Women’s Rights

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

Contents of this Article:

  1. Introduction: The State of Muslim Womens Rights
  2. Women and Men as Allies
  3. Khadija r.a. an Ally of the Prophet s.a.
  4. A Misogynistic Bukhari Hadith
  5. Umm Salama r.a. and the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah
  6. Who is More Honourable?
  7. The Jilbaab and the Khimaar
  8. Relations Between Spouses
  9. The Woman is Right!
  10. Conclusions

[1] Introduction: The State of Muslim Womens Rights

Some male muslim leaders, scholars, and others, become defensive when the teachings of Islam on women’s rights are questioned, and respond by saying that Islam gives ‘similar’, or even ‘equal rights’, and status, to women, comparable to men (e.g. mirza masroor ahmad sahib, current elected caliph of the ahmadiyya community). They cite the case of Aisha r.a., wife of the Prophet Muhammad s.a., as an erudite Muslim Woman Scholar whom the male Companions (Sahaaba) r.a. of the Noble Prophet Muhammad s.a. used to consult for insight and guidance on religious matters, as per the following hadith:

Abū Musa r.a. narrated:

مَا أَشْكَلَ عَلَيْنَا أَصْحَابَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَدِيثٌ قَطُّ فَسَأَلْنَا عَائِشَةَ إِلَّا وَجَدْنَا عِنْدَهَا مِنْهُ عِلْمًا

i.e. Never was a hadith unclear to us, the Companions (ra) of the Messenger of Allah s.a., and we asked ‘Aishah (ra), except that we found knowledge concerning it with her.” (Tirmidhi, Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3883)

However, they are unable to cite recognised religious works such as tafasir (i.e. commentaries of the Holy Qur’an) credited to Muslim Women Scholars over the centuries, nor do Muslim women appear to have an equal or even similar opportunity to train as scholars in our day and age in some religious communities at par with men, and to even get due recognition for their scholarly contributions after any such training.

Their voice remains that of a marginalised group struggling to achieve what is their due right even when the leaders of their religious communities claim women are equal to men and have equal rights. Many, or perhaps most, muslim groups claim to be like the Companions (Sahaaba) r.a. of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a., yet do not try to become akin to them with regards to respect for Muslim women as partners in faith and companions with similar rights and status within the Muslim Community, nor do male scholars tend to show an inclination to look up to them if and when their knowledge and practice of the religion is better, whereas those men who would wish to be like the Companions r.a. of the Prophet s.a. should have no reservations in learning the Religion from knowledgeable and pious Muslim women scholars.

Allah the Exalted states in the Holy Qur’an:

[Q. 61:3,4] O ye who believe! why do you say what you do not do? Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not. 

Thus it is manifestly hypocritical to claim ‘equal rights’ for women when there is no such equality in practice. Other male muslim scholars look down upon women as being inferior in intelligence and deficient in practice of the religion, and frankly declare the supposed superiority of men. One would credit them for at least being honest and truthful about their innate feelings on what they consider to be the relatively low status of women in comparison with men, were it not that this is, in many cases, largely, if not solely, because it consolidates their own status and position as leaders or learned ones in matters of religion, whom women should look up to, thus they make no sacrifice in being truthful about their erroneous thinking in this regard.

It appears some men in the west have also retained some of their medieval biases and ancient prejudices, and there are only a few women in parliaments around the world compared to men, and there is also a gender pay gap for instance. The Noble Qur’an mentions the Queen of Saba (Sheba), but does not say anything against a woman being the leader of a nation. Rather, it is stated in the Noble Qur’an that she believed and submitted, with Sulaiman a.s., who was inviting her to monotheism in a wise manner, to the Lord of all the Worlds [Q. 27:44], having discarded her idolatrous myths. This goes in her favour as someone who accepted unseen truths when they became evident to her.

There is a problematic hadith (report or tradition) in the book of bukhari suggesting that women are deficient in intelligence, which the Companions of Muhammad s.a. were apparently unaware of, as they are reported to have consulted Aisha r.a. for guidance on religious matters.

A sensible male muslim scholar is reported (‘Misquoting Muhammad’ by Jonathan AC Brown, p. 138) to have argued against the bukhari hadith, but those who appear to have a ‘blind faith’ in the label of ‘sahih’ (i.e authentic) on bukhari, which was applied by a fallible human being (bukhari himself) on the basis of his own opinion, still cling to it, even though it is not a divinely revealed label.

[2] Women & Men As Allies

The surprising thing is that men grow up being dependent on their mothers love and care more so when in infancy and childhood, and many men grow up along with sisters, and many also have loving daughters, yet many men have not shown a desire to redress wrongs done to women folk. Why are many men seemingly reluctant to becomes allies of suppressed women, and do not call for affording them their just rights?

