The issue of women in Islam has always been a topic prone to misunderstanding and distortion, partly due to propaganda and media that misrepresent Islam and partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims or pseudo-Muslims, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, which are taken to represent the real visage of Islam.
Those who accuse Islam of considering a lower rank or status for women, mostly forget in their debates the differences between women and men which are necessitated by order of creation. Contrary to the popular myth, Islam has never acknowledged the superiority of men over women but has taken into account their differences and set appropriate regulations and guidelines based on them .
One of the issues addressed in the holy Quran is the creation of woman and man. Unlike some sacred books saying that: “woman was created out of an inferior stock to that of man or Adam's wife was created from one of his left-side parts of the body”, the Quran explicitly states in several verses that woman was created from nature of man, and from the same essence: “who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it” (4:1), (7:189).
This demonstrates that women in Islam and men are of the same origin; hence, neither of them is superior to the other in the first place. Besides, men and women in Islam are each created for the other: “they are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:187), and a woman is designated as the source of solace and comfort for man’s heart (30:21) which highlights her importance.
It is directly and clearly stated in the Quran that the earth and the sky, the clouds and the winds, plants, and animals, all have been created for “mankind” [i]. It means that everything in the universe is there to serve every single human being and not only men.
A woman is created to pave the way for improvement, like a man, and to reach the perfection that a human being deserves. The Quran has firmly declared that the afterlife reward and nearness of God do not depend upon one’s gender, but on his/her faith and deeds.
In verses (3:195) and (4:124), it is specified that whoever does acts of blessing and is a believer “whether male or female," God will give them an abundant reward.
The Quran also demonstrates the women’s role by emphasizing the importance of the company of a great and pious woman alongside every great and pious man (11-12: 66), (28: 7). The wives of Adam and Abraham, and the mothers of Moses and Jesus (PBUH) are the examples of great women mentioned in the Quran. There is, therefore, no superiority between men and women in Islam in the spiritual sense.
Among the Jews and Arabs of the pre-Islamic age, there was a belief that a woman is filthy and weak during her menstrual period, so, she was isolated and avoided until she became clean. The Quran says: “They ask you concerning [intercourse during] menses. Say, ‘It is hurtful.’ So keep away from wives during the menses...”(2:222).
It means that menstruation is harm leaving the woman’s body, but it is not deplorable at all. Instead, menstruation is a preliminary to receive a blessing from God, a miracle that takes place inside a woman’s womb and places paradise at the feet of mothers .
Men and women have undoubtedly “equal” rights in Islamic ideology, but the point is that their rights are not “similar”; in some conditions, women are given more rights while in other cases men have more rights. Every Muslim, female or male, is encouraged in Islam to seek knowledge.
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said, “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female” . Education, learning and gaining knowledge are therefore duties assigned to every woman as much as to every man.
Regarding economic rights also, men are not superior to women unlike what is reported in the media and many beliefs. The misunderstanding about the inheritance, for example, is caused by ignoring the whole rights and duties each of men and women have and the balance between those rights.
That is why in the Quran, people are told: "Do not covet the advantage, which Allah has given some of you over others. To men belongs a share of what they have earned and to women a share of what they have earned." (4:32) .
Contrary to the false impression that says Islam has restricted women to stay at home and does not permit them to appear in the society, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women in many social positions. There must be, for instance, women physicians and women nurses for some special treatments that women need; or, women teachers as girls require some teachings and guidance when they reach the age of puberty.
In Surah Nisa, it is said that: “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). Some use this verse to argue that Islam has given superiority to men, but the interpretation of these words will clarify the wisdom behind:
A family is known to be the smallest social unit. It requires, therefore, a supervisor or manager like any other social unit. This duty is generally attributed to the man in the family, mostly because men are physically stronger than women and they are less affected by their emotions [ii].
Moreover, the woman might also be given this responsibility after her husband’s death. Knowing the man as the supervisor of the family does not prove any inherent superiority in men, but assigns him the heavy responsibility of providing for his family needs from which women are exempted .
It is now clear that Islam has never inhibited women nor given them an inferior position to men; instead, it has undoubtedly caused the status of women to be improved by firstly recognizing their full personhood, and then describing the goal of their creation and the capacities and rights they have.
[i] (2 :29), (24:32-33), (45:13)
[ii] Exceptions might exist, but, the general case is always considered to set the regulations and guidelines.
Living as a Muslim woman in any country, be it Canada, the USA, England, or Australia, you might need to find a job. Either you are single or married, graduate or undergraduate, a mother or a wife, having a job might be necessary for you.
However, the moment you decide to go for a job, fear and anxiety rush into your mind; “What if they do not hire me because of my Hijab?”; “Do I have to find somewhere with Muslim personnel?” or even “ What if they disrespect me in front of other colleagues? What shall I do?”
Well, here we are going to discuss some of the issues and matters related to employed or to-be-employed Muslim Women.
As a Muslim woman, you are free to take any job you want, be it a designer, a manager, a teacher, etc. but before choosing that job, you need to consider a few points.
You have faith in whatever you do, and you need to follow the Commands of Allah to be the person He wants. So, never give something greater away for the sake of something lesser. Allah has promised to help us if we believe in Him with all our hearts, and he will not leave us alone.
“Indeed, those who have said, "Our Lord is Allah " and then remained on a right course - the angels will descend upon them, [saying], "Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.” Quran (41:30)
You may choose to work for many reasons, be it financial problems or your interest in a particular career or simply to express yourself somehow to the world. Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t hurt yourself with the job you choose to take, either mentally or physically. You might be even hurting your family (your kids and your husband) or even your parents. The first priority is family, and will always be. So, try to choose a job that does not harm you nor your family. Imam Sajjad (AS) states that each of our organs has a right. For instance, it’s your ear’s right to hear what is good for you in this world and the afterlife and it’s your eyes’ right to see good things and be closed from anything that Allah has wanted us not to see ( scenes of torture, eroticism, slaughter, intercourse, etc.,) . As your body has a right, so does your family. Remember to preserve theirs before choosing any careers.
