Status of Women in Islam

28 07 2007
Status of Woman in Islam  
Taken 877-whyislam    
The status of women in Islam, is an issue that is pertinent in present times; both due to the divergence of cultural practices in the Muslim world from the Islamic perspective and the erroneous perception in the West, that Islam subjugates womenfolk.A dispassionate study of the primary sources of Islam, along with an analysis of the position of women in societies whereIslam was implemented, actually proves that for women Islam is a special blessing.

“Prior to Islam,” write the authors of The Cultural Atlas of Islam, “a woman was regarded by her parents as a threat to family honor and hence worthy of burial alive at infancy. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought, sold and inherited. From this position of inferiority and legal incapacity, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in family and society.”

The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to those of men but they are not necessarily identical. This difference is understandable because men and women are different, in their physiological and psychological make-up. With this distinction in mind, there is no room for a Muslim to imagine that women are inferior to men. Thus it is perhaps more apt to refer to the Islamic approach on gender relations, as one of “equity” rather than the commonly used word “equality”, which could be misunderstood to mean equality in every minute aspect of life, rather than overall equality.


The sacred text of the Glorious Qur’an and the history of early Muslims bear witness to the fact that women are considered as vital to life as men.

Islam refuted the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God, and thus caused his downfall. The Qur’an says that they both disobeyed, and negates the idea that women are a source of evil.

In a world where women were no more than objects of sexual gratification for men, and at a time when the religious circles argued over whether women were human or not, possessing souls, Islam proclaimed:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female.”
[Al-Qur’an 49:13]

“O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you.”
[Al-Qur’an 4:1]

Men and women are of the same family, and as such have similar rights and duties, and their Lord promises them in the Glorious Qur’an:

“Never will I waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other.”
[Al-Qur’an 3:195]

Thus, in the Islamic tradition, a woman has an independent identity. She is a responsible being in her own right and carries the burden of her moral and spiritual obligations.


Women have as much right to education as men do. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (p)1 declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history.

Islam elevated the position of women in society and treated them on an equal footing with men, and in some cases, as a mother for instance, clearly gave them precedence over men. Thus when a man asked Prophet Muhammad (p): “Who is most entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” the Prophet (p) replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Who is next?” The Prophet (p) said, “Your mother.” Again the man asked, “Who is next?” The Prophet (p) repeated, “Your mother.” The man asked for a fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet (p) then replied, “Your father.”2

On another occasion, when a man came to the Prophet (p), and expressed the desire to join a military expedition, the Prophet (p) asked him if he had a mother. When he replied that he had, the Prophet (p) advised him, “Stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.”3

As daughters, women have a right to just and equitable treatment from their parents. The Prophet(p) gave glad tidings to those who did not insult their daughters or favored sons over daughters.4

A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals, and her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the marriage contract. A marriage is based on mutual peace, love and compassion. Dr. Jamal Badawi, a Canadian Islamic scholar, states in his book Gender Equity in Islam:

“The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does not mean ‘subservience’ by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad (p) helped with household chores, although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in the community were immense.”

The responsibility of maintaining social and moral values lies on both men and women. Both must refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of people other than their legitimate spouses or cause evil suspicion of their morality.

Women are entitled to freedom of expression just as men are. Among the early Muslims, women participated in public life, especially in times of emergencies. It is reported in the Qur’an and in history that women not only expressed their opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet (p) himself as well as with other Muslim leaders. They were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless.


Islam grants women equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. A woman’s life, her property and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of a man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position would get.5

Islam has given women a share of inheritance. Before Islam, women were not only deprived of that share, but were themselves considered as property to be inherited by men. Out of that transferable property Islam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent individuality of women. Whether the woman is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kin’s property, a share that depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favor of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so.

Women are exempt from all financial liabilities. As a wife, a woman is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded.


It is thus clear that the status of women in Islam is very high. Islam has granted them rights that match beautifully with their duties. What Islam has established for women is that which suits their nature, gives them full security and protects them against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life.

There does exist a gap between the rights of women outlined in the Qur’an, and the prevalent reality in the Muslim world. However, images of Muslim women as ignorant, oppressed and submissive are stereotypical and do no justice to the large number of Muslim women whose firm conviction in the Islamic concepts of family cohesiveness and happiness, and their own individuality, ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.

1 (p) here stands for “peace be upon him”
2 Reported by Bukhari
3 Reported by Ahmad, Basa’i and Al-Baihaqi
4 Reported by Ahmad
5 Al-Qur’an, 2:178; 4:45, 92-93




13 responses

28 07 2007

asalam alaykum , its so great to read something positive , I dont feel muslim men realize this , I have seen subjugated muslim women who are practicng they think this is how they should live , make lots of babys and do whatever the husband wants , nothing about her , just her and her children . Iv seen this happen infact quite common . muslims have lost the plot they have either gone to extreme (ie suadi’s or toooooooo liberal ie a women can lead the prayer and be an imam) the balance has gone and it make me feel misreable .
Its a constant battle ground your either liberal or your extreme .
women are part of society lock them up like some men do , then you have just locked up a vital wing that make the world go round . one day you will see muslim women rebelling againts these stupid men .

