Islamic View of Women

The Muslim view of women has been so misrepre- sented in the West that it is still a prevalent idea in Europe and America that Muslims think that women have no souls! In the Holy Qur'an no difference whatsoever is made be- tween the sexes in relation to Allah; both are promised the same reward for good, the same punishment of evil con- duct.54

"Verily the men who surrender (to Allah) and women who surrender, and men who believe, and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who are sincere and women who are sincere, and men who endure and women who endure, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who are modest and women who are modest, and women who remember (Him), Allah hath pre- pared for them pardon and a great reward." [Qur'an 33:35]

It is only in relation to each other that a difference is made - the difference which actually exists - difference of func- tion. In a verse which must have stupefied the pagan Arabs, who regarded women as devoid of human rights, it is stated: "They (women) have right like those (of men) against them; though men are a degree above them. Allah is Almighty, All-Knowing." [Qur'an 2:228]

Aburdene and Naisbitt (1993), two prominent feminist researchers, were astonished to discover that the Qur'an does not consider women of a lower status than men; as is the case in all other religious writings. They have come to realize that male-practices against women in the Muslim World are basically based on non-Islamic social customs or misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.55 Carroll (1983) ad- mitted that she was surprised to find out that the Muslim woman is the first woman in the universe to be recognized for her economical and legal rights. She also added that the family system in Islam was legislated 1400 years ago in order to protect the corner stone of the society, the family.56 Reference to the role of men and women along with their rights are detailed in The Qur'an and in the teachings of prophet Mohamed.


The Qur'an spoke of the different roles women play in life. It, for the first time in history, established women's rights to inherit- ance, respect, and dignity.

The Qur'an spoke of women's role in supporting the truth, in giving birth to prophets and in suffering. The Qur'an has also spo- ken about the agony of women at the different walks of life and through history. Be- low are only very few excerpts that show to what extent such rights have been recognized in Islam. The Qur'an introduces the Pharaoh's wife as an ex- ample for the faithful person who accepted all types of suf- fering for the sake of Allah.

And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe: the wife of Firaun(Pharaoh), when she said: "My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Firaun(Pharaoh) and his work, and save me from the people who are oppressors.

Al-Tahrim: 11

The Qur'an narrated in detail the story of Mary and her miraculous birth of Jesus Christ and how she responded to her people's (the Jews) accusation of being unchaste. In deed, a whole chapter of the Qur'an is named after her. An- other long chapter of the Qur'an is titled 'The Women', An- Nisaa. The Qur'an has talked about the role of women in repentance and accepting the truth. For example the repen- tance of al-Aziz's wife regarding her accusation of Prophet Joseph. (Yusuf: 51-53).The Queen of Sheba's acceptance of Prophet Solomon's (SAAW) invitation to Islam was also mentioned in details in the chapter of An-Naml: 44. Mary was accorded great respect in the Qur'an. In fact, a whole chapter was devoted to her fascinating story in con- trast to the blasphemous accusations mentioned in the Talmud about her and her son,57 Prophet Jesus peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

(Remember) when the wife of Imran said: "O my Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for Your ser- vice (free from all worldy work; to serve Your Place of worship), so accept this from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing."

Then when she gave birth to her [child Maryam(Mary)], she said: "O my Lord! I have given birth to a fe- male child,"-- and Allah knew better what she brought forth,--"And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam(Mary), and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Shaitan(Satan), the outcast." So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariya (Zachariya). Each time he entered Al-Mihrab to(visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Maryam (Mary)! From where have you got this?" She said, "This is from Allah." Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, with- out limit.

Al-Imraan: 35-37

The Qur'an recognizes both men and women as spiritually equal in terms of their responsibilities towards their actions and their reward in the hereafter.

And whoever does righteous good deeds male or female, and is a (true) believer {in the oneness of Allah (Muslim)}, such will enter Paradise and not the least injustice, even to the size of a speck on the back of a date-stone, will be done to them.

