Islam was revealed at a time when many people throughout the world denied the humanity of women. Whether seen as sub-human or not, women were still considered a thing created for the humble service of men.
Islam returned the rights to women that had been eroded away by a decadent society.
The woman’s dignity and humanity were restored, making her status equal to that of man. Female infanticide was outlawed and rights were given to women in regards to inheritance which did not exist previously. Among other things, women now had the right to have personal possessions and therefore have their own money and wealth (with no obligation to spend upon their families), the right to agree to marriage (her consent is obligatory), and then keep her maiden name after marriage. They now had the right to divorce, to education, to vote; the rights are many and put women not only on an equal pedestal, but elevated their status above that of men in many circumstances:
Abu Hurairah related that a man came to the prophet Muhammad and asked, “O messenger of Allah, which person of all the people is best entitled to kind treatment and good companionship from me?” He answered, “Your mother.” The man asked, “And then?” He said, “Your mother.”
“And after her?” He said, “Your mother.” “And after her?” The prophet said, “Your father.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Many rights were only furnished to women recently in the West; a clear example of this is where the right to own property, the right to execute her own will and the right to divorce only came into law in the 19th century.
Further, due to cultural misguidance seen in some societies outside of the Muslim world, the birth of a daughter is still viewed as a burden. Female infanticide is still common through abortion, and leaves a large disparity between the numbers of men and women within those communities.
The Islamic view on the status of women can be summarised in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“Their Lord responded to them: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another…’ ” (Qur’an 3: 195)
Female infanticide was outlawed and rights were given to women in regards to inheritance which did not exist previously.
Author : Abdullah Bin Zaid Al-Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center, Qatar