Status of Women in Islam
Noor Al Haqq
"Why is it that so many women who have been born and brought in Europe
and America are willing to reject their 'liberty' and 'independence' to
embrace a religion that supposedly oppresses them and is widely assumed
to be prejudicial to them?"
This is a question that I found on one of the sites while surfing
around, and I found it an interesting question and which I'd like to
draw this article around.
Can Islam be prejudice to women, and yet appeal to women? Can Islam
lower the status of a woman and still have more women embracing it as
their way of life than men? According to an article written by Lucy
Berrington in the Times Magazine (London) dated 9th Nov. 1993: "It is
even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the
widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly. In the
United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in
Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts,
forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million "
How can the case of those women be explained?!
Well, I could say that there are only one of two choices that one can
decide upon. Either all those women who choose Islam don't know what
they are doing or that they discovered Islam is not prejudice to them as
others have yet to discover.
New convert to Islam since September 11, US Navy petty officer, Heather
"Islam gives us Elevation; not Degradation"
In the Noble Quran Allah (Arabic word for God) says:
"Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you
into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most
honorable of you in the Sight of Allah is the believer who has Taqwa
(i.e. piety and righteousness)and loves Allah most. Verily, Allah is
"I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way,
be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other (3:195)"
On the light of those verses, Islam declares that it has not come to
disadvantage women, but in fact has been revealed to elevate women ever
since 1400 years ago, when women in many parts of the world and
especially in the western societies were considered objects that are
owned and with little to no rights in the society they live in.
Before any other religion or system in the world Islam gave a woman the
right to inherit, the right to vote and voice her opinion, the right to
trade invest and improve herself financially, the right to own - buy and
sell, the right to seek knowledge and have a good education, the right
to work and has even gone further to oblige the males in every stage of
her life, whether it was a father, brother or husband ... It's their
duty before God to take care of her, to spend on her, to provide her
with the food , clothing and shelter that she needs, to provide her with
a good education, to protect her from anything that can harm her and to
never hesitate to put their lives in stake for her if the need calls
them to do so. "As a modern westerner with a career, of course I had to
look into Islam's attitude to women - I couldn't be oppressed all of a
sudden. But I discovered that it is pro-women and pro-men; in Islam,
women had the right to vote in the year 600.
Men dress modestly, ! women dress modestly; neither should flirt with the eyes, but rather
they should lower their gaze. I think it's unhealthy to flaunt your
sexuality - it attracts the wrong energy back." (MTV Presenter Kristiane
Backer after being a Muslim) "Since I called myself a feminist, my early
reading centered around women in Islam. I thought Islam oppressed women.
In my Women's Studies courses I had read about Muslim women who were not
allowed to leave their homes and were forced to cover their heads. Of
course I saw hijab as an oppressive tool imposed by men rather than as
an _expression of self-respect and dignity. What I discovered in my
readings surprised me. Islam not only does not oppress women, but
actually liberates them, having given them rights in the 6th century
that we have only gained in this century in this country: the right to
own property and wealth and to maintain that in her name after marriage;
the right to vote; and the right to divorce." (Karima Slack, an
American feminist from secular humanism to Islam)
Some Muslim societies today lack those values. Some people may rightly
ask then, why do we see some Muslim societies lacking those values?
There is a beautiful and very true example I heard from a lecture by an
American Muslim called Khaled Yaseen, who said that every person can be
a father; but if a father does not turn out to be a good father then
it's not fatherhood that we would blame. Similarly, Islam is a rule and
order. A Muslim who does not act according to that rule and order then
by all means its not Islam that should carry the blame.
Karla, a young Blonde haired Blue eyed young American from Washington DC
who is a recent convert to Islam said in an interview made with her:
The main question people seem to ask, is "How could you, an educated
American woman convert to Islam--a religion that oppresses women?" They
are quick to try and equate the rights of women in Afghanistan with the
rights of Muslim women everywhere. Basically, what I tell them, is that
the Qur'an gives women more rights than the Bible does--in print. That
was one of the things that first drew me to Islam. Unfortunately today,
Islam is no longer the leader in women's rights. I had a choice--deny
what I believe (i.e. that There is only one God, and that Muhammad is a
Prophet of God)...or accept what I believe, but work to change the
problems that exist within the Muslim community. I chose the latter.
In the world today, one could say that the Taliban government in
Afghanistan has been considered as the top example of Women Oppression
in Islam. But what's ironic is that even when a woman falls captive in
the hands of those supposedly most hateful men in the world, Islam does
not fail to win her heart.
Yvonne Ridley is an award-winning journalist of more than 25 years
standing and author of two books, In The Hands of the Taliban and Ticket
to Paradise. She has spent the last 10 years working for several
prestigious Fleet Street newspapers including The Sunday Times, The
Observer, The Independent on Sunday and The Sunday Express. She has also
expanded into television and radio producing several documentaries from
Iraq and Afghanistan. Yvonne hit the headlines in September 2001 when
while working for the Daily Express she crossed illegally into
Afghanistan and was subsequently held captive by the Taliban for 11
days. Following her release, she read the Qur'an as she had agreed to
during her captivity, and converted to Islam in the summer of 2003.
Last but not least I would like to conclude by the blessed sayings of
Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him:
"It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the
wicked who insults them."
"The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are
those who are best to their wives."
"Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners
and committed helpers."