Women in Islam

Girl Reciting the Qur'ān (Kuran Okuyan Kız), an 1880 painting by the Ottoman polymath Osman Hamdi Bey, whose works often showed women engaged in educational activities

The experiences of Muslim women vary widely between and within different societies. At the same time, their adherence to Islam is a shared factor that affects their lives to a varying degree and gives them a common identity that may serve to bridge the wide cultural, social, and economic differences between them.


  • I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches Monogamy. In Al-Quran the law about woman is more just and liberal. It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England, has recognized the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times.
    • Annie Besant, The Life and Teachings of Muhammad, Madras, 1932, pp. 25, 26.
  • That his (Muhammad's) reforms enhanced the status of women in general is universally admitted.
    • Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb, Mohammedanism, London, 1953, p. 33.
  • The so-called Muslim women’s movement is predicated on the idea that Muslim men, not Islam, have been responsible for the suppression of women’s rights. For this reason, Muslim feminists throughout the world are advocating a return to the society Muhammad originally envisioned for his followers. Despite differences in culture, nationalities, and beliefs, these women believe that the lesson to be learned from Muhammad in Medina is that Islam is above all an egalitarian religion. Their Medina is a society in which Muhammad designated women like Umm Waraqa as spiritual guides for the Ummah; in which the Prophet himself was sometimes publicly rebuked by his wives; in which women prayed and fought alongside the men; in which women like Aisha and Umm Salamah acted not only as religious but also as political—and on at least one occasion military—leaders; and in which the call to gather for prayer, bellowed from the rooftop of Muhammad’s house, brought men and women together to kneel side by side and be blessed as a single undivided community.
    • Reza Aslan, (2005). No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam., p.136
  • Islam taught me that men and women are equal in the eyes of God. It is this message of Islam that has empowered me, has strengthened me, and has emboldened me. The Prophet’s wife, Bibi Khadija, was a rich and successful businesswoman. Throughout the Holy Koran, there is example after example of women as leaders, women being respected, women as equals. It is this tradition of Islam that has allowed me to battle for political and human rights, and strengthens me today.
  • In Islam, men and women are moral equals in God's sight and are expected to fulfill the same duties of worship, prayer, faith, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam generally improved the status of women compared to earlier Arab cultures, prohibiting female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood. Islamic law emphasizes the contractual nature of marriage, requiring that a dowry be paid to the woman rather than to her family, and guaranteeing women's rights of inheritance and to own and manage property. Women were also granted the right to live in the matrimonial home and receive financial maintainance during marriage and a waiting period following death and divorce.
  • The emancipation of women, more than any other single issue, is the touchstone of difference between modernization and westernization. The emancipation of women is westernization; both for traditional conservatives and radical fundamentalists it is neither necessary nor useful but noxious, a betrayal of true Islamic values.
  • One cannot but ponder the question: What if the Arabs had been Christians? To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Muhammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing. Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity.
  • Muslims have a very bad attitude to homosexuality, they're very intolerant … And women. For them women are second class citizens. What we are witnessing now is a clash of civilisations, not just between states but within them.
  • The real place of women is the house and she has been exempted from outdoor duties…She has however been allowed to go out of the house to fulfil her genuine needs, but whilst going out she must observe complete modesty. Neither should she wear glamorous clothes and attract attention, nor should she cherish the desire to display the charms of the face and the hand, nor should she walk in a manner which may attract attention of others. Moreover she should not speak to them without necessity, and if she has to speak she should not speak in a sweet and soft voice.
    • Abul A'la Maududi (Muslim leader and founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami). Purdah and the status of Women in Islam, 1991, p. 140, Taj Company Ltd, Lahore, Pakistan.
  • [Women in Islamic countries] are exposed to male domination as a rule rather than as an exception... If anyone protests... as I have done, you are sure to be branded as a witch... What I demand is freedom for women from male domination and a uniform code... It that can be construed as blasphemy, I cannot help it.
    • Taslima Nasrin. Quoted from Ram Swarup, Woman in Islam, 2000
  • ‘For the Quran says,’ declare the ulema of Deoband settling a matter to which we shall soon turn, ‘the husband is the master.’ Apologists by contrast never tire of telling us that no religion has given as high a place to women as Islam, that no body of law has given them as many rights as the shariah. Yes, at the time of marriage, a woman is given mehr which in theory is hers: in fact, it is customary to have the bride renounce it on the nuptial night itself, and, as we shall see, for this there is sanction from Allah Himself; and the word itself for dower— ujoor— is one at which humanists, to say nothing of feminists, will wince—for it means the hire paid for use of the woman. Yes, a daughter is entitled to a share in the estate of the father, but it is to be half that of a son. Yes, a woman’s evidence can be taken into account, but it is to count for one-half of that of a man. And so on. These rules of shariah are not fortuitous. They follow from the view of women which is set out in the Quran and Hadis— that they are to be second to men, that their function is to obey husbands and satisfy them in every particular, that they are deficient mentally, that they are ungrateful, that a woman advancing is the devil, that a woman receding is the devil, that they shall form the majority in Hell...
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The education of women, in particular their being awakened to new values, their being trained for new professions, their being awakened to their rights—all this is anathema; it is held to be injurious to them, in fact it is declared to be the way to disrupting society and undermining Islam.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • ‘The parents who send their daughters to college are the enemies of their daughters, not their friends,’ the Fatawa-i-Rahimiyyah declares, citing authorities to the effect that the friend is one who prepares one for the Hereafter, though doing so may inflict worldly loss. ‘There is no doubt,’ it declares, ‘that a collegiate girl becomes extremely free, purdahless, immodest and shameless. This is the general consequence of English education and college atmosphere.’ And ‘A girl who loses modesty loses everything,’ it says, citing the Hadis, ‘Modesty and faith—they are inseparable companions; when either of them is taken away, the other too goes away.’
    • Fatawa-i-Rahimiyyah quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • "...you know, what Atiya Begum (Fyzee) of Bombay did at Educational Conference at Aligarh, she with other Muslimah cared nothing for..strong protest but came up openly and got up on the dais unveiled and delivered a strong speech demanding equal rights with men to go about on God's earth freely and openly...Another lady also delivered a strong speech....This movement and poor ...secretary of the conference did his best to send those suffragettes back into their place screened up for them. Failing in his efforts he left the hall himself! This movement among our ladies of the younger generation is very strong and men will have to vie way in the end. Turkish women and Egyptians have led the way and I think after a time ..things must settle down and parda will become ancient history..."


