Women’s Rights and Duties and Liberation through Islam

Based on an article by Mary Ali –
Contrary to what many non-
Muslims mistakenly believe,
women in Islam enjoy many rights
and duties. History clearly shows
that the revelation of the divine
message to Prophet Muhammad
(S.A.W.S.) in the seventh century
led to the liberation of women from
various types of oppression that
was prevalent in many societies of
the world. The Quran and the
Sunnah (traditions and practices)
of Prophet Muhammad are the
primary sources from where every
Muslim woman derives her rights
and duties. The following sheds
light into some of those rights and
Equal Human Rights
Fourteen centuries ago, Islam
made women equally accountable
to Allah in glorifying and
worshiping Him – setting no limits
on her moral progress. Since men
and women both came from the
same essence, they are equal in
their humanity and in earning of
rewards for their good deeds.
Islam establishes the basis of
equality among both genders. In
the Quran, in the first verse of the
chapter entitled “Women”, Allah
“O mankind! Be dutiful to your
Lord, Who created you from a
single person (Adam), and from
him (Adam) He created his wife
[Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both
He created many men and women;
and fear Allah through whom you
demand (your mutual rights), and
(do not cut the relations of) the
wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is
Ever an All-Watcher over
you.” (Quran 4:1)
The Quran also says:
“That He may admit the believing
men and the believing women to
Gardens under which rivers flow
(i.e. Paradise), to abide therein
forever, and He may expiate from
them their sins; and that is with
Allah a supreme success.” Quran
The Quran also states:
“And wish not for the things in
which Allah has made some of you
to excel others. For men there is
reward for what they have earned,
(and likewise) for women there is
reward for what they have earned,
and ask Allah of His Bounty.
Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of
everything.” (Quran 4:32)
So, we see from the above Quranic
verses that both men and women
are mentioned on equal footing in
terms of being rewarded for their
good deeds.
Civil Rights
In Islam, a woman enjoys basic
freedom of choice and expression
based on recognition of her
individual personality. For
example, women have been given
the right to accept or deny
marriage proposals. She is also to
keep her and her father’s name
after marriage. Islam also
encourages women to express
their opinions and ideas. History
shows that women used to pose
questions directly to Prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W.S.) and offer
their opinions concerning religion,
economics and social matters. We
find evidence of this in many
traditions of the Prophet
Importance of Women Education in
The Prophet said:
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory
for every Muslim (male and
female).” (At-Tirmidhi)
This includes knowledge of the
Quran and the Hadeeth as well as
other types of worldly knowledge
that can bring good to people and
societies at large. Both men and
women must promote morality and
goodness and condemn evil in all
walks of life. Muslim women,
therefore, must acquire the
appropriate education to perform
this duty in accordance with their
natural talents and interests.
Islam recognizes and fosters the
natural differences between men
and women despite their equality.
Due to their physical makeup,
some types of work are more
suitable for men than women. This
in no way diminishes the efforts of
anyone. Allah will reward both
sexes equally for the value of their
work, though, it may not
necessarily be the same activity.
So, while bearing, raising and
teaching of children, and providing
support to her husband and
maintenance of a home are among
the foremost duties of a mother
and a wife, and very highly
regarded role for a woman in
Islam, if she has the skills to work
outside the home for the good of
the community, she may do so, as
long as her family obligations are
not neglected.
Concerning motherhood, the
Prophet said:
“Heaven lies under her feet.” (An-
We see from this hadith the high
status and respect that Islam gave
to a woman. Many studies show
that the first and greatest influence
on a person comes from the sense
of security, affection, and training
received from the mother. It is
vital, therefore, that mothers
become educated to impart
appropriate morals in their children
who in turn would influence the
future of healthy societies.
Political Rights
A right given to Muslim women
was the right to voice her opinion
on socio-political issues. On any
public matter, a Muslim woman
may voice her opinion and
participate in politics. An example
from history is Abdurrahman Ibn
Awf who consulted many women
before he recommended Uthman
Ibn Affan to be the Caliph and
leader of the Muslims.
