Contrary to popular belief, women in Islam has been empowered and respected. We previously discussed the Islamic viewpoint on the rights of women and the position of women in the society. Knowing that the justice considers equal rights for both men and women, it revealed that Islam had given “equal” -not similar- rights to women and men. Here, we provide more evidence on the Islamic approach to demonstrate that females are greatly respected in Islam.
In the pre-Islamic era in Arab countries, females were considered as weak members of the society, and they were an economic burden especially during times of famine since they were supposed to be less useful. If a girl was born to a family, the father became disappointed (“And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief.” (16:58)) and afraid of that girl being held captive by the invaders in the future, which would bring shame to the family. So, they used to bury baby girls alive (“Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground?” (16:59)).
Of course, Islam prohibited this practice by the divine commands in the Quran as well as the deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The reaction of the Quran to this act is: “evil is what they decide” (16:59) and adds: “do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them” (6:151).
This act is so blamed and hated in Islam that in Surah Takwir it is said on the Day of Judgement, the first issue that will be dealt with before everything else will be burying the baby girls alive: “For what sin she was killed” (81:9). This demonstrates how invaluable females are in Islam.
Islam also attempts to show the position of the daughter in the family and how she brings blessings to it. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said: “God bless the father who has daughters. Daughters are lovely and bring divine blessing, and sons are like good news. Daughters are enduring good deeds (Baqiyat al-Salihat)” .
He (PBUH&HP) wondered why people were unhappy and sorry for having a daughter and said that daughters are like fragrant flowers for him to smell . Imam Sadiq (AS) said that: “Daughters are your good deeds and sons are your blessings. You will be asked for the blessings you have been given, but you will be only rewarded for your good deeds” .
This narration emphasizes how important female children and women in Islam are and warns us to treat them well. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has advised buying gifts for the family members and said that this act would be rewarded similar to giving charities. Then, he (PBUH) adds: “Firstly give your daughters their gifts, and then your sons. Because whoever makes her daughter happy is similar to the one who has set one of the children of Ishmael free (AS)” .
The respect and importance given to daughters are also pointed out about women in Islam and especially wives such that according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) the best of men is the one who is the best to his wife. And, he (PBUH) is the best man who other men should follow in act and behavior towards their wives .
Another manifestation of the respect for the wives is the Islamic point of view on polygamy. Islam does not approve of polygamy; rather it has restricted polygamy by setting some terms and conditions on that matter.
Islamic Advice on Respect for Mothers
Mothers are of high value in Islam because of their efforts such as how they withstand the difficulties during the pregnancy, the care and protection they provide after giving birth to the baby, the selfless sacrifices they make so that the child could grow up in the most comfortable condition and with the best education.
The rights of mothers are even known to be superior to those of fathers . According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), one can never pay back the rights of the mother .
This amount of concern about females from childhood to motherhood and the considerations for the equal rights for women in Islamic teachings all the indicate the respect and attention paid to women in this religion.
- M. Nuri, "Mustadrak al-Wasa'il", vol. 15, p. 115, T. 17700.
- "Makarim al-Akhlaq Supplication", p. 219.
- Shaykh Al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 6, p. 6.
- Shaykh Al-Amili, "Wasa'il al-Shi'a", vol. 15, p. 227.
- Shaykh al-Saduq, "Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih", vol. 3, p. 443.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 15, p. 203.
When facing this question, I start thinking what makes people have such a question in mind, while there are millions of Muslim women working all over the world in different positions. Are all these Muslim women doing something forbidden (Haram), or are there other points that bring such questions to one’s mind?
Some points that may make the issue of “women’s employment” a challenge for people may be as follows:
Women have to observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab)
Women should keep their modesty and chastity in front of the opposite sex
Women should not be in a place with the opposite sex, where no one else can enter.
All the above-mentioned issues are equal for men and women, except the issue of Islamic dress code (Hijab); it is not that men should not observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab), but it is the limits of this dress code that differs in men and women.
The limits of Hijab and modesty and the etiquette of looking for both men and women are clarified in the Holy Quran: “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 …” (24: 30-31).
As you can see, the difference appears in covering, where women should cover their beauties that are attractive to men. Displaying these beauties will have a negative impact in the atmosphere of the workplace, as well as negative consequences for women.
Therefore, Islamic rules about the Islamic dress code (Hijab) are not there to separate men and women, but to make their relationship harmless and therefore the society a safe place for all.