29 07 2007
Sunday Collection 20 | Anchors and Masts

[…] Life of a Muslimah. The writer is an American Muslim woman writing about her faith and daily life. Yesterday’s post on the position of women in Islam is interesting. I’ve just finished Karen Armstrong’s […]

29 07 2007
Marsha J. O'Brien

Very interesting post. I’ve never read these things before and certainly, this is not the treatment we hear about!

29 07 2007

As Salaamu Alaikum Sis:

Alhamdulillah, for the rights of the women. It is too bad that as we educate ourselves as I am speaking now after reading this entry, there are still women who have no way to stand up for themselves out of helplessness. For example, if leaving the marriage means disgracing the family name or how will I financially maintain my children’s well being, how difficult is it for a divorce woman in some societies to be accpeted? I have read how pitiful a woman can be made to feel, just beacsue of some of these arrogant and inconsiderate men, who make this religion look ugly. I wish that more men could live up to respect what women in Islam have been given as being “equal rights.” J
azak Allahu Khair for making this post an awareness for so many women who can read this and take it as empowering information.

Allah is great!!!

30 07 2007

Salam sister,

Jazakillah, this is a good post and certainly we need such post more often to create more awareness of the actual fact about our rights.

30 07 2007

Alhamdulillah. So many people fail to realize that women convert to Islam everyday. Muslim women actually want to be Muslim. They also fail to realize that Muslim women wear hijab as a part of their relationship with their Creator. Those who try to politicize hijab–trying to “free” Muslim women from hijab–are actually victimizing women by marginalizing hijab-clad women from the rest of society. It is also important for people to realize that the scandalous treatment of Muslim women in some places is due to cultural conditions and is not condoned by Islamic law. Neither female genital mutilation nor honor killings, for example, have any basis in Islamic law.

30 07 2007

Excellent post. Glad I stopped by.

31 07 2007
Umm Yusuf

Thank you all for stopping by my blog. I’m pleased to see that you enjoyed the article. My hope is that this article has cleared up some of the many misconceptions about Islam’s treatment of women.

If you want to read more articles like this one you can visit:

31 07 2007

I love that site, not just because they have a section in Spanish that is so eloquently written, but because they’re accurate and use Quran and authentic Sunnah (teachings) of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

So many around the world both Muslims and non-muslims have the wrong idea of women in Islam, and this sums it up and clears all the misconceptions flying in the air.

Jazak Allah Khairan for posting this sis. Hugs 😉

1 08 2007

I think your post is important, because it touches upon one of the most widely discussed aspects on Islam, especially in the Western world.

I would like to share my opinions on the subject. First of all, as you say in your post, there is a big difference between Islamic theory and they way that is implemented in everyday life. For example, women not being allowed to take on most jobs or not being able to drive a car in Saudi Arabia, are in my opinion, not consistent with Islamic texts.

However, in your post, you compare the state of women in Arabia before 8th century and after Islam. It is true that women lived in abysmal conditions in that area at that time and it is also true that Islam brought on huge improvements for women. But all that actually says is that Islam treats women better whatever paganistic religion Arabs adhered to at that time. It does not explain the fact that Islam dictates that women receive a smaller portion of their father’s inheritance than their brothers. It does not explain the fact that in certail legal cases, one male witness is required but if the witnesses are female, there has to be two of them. It does not explain the fact that sex between an unmarried woman and an unmarried man is a serious offence in Islam to be punished by beating.

Forgive me if my comments come across as to strong. I am merely trying to get another point of view about some issues that I haven’t had the chance to read about anywhere else.

2 08 2007
Down Time « Izzy Mo’s Blog

[…] I am.  As I waited for the obvious entry on our terrible state of oppression, I was directed to Sister Jennifer’s blog!  Our very own Southern Muslimah was on the frontpage of the WordPress website.  […]

2 08 2007

As a muslim, l thank you a lot for sharing such a beautiful article with us. Most of the time l am very very sad that people in the world misunderstand islam so much. We should do our best to introduce our religion as much as possible

3 08 2007
Saeed Tiwana

Find out the divorce range of any nation ; or the average marriage lasting so many years and you know the status of women in that country. I’m married for the last 45 years. When I went to my father in 1962 asking his permission to marry a girl , he told me that there has been no divorce in our family since the last 300 years.
My father’s sister died at age 100. Her son was a Deputy Commissioner of Gujrat ( Pakistan). When they lifted her dead body to proceed towards the graveyard, it was announced:” NO MAN OTHER THAN BLOOD KINSMAN EVER SAW THIS WOMAN’S FACE.”
That was the status of our women.
Being the oldest matriarch, she had the final say in all family matters. We couldn’t disobey.
The older our women , the more rich she became and more authoritative. By age 40 I had not even heard about OLD PEOPLE’S HOME. Can you beat the beauty of this system?

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