‘Women in Islam’ is a
multidimensional and a complex topic. The teachings of Islam are based
essentially on the Quran and Hadith. The Quran and the Hadith, when
properly and unbiasedly understood, provide the basic source for any
position or view which is attributed to Islam.
I am not an expert or a
religious scholar. I am speaking from my personal convictions and
experience as a mother, a wife, and an educator.
It is rare in the west that
someone should ask the Muslim woman about her opinion, experiences and
feelings as she fulfills her role in life. We as human beings unfortunately
tend to misjudge, that which does not meet our standards or that which we
neither do nor understand, yet do we ever stop to think how superficial that
may be? Do we ever think to look deeper and learn, and then judge? To the
common lay person an uncut diamond may look like a stone, but to a jeweler
it is a treasure beyond comparison. Such is Islam to a Muslim and all who
care to learn. To set the stage for the subject of Islam and Women, we have
to understand two basic Islamic concepts. These two concepts are:
Islam is not a common religion in
the popular understanding of most people, rather Islam is a way of life to
be practiced constantly and be reflected in all of our actions. The basis
of these actions is the strong belief in God's commands in total obedience
to his role. What our Creator commands is not for us, as his creations, to
question. If one thinks of these commands, one does not find them insulting
to his or her intelligence but rather they serve to enrich and improve
humanity's well being. In this context, a Muslim man or woman understands
their mutual role in society.
· The status of woman in Islam is
something unique, something novel, and something that has no similarity in
any other system.
Islam acknowledges women as
equal partners to men in fulfilling God's purpose for our existence on this
earth. Men and women are to complement each other and not to compete with
each other. According to Islam, all and each one of us, men and women
should only have one reason for doing whatever we do, and that reason is
satisfied by God. In Islam, men and women are equal, yet they are not
identical. It therefore follows that the
rights and responsibilities of a
woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical.
Equality and sameness are two quite different things. People are not
created identical but they are created equal.
Contrary to popular
misconception, Islam has long recognized that men and women are equal, equal
spiritually and mentally. It is to Islam's credit that it does not commit
hypocrisy and claim them to be identical.
The fact that Islam gives
the woman equal rights, but recognizes her as an individual, shows that it
takes her into consideration, acknowledges her, and recognizes her
What Islam has established
for woman is that which suits her nature, gives her full security and
protects her against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of
God says in His Holy Book
Qur'an: "Every soul will be (held) in pledge for
its deeds" (Translation of Meaning of Quran 74:38). The
Quran also states that: "... So their Lord
accepted their prayers, (saying): I will not suffer to be lost the work of
any of you whether male or female. You proceed one from another..."
(Translation of Meaning of Quran 3:195).
The woman is recognized by
Islam as a full and equal partner of man in the procreation of humankind.
He is the father; she is the mother and both are essential for life. Islam
acknowledges and emphasizes the importance of the woman's role in her family
and society as a mother; a mother whose function can not be substituted by
any others. The man's function as a father can not be substituted by the
woman. Both are there to complement each other. Islam respects both
functions and calls on both men and women to fulfill their responsibilities
in this regard. Neither men nor women should degrade the other party's
function or look down to his or her own.
Among the greatest gifts
God has blessed womankind with is the motherhood. God says in His Holy
Book, the Quran (Translation of Meaning): "Oh
Mankind! Obey your Lord, who created you from a single person and creates
from like nature his mate, and from both derived countless men and women.
Obey God, whom you turn to and obey the wombs that bore you, for God is
In a single verse God
establishes the status and high rank of women as demonstrated by the most
beautiful and incomparable role of mother in Islam, the place of the woman
in general and mother in particular has no equal.
Like everything, Islam
seeks to accomplish in our lives, it harmonizes between the physical, the
mental and the spiritual. In other words, it treats the individual as a
total being and does not ignore part. That is why rather than push man or
woman to the denial of their nature, it instructs them to take advantage, to
nurture and develop what God has given to them.
God says in His Holy Book,
the Qur'an: "Your Lord has decreed that you
worship none save Him, and that you be kind to your parents..."
(Translation of Meaning of Quran 17:23). Moreover, the Quran has a special
recommendation for the good treatment of mothers: "And
we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears him
in weakness upon weakness..." (Translation of Meaning of
The Prophet Mohammad (peace
be upon him) said: (Translation of Meaning) "Everyone
of you is shepherd and everyone of you shall be asked about those under his
(or her) guard. The king is a shepherd and shall be asked about his
subjects, the man is shepherd and shall be asked about his family, and the
woman is a shepherdess in the house of her husband and shall be asked about
those under care."
In fact, the role of mother
is given a higher position in importance, in responsibility and in respect,
as illustrated in the following story bout the Prophet Mohammad (peace be
upon him). A man came to the Prophet (peace be
upon him) and asked him to advise him on whom should he takes into
consideration. The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered "your mother", the
man said "then", the Prophet (peace be upon him) said "your mother", the man
said "then", the Prophet (peace be upon him) said "your mother", the man
said "then", the Prophet (peace be upon him) said "your father",
and yet again the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Paradise
lies at the feet of mothers" which means that the woman's
role as a mother is a sacred one. Islam has emphasized this fact in great
fashion by instructing us to respect and care for our mothers for more than
what we do for our fathers.
In the light of the
important function that mother serves, Islam has gone so far as to advice
parents to pay extra attention and devote time and efforts in the up
bringing and raising of their daughters. The
Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever takes care of three
daughters will enter Paradise." So a man asked how about two daughters, the
Prophet (peace be upon him) said "he, too, will enter Paradise," so the man
asked how about one daughter and the Prophet (peace be upon him) answered
"he, too, will enter paradise."
The role of mother in Islam
is no less in importance or social impact than the role of man as protector
and provider. Islam has given the wife all what it takes to protect her
rights and to create the adequate environment for a healthy family life. In
an Islamic family, the man is responsible for supporting his family's
needs. If the wife has income, it is her privilege to decide what to do
with it independently. Family related decisions are to be discussed
The role of mother in Islam
is so majestic and noble that women in general and mother in particular have
been called the "School of the Nation". From our mothers new generations
have sprung forth and from today's mothers, new generations will spring
forth again. A blessing and trust given to us to nurture, protect, guide
and educate. The first seeds of knowledge and the first knowledge of God
are planted and developed at home under the guidance and loving care of the
mother. It is a role God has gifted her with the capabilities to
accomplish, the sense of giving and ability to inspire a sense of belonging.
The torn families of our
days and our social problems can be all avoided if the motherhood is taken
as a serious responsibility and a respectable duty. Islam does not ask of
the women to stay at home, have children, and be limited to raising them.
Islam emphasizes the importance of this task to a healthy family and a
healthy society. If a woman is capable of taking other tasks of life
without abandoning such an important and vital task, she is not only allowed
to do so, but she is requested to do just that. Every person, man or a
woman is requested to do his utmost to be a positive productive useful
member of his or her own society. Talking about my personal experience, God
have blessed me with the ability to be a caring mother of two young boys, a
house wife with a content husband, and a productive career as a university
professor. I do all that because God gave me the capability to do them all,
not because I am in competition with any body, and not to prove that women
can do it. I do it all in the way of God, and for his sake. There is no
feeling of being threatened or a need to compete. Each man and woman
recognizes their capabilities and their limitations.
So much can be said about
the rights of women in Islam. But to be fair, we would not be talking about
that if it were not for the other societies which denied women of their fair
share of rights and equality. Islam gives women this fair share. It is all
logical and obvious, and can be summarized on one simple statement. In the
words of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) "Women
are men's mothers, sisters, and daughters".