Arewa Voices

Examining Women's Rights in The Quran

By Azeezat Okunlola | Apr 5, 2024

News cycles have seen the reporting of Islamic states restricting women's access to public spaces, limiting educational opportunities, and imposing constraints on job choices

Violating these laws results in severe punishment for women. Consequently, questions have arisen regarding the accuracy of these claims and the exact stance of the Quran and Hadith/Sunnah on women's rights, prompting a fundamental exploration of these issues. 

In a 2015 survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre across eleven nations with substantial Muslim populations, an overwhelming majority expressed unfavourable views towards ISIS. Similar to other Abrahamic faiths, Islam encompasses a broad spectrum of perspectives and interpretations of its sacred texts, written in a different historical context. Extremist interpretations of Islam often involve the selective adaptation of specific Quranic and Hadith verses, originally guiding early military and political aspects of the faith, to fit modern contexts.

This article, guided by the principle of earnest pursuit of knowledge within Islam, addresses prevalent misconceptions surrounding Islam's treatment of women, their rights, and the extent to which these rights can be implemented.


A Woman’s Right to Life:

A Muslim's life is just as sacred in the care of another Muslim as it is in the care of the individual under Islam. Q2 verse 30 states Allah desires to create humans, and despite the angels' objections, he continues to do so, affirming that He is the source of life and that, as He has given life to angels, He would provide it to mankind as well.

Existence is a prerequisite for adherence to Islam; this fundamental requirement underpins the worship of Allah by humanity, notwithstanding personal frustrations that one's life might be worthless.

 “Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “...Do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for you and for them. Do not come near indecencies, openly or secretly. Do not take a ˹human˺ life—made sacred by Allah—except with ˹legal˺ right. This is what He has commanded you, so perhaps you will understand.”Q6 vs 151.

Thus, in Allah's eyes, men and women are on equal ground; hence, this rule applies to them equally. Intentionally killing a believer will result in everlasting damnation in Hell, where the wicked will spend eternity. Allah is furious with those who do this, therefore, He has cursed them and has prepared a tremendous retribution for them (Q4 vs. 93).

There's also the clear condemnation of female infanticide in the Quran. Surah Al-Nahal (Q16: 58-59) says, “And when a daughter is announced to one of them, his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people when it is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the earth? Now surely evil is what they judge.” 

The Quran further provides for retaliation against an individual who commits a qisas crime (intentional wounding and intentional homicide), but also expresses a preference for forgiveness. While referring to the Old Testament, the Quran says in Q5 vs 45: “We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers”.

As gathered, Islamically, the only three legal basis for taking a life include;

  • Killing a murderer: Q17 vs 33: (And whoever is killed (intentionally with hostility and oppression and not by mistake), We have given his heirs (wali) the authority to demand Qisas, (Law of Equality in punishment) or to forgive, or to take Diyat (blood money). But let him not exceed limits in the matter of taking life (i.e. he should not kill except the killer only); for he is helped (by the Law).”

  • Proven Adultery: Sahih Muslim, Book 17, Number 4191: Ubada b. as-Samit reported Allah’s messenger saying “Allah has ordained a way for those (women). When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female (they should receive) one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of a married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death.

  • Apostacy: Shaykh al-Kulayni narrates a sahāh (correct) hadith from `Ammār as-Sābāti who said: I heard (Imam) Abu `Abdullāh (as-Sādiq) (a.s.) saying, "A Muslim from among the Muslims who renounces Islam and rejects the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ and considers him untrue, then verily his blood is lawful (mubāh) for anyone who hears that from him, his wife is to be separated from him the day he became murtad, his wealth will be divided among his heirs, and his wife will observe the`idda of a widow (i.e., four months). The Imam is obliged to kill him, and not ask him to seek forgiveness.”

It is worth mentioning that the conclusive rulings on the subject of apostasy from later legal schools differ considerably from what the early Muslim society appeared to have understood by the word. The actions taken by the Prophet ﷺ himself make it clear. Ibn al-Ṭallāʿ (d. 1103), a prominent scholar from Cordoba, argues that there is no concrete evidence that the Prophet ﷺ ever executed someone for apostasy.

While the Muslims were seeking refuge in Ethiopia, ʿUbaydallāh bin Jaḥsh, who was a Companion, converted to Christianity. The penalty was not decreed by the Prophet ﷺ. The Treaty of Ḥudaybiyya, which the Prophet ﷺ and the Quraysh entered into, stated that anyone who want to depart from the Muslim community in Medina would not be subjected to any harm. An apostasy penalty was not specifiedThe scripture that contrasts with the death sentence for apostasy the greatest is Q2:256, which states that there is no compulsion in religion. However, despite the fact that the Qur'an makes several statements on religious freedom, Muslim jurists have consistently upheld the same norm throughout the years.

Given that Islam preaches that God is oft-forgiving and sin is part of human nature, the Quran makes it clear that it is not permissible to kill a human being (male or female) for a transgression that isn't a qisa offence. Beyond what has already been ordained, man is not to bear the responsibility of punishment of sin.


A Woman’s Right to Choose Her Religion:

Regarding the right to religious freedom, it should be noted that the Qur'anic verse, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Surah 2:Al-Baqarah: 256), is applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims, so long as the latter do not display aggression against the former.

"Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.”- Q6 vs 108


Additionally, the provision in Quran 2: Al-Baqarah: 256 ensures that people are free to worship and practice what faith they deem fit. 

This indicates that non-Muslims residing in Muslim areas should be able to freely practise their faith-traditions without fear of persecution, as per the teachings of the Qur'an. The role of the Prophet Muhammad, according to many verses in the Qur'an, is to preach the gospel of God and not compel anybody to believe. In Surah 18: Al-Kahf: 29, the Qur'an plainly supports the liberty to freely choose one's beliefs, saying: "The Truth is from your Lord: Let him who will believe, and let him who will reject (it)." Quran 88:21–22, Quran 17:54, Quran 10:99, Quran 11:28, and Quran 9:76 are some more passages that are pertinent to this right.


HIDDEN - to trigger update. rm later