The Quran on Wikisource
  • Your wives are your tillage: go in unto your tillage in what manner soever you will.
    • (II. 223).
  • Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.
  • And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things.
  • Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.
  • Surah xxiv. 81:— "Speak to the believing women that they train their eyes, and observe continence; and that they display not their ornaments, wept those which are external; and that they throw their veils over their bosoms, and display not their ornaments, except to their husbands or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or then- husbands' Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male domestics who have no natural force, or to children who note not women's nakedness. And let them not strike their feet together, so as to discover their hidden ornaments. (See Isaiah iii. 16.) And be ye all turned to God, O ye Believers! That it may be well with you"
    • Quran, quoted from T.P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam
  • Surah lx. 10-12:—"O Believers! when believing women come over to you as refugees (Muhajirs), then make trial of them. God best knoweth their faith; but if ye have also ascertained their faith, let them not go beck to the infidels; they are not lawful for them, nor are the unbelievers lawful for these women. But give them back what they have spent for their dowers. No crime shall it be in you to marry them, provided ye give them their dowers. Do not retain any right in the infidel women, but demand back what you have spent for their dowers, and let the unbelievers demand back what they have spent for their wives. This is the ordinance of God which He ordaineth among you: and God is Knowing, Wise. And if any of your wives escape from you to the Infidels from whom ye afterwards take any spoil, then give to those whose wives shall have fled away, the like of what they shall have spent for their dowers; and fear God in whom ye believe. "O Prophet! when believing women come so thee, and pledge themselves that they will not associate aught with God, and that they will not steal or commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor bring scandalous charges, nor disobey thee in what is right, then plight thou thy faith to them, and ask pardon for them of God: for God Is Indulgent. Merciful!"
    • Quran, quoted from T.P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam
  • Surah iv, 1:-"O Men! fear your Lord, who hath created you of one man (nafs, soul), and of him treated his wife, and from these twain hath spread abroad so many men and women. And fear ye God, in whose name ye ask mutual favours—and reverence the wombs that bare you. Verily is God watching you!
    • Quran, quoted from T.P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam
  • Surah xxiv. 4—9:-"They who defame virtuous women, and bring not four witnesses, scourge them with fourscore stripes, and receive ye not their testimony for ever, for these are perverse persons.--- "Save those who afterwards repent and live virtuously; for truly God is Lenient, Merciful! "And they who shall accuse their wives, and have no witnesses but themselves, the testimony of each of them shall be a testimony by God four times repeated, that he is indeed of them that speak the truth. "And the fifth time that the malison of God be upon him, if he be of them that lie. "But it shall, avert the chastisement from her if she testify a testimony tour times repeated, by God, that he is of them that lie; "And a fifth time to call down the wrath of God on her, if he have spoken the truth."
    • Quran, quoted from T.P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam
  • O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them - except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good.
    • Quran, (4:19)


