“Hijab” by kholif is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Hijab” by kholif is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The current misconception in the west about Muslim women is that they are oppressed.

When a Muslim woman is seen with a hijab, it is misconstrued as a sign of oppression or denial of equal rights due to her faith.

It is totally unfair to label Islam as a faith which denies women their rights. It is, however, a fact that women had to fight for the same rights till recent times which were granted in Islam 1,400 years ago. It is true that in some societies, Muslim women are denied equal rights in contravention to the teachings of true Islam. But if we dig deep, such discriminations are rooted in cultural practices. An honest analysis will reveal that in such cultures women of different faiths and backgrounds face similar biases. In this context to stigmatize or single out a particular faith is totally unfair.

Extremist groups are another reason why people have doubts about rights of women in Islam. But as the very ideology of extremists and terrorists is rooted in distortion of #TrueIslam, suppression of women by them is no exception. Remember there is nothing Islamic about Islamic State.

Let's imagine a society where a girl is to be buried alive at her birth as she is considered a source of dishonor for the father. If she luckily survives, she is considered a property and divided along with inheritance. She is denied the rights and respect which a wife or a mother deserves. Sounds horrible? This was the state of Arabia 1,400 years ago before the advent of Islam.

With this background in mind, now I will share with you five key but less known facts on how 1,400 years ago Islam gave women their rightful place in the society which can serve as a role model for all times to come.

1. The Holy Qur’an states, "He has created you from a single being; then of the same kind made its mate" (39:7).

It clarifies that both men and women are of the same kind and thus equal as human beings.

2. Religion provides the path for the spiritual progress of mankind

In Islam, there are clear glad tidings without any preference or discrimination that there is equal reward for both men and women for their good deeds. The Qur’an states, "But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter heaven…" (4:125). 

3. Islam advocates that women and men are born equal in terms of abilities and intellect

Women are not just granted freedom rather are encouraged to pursue highest of education. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge." This includes all forms of knowledge and is not limited to religious education. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recognized that ignorance is at the root of many ills in any society and thus advised Muslims including women to "seek knowledge even if you have to go to China," and to "seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." It resulted in a society in Arabia about which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself gave the testimony that, "half the religion of Islam could be learned from Ayesha (his wife).”

4. True Islam also encourages Muslim men and women to be useful members of society

Everyone should utilize their talents and capabilities for the benefit of their communities and society at large. The Qur’an states, "Men shall have the share of what they have earned, and women shall have the share of what they have earned" (4:33). Women are relieved from sharing financial burden, thus husbands are solely responsible for the maintenance of the family. Women are to have complete control over their personal finances and their husbands do not have any right over them. 

5. Rights of women in different roles as members of the family are greatly emphasized in Islam

As a couple, husband and wife are described as friends, who share a bond of mutual love and both have rights over each other. God says, "Of His signs is that He created mates for you of your own kind that you may find peace of mind through them, and He has put love and tenderness between you" (30:22). And further states, "…They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them" (2:188). 

As per True Islam, rights of women are not just “equal”, they in fact have more rights than men in many situations.

In the context of a society where birth of a baby girl instead of being cherished became a source of humiliation for the father, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave the glad tidings, "He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgment attached to me like two fingers of a hand." Unfortunately, though daughters are still discriminated against in many cultures even in the 21st century.

Islam profoundly recognizes the vital role of mothers in the upbringing of their future generations. It expects the society to deeply value the love, sacrifice and dedication of mothers for their children. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Paradise lies at the feet of the mother," conveying the deeper message that mothers are a source of the success of their children and children who are grateful especially to their mothers earn all blessings.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was once asked who deserves the best treatment from a person. "Your mother," he replied. When asked a second time, again he said, "Your mother." He was asked a third time, again the reply was, "your mother." Only upon being asked a fourth time did he reply, "your father." It clearly depicts the high respect associated with motherhood in Islam.

Readers, next time if you see a Muslim woman, I hope you can be rest assured that her faith grants her more rights not just equal rights.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter