Women in Islam: An Inside Islam recap


Farah Pandith, a former radio guest on Inside Islam. Photo: www.state.gov

One of the most popular topics here on Inside Islam has been gender, primarily focusing on women. That’s no coincidence, given that Islam’s attitude towards women is generally portrayed in Western media as retrograde and repressive.

And there’s certainly plenty to criticize. Over our four years, we have highlighted cases like that of Amina Filali, a Moroccan girl who committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery. We have also addressed issues such as domestic abuse and how key texts have been interpreted to discriminate against women, to ban women drivers, and to justify practices like child marriage.

But while our goal has never been to whitewash problematic issues, at the same time the standard mainstream rhetoric regarding Muslim women oversimplifies things and only further disempowers them. There has been a general inability to look beyond the veil when discussing Muslim women. Non-Muslim women or men who preach to Muslim women because they choose to cover their heads or accept certain circumstances tend to fall into the trap of portraying all Muslim women as a single entity without agency. They miss the movement within Islam itself to empower women.

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Life and Death

Verse 156 in Chapter 2 of the Qur'an is read whenever someone dies. It translates as "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return."

There are many stereotypes about Islam and Muslims which the Inside Islam project has focused on dismantling. One of the most persistent negative images of Muslims is that they do not value life. The terrorist attacks carried out by a minority of Muslims have led some people to perceive Islam as a violent religion that encourages death for the sake of God. As we have said before, however, this idea is not supported by the Qur’an. While death is a fact of life that is repeatedly addressed in the Qur’an, Muslims are taught that life is extremely valuable and that they should work to lead righteous lives. Continue reading

The Importance of the Mother in Islam

Yesterday, many parts of the world celebrated Mother’s Day, focusing on mothers and their contributions to their families. Since there is a negative stereotype of how Islam views women, many people may not know that mothers specifically and parents in general are held in very high esteem in the faith. There are verses in the Qur’an and hadith that emphasize the burdens that a mother carries and the respect that should be accorded to her. In this post, I will focus on the importance of mothers in Islam. Continue reading

The Best in Character

Crystals in Arabic (Source: www.qawareer.com)

One of the most persistent stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women. While it is true that there are many instances of abuse and oppression of Muslim women and problematic interpretations of religious texts, there is no justification for that behavior in the faith. In fact, it is clear from the Qur’an and the hadith that the relationship between men and women should be based on respect, kindness, and love. In this post, I would like to focus on a few examples of hadith that underscore these core values and illustrate that the Prophet Muhammad himself displayed these characteristics in his interactions with the women in his life. Continue reading

Important Events: The Death of the Prophet

Prophet Muhammad's Tomb in Medina

In the history of Islam, there have been many events that have defined the faith, exemplified the character of the Prophet Muhammad, and determined the future of the Muslim community. I have written in previous posts about a few: the Night of Power, the hijra, the Battle of Badr, the conquest of Mecca, and the Farewell Sermon. However, the most trying event for the the nascent Muslim community was the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E. Over 23 year, the Prophet established Islam in Arabia and founded a community of believers whose ties transcended tribal bonds and were based on a shared faith. He was the center of the Muslim community, the ummah, and served as the religious, political, and military leader. When he died, the Muslims were utterly shocked by the loss of this central figure and had to figure out a way to move forward so that this new faith would continue to grow. Continue reading

The Aims and Purposes of Sharia

Chebika Oasis, Tunisia. Photo: Flickr, Miodrag Bogdanovic.

Asmah Sultan Mallick is a master’s student in International Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Given the revolutions across the Middle East, with countries trying to rebuild and form stable governments better able to serve their people, the topic of sharia law has been a common subject of debate. We’ve even heard about “threats” of sharia taking over areas within the United States.

Putting these perceptions aside, my intention is neither to defend sharia nor delve into how it can or cannot be implemented. Rather, I want to shed some light on its goals.

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Important Events: The Conquest of Mecca

Kaba in Mecca (Source: photography.nationalgeographic.com)

The early history of Islam is important for Muslims even to the present day. The Prophet Muhammad’s life, especially, is considered to be an example for all believers. There are numerous events that exemplify the Prophet Muhammad’s struggles and his character. These events have played a defining role in the formation of the faith and the Muslim community. In earlier posts, I have written about several significant events that include: the Night of Power, the hijra (emigration from Mecca to Medina), the Battle of Badr, and the Farewell Sermon. In this post, the focus will be on the conquest of Mecca, when the Muslims took control of the city after being away from it for 8 years. Continue reading

Important Events: The Night of Power

Cave of Hira

There are many events that are important in the history of Islam. The most significant, however, is the one that set everything in motion and led to the founding of a major world religion over 1400 years ago. In order to understand Islam, one must reflect on the events that have defined this faith, its community, and its history. The story of the initial revelations are told to young Muslim children throughout the world and is a constant source of inspiration for the Muslim community. The focus of this post, part of a series on important events in the history of Islam, is the first revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. Continue reading

The Farewell Sermon

Mount Arafat

As I have written in previous posts, the Prophet Muhammad is a central figure for Muslims. Not only is he considered to be the final prophet of a long line of prophets sent to humanity, but he is considered to be the role model that Muslims should emulate. It is for this reason that there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the hadith and the sira, the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. There are many aspects and events in his life that exemplify his character, but one in particular highlights his nature and the way he envisioned Islam. Before his death in 632 C.E., during the final hajj, the Prophet gave what has been called “The Farewell Sermon” or khutbat al-wadaa` in Arabic. In this sermon, he reminded his followers that were with him and also those in the future of the core principles of the faith. Continue reading

Helping Others: A Core Principle of Islam

One of the central principles of Islam is helping others. While some perceive Islam as a faith that encourages violence rather than positive contributions to society, the Qur’an and especially the hadith highlight how helping another human being is a fundamental aspect of Islam. Muslims’ primary goal is to worship God, but this is done not only through rituals like prayer and fasting but also through treatment of other people. Continue reading