Women’s Rights in Islam


by Mohammad Zind El Hadeed (Brother in-law)

Islam is the most stereotyped religion today, and the fact that many Muslims misrepresent Islam (either due to lack of knowledge, or due to being affected by a surrounding that has no interest in religion) makes it even harder to identify Islam’s real teachings. The matter becomes very simple though, when a distinction is made between Islam and Muslims. The best way to judge a religion is by its Scripture and Teachings, not by its people, since people are faulty beings and have the choice of whether to practice their religion or not.

Brief Background

Islam was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Before its birth, Arabs were pagans; they worshipped idols made from stones. They believed that there were at least 360 Gods (360 statues were placed around the Ka’bah (First house of worship ever built; Abraham built it) representing the 360 tribes in Mecca at the time). The Ka’bah is that cube-like shrine in the center of world, in Mecca, that draws millions of Muslims worldwide towards it when they pray and make pilgrimage. Mecca was also the capital of business and trade in the Arabian Peninsula, because of its unique geographic location in the center. The wealthiest and most superior tribe in Mecca was Quraish.

Lifestyle of pagan Arabs

Arabs at the time were a living disaster; they had 360 idols from stone to worship, they showed pride in the number of semi-Gods they possessed; they were ignorant in knowledge; the strong always killed the poor or enslaved them; they were more alcoholic than the Irish; and if Las Vegas was around at their time, it would have been wealthier than any spot in the world because of how much they used to gamble! The only thing they were good at was Arabic literature. They spoke their native Arabic in poetry. To be a talented poet was more prestigious than being a lawyer today for example, or a doctor. They also had tremendous ability for memorizing. There were seven famous poems hooked to the wall of the Ka’bah, demonstrating the Arabs’ superiority in literature. Each poem was made up of at least a thousand lines. People were able to memorize those poems after reading them a couple of times, sometimes even once!

Baby Girls

Pagan Arabs considered females to be inferior creations. Rape and adultery were normal. Females were all equally used for pleasure. A man can have a sexual intercourse with his son’s wife for instance, and that would be normal. When a man was blessed with a baby girl, ironically, he felt the utmost shame. Boys grew to be strong men; they were favored because they fought in wars, brought power and honor to their tribes, and so on. When a man was blessed with a baby girl, he had one of two choices: either to keep it and live in shame until she gives birth to a baby boy, or bury it alive and get rid of it!

When Islam came, the Quran interfered immediately:

“Indeed lost are they who have killed their children, foolishly, without knowledge, and have forbidden that which Allah (The Arabic word for God) has provided for them, inventing a lie against Allah. They have indeed gone astray and were not guided” [6:140]

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) commanded the Muslims: “Allah has forbidden upon you to disobey your mothers, and to bury your daughters

The Quran described the reaction of the Arab pagan when he received the news of a baby girl:

The Pagan Arab would pour his anger on his wife! He would yell at her: “Your father kept you alive and went through all the shame so that you give birth to a female and cause us more shame?!” Many times a women would be punished for giving birth to a female baby. The Quran came to defend women:

“To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills. Or He bestows both males and females, and He renders barren whom He wills. Verily, He is the All-Knower and is Able to do all things.” [43:49, 50]

The Quran came to change the Arab pagan men, from condemning women and considering them a source of shame, to appreciating women and realizing that they were in fact their source of peace, love and affection:

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” [30:21]


The poor pagans used to work for the rich tribes as slaves. Many of the poor tribes could not afford to keep feeding their children until they grow up. So they used to simply kill them (can you imagine the level of ignorance?) The Quran taught them:

“Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We will provide sustenance for you and for them; …” etc [6:151]

(Notice here: “We will provide sustenance for you and for them”: For “you” to solve your poverty problem, and for “them”, so that you don’t say: well God, you provided us sustenance, but now with our children, we need more)

Some pagan families were not even poor, but upon receiving a baby, they would fear that the extra expense would cause them poverty, so in order to avoid poverty; they used to kill their children! So God came to teach them in another verse:

