The place of women in Islam: Seminar by Ahmadiyya Muslim Women in France This study is the written transcript of the seminar organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association of France Saturday, May 11, 2013. The subjects were divided in this way:

  • Introduction to Islam Ahmadiyya by Munira Duboory (not reproduced in the report)
  • Women before the arrival of Islam, by Aminata Toure
  • The rights of the woman with the advent of Islam, by Aneeqa Rehman
  • The current condition of Muslim women by Mahrukh Arif.

For the PowerPoint seminar,  click here .




(By Aminata Toure)


Equality between men and women are not obvious. Just trace the history of the 20th century to realize. 50 years ago a woman could not work without the permission of her husband 65 years ago a woman could not vote, a century ago, a woman could not freely dispose of his wages.

What are the reasons that pushed the man to consider women as inferior to him?

The story of the woman from religion. Attitudes were forged on some old myths and beliefs such as the woman was not created at the same time that man but from man. This actually means that the woman owes to the man so that accountability turns into submission. The woman is also the misfortune of mankind because it is she who, in the Judeo-Christian mythology, encouraging Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. It is thus the symbol of temptation.

The status of women in Ancient Greece

In any society and at any time, relationships are closely linked to the social status of both sexes and, especially, to the woman.

ancient-greece-womanIn Ancient Greece, women enjoyed no civil and political rights and, therefore, their status was inferior to man. The woman had roles for which it was really intended, the mother or the companion of man nothing more, nothing less.

For the role of the mother, you could say it was the goal of every woman, the goal of his life. In it, the woman was the undisputed master.

Regarding his social position, the woman could not engage in criminal acts or have to buy or sell property. If it were to pass such acts, it should appoint a guardian to represent. So she was always under the supervision of someone. This supervision also marks some form of dependence of women vis-à-vis a higher authority (guardian, husband). So placing the man and woman on the social scene and outside the family, on fundamentally different levels.

Women were not reported to the civil registry. The only rights that were recognized their right to enter into a legal marriage to give heirs to her husband.

If one daughter inherited her father, she became epikleros that is to say one that sits on the property, but she did anyway not the enjoyment since it had no legal right, it therefore could not sell. She had to marry as soon as possible its nearest paternal relative to the legacy remains in the family.

Girls do not like boys are instructed, their mother or an old maid taught them how to keep house, weave wool, and sometimes, but it was rare to read and write.

Girls do not go out unless they had to go to the temple, a religious or family celebration or for their personal purchases, and always accompanied by their guardian or slave. Even in the house, they were assigned to the portion reserved for women, the harem, usually located on the first floor.

He was out of the question for the girl in antiquity to choose her own husband, her guardian decided in its place. The marriages were marriages of convenience rather than true love. Once married, the husband became the guardian and the woman continued to live at home as before. The only difference was that now it was she who had it. She took care of all the daily, raised the children, took care of provisions, and watched the slaves, was weaving clothes for the whole family.

It was she who held the keys of the house, a privilege that her husband could remove him however.

She lingers a little on his doorstep and the woman lost her reputation. When there were guests, they could not appear, the man always came alone, not only to go to work or participate in public affairs, but also to meet friends or have fun games and food.

He was allowed women to attend tragedies in the theater, but a respectable woman did not go to the theater when we played comedies.

At any time the man could divorce his wife, though not without reason and under certain conditions, while being married, he could maintain one or more concubines, have fun with prostitutes openly and without accountability to anyone.

Only a few voices at that time preached an egalitarian morality between spouses, as Aristotle, Isocrates, Plautus.

A woman who cheated on her husband and was automatically divorced man caught with a married woman in the best case could get away with a fine and at worst with a punishment that was to publicly humiliate him.

A man could divorce his wife as if she was barren.

The status of women in the Middle Ages (V-VI centuries)

At the end of the ancient Greek, social status had not changed at the time of the Middle Ages.However, although the woman is not a being of equal importance to that of man, and even far away, some changes have occurred on the side of the participation of women in the work for the compensation of family.

The status of women in the Middle Ages was declined following the diversity of ages and social positions, following the place occupied in the family, within the couple over his sexuality, and the important role of motherhood.

