Women’s Status in Islam

We live in a world where, unfortunately, the status of women is often a hot topic for debate on both a macro, and micro level. And although it is an issue that has been around for quite some time, no working solution in modern society really seems to be in place. Muslims however believe that the keys to the successful growth of a society, in terms of both macro and micro contexts, are found within the Quran and Prophetic teachings. For example, we believe that women were liberated more than 1400 years ago, when the last and final testament was revealed to man.


At the time, women around the rest of the world, including Arabia actually, were pretty much enslaved, having no rights whatsoever. In Arabia in particular, women were objectified to the point where sons would inherit their mothers when their fathers passed away, and men would bury their first born alive if they were girls. Islam came along and changed this.


Regarding the burying of daughters as was practiced by the Arabs at the time of Islam’s dawning, Allah says in the Qur’an in chapter 81, Suratut-Takwir, verses 8 and 9, (interpretation of the meaning) “When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned – For what crime she was killed.” There is also a narration of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), where he is reported to have said, (interpretation of the meaning) “Anyone who has two daughters, and did not bury them, did not insult them, and brought them up properly, he and I will be like this,” and he is said to have raised his hand and held his middle and index fingers close together. In another narration, a companion was sitting in the presence of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), when his son came. The companion then kissed him and let him sit in his lap. His daughter then came, and he just sat her down next to him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then reportedly said to the companion, “you did not do justice.” When the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) own daughter, Fatimah came to him, he is said to have always stood up, kissed her, and let her sit where he had been sitting. While it might not be common practice to bury our daughters alive in today’s context, neither is treating our daughters the way the Prophet(peace and blessings be upon him) treated his.


In today’s society, women have fought for many years, and still continue to fight, for equal rights in the workplace. There is however no law within Islam prohibiting women from working in whichever profession they choose. And if we refer to verse 32 of chapter 4, Suratun-Nisaa, Allah says, (interpretation of the meaning) “…To men is alotted what they earn, and to women what they earn…” we know that whatever she earns, is for her. For men however, we find that in terms of financial security Islam in many respects, favours women. For example, a woman leaves a marriage with whatever property she entered it with, and while she is married, anything earned, whether through work or investment, is entirely for her own enjoyment, whereas her husband earns to provide for her first, before he spends on himself. The same goes for inheritance. The only reason a male inherits twice that of a female, is because what she inherits, is only for her, whereas he needs to use his inheritance to take care of her, and see to her financial needs.


Allah says in the Quran, chapter 30, verse 21, (interpretation of the meaning) “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said, (interpretation of the meaning) “The most perfect in faith among the believing men is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” Allah has granted women certain rights over men, and a woman is to be treated with those rights. This includes, among many others, her right to an education for example. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, (interpretation of meaning) “seeking knowledge is mandatory on every believer,” implying both male and female. In fact, one of the greatest sources of prophetic narrations, was a woman, Ayshah (may Allah be pleased with her), and throughout history we find that there have been many highly respected female scholars of Islam. Earlier this year, Muslim scholars around the world mourned the death of Shaykha Bahiyyah bint Haashim al-Qutbiyyah al-Filaaliyyah (may Allah grant her the highest of ranks in Jannah), who was known to be one of the most inspirational Islamic leaders of this generation. She is said to have memorized the entire Qur’an at age 14, and in 1955, enrolled herself as the only female student at the Zaytunah University in Tunisia. And she is just one of the many examples that are to be found.


We also find that, in terms of a political context, the evidence is clear that there was equality between men and women. There are even narrations where we find that women not only took part in serious discussions with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), but in some cases women even argued with him. In the time of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), he once tried to pass a new law, and a woman in the gathering stood up and disagreed, and strengthened her argument with Prophetic teachings. Umar’s response to this, in the presence of people, was, “a woman is right, and Umar is wrong.” We even find that in more recent world history, that certain muslim majority countries have gone as far as to elect female heads of state, albeit that some choose to deprive women of basic rights. Even if we consider the progress that women’s rights movements have made in recent history, it was progress made on their own merit, and not as a favour from men.


If one really looks into the Islamic history more than this article would allow, it is clear that it is full of amazing stories concerning the many remarkable achievements by women, and that mistreatment of women on any level, the way we see it in modern society, from objectifying women, to depriving them of their rights to prosper in any chosen field, cannot be justified within Islamic law. It is time we as a society start learning our history, and implementing the lessons that time is trying so desperately to teach us, so that we may once again put our daughters, sisters and mothers, back onto their God given pedestal. Islam decrees this, for no reason other than it being a universal truth, and it is the only real solution to what is one of the biggest downfalls of this age.


Surely Allah’s message is far beyond our capabilities


By Natheer Malick