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Islam and women

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Islam and women

Women in Islam are guided by primary Islamic sources of personal law, namely the Quran and hadiths, as well as secondary sources such as ijma, qiyas, ijtihad in form such as fatwas; the secondary sources vary with various sects of Islam and schools of jurisprudence (madhhab).[1][2] In certain regions, in addition to religious guidelines, pre-Islamic cultural traditions play a role.[3] Islamic laws and cultural customs impact various stages of a Muslim women's life, including her education, employment opportunities, rights to inheritance, female circumcision, dress, age of marriage, freedom to consent to marriage, marriage contract, mahr, permissibility of birth control, divorce, sex outside or before marriage, her ability to receive justice in case of sex crimes, property rights independent of her husband, and when salat (religious prayers) are mandatory for her.[4][5][6] Polygyny is allowed to men under Islam, but not widespread; in some Islamic countries, such as Iran, a woman's husband may enter into temporary marriages in addition to permanent marriage.[7][8] Islam forbids Muslim women from marrying a non-Muslim.[9] There is debate and controversy on gender roles according to Islam.[3][10]

Sharia (Islamic law) provides for complementarianism,[11] differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. Being a Muslim is more than a religious identity; Islam outlines and structures ways in which a Muslim woman lives her life on a day-to-day basis.[12] Islam does not mandate Muslim women to be housewives;[13] but needs her husband’s permission to leave house and take up employment.[14][15] In majority Muslim countries women exercise varying degrees of their religious rights with regards to marriage, divorce, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives.

Sources of influence

There are four sources of influence under Islam for Muslim women. The first two - Quran and Hadiths - are considered primary sources, while the other two are secondary and derived sources that differ between various Muslim sects and schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The secondary sources of influence include ijma, qiyas, as well ijtihad in form such as fatwas.[1][2][16]

Primary sources

Women in Islam are provided a number of guidelines under Quran and hadiths, as understood by fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) as well as of the interpretations derived from the hadith that were agreed upon by majority of Sunni scholars as authentic beyond doubt based on hadith studies.[3][17] Sunni Muslims are the largest Islamic sect, comprising approximately 80% of the world's Muslims. The Sunni sect includes many theological schools and doctrines interpreting the Quran. To Sunnis, the ahadith constitute an important source of legislation. Fiqh is the basis of jurisprudence, or legal practise, developed by Muslim jurists during the centuries following the creation of Islam, and largely influenced by the ahadith.[18] These interpretations and their application were shaped by the historical context of the Muslim world at the time they were written.[3] Many of the earliest writings were from a time of tribal warfare which could have been inappropriate for the 21st century, but most remain appropriate to how a Muslim following the sunnah should behave.

During his life Muhammad married eleven or thirteen women depending upon the differing accounts of who were his wives. In Arabian culture, marriage was generally contracted in accordance with the larger needs of the tribe and was based on the need to form alliances within the tribe and with other tribes. Virginity at the time of marriage was emphasized as a tribal honor.[19] William Montgomery Watt states that all of Muhammad's marriages had the political aspect of strengthening friendly relationships and were based on the Arabian custom.[20] The tradition set by Muhammad, as recorded in various hadiths are another primary source of influence for Muslim women.

Secondary sources

The above primary sources of influence on women of Islam do not deal with every conceivable situation over time. This led to the development of jurisprudence and religious schools with Islamic scholars that referred to resources such as identifying authentic documents, internal discussions and establishing a consensus to find the correct religiously approved course of action for Muslims.[1][2] These formed the secondary sources of influence for women. Among them are ijma, qiya, ijtihad and others depending on sect and the school of Islamic law. Included in secondary sources are fatwas, which are often widely distributed, orally or in writing by Muslim clerics, to the masses, in local language and describe behavior, roles and rights of women that conforms with religious requirements. Fatwas are theoretically non-binding, but seriously considered and has often been practiced by most Muslim believers. The secondary sources typically fall into five types of influence: the declared role or behavior for a Muslim woman is considered obligatory, commendable, permissible, despised or prohibited. There is considerable controversy, change over time, and conflict between the secondary sources.[21][22][23]

Gender roles

Main article: Gender roles in Islam

The Quran dedicates numerous verses to Muslim women, their role, duties and rights, in addition to Surah 4 with 176 verses named An-Nisa (women).[24] Some verses are considered as key in defining gender roles in Islam, one being verse 4.34:[25][26]

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

The above verse 34 uses the word qawwamun to depict the gender role of men. This is the plural form often equated as lord, master, ruler, governor, manager. Some scholars[10][27] claim this verse establishes a hierarchical gender role, with man as ruler and woman as ruled. However, other scholars[10][27] suggest that this Arabic word may not mean ruler in its context. Rather, it means ‘bread-winner’ as an economic term. Such an interpretation of Quran then implies a division of functions, with men as bread winners, and women as child-bearers.

The other key verse on gender role is 2:228:[28]

And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation; and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty, Wise.

This verse not only explains the divorce rights of women in Islam, it sets out iddah to prevent illegal custody of divorcing husband's child by a woman, specifies that each gender has divorce rights, and that Muslim men are a degree above Muslim women.[29][30][31]

Islam differentiates the gender role of women who believe in Islam, and women who do not believe in Islam. The right to own slave women, seized during military campaigns and jihad against non-believing pagans and infidels from Southern Europe to Africa to India to Central Asia, was considered a natural right of a Muslim.[32][33] Slave women could be sold without their consent, expected to provide sexual concubinage, required permission from their owner to marry, and children born to them were automatically considered Muslim under Islamic law if the father was a Muslim.[34][35][36]

Female education


Islam encouraged religious education of Muslim women. According to a hadith attributed to Muhammad, he praised the women of Medina because of their desire for religious knowledge:[37]

How splendid were the women of the ansar; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith.

