I am a Muslim woman. I grew up in an Islamic country. I went to segregated schools, sports clubs, swimming pools, friendly parties, and wedding parties. Then I chose Media as my career. I worked in different journals, made films, and traveled to various cities and countries, with or without my family.
As a Muslim who believes in modesty and follows the rules of Islam, my Islamic country is an outstanding place. However, I did not realize that, until I had to leave my country. I lived in Europe for several years. I had heard that the west is where the dreams of freedom come true. But after a short while, I found myself imprisoned in Europe.
I am a table tennis trainer, a good swimmer, a good basketballer, and relatively professional in many sports. In my Islamic country, I used to go to women’s sports clubs or women’s swimming pools after school since childhood. But years ago in Europe, I could not find any sports clubs that were segregated from men, so I could wear my comfortable sports set and play my favorite sports. Because there were men everywhere, and I wanted to keep my modesty, besides my Hijab.
Then a few Muslims came together and decided to rent a sports club for a few hours over the weekend. It sounded awesome, but when we went to that sports club that we had hired for women only, I realized that European Muslims who were born and raised in European countries were mostly very weak in sports.
Basically because since childhood they did not have access to segregated sports clubs to learn and practice any sports. And of course, my problem was that I could not find anyone to play professionally with and enjoy playing! Therefore for as long as I lived in Europe I felt imprisoned.
And when I returned to my Islamic country, I was so thankful that I had sports clubs (where we have our athletic competitions), gyms, swimming pools, spas, and even women-only parks! where we could enjoy running without a scarf or taking a sunbath, and not worry that we are doing anything against God’s will or orders.
Talking too much about my memories of a Muslim woman was all for the goal to discuss a few misconceptions about being a Muslim woman and deprived of social rights.
Well! What should I say? This article is being written by an educated practicing Muslim woman who is now educating other Muslim and non-Muslim women.
We have narrations from our beloved prophet (PBUH&HP) that encourage us to learn until death; “Gain knowledge traveling”  or “Gain knowledge even if it is in China.” , which emphasizes the importance of gaining knowledge during one’s lifetime, even if one has to travel far distances and learn the knowledge from non-Muslims.
Also in another narration, our prophet (PBUH&HP) makes it an obligation to learn, and not only an obligatory for men, but he emphasizes that it is also a lifetime and necessary for women to be knowledgeable; “Gaining knowledge is an obligation upon all Muslim men and women” .
We also read in the history that the prophet’s (PBUH&HP) daughter and granddaughters were excellent teachers and used to teach women of their era.
The only issue that is raised about women’s education is being in mixed classes and groups with male students. In such situations, it is not women’s education that is forbidden (Haram), but like any other situation of mixed gatherings (men and women), people should be wary of their relationships.
Women should avoid flirting and chatting about different issues with men if it is not necessary. The relationship between students of the opposite sex is lawful (Halal) as long as there is no intention for pleasure. 
"Dalia Mogahed was the US’ first Muslim woman in the White House back in 2009 and one of Barack Obama’s ‘closest advisors’"
In Islam some duties that are obligatory for men, such as defending the borders of their country if it is attacked, or working outside the house to earn money for a living. But making it compulsory for men, never means that it is forbidden for women.
“Islam views women as masters of the family and emphasizes that the family environment must become a safe, dignified and tranquil one for women so that they could do their best in fulfilling their main task which is to care for the family .” That is the reason for which there is no force on women to work and bring money for the family. .
And that, in fact, is the most important social activity in itself. However, if a woman would like to participate in different social and political activities, besides her role as a wife or a mother, there are no objections towards it. Muslim women have no essential duties in their homes such as cooking or cleaning or sewing, etc. unless they wish to do it themselves. Otherwise, the husband could hire a servant to do the house works.
Nevertheless, the fact that women are less active in political activities comes down to their feminine nature. Imam Ali (AS) says: “woman is like a fragrant flower, and not a champion” , which means she should not be expected to do tasks that are beyond her capabilities. But it does not mean that she cannot choose to do things that may naturally be against her nature.
