Feminism is a movement of the modern times and may not have been heard at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Issues like feminism that belong to the new era should be considered from different aspects to see if they are compatible with Islam or not. In most of the similar issues, Islam has some common views and some contradictions.
To find out if Islam accepts feminist theories and ideas, and advocates of feminism, we should first understand what feminism is and when and why it arose?
The first feminist movement started, to gain some rights for women. These include “guardianship of infants, property rights, divorce, access to higher education and the medical professions, equal pay and protective legislation for women workers - many of which women are still campaigning for today!” 
As I mentioned, these issues are not restricted either to western countries or countries with a majority of Muslim population. Even in Muslim countries, there were unfair social and family treatments toward women. We will later discuss the fact that it is not the Islamic rulings that subordinate women, but the traditions of those countries who embraced Islam within years.
Thus feminism, which started in 1848 in America, gradually spread over the world. Women and some men who were in favor of women’s rights became feminists without having a real knowledge of feminism .
Although I mentioned that in Muslim countries, women were not treated fairly and some of them became feminist, it never means that the unfair treatments toward women were because of Islamic rules. The fact is that the unjust treatment of women is sometimes due to different cultures and traditions. This unjust treatment existed at the time of pagans even before the birth of Islam.
It was a common act between pagans of Arab peninsula who used to be ashamed of their girls and prefer boys over girls. They used to bury their infant daughters alive, as they used to consider them inferior to men.
Quran describes the attitude of pagans toward their baby girls clearly; “When one of them is brought the news of a female [newborn], his face becomes darkened, and he chokes with suppressed agony. He hides from the people out of distress at the news he has been brought: shall he retain it in humiliation, or bury it in the ground! Behold! Evil is the judgment that they make.” (16: 58 -59)
In these conditions, where women were inferior to men, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) came with the Quran which gave women a high position and value.
It is narrated in history that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a few sons who all died at a young age. Then he was granted a Daughter. Pagans used to humiliate him for not having a son to keep his family lineage. Then this chapter was revealed to him:
“Indeed We have given you abundance. So pray to your Lord, and sacrifice [the sacrificial camel]. Indeed it is your enemy who is without posterity.” (108: 1-3)
And from his only daughter, his generation continued until now which is an honor for a large group of Muslims.
Most of the rights that feminists are campaigning for in this era were mentioned in the Quran 1400 years ago;
“To men belongs a share of what they have earned, and to women a share of what they have earned.” (4:32)
According to Islam, women have a complete right to have an earning. They also have the right to use their earnings in any way that they desire. Besides, men have the obligatory responsibility to pay for women’s daily expenses;
“Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth.” (4: 34)
At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there were many women who used to work in the market to earn money for their living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not only encouraged them for their job but also taught them the right Islamic rules of business and commerce. The most significant example was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself who used to trade for Lady Khadijah (AS).
According to Islam, gaining knowledge is obligatory for both men and women and knows no time limit in one’s life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says: “Gaining knowledge is an obligation upon all Muslim men and women.” 
Women have the right to choose their husbands. They have the right to ask the court for separation as well if for any logical, reasonable purpose they do not wish to continue their married life.
“Whoever acts righteously, [whether] male or female, should he be faithful, We shall revive him with a good life and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do.” (16:97)
All the above points and what will follow in this article is emphasizing on the point that according to Islam, men and women do not have the same rights, but their rights are equal.
Murtaza Mutahhari argues that for having equal rights in the society, is it necessary to have the same rights too? He gives an example of a father who would like to divide his wealth between his children. He has a farm, a piece of land and a business company, the price of them, moneywise, is the same but they do not look the same.
The father knows his children, their talents, and interests. So, he gives each of his properties to each child based on his knowledge of the child’s potential. In this example, while the price of the properties is the same, but they are not equal for all children. 
The same is with the rights of men and women. They have equal rights according to their talents, potential, and biological features, but their rights are not the same.
