There has been many a misconception about the real role of women in Islam. Many view Islam as a religion that oppresses and stifles women but they couldn’t be more wrong. Most non-Muslims who are completely oblivious and ignorant about the teachings and doctrines of Islam tend to paint Islam with an oppressive brush. Unfortunately some of our Muslim brothers and sisters are also made to think the same due to western ideology.
Firstly before going on to state the elevated and well defined role of women in Islam, one should make sure to differentiate between tradition and Islam. Some Muslim countries or societies may be seen as oppressive to women but if you take a closer look, it is their traditions and culture rather than Islam that stifles and deprives women of their rights. Islam on the other hand liberates women and gives them rightful standing in society unlike any religion or race.
At a time in Arabia, during the period of jahiliyah (ignorance) when female children were being buried alive and women only deemed as a commodity that can be bought and sold, Islam came in to abolish those ignorant and backward traditions by elevating women to a well revered position in society and given them their due and rights in society.
Allah SWT stated numerous times in the Quran about to role and rights of women and even dedicated a whole Surah to them (Surah An-Nisa). Clearly Allah does not make any distinguishing about the importance of men and women, to Allah both men and women are equal as he stated in the Quran “To whoever, male or female, does good deeds and has faith, We shall give a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions.” (16:97). A clear evidence that in the eyes of Allah both men and women are equal.
Although Islam does not show impartiality between men and women it does however recognize that are not identical both psychologically and physiologically. Allah created man and woman with distinctive features, none superior to the other. A woman can give birth but a man cannot but that doesn’t make a woman more superior or vice versa. Islam understands these differences and embraces it so both can play their distinctive yet special roles to contribute to a healthy and balanced society.
The Prophet Mohammed SAW stated clearly that seeking knowledge was obligatory upon every Muslim-male or female. Clearly debunking the misconception that Islam does not encourage female education. Indeed one of the greatest scholars of Islam was the wife of the Prophet SAW, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her). After the death of Prophet Mohammed SAW, people would travel from far and wide to come seek knowledge from her as she was a well revered scholar. Indeed Islam has advocated for the recognition of female scholarship and contribution to academia throughout history. A great example of this is the al-Qarawiyin Mosque and University, the oldest running University and it was funded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Morocco in 859 C.E.
Islam gives high status and reverence to motherhood and emphasizes their importance in society. Allah SWT mentioned in the Quran the hardships that women go through during pregnancy and hence orders people to treat their mothers with love, care and respect. The Prophet SAW was also heard saying that “Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.” And on another occasion a man repeatedly asked Muhammad (SAW), “Who amongst the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?” Each time, the Prophet (SAW) replied, “Your mother.” When the man asked for the fourth time, he replied, “Your father.”
Indeed women were active in social and political activities since the advent of Islam. They took part in the day to day activities of society and openly voiced their opinions and their advice were sought. The nursed the wounded in battles and some even participated on the battlefield. They also took part economic activities like trade and business to the extent that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) the second caliph appointed a won Shaffabint Abdullah as the supervisor of the bazaar (market).
Before the advent of Islam, women weren’t allowed to inherit and were instead viewed as property to be inherited. Islam abolished this injustice and gave women the right to inherit their dead relative’s property and to also own property of their own, this was revolutionary in the 7th century as no other religion or race gave women this right. Their share of the inheritance depends on how closely related they are to the deceased relative and the number of relatives.
Women are under no obligation whatsoever to spend money on their basic necessities in Islam. If they are married that burden falls on their husband and if they are single the burden falls on the closest male relative (father, brother, uncle, cousin etc.).
Even if the woman has some source of earning she is not obligated to share that money with anyone, it is her money and she can do what she pleases with it (within the laws of Islam). She could however spend on her relatives if she wishes out of goodwill. A good example is Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) the first wife of the Prophet SAW, who was a wealthy business woman, she aided the Prophet SAW financially and also in the cause of Islam.
A woman has the right to choose whom she wants to get married to and should not be forced in any way to accept a marriage proposal she doesn’t want. She also has the right to reject a marriage proposal in the same vain. She has the right to seek for a divorce if she is dissatisfied with the marriage.
Marriage in Islam embodies love, compassion and respect as Allah SWT said in the Quran “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…” (Quran 30:21). Prophet Mohammed was the best to his wives and he ordered us to do the same by saying “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.”
Dignity and protection from harm
Islam is a religion that strongly prohibits any form of violence and abuse and women are no exception. Islam is a religion that honors a woman and treats her with the utmost care and respect.
In a generation were women are only portrayed as icons of beauty and appeal, Islam guards the modesty and integrity of women. Women are ordered by Allah SWT to cover themselves in veil to guard their modesty and protect their chastity. Some view the veil as somewhat oppressive but the veil only liberates the woman from the prying eyes of men and highlights her personality not her shape or figure.
The detractors of Islam would like to make you believe that this is an oppressive religion that doesn’t respect women’s right. But they couldn’t be more wrong and ignorant and Islam is really the complete way of life and it a divine religion that is not lacking in any sense, let alone upholding women’s right.