Also, some women may not choose to do manly tasks. However, at some point, they have no choice but to do so. For example, it is narrated that at the time of Imam Ali (AS), Lady Fatima (AS) went to the mosque and performed speeches. Or after the event of Ashura, Lady Zainab (AS) took on her shoulders the responsibility that was even hard for a few strong men and performed political speeches in different places.
There are plenty of issues that are forbidden in Islamic countries, either for men or women, which are not related to the Islamic law but go back to the old cultures and traditions of those nations. For example, wearing a veil for Muslim women, or preventing women from education, etc. are all amongst those old cultures.
However, many of them have been mixed up with the Islamic law, and people regard them as religious matters instead of social conventions. But we have to be clever enough, to distinguish between the Islamic law and old traditions of different nations. The same way that Muslims do not relate mistakes of “so-called” Christians to the religion of Christianity.
Driving is forbidden for women in very few countries, and there is no firm Islamic ruling to support it.
In fact driving in today’s world, makes traveling safer for women and there is no rational opinion against it.
There are many narrations from our Prophet (PBUH) that encourage people to do sports that are common in their time such as swimming, horse riding, and archery, and in those narrations, women were never excluded. In fact, no reference shows sports to be forbidden (Haram) for Muslim women. But in this case, again it is the issue of modesty and Hijab that should be observed.
Regarding sports that are forbidden (Haram), there is no difference between men and women. Sports that are connected to gambling or may harm the player are forbidden (Haram) for both men and women.
There is no problem for women having fun if they do not commit a sinful act; and again, there is no difference in this between men and women. The only point for women is that they should consider keeping their hijab and modesty (Haya) and do not join activities that may harm their chastity. You can read about forbidden (Haram) and lawful (Halal) fun in Islam in related articles.
Contrary to popular belief, women in Islam has been empowered and respected. An excellent example of that is the first Muslim woman, Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, whose influence and support was crucial to the success of Islam. Through many articles, we have discussed the Islamic view on women, their social position, their rights and responsibilities, and the rulings and regulations concerning women. Considering all those details, we will see here how fair Islam is to women in comparison to men.
It is clear that men and women are different from each other in many aspects. They are physically and biologically different. Their emotional and spiritual specifications are not the same. This means that men and women are of distinct capacities, which implies that they should be charged with different responsibilities regarding their innate capabilities. And since the rights of each individual depend on the burden of responsibility that he\she takes on, women in Islam and men won’t have “the same” rights. However, this does not mean that they do not have “equal” rights, either.
Let’s consider an example; a father who would like to leave his children an inheritance. He has a farm, a piece of land and a business company. These three possessions are of equal value, but they are not alike. The father knows his children’s characteristics, talents and interests very well. He, therefore, gives each child one of his belongings based on his knowledge of their potentials. This is an example to demonstrate that, although what every child receives from the father is not the same as the others, they are worth equally. So, the father has divided the inheritance equally among the children.
This is also true about the rights of women and men. As an example, although women might work and earn money, supplying for the family is not at all a responsibility for women; neither is defending Islam and country in case of war. Hence, women are given some rights in certain conditions where men are not given. Moreover, Islam has prevented imposing harsh and heavy tasks on women, as they are known to be as delicate as a flower . It can be concluded that women and men do not have “the same” rights because of having different talents, potentials, and biological features, but their rights are “equal”.
According to the Quran, “Men are the managers of women” (4:34); but this does not imply that men are superior to women in Islam. Firstly, it should be noted that this verse is only about wives and husbands and not women and men in general. Secondly, being the manager here means having the “responsibility” of the family. Family like every social unit requires a supervisor or manager. Being physically stronger than women to protect the family against risks and to carry out heavy works, and being less affected by the emotions, men have been given the duty of protecting and managing the family affairs. In this regard, men have been assigned the heavy responsibility of providing for the family needs from which women are exempted.
From another side, from the Islamic point of view, women and men are of the same spirit, the whole world is created to serve both of them, they both can reach the spiritual excellence, and women can attain the superior social status they deserve . All these demonstrate that men have not been given any more privilege compared to women, but have been charged with a different responsibility.
