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Status of women in Islam

Islam gave women the right to vote, the right to voice their opinions, the right to peruse an education, the right to get a divorce, to be able to present themselves at court, to be able to receive an inheritance and to own property. Meanwhile, women in America and Europe were denied the right to own and manage their own property until the 18th century. Women were eventually given the right to vote and participate with their voice in social events in 1920. After three decades of political pressure, women were allowed to petition for divorce on the same terms as men for the first time in 1937.

Men and women are equal in Islam. We are both equal in the eyes of Allah however we both have different gender roles. Islam asserts gender roles by portraying men as providers and “maintainers of women“. It is a mans’ obligation and duty to provide for his wife and family. His money is the money of the family and her money is her own. She has no obligation to provide financially for her family. Equity is what Islam preaches when it comes to the rights of men and women.

The differences between men and women are natural, and even these natural differences, while true, there are still some exceptions. There is no “superior” gender. Both genders complement each other with their strengths and weaknesses. But, the only true way to be “superior” in the eyes of Allah is through piety and when you strengthen your iman (faith).

يا أَيُّهَا النّاسُ إِنّا خَلَقناكُم مِن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثىٰ وَجَعَلناكُم شُعوبًا وَقَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكرَمَكُم عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتقاكُم ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبيرٌ

O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.

Quran 49:13

Men and Women are called pairs in the Quran because they complete each other, one couldn’t exist without the other. It would be ridiculous to say men are “better” than women if they both require each other.

سُبحانَ الَّذي خَلَقَ الأَزواجَ كُلَّها مِمّا تُنبِتُ الأَرضُ وَمِن أَنفُسِهِم وَمِمّا لا يَعلَمونَ

Pure (from every fault) is the One who has created all the pairs of whatever the earth grows and of the humans themselves and of that which they do not know.

Quran 36:36

Allah SWT speaks about the love and importance of mothers in Islam. The Sunnah is that the mother is three times more deserving of the company of her children, and it’s especially important to treat your mothers well, as it is a means to enter Paradise:

وَوَصَّينَا الإِنسانَ بِوالِدَيهِ حَمَلَتهُ أُمُّهُ وَهنًا عَلىٰ وَهنٍ وَفِصالُهُ في عامَينِ أَنِ اشكُر لي وَلِوالِدَيكَ إِلَيَّ المَصيرُ

And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.

وَوَصَّينَا الإِنسانَ بِوالِدَيهِ إِحسانًا ۖ حَمَلَتهُ أُمُّهُ كُرهًا وَوَضَعَتهُ كُرهًا ۖ وَحَملُهُ وَفِصالُهُ ثَلاثونَ شَهرًا ۚ حَتّىٰ إِذا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَربَعينَ سَنَةً قالَ رَبِّ أَوزِعني أَن أَشكُرَ نِعمَتَكَ الَّتي أَنعَمتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلىٰ والِدَيَّ وَأَن أَعمَلَ صالِحًا تَرضاهُ وَأَصلِح لي في ذُرِّيَّتي ۖ إِنّي تُبتُ إِلَيكَ وَإِنّي مِنَ المُسلِمينَ

And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.”

Quran 31:14, Quran 46:15

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا جَرِيرٌ، عَنْ عُمَارَةَ بْنِ الْقَعْقَاعِ بْنِ شُبْرُمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي زُرْعَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَنْ أَحَقُّ بِحُسْنِ صَحَابَتِي قَالَ ‏”‏ أُمُّكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ ‏”‏ أُمُّكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ ‏”‏ أُمُّكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ مَنْ قَالَ ‏”‏ ثُمَّ أَبُوكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ وَقَالَ ابْنُ شُبْرُمَةَ وَيَحْيَى بْنُ أَيُّوبَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو زُرْعَةَ مِثْلَهُ‏.‏

A man came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Your mother.” The man said. “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Your father. “

Sahih al-Bukhari 5971, Sahih Muslim 2548b

أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَهَّابِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْحَكَمِ الْوَرَّاقُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا حَجَّاجٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ جُرَيْجٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ طَلْحَةَ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ – عَنْ أَبِيهِ، طَلْحَةَ عَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ بْنِ جَاهِمَةَ السُّلَمِيِّ، أَنَّ جَاهِمَةَ، جَاءَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَغْزُوَ وَقَدْ جِئْتُ أَسْتَشِيرُكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ هَلْ لَكَ مِنْ أُمٍّ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ نَعَمْ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَالْزَمْهَا فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ تَحْتَ رِجْلَيْهَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏

“O Messenger of Allah! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice.” He said: “Do you have a mother?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet.