While it was not common for women to enroll as students in formal religious schools, it was common for women to attend informal lectures and study sessions at mosques, madrasat and other public places. For example, the attendance of women at the Fatimid Caliphate's "sessions of wisdom" (majālis al-ḥikma) was noted by various historians including Ibn al-Tuwayr, al-Muṣabbiḥī and Imam.[38][38]

Historically, some Muslim women played an important role in the foundation of many religious educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri's founding of the University of al-Karaouine in 859 CE.[39] According to the Sunni scholar Ibn 'Asakir in the 12th century, there were various opportunities for female education in what is known as the medieval Islamic world. He writes that women could study, earn ijazahs (religious degrees), and qualify as ulama and Islamic teachers.[40] Similarly, al-Sakhawi devotes an entire volume of his 12-volume biographical dictionary Daw al-Lami to female religious scholars, giving information on 1,075 of them, between 700 and 1800 CE.[41]

Modern era

In a 2013 statement, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation noted that many Islamic member nations restrict education opportunities for girls.[42] UNICEF notes that out of 24 nations with less than 60% female primary enrolment rates, 17 were Islamic nations; more than half the adult population is illiterate in several Islamic countries, and the proportion reaches 70% among Muslim women.[43] Other scholars[44][45] claim Islamic nations have the world's highest gender gap in education. The 2012 World Economic Forum annual gender gap study finds the 17 out of 18 worst performing nations, out of a total of 135 nations, are the following members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation: Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, (Nepal[46]), Turkey, Oman, Egypt, Iran, Mali, Morocco, Côte d'Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen.[47]

Female employment

Some scholars [48][49] refer to Khadijah - prophet Muhammad's first wife - who was a merchant before and after converting to Islam, and to verse 28:23 in Quran to justify Muslim women may undertake employment outside their homes.

And when he came to the water of Madyan, he found on it a group of men watering, and he found besides them two women keeping back (their flocks). He said: What is the matter with you? They said: We cannot water until the shepherds take away (their sheep) from the water, and our father is a very old man.

During medieval times, the labor force in Spanish Caliphate included women in diverse occupations and economic activities such as farming, construction workers, textile workers, managing slave girls, collecting taxes from prostitutes, as well as presidents of guilds, creditors, religious scholars.[50]

In the 12th century, Ibn Rushd, claimed that women were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine, citing examples of female warriors among the Arabs, Greeks and Africans to support his case.[51] In the early history of Islam, examples of notable female Muslims who fought during the Muslim conquests and Fitna (civil wars) as soldiers or generals included Nusaybah bint Ka'ab[52] a.k.a. Umm Amarah, Aisha,[53] Kahula and Wafeira.[54]

Medieval bimarestan or hospitals included female staff as female nurses. Muslim hospitals were also the first to employ female physicians, such as Banu Zuhr family who served the Almohad caliph ruler Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur in the 12th century.[55] This was necessary due to the segregation of male and female patients in Islamic hospitals. Later in the 15th century, female surgeons were employed at Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu's Cerrahiyyetu'l-Haniyye (Imperial Surgery).[56]

Modern era

Patterns of women's employment vary throughout the Muslim world: as of 2005, 16% of Pakistani women were "economically active" (either employed, or unemployed but available to furnish labor), whereas 52% of Indonesian women were.[57] According to 2012 World Economic Forum report,[58] and other recent reports,[59] Islamic nations in the Middle East and North Africa region are improving in creating economic and employment opportunities for its women; however, compared to every other region in the world, the Middle East and North African region ranks lowest on economic participation, employment opportunity and political empowerment of women. Ten countries with the lowest women labour force participation in the world - Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria - are Islamic countries, as are the four countries that have no women parliamentarian.[58]

Women are allowed to work in Islam, subject to certain conditions, such as if a woman is in financial need and her employment does not cause her to neglect her important role as a mother and wife.[48][60] It has been claimed that it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to organize work for women, so that she can do so in a Muslim cultural atmosphere, where her rights (as set out in the Quran) are respected.[48] Islamic law however, permits women to work in Islamic conditions,[48] such as the work not requiring the woman to violate Islamic law (e.g., serving alcohol), and that she maintain her modesty while she performs any work outside her home.

In some cases, when women have the right to work and are educated, women's job opportunities may in practice be unequal to those of men. In Egypt for example, women have limited opportunities to work in the private sector because women are still expected to put their role in the family first, which causes men to be seen as more reliable in the long term.[61]

Legal matters

Main article: Application of sharia by country

Most Muslim majority countries, and some Muslim minority countries, follow a mixed legal system.[62] The first part of legal system includes a constitution, parliamentary laws and state courts, the second part of legal system includes sharia-based religious laws and religious courts. This has led to disagreements on various issues such as the status of women's testimony in Islam and permissibility of child marriage. Those countries that use Sharia for legal matters involving women, adopt it mostly for personal law, but not criminal law; however, a few Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen apply the entire sharia code in legal matters for Muslim women.[63]

Some local customs such as diyya or blood money, jirga, vani, and honor killing remain an integral part of customary legal process for Muslim women, in parts of Islamic regions. By implementation this also discriminates against women. Diyya existed in Arabia since pre-Islamic times.[64][65] While the practice of diyya was affirmed by Muhammed,[65] Islam does not prescribe any specific amount for diyya nor does it require discrimination between men and women.[66] The Quran has left open to debate, its quantity, nature, and other related affairs to be defined by social custom and tradition.[66][67] However in practice, the killing of a woman will generally invoke a lesser diyya than the killing of a man. Commentators on the status of women in Islam have often focused on disparities in diyyat, the fines paid by killers to victims' next of kin after either intentional or unintentional homicide,[66] between men and women.

Other than applicable laws to Muslim women, there is variation in the process of testimony and acceptable forms of evidence in legal matters. Some Islamic jurists have held that certain types of testimony by women may not be accepted. In other cases, the testimony of two women can equal that of one man (although the Quran says two women and two male are needed but if a male cannot find another male he may carry this testimony out himself).[68] Reasons at the time the verse was revealed have been put forward including: women's temperament, women's lack of interest in legal matters,[69] and also the need to spare women from the "burden of testifying".[70] In other areas, women's testimony may be accepted on an equal basis with men's.[71][72] The verse itself however relates to finances only.[73]

Property rights

Bernard Lewis notes that classical Islamic civilization granted free Muslim women relatively more property rights than women in the West, even as it sanctified three basic inequalities between master and slave, man and woman, believer and unbeliever.[74] While the world modernised, women's rights in many Muslim dominated countries have remained comparatively restricted.

