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Roles of Women in Islam

  • Author:Lydia
  • Source:original
  • Release on:2014-08-23

Contrary to how popular culture portrays Muslim women's rights and privileges, Islam gives women many rights, including the right to inherit, to work outside the home, and to be educated. As in all cultures and communities, these rights are often violated. This is the result of the intersection of Islam with existing cultural norms, which may reflect male-dominated societies. In Muslim communities, women often have a strong influence in the family, the workplace, the religion and society in general. This section provides an overview of women's roles and rights in several areas.

  • Marriage: Since men and women are not supposed to date, parents arrange marriages in some Muslim countries. However, the ultimate decision lies with the prospective couple. In Western countries, prospective spouses usually meet in a family setting or a public place, and often choose their partner on their own, although they still seek the approval of their parents.

    Marriage in Islam is a mutual contract between a man and a woman to live together according to the teachings of Islam and to bring up their children in their faith. According to Islamic law, the man is completely responsible for taking care of his wife's and children's financial needs. A woman's earnings are hers to spend as she chooses, although she may contribute to the expenses of the household if she wishes. Although Islam permits men to practice polygamy, it is an exception, not the norm, and carries the condition that a man must treat his wives equally. Since the Quran says that no man can treat more than one wife equally, many Muslims consider polygamy forbidden.
  • Family Life: The family is considered extremely important in Islam. The Muslim family encompasses the entire circle of familial relationships, including in-laws. Obligations to parents and other relatives are strongly stressed. Extended family often live in the same house or neighborhood, and even when they do not, the family is quite close emotionally. 
  • Public Life: Muslim women are permitted to participate in all walks of life as long as their modesty is not affected. Muslim women have the right to be educated, work outside the home, and contribute to society. Because of the influence of mothers on their children, it becomes even more important that women be educated.
  • Modesty: Both men and women are expected to present themselves in a manner that emphasizes modesty. Hijab or covering, for example, is so that women's sexuality will not become a source of temptation or enter into their interactions with men. Many Muslim women view hijab as liberating them from the male gaze. Men are also required to behave and dress modestly. The dress varies for women and men from culture to culture, and according to individual beliefs.
  • Relations between Men and Women: Islam requires that Muslim men and women observe modesty in their interactions. Muslim men and women should relate as brothers and sisters, and avoid any interaction that might lead to sexual or romantic activity prior to marriage. Although this prohibition is often affected by Westernized ideas, Islam requires that both men and women remain chaste until marriage.