We have just ended National Women's History Month celebrations during March. The International Women's Day also falls in this month and is celebrated in more than 120 countries. The purpose of all these celebrations is to bring to fore the progress women have made in achieving parity with men in education, prestige and standards of life and liberty, and to highlight the contributions they have made in arts and sciences, engineering and technology, and in religion and politics despite immense opposition. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate all those people and organizations who have contributed toward achieving equality for women and men in the history of our nation and the world.
Religion, in general, is seen as one of the vehicles for the oppression of women. Cherry-picking from religious texts without paying attention to relevant context has been the tool used by many to prove their claim. Although Judaism and Christianity have also been implicated, Islam bears the brunt of this treatment.
If we reflect on the creation story in the Holy Qur'an, the theme is that Allah created both men and women from the same being. Allah says, "He has created you from a single being; then from that He made its mate." [Ch. 39, V. 7] Nowhere in the Qur'an does Allah say that He made Eve from the rib of Adam.
In the story of Adam's fall, the onus is squarely placed on him alone and even he was subsequently forgiven completely once he realized his mistake and repented. In the Holy Qur'an we read, "But Satan whispered evil suggestions to him; he said, 'O Adam, shall I lead thee to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?' Then they both ate thereof, so that their shame became manifest to them, and they began to stick the leaves of the garden together over themselves. And Adam observed not the commandment of his Lord, so his life became miserable." [Ch. 20, V. 121-122]
On the issue of equal reward for equal work, Islam is very clear. In the Holy Qur'an Allah says, "But whosoever does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little speck on a date-stone."
On the issue of education, the Prophet Muhammad has spoken the final word. He said, "It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge." He told his followers that they could learn half of the knowledge of Islam from his able and scholarly wife, Aysha. Many of his women companions are considered as great teachers and authorities in Islam.
Islam gave property rights to women centuries before Europe. A woman inherits from her father and her husband. Man is made responsible for bearing all the expenses of the household, and the woman is given the choice of investing her wealth the way she pleases; she is not obliged to spend a penny of that on the family.
On the issue of treating women equally, the Prophet Muhammad said, "A person who is blessed with daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be in my very company in Paradise."
Hameed Naseem is the Director of Outreach for the Tulsa Chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA. He is also the faculty advisor of Al-Islam Students Association at the University of Arkansas. Contact him at email@example.com.