“And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them as well as you. Surely, the killing of them is great sin.” [17:31]

(Notice here the reversal: “We will provide for them (first) as well as you” This is because “you” are not currently poor, but you fear poverty now that you have children so We will provide for “them”, and as a reward for you keeping them alive and taking care of them, We will provide for you too)

Baby Girl Rights

Islam went further from defending the survival of girls and keeping the children, to giving them their rights from the moment they were born. The following is are examples of rights of the baby girl:
On the first day she is born

1. Paying alms.

2. Right of inheritance.

3. Bringing glad tidings to the society. In return, people congratulate the father of the baby by saying: “May it be blessed, and may you thank the Grantor (God), may it be a dutiful one, and may you live to see it grow well”

4. Whispering prayers in her ears. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Every born baby comes to this world weeping because Satan comes to it from the moment it’s born; except Mary and Jesus (pbut)” Why Mary and Jesus only? Well, because the Quran tells us about Mary’s mother:

“Then when she gave birth to her (to Mary), she said: “O Lord, I have given birth to a female … and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast” [3:36]

So, we are required to whisper “Adan” prayers for the baby as soon as it’s born to make sure that the very first thing she hears when she comes to this world is a prayer of peace and words of Allah.

5. We should pray for God and thank him. That is also her right.

6. Naming her with a beautiful name (since pagan Arabs used to name women the worst names because they brought shame to them!). In fact, the Prophet (pbuh) himself changed many names of women who converted to Islam, such as from “Aasiyah” (the disobeying one) to “Jameelah” (the Beautiful one) and so on.

Other duties

1. Shaving the baby’s head on the seventh day, weighing its hair, and donating its weight in silver worth to the poor.

2. “Aqeeqah”. This is an Islamic festival whereby on the seventh day of birth, the father slaughters one sheep, cooks it well (with rice and all) and invites the relatives and the poor people to eat.

Why seventh day? Because the father and the family would be busy taking care of the mother who just gave birth, so she has a right of attention for the first seven days until she feels better, and the 7th day duties may be delayed as needed if the mother needs more medical and emotional attention.

Child Girl

As a young child, girls in Islam have rights as well as duties. Their rights begin before their life begins. Once the mother knows that she’s pregnant, both parents use this time (9 months) as a training time to put guidelines as to how they will raise their kid according to Islamic teachings. Of course during that period, there’s more burden on the father because he has so many duties towards his pregnant wife as well, which take priority. The following is a few examples of how parents treat the Muslim child:

A Good example

As a young girl, the Muslim child’s right is to see a good example of behavior and manners from her parents. The teachings for children include boys and girls, although some are specifically for girls. Also, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us that there are 3 times in particular, which are good for directing the child:

1. During an excursion, on a stroll, and on a vehicle.

The son of Abbas narrated: “One day, I was roaming near the Prophet (pbuh), so he took me and put me on a mule, and walked a little bit with me then he said: “O son. Keep Allah in your mind, He will keep you (from danger). Keep Allah in your mind, you will see Him in front of you (through answering prayers and success in life). If you ask, then ask Allah. And if you seek help, seek it from Allah. Know that what you missed, you never meant to hit, and what you hit, you never meant to miss. And know that if this nation gathers its power to hurt you, it wont hurt you except what Allah has willed. And if this nation gathers its strength to do well to you, they wont do it except as much as Allah willed. The pens retired, and the papers dried out!” (Meaning that this advice will suffice you, no more, period).

2. At the time of eating.

The Prophet (pbuh) sat next to a child for lunch. He drew closer to the child and told him: “O son, say: In the Name of Allah (before you start eating), and eat with your right hand, and eat from the food that is nearest to you”

3.) When the child is sick or in a state of weakness.