Another verse that some jurists use to explain that women should not work outside the house is: “Stay in your houses and do not flaunt your finery like the former [days of pagan] ignorance…” (33:33). The most important point about this verse is that it was revealed to the household of the prophet (PBUH), and not all Muslim women.
While at the same time the main point of this verse is not that women are prisoners at home, but it is emphasizing the value of women as humans who have the same material and spiritual talents as men. But women naturally enjoy looking beautiful, and the exhibition of their beauties is far more than men.
Considering other verses that guide women on how to appear in the society, we can conclude that Allah is guiding women to reach their main goal of life, rather than spending time on worthless tasks such as beautifying themselves and displaying it in the society; something that has been a culture at the time of pagans, and that we can still see these days in the society.
All the investments and advertisements on products that are beauty related and make men and women consume so much money and time using these products are meant to make them busy with worthless material things and keep them away from reaching their main goal of life.
Fourteen centuries ago, Islam entitled women to some of the rights that feminists have been fighting for in ages. Rights such as: Having an assertion or defense in the court as a claimant or defendant by using legal ways, equivalence before the law, a fair judgment, immunity of property, preservation of honor, the right to marry and establish a family, privacy, and immunity of life, guarantee of livelihood, etc.
There is even a verse in the Holy Quran that shows the importance of women’s financial independence: “To men belongs a share of what they have earned and to women a share of what they have earned…” (4:32)
In Chapter (Surah) al-Qassas it is nicely described how prophet Shuaib’s daughters had to work, as their father was an old man. Their etiquette and modesty while working with a group of men could be a great example for all women [i].
At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), there were many women who used to work in the market to earn money for their living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) not only encouraged them for their job but also taught them the right Islamic rules of business and commerce.
The most significant example is the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) himself who used to trade for Lady Khadijah (AS).
Vital Roles in Society
In Islamic jurisprudence, it is said that women should preferably go to classes with female teachers. They should be visited by a female doctor in case of an illness. How possibly could this happen if women do not work outside as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.?
Should Muslim Women Work in the Society or Not?
Putting aside all the concepts that justify working is not forbidden (Haram) for women, it is good to keep in mind that “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity…” (2:286).
It is narrated from Imam Ali (AS) “Do not give a woman responsibilities that are over her tolerance, this is better for her condition, as the woman is a fragrant flower, not a chambermaid” .
Women should keep in mind that if there is no necessity (either financial, social or spiritual) for them to work outside the house, their first and most important task is to nurture their children and manage the house in a way that it becomes a place of comfort and long-term benefit for all family members.
But if for any reasons a woman finds it a duty on herself to work outside the house, then she must ensure that her home and children are properly cared for. She may ask for her husband’s assistance in this case.
The Islamic viewpoint about women’s employment and working outside the house is not negative. Women have never been forbidden to work outside the house or choose the career that they enjoy in life.
The point of Islam about women’s career is that it should not interfere the tasks that men are not capable of fulfilling; like giving abundant love and affection to their husband and children. Also, according to Islam, women are not responsible for all the housework; rather they are free to do the tasks they are talented or interested in as well as the household chores. In fact, Multitasking is a female skill!
Many women have husband and children, but they keep achieving social success! “Social success” is a poison in our era. We should be wary of the negative impacts of this term and find the true definition of success in the eyes of God. Islam asks everyone to find their priorities and act accordingly logically.
[i] (28: 23- 28)
- Usul al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 510
The first days of Islam were very difficult days for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) because he did not have many followers and the infidels could conspire for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) more easily. They even attacked his house to assassinate the Prophet (PBUH&HP), but thanks to Allah, this conspiracy was in vain. But in these difficult days, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) had very valuable companions with him, one of these precious followers was the wife of the Prophet, Lady Khadijah (AS). Now we want to know more about the Prophet's wife and her services to Islam and Muslim women.
Lady Khadijah (AS) was from the Quraysh tribe. Her father was Khuwaylid and her mother was Fatima, daughter of Zaydeh, both of whom were among the most rooted and noble Arab families in the Hejaz. Khuwaylid was the eldest of his tribe during the pre-Islamic period. Before the advent of Islam, Khadijah was considered one of the most prominent Quraysh women, so much so that she was called by the Lady of Quraysh women.
