THE EMINENCE ISLAM ATTACHES TO
By Harun Yahya
The position of women in Islam has recently been an issue of debate.
Some misconceptions arise, either from traditional practices which
are thought to be "Islamic," but are not, or else from prejudices.
However, the real issue is how women are regarded in the Islamic
faith, and when we look at this, we see that Islam gives women great
social value, freedom and comfort.
Women in the Qur'an
God's commandments about the status of women and the relations
between men and women, which have been revealed to us through the
Qur'an, consist of full justice. In this regard, Islam suggests
equality of rights, responsibilities and duties between the two
genders. Islam is based on sympathy, tolerance and respect for human
beings, and does not discriminate against women in this matter.
The examples of good morals communicated to us in the Qur'an are
universally compatible with human nature, and are valid for all
stages of history.
Respect for women and women's rights fall within this. In the Qur'an
God insists that the tasks and responsibilities of women are the
same as those of men. Furthermore, while performing these tasks
and responsibilities men and women must help and support each other:
The men and women of the believers are friends
of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is
wrong, and establish prayer and pay alms, and obey Allah and His
Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy.
Allah is Almighty, All Wise. (Qur'an, 9:71)
God emphasizes that believers will be rewarded in the same manner
according to their deeds, regardless of their gender.
Their Lord responds to them: 'I will not let
the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female -
you are both the same in that respect... (Qur'an, 3:195)
Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being
a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense
them according to the best of what they did. (Qur'an, 16:97)
In another verse, Muslim men and women are considered together,
and it is stressed that both have the same responsibility and status
in God's sight:
Men and women who are Muslims, men and women
who are believers, men and women who are obedient, men and women
who are truthful, men and women who are steadfast, men and women
who are humble, men and women who give alms, men and women who
fast, men and women who guard their private parts, men and women
who remember Allah much: Allah has prepared forgiveness for them
and an immense reward. (Qur'an, 33:35)
In the Qur'an there are many more verses stating that men and women
are exactly equal in terms of their tasks and responsibilities and
their rewards or punishments in return. There are a few differences
in social issues, but these are for the comfort and protection of
women. The commands of the Qur'an regard the congenital differences
between the two genders resulting from their creation, and suggest
a system maintaining equal justice for men and women in this light.
Islam does not see women as objects. Therefore, it is not seen
appropriate that a woman of good morals should marry a man of bad
morals. In the same way, it is not permitted for a woman of bad
morals to marry a man of good morals:
Corrupt women are for corrupt men and corrupt
men are for corrupt women, Good women are for good men and good
men are for good women. The latter are innocent of what they say.
They will have forgiveness and generous provision. (Qur'an, 24:26)
Also as regards marriage, the duties and responsibilities of couples
towards each other require equality. God demands that both spouses
be protective of and supervise each other. This duty is expressed
in the Qur'an in the following words.
They are covers for you and you for them... (Qur'an,
Many rules and commandments exist in the Qur'an regarding the protection
of women's rights on marriage. Marriage is based on the free will
of both parties; the husband has to provide economic support for
his wife (4:4); the husband has to look after his ex-wife after
The Islamic Emancipation of Women
As the verses make clear, Islam brings justice to male-female relations
and puts an end to harmful practices resulting from customs and
traditions of pre-Islamic societies. One example is the situation
of women in pre-Islamic Arab society. The pagan Arabs regarded women
as inferior, and having a daughter was something to be ashamed of.
Fathers of daughters sometimes preferred to bury them alive rather
than announce their birth. By means of the Qur'an, Allah prohibited
this evil tradition and warned that on the Judgment Day such people
will definitely have to account for their actions.
In fact, Islam brought with it a great emancipation for women,
who were severely persecuted in the pagan era. Prof. Bernard Lewis,
known as one of the greatest Western experts on the history of Islam
and the Middle East, makes the following comment:
In general, the advent of Islam
brought an enormous improvement in the position of women in ancient
Arabia, endowing them with property and some other rights,
and giving them a measure of protection against ill treatment
by their husbands or owners. The killing of female infants, sanctioned
by custom in Pagan Arabia, was outlawed by Islam. But the position
of women remained poor, and worsened when, in this as in so many
other respects, the original message of Islam lost its impetus
and was modified under the influence of pre-existing attitudes
and customs. 1
Karen Armstrong, another Western expert on Islam, makes the following
We must remember what life had been
like for women in the pre-Islamic period when female infanticide
was the norm and when women had no rights at all. Like slaves,
women were treated as an inferior species, who had no legal existence.
In such a primitive world, what Muhammad achieved for women
was extraordinary. The very idea that a woman could be witness
or could inherit anything at all in her own right was astonishing.
In fact, during the many centuries that followed Prophet Muhammad,
women of the Islamic societies had a much higher social position
than the women of Christendom. Karen Armstrong emphasizes that,
during the Middle Ages;
... the Muslims were horrified to
see the way Western Christians treated their women in the Crusader
states, and Christian scholars denounced Islam for giving too
much power to menials like slaves and women. 3
Anna King, a modern Muslim woman and a convert - or, better to
say, a revert - to Islam, explains the Islamic emancipation of women
Islam first gave women their rights in a time
when women were nothing but the property of men. Islam gave women
the right to buy and sell on their own, own businesses and express
her views politically. These were all basic rights which the American
woman was not granted until relatively recently! It also encouraged
women to study and learn Islamic knowledge, breaking a ban which
several religions had stipulated, which forbid women to acquire
any religious knowledge or touch religious texts... It also abolished
the practice of marrying a woman without her consent. Thus, one
would have to be very stubborn indeed to refuse such obvious facts
and proofs that Islam was women's first liberator.
The tendencies to see women as "an inferior species" who has no
right for education and that must be totally secluded from the society
arose much later in the Islamic world, as a result of deviations
from the right Qur'anic path.
Thus we can say that the mentality that despises women, excludes
them from society and regards them as second class citizens is a
wicked pagan attitude which has no place in Islam.
In fact, devout women are depicted as good examples for mankind
in the Qur'an. One is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Another
is the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh who, despite her husband's wickedness,
is also described as an ideal Muslim. (see, 66:11-12) The Qur'an
also describes very gentle conversations between the Prophet Solomon
and the Queen of Sheba (27:42-44), and between Moses and two young
ladies (28:23-26), which symbolize the civilized social relationship
between the two genders.
Therefore, it is impossible for a Muslim to have a bigoted approach
to women. In a society where true Islamic morals are practiced,
immense respect and sympathy will be shown to women, and it will
be ensured that they can live in freedom and comfort.
The fundamental rule in Qur'anic exegesis is ensuring that the
derived meaning is in conformity with the integrity of the Qur'an.
When this is considered, it is seen that all the rules mentioned
to us by Allah regarding women form a social structure allowing
them to live in the most comfortable and happiest way. In a society
where all the moral values mentioned by Islam are practiced comprehensively,
the social position of women becomes even more exalted than in societies
that we today regard as modern.
Lewis, The Middle East, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London,
1995, p. 210
2. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad A Biography of The Prophet,
Harper Collins Publisher, USA, 1992, p.191
3. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad A Biography of The Prophet,
Harper Collins Publisher, USA, 1992, p.199