How Islam Honored Women

The wooden anaza (outdoor mihrab) and fountain at the courtyard entrance to the prayer hall at Al-Karaouine University (Al-Qarawiyyin) in the city of Fes, Morocco. It was founded as a mosque by Fatima al-Fihri in 857–859 CE and subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers. UNESCO and the Guinness World Records, cite al-Qarawiyyin as the oldest continually operating higher learning institution in the world (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Islam has always been the center of debate regarding women rights. There is a general notion prevailing around the world that Islam deprives women of their basic rights. Critics had their say, “Muslims often look down on their women and misogyny dominates their culture.” It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Muslims as what they learnt from the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam regarding the status of woman in society was quite opposite of the perception prevailing in today’s world.

Dating back to the advent of Islam, it was the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam who advocated for women’s right like a ray of lamp in the era of darkness. In a society where having no access to education for women was mainstream, the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam stood up for their education. His wife Hazrat Ayesha Radiallahu Anha was amongst the most highly educated persons of the society. She was one of the most learned women of her time, and her knowledge of Quran, Hadith, Medicine, and Arabic history surpassed the knowledge of most of Muslim men of her times. She was the one of few persons to narrate more than 2,000 hadith.

It was due to the educational rights of women advocated by the Holy Prophet that Fatima al-Fihri went on to establish the world’s first university: University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. Established in the year 859, the University of Al-Qarawiyyin was the first degree-granting University. Rufaida al Aslamia Radiallahu Anha was the first female nurse of Islam who made immense contribution in the field of science and medicine during the early days of Islam. Khawla bint al-Azwar Radiallahu Anha and Nusaybah bint Ka’ab Radiallahu Anha were among many Muslim female warriors who were renowned for their valour in Arab. Education was made mandatory for every Muslims irrespective of gender in the society. The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said, “A father gives him child nothing better than a good education.” 1Jami At-tirmidhi 4977 This statement refers to both sons and daughters. No community can progress where women lag far behind in term of education. We all know the role of a mother in bringing up her child and to compromise on her education is like compromising on the future of the society.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam forbade female infanticide and made daughters a pride of family by saying, “Lucky is the woman whose first child is a daughter.” 2Al- Kafi, Volume 2, Page 6 He preached kindness and good conduct in bringing up daughters. The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said, “If anyone has a female child and doesn’t bury her alive, or slight her, or prefer him male children to her, Allah will bring him into paradise.” 3Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957 He further said, “Whoever has three daughters and accomodates them, show mercy toward them, and supports them. Paradise is definitely guaranteed for him.” 4Jami At-tirmidhi 1916 Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wassalam had deep love and affection for his daughter, Hazrat Fatima Radiallahu Anha. He raised her with utmost care. He would say that Fatima is a part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry. When she would enter the house, he would stand up for her, kiss her hands and make her sit in his place. His love for her daughter was an inspiration for the world to follow and raise them with the same affection as the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam did. At a time, when women had no right to inherit the property of their ancestors, Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam made it mandatory for a household to have a women’s share in the property. Muslim women of the Arab society were privileged thereafter, and some of them became great business women.

At a time, when women were not allowed to even marry someone of their own choice; the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam made forced marriage invalid. He further went on to instruct the men of the society to treat women well, and said, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.” 5Jami At-tirmidhi 1162  The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam would himself cook and put the morsel in the mouth of Hazrat Ayesha Radiallahu Anha out of pure love. The Holy Quran says, “And of his signs is that he created you for you from yourself mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and he placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who gave thought.” 6The Holy Quran, Chapter 30, Verse 21 He was the one who dignified the status of mothers. Once a man approached him and asked, “Who among the people is most deserving of my good treatment?” The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam replied, “Your mother” thrice. 7Sahih Muslim 2548 The Holy Quran says, “And we have enjoined upon man to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship. Their period of weaning and gestation is thirty months. In time when child reaches their prime at the age of forty, they pray, My Lord! Inspire me to always be thankful for your favors which you blessed me and my parents with, and to do good deeds that please you.” 8The Holy Quran, Chapter 46, Verse 15

Knowledge is the water that extinguishes the fire of ignorance. The Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam spent his entire life advocating for the rights of women. It’s crystal clear what values did the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam stood for, and what path he paved for the world to look up to.

Ali Ashhar is a poet, author and content writer from Jaunpur, India. Mirror of Emotions is his debut poetry collection that was released internationally. He writes for literary journals and newspapers. His poems and articles are published in The Muslim Vibe, Good Morning Kashmir, My Voice Canada, Indian Periodical, Indian Review, Bosphorus Review of Books and Eve Poetry Magazine. 


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