From a tiny drop that becomes an embryo, the girl-child is born to be an honored part of God’s plan. God states in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an: “O humankind! Be conscious of your Lord Who created you from a single soul, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread countless men and women. Be conscious of God through Whom you demand your mutual rights and honor the wombs; surely God always watches over you.” (Qur’an 4:1)
The First Woman
According to the Qur’an, there was a Garden of Eden. There was a forbidden tree, but no apple, no snake, and certainly no fault on Eve alone. Both Adam and Eve sinned at the same time. They felt shame, repented, and were forgiven together. God provided them with guidance, showing them a way back to Him.
“...Each soul earns on its own account; and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another...” (Qur’an 6:164)
“If any do deeds of righteousness whether male or female, and have faith, they will enter Paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (Qur’an 4:124)
The sole purpose and existence of both women and men is to worship God through faith and good deeds, fulfilling their role as God’s honorable trustees and witnesses on this earth.
Does Islam want Women to be Public and Political?
Most certainly. Islam not only promotes, but charges women (and men) with the responsibility of using their minds for good, preventing evil as God’s trustees on earth.
“The believing men and the believing women are protectors one of another; they enjoin good and forbid evil; they establish regular prayers; practice consistent charity; and they obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy; for God is the Powerful, the Wise.” (Qur’an 9:71)
Several Qur’anic verses chronicle female thinkers and doers, such as: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba who ruled justly and believed in the One God; and Aasiya, the Pharaoh’s wife who saved Prophet Moses. History also tells of many great women such as: Aishah, the wise teacher and philosopher wife of the Prophet, who taught people daily for over 50 years; and Zubaydah, the famous builder of an aqueduct system for pilgrims.
In the first Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad asked women to individually pledge loyalty (one person, one vote) to Islam and to his leadership. Women were expected then, as they are expected now, to assume their rightful role in society as equal partners.
Muslim women today work for the public good as activists, artists, entrepreneurs, leaders, scholars, scientists, social workers, and teachers. Muslim women excel in all fields, not in spite of their religious convictions, but because of them.
Are Women and Men Equal?
Yes, definitely. Islam teaches equality between women and men. However, in some Muslim countries and societies a patriarchal culture dominates, and women are denied their God-given rights. Nowhere does the Qur’an state that one gender is superior to another. God makes it clear that the only criteria for superiority are piety and righteousness — virtues only He can judge.
“O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Qur’an 49:13)
Islam recognizes women as individuals with specific rights. Among these are: the right to life; the right to learn; the right to earn, own and dispose of property; the right to choose a husband; the right to a marriage gift; the right to retain her maiden name; the right, as a wife, to her pre-marriage standard of living; the right to seek divorce; the right to inherit; and the right to a final will. Women, like men, are rewarded by God for a righteously led life.
“And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may live in tranquility with them; and He has brought between you love and mercy. Truly, in this are signs for those who reflect.” (Qur’an 30:21)
Marriage, Wives and Husbands
Marriage is based on mutual love and respect. The Islamic marriage is a sacred contract between a willing woman and a willing man. There can be no coercion, and each party is free to include its own terms. The bride keeps her family name and her marriage gift from the groom. A Muslim marriage is completed with public festivities reflecting culture and customs.
Husbands and wives are protectors of each other. They are equal partners and best of friends, remaining faithful to one another.
The husband provides, maintains, protects and is responsible for the family. He fulfills his duties with consultation and kindness. While the wife is not required to share her wealth and earnings, she may help her husband. Both spouses work together in the home — cooking and cleaning — and in raising good children.
If couples are unable to live with one another peacefully, amicable divorce is permitted as a last resort. Mothers are given priority in the custody of young children.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Treat women well and be kind to them; they are your partners and committed helpers.”
