Condition of women before the advent of Islam:
Before the advent of Islam, women have been considered inferior and not equal to men. They were disrespected and given no rights. Moreover, the right of divorce was in the hands of the man. Also, women were restricted to own or sell property. Even a woman was not considered a human being with a soul rather it was believed that she is a source of evil and sin. Quran mentions that the Arabs in Jahiliyyah used to bury their daughters alive in the sand. Before Islam, the practice of murdering female children was common. In short, the state of women was miserable and, they were facing oppression in a patriarchal society.
Condition of women after the rise of Islam:
The liberation of women's rights was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, 1400 years ago. Islam came to protect the rights of women and raise their honor and status in society. Islam does not only abolish the practice of killing female children but, it also has provided women, dignity, and respect. After the rise of Islam, the status of women raised and they were given rights and some of them are:
o To get an education
o To marry someone of their choice
o To retain their identity after marriage
o To divorce
o To work
o To own or sell property
o To seek protection by law
o To vote
o To participate in civil and political engagement
Islam is such a beautiful religion which talks about equality, peace, and compassion. Islam says that men and women are equal in the sight of Allah. In the Quran, Allah declares,
Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you…”
At another place in Quran, Allah again says that all human beings are equal.
“To whoever, male or female, does good deeds and has faith, We shall give a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions.” (16:97)
Rights are given to women in Islam more than 1400 years ago:
Here is the list of ways in which Islam brought back the rights of women:
1. The right to seek knowledge:
Islam encourages women to seek knowledge as they have the capacity of learning and understanding just like the men so that the women can contribute positively to society. In Islam, the duty of seeking knowledge and learning is obligatory for every Muslim male and female without gender discrimination.
The Prophet Muhammad PBUH said,
“Education is compulsory for every Muslim.”
Even the first verses of the Quran begin with the word Read. If we look upon Islamic history, we see many women held honourable positions as scholars, teachers, physicians, and scientists. Above all, our Holy Prophet’s PBUH wife, Hazrat Ayesha R.A, was a great scholar of Islam. Moreover, Al-Qarawiyin Mosque and University, the oldest running university, was funded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, inMorocco in 859 C.E.
2. The right to financial independence:
Islam has given rights to women that they can work, earn money, own property, enter into legal contracts, and manage their financial assets in any way they wish but there is no obligation that women must have to earn the money. Moreover, women are not obligated to share their money with their husbands/ family members and to spend on housing or food instead it is the duty of her husband to provide financial support to her and if the woman is unmarried then the responsibility belongs to her closest male member in the house i.e father, brother, uncle, etc. In the case of divorce, a woman has the right to keep whatever she owned before the divorce and anything she personally earned after marriage. The former husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. In Quran Allah says,
“And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you excel the others. For men, there is a reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is a reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything.” (V. 4:32)
3. The right to marry someone of her choice:
Islam has given a woman the right to choose her spouse. Similarly, she has been given a right to seek divorce if she is not satisfied with her marriage. In Islam, marriage is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion. Moreover, the concept of forced marriage is prohibited. God says about Himself,
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy…” (Quran 30:21)
4. Inheritance right of woman:
Islam allots women half the share of inheritance available to men if they inherit from the same father, which is a revolutionary concept. Before Islam, women were considered property to inherit by men but, after the rise of Islam, women were given the right to own the property and inherit from relatives.
5. The right to freedom of belief:
Islam has given a woman the right to choose her religion. In the Quran, Allah says,
“There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error.” (2:256)
6. Kind treatment with women:
Islam has honoured women and advised the people to be kind to women and give them respect. The Quran and Holy Prophet PBUH placed great emphasis on the importance of respecting women.
o Importance of women as a mother,
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked twice more, “Then who?” and was given the same response. Only until the fourth time did the Prophet respond, “Then your father.”
o Importance of women as a wife,
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also encouraged men to treat their spouses in the best way,
“The best of you are those who are best (in treatment) to their wives.”
o Importance of women as a daughter,
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,
“Whoever Allah has given two daughters and is kind towards them, they will be a reason for him entering Paradise.”
In this way, Islam has empowered women with so many rights and raised their stature. May Allah blesses and protects women all around the world.