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Celebrating Womanhood: Diversity of Women in the Quran

Evidence 1: The Story of Maryam

Maryam (Mary) is inarguably one of the most revered women in history. In the chapter of Maryam, God ascertains her high status and praiseworthiness.

Interestingly, her prominence and special place were not a result of her getting pregnant and giving birth to Jesus. The repeated mention of her high rank is attributed solely to her devotion, faith, purity, and chastity.

Even though there is a mention of her parents (Imran and his wife) and her son Jesus, the actual gist of her story revolves around her faith and perseverance.

Maryam was not defined by her parents, Jesus, or the need for a spouse. In fact, the Quran completely omits any historical accounts of her marital life (which are debated by some historians) to show that what really matters is her beliefs and actions, not her marital or social status.

Evidence 2: The Story of Pharaoh’s Wife (Asiyah)

Asiyah’s name is not mentioned in the Qur’an, but her story is so powerful that it has triggered fierce debates among scholars and historians to this day.

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The Qur’anic narration of her journey conveys a clear message of how a woman is not defined by her husband’s faith and practices.

Asiyah was portrayed as an independent and free woman because, despite her marriage to Pharaoh, she wholeheartedly rejected his claims and authority. Pharaoh’s love and wealth could not buy her heart.

She became a hero in the story for two reasons: first, she saved Moses’ life after he was thrown into the river and persuaded Pharaoh to adopt him.

Unlike the stereotypical image of Muslim women, who are often perceived as passive and submissive to their husbands’ will and orders, Asiyah proved exactly the opposite.

She took the first step to adopt Moses, cared for him, and later rejected her husband’s tyranny and blasphemy.

She sought liberty from being affiliated to her husband through her famous supplication, which was beautifully carved in the Qur’an (66: 11).

Evidence 3: The Queen of Sheba

Chapter 27 of the Qur’an wonderfully illustrates the story of the Queen of Sheba.

She was a great sovereign ruler who led her people and was engaged in political negotiations in her time.

Her huge empire was confirmed by verse 23 when the hudhud bird reported to Prophet Sulayman:

‘I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne’. (Qur’an 27:24)

It is interesting to note here that there was no mention of her personal life: whether she had children or a husband, obviously because that carries no importance.

Similarly, the Qur’anic narration of the relationship between her and Prophet Sulayman revolves around their discussion on the oneness of God and how Sulayman refused to be bribed by her lavish gifts.

Celebrating Womanhood: Diversity of Women in the Quran - About Islam

In the end, her unique status was reaffirmed when she displayed extraordinary humility, grace, and intellect by accepting Sulayman’s call to submit to God.

Although some historians claimed that they later got married, the Qur’an chooses not to discuss it, perhaps, to show that the marriage, whether it happened or not did not matter much.

The queen’s real worth lied within her conscience, deeds, and readiness to accept the truth. Besides, if Islam is really against women’s active participation in public life and leadership, Sulayman perhaps would have commented on that.

He did not question the fact that she was a political leader; what drew his attention were her faith and principles.

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About Raudah Mohd Yunus
Raudah Mohd Yunus is a researcher, writer and social activist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her research interests include aging, elder abuse, human trafficking and refugees health. She is the editor of two books; ‘Tales of Mothers: Of courage and love’ and ‘Displaced and Forgotten: Memoirs of refugees.’