Women's property rights in the Quran are based around the marriage contract. A woman, according to Islamic tradition, does not have to give her pre-marriage possessions to her husband and receives a mahr (dower) which she owns.[75] Furthermore, any earnings that a woman receives through employment or business, after marriage, is hers to keep and need not contribute towards family expenses. This is because, once the marriage is consummated, in exchange for ‘‘tamkin’’ (sexual submission), a woman is entitled to ‘‘nafaqa’’ - that is, the financial responsibility for reasonable housing, food and other household expenses for the family, including the spouse, falls entirely on the husband.[14][15] In traditional Islamic law, a woman is also not responsible for the upkeep of the home and may demand payment for any work she does in the domestic sphere.[76]

Women’s inheritance rights to her father’s property are unequal to her male siblings, and varies based on number of sisters, step sisters, step brothers, if mother is surviving, and other claimants. The rules of inheritance are specified by a number of verses, including Quran’s Surah Baqarah, chapter 2 verse 180, chapter 2 verse 240; Surah Nisa, chapter 4 verse 7–11, chapter 4 verse 19, chapter 4 verse 33; and Surah Maidah, chapter 5 verse 106–108. Three verses in the Quran describe the share of close relatives, Surah Nisah chapter 4 verses 11, 12 and 176. The religious inheritance laws for women in Islam are different than inheritance laws for non-Muslim women under modern common laws in Europe, Americas, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Sexual crimes

Sexual intercourse between a Muslim woman and any man who she is not married to, is called zina, a religious crime in Islam.[77][78] This includes extramarital sex, premarital sex and rape. It is in the list of hadd crimes, that is a crime against God: murder of a Muslim, theft of a Muslim's property, zina, consumption of alcohol or other intoxicants, and apostasy from Islam.[79][80] The punishment for unlawful sex is fixed for a woman in Islam, which is flogging with 100 lashes in public, or stoning to death.[81] Accusing anyone of sex crime or rape, without proper witnesses, is also a hadd crime.[82]

The sex crime, zina, cannot be alleged by any woman or man, without four Muslim male eyewitnesses to the crime, or without confession in court by the man who committed the sex crime'.[77][78][83] Scholars[77][84][85] claim this sharia requirement of four eyewitnesses severely limits a woman's ability to press rape charges, a crime often committed without eyewitnesses.

Sex without consent against non-Muslim slave women is not considered a religious sex crime, zina, for Muslim men.[86] This principle of religious crime only applies for unlawful sex between free Muslim men and free Muslim women.

While a sunnah suggests a woman should not be punished for having been coerced into having sex,[87] it is the burden of the victim to establish coercion with eyewitnesses. In case a man confesses to zina, eyewitnesses are not required.[88] However, this confession may be withdrawn, which then requires that four male Muslim eyewitnesses be provided. Failure to provide evidence is treated as a crime of false accusation, punishable with flogging.[89] Currently, it is common for a Muslim woman who raises claims of rape to be not only denied justice, but to be charged as a criminal herself for committing fornication or adultery.[90][91][92][93]

Several Islamic countries allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they marry their victim. For example, Morocco’s Article 475 of Penal Code, allows a rapist to escape criminal prosecution if he marries his victim. In 2012, a Moroccan 16-year-old girl committed suicide by swallowing rat poison, after having been forced to marry her rapist, by her family and the government prosecutor, and having endured abuse by the rapist after they married.[94] Morocco’s parliament proposed to revise its Article 475 in 2013. Other Islamic nations with similar laws that protect the rapist by marrying his victim, include Lebanon (Article 514 of its code), Algeria, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others.[95][96][97][98] There is a disagreement whether this practice is sanctioned by Islam or part of local custom.[99][100]

Witness of woman

In Qur'an, surah 2:182 equates two women as substitute for one man, in matters requiring witnesses.[101]

O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable himself to dictate, let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.

The sunnah in various hadiths, which record the teachings and actions of Muhammad, are more explicit in comparing Muslim women to Muslim men, in matters of testimony. Of these, Sahih Bukhari, considered authentic and among the most trusted binding hadiths in Islam, two hadiths record the tradition set by the Prophet and his companions:

Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o '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?" Allah's Apostle 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."
The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind."

Muhammad Akbar and Mohammad Hanif Ibrahim|Mohammad Hanif[102] and Ghulam Ahmed Pervez claim in their books that above mentioned Quran verse is for special circumstances of financial matters, and that this should not apply in criminal matters.

In practice, several Islamic countries presently treat a woman's testimony as half of a man's, in their Sharia courts. For example, since 1979, Pakistan courts have accepted the principle that a woman's testimony is half as reliable as a man's per Islamic guidelines, and adopted it in practice.[103] Similarly, the law in many Arab countries gives a woman’s testimony half the weight of a man’s.[104]

Domestic violence law

Scholars[105][106] claim Islamic law, such as verse 4:34 of Quran, allows and encourages domestic violence against women, when a husband suspects nushuz (disobedience, disloyalty, rebellion, ill conduct) in his wife.[107] Other scholars claim wife beating, for nashizah, is not consistent with modern perspectives of Quran.[108] Some conservative translations suggest Muslim husbands are permitted ‘‘Idribuhunna’’ (use ’’light force’’) on their wives, and others claim permissibility to strike, hit, chastise, or beat.[109][110] The relationship between Islam and domestic violence is disputed by some Islamic scholars.[109][111]

In practice, the legal doctrine of many Islamic nations, in deference to Sharia law, have refused to include, consider or prosecute cases of domestic violence, limiting legal protections available to Muslim women.[112][113][114][115] In 2010, for example, the highest court of United Arab Emirates (Federal Supreme Court) considered a lower court's ruling, and upheld a husband's right to "chastise" his wife and children with physical violence. Article 53 of the United Arab Emirates' penal code acknowledges the right of a "chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children" so long as the assault does not exceed the limits prescribed by Sharia.[116] In Lebanon, as many as three-quarters of all Lebanese women have suffered physical abuse at the hands of husbands or male relatives at some point in their lives.[117][118] In Afghanistan, over 85% of women report domestic violence;[119] other nations with very high rates of domestic violence and limited legal rights include Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.[120] In some Islamic countries such as Turkey, where legal protections against domestic violence have been enacted, serial domestic violence by husband and other male members of her family is mostly ignored by witnesses and accepted by women without her getting legal help, according to a Government of Turkey report.[121]


