Women’s rights in Islam is a controversial topic for avid human rights activists who strongly believe that woman’s status and roles are highly underestimated under Islamic rules. On the other hand, Muslims have been following and glorifying Islamic rules for centuries. So, which army is right? This is what we are going to find out together.
In 21st-century Western countries are believed to be the best places for women to live, study and reach the top of their career since women are free to choose their path and no one is going to limit their rights just because they are women.
On the other hand, when speaking about women’s rights in Islam most of us imagine veiled women, sexually segregated societies, violence against women, and denial of their human rights. But is it really so or these are just misconceptions fabricated by biased media?
One thing we are sure of is that Islam’s sacred text, the Quran played an important role in defining women’s lifestyle, their status and roles in a society creating cultural, social and economic differences between women adhering to different religions.
The Quran dedicates numerous verses to Muslim women, their roles, duties, and rights. According to Quran, there is a spiritual equality between women and men. Women are meant to exemplify femininity, while men masculinity.
The difference between women and men results, quite logically, in a separation of their social functions.
So folks, get ready to learn a lot of new and interesting facts about marriages, women’s rights in Islam.
Women’s Rights in Islam According to Quran
A Muslim woman cannot have jobs outside their homes:
Muslim Women cannot have education:
Women cannot be active in the political life in their communities:
These are statements that can be found in hundreds of articles dedicated to women’s rights in Islam. And this is because when thinking about a Muslim woman we tend to subconsciously imagine a woman with limited rights who wears hijab and spends most of her time at home taking care of kids and husband.
However, in case you do a little research, you will understand that there is a widespread misconception about the status of women in Islam in Western and developed countries.
The reality is that there is no restriction in Islamic law that says a woman cannot work and have a profession.
In fact, Qur’an encourages the pursuit of knowledge by all Muslims regardless of their sex. The Prophet said, “Education is compulsory for every Muslim.”
So, Islam does not put any limit on the kind of field of education a woman may choose and women can hold a job or run their own business and no one can control their earnings including the husband.
Anyway, working women are subject to certain conditions. For example,
- women are not allowed to do a job that causes to neglect their important role as a mom and wife.
- women should maintain their modesty while performing any work outside the home rather than violating Islamic law (serving alcohol).
Let’s Talk about Women’s Rights in Islam by Statistics
UNESCO notes that at 37% the share of female researchers in Arab states compares well with other regions. For example in Iran, women account for over 60% of university students.
Similarly, in Malaysia, Algeria, and in Saudi Arabia, the majority of university students have been female in recent years, while in 2016 Emirati women constituted 76.8% of people enrolled at universities in the United Arab Emirates.
Islamic nations in the Middle East and North Africa region are increasing their creation of economic and employment opportunities for women as well.
However, as compared to other countries in the world, the Middle East, and North African region ranks lowest on economic participation, employment opportunity and the political empowerment of women.
Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Syria are considered countries with the lowest women labor force participation in the world.
This gap, however, is not conditioned by Islamic rules but by people’s mentality, lifestyle, and choices.
Marriages and freedom of choice
We will greatly disappoint our readers in case we speak about Muslim women’s rights and ignore the topic of marriage.
As we don’t have the slightest wish to disappoint you we will introduce the most interesting facts about marriage in Muslim countries, a topic that is always interesting forbearers of western culture and values that are so different from those of Muslim traditions, lifestyle, and values.
First, it’s worth mentioning that Islam considers marriage as one of the most virtuous and approved institutions.
Marriage is the central institution of family life and society, and therefore the central institution of Islam.
- On a technical level, marriage is accomplished through a contract which is confirmed by the bride’s reception of a dowry, and by the witnessing of the bride’s consent to the marriage. The approval and consent of the girl to marriage is a prerequisite for the validity of the marriage in Islam.
- Theoretically, Muslim women are free to choose a partner and have the right to turn down the proposal. Unfortunately, due to the lack of understanding and unawareness, in some Arab countries, young girls are sometimes forced to marry an old man they dislike. In such cases, the marriage shall be annulled. But again this is not something conditioned by Islamic rules.
Women’s Rights in Islam in Terms of Marriages: Discover the Rules
- The bride in Muslim culture has the right to stipulate her own conditions and issues. These conditions usually pertain to such issues as marriage terms (e.g. that her husband may not take another wife), and divorce terms (e.g. that she may dissolve the union at her own initiative if she deems it necessary).
- In Islam polygamy is allowed while polyandry is prohibited. Oopsie! Seems you are hearing these terms the first time but the notions behind these terms are quite known to you. In plain English, a Muslim man can be married to four wives at the same time, under restricted conditions. Most modern Muslims view the practice of polygamy as allowed, but unusual and not recommended. On the other hand, Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, is not permitted.
- A woman’s right to divorce is often extremely limited compared with that of men in the Middle East. In Islam, a woman may only divorce her husband under certain conditions. These are many and include neglect, not being supported financially, the husband’s impotence, madness, dangerous illness or some other defect in the marriage. In contrast, husbands can be released from their vows in some places merely by saying “I divorce you” three times with no requirement to show cause. However, depending on a country there can be additional legal processes when a husband divorces his wife.
- Muslim women living overseas are sometimes shocked to find out that their property can be considered joint assets after marriage. According to Islam, the dowry is the exclusive property of the wife and should not be given away, either to her family or her relatives. Anyway, according to the Qur’an (at 4:2), the wife may freely choose to give part of their dowry to the husband.
- The husband is free to marry again immediately after a divorce, but the woman must wait for 3 lunar months before she can remarry after divorce, to establish paternity, in case she discovers she is pregnant.
The Syrian Law of Personal Status (1953) makes the payment of maintenance to the wife by the husband obligatory for one year after the divorce, which is thus a legal recourse of the wife against the husband.
Women’s role and status in the family and society
For a moment close your eyes and imagine a Muslim woman in a family! And now be honest! Didn’t you think of a tortured and excessively humble woman with low self-esteem and lack of enthusiasm?
You are not alone! Most of us think so.
Yes, in Islam women and men really share different responsibilities and duties but who said that this is a wrong attitude. It would be even more surprising to treat both sexes the same way and ignore their differences.
Islam teaches that men and women have complementary, yet different, roles because it is best suited to their nature. God says:
And the male is not like the female.Qur’an 3:36
In other words, God created men and women to be different, with unique roles, skills, and responsibilities.
According to the Quran, men and women have the same spirit. There is no superiority in the spiritual sense between men and women. (Noble Quran 4:1, 7:189, 42:11)
Thus, it’s not surprising that man is responsible for the financial well being of the family while the woman contributes to the family’s physical, educational and emotional well being.
In general, a woman’s sphere of operation is the home in which she is the dominant figure and has a dignified role and status. As a wife, the task of a woman is to maintain and take care of a husband. As a mother, a woman has the greatest influence on a child especially in the earlier years through her affection, care, and love.
A man’s corresponding sphere is the outside world and the role of protector, maintainer, and leader of the family.
This unique separation of powers encourages cooperation rather than competition. By fulfilling their mutual responsibilities, strong families and hence strong societies are created where women’s role is higher than you can imagine. Still doubtful? Read the following story.
Quotes on Women’s Right in Islam from Quran
The Prophet was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked twice more, “Then who?” and was given the same response. Only until the fourth time did the Prophet respond, “Then your father.” A reward is not only given to the good and kind treatment towards mothers. In fact, Islam has designated a special reward for raising daughters that is not granted for raising sons.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever Allah has given two daughters and is kind towards them, they will be a reason for him entering Paradise.”
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