Throughout history, women all over the world had to struggle for equality in a male-dominated world.
Prior to Islam, a female child was often regarded as a threat to the economic welfare of the family and was buried alive as soon as she was born. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought and sold. From this inferior position, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in the family and in society.
However, the position of women in Islam has been a subject of repeated controversy in the Western world. The erroneous perception that Islam subjugates women is far from the facts.
Many of the rights conferred on the women by the Prophet Muhammad more than 1400 years ago have only partially and grudgingly been given to women in other cultures in recent centuries. Even the right to vote came after intense fight of the well known "Suffrage Movement."
With respect to gender equity, the essential human dignity and fundamental equality of women Islam is at one with the feminist movement of the West.
Images of Muslim women in the media and some agenda-driven circles as ignorant, oppressed and submissive are stereotypical. The majority of Muslim women have a firm conviction in the Islamic concept of family cohesiveness and happiness. Their own individuality ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.
Islam has defined the rights and duties for women as well as men based on sexual, biological and social realities, not from romantic idealism. The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, says in 49:13 – "O mankind! We made you from a single (pair) of male and female."
Women are viewed as equal partners with men in life as well as in religion. Islam does not teach that women are inferior to men. "O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women, Fear God, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for God ever watches over you". (Quran, 4:1)
If any abuse occurs in some Muslim homes it is due to the same destructive motivations that cause men to abuse their wives in the rest of the world. Clearly such abusive husbands are not following the teachings of their faith.
The Quran considers women as vital to any society’s life as men. It refutes the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God and negates the idea that women are a source of evil.
Women have as much right to education and knowledge as men. More than 14 centuries ago, the Prophet Mohammed declared the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female.
Marriage in Islam is based on peace, love and compassion. A husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family in consultation with his wife. No woman can be forced into marrying somebody she does not like.
Muslim women are also entitled to full freedom to participate in public life. Throughout Islamic history, Muslim women expressed their opinions freely, participated in serious discussions with the Prophet Muhammad as well as with other leaders of the times. Muslim women have been elected leaders of their countries and serve in all levels of public offices.
They are granted equal rights to establish contracts, to engage in business and to earn money and possess property independently.
Islam gave women their own identity. A Muslim woman is a responsible being in her own right and carries the burden of her moral and spiritual obligations. "Never will I waste a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other." (Quran 3:195)