As a New Muslim woman, I find the Islamic lifestyle fully responsive in every aspect of my life. Here, Salam Islam deals with different issues regarding women in Islam. Salam Islam is a platform to make those who convert to Islam, more familiar with the benefits that the Islamic life can offer them.
Islam pays specific attention to women’s rights in life. The important role of women in the family, in society and their huge influence in the world, has not been neglected in Islam, as well as their personal and spiritual life is strongly protected based on Islamic lifestyle.
Let’s quickly monitor what Salam Islam provides about women in Islam;
Muslim women’s life might sound boring for those who have not chosen the Islamic lifestyle. A new convert to Islam may find herself confused in different aspects of her life. Salam Islam explains that Muslim women, better than all other women, can enjoy their lives by having lawful fun.
The issue of the Islamic dress code or Muslim women’s Hijab is also discussed from different standpoints in Salam Islam. What does Hijab mean? Is there a history of Hijab in Abrahamic religions? Why at all should they wear Hijab and cover their hair? Is there a chance that one converts to Islam without wearing Hijab? Does the Islamic dress code change from time to time and place to place, based on the conditions of time and place?
Salam Islam also covers the important issue of women’s marriage. It tries to clarify women’s rights in the family, and their rights in choosing the right spouse. Since women’s dignity and respect is very important in Islam, therefore women are free to choose a spouse based on Islamic guidelines. It is explained why Islam will allow women to marry a non-Muslim man and live under his demand.
The issues of women in Islam are sometimes wrongly described and understood in the west. Some western people based on their shallow understanding of Islam, undermine the high status of women in the whole system of Islamic life.
Salam Islam tries to answer most of the misconceptions regarding the aspect of women’s lives in society. Are women in Islam inferior to men? Can they have a career? Why should they cover themselves in society? What about feminism and women’s rights in society?
Is there any practical and tangible model for the life of women in Islam? To answer this question, Salam Islam studies the life of prominent women mentioned in the Holy Quran and the history. By studying their life stories and events, one will be inspired to follow the lifestyle of such great role models to have a successful life like them.
Role models such as Saint Mary, Hagar; the Wife of Prophet Abraham, Fatimah; Daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP), and Zainab; the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP).
If you have any questions about Mulsim women’s issues, you are welcome to send us your questions.
When talking about Hijab in Islam , the first impression that comes to mind is a cloth covering certain parts of women’s body. But is this the real meaning of the Hijab? Is that all Islam intended by ordering to wear Hijab; covering women’s bodies? This is surely one of the functions but is not the whole thing.
Hijab in Islam concerns men as much as women. Indeed, by introducing Hijab, Islam aims to set out a framework on how we dress, how we look, and how we interact in society. This also originates from a superior objective: limiting the human desires towards the opposite gender to one’s private life in the form of a legal marriage and letting the society focus on work and productivity .
Islam requires both women and men to dress simply, modestly, and with dignity. Simply said, one should not dress in a way to draw the attention of the others to their physical features. Islam has forbidden wearing the clothing that attracts the attention of the general public, making its wearer known for it because of the type of the fabric, its color, model or because of being worn and unclean ; and this applies to women and men both.
According to the Holy Quran, covering and Hijab of body dates back to the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “So when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became exposed to them, and they began to stitch over themselves with the leaves of paradise.” (7:22). This demonstrates that following the standards of modesty is innate in all human beings, and so do the Islamic dress codes.
Since modesty as the reason to wear the Hijab in Islam is a subjective term, the Quran and Sunnah [i] have laid out the bare minimum to prevent any confusion. The absolute minimum covering in Islam set for men is loose and unrevealing clothing from his navel to his knee . Men are not allowed to wear gold jewelry, silk clothing, or adornments that are considered feminine .
Muslim women, like men, are not permitted to wear tight and revealing clothing; especially the ones showing the details of their body. The clothing should cover their hair and body, but covering the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, is not mandated . It is also forbidden for women to wear strong perfume, heavy make-up, or such jewelry that makes a jingle noise with movement and attracts the attention of others, especially strange men. They should not reveal their ornament either. These all let the Muslim women to be recognized in society by the content of their character rather than by their physical appearance and do force men to cease objectifying women.
It should be noted that besides these dress codes, Islam has mandated us to wear beautiful and clean clothes; especially when dealing with others and during prayers: “O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer” (7:31). This also should be considered as much as the clothing rules.
Islamic precept has introduced a particular way of decency by presenting the concept of controlling the gaze. It is stated in the Quran that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks” (24:30); and: “And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks” (24:31). It means that women and men are both required to keep their gazes downcast unless permitted [ii].
Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “A glance is a poisoned arrow from the arrows of Satan. He who refrains from it [glancing] for the sake of Allah and nothing other than Him, Allah will grant him a faith, the taste of which he will experience.” .
Keeping the glance downcast prevents men from lustful thoughts when looking at any woman other than their wife and allows women to protect themselves and guard their modesty. If one truly believes that God is present everywhere and at every second, He sees all he does [iii], and “He knows the treachery of the eyes, and what the breasts hide.” (40:19), he controls his glance in public and in private.
As society is composed of women and men, their social interactions and communications are inevitable. Emphasizing the concept of decency, Islam has special guidelines for the interactions between members of the opposite sex. Islam, as the religion of moderation [iv] , does not allow a free relation, neither severely restricts this interaction, but allows women and men to communicate in good intention . This means that the speech should be direct and both sides should consider the human identity of the other person, not the gender.
Allah says in the Quran: “wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women: if you are wary [of Allah], do not be complaisant in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a sickness should aspire; speak honorable words.” (33:32).
Although this verse of the Quran addresses the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) who were mostly at the old age, it also applies to all other women especially young ones . This requires Muslims, specifically women, to use a serious tone of voice and expression when talking to the opposite gender. Otherwise, their sweet words might seduce the person whose heart might be diseased with lust.
[i] The lifestyle and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
[ii] e.g., in the case that a witness looks at the face of a non-mahram to recognize him/her.
[iii] “does he not know that Allah sees [him]?” (96:14)
[iv] “Thus We have made you a middle nation that you may be witnesses to the people” (2:143)
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