Allah s.w.t. states:

[Q. 9:71] “The believing men and believing women are awliyaa (allies, protectors) of one another, enjoining right and forbidding wrong, performing the prayer, giving the alms, and obeying God and His Messenger. They are those upon whom God will have Mercy. Truly God is Mighty, Wise.”

[3] Khadija r.a. an Ally of the Prophet s.a.

The role of being an ‘ally’ of the Prophet Muhammad s.a. was performed by his wife Khadija a.s., for instance, when he returned home to her in a state of anxiety, upon receiving his first revelation in Cave Hira. On Khadija’s a.s. enquiry, he narrated the whole experience to her and summed up his fears, saying,

“Weak man that I am, how can I carry the responsibility which God proposes to put on my shoulders.”

Khadija a.s. is reported to have replied at once: 

God is witness, He has not sent you this Word that you should fail and prove unworthy, that He should then give you up. How can God do such a thing, while you are kind and considerate to your relations, help the poor and the forlorn and bear their burdens? You are restoring the virtues which had disappeared from our country. You treat guests with honour and help those who are in distress. Can you be subjected by God to any trial?” (Bukhari). [Life of Muhammad s.a., by Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad r.a., p. 11]

Is being the first to believe in the Unity of the Unseen God along with the Prophethood of Muhammad s.a., with such firm reasoning, bearing witness to his noble character, a sign of deficiency in intelligence? And the above hadith is in bukhari itself, but many don’t appear to reflect on it’s implications with regards to the status and intelligence of women, and it appears, neither did bukhari himself.

[4] A Misogynistic Bukhari Hadith

The questionable hadith of bukhari I refer to, runs as follows: 

“Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” 

[Source: https://quranx.com/Hadith/Bukhari/USC-MSA/Volume-1/Book-6/Hadith-301/


These are some of the issues/questions that arise upon reading the above bukhari hadith: 

[1] The Qur’an does not state or indicate anywhere that either men or women will be in the majority in heaven or in hell-fire. 

[2] The Qur’an shows that husbands ought to be grateful to their wives, and are made to offer them a dower for this reason: [Q. 4:24] “…And for the benefit you receive from them, give them their dowries …” 

[3] I have already shown in the discussion above that the religious awareness and intelligence of both Khadija r.a. and Aisha r.a. is established from Islamic sources. 

[4] A cautious sensible man is more to be rightly guided by the example of these two pious wives, as well as Maryam a.s. and Aasiya r.a., whose example is given in Surat al Tahrim [Q. 66:11,12]. In addition, the famous hadith that ‘paradise lies beneath the feet of mothers’ (Ahmad, Nasai). would also be rendered null and void if women generally lead others astray. 

[5] The case of two women witnesses in court, which only applies to financial transactions, isn’t due to lack of intelligence. Men err just as women err, intelligence not being a safeguard against erring. The verse states: 

[Q. 2:282] “… And call two witnesses from among your men; and if two men be not available, then a man and two women, of such as you like as witnesses, so that if one of them should err, the other may remind her. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called. And do not feel weary of writing it down, whether it be small or large, along with its appointed time of payment. This is more equitable in the sight of Allah & makes testimony surer & is more likely to keep you away from doubts … and let no harm be done to the scribe or the witness.

So, it will still be the testimony of one woman which carries weight, the other being there only to remind her, rather than the court, IF she errs; if she doesn’t err in her statement, the other woman stays silent, and is not required to speak to her. It is the testimony of the one woman who is made surer by the presence of the other woman helper in court. I can also speculate as regards why two women may be required for giving testimony in court in financial transactions. The verse itself mentions the surety of testimony as well as forbidding harm being done to any witness.

It may be that women are more worried than men about being harmed when giving testimony in court when surrounded by men. A greed for money drives individuals, groups and nations to perpetrate injustices against others. The mafia murders for financial reasons. We can’t deny that women are more vulnerable than men in society, and many, or perhaps most, women are not oblivious to this reality. The presence of a non-threatening friend in court may help her overcome her nerves and reduce her fears, thus making testimony surer. This is my current thinking, which is subject to revision. And of course, Allah knows best.

[6] Not offering the formal prayer during menses is an act of obedience if so instructed, so it can’t be considered a deficiency in practising the religion. 

[7] The evidence from exam results, to my knowledge, is that the performance of males and females is similar; indeed, girls/women perform better than boys/men at times.