Under Islamic law, marriage is not a status, it is a contract, that requires a woman's consent.[122] "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives/ family members." Annemarie Schimmel claims, "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work."[123] Other scholars suggest Islam subsumed and expanded many cultural practices with regards to women, such as their gender role before and after marriage, continuation of bride price as mahr, and the sanction of female circumcision before she can be married, as Islam started and expanded from the Arabian peninsula.[124][125][126]

In contrast to the Western and Orient world where divorce was relatively uncommon until modern times, divorce was a more common occurrence in certain parts of the late medieval Muslim world. In the Mamluk Sultanate and Ottoman Empire, the rate of divorce was high.[127][128] In medieval Egypt, Al-Sakhawi recorded the marital history of 500 women, the largest sample of married women in the Middle Ages, and found that at least a third of all women in the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria married more than once, with many marrying three or more times. According to Al-Sakhawi, as many as three out of ten marriages in 15th century Cairo ended in divorce.[129] In the early 20th century, some villages in western Java and the Malay peninsula had divorce rates as high as 70%.[127]


Marriage customs vary in Muslim dominated countries. Islamic law allows polygamy, where a Muslim man can be married to four wives at the same time, under certain conditions. Some countries allow Muslim men to enter into additional temporary marriages, beyond the four allowed marriages, such as the practice of sigheh marriages in Iran,[130] and Nikah al-Mutah elsewhere in some Middle East countries.[131][132]

In some countries, polygamy is restricted by new family codes, for example the Moudawwana in Morocco.[133] Polygamy is permitted under restricted conditions,[134] but it is not widespread.[135] The Sharia requires that polygamous men treat all wives equally. Muslim women are not allowed to engage in polyandry, whereas men are allowed to engage in polygyny.[136][137]

A marriage of pleasure, where a man pays a sum of money to a woman or her family in exchange for a temporary spousal relationship, is found and considered legal among Shia sect of Islam, for example in Iran after 1979. Temporary marriages are forbidden among Sunni sect of Islam.[8] Among Shia, the number of temporary marriages can be unlimited, for a duration that is less than an hour to few months, recognized with an official temporary marriage certificate, and divorce is unnecessary because the temporary marriage automatically expires on the date and time specified on the certificate.[138] Payment to the woman by the man is mandatory, in every temporary marriage and considered as mahr.[139][140] Its practitioners cite sharia law as permitting the practise. Women's rights groups have condemned it as a form of legalized prostitution.[141][142]


Endogamy is common in Islamic countries. The observed endogamy is primarily consanguineous marriages, where the bride and the groom share a biological grandparent or other near ancestor.[143][144] The most common observed marriages are first cousin marriages, followed by uncle-niece and second cousin marriages. Consanguineous endogamous marriages are most common for women in Muslim communities in the Middle East, North Africa and Islamic Central Asia.[145][146] About 1 in 3 of all marriages in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan are first cousin marriages; while overall consanguineous endogamous marriages exceed 65 to 80% in various Islamic populations of the Middle East, North Africa and Islamic Central Asia.[144][147]

Age of marriage

The age of marriage in Islam for women varies with country. Traditionally, Islam has permitted marriage of girls below the age of 10, because Sharia considers practices of Muhammad, the Prophet, as a basis for Islamic law. According to Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the two authentic hadiths, the Prophet married Aisha, his fourth wife when she was 6, and consummated the marriage before she reached the age of 10.[148][149]

Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).

There is a debate among Islamic scholars what the above sunnah means. Some scholars suggest that it is not the calendar age that matters, rather it is the biological age of the girl that determines when she can be married under Islamic law. According to these Islamic scholars, marriageable age in Islam is when a girl has reached sexual maturity, as determined by her nearest male guardian; this age can be, claim these Islamic scholars, less than 10 years, or 12, or another age depending on each girl. There is a strong belief among most Muslims and scholars, based on Sharia, that marrying a girl less than 15, or 12 years old is an acceptable practice for Muslims.[150][151] Muslim communities in Yemen,[152][153] Saudi Arabia,[154] India,[155][156] Bangladesh, Pakistan,[157] Indonesia,[158] Egypt,[159] Nigeria[160] and elsewhere have insisted that it is their Islamic right to marry women below age 15.[161]

According to Islamic law (sharia), marriage cannot be forced.[75][162] Other scholars suggest that all child marriages are implicitly forced marriages.[163][164]

Interfaith marriages and Muslim women

In Islam, Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men, a term that includes infidel, apostate, ex-Muslims, other monotheistic (Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian), non-theistic and polytheistic men (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and others).[165][166][167] Further, a Muslim woman - either by birth or after conversion - is not allowed to leave Islam to marry a non-Muslim, because leaving Islam is a religious hudud crime of apostasy punishable with death.[168][169][170] The Quran allows Muslim men to marry women of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), but the woman must be chaste. Many Islamic scholars explain this gender difference in marriage restrictions, where men can marry some non-Muslim women while Muslim women may never marry non-Muslim men, is that Islam considers marriage an unequal relationship, where a wife is subservient to her husband in ways similar to a slave being subservient to a master, and Islam forbids Muslim women who are superior because of their religion to place themselves in a subservient position as a wife of men with inferior religions.[165][171] Sharia stipulates severe punishment for non-Muslim and dhimmi men who marry and consummate their relationship with Muslim women. Hadd punishments are also stipulated for women who marry non-Muslims on their own accord.[9][165][172]

If after marriage, the husband leaves Islam or converts to another religion such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism, the marriage of the Muslim woman to him is automatically dissolved. This principle was established at the time of the Prophet Ramla bint Abi Sufyan whose husband converted to Christianity, whose marriage was declared void by the Prophet because of the husband's decision to leave Islam.

