Question 7: What are some of the rights given to women in Islam?
The Qur’an places men and women on a similar relationship before God, and promises both the final goal of paradise for those who believe and do right (see Qur’an 3:195; 4:124; 16:19; 40:40).
The Qur’an also speaks of similarity in terms of creation. God tells us that He created a single soul and from it its mate, then He made countless men and women from those two (see Qur’an 4:1). The Qur’an does not contain the belief that the man alone is created in the image of God.
Because of this fundamental similarity between men and women, the Qur’an declares that women have rights similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable (see Qur’an 2:228).
In a time when women were devalued and female infants were buried alive, the Qur’an raised the value of women and prohibited female infanticide. Due to the Qur’an, this practice was abolished, but in recent times advances in the science of genetic selection has encouraged some unbelievers to practice a modern form of female infanticide.
The Qur’an also abolished the practice whereby inheritance went to only the oldest male heir. Instead, a woman can inherit from her father, her husband, and her childless brother (see Qur’an 4:7, 32, 176).
In Islam when a woman gets married she does not surrender her maiden name, but maintains her distinct identity. Some Muslim women have adopted the surnames of their husbands, but this is due to cultural influence, not Islam.
In a Muslim marriage the groom gives a dowry to the bride, not to her father. This becomes her private property to keep or spend, and is not subject to the dictates of her male relatives. Any money she earns or receives is similarly her very own.
Under Islamic Law a woman cannot be married without her consent. She has final approval on a marriage partner and she can repudiate a marriage arranged without her consent. She also has the right to initiate a separation from marriage if her rights under marriage are not being granted.
Widows have the right to remarry, and they are in fact encouraged to do so.
The Qur’an places on men the responsibility of protecting and maintaining their female relatives. This relieves women of the need to earn their own living. It also means that a man must provide for his wife even if she has money of her own. She is not obligated to spend her money in the maintenance of her family. Incidentally, a woman is also not required to cook for her family, although she may do so out of love and compassion. The example of our noble prophet, on whom be peace, is that although he was such a great leader, he assisted in the housecleaning and mended his own clothes.
In return for the added responsibility, the Qur’an gives men the degree of leadership (see Qur’an 2:228; 4:34). This does not mean that men should dominate women, but rather that they should deal with them in kindness, mercy, and love (see Qur’an 4:19; 30:21).