Education for women and girls is a fundamental aspect of Islam. Today, the Islamic faith is unwittingly criticized because of the misconception of gender discrimination between men and women. To become a Muslim pro, you must learn about the different contexts you are about to explore.
Women’s right to education is subjected to excessive misconceptions. Even some Islamic extremist groups, in the public stance, have been universalized to symbolize all Muslims. However, this is undeniably a misleading belief.
The belief that Islam forbids the education of women and girls is just a widely presumed misconception. In fact, according to Islam, women and girls are obliged to get an education to be better Muslims and become influential members of society. The Qur’an and the hadith unquestionably obligate women equally to men to increase their knowledge and pursue it.
Education in the Qur’an
The importance of education, both for men and women, can be explained through the Qur’an itself. There are more than 700 references or derivatives of the word ilm (Knowledge) mentioned in the Qur’an. The Almighty Allah urges humans to think and reflect upon humanity and the life around them.
The very importance of education and knowledge in the Qur’an is visible from the first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), which begins with the word “read” and says:
“Read, O Prophet, in the Name of your Lord Who created: Created humans from a clinging clot.
Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous: Who taught by the pen: taught humanity what they knew not.” (Qur’an: 96:1-5)
The above verse of the Qur’an is an arguably valid example of the importance of education in Islam for women and men. The Almighty God describes himself as a teacher to humanity by commanding his messenger to read and learn.
It is worth mentioning that, in some verses of the Qur’an, a masculine form of commandments is used. It occasionally leads to misunderstandings that it might apply only to the male gender. This common belief is false.
Based on the principles of Shariah, when the verse of the Qur’an is revealed, even if the masculine form of the word is used, it also comprises the female gender.
If not so, then the fundamental pillars of Islam will also become messages that are not for women. Therefore, women are also bound to act and pursue the rules and regulations set by Allah Almighty.
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) Also Emphasized Women’s Education
The last prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), emphasized women’s education on many occasions. He consistently encouraged women’s rights among Arabs at times when women were subjected to extreme brutality and were denied their rights.
The Qur’an regards that period as Jahiliyyah (The Period of Ignorance), during which the Arabs used to bury their female kids alive. At that time, the birth of a female would bring shame to a family and was considered an economic burden.
The women were not allowed to get an education and share the inheritance. Women were prohibited from expressing their consent to marriage and contributing to social affairs. After Islam began, such inhumane practices were abolished.
Because of Islamic teachings, girls gradually progressed and gained rights in all aspects of life. Islam strives to secure the dignity and honor of a female just as much as a male, irrespective of gender differences. Moreover, Islam urges parents to provide equal treatment concerning love, affection, and financial support.
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was an example for people of that time when it came to giving respect to women’s rights. He (ﷺ) emphasized women’s education and encouraged them to contribute to social welfare. Numerous teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ) describe the significance of seeking knowledge. As far as female education is concerned, there is a famous hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ) that says:
“Seeking knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim” (Sunan Ibn Majah: 224)
In addition, he (ﷺ) also added the education of lower communities comprising of slave girls.
“The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who has a slave-girl and teaches her good manners and improves her education and then manumits and marries her, will get a double reward”
(Sahih al-Bukhari: 2547, 5083, 3011)
(Jami at-Tirmidhi: 1116)
Women’s Education in Islam Is Not Restricted to Religious Themes
Limiting the educating capacity of girls to religious subjects has also been a misconception regarding the education of girls in Islam. The notion of knowledge in the Qur’an encompasses a wide range of subjects, including religious and worldly fields.
Several verses in the Qur’an indicate various aspects of human nature, such as the creation of the earth relating to geology, cycles of human birth associated with embryology, the study of stars and the moon linked to astronomy, and many others. Hence, it is wrong to say that women can only partake in religious studies and restrict them from a broader scope of education.
Secondly, the concept of educating girls only by female teachers and that men are not permitted is also misunderstood. During the lifetime of the Prophet himself, many religious gatherings were held in which he (ﷺ) would teach the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Therefore, there is no question of inequality. Under the authority of Shariah, the teachings also mention the appropriate attire for women while they go to educational institutions.
The religion of Islam came as a guide for all of mankind, and the Almighty God sent his messenger Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) not only for Arabs, but for all nations.
Examples of Distinguished Women in Islamic History
Pondering upon Islamic history, we find various examples of great Muslim women characters who not only inspire us because of their devoutness, but also their intellectual abilities, business skills, and creativity.
The first wife of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), Khadijah,, was a business magnate and the wealthiest woman of her time in Mecca. In addition, Aishah was the youngest wife of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), who possessed remarkable intellectual abilities. A scholar, hadith-narrator, intellectual, and jurist of high caliber, she was very talented and well-known for her incredible memory reporting 2210 traditions.
Fatima Al Fihri was also a woman of great intellect and generosity. She established the world’s oldest continuing university, called the University of Al-Qarawayyin in Morocco in the year 859. The school was a prominent center of learning that provided education in social sciences, philosophy, and Islamic studies, where numerous Muslim and non-Muslim scholars attained an education and significantly contributed to the knowledge of humanity afterward.
The importance of education for women in Islam has historic importance. Many have made it clear that Islam preaches equality. Islam believes in facts and teaches equality in all fields of life for both men and women alike
What are your thoughts about education for Muslim women and girls, and what has your experience been like? Share them with us in the comments below!