the status of women in society is neither a new issue nor is it a fully settled one.
the position of islam on this issue has been among the subjects presented to the western reader with the least objectivity.
this paper is intended to provide a brief and authentic exposition of what islam stands for in this regard. the teachings of islam are based essentially on the quran (god's revelation) and hadith (elaboration by prophet muhammad).
the quran and the hadith, properly and unbiasedly understood, provide the basic source of authentication for any position or view which is attributed to islam.
the paper starts with a brief survey of the status of women in the pre-islamic era. it then focuses on these major questions: what is the position of islam regarding the status of woman in society? how similar or different is that position from "the spirit of the time," which was dominant when islam was revealed? how would this compare with the "rights" which were finally gained by woman in recent decades?.
one major objective of this paper is to provide a fair evaluation of what islam contributed (or failed to contribute) toward the restoration of woman's dignity and rights. in order to achieve this objective, it may be useful to review briefly how women were treated in general in previous civilizations and religions, especially those which preceded islam (pre-610 c.e.). part of the information provided here, however, describes the status of woman as late as the nineteenth century, more than twelve centuries after islam.