Ahadith on Wikisource
  • Take my advice with regard to women: Act kindly towards women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of a rib is its uppermost. If you attempt to straighten it; you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain crooked; so act kindly toward women.
  • O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have right over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.
  • On 'Id ul Fitr or 'Id ul Adha Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) went out to the Musalla. After finishing the prayer, he delivered the sermon and ordered the people to give alms. He said, "O people! Give alms." Then he went towards the women and said. "O women! Give alms, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were you (women)." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for it?" He replied, "O women! You curse frequently, and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. O women, some of you can lead a cautious wiseman astray." Then he left. And when he reached his house, Zainab, the wife of Ibn Mas`ud, came and asked permission to enter It was said, "O Allah's Apostle! It is Zainab." He asked, 'Which Zainab?" The reply was that she was the wife of Ibn Mas'ud. He said, "Yes, allow her to enter." And she was admitted. Then she said, "O Prophet of Allah! Today you ordered people to give alms and I had an ornament and intended to give it as alms, but Ibn Mas`ud said that he and his children deserved it more than anybody else." The Prophet replied, "Ibn Mas`ud had spoken the truth. Your husband and your children had more right to it than anybody else."
    • Muhammad narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri, in Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 541
  • A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: I have found a woman of rank and beauty, but she does not give birth to children. Should I marry her? He said: No. He came again to him, but he prohibited him. He came to him third time, and he (the Prophet) said: Marry women who are loving and very prolific, for I shall outnumber the peoples by you.
    • Muhammad narrated Ma'qil ibn Yasar, in Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2045
  • It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah b. Umar that the Messenger of Allah observed: O womenfolk, you should give charity and ask much forgiveness for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell. A wise lady among them said: Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our folk is in bulk in Hell? Upon this the Holy Prophet observed: You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you. Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense and with religion? He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense, and you spend some nights (and days) in which you do not offer prayer and in the month of Ramadan (during the days) you do not observe fast, that is a failing in religion. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Abu Tahir with this chain of transmitters.
    • Muhammad Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0142
  • The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind."
    • Muhammad narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri, in Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826
  • When I got married, Allah's Apostle said to me, "What type of lady have you married?" I replied, "I have married a matron' He said, "Why, don't you have a liking for the virgins and for fondling them?" Jabir also said: Allah's Apostle said, "Why didn't you marry a young girl so that you might play with her and she with you?
    • Muhammad narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah, in Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 17
  • "I have not left any calamity more detrimental to mankind than women."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "A bad omen is found in a woman, a house, or a horse.
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "The best women are those that ride on camels, and the virtuous women of the Quraish are these who are affectionate to young children and who are most careful of their husband's property."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "The world and all things in it are valuable: but more valuable than all is a virtuous woman."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Look to your actions and abstain from the world and from women, for verily the first sin which the children of Israel committed was on account of women."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "God will reward the Muslim who, having beheld the beauties of a woman, shuts his eyes."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Do not visit the houses of men when they are absent from their homes, for the devil circulates within you like the blood in your veins. It was said, 'O Prophet, in your veins also?' He replied, 'My veins also. But God has given me power over the devil and I am free from wickedness.'"
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Two women must not sit together, because the one may describe the other to her husband, so that you might say the husband had seen her himself."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Do not follow up one look at a woman with another, for verily the first look is causable, but the next is unlawful."
    • The Teaching of Muhammad on women, as given in the Traditions, quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.

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