The high status of women in Islam
They say oppressed, inferior, and unequal – yet most people who hold these views taken from the media have never asked a muslim woman and are in fact the very ones oppressing them, stealing their voice and speaking without their consent on their behalf. Yet for many people, these are the first words that come to mind when thinking about women in Islam. These stereotypes confuse Islam with bias and fail to recognize that Islam has empowered women with the most progressive rights since the 7th century.
It is not to say that there are not individual cases where oppression does take place, but that is forbidden in the religion and oppression also happens in democracy see statistics regarding domestic violence in the uk.
Despite and regardless of what you have heard or read, in Islam, women are not inferior or unequal to men, in the sight of God Almighty the distinction is as with race, by ones righteousness and relationship with Him, how pious and pure the heart, the more superior in the sight of Allah regardless of sex or race.
At a time when female children were buried alive in Arabia and women were considered transferable commodities, Islam empowered women in society by elevating them and protecting them with unprecedented rights.
Islam gave women the right to education, to marry someone of their choice, to retain their identity after marriage, to divorce, to work, to own and sell property, to seek protection by the law, to vote, and to participate in civic and political engagement.
If you are in doubt about the veracity of any of these statements or the myth that men force women to cover (God Almighty revealed that covering is safer for them to protect themselves from male predatory behavior, in light of recent new from Hollywood it may be something the west should consider more fervently) go and ask the muslim women rather than letting men the men of the media speak on their behalf, notice their family name never changes to that of the husband, yet it would be petty of us to say that was western oppression of women.
In 610 C.E., God Almighty began to reveal the message of Islam to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), in Mecca. Muhammad (pbuh) called people towards the belief in one God and encouraged them to be just and merciful to one another.
In reforming the pagan Arab society, he particularly transformed their mindset regarding the treatment of women. Islam abolished the practice of killing female children and raised the stature of women in society to one of dignity, esteem, and privilege.
God Almighty devotes an entire chapter of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, to women.
In addition, God directly addresses women repeatedly throughout the Quran. Islam proclaims that all human beings, men and women, are born in a pure state. The goal of every Muslim is to preserve this purity by shunning evil tendencies and beautifying their inner being with virtuous traits.
Islam further confirms that both men and women are equal in the sight of God. In the Quran, God declares, “…Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you…” (49:13) At another place in the Quran, God clearly states that all humans are equal: “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)
While Islam clearly establishes that men and women are equal in the sight of the Lord, it does recognize that they are not identical.
God created men and women with unique physiological and psychological attributes.
In Islam, these differences are embraced as vital components to a healthy family and community structure with each individual contributing their own distinctive talents to society.
Hence, God’s rules apply to both genders, but in different ways. For example, God commanded both men and women to cover certain parts of their body, yet women including their hair, to preserve their modesty and to protect them from harm. Notice that men are also required to cover parts of their body out of modesty, but not in the same way as women, as women are recognized to be more beautiful than men and more in danger of harm.
Therefore, Allah Almighty commanded both men and women to be modest; yet, the manner in which they observe it is different.
Similarly, the rights, roles, and responsibilities of women are evenly balanced with those of men but are not necessarily the same.
Islam has granted individual identities to men and women, a constant comparison between the two without contextual understanding is rather foolish.
Each plays a unique role to mutually uphold social morality and societal balance.
It must also be mentioned here that Muslims are not always representative of Islam and may follow their cultural influences or personal interests. In so doing, they not only disenfranchise women, men also are not free from cultural deviations, these people also go against the clear guidelines laid out in Islam regarding the treatment of women, and the responsibilities of men and women respectively. Therefore, their practices go against the liberties and entitlements which Islam empowers women with, and in the other extreme remove the responsibility the Almighty has given men.
Back in the 7th century, Muhammad (pbuh) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim – male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history. One of the most influential scholars of Islam was Muhammad’s wife, Aisha. After his death, men and women would travel to learn from her because she was considered a great scholar of Islam. The recognition of female scholarship and women’s participation in academia has been encouraged and practiced throughout the majority of Islamic history. For instance, al-Qarawiyin Mosque and University, the oldest running university, was funded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, inMorocco in 859 C.E.
In Islam, The Almighty has given mothers a high status and elevates their position in the family. In the Quran, Allah Almighty mentions all the sacrifices mothers make in bearing children to remind people to treat their mothers with love, respect, and care. Emphasizing the importance of mothers,
the Prophet Muhammad (God send him peace and blessings) said, “Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.”
On another occasion, a man repeatedly asked The prophet: “Who amongst the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?” Each time, the Prophet replied, “Your mother.” When the man asked for the fourth time, he replied, “Your father.”