The woman’s life was divided into three periods:

  • The children up to 7 years (this is the age where girls learn embroidery and weaving ribbons, this is the age where they can be offered to a monastery or be brides).
  • Youth up to 14 years
  • The life of women 14 to 28 years beyond which it enters old age.

The marriage is arranged by parents in all classes

Motherhood is one of the main duties of a married woman. Infertile women are then sometimes divorced after years of marriage not fruitful.

Domestic Violence in the Middle Ages

Wife-beating was common in the Middle Ages and sometimes advisable. In the thirteenth century, the customs of Beauvais allow the husband to correct his wife especially in case of disobedience.

Brutality, depravity were exemplified by most of the Merovingian kings. It was easy to accuse his wife of adultery and the lock or to kill in order to remarry because the legislative sources confirmed the supremacy of men in the home, what he abused with impunity. This brutality was found in all walks of life. But there were cases of happy marriages but it was unseemly to mention it, we should not talk about it. In the aristocracy, courtly love with its rules and customs allowed the young people to open up the emotions of love beyond the world without limits.

Continuing threat to young girls and married women, rape in the Middle Ages was practiced in peacetime as in wartime. This rarely punished crime posed to the woman of shame and dishonor the dreaded pregnancy. The lords gave the sexual rights over their land which was to spend the wedding night with the bride without his consent even less that of the husband


Economically, regarding women’s work, women’s wages are lower than men’s.


The Roman Catholic Church  holds an ambivalent position vis-à-vis women. Created in the image of God, and the principle of equality before God, opposes an earthly hierarchy that places them in a subordinate position.

The  misogyny  moral theological treatises of XIV th  century  and  XV th  century is fierce

Christine de Pisan  (1364-1430) argued in this climate the cause of women, particularly that of Joan of Arc .

Neither humanism , nor the  Protestant Reformation  did significantly improve the status of women. For a short time, women take advantage of openings in the Reformation.

Some women take the opportunity offered to them to be preachers or meddle with theology.They also benefit from the literacy effort begun in the 1560s through the catechism.

This freedom of speech, however, quickly stifled.  Luther  dissolves religious communities and it’s back to the housewife.

Several female figures, like  Marguerite de Navarre  and  Renée of France , however, continue to play a major role in the development of the new doctrine.

The French Revolution (1789 – 1799)

If women are actively involved in the  French Revolution , the claims of some, such as  Olympe de Gouges , author of the  Declaration of the rights of women are not taken into account by members.

The willingness of women to participate in public life is quickly dampened by the majority of revolutionaries who refuse to see including armed or have a right to vote at any level whatsoever.

Although only a minority of activists want these powers, all claims are strongly criticized, even to the point where traditional patterns (presence of women in the demonstrations, the troops, possibly as combatants) are rejected.

Nineteenth century

In France, the way feminists opened the 19 th century and they focus their efforts on the accession of girls to education and instruction.

In the feminist perspective, until the middle of XX th  century , Western societies give preferred treatment subjecting men and five  women, both from the point of view of the  law that established custom. Indeed, traditions attach particular importance to the social role of housewife , who must devote to housework, reproduction and child-rearing.

The history of women in France

Given my time is limited, let me remind you of some key dates:

  • 1945
    • The notion of “women’s wages” is deleted. “Equal work, equal pay” is part of the French legislation. Several laws recall this principle in 1972, 1983 and 2005, among others.
    • April 29: first women vote in municipal elections.
    • 1946
      • The preamble of the Constitution establishes the principle of equal rights.
  • 1970
    • Establishment of joint custody, removal of the head of household.
  • 1975
    • Divorce by mutual consent is obtained.
    • 1972
      • Act on equal pay between men and women.
      • 1974
        • Veil law authorizing contraception including minors.

The Status of Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia

In Arab society, women had no status or right. He was held for honorable to kill the new-born daughters. It is, however, a mistake to believe that infanticide was practiced on a large scale as a dangerous institution could not be practiced in a country without significant demographic consequences.

