The position of women in Islam has recently been an issue of debate. Some misconceptions arise, either from traditional practices which are thought to be "Islamic," but are not, or else from prejudices. However, the real issue is how women are regarded in the Islamic faith, and when we look at this, we see that Islam gives women great social value, freedom and comfort.
Allah's commandments about the status of women and the relations between men and women, which have been revealed to us through the Qur'an, consist of full justice. In this regard, Islam suggests equality of rights, responsibilities and duties between the two genders. Islam is based on sympathy, tolerance and respect for human beings, and does not discriminate against women in this matter.
The examples of good morals communicated to us in the Qur'an are universally compatible with human nature, and are valid for all stages of history.
Respect for women and women's rights fall within this. In the Qur'an Allah insists that the tasks and responsibilities of women are the same as those of men. Furthermore, while performing these tasks and responsibilities men and women must help and support each other:
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and pay alms, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 71)
Allah emphasizes that believers will be rewarded in the same manner according to their deeds, regardless of their gender.
Their Lord responds to them: 'I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female - you are both the same in that respect... (Surat Al‘Imran, 195)
In another verse, (Surat al-Ahzab, 35) Muslim men and women are considered together, and it is stressed that both have the same responsibility and status in Allah's sight.
In the Qur'an there are many more verses stating that men and women are exactly equal in terms of their tasks and responsibilities and their rewards or punishments in return. There are a few differences in social issues, but these are for the comfort and protection of women. The commands of the Qur'an regard the congenital differences between the two genders resulting from their creation, and suggest a system maintaining equal justice for men and women in this light.
Islam does not see women as objects. Therefore, it is not seen appropriate that a woman of good morals should marry a man of bad morals. In the same way, it is not permitted for a woman of bad morals to marry a man of good morals:
Corrupt women are for corrupt men and corrupt men are for corrupt women, Good women are for good men and good men are for good women. The latter are innocent of what they say. They will have forgiveness and generous provision. (Surat an-Nur, 26)
Also as regards marriage, the duties and responsibilities of couples towards each other require equality. Allah demands that both spouses be protective of and supervise each other. This duty is expressed in the Qur'an in the following words.
They are covers for you and you for them... (Surat al-Baqara, 187)
Many rules and commandments exist in the Qur'an regarding the protection of women's rights on marriage. Marriage is based on the free will of both parties; the husband has to provide economic support for his wife (Surat an-Nisa’, 4); the husband has to look after his ex-wife after divorce (Surat at-Talaq, 6).
As the verses make clear, Islam brings justice to male-female relations and puts an end to harmful practices resulting from customs and traditions of pre-Islamic societies. One example is the situation of women in pre-Islamic Arab society. The pagan Arabs regarded women as inferior, and having a daughter was something to be ashamed of. Fathers of daughters sometimes preferred to bury them alive rather than announce their birth. By means of the Qur'an, Allah prohibited this evil tradition and warned that on the Judgment Day such people will definitely have to account for their actions.