What is apparent to me is that the uncritical acceptance of the above hadith of bukhari has led to injustice against women over the centuries, and even this single hadith is reason enough to declare the label of ‘sahih’ as incorrect. Likewise is the case of a dubious hadith which refers to the husband as a ‘metaphorical god’. The various ahadith inciting to murder within bukhari etc. make it imperative that the false label of ‘sahih’ be dropped, for the safety and security of the people of the world. 

Muslim women were looked down upon and belittled due to misogynistic ahadith compiled and approved by male scholars such as the one refuted above, whilst christian women were told by Paul that they must [Ephesians 5:22–33] submit to their husbands in everything (though sugar-coated by other verses on love, it is undeniably misogynistic, and contrary to monotheism, in which both men and women submit to God, not one to the other), and that they should remain silent and listen to men in church and should ask their husbands at home [1 Corinthians 14:34–35]. And the books of the Christian New Testament were chosen for inclusion by men without consulting women, just as with the books of ahadith. Thus, this is how unscrupulous wicked men have subjugated and humiliated women in the name of religion for centuries, so that they may secure their own authority and not have to listen to admonishments of reform coming from women, whether they be in religious issues or worldly matters. It was men who compiled and approved ahadith, as it was men who selected various letters for inclusion in the ‘New Testament’ of the Bible, to the exclusion of women.

[5] Umm Salama r.a. & the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah

Another incident which occurred after signing the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah may be mentioned here. “After concluding the treaty, the Holy Prophet told the followers to slaughter sacrificial animals at the same place and get their head shaved to come out of ihram. But the people were so dejected that they delayed the compliance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) felt it and entered the tent and told his accompanying wife, Umm Salma a.s., about people’s reluctance. 

She politely advised, “The people are in shock to lose their Umrah and entry to the holy city. You do as planned. They will follow you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) came out, slaughtered his camels and got his head shaved. Subsequently, the people followed him and they all set out towards Madinah. Thus the wisdom of Ummul Momenin, Umm Salma, solved a tedious problem.”


Some may say, ‘we know’ about this incident already. But there is a good reason to remind people of it, as it shows that though the Qur’an has several verses teaching obedience to the Messenger s.a., he himself did not get angry at the lack of forthwith compliance, not by one person, but by all of his male Companions (Sahaaba) r.a. who were present, including those who subsequently became Khalifas, i.e. Abubakr r.a., Umar r.a., Uthman r.a. and Ali r.a. Yet there are some muslim organisations in which even a slight disobedience of an official is considered to be a sign of arrogance, irrespective of whether the order given by the supposedly ‘superior’ official is right or wrong.

[6] Who is More Honourable?

Allah the Exalted states in the Noble Qur’an:

[Q. 49:14] O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognise one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is the one who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.

This verse can be used to show that men are not more honourable than women (as some men might like to presume) in the sight of Allah, other than if they happen to be more righteous. 

Apart from the honourable status that the noble believing Muslim women Companions r.a. of the Noble Prophet s.a., such as Khadija r.a., Aisha r.a., and Umm Salama r.a. have in Islam, as mentioned above, the Noble Qur’an itself honours believing women by mentioning two of them as an example, a role model, for all Muslims to learn from and follow. These are the pious and truthful mother of Jesus a.s., i.e. Maryam a.s., and the believing wife of Pharaoh, i.e. Aasiya r.a., viz:

[Q. 66:12,13] “And Allah sets forth for those who believe the example of 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 wrongdoing people’; and the example of Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity – so We breathed therein of Our Spirit—and she fulfilled in her person the words of her Lord and His Books and was one of the obedient.”

[7] The Jilbaab (Outer Covering) and Khimaar (Head-Covering)

(a) The Jilbaab

This is a subject of much controversy between Muslims and those non-Muslims who allege Islam suppresses women. Allah the Exalted states in the Noble Qur’an:

[Q. 33:60] O Prophet! say to thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw close to them portions of their jilbaab (loose outer covering). That is nearer that they may thus be distinguished and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

The Qur’an instructs the Noble Prophet s.a. to SAY to the believing women to observe the jilbaab (loose outer covering), not to order or enforce it. There also appears to be some validity in suggesting that it would be more effective when ladies are advised to don the jilbaab by women who set a noble example by donning the jilbaab themselves, and are more likely to be personally familiar with the relevant issues concerning it. I came across ten verses in the Qur’an using the wording ‘Yaa Ayyuhan Nabi‘ (O Prophet), and they all appear to be issuing a command for the Noble Prophet s.a. himself to act upon, and are not a command instructing the believers in general.

These verses are [Q. 8:65,66], [Q. 9:73], [Q. 33:2,28,46,51,60], & [Q. 66:2,10], a study of which shows that it is essentially an instruction to the Prophet s.a. One should still be careful not to take the place, or even raise himself above, the Prophet Muhammad s.a., who is not reported to have become over-bearing in issuing this instruction on the jilbaab to believing Muslim women in the city of Madinah.

