Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
I commend you for raising this important question. Your question is justified if we were to consider the experience of Muslim women in many communities today. However, I would not confuse it as due to the sound teachings of Islam; instead, we ought to treat it as due to a misogynic mindset among Muslims, including many scholars and leaders.
Islam cannot be blamed for such misinterpretations. Even a casual reader of the Quran would be impressed by gender equality explicitly stated in the Qur’an: Here are three verses:
“And thus does their Sustainer answer their prayer: “I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labours [in My way], be it man or woman: each of you is an issue of the other. Muhammad Asad comments on this verse: I.e., “you all are members of one and the same human race, and therefore equal to one another”. (Aal `Imran 3:195 )
“Whereas anyone – be it man or woman – who does [whatever he can] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise, and shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone.” (An-Nisaa’ 4: 124)
And here is another verse, making it crystal clear:
“VERILY, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves [before God], and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for [all of] them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.” (Al-Ahzab 33: 35)
Finally, the Quran makes it abundantly clear that believing men and women are equal partners and protecting friends of one another and that they ought to stand up as witnesses of truth and justice together as a single body:
“As for the believing males and females, they are partners and protecting friends of one another: Together, they shall enjoin what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong.” (At-tawbah 9:71)
Having said this, I should also mention another important point: The fact that men and women are equal in the sight of Allah does not mean that their roles in life are identical. Islam considers the role of a mother as the noblest of all spiritual states. That is why the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.” When someone asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, who deserves the kindest treatment, he replied, your mother, and when the person asked the question three times, he said, your mother and only on the fourth time, he said, your father.
In conclusion, it is imperative that we Muslims restore women to the place of honor and dignity bestowed on her by the Creator and thus end all discriminatory practices against them. Only when we do so, that we can take the necessary step towards lifting the community out of the sorry state of backwardness we steeped. There is no liberation for us unless we liberate women who are the better half of humankind.
Almighty Allah knows best.
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