From what has been discussed above, we can see that the Islamic regulations consider both women and men, and the rights of both are equal as it should be but not necessarily similar in every circumstance.
- “Nahj al-Balaqa”, Letter 31.
There is a consensus among almost all Islamic jurists according to which Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslims. This is clearly stated in Surah Baqarah: “do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you” (2:221).
This prohibition applies to both temporary and permanent marriage. But what can be the wisdom behind this Islamic rule?
In many narrations (Hadiths)  and some verses of the Quran (2:221); (24:26), Muslims are advised to marry those who are equivalent to them. Being equivalent mostly means to be similar in faith and religion; however, it also includes being alike in culture, wealth, education, and family values. Right after stating the prohibition on the marriage with non-Muslims in Surah Baqarah (2:21), the reason behind this is uncovered (2:221).
In this kind of marriage, the Muslim will be most probably influenced by the polytheistic beliefs (which are in direct contradiction to Islamic teachings) of his/her partner. In such a condition, if the Muslim accepts those beliefs, he/she will be surely destined to enter Hell, and even if he/she remains Muslim, the conflicts between the couple will make their life a real Hell .
Then, for Muslim women, marrying a non-Muslim man (whether disbeliever (Kafir) or a believer in other Abrahamic religions) is undoubtedly against the divine guidelines and Islamic teachings, therefore, must be avoided.
As soon as one gets married, he/she is not fully independent anymore to decide for everything in life. Many habits and interests will be influenced by the preferences of one’s partner and even some of his/her beliefs. Getting married to a non-Muslim means to be seriously exposed day and night to the practices and beliefs of a religion other than Islam, or even to feed the mind with anti-religious thoughts.
This might in the first place hinder one from practicing Islam, then make him/her indifferent to Islamic beliefs and principles, and finally end in converting to a non-Muslim! And, women are more prone to this change: “You (Muslim men) are allowed to marry who doubt in their religious beliefs, but Muslim women are not; since the woman is influenced by her husband and he makes her follow his religion” .
Islam completes the teachings of the previous religions , therefore it does not allow Muslim women, who have taken the straight path with the help of divine guidance, to deviate and join disbelievers (Kafir) or the followers of other religions by getting married to a non-Muslim and consequently to be supervised by non-Muslims and depend upon them.
Islam considers certain rights for the wife over her husband. Treating gently, keeping respect, helping in household chores, forgiving her major mistakes, and honoring her are the duties of a husband in Islam . Besides, men are required to pay the marriage portion (Sedaq) and the living expenses (Nafaqah) to their spouses .
These rights will be most probably ignored in a marriage with a non-Muslim man of whether an Abrahamic religion or any other religions and this is another reason to ban Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.
To many children, fathers are heroes or at least good enough samples to follow in life. To some, fathers are only a member of the family. In any case, fathers play a predominant role in the education of children.
Hence, a non-Muslim father educates children based on his beliefs, and he surely affects the characteristics, attitudes, and religious beliefs of his children and more generally the following generations. This way, Muslim women married to non-Muslims might find their children disbelievers (Kafir) or followers of other religions, which will be really regretful.
Some Rulings …
The only way Muslim women might marry a non-Muslim man is that he converts to Islam before marriage.
If the formula (Nikah) of a marriage contract is pronounced before the conversion of the man, the marriage contract will be void. If the man converts after this void marriage, the formula (Nikah) still needs to be repeated since the man had not been Muslim during the previous formula (Nikah) [i].
Not getting married to a non-Muslim man is such important that if non-Muslim women (whether disbeliever (Kafir) or a believer in other Abrahamic religions) deliberately join Muslims or immigrates to Muslim communities, and if their faith is examined, It is forbidden (Haram) to send them back to their disbeliever family if they want to stay with Muslims. In this case, Muslim women are not any more lawful to their non-Muslim husband, his husband neither (60:10).
[i] See Risalah Amaliyah for more details and the rulings.
- S. H. al-Amili, “Wasail al-Shia”, vol. 14.
- A. H. Tayyib, “Atyab-ul-Bayan fi Tafsir-il-Qur'an”, (2: 221).
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 103, p. 377.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 76, p. 7