A fourth evidence in the Qur’an for the equality of men and women is its specification of legal rights which are guaranteed for every individual from cradle to grave. Unlike the situation in the West, where until the last century it was impossible for a married woman to hold property on her own, to contract with other persons, or to dispose of her property without the consent of her husband, the Qur’an proclaims the right of every woman to buy and sell, to contract and to earn, and to hold and manage her own money and property.
In addition to these rights, the Qur’an grants woman a share in the inheritance of the family (4:7-11), warns against depriving her of that inheritance (4:19), specifies that the dower (mahr) of her marriage should belong to her alone and never be taken by her husband (2:229; 4:19-21,25) unless offered by the woman as a free gift (4:44).
As with any privilege, these rights of women carry corresponding responsibilities. If she commits a civil offence, the Qur’an tells us, woman’s penalty is no less or no more than that of a man in a similar case (5:41; 24:2). If she is wronged or harmed, she is entitled to compensation just like a man.
It is clear that the Qur’an not only recommends, but is even insistent upon, the equality of women and men as an essential characteristic of a Qur’anic society. The claim of the non-Muslim critics that Islam denigrates women is denied emphatically by the Qur’an.
Similarly denied are the arguments of certain Muslims that women are religiously, intellectually and ethically inferior to men, as Jewish and Christian literatures had earlier maintained.
Adapted from: “Women in a Qur’anic Society” by: “Lois Lamya ‘ al-F’aruqi”