WOMEN IN ISLAM
Women in Islam is a multidimensional and a complex topic. The
teachings of Islam are based essentially on the Qur’an (God’s
revelation) and Hadeeth ( elaboration by Prophet Mohammad, peace
be upon him ). The Qur’an and the Hadeeth, 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
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 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
* 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, 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 man and woman 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 independent
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 life.
God says in His Holy Book Qur’an: “Every soul will be (held) in
pledge for its deeds” (Qur’an 74:38). The Qur’an 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…” (Qur’an 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 Qur’an: “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 ever-watching you.”
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…” (Qur’an 17:23). Moreover, the Qur’an 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…” (Qur’an 31:14).
The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: “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
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 jointly.
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 is 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
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”.