Behaviour and rights within marriage

Islamic law and practice recognize gender disparity, in part, by assigning separate rights and obligations to a woman in married life. A woman’s space is in the private sphere of the home, and a man’s is in the public sphere.[173][174] Women must primarily fulfill marital and maternal responsibilities,[175] whereas men are financial and administrative stewards of their families.[173][176] According to Sayyid Qutb, the Qur'an "gives the man the right of guardianship or superiority over the family structure in order to prevent dissension and friction between the spouses. The equity of this system lies in the fact that God both favoured the man with the necessary qualities and skills for the 'guardianship' and also charged him with the duty to provide for the structure's upkeep."[177]


In Islam, there is no coverture, an idea central in European, American as well as in non-Islamic Asian common law, and the legal basis for the principle of marital property. An Islamic marriage is a contract between a man and his wives. A Muslim man and woman do not merge their legal identity upon marriage, and do not have rights over any shared marital property. The assets of the man before the marriage, and earned by him after the marriage, remain his during marriage and in case of a divorce.[179] A divorce under Islamic law does not require redistribution of property. Rather, each spouse walks away from the marriage with his or her individual property. Divorcing Muslim women who did not work outside their home after marriage do not have a claim on the collective wealth of the couple under Islamic law, except for deferred mahr - an amount of money or property the man agrees to pay her before the woman signs the marriage contract.[60][180]

In case of husband's death, his property is inherited partially by his wives according to a combination of sharia laws. If the man did not leave any children, his permanent wives will share a quarter of the movable property and the rest is shared by the blood relatives of the husband (for example, brother, father). If he had children from any of his wives, his wives share an eighth of the property and the rest is for his surviving children and blood relatives. The wives share as inheritance a part of movable property of her late husband, but they do not share anything from immovable property such as land, real estate, farm or such value. A woman's deferred mahr and the man's outstanding debts are paid before any inheritance is applied.[181]


In Islam, a Muslim woman can only have sex after her ‘‘nikah’’ - a proper marriage contract - with one Muslim man; sex is permitted to her only with her husband.[77][86][182] The woman’s husband, may however, marry and have sex with more than one Muslim woman, as well as have sex with non-Muslim slave girls who are unmarried or married to non-Muslim men.[78][86][183] According to Quran and Sahih Muslim, two primary sources of Sharia, Islam permits only vaginal sex.[184]

(...) "If he likes he may (have intercourse) being on the back or in front of her, but it should be through one opening (vagina).”

There is disagreement among Islamic scholars on proper interpretation of Islamic law on permissible sex between a husband and wife, with claims that non-vaginal sex within a marriage is disapproved but not forbidden.[184][185][186]

After sex, as well as menstruation, Islam requires women to do ghusl (major ritual washing with water, ablutions), and in some Islamic communities xoslay (prayers seeking forgiveness and purification), as sex and menstruation are considered some of the causes that makes women religiously impure (najis).[187][188] Some Islamic jurists suggest touching and foreplay, without any penetration, may qualify wudu (minor ritual washing) as sufficient form of religiously required ablution.[189] A Muslim woman must also abstain from sex during a ritual fast, and during all times while on a pilgrimage to Mecca, as sexual act, touching of sexual parts and emission of sexual bodily fluids are considered ritually dirty.[190]

Sexual intercourse is not allowed to a Muslim woman during menstruation, postpartum period, during fasting and certain religious activities, disability and in iddah after divorce or widowhood. Homosexual relations and same sex marriages are forbidden to women in Islam.[185] In vitro fertilization (IVF) is acceptable in Islam; but ovum donation along with sperm donation, embryo donation and child adoption are prohibited by Islam.[184][191][192] Some debated fatwas from Shia sect of Islam, however, allow third party participation.[193][194]

A high value is placed on female chastity (not to be confused with celibacy). To protect women from accusations of unchaste behaviour, the scripture lays down severe punishments towards those who make false allegations about a woman's chastity. However, in some[which?] societies, an accusation is rarely questioned and the woman who is accused rarely has a chance to defend herself in a fair and just manner.

Female genital mutilation

There is no mention of female or male circumcision in the Quran. Although its origins are pre-Islamic, female circumcision - also known as female genital mutilation - became associated with Islam because of the high value placed on female chastity, and is found only within or near Islamic communities.[195] It is praised in several hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad) as noble, but not required, along with advice that the milder forms are kinder to women.[125] A 2013 UNICEF report finds that there is a widespread belief in several countries, particularly Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Guinea and Egypt, that female genital mutilation is a religious requirement.[6] A concerted effort is underway to end the practice of female genital mutilation. In Mauritania, where "health campaigners estimate that more than 70 percent of Mauritanian girls undergo the partial or total removal of their external genitalia for non-medical reasons", 34 Islamic scholars signed a fatwa banning the practice in January 2010. Their aim was to prevent people from citing religion as a justification for genital mutilation.[196][197]

Birth control

Islam, as the pre-Islamic Arabic culture before it, is natalist, and promotes the birth of as many children as a Muslim couple can produce. However, under certain circumstances[which?], it is permissible according to Islamic doctrine to limit (tahdid an-nasl) or at least control ('azl, coitus interruptus) reproduction, without suffering the fate of a penalty for the gesture. Limiting the number of children is recommended when a family lacks the resources to provide for them. In practice, abortion is banned in all the countries where Islam is the state religion, except for Tunisia.

Muslim jurists of the two major sects of Islam, Sunni and Shia, generally agree that birth control and family planning is not forbidden by Sharia.[198] Some fatwas such as from Egypt claim birth control is permitted, while others such as from Saudi Arabia discourage or forbid birth control. Large families and many children are considered assets for an Islamic woman. Islamic scholars who oppose birth control cite al-An’am (Sura 6:151), al-Isra’ (Sura 17:31), al Takwir (Sura 81:8,9), and al-Mumtahana (Sura 60:12) to argue that even al-Azl (coitus interruptus) is infanticide.[198] Islamic scholars who support birth control quote hadiths where al-Azl was practiced by companions of Muhammad on women who they had seized as captives of war, and with their female slaves.[199] Muslim children are highly valued by Islam, and are considered gifts from God (al-Nahl, Sura 16:72).[200] In practice, several Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia forbid birth control for Muslim women, with contraception inaccessible; in some nations such as Qatar, the husband decides if his wife can use birth control.[201][202]

Egypt's National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper.[203] The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People's Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death. According to Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in al-Ahram, Talawi's message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislation that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations.


