce-law-history

[9] ibid. 7.

[10] Libby, A., (January 2013), On Equality Feminism and Gender Feminism, retrieved 17 December 2015 from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/01/on-feminism-gender-roles-social-constructs-and-biology.html

[12] Cicero, T., (December 2013), Muslim woman destroys feminism,

, retrived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOYJNzmfxEc

[13]Women in Islam and women in the West, retrived 17 December from  http://muslimwomenstudies.com/Convergences.htm

[14] ibid., 13.

[15] Bayyinah institude, (October 2015), Responsibilities of Husbands and Wives [ video file] retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbGir6-vUoU

[16] Dr. Shafaat, A., Tafseer of Surat An-Nisa’, Ayah 34 (2000), retrived 17 December from  http://www.islamicperspectives.com/quran-4-34.htm

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About Timea Aya Csányi
Timea Aya Csányi studied Psychology and Islamic Studies Bsc. at the International Online University. She is a certified NLP® Practitioner, one of our writers and counselors at the "Ask the Counselor" section. She has been the editor of the "Ask the Counselor" section for 10 years. Now she mainly works as a fitness trainer and journalist.