The Status of Women in Islam
The status of women in Islam is an issue that is pertinent in present times; both due to the divergence of cultural practices in some of the Muslim countries* from the Islamic perspective and the erroneous perception in the West, that Islam subjugates womenfolk.
A dispassionate study of the primary sources of Islam, along with an analysis of the position of women in societies where Islam was implemented, actually proves that for women Islam is a special blessing.
“Prior to Islam,” write the authors of The Cultural Atlas of Islam, “a woman was regarded by her parents as a threat to family honour and hence worthy of burial alive at infancy. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought, sold and inherited. From this position of inferiority and legal incapacity, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in family and society.”
The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to those of men but they are not necessarily identical. This difference is understandable because men and women are different, in their physiological and psychological make-up. With this distinction in mind, there is no room for a Muslim to imagine that women are inferior to men. Thus it is perhaps more apt to refer to the Islamic approach on gender relations, as one of “equity” rather than the commonly used word “equality”, which could be misunderstood to mean equality in every minute aspect of life, rather than overall equality.
* Unfortunately, an “Islamic country,” does not necessarily mean that the country’s government or the people are following Islamic law (Shari’a)