Islam is a religion for every woman, and every right given under the Shar’iah (Islamic law) is a right for every woman, whether Muslim or not Muslim. So according to Islam, a non-Muslim woman can claim the rights in the Qur’an because God made that law for all mankind.
The common view that Muslim women are not supposed to be in public, be vocal or take a political position is a misconception entirely. The only way to find the true state of the matter is to look at some of the realities on the ground. Pakistan, for example, has had a woman prime minister. Look at Turkey. Women have risen as leaders of nations, leading men as presidents and prime ministers. If you look at Iran and Iraq, especially Iran, all of Ayatollah Khamenei’s chief advisers are women.
So there has been a misconception about these countries with largely Muslim populations. The painful part is that the Qur’an gives tremendous rights, yet implementation of those rights is still far out of reach for most of us.
Many in the Western world feel a need for greater equality, but Muslim women don’t need that because Islam gives them definite moral rights and financial rights. For example, the current equality bill in Kenya states that at the time of dissolution of marriage, all familial marital property will be distributed 50–50.
What Islam says is that a woman retains all her financial estates. The man has no claim on it whatsoever, yet she can claim up to 50 percent of his estate. On what grounds? She can claim that in 20 years of marriage she swept the house or ironed his shirts or cooked meals for him. It is not the duty of a Muslim woman to cook or care for her husband at that level. It is a favor for which he should feel obliged.
Islam gives women extreme financial empowerment, which should reduce the vulnerabilities of women in various areas of society. Islam is also a universal religion that encompasses women and men from various indigenous communities. You must understand that Islam promotes the adoption of, or faithfulness to, cultures, so long as those cultures are not in conflict with the laws of the Qur’an. So if you are a Muslim, you may have your own cultural values, norms, and traditions that you live by, as long as they are not in conﬂict with your religion.
In the Constitution of the United States, there is not one section stating that women have rights equal or similar to those of men. Yet the whole world, including the Muslim community, sees that the equal rights of women and men are legally binding in the Constitution. In contrast, the Qur’an 14 centuries ago stated clearly that women have similar rights to men.
The French law was only amended, I think, in 1938, to state that women can sell their property without written authority or permission from their husbands. So it is only in the last century or so that we see the laws of France or America or other countries borrowing from the Qur’an.
God created men and women to complement each other’s roles, not to constantly heckle and compete with one another. A man cannot have a child, he cannot breast-feed his baby, he cannot have a nurturing bonding with his child as a mother would. Can you see men complaining that they cannot play this role? There are biological differences and limitations that will not allow that. So when we look at women, let’s look at men as well and recognize certain limitations.
I can quote you verses of the Qur’an that have given women one right after another, rights unheard of in the dark days of ignorance at the coming of the Prophet. So let’s look into the implementation of divine laws to provide women a status of equity.
[Source: Islamic Perspectives on Peace. Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2006.]