The position of women in Islam


It is undisputable that Women are an integral part of the society. Their presence and importance can never be over emphasized. Just imagine a world without them…

Is it the compassion or outward character in women and especially the women of the deen of Al-islam that any world would want to miss?

Just imagine that the structural changes brought to so many societies by the women in them, the organization brought into homes, the sense of understanding given to children and all of those who matter around, the smiles, the care giving and all the other characteristics of the women of this world are not there.

If women are as important as your thoughts must have presumed, Why then should their position be a thing to do so much sitting deciding on, so much verses of the Qur’an explaining, and so much campaigning all over the world on…shouldn’t it be understandable that they are a part of the society whose voices are to be heard, treated with care, having equal rights to life and everything good in it as the opposite gender?

You probably have more questions on your mind or some answers to the above?

This discourse is about what position Islam puts women. In understanding this, we’ll need to go into

  • what women were like before Islam (Jahiliyya)
  • how they have been in Islam
  • what is going on now and why
  •  Solution to the present challenges

Let us start by discoursing what they were like before the message of Islam brought by Muhammad (SAW).

1. At Jahiliyya (pre- Islamic era)

Pre Islamic Arabia

  • The women of Jahiliyya were agents of trade
  • Girls were buried alive by their fathers
  • They were given out in marriage without their consent
  • They had no right to property and were not given a part of their late fathers’ wealth
  • They had no say in the matters relating to their marriage

Ancient religions

  • Women were seen as the source of all evil-The bible describes  woman as the weaker sex, created from Adam’s rib and as the one who tempted Adam into eating the forbidden fruit
  • The Chinese scriptures viewed women as the subordinates of men with no rights at all
  • The Judaist theory proclaims: ‘of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.’

Different cultures

  • It must be noted that women were treated in different ways in different societies
  •  In our part of the world, the kings and rulers married women, even if already married to someone else at will.
  • In ancient Greece, a woman was primarily regarded as one of the greatest sources of disruption on earth
  • An Indian wife used to call her husband ‘my lord’ and sometimes ‘my God’ as he was regarded as her earthly god and she had to walk a few yards behind him when they walked together.
  •  About the Hindu culture it was written: ‘There is no creature more sinful than Woman. Woman is burning fire. She is the sharp edge of a razor.’
  • Female infanticide was also practiced in India where daughters were seen as a burden because the parents would have to provide the dowry at their marriage.
  • In the west, women had no identity of their own(contrary to Islamic culture, they adopt their husband’s name after marriage) and could not draw up a contract; they were completely dependent upon their husbands or other men in their household.
  • In France, they were still debating in1586 whether women were human beings and concluded that they were, but created to serve men. Only in 1938 was the law amended to allow women deal in property and operate a bank account.


At Creation

  • The creation of the first woman is not as the weaker sex. Hawwau was created from Adam but without a specification to the rib, considered as weak from biblical evidence which unfortunately is what many Muslims believe.
  • The Quran proclaims that Adam ate from the fruit and so did his wife and not that Hawwau gave him the fruit to eat-saying that women are the root of evil is blatant falsehood.

Religious practice

  • Women are raised to a status equal to that of men in the worship of their lord. They are to pray, fast, perform hajj, give charity just as prescribed for men. The reward for these, they get accordingly.
  • The misconception that women should stay back in religious duty and would get the reward just by cooking for their husbands and taking care of their home has no basis in Islam or why else would Allah say this:

‘Whoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily we shall quicken with good life and we shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do.’ (

As Daughters

  • Female children are in a position to receive all the training, the love, care, education  that every child deserves. In fact the prophet(SAW) laid emphasis on the education of the female child that he said:

  ‘if a person has three daughters whom he provides for and brings up, God will surely reward him with paradise’

  “If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her a good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell-fire”.

  • Women as well as men are in the position to take care of their parents and  be respectful to them especially at old age.

As Wives

  • Women have the entire right to decide on who to marry, although not without the consent of a waliyy (this is to protect them) except in certain circumstances.
  • The role of a woman in her marriage is to be the partner, and comforter. To bear the children and take care of them and to protect her husband’s property and interest as well as to guard her chastity.
  • So many cultures have definitions for the role of the woman as a wife, this should not be interwoven with her role under Islam. For example, cooking for her household or washing the clothes of her husband are not specified in Islam as her role in marriage but are part of some of our cultures especially in Africa.
  • In return, She’s entitled to shelter, clothing, feeding, and the comforts of life according to her husband’s capability.
  • In a polygamous setting, women are to be treated with equity in terms of the provision and attention they get from their husband.
  • They are not to be prohibited from their acts of worship by their husband but they take permission from him in non obligatory acts such as visiting.
  • During menstruation, a woman does not lose her position with her husband. It is related that the prophet used to stay with Aisha during her period and would even place his head on her laps.
  • Even though coitus in its real sense is not allowed at this time some, level of sexual interaction is allowed.
  • Women are to be submissive to their husbands except in matters that deviate from the principles of Islam. Just like a ship would need a captain, a home needs a leader and Allah has made the man it. Reasonable men seek their wives’ advice in  matters before taking actions and that is evident in the life time of the prophet. This will foster  trust, understanding and respect between the spouses.
  • Just as women are able to choose their spouses, they are allowed to leave their marriages when the condition becomes unbearable. Whether because they’re treated unfairly or for other reasons.

As Mothers

  • All you need do is think of the joys of motherhood to realize what a special position this is.
  • Even though it is spotted on the side by the pain of childbirth, the joy of seeing your child grow is  overwhelming.

