The Value of Women in Islamby Ustaz Vincent Souleymane
The man and the woman are the two components of humanity. Both have the same goal in life: to satisfy Allah, to worship Him, to obey Him in order to get closer to Him and to be among the winners on the day of judgment.
Both are responsible for their actions and will be judged on that:
فَٱسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ أَنِّى لَآ أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَـٰمِلٍ مِّنكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ ۖ بَعْضُكُم مِّنۢ بَعْضٍ ۖ
So their Lord responded to them: “I will never deny any of you—male or female—the reward of your deeds. Both are equal in reward.”
[Surah Al-Imran 3:195]
“But those who do good—whether male or female—and have faith will enter Paradise and will never be wronged [even as much as] the speck on a date stone.”
[Surah An-Nisaa 4: 124]
The Woman as a Human Being
In many other verses, Allah reaffirms the equality of men and women before His judgment by saying that what is said is valid for both men and women.
The Prophet ﷺ was once asked about an intimate situation that men face. Umm Salamah RA, asked him about women, so the Messenger of Allah replied:
“Women are only the first-born sisters of men.“
[Reported by Abu Dawud]
From this hadith, the scholars have deduced that all prescriptions are valid for men and women even if Allah or His Messenger use the masculine gender in their words. Provided that it is not a matter of women or men. So women are on earth to worship their Lord, to do good to obtain His satisfaction, just like men.
The Woman as a Woman
Does this mean that men and women are absolutely identical and have the same predispositions? No. Allah, exalted be He, clearly answers this question by saying:
وَلَيۡسَ ٱلذَّكَرُ كَٱلۡأُنثَىٰۖ
“And the male is not like the female.“
[Surah Al-Imran 3:36]
Islam respects and values women’s femininity. Women have their own particularities, just as men have theirs, and this is in no way a belittlement for either of them.
It is a sunnah of Allah that is found everywhere, in the world of plants, animals and human beings.
وَمِن كُلِّ شَىْءٍ خَلَقْنَا زَوْجَيْنِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ ٤٩
“And We created pairs of all things so perhaps you would be mindful.”
[Surah Az Zariyat 51:49]
The male and the female are two entities that complement each other perfectly, in every respect, and whose union forms a whole and produces a fruit. In the logic of Islam, man and woman are not in competition with each other. A competition that would deny the femininity of women and the virility of men.
If they were created identical, they would not be complementary! On the contrary, it is necessary to maintain and cultivate their respective specificities so that the complementarity and harmony is the most complete. That is why the Messenger was harsh with the man who imitates the woman and the woman who imitates the man.
According to Ibn ‘Abbâs RA, the Prophet ﷺ, said: “Allah curses women who imitate men and men who imitate women.“
[Reported by Ibn Majah]
According to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn Al Khattab RA, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, said: “Three profiles, Allah will not look at them on the Day of Judgment: the woman who disobeys her parents, the woman who behaves like a man, and the man who does not feel jealousy for his wife.”
Islam honors women by preserving their feminine nature. Among her traits is beautification. While both men and women are required to look neat, women have more freedom to beautify themselves. She can wear silk clothes and gold jewelry, which is forbidden to men, for example.
There is also tenderness, gentleness, which are feminine characteristics adapted to her role as a mother and wife, but much less to what is required to seek sustenance outside. The world of work requires hardening, which is why a woman is never forced to work for her livelihood. It is the responsibility of her husband or her father if she is not married.
Because of her beauty, her relative physical weakness compared to men and the natural attraction between men and women, she can easily fall prey to evil men and be reduced to an object of desire.
To avoid this and to ensure that she is respected without having to deny her femininity, Islam establishes an “atmosphere of modesty” in male-female relationships.
It is requested to reduce some of their vision:
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا۟ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا۟ فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ
[O Prophet!] “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity.”
[Surah An-Nur 24:30]
Part of their look means not to leave the look towards the ground, but when a man sees a woman and he feels attracted then he should lower the look.
The same order is given to women.
وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity.”
[Surah An-Nur 24:31]
Modesty is also required in the dress, when she is in the presence of men with whom she could potentially marry, the woman must not show her body except her face and hands.
وَلَا يُبۡدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنۡهَاۖ وَلۡيَضۡرِبۡنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّۖ
“And not to reveal their adornments except what normally appears. Let them draw their veils over their chests.”
