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The truth about women and Islam

Shirien Elamawy

Posted: 9/18/06

Being a Muslim woman has been a blessing in every aspect, and I can only wonder why so many people view us as oppressed.

Over many years Muslims and non-Muslims never brought up the subject of women in Islam because it simply wasn't an issue. This is only a new subject that emerged in the 20th century with the rise of feminism.

It is true that men and women are not the same. Men and women were made differently to do different roles. For instance, men naturally have more physical strength, and women are able to bear children and breast-feed.

Why now are the Muslim women looked upon as oppressed and without rights? In fact, mothers in Islam are regarded with the utmost respect and dignity. As the prophet said, "Paradise lies under the feet of the mother."

So is it because we wear more clothing than other women? The "hijab" is an Arabic word that means a cover, screen or partition. The hijab is what some people call "the rag they wear on their head." Let's get one thing straight. Unless you see me wipe my head on a table, it's not a rag.

Otherwise it's known in the West as the "head scarf," but it truly is much more than that. And it is one of the best blessings Islam has given the woman. A woman who wears hijab is like an oyster with a pearl inside; she only reveals her beauty to a select few who are specified in the holy Quran, such as her husband, father, brother, etc. A covered woman is both internally and externally beautiful and very rare to find, especially on college campuses.

Let us look at just a few of the common misconceptions when it comes to women in Islam.

1. Muslim women are forced to wear the hijab:

The hijab is an obligation in Islam, and we wear it because we choose to obey the creator. It's that simple. I could give you a list of benefits of the hijab and try to convince you that I'm not oppressed, but I do not want to feel as if I have to constantly defend Islam. Islam needs no defense; it needs understanding and an open mind.

People have to realize that even if we didn't have obvious benefits to wearing the hijab, we would still do it. Because Muslims believe that no one has the right to be worshiped, obeyed or fully submitted to except for Allah alone. And who has more right for our obedience than the one who created us?

2. Muslim women are abused and beaten.

It is not in the teachings of Islam that a man abuses his daughter or wife for any reason.

The prophet Muhammad, whom the pious Muslim tries to mimic in his every action, never once abused any of his children or wives. And it is essential to note that in Islam we follow two primary sources. No. 1 is the Quran. No. 2 is the (sunnah) way of the Prophet, which is found in the books of Hadith. It is the prophet who said, "O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have right over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers."

3. They must be burning up wearing that!

It's not that bad. The materials we wear are pretty breathable, and at least we don't get sunburned. I remember one time after parking, I was walking toward the mall when I was stopped by this one woman who asked me if I was hot. I laughed and replied "Not really," and she turned into Godzilla, replying "Yeah right." It was scary.

4. Muslim women can't go to school or drive.

There are many of us on this campus now, and we're majoring in everything from biology to education.

I've honestly seen so many more opportunities in life because of my decision to straighten up and wear the hijab. Despite this, I often feel that people are filled with sorrow and pity when they look at me. As if all that they've heard on the news about women not being given rights applies to me.

Muslim women don't need sympathy for doing this great deed. They do this for the sake and approval of Allah and need no approval from society. Trust me; I have my full rights as well as a plethora of privileges. Instead, what I would like to see more of is a basic level of understanding and a willingness to learn why we do the things we do.

If a woman dresses dishonorably and takes away her own self-respect and is consequently treated with no respect by men, then it's only logical that a woman who veils herself and carries herself with dignity will be treated with respect and honor.

Contact Shirien Elmasraya at

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