This is logical because this is when the child needs advice most. A Jewish parent offered her child to the Prophet (pbuh) to live with him (pbuh) and serve him (not that he needed a child since he had his own kids, but because the parents wanted their son to learn good behavior from the Prophet (pbuh)). The child lived with the Prophet for a while. One day he was sick. The Prophet (pbuh) visited him to check on him. He told the child: “O son, submit to the One Lord and become a Muslim”. The child smiled and looked at his parents. They nodded. So the child smiled and said: “I bear witness that there’s no God but Allah, and that you are the Prophet of Allah”.

Equality & Fairness

Islam teaches us how to treat all the children equally, whether girls or boys. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Fear Allah, and treat all your kids with fairness”. On another occasion the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Treat your children equally when they’re young, so that they grow to treat you both equally”. In a chapter that talks exclusively about the story of Prophet Joseph (pbuh), the Quran warned us from favoring a child over others by narrating the story of Prophet Jacob (pbuh) with his 12 sons:

“When they said: truly Joseph and his brother (Benjamin) are dearer to our father (Jacob) than we, while we are a strong group. Really, our father is in plain error. Kill Joseph or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone …” [12:8,9]


The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Not from among us is he who does not have mercy on children”


The Prophet (pbuh) taught us to pray for the little ones, and the prayer he made most for little kids was: “O Allah, teach them wisdom”

Those were just very few examples. Islam taught us how to raise every aspect in the Muslim girl’s character:

Her mind

Developing her mind with stories, face-to-face advice, talking to her at the same level of her thinking, calm and peaceful dialog, etc etc. The Quran and the Prophet’s teachings are full of examples.


Nurturing the girl psychologically, by accompanying her in trips and bringing happiness to her heart, building confidence in herself and making her competitive, praising her, joking with her, treating her gently and emotionally, answering her needs, repeating the teachings to instill them in her heart gradually, etc etc…

Soul & Personality

Teaching the girl Islamic beliefs (about the Oneness of Allah, the Angels, the Prophets, the Books, the Day of Judgment, the Quran, etc etc), teaching her worshipping (prayer, fasting, paying to the poor, etc), sociology (how to be social, serve the society, etc), behavior and manners, love and emotions, etc.


Engaging her in playing sports, the Prophet (pbuh) emphasized mostly on track and field athletics, swimming, and riding horses. One particular incident that came to my mind was Aisha and the Prophet (pbuh). When she was young and strong, the Prophet (pbuh) raced with her once (running) and she won him. Then when Aisha grew older, she raced with him (pbuh) and he won her. So he said: “This one is for that one” (i.e. for you winning me in the past) so she laughed.


The Muslim girl has a right for education, the parents’ duty lies in choosing the correct school and teacher for her, encouraging her to excel in her studies, learn to speak other languages, have a home library.


Islam teaches the girl how to be internally and externally clean, how to eat, how to diet, how to sleep, avoid diseases and illnesses, how to deal with her physical disturbances (period, etc), play sports, etc.

Manners & Behaviors

Islam teaches the Muslim girl how to deal with the opposite sex, sexual education, how to preserve herself, etc.
All those aspects and much more, are found in the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad (pbuh). By now, I feel safe to say that Islam is not just a religion of worship, but a way of life. And there’s much more to come:

The Muslim Girl Growing to be a Woman

After raising the Muslim girl through all those teachings, her book (of deeds) will be opened at the age of puberty, and she will be responsible for her actions from that point on. But perhaps the most important teaching for the girl at that age is Hijab (wearing the veil):

I asked a western girl once about her favorite chocolate bar, she said it was Mars. I told her: Suppose one day, you had a sweet tooth; very sweet you had a desperate urge for chocolate. You run to the store, and on the shelf, there lied the last two Mars bars; one of them partially opened, but the other was sealed. Which one would you take? She answered immediately: The sealed one of course. I said: wait a minute! You’re desperate for chocolate, and that bar was lying there on the shelf, opened and ready for you to eat! Why would you choose the sealed one? She said: Well what if someone tampered with it? I answered: Ok, assuming that no one touched it, would you choose it over the sealed one? She said: No way, no. It’s been exposed to air; it could be rotten for all I know! I said: and so is the girl! She is the sweetest creation on earth, and if she exposes her parts all the time, I would think: God knows who touched her, who she slept with.. God knows what the sun and air did to her skin; God knows how many people attacked her, etc. But when she exposes her beauty only to the one man she loves, then she will preserve herself and keep her originality. Yes originality!

