For centuries, Muslim women in all corners of the world
have been aware of the liberation that is achieved by adhering to the concept
of hijab. Current world events have once again brought the issue of
women’s liberation in Islam to the forefront of people’s minds.
Can a Woman Who Adheres to Hijab Be Liberated?
Can a religion that considers morality to be a part of
faith clearly define the equality of men and women and their rights and
responsibilities? The answer is a resounding “yes.” In a day and age when the
basic tenets of Islam are being questioned by Muslim and non-Muslim alike, we
must be cautious when evaluating Islam.
The general picture that is painted by the media is
biased and unsubstantiated. The impression that some Muslims give to the world
is often not a true reflection of the religion, one that is the completion of
all religions. Islam, the religion for all people in all places and times, which
takes the equality of men and women very seriously. It sees the liberation of
women as essential and considers modesty, good character, and manners to be the
way to achieve such liberation.
Too often, the image of a covered woman is used to
represent what much of the world views as oppression. Her very existence is
described in terms that convey ignorance and unhappiness. Words like “beaten,”
“repressed” and “oppressed” are bandied about by the Western media in a
desperate attempt to convince the readers that women in Islam have no rights.
Descriptive and intrinsically oppressive terms such as “shrouded” and “shackled”
are used to portray an image of women who have no minds and who are the slaves
or possessions of their husbands and fathers. In the 19th century, T. E.
Lawrence described women in Arabia as “death taking a walk,” and from that time
forward, the true status of women in Islam has been shrouded by misunderstanding.
The truth about women and Islam is far from this melodramatic portrayal.
Over 1,400 years ago, Islam raised the status of women
from a position of oppression to one of liberation and equality. In an era when
women were considered possessions, Islam restored women to a position of
In order to gain a true insight into the real and
lasting liberation that Islam guarantees women, we must first examine the
concept of liberation as viewed by the West. In Western countries where
liberation encompasses unlimited freedom, many women are actually finding
themselves living lives that are unsatisfying and meaningless. In their quest
for liberation, they have abandoned the ideals of morality and stability and
found themselves in marriages and families that bear little resemblance to real
What is liberating about working all day and coming home
at night to the housework? What is liberating about having babies who, at six
weeks old can be deposited in childcare centers to learn their behavior and
morality from strangers? Girls as young as 6 years old have been diagnosed
with eating disorders, teenage pregnancy is rampant, and women who choose to
stay at home to raise their families are viewed as old fashioned or
Women in the West are liberated: liberated to the point
that they are no longer free to choose the life that is natural for them. They
are free only to choose from the selection of consumer goods offered to them by
their masters. The so-called liberated women of the West have become slaves.
Slaves to the economic system, slaves to the fashion and beauty industries, and
slaves to a society that views them as brainless machines, taught to look
desirable, earn money, and shop. Even the career woman who has managed to push
her way through the glass ceiling is a slave to the consumer society, which
requires her to reside in a spacious house, wear only the latest designer
clothes, drive a luxurious car, and educate her children at the most exclusive
and expensive schools.
Is This Liberation?
The natural inclination of women is to please, comfort,
and support their men: their husbands, fathers, brothers, or sons. The natural
inclination of men is to protect, support, and provide for the women lawfully
in their lives: wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. Islam, the only true
religion and infallible guide to life, requires that we follow such natural
inclinations. It allows us to abandon ideas that are intrinsically foreign to
human nature and supports us in developing and sustaining natural family
relationships that spread out to form part of the wider Muslim community.
A Muslim woman knows her place in society and knows her
place in the family infrastructure. Her religion is her first priority;
therefore, her role is clear-cut and defined. A Muslim woman, far from being
oppressed, is a woman who is liberated in the true sense of the word. She is a
slave to no man or to any economic system; rather, she is the slave of God.
Islam clearly defines women’s rights and responsibilities spiritually,
socially, and economically. Islam’s clear-cut guidelines are empowering; they
raise women to a natural and revered position.
Women in Islam have no need to protest and demonstrate
for equal rights. They have no need to live their lives aimlessly acquiring
possessions and money. With the perfection of Islam as the natural and only
true religion came the undeniable fact that women and men are equal, partners
and protectors of one another.
“So their Lord accepted from them; Never will I allow to be
lost the work of any of you, be they male or female. You are of one another; so
those who emigrated or were driven out from their homes, who suffered harm in
My cause, and fought and were killed, I will verily expiate from them their
evil deeds and admit them into gardens under which rivers flow: a reward from
God; and with God is the best rewards.” (Quran 3:195)
“And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is
a true believer in the Oneness of Allah, such will enter paradise; and not the
least injustice, even to the size of a speck on the back of a date stone, will
be done to them.” (Quran 4:124)
Women in Islam have the right to own property, to
control their own money or money that they earn, to buy and sell, and to give
gifts and charity. They have formal rights of inheritance. They have the
right to an education; seeking and acquiring knowledge is an obligation on all
Muslims, male or female. Married Muslim women are completely free from the
obligation of supporting and maintaining the family, yet may work if they wish
They are in no way forced into marriage, but have the
right to accept or refuse a proposal as they see fit. Women in Islam have the
right to seek divorce if it becomes necessary, as they also have the right to
save their marriages.
Islam teaches that the family is the core of society. In
Western cultures, the fabric of society is being torn apart by the breakdown of
the family unit. It is in these crumbling communities that the call for the
liberation of women arises. It seems to be a misguided and feeble attempt to
find a path of security and safety. Such security is available only when the
human being turns back to God and accepts the role for which he or she was
Liberation means freedom, but not the freedom to do as
one pleases. Freedom must never be at the expense of oneself or of the wider
community. When a woman fulfills the role for which she was created, not only
is she liberated but she is empowered.
The modestly dressed or covered woman you see in the
street is liberated. She is liberated from the shackles that have tied the
feet of her Western counterparts. She is liberated from the economic slavery
of the West, and she is liberated from the necessity of managing a house and
family without the support of her husband or the help of a wider community. She
lives her life based on divine guidelines; her life is filled with peace,
happiness, and strength. She is not afraid of the world, but rather embraces
its tests and trials with patience and fortitude, secure in the fact that true
liberation is only achieved by full and willing submission to the natural order
of the universe.
Oppression is not defined by a piece of material, but
rather by a sickening of the heart and a weakening of the mind. Oppression
grows in a society that is crumbling because its members have lost sight of the
true purpose of their existence. Liberation arises and takes root in a society
that is just, cohesive, and based on natural order and divine guidelines. Islam
is such a society, and this is what makes a Muslim woman is liberated.