Al-Nisaa: 124

On the Day you shall see the believ- ing men and the believing women: their light running forward before them and by their right hands. Glad tidings for you this Day! Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever! Truly, this is the great success!

Al-Hadeed: 12

And among His signs is this that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you saffection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who re- flect.

Ar-Rum: 21


Prophet Muhammad confronted many unjust practices that were institutionalized by the pre-Islamic society against women. Men of that society were benefiting greatly from the roles they have prescribed for women. When the Prophet started preaching against the male treatment of women, the Quraishi's adamantly opposed him. Nevertheless, it was Divine Revelation that he had to pass onto people regard- less of their unjust interest.

Abu Hurairah reported that Prophet Muhammad said: "Let him be a loser, let him be a loser, let him be a loser." Someone said, "Who is he, Oh Messenger of Allah? He said, "The one who has lived to see his parents or one of them and did not enter paradise."

Jabir said I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: "The one who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness ."

Anas Ibn Malik said that the Messenger of Allah had said"Whoever brings up two daughters, he and I will come side by side in the Day of JudgmentÖ "


Rightto Education inIslam was granted hundreds of years ago while most prestigious schools of the world denied it.

Abu Saeed Al- Khudri reported that some women re- quested the Proph- et to fix a day for them as the men were taking most of his time. On that he promised them to devote a day for teaching them... 60 In another hadeeth, it was reported that the Prophet had said: "Seeking knowledge is in- cumbent on every Muslim" Seager and Olson 1986 reported that most universities in western countries waited very long before ad- mitting female students. Madam Curie was refused mem- bership in the French Academy of Science, though she was the first female professor in The Sorbonne in 1911. We have got to bear in mind that she was awarded the Noble Prize in 1903.


People sometimes talk as if polygyny were an institu- tion of Islam. It is no more an institution of Islam than it is of Christianity (it was the custom in Christendom for centuries after Christ) but it is still an existing human tendency to be reckoned with, and in the interests of men and women (women chiefly), to be regulated. Strict monogamy has never really been observed in Western lands, but for the sake of the fetish of monogamy, a countless multitude of women and their children have been sacrificed and made to suffer cruelty. Islam destroys all fetishes, which always tend to out- cast numbers of God's creatures. In Europe, side by side with woman worship, we see the degradation and despair of women.

In Arabia, the lot of poor widows was particularly hope- less prior to the coming of Islam. The Holy Qur'an sanctions the remarriage of widows.

It legalizes divorce and marriage from another husband, thus transforming marriage from a state of bondage for the women to a civil contract between equals, terminable by the will of either party (with certain restrictions, greater in women's case for natural reasons, intended to make people reflect seriously before deciding upon separation) and by death. The Prophet, when he was the sovereign of Arabia, married several windows, in order to destroy the old contempt for them and to provide for them as ruler of the State.

Islam is the only religion limiting the number of per- missible wives to four. To this fact John Esposito, a renowned professor of religion and international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University, writes:

Although it is found in many religious and cultural traditions, polygamy (or more precisely polygyny) is most of- ten identified with Islam in the minds of Westerners. In fact, the Qur'an and Islamic law sought to control and regu- latethe number of spouses ratherthan give free license. In a society where there no limitations existed, Muslims were not told to marry four wives but instead to marry no more than four. The Qur'an permits a man to marry up to four wives, provided he can sup- port and treat them equally. Muslims regard this Qura'nic command (4:3) as strengthening the status of women and the family, for it sought to ensure the welfare of single women and wid- ows in a society whose male popula- tion was diminished by warfare, and to curb unrestricted polygamy.

The idea of limited polygyny was introduced by the Qur'an as a solution to social dilemmas like the increased number of widows and fatherless orphans following wars. It also plays a great role satisfying the natural needs of a large sector of people, especially in societies where the number of women is exceeding that of men.

"And if you fear you will not be just to the orphans, then marry what is good for you among the women- two, three, or four. But if you fear that you will not be just [to them], then only one, or whom your right hands possess. That is more likely that you will not do injustice."

