The High Status of Women in Islam

I’m a feminist but I love being a Muslim woman. Does that seem like a contradiction? It depends on what you think Islam and feminism each teach about the nature of men and women.

Many people think that feminists view men and women as interchangeable, as if there is absolutely no difference between them. But believing that a man can parent as well as a woman or a woman can manage a company as well as a man does not mean that they will do the same jobs in exactly the same way.

I believe that there are innate differences between men and women, but the differences aren’t set in stone. Generalizing (or stereotyping) can backfire on you, because there are always exceptions. But if you go by basic biology, it’s clear that women are built for bearing and nurturing children and men are built to protect and provide for the family unit.

That’s when life is at its most basic. But most societies have moved beyond the need to assign gender roles based on biology. There is a lot more flexibility in an advanced society. Women still bear the children but they don’t have to be the ones who nurture them. Nor do they have to rely on men to take care of them.

Some people think that Islam is backward because it seems to enforce the basic gender roles. But if you read the Qur’an, it’s clear that men and women are viewed as equally valuable as well as equally accountable. Each person, male or female, is equally important to God and each is expected to submit to and serve Him.

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