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.
Social life is one of the most important aspects of human life. From the beginning of the creation of humankind, people decided to live together in order to meet their needs. In this issue, the quality of women’s social participation is one of the fundamental concerns in every culture. let's see about Muslim Women in Society.
One of the most notable points in considering this subject in Islam is the condition of Muslim women’s social participation. Muslim women and men are supposed to appear in society equitably. Muslim women just like men have the right to vote, to educate, to teach, to glitter in high political, scientific, athletic states, etc.
Islamic society is a place where no one is known and respected for his/her gender but for his/her virtues and morality. Gender should not be the first outward appearance of one’s personality. In this way, if a Muslim woman cooperates as a teacher, doctor, worker, etc. no one is allowed to consider her sex; rather people are supposed to pay attention to her occupation and knowledge.
In fact, all of us are human beings in society, not women and men. For reaching this utopia, everybody has some duties. God tells us not to underline sexual beauties and also not to look at and search for them. A safe society must make our minds free for more important activities. Such superficial challenges decrease our mental power.
In this regard women also have their own responsibilities. Islam wants women to have a safe and respectful position in society. This is one of the reasons why Islam asks people especially women to cover their bodies and not to show off their beauties.
That is because no one should look at a Muslim woman as a sexually beneficial object. God in the Holy Quran says: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw closely over themselves their chadors [when going out]. That makes it likely for them to be recognized and not be troubled, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful” (33:59).
It means that this beauty is so valuable that must not be seen or touched freely. But the main point is that there is another beauty which is more important and more valuable than this one, and that is the beauty of our personality, which can affect our appearance. Women must be known by their thoughts; God does not want women, these delightful, beautiful, and also powerful creatures to be just spectacular scenery for men. So, if women wear Hijab people will pay more attention to their inner beauties.
By ordering Hijab, Allah is not to say Muslim women must stay at home because Hijab is social apparel, not a domestic dressing. It means women can take part in social activities. Nobody is permitted to have an offensive look at a woman as a sexual object but as a precious and respectful citizen.
There is no contradiction between progression and touching advanced states and wearing Hijab. The thing that Islam limits are the irregular, unconditional, and dishonorable relationship between women and men, the limitation of sensuality.
Allah has created sexual desire, and it is our natural disposition to satisfy it. Also, Allah has not prevented Muslims from joys. We as humans must legalize our pleasures. This natural instinct is to satisfy by marriage and with our spouse, not anyone else. Women are not born for being enjoyable and admirable for all men.
This attitude is extremely cruel toward women, and if a woman is not sexually attractive, she becomes worthless to society. In short, Islam always emphasizes the freedom of mind and the pleasure of heart in society rather than the freedom of sensuality and misuse of feminine sex appeal. On the other hand, this perfect religion has not ignored human instinctual pleasures, rather it has recommended us to fulfill them in a controlled and morally and legally acceptable way.
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