Islam’s Contribution to Empowering Women

Does Islam Empower Women?

Women in seventh century Arabia

The Quran was revealed to the seventh century patriarchal Arabian society when men were the absolute monarchs of the family and women were seen as objects to be owned. Because a son was physically stronger than a daughter and contributed to a stronger work force, people preferred sons to daughters. Consequently, female infanticide was in rampant practice. The female literacy was near zero. If a husband died, his legal heirs would inherit the wife and kept her as if a prisoner. They would not let her go unless she abandoned claims to her property in their favor. If they wanted, they would marry her against her will. Part of Islam’s contribution to empowering women included abolishing these horrific practices of forceful ownership of women and abolishing female infanticide.

The Quran 16: 58-59 “..When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the bad news he has received. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide…”

Women under Mosaic laws in seventh century

(1) Inheritance went to the sons. That is to say that daughters could inherit only in absence of a son. Sons had the responsibility to ensure care of both mother and sisters.
(2) Women were not allowed to serve as a witness in financial cases or capital crimes
(3) Women were not allowed to serve as a priest (Kohen) in the Temple.
(4) Women could not be the reigning Queen, the monarch had to be a male. (5) Wife could not divorce, only husband could. http://

How did the Quran empower women

Empowering Women in Idlam. Myths And Realities About Women in Islam

Diverging Responsibilities

Men and women’s responsibility diverged in certain aspects. The divergence was not only due to their anatomical, physiological and psychological differences but also due to social-cultural fabric of the time of revelation of the Quran. Firstly, the Quran made men responsible to protect and maintain the women. Society needed men’s physical strength for protection of the women, earning livelihood by grazing animals, cultivating farmlands or traveling as merchants. Women in general were busy with domestic responsibilities including managing household works and raising children.

Making it fair

Myths And Realities About Women in Islam. The rationale behind men's higher share of inheritance.

Rationale For the Quranic Approach to Inheritance

The Quran mandated inheritance for women from their parents. Certainly, this was a revolutionary idea in Arabia at the time of Prophet (Peace be on him). A male sibling received double the share of a female sibling. In present day, this is a lightning rod for an outsider to the religion. Firstly, this provision is in context that a man in Islam has to take care of the expenses of the family including his wife, children, his own parents and unmarried sisters. Secondly, women are not accountable for any of these responsibilities. To clarify, a woman’s earnings belong to herself and she can spend her wealth as she wishes. Further more, if she spends anything towards her children or husband, it will be a charity from her side. To sum up, all her and her children’s expenses remain her husband’s permanent responsibility.

Access to education

One of Allah’s name is “Al-Alim”, which means “the Most Knowledgeable”. Earning knowledge leads us towards greater closeness to Allah. Prophet (Peace be upon him) emphasized access to education equally for both men and women. Prophet (Peace be upon him) said “acquiring knowledge is obligatory to every Muslims.” Motherhood is given the utmost respect. The Prophet (Peace be up on him) stated that, for children, heaven lies under the feet of their mother.

Empowering Women in Islam: Index

(1) Does a female witness merit half the male witness? Discussion on male and female witnesses in the Quran. Please click to view: (2) Is it fair that men get double the of women’s share of inheritance? How Does Islam Empower Women? Please click to view: (3) Myths About the Status of Women in Islam. Please click to view:

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