The Status of Women in the Quran

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

The Status of Women in the Quran

The Status of Women in the Quran

Questions often arise about the status of woman in Islam, so I have returned to the traditional sources of Islam, including the books of the scholars and Islamic history. One of the two sexes that God [swt] has honoured over all creatures is the female. The Qur’an declares, ‘And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.’ [Al-Isra, 17:70]

Undoubtedly, this honour includes men and women. A man is honoured because he is a human as a woman is honoured because she is a human. God [swt] honours women and does not deprive them of their rights. He does not burden women beyond their abilities because He is their Creator and knows best about their rights and responsibilities. The Qur’an declares, ‘Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?’ [Al-Mulk, 67:14]

The issue of justice towards women should be discussed comprehensively from all sides and not simply from the perspective of women’s rights. At the same time, women’s responsibilities should be discussed, because God [swt] does not create people to give them rights without imposing duties upon them. The Qur’an says, ‘Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?’ [Al-Mu’minun, 23:115]

Moreover, there are truths [facts] in the Qur’an which every Muslim should remember. The Qur’an declares, ‘…And your Lord does injustice to no one.’ [Al-Kahf, 18:49] And, it also declares, ‘God purifies whom He wills, and injustice is not done to them.’ [An-Nisa, 4:49] And, ‘…God is not ever unjust to [His] servants.’ [Al-Hajj, 22:10] And, ‘…And God would not have wronged them, but it was they who were wronging themselves...’ [Al-’Ankabut, 29:40] And, ‘Indeed, God does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom's weight.’ [An-Nisa 4:40] And it says, ‘…and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.’ [An-Nisa 4:124] And, ‘It is not God who wronged them, but they wronged themselves.’ [At-Taubah, 9:70]

These, and other verses, confirm important truths that every Muslim must believe. God’s justice is absolute and for everyone, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, male or female. God [swt] does not measure things according to human scales but with a divine scale, and it is with this that He judges the actions of people.

These days, women’s rights under Islamic law have become a controversial issue for those who do not understand either women or Islam. For these reasons, I was compelled to write a book which deals with Muslim women according to the Shari’ah [Islamic law] throughout Islamic history. This book includes three parts:

1. Women in the Textual Sources of Islam
2. Women in Islamic Jurisprudence [Fiqh]
3. Women in Islamic History

1. Women in the Textual Sources of Islam: [the Qur’an and Sunnah]

The Qur’an and the Sunnah emphasize protecting women, safeguarding their rights, and being kind to them, because they are often vulnerable and sensitive. The following examples are from the Qur’an and the Sunnah:

1.1. Women in the Qur’an
There are many verses in the Qur’an which demonstrate equality between men and women; for example, in the act of creation. The Qur’an declares, ‘O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs…’ [An-Nisa’, 4:1] And, ‘And it is He who produced you from one soul and [gave you] a place of dwelling and of storage. We have detailed the signs for a people who understand.’ [Al-An’am, 6:98] And, ‘It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her.’ [Al-A’raf, 7:189] And, ‘He created you from one soul. Then He made from it its mate …’ [Az-Zumar, 39:6]

Men and women are equal in their acts of worship and in performing their Islamic obligations. God [swt] does not prefer one sex over the other or one race over another. The Qur’an states this clearly, ‘O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.’ [Al-Hujurat, 49:13]

Men and women, and Muslims and non-Muslims are all equal in terms of their servitude to the Creator. The Qur’an states, ‘There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant.’ [Maryam, 19:93]

The Qur’an declares that men and women are equal in terms of reward and punishment; it states, ‘Whoever does an evil deed will not be recompensed except by the like thereof; but whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – those will enter Paradise, being given provision therein without account.’. [Ghafir, 40:40] And, the Qur’an states, ‘And their Lord responded to them, "Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another.’ [Ala-‘Imran, 3:195] And, it declares, ‘And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.’ [An-Nisa, 4:124] And, ‘Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.’ [An-Nahl, 16:97]

The Qur’an emphasizes equality between both of them regarding their rights and duties. ‘…And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable....’ [Al-Baqarah, 2:228] And, ‘For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share. [An-Nisa, 4:7]

The Qur’an rejects what the pre-Islamic Arabs used to do; it states, ‘And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief. He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide.’ [An-Nahl, 16:58-59]

These texts not only emphasize equality regarding Islamic duties, rights and obligations, but also recommend that Muslims deal with women in a gentle, noble and kindly way. The Qur’an says, ‘…live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them - perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.’ [An-Nisa, 4:19] And, ‘…give them [a gift of] compensation – the wealthy according to his capability and the poor according to his capability – a provision according to what is acceptable, a duty upon the doers of good.’ [Al-Baqarah, 2:236]

The Qur’an says, ‘Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them. And if they should be pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth. And if they breastfeed for you, then give them their payment and confer among yourselves in the acceptable way; …’ [Al-Talaq, 65:6]

It also states, ‘…[provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property,…’ [An-Nisa, 4:24] And declares, ‘…give them from the wealth of God which He has given you.…’ [An-Nur, 24:33]

And, it says, ‘…But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, God is ever Exalted and Grand.’ [An-Nisa, 4:34] And, ‘O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them.’ [An-Nisa, 4:19]

The Qur’an states,‘…Then, either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with good treatment.’ [Al-Baqarah, 2:229]


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