One ought to use wisdom when calling to the way of ones’ Lord [Q. 16:126], and not over-step the bounds, becoming guilty of bullying or arrogance (takabbur) by equating oneself with the Noble Prophet s.a., or going beyond his mandate, which was to remind, and not to compel anyone [Q. 88:22]. 

The reality of life is that people who have faith tend to grow in faith, knowledge, and practices of the religion over time. Manifesting love is like water which tends to nurture moral and spiritual life, and hatred tends to stifle growth and development, and lead to a loss of faith. Hence it is most unwise to burden any soul beyond what it can bear by means of such undue pressure or coercion which may in fact have the negative effect of generating resentment against the religion, driving them towards doubts.

It is not right for anyone to enforce the donning of the jilbaab on muslim women, for it is not in keeping with the absolute freedom of religion stated in [Q. 2:257], and which is also emphasised in several other ways in the Holy Qur’an. 

The Qur’an does not instruct warning or threatening punishment for women not acting upon such advice, nor does it instruct harassing them in any way, or to keep pestering them about it, to keep saying so incessantly or repeatedly, or to bully them.

In addition, one should keep in mind the recently introduced (14th March 2017 – this article was first composed a few years ago) european union law which makes it lawful for companies to require their staff not to wear the muslim jilbaab (in any of it’s forms): 


The Qur’anic principle should be kept in mind that if someone is compelled by circumstances not to abide by some divine commandments, and does not do so out of rebelliousness or due to being inclined towards sinfulness, but being driven by necessity, doing so cautiously, with the love and fear of Allah within one’s heart mind and soul, then Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful [Q. 5:4].

Regarding the need of some women to work, one ought to keep in mind the instruction given in the Holy Qur’an for the wives of the Holy Prophet s.a., that they should not be soft in speech, and not that they are completely prohibited from even talking to men (or to go to the other extreme of adopting a rude or aggressive tone when they might happen to do so), regardless of how necessary such a conversation might be:

[Q. 33:33] O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women if you are righteous. So be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should feel tempted; and speak a decent speech.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim five volume English commentary of the Qur’an states on this verse:

“The wives of the Holy Prophet s.a. are here enjoined to preserve the dignity of their very position and to conduct themselves with due propriety and decorum while talking to members of the opposite sex.” 

Maulana Nuruddin r.a. states about the verse: 

Hadhrat Aisha r.a. used to talk freely; this is in compliance with the instruction (given) in the verse.”  [Translated from the original Urdu]

How then can it be right that Muslim ladies should be almost completely prohibited from talking to strange men, or to adopt an unislamic, unnatural, and anti-social ‘harsh‘ tone when doing so, as was commanded by mirza masroor ahmad sahib, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Here is the quote:

“Huzur aba said that if it is absolutely essential for a woman to talk to a strange man then she should adopt a harsh tone in her voice so that he may not be encouraged by the softness of her voice.” 

[Source: http://amwsa.lajna.org.uk/inspiration/importance-of-purdah/

Islam teaches us to adopt a middle-way in all matters, and not to deviate towards one or the other extreme. It is also regrettable that Muslim women are not officially offered the opportunity to be fully and properly trained to become Islamic scholars like men are, so that even if not men, at least women may be able to consult Muslim women scholars in order to seek guidance on religious and spiritual issues, especially on matters related to women, just as they would prefer to consult lady doctors due to modesty (hayaa). Unfortunately, despite the loud claims of gender equality by some religious leader/s, jilbaab or burqa-clad Ahmadi Muslim women are not seen even half as much as men on mta (muslim television ahmadiyya) programs!

(b) The Khimaar

The khimaar is mentioned in the following verse:

[24:32] “And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their (natural and artificial) beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, and that they disclose not their beauty save to their husbands, or to their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or their women, or what their right hands possess, or such of male attendants as have no sexual appetite, or young children who have no knowledge of the hidden parts of women. And they strike not their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may become known. And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers, that you may succeed. …”

The khimaar relates to the indoor environment as the jilbaab relates to the outdoors. We are instructed to advise believing women, to ‘say’ to them – rather than to coerce them – to cover their chests with a khimaar, over and above normal decent clothing, in the presence of persons other than the ones mentioned in the verse. It is reportedly more likely for sexual abuse to be perpetrated indoors rather than outdoors, so this may be the reason why this verse instructs the believers or readers of the Qur’an in general. And Allah knows best.