If you pass by a fabulous palace for the first time in your life, you might say: Oh my God, WOW! I’ve never seen something like that in my entire life! But can you pass by that same palace every single day and say the same thing about it? No! Why? Because you get used to its shape and colors, it is not original anymore! But if you visit that palace every once in a while, and it is only exposed to you alone, it keeps its originality. Every time you see it, it reminds you of how beautiful it was when you first saw it. And the same thing with the girl, every time she exposes her beauty to her man only, he finds her as beautiful as he first saw her. But if she’s out in her tank top and wide belt skirt every single day, she becomes “a regular”.

On the other hand, Hijab gains the Muslim woman more respect and honor. Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh), is the purest female in all worlds at her time. She is honored in the Quran with a full chapter named after her, to set the best example of a complete woman. In another chapter in the Quran, Allah says:

“And (remember the story O Muhammad) when the angels said: “O Mary! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above all women of the worlds. O Mary! Submit yourself with obedience to your Lord and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with those who bow down (in humbleness)”” [3:42,43]

After raising the Muslim girl according to the teachings of the Quran, and instilling the love of the Quran in her mind, it is her role to read more from the Quran how Mary was the purest and best woman in her time, to take her as an example. Mary used to wear the veil, and cover her parts. This is what the Muslim girl is required to do. The Prophet (pbuh) said to a Muslim woman once: “O Asmaa’, when the girl reaches menstruation, it is not right to expose from her except this and that” and he (pbuh) pointed to her face & hands.

Hijab gives the Muslim girl solemnity. When I’m around the Muslim girl, I could rarely look her straight in the eye, I lower my voice, and I choose only the good words to tell her (out of respect). I carefully consider all my actions around a Muslim girl not because she reveals her beauty and I want a piece of her, but because she has dignity and respect that makes me want to live up to her standard. You can’t imagine how much Muslim women are honored, respected, preserved and liberated at the same time, with Hijab. Hijab does not prevent the Muslim girl from studying, working, playing, choosing her man, voting, etc.

Unlike the media claims, men do not oppress Muslim women to wear the Hijab. Hijab is simply an Islamic teaching (like women, men in Islam by the way, also have a dress code, something many people are not aware of).

All in all, Islam made women equal to men:

“O you people! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the most pious. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware” [49:13]

But Allah stressed that the relationship between men and women is not of competing with each another, but rather, completing and complementing one another:

“They are a body cover for you and you are the same for them” [2:187]

Western women today are treated just like in the early days before Islam came; they are used as a sex symbol. The (most likely male) designer designs what parts of the female’s body he wants to pleasure his sight with, and she just wears it! Then the females wanted to compete with male designers, so they started designing (what they call) the sexiest outfits, and the result was: more prostitution, more rapes, more attacks on women, and more presentation of females as being just an object for satisfying the sexual needs of men. Let’s put Islam aside for a moment and reason with logic:

In a man’s mind, the female is a person with a heart and a soul, a mind, and a body. Under each of these categories there’s a list of qualities. When the woman overwhelmingly exposes only one quality under her “body” category (namely her body parts), this quality naturally overshadows every other quality, nay category, in the woman’s personality. Gradually, women become only known for that one outstanding quality they reveal mostly, which happened to be the quality that naturally finds a warm reception from men. In time, man no longer becomes aware of the mind and soul aspect of a woman.

The Muslim Wife

Islam considers the family to be the single most important institution in the society and the nation as a whole. Islam makes relationship between opposite sexes legitimate only through marriage. I would understand why marriage would disappoint many Americans, with over 50% of marriage cases ending up with divorce in the United States. But in Islam, marriage has rules and regulations that protect the woman and preserves her solemnity and dignity. It is then obvious why Islam legitimizes an intimate relationship between males and females only through marriage.