Hear this hadith:

A man came to the prophet and asked him ‘O messenger of Allah, who among the people is most worthy of my good company? The prophet said, ‘your mother.’ The man asked ‘then who?’ The prophet  said, ‘your mother. ’The man asked ‘then who?’ The prophet again said ‘your mother’. The man said then who? The prophet said ‘then your Father.’

This is to tell you that Islam places mothers at a high esteem, even greater than of Fathers.

As socialites

  • Women are of course allowed to socialize. Aisha was reported to have watched a bow fight in the company of the prophet.
  • But if it would involve exposure of our awrah, we should do it indoors.
  • Visiting is stressed in Islam. Visit to family members, friends, associates, sick people, the bereaved are encouraged. This will foster our relationship with other people and help spread the beautiful teachings of Islam.
  • Parties, fun time and events that do not involve unislamic matters are allowed in Islam.

As Business Executives

  • In Islam women are in a position of economic independence. They are allowed to independently own businesses.
  • A woman is allowed to execute her businesses as she wishes, provided that it is within the limits of Islam.
  • She is also entitled to inherit from her parents, husband and other close relatives.
  • It is noteworthy however that what she gets is half in proportion to what a man gets.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

‘For men there is a share from what is left by their parents and those nearest related and for women there is a share from what is left by parents and those nearly related, whether the property be small or large-a determinate share.’(Q, ch.4:17)

In the society

Women are allowed to play roles in decision making. They are to be heard. They can hold political offices.

My evidence for this?

A woman questioned the prophet on the ruling on a particular type of divorce. In response to this, A surah(chapter of the Qur’an), Al Mujadilah was revealed by Allah. That was a change brought by a woman on such a delicate matter as divorce during the life time of the most noble of all Prophets(S.A.W)

Joining in Polity is in accordance to the hadith of the prophet that says-

‘Whoever doesn’t care about the affairs of the Muslims is not one of us.’

As da’iah

‘The best among you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it’.

‘The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another; they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil; they observe regular prayers, produce the zakah, and obey Allah and his messenger. On them will Allah pour his mercy; for Allah is exalted in power, wise.’

As Leaders

  • In Islam, Women are allowed to take leadership positions. In a gathering of women, it would make sense that a woman be the leader.
  • In her home, and especially in the absence  of her husband who may allow her direct some affairs in his absence, a woman is the leader. A driver to the family can not take the position of a leader just because he is male, he might however lead them in prayers and other stuffs, but not in a boss-employee way.
  • A woman can also be a leader at her place of work. A female head of a school may have both men and women to lead or a female specialist doctor with other resident doctors to listen to her instructions.

However, a woman can not take the position of a head of state for the prophet said-

  ‘A people will not prosper whom a woman leads.’

3.  Muslim Women now and why?

After the Prophet’s death the condition of women in Islam began to decline and revert back to pre-Islamic norms.

In nations with a high population of Muslims, you would expect that things be done in Islamic ways but  women are now treated as they were in Jahiliyya

  • You would be surprised to hear that women are sold in markets in Afghanistan
  • Fathers now bury their daughters alive in claims for honour.
  • Muslim women are out in the open, barring their body all in the name of  feminism, womanism, or women emancipation.
  • Islam is seen as a religion that infringes on the right of women and that makes women inferior to men
  • The hijab which is meant to protect  women is now seen as an enslavement
  • Even in Saudi, women are not allowed to drive, something that has no basis in islam.


  • Men took the reigns, changed the words of the prophet to suit their personal gains
  • They left the path of Rasul.
  • Muslim Women, with the influence of their western counterparts took up the fight against the humiliation of women but by so doing went  far beyond what is accepted.
  • The knowledge of Islam has declined and the fear of Allah low on people’s mind.
  • Desperation and poverty- Men sell their daughters only to make money. Other indirect methods of sale are seen in our part of the world where Fathers give their daughters out in marriage only to rich men in order to make money.
  • The quest for a new identity- Muslim girls opt for a new identity, seeing the Islamic culture as old-fashioned and barbaric. They abandon the Islamic lifestyle and go for the western one.

What can Be done

  • Knowledge- An extensive da’wah on the rights of women should be done so that women, men, the young, old, rich, poor, Muslims, non-Muslims might understand the position Islam puts women and be ready to put them in just that position.
  • A fight for women’s rights- We should be the ones championing the fight for women’s rights as given to them by Islam. We shouldn’t wait for the west to tell us what to do.
  • The understanding that our hijab, our role in our marriages, as daughters and in every aspect of our lives is for Allah alone will keep us in the path and no amount of oppression might keep us away from it.

Women were in no position other than that which put them under the dominance of Men until Islam came to place them in the most honorable one. With the passing of time, they  started to move towards the period of old, abandoning the words of Allah but of course not without its consequences. This is however not a lost course as a better understanding of Islam and an aim to satisfy their Lord  in every circumstance they find themselves might really go a long way in putting them in line.

I stand corrected on issues raised, i take responsibility for my mistakes and will welcome all criticisms. THANK YOU!

Feminism and Muslim women by Sajda Nazlee


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amina jaafar
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 19:51:30

    MashaAllah! Well written and enriched with verses nd authentic hadiths of the prophet!
    I look forward to another interesting topic…..well done nd may Allah (SWT) bless you for this da’awah!



  2. Zinat T.
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 13:43:14

    I really loved this….inshAllah more people will read this and be informed. MashAllah..keep it up 🙂



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