Social Status of Muslim Women
The social status of women changed dramatically with the advent of Islam. Great changes took place in the lives of women. Society was given clear guidance by the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) for the treatment of women in their roles as daughter, wife and mother.
The pre-Islamic practice of killing infant girls at birth for fear of humiliation or poverty was totally abolished by Islam. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah says:
“…Slay not your children for fear of poverty, it is We who provide for you and for them, and approach not foul deeds, whether open or secret…” (6:152)
“… He creates what He pleases, He bestows daughters upon whom He pleases, and He bestows sons on whom He pleases.” (42:50)
After forbidding the killing of children, Islam goes on to teach a father that he must raise his daughters in the same way as his sons. In fact, taking good care of a daughter opens the door to Paradise for a Muslim. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said:
“He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgement attached to me like two fingers of a hand.” (Muslim)
Thus it is clear that Islam raised the status of a daughter from that of being despised and unwanted to being loved and cherished.
Islam changed the role of wife from being little more than a servant to being an equal with her husband on all levels. The Holy Qur’an makes it clear that in marriage women have rights similar to men. It says:
“Of His signs is that He created mates for you of your own kind that you may find peace of mind through them, and He has put love and tenderness between you. In that surely are signs for a people that reflect.” (30:22)
Marriage is a harmonious union of two souls, with the object of marriage to seek comfort from each other. The Holy Qur’an beautifully defines the equality of the relationship with this verse:
“..They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them.” (2:188)
This shows that Islam regards husband and wife equal in providing support, comfort and protection for one another, fitting each other like a garment fits the body. Islam further teaches that the woman be treated with kindness and generosity and be given equal rights in marriage and divorce. Before Islam a woman could not initiate the divorce process even if she was seriously mistreated. Islam permits her to seek divorce if absolutely necessary. (The Islamic Marriage system is discussed in more detail in Chapter 3).
In her role as mother, Muslim woman achieves her highest social status, because the mother is revered in Islam unlike any other individual. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly directs Muslims to care for their parents, especially the mother. Allah says:
“And We have enjoined man to be good to his parents; his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years….” (31:15)
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) emphasized the love and respect due to the mother by saying:
“Paradise lies at the feet of the mother.”
In another hadith, he is reported to have stated when asked to whom a man should be kind: “to your mother.” When asked a second time, again said: “to your mother.” He was asked a third time, again the reply was: “your mother.” Only upon being asked a fourth time did he reply: “your father.” Thus he emphasized three times how important it is for a Muslim to take of his/her mother and to give full consideration and respect to her needs and wishes.