Although Islamic treatment of women is fair and for the benefit of women, family, and society, still there are feminist campaigns that try to show Islamic rules are against women’s rights. Some of the Islamic rules that are usually mentioned by feminists are as follows:
The Islamic Dress Code
It is acceptable that wearing the Islamic dress code may cause some hardship for Muslim women, but nothing can be reachable without accepting its difficulty. Just like a mother who can never enjoy the sweetness of having a baby, unless she goes through nine months of pregnancy.
Thus, wearing the Islamic dress code that will lead to better family life and a safer society is worth its difficulty. Same is with the right to have free relationships with the opposite sex, which is forbidden according to Islam without specific conditions. This applies to both men and women to strengthen the base of family.
The authority that Islam gives to men over their wives is the authority of family management. It does not mean that they can be oppressive towards women.
Polygamy is also an Islamic rule that can take place under certain conditions. But it does not give the right to all Muslim men to marry more than one wife. So, neither men should misuse this Islamic rule for their own benefit, nor it should be taken as a tool of undermining Islam without enough knowledge about the issue [i].
According to Islam men have a twice a share of a woman in inheritance: “for the male shall be the like of the share of two females.” (4:11)
Imam al-Sadiq (as) was asked for the reason of this ruling in Islam, and he replied “that it was because Islam had exempted woman from armed combat, and moreover that dower and maintenance had been imposed upon man for her benefit. What is more, in certain cases of doubt, in which blood relatives had to pay ransom money, a woman has been exempted from sharing with others in the payment.
These are the causes why the share of a woman is less than the share of a man.” Thus, it is “the special situation of woman in inheritance is the effect of dower and maintenance is the effect of dower and maintenance and exemption from armed combat and paying ransom money.” 
According to Islam men and women do not have the same rights, but they have equal rights, which differ from each other according to each person’s biological, physical, and spiritual differences. An example is that Muslim women are not allowed to become judges, which is because of their high level of emotions which is required for a wife and a mother.
The love that a wife and a mother provide for the family is what makes the base of a family firm. While men are more logical to support the family by reason and making tough decisions at critical points. So, it has become an obligation on men to supply for the family or go for defense in war situations. There is no obligation over women in these cases.
This does not mean that women cannot put enough effort to strengthen their reason for their emotion. But if they do so, they have changed their nature, and their life path will be totally changed, in a way that they may never reach the safety and comfort that a woman requires.
If Muslims act according to the Islamic rules and commands, they will not need any of these feminist ideas. Since many of those rights that feminists are trying to gain are already given to Muslim women according to Islamic law.
It is good to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of every human in this life is to reach safety and calmness. This is easier and faster to gain by obeying the rules of Islam, simply because these rules have been ordained by the creator of human beings.
Thus, we can conclude that Islam is not completely compatible with feminism. Islam accepts those points of feminism that is for the best of human beings and the society. And will reject the rights that feminism defines for women while they would harm the woman, family and the society.
[i] Find information about Islamic rules on polygamy here: https://www.salamislam.com/content/why-does-islam-allow-polygamy-part-1/3
- Amali Al-Sadouq, p. 419.
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, The rights of Women in Islam, p. 115
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, The rights of Women in Islam, p. 225
After introducing the axioms of Islam and finding faith in them, the next step in this life-changing journey is to accomplish certain commands as a result of those beliefs which will lead us to a life of eternal satisfaction and bliss. Now one might wonder, what relates those fundamental principles or axioms – i.e., Monotheism (Tawhid) , Prophethood (Nubuwwah), and Afterlife (Ma’ad) – to practical principles in Islam? Are they even related? If yes, how is this relationship justified? What comes next will hopefully provide an answer to these questions.
To have a better understanding of the relationship between the axioms and practical principles in Islam, we should first fully grasp the meaning of religion. Religion, in one sense, is defined as the collection of a series of fundamental and necessary beliefs -axioms- along with some practical commandments. The beliefs are the foundations, and the instructions are the means of putting the axioms into practice that may include juridical, legal, social, ethical, spiritual, and political rules and regulations.