[8] Relations between Spouses

A study of the verses of the Noble Qur’an shows that the relationship between spouses is to be one of love and tenderness, comfort, kindness and friendship:

[Q. 30:22] And one of His Signs is this, that He has created wives for you from among yourselves that you may find peace of mind in them, and He has put love and tenderness between you. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect.

[Q. 4:20] O ye who believe! it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will; nor should you detain them wrongfully that you may take away part of that which you have given them, except that they be guilty of a flagrant lewdness; and consort with them in kindness; and if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing wherein Allah has placed much good.

[Q. 2:188] …They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them. …

[Q. 9:71] And the believers, men and women, are protective friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. It is these on whom Allah will have mercy. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.

[Q. 7:191] He it is Who has created you from a single soul, and made therefrom its mate, that he might find comfort in her. And when he knows her, she bears a light burden, and goes about with it. And when she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord, saying: ‘If Thou give us a good child, we will surely be of the thankful.’

[Q. 4:2] O ye people! Fear your Lord who created you from a single soul and of its kind created its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women; and fear Allah, in Whose name you appeal to one another, and fear him particularly respecting ties of kinship. Verily Allah watches over you. 

Given the above verses, which indicate a relationship based on love and tenderness between spouses, how can the hadith mentioned below, which was referred to by mirza masroor sahib, current elected caliph of the ahmadiyya community, in a sitting with women a few years ago, whilst emphasising that women have to obey their husbands, be considered acceptable?

“If a husband asked his wife to shift a heap of bricks from one place to another, and after she had done it, he told her to carry them back to the former place, she must do that without question.” [citation needed – I haven’t been able to find a reference for this supposed hadith as of yet]

When a good person would hesitate to impose such an oppressive demand on a servant, how could one possibly even think of treating one’s wife in such a callous and hard-hearted manner, if one expects to find love, peace and comfort in her? On careful consideration, one should continue applying the principle of rejecting ahadith which are contrary to a single verse of the Holy Qur’an, let alone numerous Qur’anic verses, as well as our God-given capacity for reflection and reasoning. The following is a revelation granted to the Promised Messiah, Ahmad a.s.:

“Many people think that their women are their servants. They are not servants but they are their companions!”  [al-Fadl, vol. 4, no. 89, May 12, 1917, p. 5; Tadhkirah p. 1058] 

This revelation nullifies the above so-called hadith which must have been forged by a misogynist, as it violates all of the Qur’anic teachings on familys/spousal relations. There are some who claim that Islam teaches the equality of men and women, yet at the same time, instruct people to act upon this fabricated hadith. Reflection shows that these are contradictory statements. The reality is that there is no order to wives that they must obey their husbands in the Qur’an. Hadhrat Ahmad a.s. also wrote:

“The relationship between a husband and wife should be like two true and sincere friends.” [Malfoozaat Vol 5, p. 417]

Hadhrat Ahmad a.s. received another revelation which is relevant in this context, viz:

“Khuzu ar-Rifqa Ar-Rifqa Fa innar Rifqa ra’sul khairaat.

i.e. (Arabic): Take hold of kindness/leniency, compassion, for compassion is the principle virtue.

Then it is repeated in Urdu: “Narmi karro, narmi karro kae tumaam naekiyon ka sar narmi hae” [Tadhkirah]

i.e. (Urdu) Be soft, be tender, for the head of all virtues is softness. [Tadhkirah, p 1900; Arba‘in, no. 3, pp. 37–38, Ruhani Khaza’in. vol. 17, pp. 428–429]

These revelations show that, contrary to what appears to be the widespread and prevalent attitude in religious circles, that it is obedience to the husband is the principle virtue in marital relationship, it is rifq or narrmi which is actually the principle virtue. This is the principle virtue in the relationship between spouses, but it also appears to be of wider application to other human relations as well.

The Noble Qur’an teaches spouses to submit to Allah, whereas Paul in the Christian New Testament of the Bible orders the wife to submit to her husband in everything [Eph 5.22ff, Col 3.18ff, 1 Pet 3.1ff], and the ‘Old Testament’ of the Bible declared that the husband will rule over the woman [Genesis 3:16]. It may be sugar-coated by the use of the word ‘love’ in surrounding verses, but that doesn’t change the reality that it is inherently a master-slave type of relationship, far away from the true monotheism inculcated by the Noble Qur’an.

These appear to be prejudiced notions of men which have also influenced the views of male muslim scholars over the centuries, but these are prejudices which the Noble Qur’an does not promote. If there were more trained muslim women scholars who could argue their case properly, thereby refuting the biased opinions and verdicts (fataawa) of the male scholars, an equitable balance would be established on the issue of womens rights in matters of fiqh (jurisprudence).

