The position of women in Islam has recently been an issue of debate. Some misconceptions arise from either traditional practices who are thought to be “Islamic”-but are not-or from prejudices. However, the real issue is how women are regarded in the Islamic faith, and when we look at this, we see that Islam brings a great social value, freedom and comfort to women.
The commandments of God about the status of woman and the relations between man and woman, which have been revealed to us through Quran, comprise of full justice. In this regard, Islam suggests equality of rights, responsibilities and duties among the two genders. Islam is based on sympathy, tolerance and respect for the human being, does not discriminate against woman in this matter.
Examples of good morals communicated to us in the Quran are universally compatible with human nature, and is valid for all stages of history.
Respect for woman and women’s rights are within this scope. In the Quran God mentions us strongly that the tasks and responsibilities of women are the same as for men. Furthermore, while performing these tasks and responsibilities, men and women help and support each other.
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and pay alms, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Quran, 9:71)
God emphasizes that believers will be awarded in the same manner according to their deeds regardless of gender.
Their Lord responds to them: ‘I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female – you are both the same in that respect… (Quran, 3:195)
Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Quran, 16:97)
In another verse, Muslim men and Muslim women are considered together and it is stressed that both have the same responsibility and status in God’s sight.
Men and women who are Muslims, men and women who are believers, men and women who are obedient, men and women who are truthful, men and women who are steadfast, men and women who are humble, men and women who give alms, men and women who fast, men and women who guard their private parts, men and women who remember Allah much: Allah has prepared forgiveness for them and an immense reward. (Quran, 33:35)
In the Quran there are many more verses stating that men and women are exactly equal regarding their tasks and responsibilities and their awards or punishments in return. There are a few differences in social issues, but these are for comfort and protection of women. The commands of the Quran regards the congenital differences of the two genders resulting from their creation and suggests a system maintaining for the man and woman equal justice in this perspective
Islam does not see the woman as an object. Therefore, it is not seen appropriate that a woman of good morals marries a man of bad morals. In the same way, it is not permitted that a woman of bad morals marries a man of good morals.
Corrupt women are for corrupt men and corrupt men are for corrupt women, Good women are for good men and good men are for good women. The latter are innocent of what they say. They will have forgiveness and generous provision. (Quran, 24:26)
Also in marriage, duties and responsibilities of the spouses against each other require equality. God demands from both spouses to be protective and supervising for each other. This duty is expressed in the Quran with the following words.
They are covers for you and you for them… (Koran, 2:187)
Many rules commandments exist in the Quran regarding the protection of the woman’s rights on marriage. Marriage is based the will of both parties; the husband has to provide some economical support for his wife (4:4); the husband has to look after his ex-wife after divorce (65:6).
As the verses make it clear, Islam brings justice to man-woman relations and terminates harmful practices resulting from customs and traditions of pre-Islamic societies. An example can be the situation of woman in the Arab society preceding Islam. According to pagan Arabs, women had been regarded as inferior and it was a shame to have a daughter. The fathers having daughters sometimes preferred burying their daughters alive than to announce their birth. By way of the Quran, Allah prohibited this evil tradition and warned that in the Judgment Day such people will definitely be accounted for.
In fact, Islam brought a great emancipation for women who were severely persecuted in the pagan era. Prof. Bernard Lewis, known to be one of the greatest Western experts on the history of Islam and Middle East, makes the following comment:
In general, the advent of Islam brought an enormous improvement in the position of women in ancient Arabia, endowing them with property and some other rights, and giving them a measure of protection against ill treatment by their husbands or owners. The killing of female infants, sanctioned by custom in Pagan Arabia, was outlawed by Islam. But the position of women remained poor, and worsened when, in this as in so many other respects, the original message of Islam lost its impetus and was modified under the influence of pre-existing attitudes and customs. 
Thus we can say that the mentality of despising women, externalizing them from society and regarding them as second class is a wicked pagan attitude which have no place in Islam.
In fact, devout women are given as good examples for mankind in the Quran. One is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The other one is the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh who, despite her husband’s evilness, is also described as an ideal Muslim. (see, 66:11-12) The Quran also describes very kind conversations between prophet Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (27:42-44), or Moses and two young ladies (28:23-26) which give the highlights of a civilized social relationship between the two genders.
Therefore, there is no way that a Muslim can have a bigoted approach towards women. In a society where true Islamic morals are practiced, an immense respect and sympathy will be shown to women and it will be maintained that they live in freedom and comfort.
The fundamental rule of Quranic exegesis is making sure that the derived meaning is in conformity with the integrity of the Quran. When this is considered, it is seen that all the rules mentioned to us by Allah regarding women form a social structure availing the women to live in the most comfortable and happiest way. In a society where all moral values mentioned by Islam are practiced comprehensively, the social position of the women becomes as exalted as cannot be compared even with the societies that we consider today as modern.
 Bernard Lewis, “The Middle East“, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1995, p. 210
Harun Yahya is a prominent Turkish intellectual.
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