The role of women in Islam
In the midst of the darkness that engulfed the world, the divine revelation echoed in the desert of Arabia with a noble, and universal message to humanity:
“O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women” (4: 1).
A scholar who pondered about this verse stated: “It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that deals with the humanity of the woman from all aspects with such amazing brevity, eloquence, depth, and originality as this divine decree.”
The Quran provides clear-cut evidence that a woman is completely equated with man in the sight of God in terms of her rights and responsibilities.
Many Muslims have adopted the Judeo-Christian ethic which views women as the source of human tragedy because of her alleged biblical role as the temptress who seduced Adam into disobedience to his Lord. By tempting her husband to eat the forbidden fruit, she not only defied Allah, but also caused humankind’s expulsion from Paradise, thus instigating all temporal human suffering.
Woman, according to the Quran, is not blamed for Adam’s first mistake. Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to Allah, both repented, and both were forgiven.
“In result, they both ate of the tree…thus did Adam disobey His Lord, and fell into error. But his Lord chose for him (From His Grace): He turned to him, and gave him guidance.”
Therefore, there is nothing in Islamic doctrine or in the Quran, which holds women responsible for Adam’s expulsion from paradise or the consequent misery of humankind.
The result of such misinterpretation of hadiths and spreading negativity is that entire societies have mistreated their female members despite the fact that Islam has honored and empowered the woman. The woman in Islamic law is equal to her male counterpart. She is as liable for her actions as a male is liable. Her testimony is demanded and valid in court. Her opinions are sought and acted upon.
“And whatever wrong any human being commits rests upon himself alone; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden… For, He it is who has made you inherit the earth, and has raised some of you by degrees above others, so that He might try you by means of what he bestowed upon you”
A woman is given the role of a mother; a role that Islam gives the highest respect to after Allah. People who disobey their mothers are held in God’s eyes as the worst type of sinners. Such is the place of women in the eyes of Allah. She is a “rehmat” or the bringer of fortune and joy in the form of a daughter. And she is a wife; companion to man in all his social, physical and economic endeavours.
A woman is no commodity or slave but an equal to man in all spheres of life. She is in no way compelled to subjugate her will to the will of a man if she has the right stance. Thus, the examples of women supression that we see in Middle Eastern countries are extreme misinterpretations of what Islam actually states about the due place of women in an islamic society. In Islam the basis of submission is not that women are submitting to men, but that men and women together submit to God. So therefore, when you read the passages of the Quran, it becomes very clear that the obedient from among both the believing men and women receive paradise, which is the greatest aim and objective in a Muslim’s life.
The feminist movement of the 60s did much to gain recognition for women’s rights in the United States. But what it failed to do was recognize that men and women are different and women shouldn’t be exactly like men because they aren’t men. Islam recognizes this major point, but what many Muslims fail to understand is that just because men and women are different, this doesn’t mean that men are made to do only “A”, and women are made to do only “B”. There is more overlap in their roles and contributions to society than there is clear-cut specialization. Women belong in certain roles wheras men belong in others but this does not give precedence to one over the other.
We can then say that Islam declares man and woman, as being of the same substance, ethics, feelings, mentality and one is not in a commanding position over the other. This then is the basic belief which if adhered to can eradicate a whole array of issues and problems thatface today.