One thing that leaves me truly surprised, along with other Muslims, is why sometimes the media presents the religion of Islam as demoting the position and rights of women. This is anything but the truth as when one looks deeper into this subject, he finds that Islam teaches that the rights given to women are equal to and in some cases above the rights that men have been given. In the Holy Quran chapter 33 verse 36 it has been made clear that men and women are equal, only their duties are different. Equality does not mean that we have to be the same in all we do, we are built with different strengths. One of the toughest jobs out there is motherhood and only a woman can do this. That is why the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that ‘Paradise lies under the feet of your mother’ – a status not given anywhere to men in any capacity. The Holy Prophet changed the fate of Muslim women, centuries before other societies.

One of the most notorious horrors that would happen at the time of the Prophet is that baby girls were buried as tradition in some tribes, as giving birth to a girl was seen in some cases as a disgrace to the family. The Holy Prophet abolished this horror and said that “He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgement attached to me like two fingers of a hand.” Thus raising the status of women from birth throughout Mecca and saving the lives of hundreds of girls across the globe before this gruesome ritual could be spread across the world.

In the book Muhammad Liberator of Women written by Hazrat Musleh Maud, we find a glimpse into the low status of women before the advent of the Holy Prophet. A passage reads “If a husband deserted his wife and paid no attention to her, or ran away from her, there was no law in place to safeguard her rights. It was thought to be an obligation for her to resign to her fate and earn a living for both herself and her children. When displeased it was considered the right of a husband to physically discipline his wife at which she could not raise a voice of complaint.”

These are just some of the sad examples of how women were treated. The Holy Prophet under Divine Guidance, was able to preserve and help the innocent women of the time. Here is just one of the many beautiful sayings attributed to Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which was to protect women from exploitation and abuse. He stated that to seize a woman’s wealth by force or to acquire it in a manner that could be adjudged that she had only consented out of deference was unacceptable. Whatever a husband gave to his wife as a gift became her property and he was not allowed to take it back from her.

Finally, in the Holy Quran which Muslims regard as the perfect word of God, there is a whole chapter titled “Surah-Al-Nisa” meaning ‘The Women.’ This chapter contains 177 beautiful and perfect verses which outline in clear detail the rights that women have to property and wealth and their own children.

In the media today, it is common to see many uneducated people falsely accusing Islam of demoting the position and role of women. It saddens me that people are unaware of how much the Prophet of Islam has done for women centuries before others. As a Muslim, I am aware of what true gender equality is, something that many parts of the world are still crying out for. I fervently hope to see others awaken to the beautiful teachings of Islam, where women are treated in an exemplary manner.