Sunan an-Nasa’i 3104

By analyzing the last hadith through (Mishkat Al-Masabeh Explanation) we understand that a sahabi (companion) approached The Prophet ﷺ and wanted to hear his advice when he asked to go and fight in Jihad. To which the Prophet ﷺ replied if he has a mother then “Paradise is beneath her feet.” The Prophet understood his situation and explained that looking after your mother, caring for her, respecting her, and staying at her side has the same value as if you died as a martyr in jihad.

The meaning behind “Paradise is beneath your mother’s feet” is simply saying that pleasing your mother and treating her right is the desired behavior by Allah and you will be rewarded for taking care of her. It doesn’t mean you get to Paradise through your mother, but that your goodness towards her plays an important part in reaching Jannah.

Islam forbids the treatment of women wrongly and harshly. Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said:

– مَن كُنَّ له ثَلاثُ بناتٍ يُؤْويهِنَّ، ويَرحَمُهُنَّ، ويَكفُلُهُنَّ، وجبَتْ له الجنَّةُ البتَّةَ، قال: قيل: يا رسولَ اللهِ: فإنْ كانتِ اثنتَيْنِ؟ قال: وإنْ كانتِ اثنتَيْنِ، قال: فرَأى بعضُ القومِ أنْ لو قالوا له: واحدةً، لقال: واحدةً.

“Whoever has three daughters and he cares for them, he is merciful to them, and he clothes them, then Paradise is certainly required for him.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, what if he has only two?” The Prophet said, “Even two.” Some people thought that if they had said to him one, the Prophet would have said even one.

Musnad Ahmed 14247 

وَإِذَا المَوءودَةُ سُئِلَتبِأَيِّ ذَنبٍ قُتِلَت

When the baby girl that was buried alive is asked – for what sin she was killed

Quran 81:8-9

Islam came to eradicate the reprehensible traditions and culture of the Jahiliyyah. Islam forbade the killings of young girls. Muslims are to treat their young girls kindly, respectfully and raise them with love and nurture. The Prophet ﷺ teaches us that if we are to treat our daughters in a kind and just manner, then Jannah will be written for you solely because of how loving you were towards your daughters and raised them well.

There have been non-Muslims who have tried to use a verse from the Quran to say that women are nothing but “sex slaves” for men:

نِساؤُكُم حَرثٌ لَكُم فَأتوا حَرثَكُم أَنّىٰ شِئتُم ۖ وَقَدِّموا لِأَنفُسِكُم ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعلَموا أَنَّكُم مُلاقوهُ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ المُؤمِنينَ

Your wives are a place of cultivation [i.e., sowing of seed] for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers

Quran 2:223

Often they will abuse this verse and twist its meaning to suit their narrative. However, this verse is not saying you can use your wife as you please, and force her into sexual intercourse. Marital Rape is haram and does not exist in Islam, as we’ve explained previously. Let’s look into the explanations from well-respected commentators of Islam:

Your women are a tillage for you, that is, the place where you sow [the seeds of] your children; so come to your tillage, that is, the specified place, the front part, as, in whichever way, you wish, whether standing up, sitting down, lying down, from the front or the back: this was revealed in response to the Jews saying that if a person had vaginal intercourse with his wife from behind, the child would be born cross-eyed; and offer for your souls, righteous deeds, such as saying, ‘In the Name of God’ (bismillāh) when you commence intercourse; and fear God, in what He commands and prohibits; and know that you shall meet Him, at the Resurrection, where He will requite you according to your deeds; and give good tidings, of Paradise, to the believers, who feared Him.

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn 2:223

The Reason behind revealing Allah’s Statement: “Your Wives are a Tilth for You. Allah said: (Your wives are a tilth for you,)Ibn `Abbas commented, “Meaning the place of pregnancy.” Allah then said: (…so go to your tilth, when or how you will,) meaning, wherever you wish from the front or from behind, as long as sex takes place in one valve (the female sexual organ), as the authentic Hadiths have indicated. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Al-Munkadir said that he heard Jabir say that the Jews used to claim that if one has sex with his wife from behind (in the vagina) the offspring would become cross-eyed.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir 2:223

It is not saying to rape your women or to use them as you please, it is explaining that women have an important role, which is to have children and keep the structure of a family together. The verse is also explaining that you may “come at” your wife however you choose, meaning you may be with your wife in many different positions during intercourse, as long as they’re not prohibited by Allah SWT. There is also a very clear verse in the Quran explaining you can’t force your wife or bring harm upon her, you’re supposed to respect and love her:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا لا يَحِلُّ لَكُم أَن تَرِثُوا النِّساءَ كَرهًا ۖ وَلا تَعضُلوهُنَّ لِتَذهَبوا بِبَعضِ ما آتَيتُموهُنَّ إِلّا أَن يَأتينَ بِفاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ ۚ وَعاشِروهُنَّ بِالمَعروفِ ۚ فَإِن كَرِهتُموهُنَّ فَعَسىٰ أَن تَكرَهوا شَيئًا وَيَجعَلَ اللَّهُ فيهِ خَيرًا كَثيرًا

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion.  And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit clear immorality [i.e., adultery]. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.

