Happy International Women’s Day - From a Muslim Feminist
Today, March 8th, is recognized around the world and by the United Nations as International Women’s Day. When I first read that today was International Women’s Day my first thought was how proud I was to be a Muslim woman but my second thought was how sad it is that some people genuinely believe Islam treats women poorly.
With the rise of the anti-Islamic sentiment after 9-11 came the misleading idea that Islam oppresses women. I always thought that was a funny notion because growing up as a Muslim woman I was never oppressed and as someone who has read the Qur’an I never read that it is ok to oppress women. In fact I consider myself to be a feminist because I am Muslim.
The history of women in Islam is great. Islam gave women more rights and protection than any government, cultural traditions, and previous teachings had in the past.
The wives of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are known to Muslims as the Mother’s of the Believers and they are highly respected and regarded through the Muslim world. The first person to accept Islam after the Prophet (SAW) was his wife Khadija (RA). She was also a strong woman who was rich before marrying the Prophet (SAW) and known to be influential and very intelligent. She had her own trade business before marrying the Prophet (SAW). Another one of the Prophet’s (SAW) wives was Aisha (RA) and she is also seen as an influential figure in Islam and politics. Aisha (RA) is the second most recorded narrator of Hadiths. She also memorized the Qur’an which is an accomplishment very highly regarded in Islam. She was known as a scholar and a military leader.
Women also sacrificed for the sake of Islam. Sumayyah (RA) was among the first people to accept Islam, she was also the first person to die shaheed (martyr) for Islam. To die a martyr (a true martyr, not as a crazy person who flies a plane into a building) is a great honor in Islam and she was held in high regards by the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) was known to call her son, ibn Sumayyah (son of Sumayyah) instead of being called his father’s son, ibn Yasir (son of Yasir), which was customary at that time.
Not only did the Prophet (SAW) hold women in high regards and with much respect but so does the Qur’an.
- The words “man” and “woman” are mentioned equally in the Qur’an. Men and women are taught to be equals in Islam. In the eyes of God men and women will be judged equally. It was a point that outraged the tribal men at the time.
- Islam teaches that woman was not created for the purpose of man and neither was man created for the purpose of woman. Instead they were created to benefit each other.
- Islam does not place blame on Eve for eating from the forbidden tree.
- Islam called for the end of the traditions of burying one’s new born daughter. It was a tradition that was very common at that time.
- Islam gave women the right of inheritance.
- Islam forbids forcing a woman into marriage. At the time it was custom for women to be forced into marriages for status. Islam gave women the right to decide who they married and didn’t. Today when a Muslim woman is married the Imam/Sheikh who marries her still pulls her to the side to make sure she is marrying of her own free will.
- Culturally (to this day) women who are raped are often shunned and blame is placed upon them. In Islam a woman should not be punished if she is forced into sex. Her rapist should be punished by death. According to a hadith:
“During the time of the Prophet (SAW) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa’il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah’s messenger, who said to the woman, “Go away, for Allâh has forgiven you,” but of the man who had raped her, he said, “Stone him to death.” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)”
- Islam gave women the right to initiate divorce.
I could go on and on about women in Islam but that would turn into a book and not a blog post. As a world society we like to pretend that we’ve progressed so much over the years. Lets be honest we’re often times still ass backwards. Even in countries that claim to be Muslim countries to often times follow old cultural traditions that belittle women instead of Islamic teachings. Regardless of where you come from and what you believe maybe we should all strive to look at the role women have played in history. So happy International Women’s Day from this Muslim feminist.