“And We have enjoined upon man to be good to his parents. With difficulty upon difficulty did his mother bear him and wean him for two years. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final goal.” (Qur’an 31:14)
Mothers are accorded a special place of honor and respect in Islam. A man once came to Prophet Muhammad and asked, “O Messenger of God! Who among the people is most worthy of my good companionship?” The Prophet replied: “Your mother.” The man then asked who next, the Prophet replied “Your mother,” again. The man repeated the question a third time and got the same answer. The man asked once again, “Who next?” Only then did the Prophet (peace be upon him) reply, “Your father.” This and other references in the Qur’an and incidents from the life of the Prophet clearly indicate the elevated status Islam has given mothers. A Muslim sees a mother as an icon of strength and courage, tempered with compassion, kindness and love.
Women’s Dress and Modesty
Muslim women dress in a way that is modest and dignified. The purpose of clothing is not only to protect oneself from the physical elements, but also to protect from immorality and pride. The Islamic concept of dress applies to both women and men. It sets expectations of moral and respectful interactions between the genders. As a result, both men and women are liberated from their baser instincts and can focus on higher pursuits. Islamic dress takes on many beautiful forms, reflecting the cultural diversity of Muslims from all over the world.
How does Islam protect women from violence?
Islam means to attain “Peace” — achieved when a person focuses on God, giving her entire mind, heart and soul to none other than the Creator. This liberates her from human subjugation; replacing fear with self-respect, weakness with strength, and conflict with tranquility. God says in the Qur’an: “...do not fear human beings, but be in awe of Me...” (Qur’an 5:44)
Islam strongly prohibits oppression or cruelty to any individual, group or living thing in the universe. God enjoins good conduct toward women from birth to death. Verbal, psychological, emotional, sexual, and physical violence are forbidden; as are false allegations against women’s chastity and honor. Men are further reminded: “...do not harass women as to make their lives miserable...” (Qur’an 65:6)
Prophet Muhammad said: “Only an honorable man treats women with honor and integrity. And only a mean, deceitful and dishonest man humiliates and insults women.” Referring to physical abuse, he added: “Never hit your wives, they are your partners and sincere helpers.” He exemplified this by never, ever, hitting a woman or child. The Prophet guaranteed protection of the life, honor and property of women.
“And why should you not fight in the cause of God and on behalf of those, who being weak, are ill-treated and oppressed, men, women and children whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from these oppressors, and raise for us, from You, one who will protect and help.’” (Qur’an 4:75)
What do Muslims think about Mary, the mother of Jesus?
Muslims respect and admire Mary. Mary, the mother of Prophet Jesus (may the peace and blessings of God be upon them both), is the only woman after whom a chapter of the Qur’an is named. She was the ideal of womanhood: a pillar of strength and courage; knowledgeable and wise; compassionate and kind.
Mary came from the family of Imran, a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. She grew up in the care of her uncle, Prophet Zechariah, a priest in the temple, and father of John the Baptist. God speaks of Mary in the Qur’an in the most noble of terms:
“The Angels said: ‘O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you, and chosen you above women of all nations...
O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (to God). He shall speak to people in infancy and in old age, and shall be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’
He said: ‘Even so; God creates what He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.’” (Qur’an 3:42,45-7)
The Qur’an further tells of Mary:
“So she conceived him. And she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She cried, ‘Ah! Would that I have died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!’
He cried to her from beneath her, ‘Do not grieve! For your Lord has provided a stream beneath you. And shake toward yourself the trunk of the palm. It will let fresh dates fall upon you. So eat and drink, and cool your eye. And if you see any man, say, “I have vowed a fast to the Source of All Mercy and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.”’
At length she brought (the baby) to her people, carrying him. They said, ‘O Mary! Truly an illegitimate thing have you brought! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil nor your mother a woman unchaste!’ But she pointed to the baby. They said, ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?’ He (the baby Jesus) said, ‘I am indeed the servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet; and He has made me blessed wherever I be; and has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me immensely kind to my mother and not overbearing nor miserable; And peace be on me, the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!’”
“Indeed men and women who give themselves wholly (to God); and believing men and women; and devout men and women; and truthful men and women; and patient men and women; and men and women who are humble; and charitable men and women; and men and women who fast; and men and women who guard their chastity; and men and women who engage in abundant praise of God. For them (all), God has prepared forgiveness and a magnificent reward.” (Qur’an 33:35)
More information about Women and Islam may be obtained by contacting your local Mosque, the Islamic Center in your area, or by contacting the following: