Various references and facts having been compiled below showing
the true capabilities and position of women as taught by Islam.
1. Women cited as examples for believers
The Holy Quran says:
And Allah sets forth an example for those who believe
the wife of Pharaoh, when she said: My Lord, build for me
a house with Thee in the Garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and
his work, and deliver me from the unjust people,
Here two women are presented as examples for all Muslim
believers (men and women). Pharaohs wife typifies the believer
who is not yet free from the bondage of sin (just as Pharaohs
wife was subject to the evil Pharaoh), but prays to be delivered from
it. Mary typifies the highest grade of believer, who guards himself
or herself against all low desires, and therefore receives inspiration
And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity,
so We breathed into him [i.e. the believer for whom Mary is an
example] of Our inspiration
So the Quran has cited two women as the highest examples for Muslim
men and women to follow.
2. Women receiving revelation
Examples of righteous women receiving revelation from God are given
in the Quran:
And We revealed to the mother of Moses, saying:
give him [the baby Moses] suck, then when you fear for him, cast
him into the river and fear not, nor grieve
Similarly, Gods revelation to Mary is mentioned in 19:2426
Note that the kind of revelation mentioned in these passages comes
only to those who reach the highest rank of closeness to God.
3. A woman mentioned like prophets
In ch. 19, just as we have the words and mention Abraham in
the Book (v. 41), and mention Moses in the Book
(v. 51) etc. to introduce the accounts of various prophets, we also
have: And mention Mary in the Book in exactly the same
words. Similarly, ch. 21 gives examples of various prophets (verses
51 to 90), and then refers to Mary in the same way in verse 91, and
then says in the next verse referring to the whole group:
Surely this your community is one community, and
I am your Lord, so serve Me.
4. A womans complaint heard by Allah
Ch. 58 begins as follows:
Allah indeed has heard the plea of her who pleads
with you (Prophet Muhammad) about her husband and complains to Allah.
So Allah heard a womans complaint against her husband and sent
revelation to the Holy Prophet to redress her grievance.
5. A woman ruler in Quran
The Quran gives the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Solomon
had a well-developed intelligence service. His intelligence officer
brought him information about a neighbouring country as follows. (Note:
This was not a bird, as commonly believed, but a man whose name was
I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been
given of everything and she has a mighty throne. I found her and
her people adoring the sun instead of Allah
and they go not
What the Quran objects to here is not that a woman is
ruling the country, but that she and her subjects worship the sun
and do not follow the right path. The Quran then tells us how she
rules the country:
She said: O chiefs, advise me respecting my affair,
I never decide an affair until you are in my presence. They said:
We [i.e. the nation] are possessors of strength and mighty prowess.
And the command is thine, so consider what you will do. (27:3233)
So she rules with the counsel of her advisors, but the command
is thine. The power of the ultimate decision lies with her.
The Quran, while relating this, raises no objection to this.
In the subsequent account, Solomons efforts are directed
at rescuing her from idolatrous beliefs, and when she becomes convinced
by his arguments, she says:
My Lord, surely I have wronged myself, and I submit
with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
She does not submit to Solomon as her lord and master,
rather she submits to Allah along with Solomon, as an
6. Prophets wives as teacher of religion
After the Holy Prophets death, his wives acted as teachers of
religious knowledge to Muslims. Large numbers of people came to them
with questions on various matters. A very large number of hadith are
reported from them, particularly from Aishah (may Allah be pleased
with her). They did not merely recount to people the events of the
Holy Prophets life, but used their judgment to draw conclusions
and give decisions about religious issues.
It is estimated that about two-thirds of the hadith reports relating
to matters of the Shariah have been related by Aishah. When the
compilers of Hadith collected the reports of the sayings and actions
of the Holy Prophet, and checked the suitability of the narrators,
they made no distinction between a narrator being a man or
a woman. The evidence of a woman reporter, that she had
heard a certain saying from a certain source, was treated on
the same basis as that of a male reporter, by the collectors
A verse of the Quran which is often discussed is the following:
O wives of the Prophet, you are not like any other
women. If you would keep your duty, then be not soft in speech,
lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a word of goodness.
And stay in your houses and display not your beauty like the displaying
of the ignorance of yore (33:3233)
This verse is in reference to the public duties of the Holy Prophets
wives as teachers of the Muslims. The teaching function is given in
the words, Speak a word of goodness. They were public
figures holding a delicate position, and not private individuals,
and therefore they had to avoid doing things which could be misrepresented
and bring them under the slightest shadow of suspicion. At the same
time, they had to fulfil their duty of giving instruction, which meant
that they had to come into contact with a large number of people of
all kinds. Hence the precautions mentioned above, including that of
not talking informally with men.
7. Women correct men in matters of religion
There are instances in which women corrected the views of a man of
the stature and position of Hazrat Umar. It is recorded in Bukhari
that, on his death bed, Umar asserted that the Holy Prophet had said
that the weeping and wailing of the relatives of a deceased
person increases the punishment of that person in the after-life.
Aishah, on being informed of this, said that Umar was wrong, and that
the Holy Prophet had not said this because it contradicts the teaching
of the Quran that a person cannot be punished for what others do.
Once Umar, when he was Khalifa, announced that he would introduce
a certain restriction to do with mahr (gift given to wife
by husband at time of the wedding). An ordinary woman rose up from
among the audience and read a verse of the Quran opposed to this
idea. Umar immediately withdrew his proposal, and said:
The women of this city have more understanding than
(Can you imagine any modern Islamic rulers doing this?)
8. Holy Prophet appoints woman as imam in
There is a hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud as well as Musnad of
Ahmad ibn Hanbal that the Holy Prophet Muhammad commanded a woman
by the name of Umm Waraqah that she should act as imam of the
people of her house, and she had a muazzin (caller
of prayer) in her house who was a man. So men of the house prayed
9. Position of women saints
Tazkirat al-Auliya is a famous compilation of the lives of
Muslim saints, written nearly 800 years ago by Farid-ud-Din Attar.
It also includes the life of a woman saint, the famous Rabia of Basra.
Attar writes at the start of the section dealing with her life:
If anyone says, Why have you included Rabia
in the rank of men, my answer is that the Prophet himself
said: God does not regard your outward forms. The root
of the matter is not form, but intention, as the Prophet said: Mankind
will be raised up according to their intentions. Moreover,
if it is proper to derive two-thirds of our religion from Aishah
(Holy Prophets wife), surely it is permissible to take religious
instruction from a handmaid of Aishah. When a woman becomes a man
in the path of God, she is a man and one cannot any more call her
This was written nearly 800 years ago!
The above references illustrate the positions which, according to
Islam, women can not only attain but did actually reach. We close
with the following excerpts from the Holy Quran:
And the believers, men and women, are friends one
of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer
and pay the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. As for these,
Allah will have mercy on them.
Allah has promised to the
believing men and the believing women, gardens wherein flow rivers,
to abide therein
that is the grand achievement. (9:7172)
On that day, you will see the believing men and
the believing women, their light gleaming before them and on their
right hand. Good news for you this day! gardens wherein rivers
flow, to abide therein. (57:12)