Imagine you have chosen to be a volleyball coach. You have already done surgery on your knee, and your doctor has told you to take good care of it. Both logic and Islam say that being a coach hurts your knee, and that can’t be a suitable job for you.
Men and women work together in most workplaces, and that is a fact. There Is a thing that each Muslim woman needs to keep in mind, and that is to be cautious of those relationships and does not let them take the form of irregular man-woman interactions. They need to be neither cold and disrespectful nor arouse emotional or sexual attractions . Allah tells us how to control that:
“Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them. Allah is indeed well aware of what they do. And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts, and not to display their charms, beyond what is [acceptably] visible, and let them draw their scarfs over their bosoms …” Quran (24: 30-31).
“O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.” Quran (33:32)
As far as we all know, we are only allowed to take off our hijab in front of other women or men who are among the Mahram men of our family. So, you may be allowed to take off your hijab only if you are working with other women or Mahram men of your family. Some may want to make others gradually accept their chosen faith. But, the fact is that you are a Muslim, and you need others to welcome you, respect, and value your talents and hard efforts. So, let others see who you are and the reality of your Faith. That would bring you more of a trust and confidence.
Careers and professions play an essential role in our everyday lives, and at times, they are even hard to live without. At the same time, women are active members of each achieving society. Islam neither forbids them from social activities nor limits them to stay at home and do daily chores. It just asks them to be careful and watchful about their own health, safety, and femininity and also beware of what happens in their interactions and communications.
- Peiravi, Ali (1992) the Treatise on Rights by Imam Sajjad (AS)
- Nikzad, Abbas (2005) Practical Women Studies, Vol 25
To answer this question about wearing Hijab, we should first understand why God has sent down religion to man and why He orders man what to do and what to avoid.
Imagine a person who invents an electronic device, for example, a computer; he knows how the computer should be used to give the best outcome. Therefore, there is always a manual coming with the computer that tells us how to use it for a better result. So the user uses the manual to keep the computer safe and productive.
God has created man, and He knows what is good and what is harmful to him/her. He sent the religion and the Quran as a guide for human beings. Following the instructions in the book will lead to the useful, peaceful and productive life of a human.
Some people say that being a Muslim is not merely to pray or fast or observe the Islamic clothing rules (Hijab), but it is the faith of a person that makes him/her a true Muslim, and obeying the Islamic rules is not as important as having pure faith in God. But the fact is that reaching such levels of faith is only possible by passing the phase of being in complete obedience to God.
Islam means submission and being a Muslim means that one accepts to submit to God’s orders. The father of all Muslims, Christians, and Jews according to the Quran is Prophet Abraham (PBUH): “the faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘Muslims’ before” (22: 78). Therefore, from the time of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) the followers of all monotheist religions are called Muslims.
Although some Islamic rules may look hard to obey, the fact is that “Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you” (2: 185), and the rulings of Islam are to make our life easier, not harder. God has provided specific frameworks for us to reach a comfortable, peaceful and prosperous life, and to face fewer challenges in life. One of those rules is observing the Islamic dress code (wearing Hijab).
Our problem is that we can only see limited dimensions of an issue. For example, in case of the Islamic dress code (Hijab), we just see that it may be hard for women to cover up in a specific way. Or they may be unable to present their beauties in the society, while the Islamic dress code (Hijab) is there to make women protected in their social relations. Hijab is for women to be respected and recognized because of their character, beliefs and capabilities, NOT their appearance and physical beauty. It also helps them be less troubled by those men who have sick hearts [i].
Before one realizes that Islam is the real truth and as long as people are in search of the truth, there is no blame on them for not being a Muslim and not following the Islamic rules. But, as soon as one understands that Islam is the true religion from God and the most perfect one, then he/she should logically become a Muslim.
After accepting the main principles of Islam (the Islamic axioms), if you have only a few misconceptions about some of the Islamic rulings such as the Islamic dress code (Hijab), it is suggested that you embrace and try to observe all the Islamic rules, especially the Islamic dress code (Hijab).
This is just like taking a prescription from our GP when feel obliged to take all the medicine for a better result without knowing the reason for using some of it. As you start acting according to some of those rules that do not make sense to you, you can begin to study and to understand the reason for some details that may be unknown to you right now.
When we believe in Islam, we should believe in it as a whole. It is not correct to accept some parts of it and reject the other parts because in that case, the peaceful life that is promised to Muslims by obeying all religious rules will not be reachable. This uncompleted obedience is like a machine that has lost some of its components and does not work properly. A Muslim who does not obey all the rulings still counts as a Muslim but does not gain the entire benefits that Islam can bring to a person with complete obedience.
Remember again that Islam means being submissive to God’s orders. We always aim to be the best at something that we start. For example, we may strive to be the best in our education or our career. The same should be with our religion so that one day we may enjoy being as friendly to God as Abraham (PBUH).
“Who has a better religion than him who submits his will to Allah, being virtuous, and follows the creed of Abraham, a Hanif? And Allah took Abraham for a dedicated friend.” (4: 125)
Becoming a Muslim and obeying the Islamic rules has its own adversities, but at the same time, it has many advantages. A real Muslim who does not only stick to apparent rules of Islam and uses the spiritual tips and hints for his/her spiritual growth can reach the most peaceful life; “Look! The friends of Allah will indeed have no fear, nor will they grieve” (10: 62)