Politics and Social Services
Among the early Muslims, women were active participants in the cohesive functioning of the society. Women expressed their opinions freely and their advice was actively sought. Women nursed the wounded during battles, and some even participated on the battlefield. Women traded openly in the marketplace, so much so that the second caliph, Umar, appointed a woman, Shaffa bint Abdullah, as the supervisor of the bazaar.
In Islamic history, women participated in advising the ruler including the prophet himself God send him peace and blessings, the government, women were active in public affairs, scholarship, and teaching.
To continue to uphold this tradition, women are encouraged to actively participate in a broad spectrum of the community activities.
Before Islam, women all across the globe were deprived of inheritance and were themselves considered property to be inherited by men. Islam gave women the right to own property and inherit from relatives, which was a revolutionary concept in the seventh century.
Whether a woman is a wife, mother, sister, or daughter, she receives a certain share of her deceased relative’s property. This share depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. While many societies around the world denied women inheritance, Islam assured women this right, illustrating the universal justice of Islam’s divine law.
In muslim countries and in Islamic law the burden of financial maintenance lies broadly on the men's shoulders, therefore as this is the case the greater shares of inheritance often are given to the head of the household, or that of the elder family member in order that a whole family benefits from inheritance and that does not turn into a materialist pursuit of a families estate, this also ensures that wealth is not squandered and that loved ones are cared for.
In Islam, women are not obligated to earn or spend any money on housing, food, or general expenses. If a woman is married, her husband must fully support her financially and if she’s not married, that responsibility belongs to her closest male relative (father, brother, uncle, etc).
She also has the right to work and spend the money she earns as she wishes in the confines of Islamic law.
She has no obligation to share her money with her husband or any other family members, although she may choose to do so out of good will. For instance, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (God send peace upon Him) was one of the most successful businesswomen of Mecca, and she freely spent from her wealth to support her husband and the cause of Islam.
At the time of marriage, a woman is entitled to a financial or material gift from her husband. This gift (mahr) is legally owned by her and cannot be used by anyone else. In the case of divorce, she has the right to keep whatever she owned before the divorce and anything she personally earned after marriage. The former husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. This ensures a woman’s financial security and independence, allowing her to support herself in the case of divorce.
A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals and her approval is required to complete the marriage contract. She cannot be forced to marry someone against her will and if this occurs for cultural reasons, the marriage is invalid and does not count as it is in direct opposition of Islam.
By the same principle, women also have the right to seek divorce if they are dissatisfied with their marriage.
Their are nuances regarding divorce as the goal of marriage is to not make divorce happen without exhausting all attempts at resolution, even more so when there are children, yet it is a woman's right to seek divorce when there are legitimate grounds, including that there is no love or attraction felt towards the husband.
In Islam, marriage is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion. Allah Almighty says about Himself, “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) Muhammad (God send him peace and blessings) embodied the best character and is a role model for all Muslims.
His example of being helpful around the household and treating his family with compassion and love is a tradition that Muslims strive to implement in their daily lives. Muhammad (gspbuh) treated his wives with the utmost respect and honor and was never abusive towards them. One of his traditions clearly states, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.”
Dignity and Protection from Harm
Any form of emotional, physical, or psychological abuse is prohibited in Islam and the improper treatment of women is no exception to this rule. Indeed, there is no teaching in Islam, when studied in its complete context, which condones any kind of domestic violence. Islam clearly disallows any form of oppression or abuse. Anyone who exercises unjust authority in the name of Islam is actually doing so to uphold their own cultural influences or personal interests. All of Allahs' creation is protected under Islamic law.
In an environment which constantly emphasizes the physical form through various media, women are constantly faced with an unattainable standard of beauty. Although Muslim women are falsely classified as oppressed based on their modest dress, they are in fact liberated from such objectification by the society around them, and as mentioned with the recent 'revelations' from Hollywood it is clear that often women are forced into wearing less and doing things against their will, which is in fact truly oppression regardless of whosoever disagrees . The muslim woman's appearance, which includes covering the hair, highlights a woman’s personality and character instead of her physical figure and promotes a deeper appreciation for who she is as a person. In this regard, Muslim women identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh), who is known for her piety and modesty.
It also protects her from male predatory behavior, and the devil is always an enemy to mankind.
In conclusion, Islam has an extensive tradition of protecting the civil liberties of women based on the guidelines set forth by God Almighty and His Prophet. Women are empowered with rights and protections under Islamic law and are honored with a dignified stature in society.
Adapted from whyislam.org