An-Nisa: 3

When this regulation regarding polygyny was firstly introduced, it was in reality a restriction to the unlimited polygyny the pre- Islamic Arabs used to prac- tice. Though, the regulation gives men the right, for good reasons, to practice polygyny but they should adhere to the strict condi- tions and responsibilities behind it.

Polygyny was re- stricted by Islam and not fully banned to satisfy the polygynous nature of men while restricting and severely punishing men who seek ex- tramarital relations. Islam, by restricting polygyny and de- creeing strict conditions regarding its practice, took a mod- erate stance between the unrestricted polygyny of the Old Testament and the practice of Romans, Persians and pre- Islamic Arabs and the unobserved celibacy that some latter Christian saints preached

Therefore, to solve the problem of fatherless house- holds, the Qur'an is encouraging men who can bear the responsibility and be just to take into their care the destitute families by marrying the eligible widows and female orphans who are victims of tragedies. One rationale behind this mea- sure is to save the society in general from indulging into immoral practices either because of poverty or the natural sexual desire on the part of the unmarried women.

Open-minded people can accept natural and reason- able solutions to their problems while recognizing full right and legitimacy to the women and their children. In his book Struggling to Surrender, Jeffrey Lang, (1995), reported on a program aired on Public Television at that time investi- gating whether or not men were innately polygamous and women innately monogamous. In 1987, the student news- paper at the University of California, Berkley, polled a num- ber of students, asking whether they thought men should be legally permitted to have more than one wife in response to a perceived shortage of male marriage candidates in Cali- fornia. To the surprise of many feminists, almost all of those polled approved of the idea. One woman even stated that a polygamous marriage would meet her emotional and sexual needs.64 A segment of the Church, the Mormons, which has become one of the established churches in the United States, propagates polygyny among its increasing members.

Jane Goodwin (1994), an American sociologist, thinks that many American women would prefer the status of a second wife rather than living a lonely life in a gloomy apart- ment in New York or Chicago in the society of freedom. 66As a matter of fact, males in general continue to be protected by monogamy, especially in a society that does not punish extramarital practices, while prostitutes, call girls, mis- tresses, secretaries, models, actresses, store clerks, wait- resses and girl friends remain their playground. In reality, polygyny is vehemently opposed by the male-dominated western society because it would force men to adopt fidel- ity.

Regardless of my opinion towards the issue of po- lygamy, Dr. Le Bon advocates: "A return to polygamy, that natural relationship between sexes, would remedy many evils; prostitution, venereal diseases, Aids, abortions, the misery of the illegitimate children, the misfortune of the mil- lions of unmarried women and widows, resulting from the disproportion between the sexes and wars, even adultery and jealousy. "

The Islamic system, when completely practiced does away with the dangers of seduction, the horrors of prostitu- tion and the hard fate which befalls countless number of women and children in the West, as the consequence of unavowed polygyny. "Islam's basic principle is that a man is held fully responsible for his behavior towards every woman, and for the consequences of his behavior. If it does away likewise with much of the romance which has been woven round the facts of sexual intercourse by Western writers, the romance is an illusion, and we need never mourn the loss of an illusion.

Take the most widely read modern European litera- ture, and you will find the object of man's life on earth is depicted as the love of women (i.e., in the ideal form as the love of one woman, the elect, whom he discovers after trying more than one). When that one woman is discovered, the reader is led to suppose that a "union of souls" takes place between the two. And that is the goal of life. That is not com- mon sense - it is rubbish. But it is traceably a product of the teaching of the Christian Church regarding marriage. Woman is an alluring but forbidden creature, by nature sinful, except when a mystical union, typifying that of Christ and his Church has happened, thanks to priestly benediction".


In polygyny, as presented by the Islamic family system, it is the husband who bears the full financial and other social responsi bilities towards his wife or wives. There fore, strict monogamy as practiced in western societies is in the interest of men.

In polygyny, as presented by the Islamic family sys- tem, it is the husband who bears the full financial and other social responsibilities to- wards his wife or wives. Therefore, strict mo- nogamy as practiced in western societies is in the interest of men. Jones and Phillips (1985) indicated that "some males self-righ- teously assert that mo- nogamy is maintained to protect the rights of women.