Economic Rights of Women in
A Muslim woman has the privilege
to earn money, the right to own
property, to enter into legal
contracts and to manage all of her
assets in any way she pleases.
She can run her own business and
no one can claim her earnings,
including her husband.
Islam has also provided a woman
the right to inherit from her
relatives. The Quran states:
“There is a share for men and a
share for women from what is left
by parents and those nearest
related, whether the property be
small or large – a legal
share.” (Quran 4:7)
Rights of a Woman as a Wife
Islam has attached a lot of
importance to marriage. A marriage
provides the bedrock for ones
emotional well being. Divine
guidance in the Quran and Hadith
has clearly laid out a system of
laws to support harmonious
interaction between the sexes.
Many verses in the Quran stress
the need for husbands and wives
to be affectionate with each other
and to exercise patience in
challenging times. The Quran
“And among His signs is this that
He created for you wives from
among yourselves, that you may
find repose in them, and he has
put between you affection and
mercy. Verily, in that are indeed
signs for a people who
reflect.” (Quran 30:21)
To foster the love and security that
comes with marriage, Muslim
wives have various rights. The first
of the wife’s rights is to receive
mahr, a gift from the husband,
which is part of the marriage
contract and required for the
legality of the marriage. This is
unlike un-Islamic practices in
certain parts of the world where
women are forced to pay dowry to
the husband to enter in marriage
contracts. Unfortunately, many
Muslims also engage in such
illegal practices.
The second right of a wife has to
do with maintenance. Despite any
wealth she may have, her husband
is obligated to provide her with
food, shelter and clothing. He is
not forced, however, to spend
beyond his capability and his wife
is not entitled to make
unreasonable demands.
The Quran states:
“Let the rich man spend according
to his means, and the man whose
resources are restricted, let him
spend according to what Allah has
given him. Allah puts no burden
on any person beyond what He
has given him. Allah will grant
after hardship, ease.” (Quran 65:7)
Islam is clear in its teachings that
God created men and women to be
different, with unique roles,
functions and skills. As in society,
where there is a division of labor,
so too in a family, where each
member has different
responsibilities. Generally, Islam
upholds that women are entrusted
with the nurturing role, and men,
with the guardian role. Therefore,
women are given the right of
financial support.
The Quran states:
“Men are the protectors and
maintainers of women, because
Allah has made one of them to
excel the other, and because they
spend (to support them) from their
means…” (Quran 4:34)
This guardianship and greater
financial responsibility given to
men requires that they provide
women with not only monetary
support but also physical
protection and kind respectful
The Prophet said: “The most
perfect believers are the best in
conduct. And the best of you are
those who are the best to their
Duties of a Wife
With rights also come
responsibilities. Therefore, wives
have certain obligations to their
husbands. For instance, a wife is
prohibited to talk foul about their
husbands and are obligated to
keep her husband’s secrets and
protect their marital privacy. A
husband, too, is expected to guard
her honor.
A wife must also guard her
husband’s property. She must
safeguard his home and
possessions, to the best of her
ability, from theft or damage. She
should manage the household
affairs wisely so as to prevent loss
or waste. She should not allow
anyone to enter the house whom
her husband dislikes nor incur any
expenses of which her husband
A Muslim woman must cooperate
and coordinate with her husband.
There cannot, however, be
cooperation with a man who is
disobedient to Allah and His
teachings. In such cases, religious
advice should be sought as
fulfilling requests that are against
Allah’s teachings is not allowed.
The Quran states:
“It is not for a believer, man or
woman, when Allah and His
Messenger have decreed a matter
that they should have any option in
their decision. And whoever
disobeys Allah and His Messenger,
he has indeed strayed in a plain
error.” (Quran 33:36)
Islam defined the duties and
responsibilities of women 1400
years ago and got them out of
oppression. Rather than
showcasing them as sex symbols,
Islam laid down rules to protect
their honor and gave them a key
role in the upbringing of families
along with their husbands that in
turn contributes to the foundation
of healthy societies.



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