Main article: Divorce (Islamic)

In Islam, in some circumstances, a woman can initiate a divorce. If a Muslim woman wishes to divorce her husband she has two options under Sharia law: seek a tafriq, or seek a khul. A tafriq is a divorce for certain allowable reasons. This divorce is granted by a qadi, a religious judge, in cases where the qadi accepts her claims of abuse or abandonment. If a tafriq is denied by the qadi, she cannot divorce. If a tafriq is granted, the marriage is dissolved and the husband is obligated to pay her the deferred mahr in their marriage contract. The second method, by far more common in wife-initiated divorces, khul is a divorce without cause, by mutual consent. This divorce requires a husband's consent and it must be supported by consideration that passes from the wife to the husband. Often, this consideration almost always consists of the wife relinquishing her claim to the deferred mahr. In actual practice and outside of Islamic judicial theory, a woman’s right to divorce is often extremely limited compared with that of men in the Middle East.[204]

In contrast to limited allowable methods of divorce to a woman, Islam allows a Muslim husband may unilaterally divorce his wife, as talaq, with no requirement to show cause, nor is there any intervention by a qadi. However, upon talaq, the husband must pay the wife her deferred mahr.[205] The husband is free to marry again after immediately after a divorce, but the woman must observe iddah, that is wait for 3 lunar months[206] before she can re-marry after divorce, to establish paternity, in case she discovers she is pregnant. In case of death of her husband, the iddah period is 4 lunar months and 10 days before she can start conjugal relations with another Muslim man.[207][208][209]

This contentious area of religious practice and tradition is being increasingly challenged by those promoting more liberal interpretations of Islam.

Movement and travel

Although no limitation or prohibition against women's travelling alone is mentioned in the Quran, there is a debate in some Islamic sects, especially Salafis, regarding whether women may travel without a mahram (unmarriageable relative).[210] Some scholars state that a woman may not travel by herself on a journey that takes longer than three days (equivalent to 48 miles in medieval Islam).[211] According to the European Council for Fatwa and Research, this prohibition arose from fears for women's safety when travel was more dangerous.[210] Some scholars relax this prohibition for journeys likely to be safe, such as travel with a trustworthy group of men or men and women, or travel via a modern train or plane when the woman will be met upon arrival.[210]

Sheikh Ayed Al-Qarni, a Saudi Islamic scholar, has said that neither the Quran nor the sunnah prohibits women from driving and that it is better for a woman to drive herself than to be driven by a stranger without a legal escort.[212] He also stated, however, that he "personally will not allow [his] wife or daughters or sisters to drive."[212] In most Muslim countries women are allowed to drive. However, they are forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia per a 1990 fatwa (religious ruling);[213] Saudi Arabia is currently the only Muslim country that bans women from driving.[214][215] John Esposito, professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, has argued that these restrictions originate from cultural customs and not Islam.[216]

Cleanliness and travel restrictions

A Muslim woman may not move in a mosque, or perform salat, while she is menstruating or during postpartum period, because bodily fluids are considered ritually impure in Islam. Some Muslim scholars suggest that the woman should stay in her house, or near her house, during this state.[190][217][218] Some Islamic jurists claim that this is an incorrect interpretation of sharia, and suggest the Islamic intent was about hygiene, not about religious ritual cleanliness.[190]

Dress code

Islam admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly in garments that does not reveal the body silhouette and extremities to any man other than their husband, father, certain male family members, small children and male slaves free of sexual needs.[190] However, Quran does not specify particulars, style or design of the clothing and other dress forms; clothing have varied widely across Islamic regions, styles have changed over the centuries, as do interpretation and regional requirements of Muslim dress codes. Generally some sort of head covering or veiling (hijab) is mandated for both Muslim women and men. In many Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia all women are required to veil in public, although the forms of veiling vary between countries; for example, as hijab, burqa, khimar to other designs. In some Muslim societies, such as Bangladesh, veils are a matter of personal choice.[219]

Historically, Muslim societies have used dress to distinguish social status, occupation, purity, believers from non-believers, male from female, and sometimes regional identity.[190] Under Ottoman law, for example, dress of women from various religious communities within the empire was strictly regulated, with each religion allowed only specific colors, dress, shoes, and garments. In modern era, dress codes for Muslim women vary by region, and ranges from strict enforcement of mandatory dress code considered proper under Islam, to an optional personal choice that is partly based on pre-Islamic customs.

Islamic women’s dress code, and the veil in particular, has become controversial in many non-Muslim countries.[220] It is viewed by many as a sign of oppression of Muslim women, a security threat, or double standards where non-Muslim women visiting Islamic countries are required to accept local dress codes while Muslim women visiting non-Islamic countries are unwilling to accept the same principle.[221][222][223] Others, however, view attempts to ban burqa in public as a sign of disrespect, and double standards where a Christian nun may wear her religious dress but Islamic woman may not wear her religious dress.[224] Controversy over discriminatory dress code for Muslim women, and for non-Muslim women or slave girls under Muslim rule, is not new under Islam; from Spanish Caliphate to West Asia to South Asia to North Africa, dress code for women in Islam has been debated for centuries.[225]

Women in religious life

Further information: Gender segregation in Islam and Women's mosques

In Islam, there is no difference between men and women's relationship to God; they receive identical rewards and punishments for their conduct.[226]

According to a saying attributed to Muhammad, women are allowed to go to mosques.[227] However, as Islam spread, it became unusual for women to worship in mosques because of fears of unchastity caused by interaction between sexes; this condition persisted until the late 1960s.[228] Since then, women have become increasingly involved in the mosque, though men and women generally worship separately.[229] (Muslims explain this by citing the need to avoid distraction during prayer prostrations that raise the buttocks while the forehead touches the ground.[230]) Separation between sexes ranges from men and women on opposite sides of an aisle, to men in front of women (as was the case in the time of Muhammad), to women in second-floor balconies or separate rooms accessible by a door for women only.[230]

