No doubt, every society knows all of the traditional arguments about women’s ideal role and place. Their social status and importance in the family, whether or not they should work, and other social issues have been discussed seemingly forever. For Muslims, these issues were settled in the Koran: Men and women are equal. The facts that men and women have different physical builds and that women are generally weaker than men are irrelevant and cannot be used to reduce women’s value.
What truly matters in Islamic morality is not whether someone is male or female, but whether or not he or she is a believer who fears and respects God. Each believer is expected to strive to live by the Koran’s morality, for the results of this struggle are what God values and will measure in the Hereafter. God reveals the qualities that all Muslims, male or female, should have:
“The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, keep up prayer and give the alms [zakat], and obey God and His Messenger. They are the people on whom God will have mercy. God is Almighty, All-Wise.” (Surat at-Tawba: 71)
“They are the people guided by their Lord. They are the ones who attain success.” (Surat al-Baqara, 5)
As God reveals, all Muslims, regardless of their gender, have the same responsibilities: to worship God, live according to the Koran’s morality, command good and prevent evil, and abide by the Koran’s rules and advice. God promises everyone who fears and respects the limits that He has established for humanity that He will give them the ability to distinguish right from wrong:
“O you who believe! If you have fear of [and respect] God, He will give you discrimination, erase your bad actions, and forgive you. God’s favor is indeed immense.” (Surat al-Anfal: 29)
One’s gender has no bearing on this, for God has given everyone an intellect capable of leading him or her to the right path, reaching the right decisions, and giving the right responses in return for belief and devotion. Therefore, intellect has nothing to do with gender; rather, it has everything to do with one’s devotion, fear, and respect of God.
Any man or woman who acts on the impulses of the intellect derived from belief can achieve success in many areas. This depends on their will, motivation, and persistence. Believers never rest on their laurels, for it is part of Islamic morality to always strive to be more intelligent, talented, responsible, and virtuous, as well as to seek to always improve upon their character. God reveals that believers pray to Him for a character that will make them role models for those around them:
“Those who say: ‘Our Lord, give us joy in our wives and children, and make us a good example for those who guard against evil.’ “ (Surat al-Furqan: 74)
A Muslim woman who does her best in everything she undertakes and who works to develop an exemplary character and morality, will excel in her society. She will carry out her responsibilities competently, reach the right decisions, find the best solutions, and take the most appropriate actions.
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