:bism: Bismillah Ir-Rehman Ir-Raheem (In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful)
Wonderful to Islamicboard, Brother OceanBreeze:
Alhamdhullilah (thanks, gratitude, and credit to Allah)
that you're interested in Islam, and may we all be guided here to the Straight Path
Thank you for coming to this board and joining our community here. A warm welcome to you! :statisfie
Perhaps I can answer your question as an American Muslim woman? The role of Muslim women in Islam is the same role as men, to basically worship Allah as the One God. No man or woman exceed one another except by piety. That is, it is entirely possible for a woman to exceed a man in the religion if she is considered more pious in the eyes of God.
In the Qur'an, there's an entire Surah ("Chapter") dedicated to Maryam (Mary), the pure mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus) (peace be upon him)
because she was of excellent character and piety and a sincere worshiper of God. In Islam, an authentic hadith
(prophetic tradition) relays that five women reached what may be considered perfection of Islam in elements of consideration such as intention, submission to God's will, actions, and sacrifices; and the five women are: Maryam as already mentioned herein; Asiya, the persecuted wife of Pharaoh; Khadija, the first woman to accept Islam and also first wife to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him);
Aisha, deemed first scholar of Islam and only virgin wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him);
and Fatima, beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
So, these women are not only role models for Muslim women but they are also role models for all
The first martyr of Islam was a woman named Sumayyah bint Khabbat who was tortured for professing her Islam openly, even as later her husband Yasir ibn Amar also died in the torture sessions being inflicted upon them as a family. Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was considered a learned woman, and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
not only asked her to teach one of his wives to read and write as a teacher but also encouraged her to practice her skills as a medicine woman. During the time of Caliph Umar (peace be upon him)
, Umar (peace be upon him)
appointed the woman Samra’ bint Nuhayk as market controller. Nusaybah bint Ka’ab turned into a female combatant for the war in Uhud and was appreciated for her efforts by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
so much so that he prayed to God for her to be granted to be his companion in Paradise as per her dearest request. So, Muslim women were beyond honored in Islam. Now, all of this progress in Islam may seem trivial to you considering how far the Western world has advanced in terms of woman's rights in the contemporary world. However, remember that Islam started in the seventh century and these women were honored by Islam wherein the Western world was still debating into the sixteenth century whether or not women could theologically be said to have a soul, when Henry VIII of England barred women from official practice of medicine, when right into nineteenth and twentieth centuries women were barred from having high status jobs in society, and when Deborah Sampson had to hide her female identity when she enlisted to fight in the American Revolution disguised as a man because she knew she would not be accepted to fight as a combatant otherwise.
Now that we've established how Islam has honored women in ways that the Western world still did not conceive of until much later, let me tell you that of course you're rather correct: There's an assumption among non-Muslims that a woman is oppressed simply if she professed her religion to be Islam, especially if she has any display of piety that she adopts like the hijab
. However, this is of course not
true. Muslim women, like all other women, are human beings given free will to represent themselves as they see fit within the parameters of Islam which will vary depending on her own individual piety and willingness adherence to the religion; this allowance of free expression may be of course more true in Western culture than other cultures around the globe. However, Islam has given a woman agency to choose her life and her path for herself. However, different cultures express their Islam differently and it may be that some cultures are more oppressive than others in terms of rights they afford women despite what Islam might have to say about the matter. In Islam, for example, acquiring knowledge and education is highly valued and emphasized for both men and women. However, Afghanistan has long excluded women from education and is only in recent decades making some efforts to afford women education to which they were almost 1400 years ago given an Islamic right to gain. Like I'd mentioned, the first scholar of Islam is deemed to be Aisha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
. Note also how Saudi Arabia only recently granted women the privilege to drive; however, that privilege has long been afforded to women in Pakistan. So, culture in many cases dictates Muslim women's movement or freedoms.
Thank you for entrusting us with your question, and I hope this post has helped clarify the matter at least a little.
Also, I can personally say that I do not
feel oppressed as a Muslim woman; however, I do sometimes despair of attitudes that I sometimes observe in Muslim men. However, Islam is perfect, I remind myself. Muslims, male or female, however, are not. And it is Islam which I chose as my religion as I understood it to be the Truth from a Higher Power.
In Islam, women are seen as complementary beings to men who are together meant to remind one another of God and to better self and society; in some specific instance, a male is given precedence/preference and in other cases a woman is given precedence/preference. For example, an authentic hadith
(prophetic tradition) relays that the mother has three times precedence over the father. In another case, within the family unit, as per the Qur'an, the man is entrusted with a higher degree of leadership over the family than the woman; however, this does not diminish the leadership role of the woman over her own household but rather works to accent the woman's power of accepting both their various roles within the family unit as interdependent for a harmonizing relationship based in trust and mercy and love and understanding. For example, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
first turned to Khadija when he first encountered the awesome and fearsome experience of meeting Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) (peace be upon him)
in the cave; his turning to her was a source of comfort to him but did not diminish his leadership role as the best and last prophet of God or her partnership with him as his wife.
In Islam, women and men are not meant to be competing against one another but striving both together and separately for the sake of God.
Thank you again for your question.
Leaving you in the care of the Nurturer, our Almighty, Merciful Allah, :statisfie
Sincere Regards & Best Wishes
Originally Posted by oceanbreeze