The status of women in Islam is a subject enshrouded in controversy. According to many Muslims, Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights, bestowing upon the women in his community privileges and rights that they did not have previously. The notion that women in pre-Islamic Arabia had no rights, however, is demonstrably untrue. Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi lists some of the rights that women had in pre-Islamic Arabia, which included ease of divorce, the ability to marry multiple men, and become overlords. Women were even able to propose for marriage, as in fact was the case with respect to Khadija’s marriage to Muhammad.
To outsiders, the hijab is often viewed as a symbol of oppression. Since April 2011, wearing of head coverings (including hijabs) in public places has even been outlawed in France. Muslims, by contrast, point out that the tradition of veiling and seclusion was present in pre-Islamic Arabia, and also Syria and Iran, since long prior to Muhammad, and was even seen as an emblem of social status, only affordable by women who didn’t need to work out in the fields. [Read more...]