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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Status of Women in Islam

The position of women in society has often been the subject of much debate. Islam’s
position regarding this has usually been presented to the Western reader with little objectivity.
This paper is intended to provide a brief and accurate explanation of the Islamic stance, drawing
upon the authentic sources of the Qur’an (God’s final revelation) and Hadeeth (sayings, actions
and approvals of Prophet Muhammad, (P).
The paper begins with a look at the position of women in pre-Islamic societies. It then
focuses on some major questions: what does Islam teach   regarding the position of women in
society? How does this stance differ from,or resemble, the position of women in the era in
which Islam was revealed? Finally, how does this compare with the rights gained by women in
recent decades?
In order to assess if Islam made any notable contribution to the restoration of woman’s
rights, it may be helpful to briefly review how women were treated in former faiths and cultures,
especially those which preceded Islam. (Pre-610 C.E.).1
Describing the status of Indian women, the Encyclopaedia Brittanica states: “In India,
subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night women must be held by their protectors in a
state of dependence says Manu.  The  rule of inhertance was agnatic, that is, descent traced
through males to the exclusion of females” 2
And according to the Hindu scripture, a good wife is described as “... a woman whose
mind, body and speech are kept in subjection; acquires high renown in this world and, in the
next, retains the same abode as her husband.”3
In Athens, women were not better off than Indian or Roman women:
“Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male - to their father, to their brother or
to some of their male kin.”4  Also, a Greek woman had no right to consent to marriage because:
“...she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her
husband and her lord, even though he were a stranger to her.” 5

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