Although she was a beautiful and wealthy woman and had a lot of suitors, she did not accept them and started a business with the big amount of money she had. Until Prophet’s uncle asked his nephew to work for Khadijah like his other relatives, and he went to the Sham business on his behalf, and so it was continued. The decency of Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his talent, merit, distinguished personality, and reputation for fiduciary duty made him famous in particular and in general that he was called "Muhammad Amin" *. This news and reports made Khadijah fascinated by her lineage, merit, character, and liking.
Lady Khadijah (AS) was the first Muslim woman in promoting Islamic culture and as a role model of a Muslim woman has played a great role and many women have learned lessons from her practical training. She was so faithful that even the Prophet (PBUH&HP) said this about her in various narrations, we will read some of them to know more about her great role and practical lessons:
1) The best women in the world are Khadijah and Maryam, the daughter of Imran (1)
2) One day, the Messenger of God (PBUH&HP) drew four lines. Then he asked: Do you know what these lines are? People said: God and His Messenger are more knowledgeable. The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: The best women of Paradise are Maryam, the daughter of Imran, Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwaylid, and Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon her), and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh. (2)
In 24 years of living together with the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP), Khadijah performed many services for the religion of Islam. The financial, spiritual, and emotional support of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), the acknowledgment of the Prophet in a time when no one approved of him, and his help against the persecution of the polytheists are some of these valuable services. After marrying the Prophet (PBUH&HP), Khadijah gave her property to him so that he could spend it however he wanted. The Holy Prophet of Islam says in this regard: "No wealth was as useful to me as the wealth of Khadijah."(3)
Khadijah, this noble lady not only believed in the message of the Prophet from the bottom of her heart but also helped him in the face of hardships and denials of polytheists and ill-wishers. While she was alive, she did not allow the persecution of the polytheists to be severe on the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP). When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) came home with a load of calamity and sorrow, Khadijah comforted him and removed the worry from his mind. The property of Khadijah was used as a suitable tool in the service of Islam and its development from the very beginning. Interestingly, the last part of Khadijah’s property was spent by Imam Ali (AS) during his emigration trip to Medina. Most Muslims traveled with Khadija's property. The last of them was a caravan led by Imam Ali (AS). (4)
She was also the mother of Fatima (AS), from whom the generation of Imams was born. Imam Sadigh (AS) said: "When Khadijah (AS) chose the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) as her husband, the women of Mecca turned away from her because of enmity. Not only did they not greet Khadijah; they even prevented other women from visiting her. In this way, a strange terror overwhelmed Khadijah.
Of course, she was more afraid of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) to be harmed than herself. When Khadijah became pregnant with Fatima, Fatima spoke to her in her mother's womb and advised her to be patient, but Khadijah kept this secret from the Prophet until one day she entered and heard that Khadijah was talking with someone. He looked around; but he did not see anyone, he asked: O Khadijah! Who are you talking to? Khadijah, in response, told that she was talking to the child she had in her womb, Prophet (PBUH&HP) replied: “Gabriel informed that this is a girl child. She and her descendants are pure, blessed, and Allah will create my descendants from him. From his generation are born the Imams of the religion and the Almighty, after breaking the revelation, makes them his successors on earth.” (5)
The position and role of lady Khadijah (AS) in the most difficult period of the history of Islam this affair is common knowledge. she played an important role in establishing and spreading Islam during the Besat** period with her material and spiritual support of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). She is a role model for men and women in society because she raised many human values and perfections inside herself. She gave all his wealth, economic facilities, and existence in the way of satisfaction of Allah and also with the spiritual, psychological, and social support for her husband, Prophet (PBUH), in promoting Islam and advancing its goals, thus making his name as a real and true model for a Muslim woman. She died in the tenth year of the Besat and shortly after the death of the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Talib (AS). Muslim women can learn from the practical lessons of lady Khadija (AS) throughout the history of Islam to be behind their husbands in any case and not to withhold any support from him.
- Al Umdah Ibn Tariq (page 405)
- Sirat Ibn Hisham (first Volume - Page 168)
- Encyclopedia of Shia (second volume – page 47)
- Encyclopedia of Shia (second volume – page 49)
- Encyclopedia of Shia (third volume – page 46)
* Amin means a trustee and someone who is trusted to keep the treasure of others while he does not betray or abuse the trust others gave him.
** Besat refers to the election of Prophet Mohammad (PBUHHP) as a prophet and the beginning of his mission