Quran 4:19

وَهَكَذَا لَوْ كَانَتْ مُنْفَرِدَةً بِهِ أَوْ مَعَ أَمَةٍ لَهُ يَطَؤُهَا أُمِرَ بِتَقْوَى اللَّهِ تَعَالَى وَأَنْ لَا يضربهَا فِي الْجِمَاعِ وَلَمْ يُفْرَضْ عَلَيْهِمِنْهُ شَيْءٌ بِعَيْنِهِ إنَّمَا يُفْرَضُ عَلَيْهِ مَا لَا صَلَاحَ لَهَا إلَّا بِهِ مِنْ نَفَقَةٍ وَسُكْنَى وَكِسْوَةٍ وَأَنْ يَأْوِيَ إلَيْهَا فَأَمَّا الْجِمَاعُ فَمَوْضِعُ تَلَذُّذٍ وَلَا يُجْبَرُ أَحَدٌ عَلَيْهِ

Imam Al Shafi’i states in Kitab Al Umm – Jima’ Al Qasm l Al-Nisa’: “A man cannot hit his wife, or cause her any harm and he has to treat her fairly as this is her right. He (Imam Al Shafi’i) also said: Likewise, if he has only one wife or an additional concubine with whom he has intercourse, he is commanded to fear Allah Almighty and to not harm her in regards to intercourse, although nothing specific is obligated upon him. He is only obligated to provide what benefits her such as financial maintenance, residence, clothing, and spending the night with her. As for intercourse, its position is one of pleasure and no one can be forced into it (la yujbaru ahadun ‘alayhi).”

Kitab Al Umm By Imam Shafi’ 5/203

From all of this we conclude, women are given a very high status in Islam. Muslim women are to be treated with honor and respect, as this is their given right from Allah SWT. A Muslim man should always value his wife, mother, sisters, daughters, and WOMEN in general.

A man has no authority to lay hands on a woman and harm her physically, mentally, or emotionally as we’ve explained before. Prophet Muhammed may peace and blessings be upon him, said in his last sermon:

حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ الْخَلاَّلُ، حَدَّثَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ الْجُعْفِيُّ، عَنْ زَائِدَةَ، عَنْ شَبِيبِ بْنِ غَرْقَدَةَ، عَنْ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الأَحْوَصِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي أَنَّهُ، شَهِدَ حَجَّةَ الْوَدَاعِ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ وَأَثْنَى عَلَيْهِ وَذَكَّرَ وَوَعَظَ فَذَكَرَ فِي الْحَدِيثِ قِصَّةً فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَلاَ وَاسْتَوْصُوا بِالنِّسَاءِ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّمَا هُنَّ عَوَانٌ عِنْدَكُمْ لَيْسَ تَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُنَّ شَيْئًا غَيْرَ ذَلِكَ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ فَإِنْ فَعَلْنَ فَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلاَ تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً أَلاَ إِنَّ لَكُمْ عَلَى نِسَائِكُمْ حَقًّا وَلِنِسَائِكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ حَقًّا فَأَمَّا حَقُّكُمْ عَلَى نِسَائِكُمْ أَلاَّ يُوطِئْنَ فُرُشَكُمْ مَنْ تَكْرَهُونَ وَلاَ يَأْذَنَّ فِي بُيُوتِكُمْ لِمَنْ تَكْرَهُونَ أَلاَ وَحَقُّهُنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ تُحْسِنُوا إِلَيْهِنَّ فِي كِسْوَتِهِنَّ وَطَعَامِهِنَّ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.‏ وَمَعْنَى قَوْلِهِ ‏”‏ عَوَانٌ عِنْدَكُمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي أَسْرَى فِي أَيْدِيكُمْ ‏.‏

“O People it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

Last Sermon- Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1163, Sunan Ibn Majah 1851

Saying Islam gives women no rights and doesn’t value women would be complete ignorance. If the Prophet peace be upon him, made sure to repeat his words during the last sermon he ever gave before his death, to treat women kindlyrespectfully, and to take good care of them, that itself is a clear reflection of how much Islam honors women.

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