The Status of Women in Islam

Oppressed, inferior, and unequal – for many people, these are the first words that come to mind when thinking about women in Islam. These stereotypes confuse Islam with cultural practices and fail to recognize that Islam has empowered women with the most progressive rights since the 7th century. In Islam, women are not inferior or unequal to men. This article presents the actual teachings of Islam regarding the rights, roles, and responsibilities of men towards women ― be she be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a widow et al.

In Islam, women are not obligated to earn or spend any money on housing, food, or general expenses. If a woman is married, her husband must fully support her financially and if she’s not married, that responsibility belongs to her closest male relative (father, brother, uncle, etc). She also has the right to work and spend the money she earns on herself as she wishes. She has no obligation to share her money with her husband or any other family members, although she may choose to do so out of good will.

Once the above is distinct and clear it is easy to understand why Islam gives a lot of emphasis to a man, the leader of the house, to do certain things in a certain way. Please note for the sake of brevity, this post covers a select few verses from The Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For more you may want to check out this video and this one too.

The status of a wife in Islam

We encourage you to read our exclusive post on The Ideal Muslim Husband. This section covers a the summary of several guidance from The Quran and The Prophet (pbuh). The article on the ideal Muslim husband elaborates a man's obligation towards his wife in greater detail.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
The best of you is the one who is best to his wife. ~ Tirmidhi 278 | Ibn Majah 9/2053

The Prophet (pbuh) said, 
O people! I command you to treat women kindly! ~ Bukhari 331 | Muslim 14687

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
You will be rewarded for whatever you spend for Allah's sake, even if it were a morsel which you put in your wife's mouth. ~ Bukhari 2/49

The Prophet (pbuh) never hit his wives !!

The Quran commands,
Do not treat women with harshness... and live with them honorably. ~ Quran 4:19

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
... there is no comfort in this world better than a righteous wife. ~ Ibn Majah 3/9/1855 | Nasai 26/37

In Islam, to lie is haram (forbidden), but to lie in order to please one's wife is allowed. 

The status of a mother in Islam

Between parents, the status of mother in Islam is higher as compared to the father. This is clear from the following Hadith. A man came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and said: 
"O Messenger of Allah, who from amongst mankind warrants the best companionship from me?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said then who is next. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Your mother." The man asked again, then who is next. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Your mother." The man asked further and only then did the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Your father." ~ Bukhari 5971 & Muslim 7.2

Paradise lies under the feet of the mother: A companion of the Prophet came and said
"O Messenger of Allah! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice." He said: "Do you have a mother?" He said: "Yes." He said: "Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet." ~ Ibn Majah 25/20

Read our exclusive post on the status of parents in Islam.

Inheritance in Islam is for women too... 

Irrespective who the woman in Islam is (a mother, wife, sister, daughter etc.) she has the right to inherit. 
There is a share for men and a share for women from what parents and relatives leave behind, whether the property be small or large.... ~ Quran 4:7

The duties of a man towards women in Islam

The Quran says,
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Quran 4:34

 Read our exclusive post on The Ideal Muslim Husband ...

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
The best of you is he who is best to his family. ~ Tirmidhi 3252

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
Treat women nicely, for a women is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion. So if you should try to straighten it, it will break. But if you leave it as it is, it will remain curved. So treat women nicely. ~ Bukhari 67/120 

Care for daughters in Islam

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
If anyone cares for 3 daughters, educates them, shows kindness to them and marries them, he will go to Paradise." A man asked, "O Messenger of Allah, Does this apply to two also?" He (pbuh) said, "Even for two." ~ Abu Dawud 43/375

Care for sisters in Islam

The Prophet (pbuh) said,
Whoever has three daughters, or three sisters, or two daughters, or two sisters and he keeps good company with them and fears Allah regarding them, then Paradise is for him." ~ Tirmidhi 27/22

In another narration it is said that a woman came to The Prophet (pbuh) and said,
O Messenger of Allah, my sister has died and she owed a fast of two consecutive months.’ He (pbuh) said: ‘Do you not think that if your sister owed a debt, you would pay it off for her?’ She said: ‘Of course.’ He (pbuh) said: ‘The right of Allah is greater.'" ~ Ibn Majah 1/7/1758

The Sharia commands a man should give dowry to his wife

The Quran is clear is stating that the groom should give dowry to his bride, not the other way round. Not only the man should give Mahr (dowry) to the woman but he MUST give it with a good heart. In addition nowhere the Quran states a man should demand dowry from bride's family. To go against the Quran is to go against Allah!
Give women their dowry with a good heart. ~ Quran 4:4

The Sharia recommends the marriage should have least expense

That makes it easier for the bride's father/family to host marriage. Takes a lot of burden away from the bride's family. Hence The Prophet (pbuh) said,
The most blessed marriage is the one with the least expenses. ~ Mishkat al-Masabih

Right of an infant or a fetus 

Despite the social acceptance of female infanticide among some Arabian tribes (before Islam was fully established), Quran forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like any other murder.

"And when the female (infant) buried alive - is questioned, for what crime she was killed." ~ Quran 81:8-9

In another instance Quran says,
"And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision." ~ Quran 16:58-59

Caring for a widow in Islam

The Prophet (pbuh),
The one who strives to sponsor a widow or a poort person is like the one who strives in Jihad in the cause of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. ~ Nasai 3/23/2578

Orphan girl (or a boy) in Islam

Acquiring wealth of an orphan is strictly forbidden in Islam.

Finally, the supreme guidance for men and women in The Quran

The Quran warns,
It is not for a believer, man or woman, to exercise their choice in their affairs, when Allah and His Messenger (Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) have decided on a matter. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger  has certainly strayed into clear error. ~ Quran 33:36

Annie Besant once said, "I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches monogamy. In Al Quran the law about woman is juster and more liberal. It is only twenty years that Christian England has recognized the right of women to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times." See #8 here

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