But, since when has the western male been concerned about women's rights? Western society is riddled through and through with socio-economic practices, which oppressed women and led to the upsurge of women's liberation movements in recent years, from suffragettes of the early nineteen hundreds to the ERAs of today. The reality is that monogamy protects the males' right to play around without any responsibility, since the incidence of infidelity among them is usually much higher than among females."

Although many western women were caught up in the so-called sexual revolution, they are the ones who suffer the most from the side effects of contraceptives, the trauma of abortion and the shame of childbirth out of wedlock. In The United States alone, in every one thousand births forty- five were born to unmarried women between the ages of 15-44, in 1991 alone. This costs taxpayers more than $ 25 billion dollars in welfare payments.70 Mrs. Jones and Mr. Phillips (1985) talked about other logical reasons for the need of an institutionalized Polygyny. They mentioned that the preponderance of females in the world is an established fact. Infant mortality rate is much higher among boys.

Women on the whole tend to live longer than men; not to mention the large number of young men who die daily in the various wars around the world. "How- ever, the ratio varies from one country to another, women still outnumber men. Hence, there are more females com- peting for a diminishing number of males. Consequently, there will always remain a large segment of women unable to fulfill their sexual and psychological needs through legiti- mate means in monogamous societies. Their presence in an increasingly permissive society also contributes to the break down of western family structure."71 From the brief discussion we had about the issue of polygyny, women seem to have a vested interest in legally institutionalized and recognized polygyny as acknowledged by Islam because of the obvious socio-economic protection it provides, as well as, the real life problems it deals with to satisfy both sexes.


If it is true, as life experience suggests (and the advo- cates of woman's rights in Europe and America are never tired of declaring that women's interests are separate from those of men) that women are really happier among them- selves in daily life, and are capable of progress as a sex rather than in close subservience to men, then the Islamic rule which makes the woman the mistress in her sphere does not dis- cord with human nature. While every provision is made for the continuation of the human race, and while the relation of a woman to her husband and near kinsfolk is just as tender and as intimate as in the West, the social life of women is among themselves. There is no 'mixed bathing,' no mixed dancing, no promiscuous flirtation, no publicity. But according to the proper teachings of Islam, there ought to be no bounds to woman's opportunities for self development and progress in her own sphere. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent women from becoming doctors, lawyers, professors, preachers, merchants, Ö etc, but they should graduate in women's col- leges and practice on behalf of women.

Separation between men and women has been recog- nized to be of great benefit for women. As a matter of fact, this principle was adapted by The Pentagon as a solution to many problems including sexual harassment, without giving credit to Islam as the system of life that is propagating this practice to maintain morality and social peace and security. Nevertheless, Prince Charles has emphasized the great con- tributions Islam can provide the non-Muslim societies to overcome their most serious moral and social problems, during a number of his speeches on Islam and the West.

William Cohen, American Secretary of Defense, an- nounced the first phase of a comprehensive plan to main- tain a reasonable level of morality among male and female soldiers. The plan stressed the importance of constructing permanent partitions to separate male and female soldiers in the current mixed buildings. This is only a temporary so- lution until newly separate buildings are constructed. The Navy also issued a number of strict instructions that prohibit the presence of female and male navy officers behind closed doors. These instructions were presented as rules that should be respected by all soldiers, especially on board Navy ships.

The Defense Secretary emphasized that the ratio- nale behind such measures was to provide a reasonable level of privacy and security for members of the different sectors of Defense. Among these new regulations, the re- striction of sleeping while wearing underwear or naked and those doors should be tightly locked during sleeping hours. They also forbid watching pornographic films in the pres- ence of female soldiers, and imposed clearly detailed regu- lations regarding the type of clothes to be worn when swim- ming or when sun bathing.73

The question that we raise here is this: why are such regulations (that many would look at as radical and anti- modernization) imposed by the most modern country in the world? The answer is very simple: sexual harassment has reached an unbelievably alarming level and has become a threat to national security and morality. Thousands of com- plaints of sexual harassment by female employees rang an alarming bell. The American and other lawmakers around the world should think seriously about imposing similar regu- lations at all governmental offices, including the White House, especially in the aftermath of the Clinton-Monica affair.

