The Status of the Woman before Islaam:
What is meant “before Islaam” here is the period known as Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance), which the Arabs used to live in specifically and the people of the whole world in general. This was when the people did not have any Messengers amongst them and they were void of any guidance. And as is stated in the hadeeth,
“Allaah looked at them – both Arabs and Non-Arabs – and hated them, except for some remnants from the People of the Book (who stayed upon the true message).”
In most cases, the woman of this time period lived under critical conditions – especially those in the Arab societies, where they used to hate it when a girl was born. So amongst the Arabs were those who would bury their daughter while she was still alive until she died below the earth. And amongst them were those who let them live only to find a life of humiliation and degradation. Allaah says:
“And when news of the birth of a female child was brought to any of them, his face would become dark and filled with grief. He hides himself from the people because of the evil that he has been informed of. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” [Surah An-Nahl: 58-59]
And Allaah says:
“And when the female child who was buried in the ground will be questioned – for what sin was she killed?” [Surah At-Takweer: 8-9]
The word maw’oodah refers to the baby girl that was buried alive and left to die inside the earth. And if she was spared from being buried alive and allowed to live, then indeed she found herself living a life of degradation. This is since she was not allowed to inherit any portion of her relative’s estate no matter how much money he had and regardless of if she was suffering from poverty and dire need. The reason for this is because they would make the inheritance specific for men in exclusion of women. In fact, she would be distributed as part of her deceased husband’s estate, just as his money would be distributed in inheritance!
And there would be found a score of women living under one man, since they would not put any limits to the number of wives they could marry. So they wouldn’t show any concern for what occurred to the women as a result of that, such as living under cramped conditions, inconveniences and injustice.
The Status of the Woman after Islaam:
But when Islaam came, it uplifted these injustices from the woman and returned her honor and self-esteem in humanity back to her. Allaah says:
“O mankind, indeed We created you from a male and a female.” [Surah Al-Hujuraat: 13]
So Allaah mentions that she is the partner of man in the origin of humanity and likewise, she is partners with man in terms of being rewarded or punished for actions performed. Allaah says:
“Whoever does good deeds, – whether male or female – while he or she is a true believer, to him We will give a good life and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.” [Surah An-Nahl: 97]
“So that Allaah may punish the male and female hypocrites and the male and female polytheists.” [Surah Al-Ahzaab: 73]
And Allaah made it forbidden to consider a woman as a possession to be inherited from her dead husband’s estate, as He says:
“O you who believe, you are forbidden to inherit women against their will.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 19]
So Allaah gave her independence in her individuality, such that she became one who can inherit as opposed to an object of inheritance. And Allaah gave the woman a right in the inheritance of her relative’s wealth. Allaah says:
“There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by their parents and close relatives, whether the property be small or large – a legal share.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 7]
And Allaah says:
“Allaah commands you as regards your children’s inheritance: to the male a portion equal to that of two females. If there are only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 11]
And this goes as well for the other texts that state a woman can inherit whether she be a mother, a daughter, a sister or a wife.
In the area of marital affairs, Allaah limited a husband to marrying the maximum of four wives, on the condition that he treats all of his wives fairly and equally according to his ability. And He obligated to the husbands to live with them in kindness, as He says:
“And live with them honorably.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 19]
And He made the dowry her right and He commanded that it be given to her in full except for that which she permits from her own good will. Allaah says:
“And give to the women their dowry with a good heart. But if they, out of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without any fear of harm.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 4]
And Allaah made her the caretaker, commanding good and forbidding evil in the household of her husband – and the leader over her children. The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“A woman is the guardian of her husband’s household and she will be asked (on the Day of Judgement) concerning those under her care.”
Also, Allaah made it obligatory for the husband to spend on her and to clothe her in a good manner.
What the Enemies of Islaam and their Offshoots want today from their stripping the Woman of her Honor and rights:
Indeed the enemies of Islaam – rather the enemies of humanity – today, from the disbelievers, hypocrites and those who have a disease in their hearts are enraged about what the Muslim woman has achieved from honor, glory and chastity in Islaam. This is because the enemies of Islaam from the disbelievers, hypocrites and those who have a disease in their hearts – they want from the woman that she serve as a trap by which they can lure and catch those with weak Eemaan and those who have perverted natures, after having fulfilled their depraved desires from her. Allaah says:
“But those who follow their lusts wish that you should deviate tremendously away.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 27]
And those who have a disease in their hearts among the Muslims want the woman to be a cheap commodity exhibiting herself to those people of lustful desires and devilish inclinations. They want her to serve as an open commodity before their eyes so that they may find entertainment in her beautiful appearance or perhaps they may make her do something far worse than that.
This is why they expend great efforts in trying to make the woman go out of her home so that she can participate with men in their jobs – working side by side with them. Or that she can serve and tend to men as a nurse in the hospital or a flight attendant on an airplane or a teacher or professor in mixed non-segregated schools Or that she be an actress in the theatres or a singer or a broadcaster on the various forms of media – exposing her face and enticing men by her voice and appearance.
And the immoral magazines have taken pictures of young girls that are looking provocative and naked as a means for promoting and marketing their magazines. And some businessmen and companies have taken these pictures also as a means for promoting their product, such that they place these pictures in their advertisements and exhibits.
These evil actions are meant to distract the woman from her real and true duty, which is in the home. And this forces the husbands to hire female servants to raise their children and take care of the affairs of their households, which results in much mischief and great evil.
However, we don’t restrict a woman from working outside of her home, so long as she abides by the following guidelines:
1. She must have a need for doing this work or the community she lives in requires her to do this job, such that there cannot be found any man that can do the job.
2. She should do this after fulfilling the job she has at home, which is her primary job.
3. This job must be in an environment of women only, such as her teaching women (only) or doctoring and nursing female patients. And her work must be separate from men.
4. Likewise, there is nothing that restricts her from learning the affairs of her Religion – in fact she is obligated to do this. And there is nothing preventing her from teaching about the aspects of her Religion, so long as there is a need for that and her teaching is held in an environment of (only) women. And there is no harm in her attending classes in a masjid and so on, while being consistent in that and segregated from men. This can be seen from the women in the beginning of Islaam (i.e. the Sahaabiyaat), in that they would work and study and attend the masaajid.
Source: Tanbeehaat ‘alaa Ahkaam takhtassu bil-Mu’minaat (pg. 6-11)