Society and Culture

Women in Islam: Oppressed or Liberated?

Many opponents and critics of Islam, due to their bias or ill-informed knowledge, claim that Islam oppresses women, and denies them their due rights. Many such “scholars” wrongfully claim that Islam treats women differently or unjustly, or unequally.

The media too does not stop short in this bias, and often portrays Muslim women in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Plus, many poorly informed Muslims too only serve to reinforce the wrong stereotypes and deny women their due share of rights. This article addresses some of the key questions associated with the status of women in Islam. 

Women in Islam: Oppressed or Liberated?

1. Why are Muslim women not allowed to go to masjids?

This question is factually inaccurate, and it seems to have risen as a by-product of the cultural behavior in many regions. Islam allows women to go to masjids, and even offers them a special privilege wherein they can offer prayers at home for their own convenience and safety.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: [1]

If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to go to the masjid, he should not forbid her.

2. Why aren’t Muslim women allowed to marry the person of their choice?

Another misconception. In fact, Islam gave women the right to choose their partners, fourteen centuries ago!

One event in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s life that reflects this fact was the proposal of Hz Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (RA). She was his employer, but impressed by the honesty and integrity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hz Khadijah proposed marriage to him. He accepted her proposal and their marriage is known even to this day for the love and compassion they shared.

In another incident, a girl once approached Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and stated that her father had forced her into marriage. The Prophet (PBUH) gave her the choice to either accept the marriage, or feel free to invalidate it immediately due to the duress involved.

Thus, in Islam, the girl’s consent is required for marriage. She cannot be married against her will nor she can be forced into it.

3. Why is there a dress code for Muslim women?

It is true that Islam requires women to dress modestly, but the requirement is not just for women. In Islam, men too need to dress modestly. Hence, this is a behavioral concept, and not a gender issue. To quote The Quran: [2]

Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is Well Acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands.

Many Muslim women wear the Hijab or cover themselves up because they prefer to be recognized by their intellect rather than their appearance. Hijab gives one the power to tell the world that she is much more than just a beautiful face. In fact, a Hijab is the best way to liberate oneself from society’s ludicrous expectations; a Hijab is a direct challenge to modern-day’s objectification of women. A Hijab is an idea that redefines freedom.

4. Why are Muslim men allowed to have four wives?

In Islam. even though men are allowed to have four wives, it is not obligatory for them to marry four. In fact, the Quran is the only scripture in the world that limits the number of wives one can have. There is no other scripture that says, “Marry only one”.

Also, the biggest circumstance where polygamy is allowed in Islam is to provide a fatherly figure for orphans. [3]

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one.

Plus, in the same chapter of the Quran, the practical aspects of polygamous lifestyle are questioned too: [4]

And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah — then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.

As we can see, the above ‘questions’ related to Islam have more to do with lack of accurate knowledge about Islam. In reality, the true teachings of Islam are not what we see in popular media, and Islam is, by far, the only religion that can truly elevate the status of women. In other words, women in Islam are definitely liberated, and not oppressed.


  1. Sahih Bukhari Vol 07, Book 62, Hadith 165
  2. The Quran 24:30-31 (Surah an-Nur)
  3. The Quran 04:03 (Surah an-Nisa)
  4. The Quran 04:129 (Surah an-Nisa)

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Nooriya Jamil

Nooriya Jamil is the former News Editor at Muslim Memo. She is a software engineer and works in the IT industry.

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