Otherwise, the immoral attitude of ‘might is right’ might prevail, instead of taking into consideration that Allah alone is Almighty, and women would feel their voices of protest against unjust attitudes and wicked conduct go unheard. Even if it may be argued that it is only fair that those who are dependent on others are expected to obey them for worldly reasons rather than religious ones, it would be an exaggeration of reality in my view, as the relationship between spouses is based more on love, tenderness, and kind treatment of near and dear ones (itaa i thil qurbaa), rather than the relatively lesser relationship of just dealings (‘adl).

As regards decision making, the Qur’an states that muslims are to consult one another as shown in both verses below: 

[Q. 42:39] And those who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what We have provided for them,

[Q. 65:8] Lodge them during the prescribed period in the houses wherein you dwell, according to the best of your means; and harass them not that you may create hardships for them. And if they be with child, spend on them until they are delivered of their burden. And if they give suck to the child for you, give them their recompense, and consult with one another in kindness; but if you meet with difficulty from each other, then another woman shall suckle the child for him (the father).

As no human knows or can think of everything, not even Mujaddideen or Reformers, Khalifas and Prophets, who can and do err, and are required to consult their companions, how is it husbands are to decide everything by themselves, and merely issue binding orders in an arrogant fashion, and are not to even bother to consult their wives? It would not be the monotheist way for the husband to be an autocrat whom the wife must submit to without question, and obey in everything. The mistaken view that it is a religious requirement for wives to obey husbands, and for children to obey parents, can and does lead to anger and aggression over petty violations, which destroys the peace at home. A case may be made for it, especially for children, due to them being minors, but expecting them to obey as a rule is not good for the parents’ own heart and mind.

[9] The Woman is Right!

It is reported that Umar r.a., the second khalifa of Islam, one day delivered a sermon against the practice of settling large sums for the Mahr (dower-money). A woman who stood up and objected, saying: ‘Oh Chief of the Believers, how dare you oppose the Qur’anic dictate that even a heap of gold may be settled on the wife as dowry? [4:20]’ Umar did not resent this, but on the contrary showed appreciation for this woman’s courage of her conviction and right to freedom of speech. He exclaimed: “The woman is right and Umar is wrong.” [Muṣannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq 10420]

This is an example of where an objection was raised because an instruction from someone in authority, who is believed to have been a Rightly Guided Khalifa by a large number of Muslims, was contrary to the teachings of the Noble Qur’an, and he was humble enough to acknowledge his error and accept correction from a woman, whilst women are wrongly and wrongfully looked down upon by a lot of men, which may well be due to arrogance. Allah knows best how many other issues related to the ‘fiqh of women’ need to be rectified, for it has been formulated by male scholars over the centuries, without consultation with Muslim women, rendering it liable to being skewed in favour of male interests and biases!

[10] Conclusions

Concerned women need to consult one another, including the more knowledgeable and learned ones among women, as regards the best way forward in collectively and cautiously striving to increase awareness of these matters starting from the grassroots level, by means of writing and talking on various platforms, and gradually withdraw and eventually free themselves, and other women, along with their loved ones, who may be within their families or within their circle of friendship, from the unIslamic tyranny of such leaders, administrations and/or organisations which will continue to uphold the unjust and oppressive rulings and chauvinistic interpretations of male jurists and other biased scholars over the centuries with regards to womens rights, some of whom have trusted and accepted the interpretations of previous scholars without due consideration. However, both muslim men and muslim women, those who love the noble Prophet Muhammad s.a., rather than merely claiming to do so, cannot continue to live with this deplorable state of affairs with regards to womens rights. And even those among us who do not love Muhammad s.a. nor do they have faith in him, but have a love for humanity, should not remain silent on these issues.

There is a dire need for women to be fully and properly trained as scholars, so as to be able to question and challenge the degrading ahadith on women compiled and approved by male scholars, and the rulings and interpretations of male jurists and commentators based on such ahadith as well as other biased interpretations which may not be directly based on ahadith, but are imposed on women nevertheless, simply because a revered classical scholar, or jurist, or other imam issued such a fatwa (religious verdict). I expect good Muslim men who are righteous and thus fair-minded, will be more than happy that Muslim women be compensated for their marginalisation for centuries by freely accepting that you be given the opportunity to review the fiqh related to women, first and foremost, along with other matters of jurisprudence, writing tafasir, and also be willing to start listening to and learning from Muslim women scholars if not already doing so.

