Status of women in Islam has often been a subject of controversy. Among many, the image of a Muslim woman is viewed as one under oppression and domination of males, confined within the boundaries of her home, not having the opportunity to express herself or take part in public life.
Such misconceptions are due to the fact that non-Muslims are seldom presented with the Qur'anic directives concerning the rights and responsibilities of women and usually their perception of Islam is based on the traditions and cultural practices of certain individuals specific within a locality, which are then stereo-typed as legitimate Islamic practices.
This grave situation results due to the fact that the Muslim world of nowadays has distanced itself from Allah's Book, and the majority of those who may identify themselves as Muslim, are themselves unaware of its contents, and instead blindly follow the doctrines of the sect in which they are born into, assuming them to be consistent with the Qur'an.
It should be understood that when we say something is Islamic, then what exactly is the authority for that matter? Is something Islamic, just because people who may apply the label of a Muslim on them selves are practicing it?
Even a mere superficial study of the Qur'an makes it evident that the final authority for all matters of Islam lies with the Book of Allah. Whatever is confirmed by the Qur'an, is valid as Islamic practice, and what is refuted or resented by it, is not. Hence the following article presents what is that status that the Qur'an has given to women.
The Qur'anic directives for this matter should be considered as the final authority, and opinions or actions of those who label themselves as Muslims or associate themselves with Islam should be judged in the light of the Holy Qur'an, and should not be accepted as 'Islamic' if they are refuted or resented by the Qur'an.
The Qur'an declares that the male and the female are equal in status and utility as both have been created by Allah. Unlike the Bible, which states that Eve (woman) was created from Adam's rib (See Genesis 2:4, 3:24), the Qur'an informs us that both the male as well as the female were created out of one single source material called "Nafsin wahida".
"O Mankind! be careful of (your duty to) your Sustainer, Who created you (all humans, men as well as women) from a single Self and created from it, its complimentary pair and spread from these two, many men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you." (4:1) "He it is Who created you (o human beings) from a single self , and made from her, her complimentary pair, that she may find peace in her.." (7:189)
Discarding the Biblical story where Eve is held responsible for Adam's temptation and expulsion from Heaven (See Genesis 2:3), the Qur'an states that both Adam (man) as well as his pair (woman) were equally tempted by Satan, both of them tasted of the forbidden fuit, both of them were equally admonished for their forgetfulness, and both repented and their repentance was accepted by their Sustainer. This is stated in the following verses of Sura Al-Araaf:
"And (We said): O Adam! Dwell you and your pair in the garden; so eat from where you desire, but do not go near this tree, for then you will be of the unjust. But the Shaitan made an evil suggestion to both of them that he might make manifest to them what had been hidden from them of their evil inclinations, and he said: Your Sustainer has not forbidden you this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals.
And he swore to them both: Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you. Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they (both, Adam and his pair) tasted of the tree, their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden; and their Sustainer called out to them: Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Shaitan is your open enemy? They said: Our Sustainer! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers." (7:19-23)
Earlier in Sura Al-Baqara, it was also said that both man and woman, were tempted by Satan:
"But Shaitan made them both fall from it, and caused them to depart from that (state) in which they were.." (2:36)
Thus it is clear from the above that the Qur'an maintains that both men as well as women were created out of one source material called "Nafsin wahidatin", i.e 'A Single Self', and both man and woman were equally responsible for their expulsion from the Garden. The Qur'an does not harmonize with the view that the first woman was created from a man's rib or that she was the one who caused humankind to be expelled from Heaven.