How many times did the average girl meet “THE” boyfriend of her life, only to find out that he fell in love with someone else, cheated on her, or “not really serious” about her, etc etc? How many girlfriends does the average guy go through in his life, before settling to “THE” right girl? Or vice versa. Islam simply says: Enough fiddling around with girls, enough using and abusing them, and enough cheating on them. If you really want a girl to share your life with, to find in her peace, love and comfort, you got to earn it! The only way to earn it is by having the true intention of being with her for the rest of your life. And there are rules for this:

1. You are allowed to search for the girl you want to share your life with. But you are NOT allowed to date her or seek sexual pleasure or intimate relationships with her while you’re searching (a protective measure for the girl’s purity).

2. You are supposed to approach the houses from the doors. Likewise, you are supposed to approach the girl through her parents’ approval. You should prove to them that you are serious about their daughter and that you are the “right one” for her.

3. You get to know the girl through her consent first, then through the consent of her parents (no tampering, fiddling around, abusing, seeking sexual pleasure! Only getting to know “the person” in her).

4. If you feel that she’s “the one”, you can then start planning for marriage. Now, before you get married, you pay her a dowry (an amount of money as a present and security at the same time, today, the dowry could range from $3000 to $20000 or more, and it could be nothing if that’s what the girl wants).

5. Then there’s a “late-security”. This would normally be a large amount of money. It most probably includes property (house, business, etc) and cash. It is a pledge, that God forbids, if a man divorces the woman in the future, she is entitled to a form of compensation. In other words, Islam is telling the man: Listen up! You got to be damn serious about this woman, because if you have the slightest doubt of cheating on her, leaving her, or divorcing her for any reason, you will have to pay her “late-security”, which will most likely render you with very little money, not enough money to marry again afterwards!

6. By now, it is only fair to make the divorce the man’s decision and not up to the woman. The only way a woman can achieve divorce in Islam is if she can prove to a judge that her husband is not fulfilling his duties towards her (or/and children). Because once they get married, the husband has duties towards his wife (and vice versa). For example, the man must provide for his wife and children. Even if the woman is very rich and her husband is not, she is not required to provide for him, but he still has to provide for her and the children whether he’s wealthy or not (let alone the prior and late-securities). He must respond to her needs and fulfill them to the best of his ability, as long as they are not unlawful in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The best man is the one who is best with his wife”

7. The man’s duties towards his wife are endless really, from protecting her, to treating her kindly and gently, from giving her attention and being honest and sincere with her, to spending time with her, joking around and showing her a sense of humor; from appreciating her and assisting her with household matters, to consulting her and taking her opinions and studying them carefully, showing the worth of her words to him; from going with her to visit her relatives and close ones, to showing respect to the people whom she love and respect. If he doesn’t fulfill his duties towards her or/and her children, she has a right to file a case to the judge. And if she doesn’t fulfill her duties towards him, he has the option of divorcing her (at his expense). But before that, there are three levels of warnings that he can issue before things get too serious:

8. The first level is reminding her kindly of her duties towards him. Second if she continues to discomfort him, he abstains from sharing her bed, and third if she continues to breach her duties towards him, he can beat her lightly (on her palm) three times with a little stick:

“As for those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to their obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great” [4:34]

The Prophet (pbuh) explains in Islamic teachings that this is not actual beating; it is symbolic, and in fact he (pbuh) suggested lightly tapping her hand with a teeth cleanser stick! By doing so, the man is saying to his wife: I reject your actions and I’m about to take a larger step if you continue to misbehave, which is a divorce. The words however are tough, and such a harsh warning at this level may differ from man to man. The tough words would make it even harder on the woman to adjust. For this reason, Islam standardized and restricted that warning against women with a symbolic one, which attempts to keep things calm between the husband and his wife, although the wife’s annoyance to her husband at this stage had reached it’s peak.