In Islam's earlier history, female religious scholars were relatively common. Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a Sunni religious scholar, has compiled biographies of 8,000 female jurists, and orientalist Ignaz Goldziher earlier estimated that 15 percent of medieval hadith scholars were women.[231] After the 16th century, however, female scholars became fewer,[231] and today – while female activists and writers are relatively common – there has not been a significant female jurist in over 200 years.[232] Opportunities for women's religious education exist, but cultural barriers often keep women from pursuing such a vocation.[231]

Women's right to become imams, however, is disputed by many. A fundamental role of an imam (religious leader) in a mosque is to lead the salat (congregational prayers). Generally, women are not allowed to lead mixed prayers. However, some argue that Muhammad gave permission to Ume Warqa to lead a mixed prayer at the mosque of Dar.[233][234]

Hui women are self-aware of their relative freedom as Chinese women in contrast to the status of Arab women in countries like Saudi Arabia where Arab women are restricted and forced to wear encompassing clothing. Hui women point out these restrictions as "low status", and feel better to be Chinese than to be Arab, claiming that it is Chinese women's advanced knowledge of the Quran which enables them to have equality between men and women.[235]

Sufi female mystics

Sufi Islam teaches the doctrine of tariqa, meaning following a spiritual path in daily living habits. To support followers of this concept, separate institutions for men (ta'ifa, hizb, rabita) and women (khanqa, rabita, derga) were created. Initiates to these groups pursued a progression of seven stages of spiritual discipline, called makamat (stations) or ahwal (spiritual states).[236]

Rabiah al-Basri (d. 801) is an important figure in Islamic Mysticism called Sufism. She upheld the doctrine of "disinterested love of God".[237]

Current female religious scholars

There are a number of prominent female Islamic scholars. They generally focus on questioning gender-based interpretations of the Quran, the traditions of the Prophet and early Islamic history. Some notable Muslim women scholars are: Azizah al-Hibri, Amina Wadud-Muhsin, Fatima Mernissi, Riffat Hassan, Laila Ahmad, Farhat Hashmi, Aisha Abdul-Rahman, and Merryl Wyn Davies.[238]

Women and politics

Many classical Islamic scholars, such as al-Tabari, supported female leadership.[240] In early Islamic history, women including Aisha, Ume Warqa, and Samra Binte Wahaib took part in political activities.[233] Abdurrahman ibn `Awf consulted with women in their rooms when he was charged of choosing `Uthman or Ali as the third caliphate after the death of Umar.[241] The Caliph Umar appointed Samra Bint Nuhayk Al-Asadiyya as a market inspector in Mecca and Ash-Shifa bint Abdullah as an administrator in Medina. Ash-Shifa would later on become the head of Health and Safety in Basra, Iraq.[242] Other historical Muslim female leaders include Razia Sultana, who ruled the Sultanate of Delhi from 1236 to 1239,[243][244] and Shajarat ad-Durr, who ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1257.[245]

In 1988 Pakistan became the first Muslim majority state with a female Prime Minister. In the past several decades, a number of countries in which Muslims are a majority, including Indonesia,[246] Pakistan,[247] Bangladesh,[248] Turkey,[249] and Kyrgyzstan have been led by women. Nearly one-third of the Parliament of Egypt in 2002 consisted of women.[250] In 2004, an Afghan woman (Massouda Jalal) ran for presidency. Females also have a significant representation in the Afghan Parliament. A number of Afghan women are also ministers, governors and business owners. Azra Jafari became the first Afghan mayor.

According to Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s Southeast Mosque, nothing in Islam specifically allows or disallows voting by women.[251] Until recently most Muslim nations were non-democratic, but most today allow their citizens to have some level of voting and control over their government. The disparate times at which women’s suffrage was granted in Muslim-majority countries is indicative of the varied traditions and values present within the Muslim world. Azerbaijan has had women's suffrage since 1918.

Saudi women have been allowed to vote in some elections.[252][253] In 2012, among all regions of the world, Arab region had the lowest percentage of women in parliament, and no women in the parliaments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.[254] The Shura Council of Saudi Arabia, after January 2013 decree by Saudi King, that created reserved parliamentary seats for women, now includes female members.[255]

Comparison with other religions

The Marxist writer Valentine Moghadam argues that the position of Muslim women is mostly influenced by the extent of urbanization, industrialization, proletarization and political ploys of the state managers rather than culture or intrinsic properties of Islam; Islam, per Moghadam, is neither more nor less patriarchal than other world religions, such as Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism.[256][257] William Montgomery Watt claims that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who improved women's rights among those who were free and Muslim.[258]

In contrast, for slave women who accepted Islam and women who refused to accept Islam, women’s rights were severely limiting. Slaves are mentioned in at least twenty-nine verses of the Quran.[259] including references to slave women, slave concubinage, and when to free slaves. Quran and hadiths recommended the institution of slavery, using the words 'abd' (slave) and the phrase ma malakat aymanukum ("that which your right hands own") to refer to women slaves, seized as captives of war. The Qur'an recognizes the basic inequality between master and women slave, between free women and slave women, as well as their unequal rights.[260][261] According to Muslim theologians, it has been lawful[262][263] for male masters to have sexual relations with female captives and slaves without her consent; the purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, and this was a motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.[264][265] Slave women did not have a right to free movement or consent, nor did they have a right to bride price or property such as a ‘‘mahr’’.[266][267] Sikainga claims women slavery was widespread and "female slaves in many Muslim societies were prey for members of their owners' household, their neighbors, and their guests."[266]

Modern debate on the status of women in Islam

Within the Muslim community, conservatives and Islamic feminists have used Islamic doctrine as the basis for discussion of women's rights, drawing on the Quran, the hadith, and the lives of prominent women in the early period of Muslim history as evidence.[268] Where conservatives have seen evidence that existing gender asymmetries are divinely ordained, feminists have seen more egalitarian ideals in early Islam.[268] Still others have argued that this discourse is essentialist and ahistorical, and have urged that Islamic doctrine not be the only framework within which discussion occurs.[268]

