Islam has given a man and a woman equal rights and responsibilities but they are not necessarily identical, for equality and identical are quite different things.
The difference is understandable because man and woman were created as equal and not identical.
The status of a woman in Islam is something unique and valuable and this can be far much better understood if we know how women were considered in the pre-Islamic era, whereby they were considered to be part of the property one would earn.
And not only this, but also the birth of a girl child would anger the father and as a result she was buried alive as Allah has stated in the holy Quran:
‘When one of them is informed of a birth of a female his face becomes dark and he suppresses grief.” Quran 16:58.
Even if we look at the different cultures of our society, we would see that a girl child is considered as a less important creature so that she is never entitled to any rights or privileges as a boy child.
The only best that can ever happen to her after birth is getting married whereby she is subjected to all forms of human rights violations. And if we look at our modern society a woman is never happy even in a happy position even if it means having everything that would bring happiness.
In order for her to enjoy the full liberty to whatever she is entitled to, she is supposed to offer painful sacrifices and to some extent it may even involve sexual harassment but in return, she does not have the full liberty that Islam has bestowed upon women.
Frankly speaking, a Muslim woman is given her full rights and responsibilities. She is entitled to have quality education just like the prophet SAW said, “Pursuing education is incumbent to every Muslim” that is a man and a woman.
In addition, educating a woman is far much important because she is the first teacher in the school of humanity, a woman never thinks about satisfying her needs but rather she thinks about the society at large as the saying goes, ‘[when] you educate a man, you educate an individual but [when] you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’
Islam has also given a woman the freedom of expression. Her opinions are taken into consideration and can never be disregarded just because of her gender. The Quran and history both record that women not only expressed their opinions freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the prophet SAW and other Muslim leaders.
In addition, the followers of the prophet SAW used to seek knowledge from Aisha (R.A) as was also emphasized by the prophet (SAW) saying “learn half of your deen from aisha (R.A).”
She is also entitled to work in all works of life, be it in the political, economic and education sector.
Just as Allah has stated in the holy Quran, “the believing women and men are allies of one another Quran 9:71.”
She has also been given the right to choose to whom she is supposed to get married to as this is considered as the last choice one can make in life and failure to have the best choice would lead miseries throughout one’s life.
Prophet stated that a girl is supposed to marry by her free will and not by force.
Imam Al-Bukhaari in his report, quoted the following texts from al-Khansa’ bint Khidam that support woman in this issue:
“My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah . He said to me:
‘Accept what your father has arranged.’ I said, ‘I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.’ He said, ‘Then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.’ I said, ‘I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them).’” See Fath al-Bari, 9/194, Kitab al-nikah, bab ikrah al-bint ‘ala al-zawaj; Ibn Majah, 1/602, Kitab al-nikah, bab man zawwaja ibnatahu wa hiya karihah; al-Mabsut 5/2.
And this is how Islam has respected a woman in various forms by giving her full rights and responsibilities that is whether in the office, home, school and the society at large. What Islam has established for a woman is that which suits her nature, gives her full security and protects her against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life.