It is reported by ‘Aisha RA, that one day Asma the daughter of Abu Bakr RA, entered the presence of the Prophet ﷺ, dressed in fine clothes, so the Messenger of Allah ﷺ looked away and said to her: “O Asma, when she reaches the age of puberty, it is not appropriate for a woman that one can see something other than that and that” by showing his face and his hands. ”
[Reported by Abu Dawûd]
That is why the hijab is mandatory for pubescent women. Similarly, clothing should be neither tight nor transparent. This modesty in dress and behaviour contributes to her not being bothered but also to her not being reduced to an object of desire.
Indeed, by not letting her physical assets show, the woman highlights her other qualities such as intelligence and sensitivity. Hiding her external beauty to make her inner beauty appear, hiding her body to make her personality appear.
However, in society it is the woman’s personality that must be considered, her physical appearance is part of her intimacy to which the first person cannot have access. This is reserved for the one who has made a lifelong commitment to her: her husband. Thus, the woman and her femininity are truly respected.
The Woman as a Wife
We have seen that the man and the woman are the two components of humanity with the same objective but different characteristics,which implies a different and complementary distribution of roles in the couple and in the organization of the family.
Thus the man, who is more physically resistant, is more predisposed to work to obtain the subsistence of the family, while the woman, who is more affectionate and patient, will know how to better take care of the home.
Allah tells us that both have their rights and duties:
وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ
“Women have rights similar to those of men equitably.”
[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:228]
Ibn ‘Abbâs, one of the most knowledgeable companions in the explanation of the Qur’an, says: “I like to beautify myself for (my) wife as I like her to beautify herself for me, for God – exalted be He – says: “And they have rights, equivalent to their duties according to propriety.”
However, like any human organization, the family needs a leader, a person in charge. Allah has given this role to man.
ٱلرِّجَالُ قَوَّٰمُونَ عَلَى ٱلنِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ ٱللهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُوا۟ مِنْ أَمْوَٰلِهِمْ ۚ
“Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially.”
[Surah An-Nisaa 4:34]
Men have authority over women because of the favors that Allah bestows on them and and because of the expenses they make of their property.
But how should authority be exercised in Islam?
Prophet ﷺ did it.
وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَجَابُوا۟ لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَـٰهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ ٣٨
“Who respond to their Lord, establish prayer, conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and donate from what We have provided for them.”
[Surah Ash-Shura 42:38]
This consultation in business matters is also valid within the couple. In return, the husband has the obligation to provide the wife with what she needs in terms of housing, clothing, food and care.
Women should not envy men for this:
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا۟ مَا فَضَّلَ ٱللهُ بِهِۦ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا ٱكْتَسَبُوا۟ ۖ وَلِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا ٱكْتَسَبْنَ ۚ وَسْـَٔلُوا۟ ٱللهَ مِن فَضْلِهِۦٓ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمًا ٣٢
“And do not crave what Allah has given some of you over others. Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women [equally] according to theirs. Rather, ask Allah for His bounties. Surely Allah has [perfect] knowledge of all things.”
[Surah An-Nisaa 4:32]
The model of the woman described in the Qur’an and personified by the sahabiyat has two qualities: strength and virtue.
These women were strong in their commitment to the message, in obtaining their rights, the rights that Islam has given them. But at the same time they were very virtuous in their behavior and family responsibilities.
The first person to follow the Prophet was a woman, his wife Khadijah bint Khulayid; the first person to be martyred was a woman, Soumeyya bint Khayat; among those who played a leading role in the Prophet’s emigration to Medina was Asma bint Abi Bakr: Asma bint Abi Bakr; just before he died, Caliph ‘Umar ibn al Khattab had to choose someone to whom to entrust the only complete copy of the Qur’an existing at the time, he opted for a woman, his daughter Hafsa bint ‘Umar ibn al khattab.
At the same time they were models of virtue and morality. They brought joy and serenity to their homes, they did not question the authority of their husbands, as long as the husband did not transgress the orders of Allah.
This is the model of the Muslim woman: strong and virtuous!
Contributed by Vincent Souleymane
Vincent Souleymane, French Imam and Shari’a referent at Muslim Pro, has dedicated his time to studying and enriching others with the knowledge of Islamic sciences since his conversion to this religion in 1999. During his studies at Oussoul Eddine Institute in Saint-Denis, he became aware of the importance of devotion to Allah and decided to continue his religious studies at daroul ouloum achrafiya of Reunion Island and at the IESH of Château Chinon. Since then, Vincent Souleymane has devoted himself to the Almighty by teaching Islam at the Oussoul Eddine Institute, as well as being imam at the Fontenay sous Bois Mosque.