In one incidence, it has been narrated that a companion of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his wife was giving him a hard time. He was so angry at her, that he swore to beat her 90 times! Then he remembered Prophet Muhammad’s words: “The strong is not he who wrestles; the strong is he who holds a grip on himself at the time of anger” The companion did not know what to do. He regretted his behavior, but on the other hand, he swore to beat his wife 90 times! No matter how softly he will beat his wife, 90 times ill hurt her. So he went to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and told him the story. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) replied: “Go gather 90 sticks of ash, the size of your finger; hold them altogether in one hand, and lightly tap your wife on her hand with the ashes once!” Such were the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with women.

9. The measures that Islam taken to maintain women is a great proof of how Islam protects families from falling apart. If things don’t work out after the 3 level warning, a man can finally issue a divorce. Even divorce has 3 degrees! Divorce at its first 2 degrees gives the couple enough space and time to think everything over, and have a calm dialog to see if any agreement may be reached. They can have an arbitrator from his side and an arbitrator from her side to help solving their problems if they wish:

“If you fear a breach between them twain (the man and his wife), appoint (two) arbitrators, one from his family, and the other from her family; if they both wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation. Indeed Allah is Ever All-Knower, Well-Acquainted with all things.” [4:35]

The man does not sleep with his wife during that period of time and the absence of intimacy during that time is the Islamic natural way of cooling things down between the two. Each one misses the intimate other. The anger and hostility between the two melts and fades away little by little if their love for one another is stronger than their problems, or if they can rise above all difficulties for the sake of their children for instance.

After the 2 degrees of divorce, they both reach an agreement of either going back to each other, or separating, in which case, the man releases his wife peacefully:

“The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms, or release her with kindness.” [2:229]

And in case some man devilishly decides to bring back his wife after the 2 degrees of divorce only to take revenge, treat her badly and torture her, Allah issued a caution:

“… But do not take them (your wives) back to hurt them, and whoever does that, then he has wronged himself … and fear Allah, and know that Allah is All-Aware of everything” [2:231]

In short, Allah says: although I made divorce in the hands of man, I gave the woman the chance to earn a divorce through court, and both ways I made the man fully responsible for the consequences. And I will make sure that the only time he issues the final divorce is if he exhausts all efforts of bringing peace back to the family.

Can you imagine what a man has to go through if his wife does not fulfill her duties towards him? When all she has to do is proof to the judge that he’s not fulfilling her rights and she could earn a divorce. If anything, this shows how carefully women are treated, maintained, and protected in Islam.

10. It comes to no surprise then, that the husband has a right on his wife that she should obey him. His duty is to consult her and take her opinion. As we mentioned earlier, Islam considers the family to be the most fundamental institution in the nation. Have you ever seen an organization or an institution without a general manager? Allah made man the “general manager” of the family:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other (in decision making), and because they spend (bridal money and sustenance) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard.” [2:34]

But that does not mean that man is not equal to his wife as a human being with rights and duties. If anything, assuming the position of the “general manager” of the family favors the woman and not the man! Think about it: in Islam, the man is responsible for his wife and children and everything that goes on in the family. He is supposed to consult with his wife in family affairs for instance, and make the final decision. If his wife suggests a decision, and he takes it, and it turned out to be wrong, it is the husband who is questioned for the wrong decision, not her! He will take responsibility for the actions of his family. So really, Islam puts the woman on the safe side and protects her; she can actually have the man do things her way, without being responsible for the consequences! For this reason, we mentioned earlier that he must prove to her parents that he is wise, trustworthy, honest, and responsible, etc etc.