Having the definition of religion in mind, we can consider two elements or constituent parts for it: 1. Beliefs (axioms), 2. The practical commandments and instructions (practical principles). Typically, since the instructions are devised with regard to the axioms, then these principal beliefs are considered as primary, a prior, and foundational, while the practical commands become subsidiary, ancillary, and as the pillars built on those foundations.
In addition, according to the Islamic doctrine, the prerequisite of this religion is one’s faith in the existence and Oneness of God as well as in the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and the coming of the Judgment Day; that no one deserves worshiping other than Allah Almighty, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has been chosen for Prophethood by Him as the last prophet and that this life is surely followed by another one.
The first two are, as a matter of fact, the content of what we call Shahadatain or the two testimonies, that by uttering them, one will enter the world of Muslims. But, this is only a gateway to Islam and a platform for further practices that will ultimately make one a perfect Muslim and believer.
We might suppose many kinds of relationship between the elements - Axioms and Practical principles - of religion, including the pearl and shell relationship, the innate and parallel relationship, the root and stem relationship.
One case scenario is to consider the relationship between these two constituent parts like a pearl and its shell; that is one of these parts is primary, and the other secondary, and what matters is the primary one. In other words, it is enough for one to find faith in the axioms of religion and the practical principles are only there for us to reach those axioms; that being done, they have fulfilled their purpose, and there is no need for them anymore.
Analogously, the shell does not worth anything by itself; its only importance is to keep the pearl safe. Anyone who looks for a shell is actually after the pearl in it, and once he finds it, he will throw away the shell instantly.
Another case scenario regards this relationship of parallel and innate kind. It claims that religion has three aspects: Islamic law, the path, and truth. The axioms of religion are its truth, while the law and path - which are the practical principles of religion - only provide the way to reach the truth. Thus, like the previous assumption, if someone reaches the truth, then he will no more need the law and the path.
But what is the most proper relationship between these two? This association is neither like pearl and shell nor of parallel and innate kind. While we believe in the primacy of the axioms, we don’t consider the practical principles of religion as marginal and unimportant; there is a mutual relationship between practical doctrines of Islam and theoretical knowledge of religion.
If there is any suitable way of elucidating this issue metaphorically, that would be through the relationship of the root and stem of a tree. In this kind of relationship, no part can be considered as independent of the other, they closely correlate. Believing in certain axioms necessitates the manifestation of a particular demeanor which requires the reinforcement of the belief in those fundamental principles. Similarly, every root has its own kind of stem and fruit that will grow and be nourished by the sun and ultimately fortify the root.
From what we have said so far, it is crystal clear that practical principles require active practice whereas axioms need knowledge and firm belief. Accordingly, in the case of the axioms imitation – no matter from who - is absolutely forbidden and they should be accepted through careful investigation and precise reasoning individually, while practical principles are mainly practiced with a degree of submission to God; the main purpose of these rules is the action itself.
That is why it is said that knowing and understanding the axioms is an “individual duty” – i.e. the duty that every single Muslim is bound to perform, e.g., performing Salat - for each Muslim, while being familiar with the practical principles is a “sufficiency  duty” – i.e., the duty that will lose its obligation if a group of Muslims has performed it.
It is noteworthy that the actions and behaviors that practical principles suggest will not result in our spiritual and psychological revolution and development unless we have a thorough understanding of the axioms and have accepted them rationally. In other words, the religion is constituted of certain principles which are its intellectual basis and requires its followers to exhibit specific behaviors; these actions root back in those axioms, and the axioms are prior to them.
Let’s have a brief look at the ten practical principles of the religion of Islam:
Prayer (Salat): The performance of the daily prayer five times a day with a specific form.