The truth is, in Arabia, as elsewhere in India or any other country where infanticide has existed, it has been limited to a number of families. Those who practiced it were imbued with an idea of their social status or special needs. Maybe they could not find suitable suitors for their daughter, and knowing this, they preferred to kill them at birth, or burying alive, or by smothering.

The evil of this institution lay more in its savagery and cruelty in its effects on the population level. Only the real mother was considered a parent in Arab society. Stepmothers do not have the status of mother and nothing prevented a step-son to marry his stepmother to his father’s death. Polygamous marriages were widespread and the number of women a man could take unlimited. Similarly, a man could take several sisters to wife at the same time.

It is among such people and in such conditions, that the Holy Prophet Mohammad (saw) was raised there about 1400 years ago.

With its advent, Islam is officially the first religion to give women a never before recognized status. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has vigorously defended the rights of women. He established his inheritance gave them equal rights with men.

The moral, spiritual and economic equality of men and women as propagated by Islam is indisputable. The Holy Quran contains hundreds of lessons that apply without distinction to men and women.

Specific verses of the Holy Quran that cater to men or women, are dealing with their physical differences and the role each must play in the moral fiber that the Islamic company plans.



In the West, it is from the Middle Ages that women are raised to achieve equality with men but 1400 years ago, a man stood alone, facing all for declare that women have equal rights with men.

Still to this day, the Middle East, Saudi women can not go out in public without being accompanied by a male inner circle, which prevents them from working, traveling or have access to medical services without the consent of a father, a husband, or even a son. But this issue will be addressed in the third part of our response as follows: why Muslims, who have clear instructions in the Holy Quran on the rights of women, they treat women as a worthless object, still to this day ?

I’m exhausted by my field of intervention. It is now giving way to my colleague who will explain the legacy of Islam concerning women’s rights. With these developments in mind, you will understand why Islam brings a revolution in the year 610.



(By Ms Rehman Aneeqa)

As you just heard, whether Saudi or elsewhere, the woman had no status. It was considered a worthless object, without right, stress only to serve and please men.

Respect for girls  :

Nothing but the birth of a daughter was synonymous with shame. Before the advent of Islam, Arabs were accustomed to bury alive their daughters for fear of facing public humiliation.Their wives, although a heavy heart, could not say anything.

The Holy Qur’an refers to this horrible custom in Surah Nahl, chapter 16, V 59-60:

“And when you bring in one of them the news of the birth of a female child, his face darkens, because it pushes the inner grief.

He hides himself from people because of the bad news he received: Should he keep her shame, or bury it in the dust? Verily evil is what they believe . ”

The Holy Founder of Islam radically rejected this horrible custom, honoring the arrival of a daughter at home and said:

“Whoever takes care of three girls, educated, married and the treated properly enter Paradise.”

Muhammad (pbuh) had a habit of getting up to greet his daughter Fatima.

You should know that Islam makes no distinction between boys and girls in terms of rights and education, on the contrary, in a hadith of Muslim, it is reported that: “The acquisition of knowledge is a duty every Muslim, male or female. “

Contrary to what he says, Islam declares that the consent of the girl is required to contract a valid marriage.

Respect for wives  :

The Holy Founder also established respect for wives, saying: “The best of you is he who treats his wife the best” .

Wife’s favor to own property, buy and sell what they want without the permission of her husband. It can work if she wants and possessions belong to him that she, without being accountable to her husband. Her husband can not take them from him, unless it does so of his own accord.

This permission was given for the first time in 1817 in the UK.

The best example is found in Islamic history is that of Hazrat Khadija (ra), the first wife of the Holy Founder of Islam (pbuh).

The fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may God help), said in his speech of 26 July 2008 addressed to the female members of the Ahmadiyya Community, on the occasion of the Annual Convention of the Great Britain:

“Islamic teachings are unambiguous. If women do not have the right to do certain tasks, it is not because they are incapable, or that their rights are threatened, but it is only God Almighty has divided tasks between Men and women. Some roles are best suited to men and other women. “

So it says in Sura Al Nisa, Chapter 4 Verse 35

“Men are guardians of women, because Allah has made the one outweigh the other, and because they spend of their property. “


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