The Muslim Mother

Simply put, whenever Allah mentions in the Quran that people should worship Him Alone, he mentions obeying and respecting the parents. Allah makes it a joint command, that “you worship Me Alone, AND you keep your duty to your parents”. A few examples read:

“And worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to your parents” [4:36]

“Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with
Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; …” [6:151]

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents” [17:23]

That is for parents. The Quran exclusively mentioned the mother though:

“And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty months …” [46:15]

The Quran is full of examples about mothers’ roles (such as Mary’s mother, Moses’ mother, and Ismael’s mother, may peace be upon them all), but perhaps what strikes attention, is the extension to those Quranic teachings from the traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) regarding mothers when he said: “Paradise is below the feet of mothers!” in other words, if you want Paradise, it’s under your mother’s feet, under her authority! Obey your mother and keep your duty to her, and that will be the key to your happiness, the key to Paradise!

It has been narrated that a boy once came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked him: “O Prophet of Allah, who do I obey?” the Prophet replied: “Your mother”. So he left and came back asking the Prophet (pbuh): “Then who should I obey?” the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Your mother”. So he left and came back again: “Then who?” the Prophet (pbuh) answered: “Your mother”. Finally the boy came back and asked: “Then who?” and the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Your father”.

A man asked the Prophet (pbuh): “O Prophet of Allah, I committed a sin. Is there a way to compensate for it?” the Prophet (pbuh) asked him: “Is your mother alive?” he said: “No”. The Prophet asked: “Do you have an aunt?” the man said: “Yes”. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Go obey her and be nice to her!”

Looking for more respect for women in Islam? More honor?

The Prophet (pbuh) revealed that obeying the mothers is higher and more honorable in the eyes of Allah than fighting and dieing for the sake of Allah:

When Jaahimah (one of the companions) went to the Prophet (pbuh) and consulted with him if he should go to fight for the sake of Allah, the prophet asked him: “Is your mother alive?” he answered: “Yes”, so the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Stay by her and keep your duty to her, for Paradise is below her feet!”

And finally, one of the companions said: I asked the Prophet (pbuh): “Which act is mostly favorable to Allah?” The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “Praying to Allah on time”, the companion asked: “Then which?” the Prophet said: “Obeying your parents”, the companion asked: “Then which?” the Prophet said: “Fighting for the sake of Allah”.

Rights of Women After Death

Yes. Muslim women have rights in Islam even after they die! The following is a list of duties towards women during the process of burial:

1. Once she dies, a woman should be bathed for purity. No man is allowed to wash her except her husband (Likewise, it is the right of the Muslim woman to shower her husband). Otherwise, a woman should shower her.

2. After being bathed, the Muslim woman is dressed with 5 layers of white, light cloth.

3. Before taken to burial, people pray for her a special prayer in congregation (The Prayer of the deceased). Family, relatives, close friends, and even Muslims who do not relate to her, if they know about her death, they should pray for her.

4. After that, Allah has forbidden people to cry in a very loud voice, because that would interrupt a peaceful atmosphere for the Muslim woman. Crying in a low voice is allowed.

5. While & after burial, prayers are recited for the deceased.

The following are some duties towards women after they die:

1. The Will of the deceased woman must be read and its elements must be fulfilled by her husband, children, or whoever is stated in the Will.

2. The husband, offspring, or close relatives are required to pay all the debts of the deceased woman.

3. The Muslim husband is required to keep in touch with the people his wife loved. He and his children are required to be good to the people she loved. It has been narrated that an old woman used to visit the Prophet (pbuh) and he (pbuh) used to visit her regularly to help her and provide for her. When the companions asked him (pbuh) why he was doing that, he (pbuh) told them that the old woman was his wife’s friend

4. Finally, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “After a person dies, his or her deeds will come to an end except of 3 deeds: a payment of charity that is still benefiting its receiver, a piece of knowledge that benefits people, and a son or daughter who prays for him or her”

That was a highlight on women’s rights in the shade of Islam. I call on people of all faiths to look into Islam and see how it treats women from the lights of the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), not from different practices of Muslims. There is a difference between culture and religion. Many Muslims today are affected by their different cultures. Therefore, the best way to judge a religion is by its Scripture, not by its people.

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