Fasting (Sawm): The act of voluntarily preventing oneself from eating and drinking during a particular part of the day – from the time of Dawn Prayer (Salat al-Fajr) until Dusk prayer(Salat al-Maghrib).
The Holy Pilgrimage (Hajj): An annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by those who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.
Alms-tax (Zakat): Paying an exact amount of money that has become obligatory through the rules of Sharia in order to be used in favor of the people in need or for certain beneficial deeds in society.
Khums: A money proportional to one fifth that every person should pay based on some certain criteria.
The Holy Struggle (Jihad): Technically, a special kind of attempt, which includes sacrificing one’s life and property primarily for the sake of Allah, elevating and sustaining Islamic beliefs and standpoints. In this sense, Jihad is the act of Defending the Islamic territory against the assaults and intrusions of outsiders and invaders. Literally, this word is defined as the striving of one’s soul against the temptation of the devil and his own whim.
Enjoining what is right (al-Amr bi-l-maʿrūf): To invite other Muslims to goodness and righteousness, with regard to certain conditions and through specific manners.
Forbidding what is wrong (nahy ʿani-l-munkar): To dissuade other Muslims from doing what is wrong, sinful or immoral, with regard to certain conditions and through specific manners.
Expressing Love towards Good (Tawalla): To have a feeling of affection and love, affirmation, submission, and acceptance toward guardianship of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and the twelve Imams.
Expressing disassociation from Evil (Tabarra): having a feeling of disassociation and dislike toward the enemies of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and twelve Imams.
 That God exists and He is one.
 It is enough for this duty to be performed by some people and then be followed by others.
Faith in the religion of Islam is based on rational thinking. Quranic teachings always encourage people to achieve faith through reasoning and do not consider mere devotional cognition as adequate. Hence one should accept the Islamic axioms (Monotheism (Tawhid), Prophethood (Nubuwwah), and Afterlife (Ma’ad)) logically.
The above-mentioned Islamic axioms are constant, immutable, and limited, whereas new events and issues of each time are changeable and infinite. Consequently, there needs to be some Islamic scholars or experts who know the Islamic teachings in general and are aware of the contingent issues of the time and their solutions in particular, which makes them responsible for inference of new laws from basic principles of Islam (Ijtihad) in accordance with the needs of changing times and the requirements of new phenomena of human civilization .
On the other hand, the Integration of different people to Islam with their particular way of thinking, living with leaders of various religions, the religious discussions between them and the Muslims, and the appearance of Islamic philosophy would always arise doubts and uncertainties. So it necessitated research on the principles of Islam and justifying them especially after the time of the last Prophet (PBUH) and the Imams.
Muslim scholars have always proved that the Islamic teachings are dynamic, compatible with the passage of time, and capable of fulfilling the requirements of each age, generation, and civilization; this would, in consequence, develop the Islamic society and lead it through the path of evolution and perfection in many parts of the world, especially in the first centuries.
The literal meaning of Ijtihad is to do one's utmost while striving and making effort to reach a goal which in this case is to endeavor to deduce the divine laws of Islam from the reliable sources and proofs, i.e. the Holy Quran, the historical tradition (Sunnah) [i], consensus (Ijma`) [ii], and reason (`Aql).
The term Mujtahid (the religious expert), derived from Ijtihad, refers to a person who endeavors in the way of Allah to derive laws and decrees regarding the religious fundamentals through all kinds of hardships and difficulties.
Ijtihad, which is of great importance in the religion of Islam, guarantees its persistence. Muslims have always been urged to study Islamic science and everything else which is necessary for the development and well-being of their society.
However, it is not compulsory (Wajib) for every single Muslim to become a religious expert (Mujtahid) due to its difficulty and some people’s inability to comprehend and derive Islamic laws all by themselves. It means that the obligation is on the community as a whole and so when a group of people devote themselves to the science of religion to guide the Muslims, then the obligation is lifted from the rest of the society .
