Despite monolithic depictions in both Eastern and Western media, Muslim women represent a diverse and heterogeneous sociological group. While they may confront similar challenges or find common ground in some areas, the lived experiences of Muslim women vary considerably, depending on the socio-historical and political contexts in which they lead their lives.
Since women have the right to enhance their mind, body and spirit, they are allowed to seek abortions. According to the Qur’an and the Prophet, rape, incest and near-death are all cases in which is it permissible for a woman to have an abortion.
Muslim women have the right to promote, protect, and enhance their quality of life. Strict modesty and patriarchal cultural taboos should not pose obstacles to living a healthy life. Even the earliest Muslims treated access to health services as a universal right granted by the Qur’an, regardless of gender.
WISE believes that open, ethical, and legal adoptions are supported by the core beliefs expressed in Islamic sources. “Islam” literally means making whole, sound, safe, and peaceful. Therefore, making orphans safe, sound, and at peace is an absolutely integral part to Islam.
Artistic expression in Islam is meant to reinforce the awareness of God and his creation, and is a means to obtain divine knowledge and manifest God’s beauty in the world. Women artists are an important vehicle for spreading this awareness and should be empowered to use their artistic talents to find new aesthetics that contemplate the beauty of God and his creation.
In Islam, child and forced marriages are forbidden: intellectual and physical maturity and a woman’s consent are prerequisites for a valid marriage. There are various instances where the Prophet protected a woman’s right to choose her own spouse.
The Qur’an shows that merit, not gender, determines someone's ability to be a leader. The Qur’an does this by it's opposite descriptions of the Queen of Sheba who is praised for her intelligence, politics and acumen, and the Pharaoh who is shown as an egocentric male leader.
In Islam, violence against women is never tolerated. This is exemplified through the Prophet’s relationship with women in Arabia. The Prophet never struck or even lifted a finger against a woman, typifying to husbands that they must not exhibit violent behavior toward women.
The Qur’an commands modesty for men and women in terms of physical exposure, personal adornment and behavior with the opposite sex. In ancient Arabia, women would complain to the Prophet that men would sexually harass them. As such, women began wearing coverings to make a statement that they were religious and did not want men sexualizing them. The Qur’an does ask women to cover their chests, however it neither discusses precise bodily exposure nor requires a woman to cover her head or face.
Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/FGC), a procedure in which all or part of a woman’s, or girl’s, external genitalia are cut and/or removed, is a harmful practice dating back to pre-Islamic times. FGC contradicts the Qur’an, the Prophet’s example and words, and the conventions of Islamic jurisprudence, as exemplified by the Islamic principles of protecting life and preventing harm.
The Qur’an defines gender equality as an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith: it states that both men and women are created as vice regents of God and as such, are equally responsible and accountable to their actions. The Prophet significantly increased the level of women’s agency and autonomy by affording them the rights to own property, divorce, inheritance and social participation.
According to the Qur’an, women and men have equal rights to inheritance. More specifically, the Qur’an considers Muslim women as independent legal entities that retain their own name and financial independence before and after marriage. Unlike married men, married women are entitled to retain all of their wealth and earnings for themselves without having to consult their spouse.
Islam protects a woman’s freedom to choose her own marriage partner and describes marital relationships as one of “affection and mercy.” The Qur’an explicitly allows men to marry “People of the Book,” which are Christians and Jews, but the Qur’an is silent on whether women can do the same.
In spite of Muslim women’s diverse legacies as political, cultural and social leaders, their image in the media is often reduced to stereotypical portrayals of oppressed Muslim women who are in need of liberation from an outside source. In Islam, all humans are considered God’s representatives on this earth which is why women have the right to enter public spaces and reclaim their portrayal in the mainstream.
Divorced mothers are often stripped of the right to care for their children and left penniless. However, in Islam, a mother’s right to her child is much more emphasized than that of the father although both parents are responsible for their children’s upbringing. Since mothers play a large role in nurturing the child, she is automatically given custody over her children if she is separated from her husband, unless she remarries or is unfit.
In Islam, monogamy is preferred over polygamy. The only time the Qur’an allows polygamy is in reference to compassion toward orphans, not sexual gratification in extreme cases of war and intense poverty. The permission to practice polygamy came after the Battle of Uhud in 625 AD, during which many men were killed and left behind orphans and widows. Surviving men were encouraged to care for these children by marrying widows.
According to the Qur’an and Sunnah, religious leadership in Islam should be understood as a system based on merit, whereby leadership positions are determined according to each candidate’s mastery of religious knowledge and acceptance by his or her community to lead as a moral example. The purpose of this system is to ensure that the most competent person is selected to lead the community and to educate those seeking knowledge, regardless of their gender.
Though the Qu’ran does not directly address contemporary family planning issues, it does not make childbearing a requirement of marriage. We affirm that it is the woman’s right to have access to reproductive health care including access to contraception, abortions and family planning education. Cultural traditions, poverty, illiteracy and limited reproductive rights education have led to the denial of women's reproductive rights.
The Prophet held religious lessons for women because he believed gender equality in education to be imperative. But as centuries progressed, women began to be systematically excluded from educational opportunities because of sociopolitical pressures like war and poverty, and unjust religious interpretations. Those who deny girls’ and women’s education use the traditional patriarchal interpretation of qiwamah (male guardianship over women), limiting women’s right to free movement and impeding their access to education.
The Qur’an encourages an egalitarian nature in marriage and counsels compassion and tolerance not only within marriage, but also in divorce. It forbids men to leave their wives without notice or harm them at any time during their relationship. Furthermore, the Qur’an encourages couples to reconcile their problems without violence, and, if the couple is still unhappy, they should depart on equal and peaceful terms.
According to Islam, all forms of oppression are strictly forbidden, including slavery and human trafficking. The Qur’an and hadith have placed great value in marital relationships and strictly forbids exploitation of women and girls for sexual gratification. Furthermore, victims of sex trafficking should be provided support and not be stigmatized in society.
WISE affirms that women have the right to pursue their passions, enhance their minds, and strengthen their bodies. In accordance with Islamic jurisprudence, participating in sports is highly encouraged regardless of gender.
Women should not be punished or ostracized for being victims of rape. Islamic texts take a firm stance against rape, and carry a strong and deterring punishment for rapists. Stigmatization of rape is purely cultural and has no roots in Islam.
Unfortunately, stoning is associated with Islam and patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an and thus has led to the indiscriminate stoning of many women who have been raped or sexually harassed. This is not permissible in the Qur’an and overlooks the inaccurate conflation of sexual assault and adultery.
At WISE, we assert that men and women are equal as free, independent, and responsible legal agents. In Islam, the judge also considers the intrinsic value of witnesses and their depositions, regardless of the witness’ gender.
The Qur’an and Hadith speak of both men and women’s right to mind, or the right to to be educated. In essence, it discusses how free speech is a form of education that actualizes and activates the mind through conversation and personal expression. As such, restricting women’s free speech would violate this basic right to mind.