Conservatives and the Islamic movement

Main articles: Islamic revival and Islamism

Conservatives reject the assertion that different laws prescribed for men and women imply that men are more valuable than women. Ali ibn Musa Al-reza reasoned that at the time of marriage a man has to pay something to his prospective bride, and that men are responsible for both their wives' and their own expenses but women have no such responsibility.[269]

The nebulous revivalist movement termed Islamism is one of the most dynamic movements within Islam in the 20th and 21st centuries. The experience of women in Islamist states has been varied. Women in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan faced treatment condemned by the international community.[270] Women were forced to wear the burqa in public,[271] not allowed to work,[272] not allowed to be educated after the age of eight,[273] and faced public flogging and execution for violations of the Taliban's laws.[274][275] The position of women in Iran, which has been a theocracy since its 1979 revolution, is more complex. Iranian Islamists are ideologically in favour of allowing female legislators in Iran's parliament[276] and 60% of university students are women.[277]

Liberal Islam, Islamic feminism, and other progressive criticism

Liberal Muslims have urged that ijtihad, a form of critical thinking, be used to develop a more progressive form of Islam with respect to the status of women.[278] In addition, Islamic feminists have advocated for women's rights, gender equality, and social justice grounded in an Islamic framework. Although rooted in Islam, pioneers of Islamic feminism have also used secular and western feminist discourses and have sought to include Islamic feminism in the larger global feminist movement. Islamic feminists seek to highlight the teachings of equality in Islam to question patriarchal interpretations of Islamic teachings.[279] Others point out the incredible amount of flexibility of shariah law, which can offer greater protections for women if the political will to do is present.[280][281]

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, international attention was focused on the condition of women in the Muslim world.[282] Critics asserted that women are not treated as equal members of Muslim societies[283][284] and criticized Muslim societies for condoning this treatment.[283] Some critics have gone so far as to make allegations of gender apartheid due to women's status.[285] Phyllis Chesler has alleged that Western academics, especially feminists, have ignored the plight of Muslim women in order to be considered "politically correct".[286] However, one survey has found that most Muslim women do not see themselves as oppressed.[287]

The Indonesian Islamic professor Nasaruddin Umar is at the forefront of a reform movement from within Islam that aims at giving women equal status. Among his works is a book The Qur'an for Women, which provides a new feminist interpretation.

Some Muslim women exposed to the growth in civil rights accessible to secular or non-Muslim women have protested to strengthen their own rights within Islamic communities. One example is Malaysia, where 60% of the population is Muslim, and where there are separate parallel legal systems for secular law and sharia law. In 2006, Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, published an editorial in the Malaysia Star newspaper to denounce what she termed "a growing form of apartheid" for Malaysia's Muslim women:
Non-Muslim Malaysian women have benefited from more progressive laws over the years while the opposite has happened for Muslim women.
She pointed out that polygamy was illegal in Malaysia for non-Muslims but not for Muslims, and that child custody arrangements for Muslims were biased towards fathers as opposed to the shared-custody arrangements of non-Muslim parents.[288] Women's groups in Malaysia began campaigning in the 1990s to have female sharia judges appointed to the sharia legal system in the country, and in 2010 two female judges were appointed.[289]

See also


  1. Aisha discusses wife beating with Allah’s messenger: 7:72:715
  2. The Prophet hit A’isha on chest which caused her pain: 4:2127
  3. Prophet’s statement that a man should not be questioned for beating his wife:


  • El Fadl, Khaled Abou. "The Death Penalty, Mercy, and Islam: A Call for Retrospection." In Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning (Erik C. Owens, John David Carlson, and Eric P. Elshtain, eds.). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (2004), ISBN 0-8028-2172-3.
  • Glassé, Cyril. The New Encyclopedia of Islam (2002), AltaMira Press, ISBN 0-7591-0189-2.
  • Yvonne Haddad and John Esposito. Islam, Gender, and Social Change, Published 1998. Oxford University Press, US. ISBN 0-19-511357-8.
  • Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Kathleen M. Moore, and Jane I Smith. Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today. Oxford University Press (2006): ISBN 0-19-517783-5.
  • Hessini, L., 1994, Wearing the Hijab in Contemporary Morocco: Choice and Identity, in Göçek, F. M. & Balaghi, S., Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East: Tradition, Identity & Power, New York, Columbia University Press
  • Suad Joseph and Afsaneh Najmabadi. Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures BRILL (2005), ISBN 90-04-12818-2
  • Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. Mizan. Al-Mawrid (2001–present).

Further reading

  • Translations of the Qur’an, Chapter 4: Women
  • Andrea, Bernadette, Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature, Cambridge University Press, 2008 (978-0-521-86764-1): Bernadette Andrea: Books
  • Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical roots of a modern debate, Yale University Press, 1992
  • Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, London, HarperCollins/Routledge, 2001
  • Baffoun, Alya. Women and Social Change in the Muslim Arab World, In Women in Islam. Pergamon Press, 1982.
  • Darwish, Nonie. Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, Thomas Nelson, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59555-161-0
  • Esposito, John and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Islam, Gender, and Social Change, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-511357-8
  • Hambly, Gavin. Women in the Medieval Islamic World, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, ISBN 0-312-22451-6
  • Joseph, Suad (ed.) Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Leiden: Brill, Vol 1–4, 2003–2007.

External links

  • Oxford Islamic Studies Online – numerous entries dealing with the role of women in Islamic societies.
  • Muslim Woman Status, Rights, Hijab, Marriage, and More – Official Website.
  • Women and Islam A set of essays discussing women in Islam, including polygamy, inheritance, marriage to non-Muslims, birth control, and Islamic dress. Also highlighting Quranic and Biblical references concerning women.
  • Women in Muslim History: Traditional Perspectives and New Strategies
  • My Mother and My Religion: Mothers in Islam
  • WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST: PROGRESS OR REGRESS? Middle East Review of International Affairs, Volume 10, No. 2, Article 2 – June 2006
  • The Status of Women in Islam by Dr. Jamal Badawi
  • Women in Islam vs. Women in the Judeo-Christian Tradition
  • Women in Islam
  • The Noble Women Scholars of Hadeeth
  • Division of Inheritance in Islam
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