Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism has for long tackled many of the misconceptions about women’s rights in Islam. In doing so, it has released multiple videos, campaigns and articles to enlighten people about the truth behind some misdefined concepts like gender equality, inheritance and gender-based violence. Islam was the first religion to free women from many of the shackles that once restrained them and grant them an honorable status as counterparts of men and their partners in forming the society. Hence, we should question the validity of the argument that the Islamic provisions are biased against women and seek to deprive them of their rights. That said, let’s explore Islam’s outlook of women and whether or not it guarantees them their respective rights recognized at the present time, especially the right to gender equality.
No matter how we debate, it is to be admitted that men and women differ in many aspects, not because women are regarded as inferiors, but because it is a fact that they are not equal physically, psychologically and physiologically. Although men have stronger physical constitution, studies have proven that women can bear more pain than men, though most of us would expect the contrary. It is due to this difference that Islam excuses women from observing certain religious obligations after birth giving, for example, because in such times women become physically exhausted, so it is better for them to be spared any further obligations. This and more prove that absolute equality between the two sexes is not possible, and therefore it is better to embrace our difference with grace and look for the equality that is judged by efforts.
Islam came at a time when women were treated like a merchandise and were bought and sold, and were even subjected to infanticide upon their birth out of shame. At such a time, Islam fought against those heinous traditions, granting women many of their long lost rights. One of these was the right to inherit as stated in the Holy Quran: “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much - an obligatory share.” (4:7) Although some people argue that Islam was unfair towards women when it stated that a man shall inherit twice as a woman, yet those who look closely at this topic will see that women take more share than men in most instances of inheritance by the rule of Allah.
It is worth noting that the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyeb always talks in favor of women and granting them their rights and an honorable status as Islam required. The Grand Imam said at the International Summit of Women Speakers of the Parliament: “Islam came to free women from solitude and alienation blockades, and to place them at the heart of the society, in order for them to bear their responsibility in construction, development and progress.”
It is now clear enough that Islam is fair and just towards women as it takes into consideration their natural differences from men. The Islamic teachings seek to achieve fair gender equality, not absolute gender equality that would overburden and oppress women further.