I often have many people quiz me and ask the question: does Islam discriminate women. That then leads to a long conversation and in the end their misconception of women and Islam is addressed.
A Scottish woman who had recently embraced Islam told me that a non-Muslim friend of hers had invited her for dinner in order to introduce her to her fiancé. There was a conversation about Islam, and the Muslim sister spoke about how Islam does not discriminate against women and that it considers men and women as equals. Her friend asked her, “Well if Islam doesn’t discriminate against women, then how come you have to cover your hair, while men are not required to do so? The Muslim woman looked at her friend’s fiancé who happened to be completely bald. I am not sure -God only knows- if he was naturally bald or whether he had shaved his head off intentionally like many young men do nowadays, in order to emulate some Brazilian football players and other celebrities. Anyway, the Muslim woman asked her friend, “What do you think of John? Do you find him attractive? Her friend, of course, answered that she did indeed find him attractive. So the Muslim woman went on, saying, “So you find him attractive although he is completely bald? Again her friend answered that his baldness made no difference to her. The Muslim woman then turned to John and asked him to answer her next question honestly. She said, “If Susan had been completely bald, would you still have asked her to marry you?” John fell completely silent. So the Muslim woman said, “See, this shows that a woman’s hair is different from a man’s hair. Its contribution to appeal is totally different.” So the fact is, that Islam equates between men and women, and considers them equal, yet not identical. This is because the physical and psychological makeup of a man is different from that of a woman.
As a Muslim man, who is my role-model, according to the Quran?
It is prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as God said in the Quran: “Indeed, in the messenger of Allah, is the most beautiful example for those who believe in God and the final Day.” (Quran 33:21) but who else?… do I, as a Muslim man, have any other role-models ?
According to the word of God, in the Quran, there are two women who are the role-models for all Muslim men and women, namely, Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh) and Asiya, who was the wife of Pharaoh. It says “Allah sets forth an example to those who believe, in the wife of Pharaoh who said, ‘Lord, build me a house near You in Paradise. Save me from Pharaoh and his actions; save me from the evildoers,’ and Mary, daughter of _Imran. She guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her from Our spirit. She accepted the truth of her Lord’s words and Scriptures: she was truly devout.”
However, I don’t want to portray Islam as a religion that discriminates against men. Islam is unbiased; it views men and women as equals in terms of their belief and deeds. As God said in the Quran: “The believers, men and women are protectors of one another” (Quran 9:71) Going back to the verses previously mentioned, describe two of the greatest women who ever lived; two women who are held in high-esteem in Islam, God also mentions two other women in the verse previous to these, when He gives an example of disbelievers whether they be men or women;
The verse says : “ God has given examples of disbelievers: the wives of Noah and Lot who married two of Our righteous servants but betrayed them. Their husbands could not help them against God: it was said, ‘Both of you enter the Fire with the others.’
This example goes to show that Islam is unbiased in dealing with individuals. It shows that being related to or having connections with someone who is respected, does not make one immune to punishment, nor grant any benefits.
Islam is a revolution.
It did not only come to challenge religious beliefs, but also to change the mindset of people in how they dealt with others; be they women or people of other ethnicities. It wasn’t easy for Arab men to accept in that time females as role-models, not to mention that neither one of those female role models were even Arabs! One being an Israelite (Mary) and the other being a Copt (the wife of Pharaoh). Arab men at that time were extremely misogynistic and xenophobic. Islam came to eradicate such ignorance.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, women were mistreated and oppressed, just as women throughout the world, in many cultures were being mistreated and oppressed. The Romans, Greeks, Persians, and many others were guilty of this crime. In the days before Islam, Arabs believed the birth of a female child to be a bad omen. In fact, it was so humiliating to the Arabs to have a baby girl, that they would sometimes bury their female daughters alive. However, the revelation of the Quran was the single, defining factor that resulted in a revolutionary change in the way that women were regarded and, more significantly, how they were treated. In a matter of only a few years, women went from being second-class citizens, to being political consultants of the leader of the Muslim nation; Lady Umm Salama, gave consultancy on a very crucial matter, which the prophet applied, and which turned out to be a very successful solution.
In the time of the prophet, women were granted the right to vote, 14 centuries prior to the women’s suffrage movement, which finally resulted in women being able to vote in the United States in 1920, in France in 1945, and in Switzerland in 1970. Not only did Islam grant this right to women more than 1400 years before women in the West, but Muslim women did not have to fight, beg, or be imprisoned for that right, as the suffragettes did for more than 100 years before finally being granted the vote.
> Read Part 2