Empowering Women through the Teachings of Islam:

Uncovering the Untruths of Western Feminism  

Umm Ziyaad.[1]







So we live in a sexist society.  The following evidences are clear in the world we live (the severity depends on how westernized or how far the society is from Islam):

  • The highest paid women in the world are women who dress scantily or rather go undressed in public. 

  • Look at the society around you; women are regarded as sexual objects, used as cheap attraction on advertisements. 

  • The more beautiful or attractive a woman is or acts towards men, the better she is treated in the workplace. 

  • Female beauty is no longer held as something precious and treasured as a pearl is protected by its shell. 

  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.[1] 

  • Female beauty is open for all to see and all to criticize. 

  • The concept of beauty is no longer abstract to the eyes of the beholder, much less ruled by morality.  Beauty is instead restricted to a certain physical form and those unfortunate women who are not able to conform to this socially constructed but extremely faulty ideal, suffer greatly.

The very, very sad thing is after years and years of being conditioned by the “ever-evolving” Western ideologies, women themselves have bought these erroneous concepts.  In the West, women have accepted what they’ve been told all along and therefore act willingly to comply with whatever society sees as fit – a society designed to fulfill the ill-desires of men, devoid of proper guidance. 


Muslim women today are at war.  A war I say?   This isn’t a war necessarily fought in the frontlines of Palestine, Kashmir, or Chechnya.  No, this is a different kind of war.  A war which aims to overcome the mind, change the perceptions of right and wrong, and twist the understanding of her relationship with Her Lord.  A war that if the Muslim woman loses, she will suffer the loss of her identity, the natural characteristics that were created within her and she will devastatingly be defeated in this world and perhaps also in the next. 


This war is fought in many fronts.   It encompasses all aspects of the Muslim’s life, and a Muslim woman must be aware of this ideological/intellectual war being waged against herself and the ummah as a whole.  She must do all she can to fight the Evil – as her success or failure determines the fate of future generations of Islam.


Today, two worlds collide as they have never collided before – the West and Islam.  Two different civilizations are in contra with each other.  Neither is willing to co-exist.  Believed by its champions to be the embodiment of the world’s most evolved civilization, Samuel P. Huntington stated in his Clash of Civilizations that the West is obsessed with the declination of its power and convinced with its superiority, and thus feels itself compelled to spread its civilization to other as it perceives, ‘inferior’ societies. 


As a result, the idea of the female-kind in both Islamic and Western societies contradict, and because the West seems to be the more dominant these days Muslim women are in conflict with their Islamic identity and tempted to adopt the ideas of the West that seems to be attractively packaged for them with promises of modernization and with that, the so-called empowerment of women. 


Ironically from the so-called country where feminism has flourished and thrived to fight for women’s rights, a woman is raped every 2 minutes (according to the U.S. Department of Justice), nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey[2]), between 11-20% of girls were pregnant as the direct result of rape[3], prostitution, sexual harassment as well as various other forms of female oppression occurs and increases at an alarming rate. 


Feminism is not and has never been the answer to returning the rights of women.  Unconsciously, feminism has been a deceiving tool for women to gain ‘rights’, which disastrously worsen their social status in society.  The camouflaged ‘freedom’ sought for women in the West has actually restricted them more into a social cage that they themselves help to build and nurture.  In the 21st century, women are more oppressed than they have ever been before, and the worst part is they are programmed to like it and to support it along with the rest of society.


In addition to all that we find more and more Western women who feel they don’t want to become women any more.  Being female is viewed in a sexist society as weak, oppressed, and low.  So you see women who choose to have female partners and live an ‘alternative lifestyle’, enabling them to escape the inferior image of being female.  The society tells them, ‘To be born female is bad…’   This coming from the most evolved and developed civilization in the world?  Sounds more like a modern-day revival of female infanticide in the time of Arab pre-Islamic ignorance (Jahiliyyah).


Because the West teaches us that truth has an evolving nature, that the Truth we see today might not stay true tomorrow, religion and ethics are flexible and easily bent to satisfy human desires and limited intellect.  God is not the All-Knowing Creator that is worshipped, but rather the West promotes and upholds the worship of man (a feeble creation).  As we can see how in the West, it was unusual to see women wearing pants in public just a few decades ago, amazingly today if she wants to go topless in downtown New York, ‘she has the right to do so’.  Only in the 70’s homosexuals were medically diagnosed as morally deranged individuals and this ‘alternative lifestyle’ was seen as filthy, evil, and sick.  Today, people who have a problem with accepting this way of life are instead identified as homophobic and told to get professional help.  Look at our society here in Malaysia…  How have we changed in the past few years?


To bridge the differences between the West and Islam, some Muslim groups whether ignorantly or not try to portray Islam as a watered-down religion; idealizing beliefs championed by the West.  Among these groups is the Sisters in Islam of Malaysia who are calling out to the attention of the public that Islam as we know and practice must be purified so that the real Islam, which to them is supposed to be free from misinterpretations and misconstrued rulings made by men of authority, namely Islamic scholars and rulers, can come out[4].  Among the issues that this group outrageously bring up are the Muslim woman’s hijab[5] and polygamy[6] – both are seen as ways of subjugating women under the control of men.  On the surface of the matter, as Muslims, a spontaneous thought would be if this is what they feel, then wouldn’t they also be implying that the blessed Prophet (SAW) himself was a male chauvinist?


Sadly, groups such as the Sisters in Islam fail to understand the essence of being a Muslim woman or otherwise called a Muslimah is all about.  A Muslim woman is Muslim first.  She submits to God’s orders following the guidance given by the Last Messenger, Muhammad (SAW).  She does not submit to men, instead she and her Muslim brethren submit together to the Almighty God.  She does not fight for the sake of her ‘kind’ at the expense of her Muslim brothers, because in Islam we are all brothers and sisters and when we do fight, it is for the collective betterment of the ummah as a whole with all situations taken into account. 


An example from the early Muslim women who lived in the time of the Prophet (SAW) was his own wife, Umm Salamah.  She had asked him (in a hadith collected by Imam Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi) about women’s lack of opportunity to fight in battles as opposed to men, and that they get half of what men get in women’s share of inheritance.  A reply to Umm Salamah’s concerns was revealed in the form of a verse in the Qur’an (Chapter of Women: 32), in which God tells the Muslim women (and men) to not wish for the things that God has made others (of the opposite sex) to excel, and that for each man and woman is reward for what they have earned.  This means while women are created in His infinite Wisdom to excel in childbearing and men are created to excel in the art of war, they both earn equal rewards for their toils although their good deeds are different in nature. Similarly, each of them will be punished fairly if their deed is evil[7].


The point worthy of attention from this account is that Umm Salamah listened to God’s words and obeyed with no hesitation.  This is the epitome of her submission as a Muslim woman in that she conforms only to the rule of God above all others.  God created men and women and as the Creator, He knows that which is best for His creations.  Therefore, when God tells the Muslim women to cover like they are supposed to, they are then to dress and be known like Muslim women.  If God informs us that polygamy is permissible and that the Prophet (SAW) himself practiced it and also said that the best of men from this ummah are those with the most wives, then we do not question its acceptance in Islam. 


When it comes to interpretations and rulings made by the knowledgeable in Islam, disappointingly unbeknownst to the Sisters in Islam, the Muslim nation have always had women scholars who played important roles in the teaching and spreading of Islamic knowledge from the very beginning.  And among many who were experts, par excellence in their field were the female companions of the Prophet (SAW).  Imam Ibnul-Qayyim, a reputed scholar of Islam gave a detailed account of 22 female companions who issued Islamic rulings under the rules of fiqh[8].  These dignified women received direct guidance from the Prophet (SAW) himself and lived during the time of revelation and formation of Islamic laws.  How could the ‘true’ Islam somehow escaped from their knowledge while they had the chance to verify their religion in the presence of the Last Messenger (SAW) himself?


          In the 2nd century after Hijrah, we had the likes of Aliyyah Bint Hasan[9], a manumitted slave turned scholar of hadith and fiqh.  The nobles of Basra would come to her house and discuss with her religion and Islamic law.  In the 3rd century, there was Aminah Ramlyah[10] who attended lectures given by Imam Malik in Madinah and then Imam Shafi’e in Makkah, two major scholars of Islam and founders of their own schools of thought.  She then left for Kufa where she delivered lectures to those who were seeking knowledge.  Her reputation was so great that Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, founder of the Hanbali school of thought would visit her.  Karimah Bint Ahmad Maruzi[11] was a world famous scholar of hadith in the 5th century after Hijrah and Zaynab Bint Makkee[12] was one of the teachers of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah who taught him hadith in the 7th century.


          These women not only gave birth, raised children and managed households without the modern conveniences women have today, they also took the task of imparting their knowledge of Islam to the society around them including to the men who later became some of the greatest scholars in Islamic history.  Therefore contrary to what Sisters In Islam claim to be, interpretations of Islamic texts as well as rulings made on female matters such as the Muslim women’s Hijab and the permissibility to practice polygamy, or any other issue in Islam were not mere products of men’s efforts to subjugate women.  Unlike in the Western patriarchal society, women and men in Islam do not have to twist the truth that are found in the sacred Islamic texts in order to win over their male or female counterparts.  Evidently for Muslims, Islam guarantees that our rights as women and as men will be forever taken care of.


You see this is why Islam is the solution to all social problems including the oppression of women in the present day.  The reality is that the noble status and rights of women are forever embedded in religious texts that have never been changed over the past 1400 years.  Unlike other religions, Islam strongly prohibits innovation (bid`ah) in matters of belief and worship, and so the original teachings of Islam is still and will always be intact as God wills.  In Islam, women are sacredly believed to be the ‘twin halves’ of men.  Women and men are equal in the eyes of God, and women enjoy a special and honorable status that reveres their feminity. 


Women in Islam are not ashamed to be women.  To be born female is never bad.  The value of women is not merely how she looks and behave in accordance to men (a creation), but rather a Muslim’s excellence is marked by righteousness and obedience towards the Creator, in adherence to Islam.  A famous hadith states that “God does not look upon your wealth or your appearance, but He looks upon your hearts and your deeds.”  As women are treated with honor and respect in the days of the Prophet (SAW), women are also treated with honor and respect in Muslim societies today that sincerely abide by the true teachings of Islam. 


As the divine religion that was transmitted through the divinely inspired Final Messenger (SAW), Islam is Perfect in all matters as it came from the All-Perfect God.  Therefore a distinction must be made between Islam, which is perfect and Muslims whose practice of Islam vary greatly in many different levels, more so when they adopt westernization.


The solution is Islam.  For the Muslim, this is the clear path to success.  For Muslims, the solution is glaring right in front of us.  The Qur’an and The Authentic Sunnah.


So Truth that is without need of any change lies in Islam.  The answer to all our problems is going back to the pure teachings of Islam.  Islam teaches us balance in all aspects of life in order to achieve social stability and in this context, harmony between the two sexes.  Men and women are not rivals to each other.  Instead, they are guided and trained to work with one another to realize Islam in everyday life.  Men and women are not perfect but Islam is.  The closest to perfection that one can get is by practicing Islam as closely as it was meant to be.  And this is the goal of every Muslim, for success in this life and most importantly in the hereafter.



[1] Heise, L., Ellsberg, M. and Gottemoeller, M. Ending Violence Against Women. Population Reports, Series L, No. 11., December 1999

[2] The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, May 1999

[3] Boyer and Fine. Sexual Abuse as a Factor in Adolescent Pregnancy and Child Maltreatment. Family Planning Perspectives, 1993

[7] Tafsir Ibn Kathir, http://www.tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=4&tid=10981

[8] Leading Ladies: who made a differece in the lives of others, approved by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, and Mufti Abdul Qadir, published by Idara Talifat e Ashrafia

[9] Ghuulaman Islam, Khilafat awr Hindustan

[10] Dariah Maaraf Islamia, Mashahir Niswa, Bakamal Muslaman Khawteen

[11] Khazinat ul Asfia, Tarikh Saqqlya



Penyusun : Hafiz Firdaus Abdullah