The Education of Women in Islam
22 Dec 2011 06:18 GMT
It is surprising to see the barbaric and backwards attitude many Arab communities have taken in regards to the education of women. From the very beginnings of Islam this faith has guaranteed the rights of women to an education and an equal treatment of men. There are plenty of examples in the life of the Prophet and, in this case particularly, in the education received by his wives and women that were associated with his life.

Some of the most important Islamic universities, schools, and mosques were either institutions that were founded thanks to the important contribution of Muslim women, or were funded and were able to function thanks to the patronage of successful Muslim women. This was the case for much of the history of Islam and women traditionally had a very important role in all levels of education and in the workings of educational institutions.

It was common in medieval Islam for women to be able to earn academic degrees as well as being considered scholars or teachers in institutions of higher education. Female teachers were in fact quite common in Muslim society and some of the most famous Arab scientists and philosophers of  this period were educated by female teachers. The idea of the education of women in Muslim society was inspired by the example of the prophet Muhammad's wives. Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, was a known as a successful businesswoman in her community and his second wife, Aisha, was well known as an Islamic scholar  and was also well learned in military tactics and strategy. Among the prophet Muhammad's sayings are several that praise those women that seek to learn.

Studying educated women in the past and the history of female education in West is a difficult academic pursuit due to the lack of source material. The opposite occurs in Islamic history and there is a huge amount of information, ranging from biographies to official documents, about the female scholars that have always existed in Muslim culture. In fact, Islam provides an amazing opportunity for many of today's scholars on women's studies and there is abundant evidence that contradicts the popular notion that women in Islam have always been marginalized from education and academic pursuits.

Unfortunately, in every time period there have been men that have spoken against giving women access to the same advantages as men. Islamic culture is no exception. There are also many examples of Muslim writers from the same time periods that have protested against the immorality of allowing women to attend academic activities in the mosque or in institutions of higher learning. It is clear by looking at the history of Islam and practices of the prophet Muhammad that there is nothing in Islam or in the Hadith that prevents women from pursuing the career of their choice and having the same educational opportunities as men. These kinds of restrictions are then not religious in nature, but due to the desire of some men to retain their positions of status and powers. They are due to bigotry and ignorance rather than any one religious belief.

-- Al Arabiya Digital