As a proud Muslim woman, growing up in a western society, Im well acquainted with the popularised notion that Islam serves to oppress and subjugate women, robbing us of an identity and rendering us voiceless. This simply could not be further from the truth. Islam serves to liberate women, and free them from the constraints of this society.
From the inside, Its clear the provisions that Islam provides for women. We have rights, responsibilities and a duty to our Ummah. Islam has created for women, fundamental and imperative rights, not only to protect but to preserve our dignity. However, im aware that from the outside, this isn’t always clear. Im all to often confronted with the perpetuated stereotype of the oppressed ‘Veiled Victim’ A voiceless entity in need of a western saviour to validate her.
So when posing the question, does Islam liberate or subjugate women? The answer simply lies in the amount of importance we, as a unit, are given.
Unbeknownst to most, Islam gifts women with many fundamental and legal rights. The equal right to divorce, active consent in marriage and the right to pursue an education, include some of the rights that are considered imperative for women in Islam. Some of which, were considered highly radical for the rest of the western world within the 7th century, in which women had very little sway in society.
It wasn’t until the first wave feminism many hundreds of years later, that western women were given the right to participate in political matters. The suffragette movement paved way for women in Britain and America with the Married Women’s Property Act, and later, the right to a political vote. However, very little attention is paid to the honours that where given to Muslim women over fourteen – hundred years prior.
Islamic history testifies the equality of women, and their importance in shaping the identity of Islam. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had the deepest respect for women, and showed it readily in his exceptional treatment of his wives and female companions. Our Islamic history is positively laden with empowered females, who helped perpetuate the spread of the message of Islam. In fact, Islam has a huge amount of female empowerment embedded right into its roots.
Khadijah (ra) played a significant role. Widowed by her husband, she maintained a position of a prominent business woman in a predominantly patriarchal society. Also, through her wealth, she funded most of the ventures of the Prophet (saw). Aisha (ra) also portrays a strong female figure, with her political astuteness and Scholarly narrations. She took a public and prominent role in politics, representing the importance of the female voice. A voice that, ironicaly, was silenced and ignored in Western society at the time.
These examples of strong independent women, serve to contradict the notion of the Muslim woman as a voiceless entity. In fact, they represent the sheer importance of women in constructing half of society and half of the Ummah.