Rights Granted to Muslim Women

We will discuss some rights given by Islam to women. What is significant is that these many rights in the Quran and Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad were granted ell over 1400 years ago and in some cases they were not granted until recently in other parts of the world. This includes the right to seek knowledge and gain an education. Muslim women also have a right to work, keep their earnings, and to inherit from their relatives. A Muslim woman’s marital rights include the right to choose her husband, to keep her family name after marriage, the right to financial support, and, most importantly, the right to good treatment from her husband. Contrary to traditional cultural practices, Islam granted women the right to choose their husbands. A woman’s consent is considered a prerequisite for the validity of the marriage contract. Arranged marriages in which the bride and groom meet on the wedding day are a cultural practice in some Muslims regions.

The reality for many Muslim women in some societies is far removed from the Islamic ideals. Sadly, some of these rights are denied because of cultural influences or incorrect interpretations of Islam. Given the expanse of Muslims over the globe and their rich local histories, that is not surprising. Women are affected by numerous factors such as culture, education, politics, family, and socio-economic status.


Admittedly, it is difficult in some Muslim cultures for a Muslim woman to get a divorce even though she is clearly granted that right in Islamic teachings. A mother is typically granted custody of young children and the children are allowed the parent with whom they want to live when they get little older.

 Right to An Education

 Islam lies great importance on education and gaining knowledge. The first word revealed to the Prophet from God in the Quran is "Iqra," which means to 'Recite!' It has been stressed in many prophetic statements as well,

'Seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim (man and woman).'


 Muslim women enjoy the same right to education as men and many early Muslim women displayed and were praised for their thirst and zeal for knowledge.

 An example would be Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. She narrated more than 2000 sayings from the Prophet. Men would literally travel hundreds of miles to learn from her.

 Muslim women excelled as scholars and jurists, teaching both and men and women, as noted in medieval biographical collections that list many Muslim women scholars.

 What is amazing is that many of the rights granted to women at the beginning era of Islam like education, earning, keeping, and inheriting money, involvement in societal affairs, economy, choosing one’s spouse and asking for divorce, were not given to women in the West until the 19th and 20th centuries. For example, in England women could not legally own the money they earned or inherit property until the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act and a more version of the act in 1884. Before that, her personal property and belongings would automatically become her husband’s because all property in marriage was legally considered to be the husband’s. In the US, women were not granted to right to vote until 1920.

 Today, Muslim women study in all fields and levels of education, sometimes outnumbering men in institutions of higher learning.

Right To Work

 While recognizing that the primary role of a Muslim woman is to be a homemaker, Muslim women have a right to work in professional fields. Early Muslim women worked in various fields. Most famous women from early Islam was Prophet Muhamamd's wife, Khadijah, successful businesswoman and his employer. She admired his honesty so much that she proposed marriage to him.

 Contrary to common misconceptions, Muslim women today successfully work in professions such as medicine, education, law, and engineering, to name a few.

Financial Rights

Islam also gave women financial rights in an era when a woman's earnings automatically became the property of her husband or a male relative. These rights include earning and keeping their own money and property before and after marriage. The Quran states,

'...to man allotted what they earn and women what they earn.'

(Quran 4:32)

Women in England did not earn the analogous right until the Married Woman's Property Act of 1870 and a complete version of the act in 1884. Before that legislation, any personal or real property and earnings automatically became her husband's property since all property within marriage legally belonged to her husband.

Muslim women are not required to spend from their property or income on the family as financial support is considered the responsibility of the husband.

Islam also gives women the right to inherit from their relatives more than 1400 years ago based on the Quran:

“For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.”

(Quran 4:7)

 Women only gained this right in 1870 in Married Woman’s Property Act. Classical novels like those by Jane Austen speak of the plight of women whose fathers die, leaving them penniless when a distant relative male relative inherits their estate.[1]

Right to Participate in Societal Affairs and Public Life

  Early Muslim women played an important role in public life at different levels, including influencing political decisions. For example, after the Muslims migrated to Madina, a specific pledge of allegiance was made with Muslim women (Baya tun-Nisa). Women pledged loyalty to the Prophet of Islam and agreed to live by certain principles. Women participated in military expeditions, nursed the wounded, served water, and, in some cases, even participated in combat.


[1] Women's Legal position in Regency times


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