Quran says: “why should not there go forth a group from each of their sections to become learned in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware?” (9:122)
It is noteworthy that even though it is a sufficiency duty, every single person in the Islamic community can learn the science of religion and do Ijtihad individually. Therefore this science is not associated with a particular class of the society; rather, it only depends on acquiring the necessary knowledge and intellectual skills. So if a Muslim is not capable of attaining such level of knowledge that would enable him/her to deduce religious laws for himself/herself, it is compulsory for them to refer to an expert who has specialized in this field, i.e., Mujtahid.
A fully qualified religious expert (Mujtahid), who is supposed to study and deduce the practical laws of Islam according to the time requirements, needs to have specific features, the most significant of which are:
Being able to fully understand the Holy Quran and the other religious sources to discover practical laws from their origins.
Being equitable and trustworthy
Being capable of refraining from sins
Being able to keep away from earthly desires
It is also important to bear in mind that the religious experts (Mujtahids) do not ever issue a decree (Fatwa) unless they have found adequate and reliable proofs and evidence in the Quran, historical tradition (Sunnah), reason, and consensus; which is when they inform the people of God’s commandments.
Taqlid in Islam literally means "to follow or imitate someone" in the realm of religious do’s and don’ts or the religious laws one must obey. In Islamic terminology, it means to comply with the edicts of a religious expert (Mujtahid) regarding practical affairs of religion. Broadly speaking, imitation is classified into four different categories among people:
An unlearned following another unlearned
A learned following an unlearned
A learned following another learned
An unlearned following a learned
Quran, however, mentions two of the above; “an unlearned following another unlearned,” which is strictly prohibited:
“For when they are told, "Come unto that which God has bestowed from on high, and unto the Apostle" - they answer, "Enough for us is that which we found our forefathers believing in and doing." Why, even though their forefathers knew nothing, and were devoid of all guidance?” (5:104)
And that of “an unlearned following a learned” (the focus of this article):
“Ask the People of the Book if you do not know” (21:7)
In Islamic thinking, the latter is the only acceptable kind of Taqlid in Islam that appeals to man's rationale. According to common sense, we follow the guidance of a religious expert (Mujtahid) who knows the laws of religion, just as we voluntarily conform to the advice of a doctor when we need medical attention, or in the same way, we consult lawyers and comply with their recommendations. It is inherent in man's nature to resort to experts in fields wherein he lacks expertise.
Practical matters of faith are no different. We, therefore, comply with an expert in the field of practical religious affairs too . In this kind of Taqlid in Islam, which is permitted in Islam, two important elements are involved; firstly, the imitator (Muqallid) must completely trust and have confidence in the religious expert (Mujtahid). Secondly, imitation (Taqlid) must fulfill the imitator’s (Muqallid) demands and lead him/her to perfection. Clearly, this does not make sense in the other forms of imitation (Taqlid) but the last one.
In short, the religious concepts and teachings of Islam fit into two main parts; the axioms and the practical commandments (practical principles). As for the Islamic axioms, i.e., Monotheism (Tawhid), Prophethood (Nubuwwah), and Afterlife (Ma’ad), no one is allowed to imitate; instead, each person is supposed to investigate and accept them individually since they are regarded as the main entrance to the religion of Islam.
But about Practical principles, which are obligatory practical commandments, Muslims are encouraged to investigate and find them out as individuals if they are able to do so; obviously, they are not allowed to imitate anyone. If they are not capable, though, they have to follow religious experts (Mujtahid) who have become specialized in Islamic science fully and deeply.
It is learned in this article that the cases in which Taqlid in Islam or imitation is allowed, are very limited in Islam. In fact, it is possible for every single Muslim to step on the path of investigation to attain knowledge and awareness about the truth and commandments of Islam themselves.
[i]. the primary source of law taken from the sayings, actions, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
[ii]. acceptance of a matter by a specified group of Muslim scholars