If the Companions (Sahaaba) r.a. of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a. had no hesitation in learning from a woman (Aisha r.a.), why would those who claim to be following the Deen (Religion) of Muhammad s.a. and his Sahaaba r.a. (Companions) be reluctant to listen to and learn from a knowledgeable and pious lady? Looking down on people is a form of arrogance, so we should refrain from belittling women and refusing to listen to the truth they may be uttering, for there is a hadith which reports that the noble Prophet Muhammad s.a. said that the word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer, who takes it wherever he (or she) finds it.

I can encourage all this, and pray for the success of women in your struggles, but it is more beneficial if women themselves were to raise their voices, and strive to attain the status and worth which is granted to them by the Book of Allah and His Messenger s.a., and in other reliable revelations, but which were/are neglected by the vast majority of male scholars and leaders, and not sufficiently highlighted even by the good, righteous, and sensible ones among them (or us).

Otherwise, your own daughters and other women will continue to live under oppressive rulings for centuries to come, as women have done for centuries in the past. This struggle may have been very difficult a century or more ago, with perhaps more severe opposition and persecution of women than conceivable now, and there were other extremely difficult struggles and reforms to push forward as well, but the circumstances of the world have changed, more so because of the possibility of communicating with many people through the internet and social media, along with television programs highlighting the issues, so the time is right for taking this much needed struggle for womens rights forward.

[Q. 5:3] “… And help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression.”

It is also worth bearing in mind that Saudi women raised mutual awareness of the injustice done to them in denying them the right to drive, as men were entitled to, and were eventually successful in their campaign for the lifting of the male chauvinist restrictions.

Some women, especially those in nations, societies and communities where authoritarian extremists have a greater say in the running of affairs, would need to be more cautious about personally highlighting these issues in public than other women. One way forward on campaigning for just womens rights at this point in time, is to speak out in favour of establishing the just rights of women in Afghanistan, publicly countering the extremist narrative of the Taliban, which would simultaneously help to establish womens rights around the world in other nations and communities, refuting and thereby loosening the centuries old grip of biased male scholarship on womens issues.

We ought to keep in mind that we are instructed to utter ‘Subhaanallaah‘ when an imam errs, which means that Allah the Exalted alone is Holy and free from all types of imperfections, which is a subtle way of drawing attention to the need for correction, and no human being should be considered infallible, such that people begin to idolise him or her.

All concerned parties ought to offer the supplication:

رَبَّنَاۤ اٰتِنَا مِنۡ لَّدُنۡکَ رَحۡمَۃً وَّ ہَیِّیٴۡ لَنَا مِنۡ اَمۡرِنَا رَشَدًا

[Q. 18:11] ‘… Our Lord, bestow on us mercy from Thyself, and provide for us right guidance in our affair.’

If you have any reservations about anything I have written in this article, or in the other articles on this site, please do not hesitate to inform me about them. Keep in mind that the hadith that a believer accepts a word of wisdom wherever she or he finds it, as if it is her or his own lost property, so even if some of you don’t accept everything I have written, or have some reservations about my personal faith and ideology, it would still be to your benefit to accept and act upon what is clearly correct, and is in your own best interests to accept and adopt.

(The views expressed in this edited & abridged article predominantly reflect a study of these issues when it was written around 2017, and are subject to more modifications in the light of further guidance, reflection, research, and feedback, InshaAllaah.)

Please check https://the-truths.org/ for other interesting articles.

[19:77] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance.

[20:48] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

Author: Zubair Ahmed

Truth seeker

4 thoughts on “Women’s Rights”

  1. Assalamu alaikum! This article touches on so many points regarding Muslim women. I’ve always had a problem with this total segregation from the opposite sex, since it’s quite impractical and hypocritical at times.

    Those of us who are not brought up in atmospheres like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but in places where the opposite sex is part of the background scenery, have an issue being conscious of them in everyday life.

    The mention of MTA not having enough females is a case in point. When they do have them, their faces are nearly covered and one cannot make out any expression on their faces as well as it’s frustrating to watch for people with a hearing difficulty who rely on lip-reading and expressions to understand what is going on. On the other hand, when men or children are shown, it is utter relief to watch them as they make gestures, change of expression and, of course, speak where one can usually read lips.

    Why are subcontinent women (especially from Pakistan), so utterly inhibited? In fact, if one watches MTA Africa, the women there mostly don’t cover their faces, and it’s a relief watching those programmes as they present full expression with gestures in making a point.

    I personally don’t think that women need or have to be absent from public life, as is depicted in most Muslim majority countries. Sometimes one gets the impression that the whole population consists only of men!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wa ‘alaikum salaam w w

    I am glad you liked the article.

