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The Truth About Women's Rights in Islam

posted on: Jun 15, 2021

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By: Meral Abu-Jaser /Arab America Contributing Writer

Today you shall learn about the truth about women’s rights in Islam, but first, let us emphasize a couple of aspects. Let us face it, oppressed, unequal, and extremist are the first few words that come to mind for many people when they think about women in Islam. Unfortunately, this and many other negative stereotypes are strongly associated with the world of Islam. With social media being the main platform of information for many, people are getting the wrong image about Islam. Specifically, when it comes to women’s rights in Islam.

It is known that for centuries, women have been fighting for equal wages, rights, and entrepreneurship all over the world. But there is a missing piece to this topic: Islam has granted women their rights 1400 years ago! In reality, Islam has empowered women since the 7th century. Hence, women’s rights in Islam is a matter that has been addressed ages ago. Momentarily, do not confuse religion with cultural practices and forget to learn the truth behind the religion itself. Want to learn more about the truth on women’s rights in Islam? Then let us explain and introduce you to their rights, their roles, and responsibilities.

Brief Intro About Islam and How it Came to Address Women’s Rights

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Long before Islam came to be a religion, female children were considered troublesome. Sadly people would bury them alive and would deny them. This is where Islam came to honor women in society. Women were elevated and protected with unprecedented rights. Unlike other non-Islamic communities, women finally had the right to stand up without fear.

Hence, Islam has been the youngest of the major world religions where it dates back to the 7th century. The prophet and messenger himself (peace be upon him) was pro-feminism because he introduced a code of rights for women in the name of God centuries ago. In fact, Islam came to give women their due rights 1400 ago from the days of ignorance. It is the first religion that granted women their rights.This includes respect, freedom of choice, rights, and equality. It is essential to understand that Islam came to give mankind an ideal code of human rights and code of life. These rights aim at conferring honor and dignity on mankind and eliminating exploitation, oppression, and injustice to all humans, not just men!

What Rights Did Islam Grant to Women?

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Going back to history and analyzing the Quran, we find that women are given multiple rights and are highly privileged. Most rights found upon are:

The right to an education, to marry someone of their choice, to retain their identity after marriage, to divorce, to work, to own and sell property, to seek protection by the law, to vote, and to participate in civic and political engagement.

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This is only a brief statement that combines some of the meanings behind verses from the Quran about women’s rights. In the Holy book itself, there is a whole surah that is named “An-Nisa“. Basically, it highlights how a woman must be treated, their responsibilities, and their rights.

A couple of verses from surat Al-Nisa devoted for women are listed below:

  • For men, there is a share in what their parents and close relatives leave, and for women, there is a share in what their parents and close relatives leave—whether it is little or much. ˹These are˺ obligatory shares.
  • O, believers! It is not permissible for you to inherit women against their will1 or mistreat them to make them return some of the dowry ˹as a ransom for divorce˺—unless they are found guilty of adultery
  • Treat them fairly. If you happen to dislike them, you may hate something which Allah turns into a great blessing.

Women’s Right for Education

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It might be unbelievable to many, but Islam promotes education to both males and females equally. Now when it comes to education we all have seen a story on the news about Muslim women being denied to continue education. But in reality that is not representing Islam! As a matter of fact, the first verse in the Quran was “اقراء/Iqra” which means “to read”, Another source by the prophet Mohammad himself (peace be upon him) was, “It is obligatory on every Muslim man or woman to acquire knowledge,”. Islam even gave women the right to go to court and demand an education from either their parents or their husbands.

In fact, Aaisha bnt abi baker, who is the wife of the prophet, would attend public discussions – especially those concentrated on medicine. Aisha Bint Abi Bakr became one of the most known scholars in the ear of the prophet. She was also very intelligent in mathematics and an educator to many scholars. It is said that she taught at least 88 scholars, and 2210 Ahadith are reported only on the authority of Aaisha.

Women’s Financial Responsibilities

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In Islam, women have the right to work and spend their earning as they covet. Women are not forced to spend any money on housing or on general expenses. If a woman wants to spend her money, that depends on her willingness only, and she may choose to do so out of goodwill. Fundamentally, she has no obligation to distribute her money to her husband or any other family members.

Moreover, when she lives with her parents, it’s her father’s responsibility to support her financially. Once she is married, her husband must fully support her financial needs. Hence, when a woman is married, she legally owns a “dowry” from her husband. This is to ensure her independence and financial security in case of a divorce.

Women’s Right in the Workplace

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As has previously been mentioned, in Islam women have the right to work. For instance, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was one of the most successful businesswomen of Mecca. In fact, the prophet himself (peace be upon him) worked for Khadija’s business before marrying her. Once married, she would freely spent her wealth to support her husband in the cause of Islam.

Moreover, women in the early Islamic era were active participants in the cohesive functioning of the society. Women expressed their opinions openly. Their advice was actively inquired especially in medical topics. Realistically, women in the 7th century worked as nurses to heal the wounded during battles. Some even participated on the battlefield.

Al-Shifa bint Abdullah is one example of women who worked in the workplace. She was a teacher, healer, and even a role model to many females. As the prophet once said,

Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was many things. She is said to be the first woman in Islam who was a teacher. Because she was literate, she taught many other people how to read and write. Notably, she taught Hafsah bint Umar, a wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

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What To Do Next

After you have taken your time reading and enlightening yourself about the truth of women’s rights in Islam, you should not stop here! Continue to learn more and share your knowledge with others and let them also know the truth. When the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) became the messenger of Islam, women got their rights based on the Qur’an. Now one must understand that no one should judge women’s rights in Islam based on the practice of society.

Women in Islam are as equal as men. As one verse states in the holy book, God proclaims, “To whoever, male or female, does good deeds and has faith, We shall give a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions.” Similarly, the rights, roles, and responsibilities of women are evenly balanced with those of men but are not necessarily the same. Each gender impersonates a unique part to jointly uphold social morality and societal balance.

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