Women’s equality and liberation in Islam
Islam considers a woman to be equal to a man as a human being and as his partner in this life. Women have been created with a soul of the same nature as man’s. Today, there are some countries in the Islamic world that do not necessarily follow the rightly appreciated Islamic freedoms as defined in the Qur'an for women.
In Saudi Arabia women cannot drive; THIS IS A CULTURAL THING and NOT particularly an Islamic issue. Often, people confuse CULTURAL ways as ISLAMIC ways. People should be very careful not to base their entire view of Islam on the cultural nuances of a select few in disregard to the overall equitable spirit of Qur'anic revelation.
Men and women are given complementary yet equal roles that work towards the greater benefit of the family. A successful partnership of a marriage is similar to that of any successful venture between two people. An organized, trusting, and loving relationship based on understanding and a common vision is bound to blossom tremendously with the right foundation.
The equality of men and women
"O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah (God) through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah (God) is Ever and All-Watcher over you." – Qur’an English Translation [4:1]
“If any do deeds of righteousness - be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Paradise, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” – Qur’an English Translation [4:124]
"Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions." – Qur’an English Translation [16:97]
“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's ‘(God's) praise, for them has Allah ‘God’ prepared forgiveness and great reward.” – Qur’an English Translation [33:35]
Clearly you can see how the Qur’an goes to great lengths to stress the equality between the two genders.
So what does the Bible say about Women's equality since Adam & Eve
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."- New Testament (1 Tim 2:11-15)
Women's equality has been tainted in the stories of the Bible from the beginning when God asked Adam why did he eat from the forbidden tree, he answered, according to the Old Testament:
"And the man said, the WOMAN whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (Genesis 3:12-13)
"Unto the woman he (God) said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (Genesis 3:16)
So from the above verse we see that from Christianity's point of view, Adam (peace be upon him) who committed the sin of eating from the forbidden tree blames it on Eve ? And since then, men of all generations have been blaming Eve (peace be upon her) for their sins. You see, the Bible is blaming Eve and punishing her and all the Eves (i.e. women) to come for the sin "she's committed."
The Qur'an recounts the story of Adam and Eve in a similar way to that of the Bible. However, the blame of disobedience is upon both individuals, not just Eve. Eve never convinces Adam to sin. In Islam both Adam and Eve are held equally responsible (i.e. the man and woman share equal blame). Additionally God forgives both of them, thus there is no "original inherited sin."
"We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression." Then did Satan make THEM slip from the (garden), and get THEM out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: "Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time." Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful." – Qur’an English Translation [2:35-37]
Paul's views on women's authority in church
Moreover, some of the comments that Paul makes within his letters concerning the subject of women's behavior while in the Church seem questionable:
"women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."- New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." - New Testament (1 Timothy 2:11-15 )
Islam forbade female infanticide and guaranteed equal right to life
Prior to the advent of Islam, female infanticide was rampant in Arabia. Female infanticide is defined as the systematic killing of baby girls after birth, due to the preference of male over female offspring. Baby girls were buried alive the moment they emerged from their mother's womb.
Islam condemns this selection of one gender over the other. One of the first verses of the Qur'an that was relayed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was entitled At-Takwir (The Folding Up). The verse warned that the crime of infanticide against innocent children would be revealed and questioned on the Day of Judgment.
"When the female infant, buried alive, is questioned - for what crime was she killed; when the scrolls are laid open; when the World on High is unveiled; when the Blazing Fire is kindled to fierce heat; and when the Garden is brought near - Then shall each soul know what it has put forward."– Qur’an English Translation [81:8-14)]
Muslim women, after the abolishment of female infanticide, were granted a stream of rights including the right of an equal education to their male counterparts; food, clothing and accommodation, regardless of their wealth; the choice of a spouse and respectful treatment of a wife; the right to inheritance, career options and the facility to trade.
Abolishing female infanticide and providing girls with the right to life was just the beginning of how Islam built a strong Muslim society with equality between men and women.
Islam as the world's first Women's Liberation Movement
Along side many other equitable rights given to women 1400 years ago Islam secured for women the right to divorce, the right to deny a suitor for marriage, and guaranteed them the right to inheritance. How many other religious texts other than the Qur'an do you know in which guarantee such rights? And this was the 7th Century mind you, I can only imagine how women were treated in Europe and other parts of the world at this time.
Truly, Islam was the first Women's Liberation Movement.
"O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good." – Qur’an English Translation [4:19]
For more on Women’s Liberation through Islam:
For more on Women in Islam in general: