the first part of this paper deals briefly with the position of various religions and cultures on the issue under investigation. part of this exposition extends to cover the general trend as late as the nineteenth century, nearly 1300 years after the quran set forth the islamic teachings.
in the second part of the paper, the status of women in islam is briefly discussed. emphasis in this part is placed on the original and authentic sources of islam. this represents the standard according to which degree of adherence of muslims can be judged. it is also a fact that during the downward cycle of islamic civilization, such teachings were not strictly adhered to by many people who professed to be muslims.
such deviations were unfairly exaggerated by some writers, and the worst of this, were superficially taken to represent the teachings of "islam" to the western reader without taking the trouble to make any original and unbiased study of the authentic sources of these teachings.
even with such deviations three facts are worth mentioning:
the history of muslims is rich with women of great achievements in all walks of life from as early as the seventh century (a.d.)
it is impossible for anyone to justify any mistreatment of woman by any decree of rule embodied in the islamic law, nor could anyone dare to cancel, reduce, or distort the clear-cut legal rights of women given in islamic law.
throughout history, the reputation, chastity and maternal role of muslim women were objects of admiration by impartial observers.
it is also worthwhile to state that the status which women reached during the present era was not achieved due to the kindness of men or due to natural progress. it was rather achieved through a long struggle and sacrifice on woman's part and only when society needed her contribution and work, more especially during the two world wars, and due to the escalation of technological change.
in the case of islam such compassionate and dignified status was decreed, not because it reflects the environment of the seventh century, nor under the threat or pressure of women and their organizations, but rather because of its intrinsic truthfulness.
if this indicates anything, it would demonstrate the divine origin of the quran and the truthfulness of the message of islam, which, unlike human philosophies and ideologies, was far from proceeding from its human environment, a message which established such humane principles as neither grew obsolete during the course of time and after these many centuries, nor can become obsolete in the future. after all, this is the message of the all-wise and all-knowing god whose wisdom and knowledge are far beyond the ultimate in human thought and progress.