The Evolution of Women’s Empowerment in Islamic Societies

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The Evolution of Women’s Empowerment in Islamic Societies

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Educating a woman is akin to educating a family and, by extension, an entire community. Islam, from its inception, granted women unprecedented legal status and rights, setting a benchmark in human history. Women enjoyed equality in matters of property, marriage, and education, significantly enhancing their societal standing. This egalitarian approach stemmed from the Quran’s emphasis on women’s full participation in society, evident during the Prophet’s era, where women actively contributed to building the Islamic community.

“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to their actions”. (Qur’an 16:97, see also 4:124).

The Quran underscored women’s rights and responsibilities, treating them equally with men. Various Quranic verses advocate for gender equality, emphasizing the importance of righteousness regardless of gender. Islam honored women as daughters, encouraging their upbringing and education, promising great rewards for those who raised daughters well.

Early Islamic societies witnessed women’s active involvement in diverse occupations and economic activities, reflecting the progressive laws governing women’s rights. They served as physicians, nurses, and even secret service agents, contributing significantly to their societies’ prosperity. Education was another realm where women excelled, with many becoming scholars and teachers, shaping the cultural and political landscape of Islamic civilizations.

During the Islamic rise from the 7th to the 15th century AD, women played pivotal roles in public affairs and philanthropy, with notable figures like Fatima Al-Fihri establishing one of the world’s oldest universities in Morocco. Female religious scholars and jurists were respected, with their contributions acknowledged in historical accounts.

However, the post-15th century saw a decline in women’s rights in some Muslim societies, deviating from the progressive ideals of early Islam. Ignorance of Islamic principles and conservatism led to the erosion of women’s rights, contrary to the foundational values of equality and fairness in Sharia.

Dr. Hassan Abdalla Al Turabi’s observations highlight the regression in Muslim societies, where fear and conservatism impede women’s freedom and rights, deviating from Sharia’s principles of equality. Despite Islam’s progressive stance on women’s rights, contemporary challenges persist, reflecting the need for a renewed commitment to gender equality and empowerment in Islamic societies. (Deputy Director (Retired), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow

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