Women have a very important place in Islamic society. Unlike a number of other religions, Islam holds a woman in high esteem. Her importance as a mother and a wife has been clearly stated by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Prophet said, "Paradise lies at the feet of your mothers". ONce a person aked the Prophet, "Who deserves the best care from me?" The Prophet replied, "Your mother (he repeated this three times), then your father and then your nearest relatives."
In his farewell speech at Arafah in the tenth year of Hijrah, the Prophet said, "Oh people, your wives have certain rights over you and you have certain rights over them. Treat them well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."
The Prophet also said, "The best among you is the one who is best towards his wife."
These sayings clearly prove the important position given to women in Islam. But there are still people, especially in the West, who have misgivings about the status of women in Islam. To these people, the Muslim woman is seen almost as a "prisoner in the four walls of the house", a "non-person", and as someone who has no rights and is living always under the domination of man. These notions are totally wrong, and are based on ignorance rather than knowledge of Islam.
One of the rites of Hajj is a fast walk between As-Safa and Al-marwa, which is observed to remember the event of Hajirah, mother of Prophet Ismail, who ran between these two hills to find water, This is another proof of the importance given to women by Islam.
In order to judge these false ideas held by western people, it would be useful to survey the attitudes to women in different societies in the past.
During the Roman civilization, for example, a woman was regraded as a slave. The Greeks considered her a commodity to be bought and sold. Early Christianity regarded women as temttresses, responsible for the fall of Adam.
In India, the Hindus until recently considered their women worse than death, pests, serpents or even hell. A wife's life ended witht he death of ther husband. In the past, the widow had to jump into the flames of her husband's funeral pyre.
In the preIslamic state of Arabia, a woman was regarded as a cause for grief and unhappiness, and baby grisl were sometimes buried alive after birth.
In France in 587 CE, a meeting was held to study the status of women and to determine whether a woman could truly be considered a human being or not! Henry VIII in England forbade the reading of Bible by women, and throughout the middle ages, the Catholic Church treated women as second class citizens. In the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, male and female students were not given the same rights until 1964. Before 1850, women were not counted as citizens in England, and English women had no personal rights until 1882.
If we keep this picture in mind and look into the position of the women in Islam, we must conclude that Islam liberated women from the dark age of obscurity, 1400 year ago!
Islam is a religion of common sense and is in line with thuman nature. It recognizes the realities of life. This does not mean it has recognised equality of man and woman in every respect. Rather, it has defined their duties in keeping with their different biological make up(2:228). Allah has not made man and woman identical, so it would be against nature to try to have total equality between a man and a woman.
It would destroy the social balance. Society would not prosper, but would instead have insoluble problems such as broken marriages, illegitimate children and the break-up of family life. These problems are already rife in the western society. Schoolgirl pregnancies, an increase in abortions, divorce and many other problems have cropped up because of a permissive outlook and so-called freedom of women.
adapted from: Islam Beliefs and Teachings by Gulam Sarwar