McGrayre, 199374 addressed the fact that separation in education is for the benefit of female students who expe- rience unbearable harassment and pain at the hands of boys. Eight out of the nine female scientists who were awarded Nobel Prize were graduates of female only high schools.

The New York Times published, in May 1993, a re- port which was entitled Separation Is Better. 75 The report was written by Susan Ostrich who herself was a graduate of one of the few women's colleges in the U.S. It was a shock to most Americans to find that girls in female col- leges achieve better academically than their counterparts at mixed colleges. She supported her claim with the follow- ing statistics:

Eighty percent of girls at female only colleges study science and math for four years, in comparison to two years of study in the mixed colleges. Female school students achieve higher GPA than the girls in mixed schools. This leads a higher num- ber of female students to be admit- ted to universities. In fact, more Ph.Ds were acquired by such fe- male students.

According to Fortune Magazine one third of the female members in the boards of trustees in the largest 1000 American companies are graduates of female only colleges. To realize the significance of this number, we need to know that gradu- ates of female only colleges make only 4% of the number of female col- lege students graduating every year. 43% of female professors with Ph.Ds in math and 50% of female professors with Ph.Ds in engineer- ing were graduates of female only colleges. This is another evidence from the Western world itself that lends support to the validity and appli- cability of Islamic prin- ciples as universal laws guiding or regu- lating human behavior. The Indian politician and reporter, Kofhi Laljapa, concluded: No other religion but Islam has the ability to solve the problems of modern life. Islam is in- deed unique for that ...

Only Islam has the workable solutions to these com- plicated problems of immorality and destroyed family val- ues. It provides a complete system of life, which grants dig- nity and happiness to all members of society by taking hu- man needs into consideration and satisfying them in the most honorable and respectable way. This complete system is not subject to man's manipulation in order to satisfy his tem- poral interest, but rather Divinely proposed to take into ac- count human nature.

In so doing, Islam sets clearly and strictly defined rules and rights for all members of the soci- ety, regardless of their race, sex and religion, based on a just system of mutual responsibilities and authority. Never- theless, Islam is avoided and even looked at with suspicion because of a number of reasons: (a) the Jewish controlled media has great interest in picturing Islam as a savage reli- gion that was not even good for the middle ages.

Jihad in America and The Siege are only specimens of what the movie industry does to distort the image of Islam in the minds of people who have no true knowledge about Islam. Experts in Middle Eastern studies like the orientalists Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes and Judith Miller played an irresponsible role in inducing wrong attitudes about the genuine message of Is- lam in the minds of people who are in great need of its way of life. Nevertheless, many intellectuals were not deceived by this propaganda and were able to find their way to the truth, after a long search and after overcoming many hurdles. Jeffrey Lang (Professor of Mathematics at Kansas Univer- sity) and M. Hoffman (the German Ambassador to Morocco) are good examples. (b) A minority of Muslims enhances the already distorted image of Islam by their un-Islamic malprac- tices, which is greatly exaggerated and generalized by the already biased media. (c) The inability of concerned Mus- lims to present Islam in an attractive manner to the world and to clarify misconceptions and misunderstandings about its universal teachings.

Women of the West have had to agitate for them- selves in recent years for simple legal rights, such as that of married women to own property, which has always been secured for women in Islam. They have had to wage a bitter fight to bring to the intelligence of Western men the fact that women's interests are not identical with those of men (a fact for which the Sacred Law makes full allowance.) Women in the West have had to agitate in order to obtain recognition of their legal and civil existence, which was always recog- nized in Islam. Their men secured the rights of women in Islam, and men will champion and secure what further rights they may require today in order to fulfil the spirit of the Shari'ah. In this emancipation, there will be no strife between the sexes. Therefore there is really no analogy with the case of women in the West.