    “I’ve always had a problem with this total segregation from the opposite sex, since it’s quite impractical and hypocritical at times. …”

    I also wonder whether it is hypocritical that we have to converse with work colleagues of the opposite gender as appropriate, but are expected to avoid almost any sort of communication with fellow believers of the opposite gender. From another perspective, if we talk more freely with non-believers than with believers, and shun fellow believers, then would inter-marriages of believers with non-believers not become more likely?

    “The mention of MTA not having enough females is a case in point. When they do have them, their faces are nearly covered and one cannot make out any expression on their faces as well as it’s frustrating to watch for people with a hearing difficulty who rely on lip-reading and expressions to understand what is going on. …”

    Ahmadi Muslim men do have to look at female work colleagues whilst conversing with them, and Ahmadi Muslim women at work also have to do so with male work colleagues. Yet when it comes to fellow believers, we are expected to completely shun any sort of eye-contact. It’s not only inappropriate and impractical, but it can be viewed as a type of hypocrisy.

    You have raise valid issues that we ought to consider carefully, and adopt a middle way of adhering to the values and principles enunciated in the Noble Qur’an, whilst still being able to fulfil our worldly obligations in the societies we live in. One principle is that of ‘necessity’, which is mentioned in the Qur’an with regards to forbidden foods, and this is that one partakes of it only to the extent that is essential. But does the Qur’an require us to go to extremes?

    “Why are subcontinent women (especially from Pakistan), so utterly inhibited?”

    I once observed two visiting burqa clad ahmadi ladies of Pakistani origin run away from their seats at the dining table towards the kitchen when an ahmadi man of the house sought to enter the dining room, even though they were ‘family friends’! This act of theirs was completely unnecessary, as I expect they walk around town in their burqas where all sorts of men can see them. So, who made them exhibit such extremism? Is it due to excessive repeated emphasis on purdah from the podium? Allah knows best.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Assalamu alaikum! Thank you for your reply.

      My belief is that not all women can observe the kind of purdah that is depicted by most Muslim leadership, which includes our own. One example is that in this day and age, not all women live in families whose male members will take on the ‘male’ role of ‘protecting’ them. So many of us live alone and deal with the outside world the same as males do and therefore, we have to train our girls to deal with life from that perspective and know the difference between bad and good males, etc.

      The way, the present teaching goes, assumes that all Muslim girls/women will marry, have children and in general have clearly defined roles in a family. This unfortunately is really not the case always. Women these days, at least out of the subcontinent (Pakistan, especially), have to deal with the outside world which is mainly made up of men, and we had better know how to deal with them otherwise they will have a very hard time. Especially if they are burqa clad where the average men out there (including Muslim ones), is under the mistaken belief that they can be taken for a ride!

      Therefore, as a Western woman told my mother years ago, we need to get our women exposed to the real world out there and how to deal with it – men and all. For now, most Muslim women who strictly observe purdah and segregation get uncomfortable and intimidated in the presence of men. Maybe, even learn self-defence….?!

      This business about averting the eyes, (I know the Qur’an tells us to lower our gaze, etc.,), in some cultures it is interpreted as a questionable character trait, i.e. look the other person in the eye if you’re a straightforward character and person who doesn’t is not. So, it’s all a matter of culture and where one is from.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wa ‘alaikum Salaam Sister,

    My view, excuse the pun, is that one should not keep staring into the eyes of someone of the opposite gender, which can lead to the soul being drawn towards them. One can look at them whilst averting the eyes from time to time, which is kind of natural, except that one will be doing so consciously, so as to guard one’s feelings/senses, as the Holy Qur’an instructs.

    With regards to the ‘jilbaab’, i.e. the outer garment which is donned when going outside the home environment, as I stated in my article, the instruction in [33:60] to ‘say’ so, is only directed at the Prophet s.a. himself, not to every other person. So, no one ought to even say it, let alone enforce it, on any woman who does not wish to abide by the verse, and if anyone does try to pester women about it, and also attempts to enforce it, he/she can be questioned whether they are effectively claiming prophethood.

    If a believing woman adopts a middle way, attiring herself with an overcoat and head scarf for example, without a burqa or niqab, then none has the right to object. Even if she doesn’t wear a head scarf and overcoat, still, it is not the duty of every tom dick and harry to tell her what to do. It is her choice, and there is absolutely no compulsion in religious matters anyway.

    The instructions concerning ‘purdah’ indoors [24:32], in which women are instructed to draw the ‘khimaar’ (head covering) over their chests in additional to normal decent clothing – and it is indoors where most abuse reportedly takes place – are those which anyone can remind, using wisdom, their women-folk to abide by, without the risk of effectively claiming prophethood!

    These are my views as a man, and to be honest, it is better for believing women, who experience doing ‘purdah’ themselves, to comment on such matters.

    And Allah knows best.


    Liked by 1 person

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