Women In Islam

Source: Muslim World League - Canada Office


One of the main areas where Islam is most maligned is the area of women. The opponents of Islam claim that Islam segregates against women, that it depreciates them and deals with them unjustly. Is it true that the status of women in Islam is much inferior to that of men? How does Islam look at women? Is it true that women are next only to slaves and minors under the banner of Islam? Does Islam uphold a policy of isolating women and depriving them of all rights of a human being? Is it true that under Islam women suffered from negligence, ignorance, and absolute isolation? Does Islam favour men and prefer them to women?

In this brochure "Women in Islam" we shall discuss all these and other related issues. We shall see how the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, looks at women. This last scripture of God states very clearly that God has created men and women from the same source, and that they are equal couples that complement each other so that happy life is unimaginable for one of them without the other. To start with, the Holy Qur'an states very clearly that men and women are absolutely equal in humanity. It declares:

O mankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other


In another verse the Qur'an says:

O mankind! Fear your Guardian Lord who created you from a single person, created his mate of like nature and from them both scattered countless men and women


At a time when the whole world questioned the humanity of women and some people confirmed that they are creatures without souls, and if they have souls they must be akin to those of devils, Islam declared the fall humanity of women. Islam honours women in all their capabilities as mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.

As mothers, Islam confirms that Paradise is under the feet of mothers. This means that the only gate to Paradise and to the pleasure of God, for that matter, is through gaining the pleasure and satisfaction of mothers. This is the meaning of one tradition of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.

Not only this but in another tradition, the Prophet Muhammad says that he who brings up three daughters and educates them well, his reward will be Paradise. The Prophet was asked: suppose they were only two daughters, he said yes even if it was only one daughter. Thus Islam does not deprive women of any of their rights. As a matter of fact, it was only under Islam that women restored their full humanity. It was under this religion that women regained their rights to life, education, and property.

Islam produced the most honourable examples of women that can be leaders of women liberation even for the fair sex of contemporary times. In many cases women were, m fact, teachers of religion for thousands of men. How then can the opponents of Islam claim that women suffered Ignorance under Islam?

Does this mean that Islam establishes the absolute equality of both sexes so much so that it eliminates all differences between them and exposes them to all that is available to men? Here Islam is, in fact, unique. While establishing the absolute humanity of women, it does not require them to do all that men are expected to do. In other words, Islam acknowledges the physiological differences between men and women. It confirms that they are pairs that complement each other. Life in Islam is unimaginable for one sex without the other. That is why Islam has its own reservations to the absolute equality of the two sexes.

What about polygamy in Islam? Why is it that Islam allows a man to have four wives? If Islam believes in equality, why does it allow more that one wife for a husband? Is not this a clear proof of depreciation and dishonour as far as women are concerned? look also at the example given by the Prophet of Islam. We are told that he got married to more than ten wives in addition to concubines. How then can you, as Muslims, claim that Islam treats women well?

This important misconception is propagated by the enemies of Islam In point of fact, the great majority of Muslims, both modem and old, got married to one wife only. The legislation of polygamy is there in Islam to solve certain problems and to face certain circumstances. Islam believes in the purity and chastity of the society. It does not allow sex outside marriage. Instead of the secretaries and girlfriends, Islam allows a second marriage for those who are not satisfied with one wife and they are the exception and not the rule.

As for the numerous marriages of the Prophet of Islam, if we compare him with other prophets of God, particularly those whom we read about in the Bible, we find that the Prophet Muhammad had very few wives. Take for instance the Prophet David who had hundreds of wives.

If we review the stories of each and every marriage of the Prophet of Islam, it will be crystal clear that out of all his wives only one wife was virgin. The rest of his wives were both widows and mothers of orphans. Not only this but until the age of 51 the Holy Prophet stayed with one wife only during which time he was indeed the ideal husband and the best protector of women's rights. And even after he had several wives he dealt with them justly. He made those marriages for legislative, educational, political, and social reasons and far from sensual gratification.

Some opponents of Islam try to distort the image of this religion by claiming that Islam favours men at the expense of women. They cite the example of testimony where Islam treats each two women to be equal to one men, This, they say, is degrading. Why does Islam do this and on what grounds? In this connection Islam takes into consideration the nature of each of the two sexes. Doubtless that women are more sentimental and emotional than men. This is because being the natural mothers their best resource is their feelings and emotions. Thus when it comes to giving testimony there is always a risk of their being moved by their feelings which may affect their judgments. It is only to establish justice that Islam takes this step. It has no derogatory effect on the status of women in Islam.

The same opponents would also refer to one tradition of the Prophet where he says: Women are lacking in religion and reason. When he was asked to explain this, he said: Is not the women's testimony half that of men? The attendants said 'yes". The Prophet then said: That is due to her lack of reason. Then he added: When a woman has her monthly period, doesn't she stop praying? Those present said 'yes indeed". The Prophet then said: This is due to her lack of religion. As a matter of fact, Islam does not look at women as inferior to men but rather appreciates their condition and provides them with an excuse, an advantage rather that a disadvantage.

When we discuss the topic of woman in Islam, we have to refer to the issue of veil stipulated by Islam on women. Some modem secularists claim that this is another obstacle on the way of women's aspiration for freedom. Contrary' to the basic philosophy of Islam aiming at the chastity and purity of the Muslim society, these secularists say that Islam, by this veil, imposes hard time on the fair sex. The veil is pan of the Islamic measures to keep sex inside marriage. This is because Islam respects the honour of women and regards them as precious jewels that should not be prey to the lust of men. Free sex of modern times which transformed women into white slaves is completely alien to Islam. In the same spirit Islam prohibits the free mixing of the two sexes.

The issue of the share of women in inheritance is also exploited by the opponents of Islam who cite it as another example of the so- called injustice of this religion towards women. Islam indeed gives women in inheritance half the share of men. Is it true that this is a clear injustice to them or that there is a contrary view if only we contemplate this carefully? If we think for a moment we will discover that a woman has the greatest share of inheritance in Islam simply because whatever she takes is only for her personally while men have the responsibility to provide for women and children. Men take more, this is true, but they spend much more with the result that women's savings are far greater than those of men.

If the reader wants to know more about other related issues like the following: To what extent does Islam allow women's education? Does she have the right to higher education? What is the attitude of Islam towards women's work? Is it true that Islam shuts women in and does not allow them to work outside? Why does Islam not allow women to be the President or the Head of the Muslim State? These and many other important issues can be best answered by referring to one or more of the following books:

  • Purdah in Islam by Maulana A. Mawdoodi
  • Women in Islam by Prof. Khurshid Ahmad
  • Family Structure in Islam by Hammooda Abdul A'ati

This page last updated 10/11/2009 12:39 p.m.