HOW UNBELIEVING SOCIETIES
The Place of Women
All of the knowledge necessary for living a life that will earn Allah's
good pleasure is contained in the Qur'an: the true nature of life on Earth,
why humanity was created, how to live a fulfilled life, and the most appropriate
system of morality. People who believe in this truth and live their lives
accordingly will find true happiness here and in the Hereafter.
Unbelieving societies, however, have no absolute truths or powers to
guide their people. In fact, they do not know where most of their values
came from, who discovered them, and when and why they became their society's
social norms. These rules, which cannot be ascertained but are adopted
by the community as a whole, were inherited from their ancestors. In fact,
all of an unbelieving society's values, ideals, and social foundations
are based on tradition, also known as the way of the ancestors.
Every person has a fixed place based upon his or her social status, gender,
beliefs, situation, and lifestyle.
A woman's place is determined by these fixed criteria and the dominant
creeds. In some societies, women are thought to have a weaker soul than
men, just because they are physically weaker. Surprisingly, many people
actually believe this lie due to the mistaken and clearly illogical idea
that a woman's personality, morality, and ability are limited in direct
proportion to her slighter body. For instance, various activities are
classified as a man's job or a woman's job. Obviously, their different
physical strength and build have some impact upon what tasks they perform.
But in unbelieving societies, this distinction is based on a certain bigotry
that ascribes to them a weakness in both intellect and talent.
Modern women, through their abilities and achievements, have disproved
such biased assertions in many. Nevertheless, some parts of society still
consider women to be incompetent in some respects or believe that men,
simply because they are men, can do a better job.
Many people also mistakenly believe that women have a weaker character
than men. In unbelieving societies, it is taken for granted that women
panic and lose control, whereas men remain cool and calm. Or, in a situation
of adversity, men are said to display great strength of character, whereas
women respond meekly. Girls are conditioned to conform to this prejudice
from early childhood. Families, which take great care to give their boys
strength of character, condition their girls with opposing character traits.
In the face of trouble, boys are told that boys don't cry, behave like
a man, be brave, don't be scared like a little girl, you are crying like
a little girl. Girls are also told that they are different from boys and
that they should behave accordingly.
In such societies, women's jobs and responsibilities are limited to certain
areas. As a consequence of this bigotry, most societies still discriminate
against women. This misguided view of women has revealed itself in various
ways. Especially in the past, women were subjected to barbaric behavior.
For example, Allah reveals that girls were considered so worthless in
some societies that their fathers buried them alive as soon as they were
… when the baby girl buried alive is asked for what
crime she was killed. (Surat at-Takwir: 8-9)
In other verses, Allah speaks of people whose faces turned angry upon
learning that they had a new daughter and hid in embarrassment from their
When one of them is given the good news of a baby girl,
his face darkens and he is furious. He hides away from people because
of the evil of the good news he has been given. Should he keep her ignominiously
or bury her in the ground? What an evil judgment they make! (Surat an-Nahl:
Allah also reveals that such people considered their daughters to be
pretty things who were incapable of standing up for themselves:
When any of them is given the good news of the very
thing that he himself has ascribed to the All-Merciful, his face darkens
and he is furious. "What! Someone brought up among pretty trinkets who
cannot produce a cogent argument!" (Surat az-Zukhruf: 17-18)
Through His Prophets, Allah educated such people about the mistaken nature
of this prejudiced view. Thanks to the Prophets and the spread of Islam
among the people, this ignorant and disgraceful outlook has been greatly
Allah reminds people that whatever they have comes from Him: "The
kingdom of the heavens and Earth belongs to Allah. He creates whatever
He wills. He gives daughters to whoever He wills, and He gives sons to
whoever He wills, or He gives them both sons and daughters. And He makes
whoever He wills barren. Truly, He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful"
(Surat ash-Shura: 49-50). Both girls and boys are gifts from Allah for
which people must be thankful.
Throughout history, many societies have assumed such misguided attitude
towards women. An important reality, however, must not be overlooked:
Unfortunately, the morality, behavior, and personality of some women help
to spread and justify this ignorant tradition by proving it true.
Islam refutes this bigoted view by declaring that all Muslims, by which
it means both men and women, have sharp minds, highly developed faculties
of comprehension, a great strength of character, and a superior sense
of morality. Maryam and Pharaoh's wife are excellent examples of this
In the coming pages, we will examine briefly the ignorance that prevents
women from throwing off this destructive tradition and adopting religion's
superior morality, and display the character differences between unbelieving
and Muslim women.
Women's Character in Unbelieving Societies
The predominant character of women who live in unbelieving societies,
irrespective of their education or other achievements, is clear for all
to see. One reason for this is that unbelieving societies encourage their
women, from an early age onward, to adopt this socially approved character
by making it attractive to them. Surrounded on all sides by the same type
of suggestions, girls usually comply without a second thought. They learn
how to behave properly by observing their mothers and other women and
then internalizing the ideals they see portrayed. They repeat their role
models' expressions, begin to mimic their behavior, and generally try
to emulate them. Consequently, in the absence of other role models, they
accept what they see as the ideal woman and strive to live up to that
Obviously there are exceptions, for some women recognize this misguided
tradition for what it is and refuse to adopt it. But this recognition
alone cannot free them from it. For example, they may escape some of the
behavioral faults but continue to live a conflicting and self-contradictory
existence because their characters are not defined by the Qur'an's morality.
Therefore, the differences between their character and that of their society's
women in general remain limited to their refusal to conform to society's
expectations. All women who do not emulate the Muslim woman's character
defined by the Qur'an will still have to contend with their own character
type, which will remain inconsistent and erroneous.
When we examine the general features of women living in unbelieving societies,
we see that all of them have a common character type to such an extent
that society perceives them as all being the same. One of the most common
views is that women do not have the same strong and persistant personality
as men. Most women, as well as men, concede this fact and therefore never
consider themselves capable of protecting or defending anyone. Since they
consider themselves inferior or less capable than men, they usually look
for someone to take care of them, whether financially or otherwise, in
order to protect themselves from bullying or other dangers. They expect
their husbands to take care of them and then, when they are widowed, their
This weak character leads to such behavioral problems as emotional
instability, crying, jealousy, hysteria, being easily upset about
things or with people. Unbelieving societies consider these characteristics
to be part of woman's nature, as well as their being more sensitive to
negative events. Therefore, it is perfectly all right for them to cry
in such cases. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to be brave and strong,
because only women are believed to be easily upset and highly emotional.
Another widespread observation is that some unbelieving women quickly
surrender to hopelessness, worry and complaining, or become argumentative
when faced with adversity. Such reactions are contrary to the Qur'an's
All of these character traits have one thing in common: They only bring
grief and unhappiness to everyone. As a result, such women go through
life being tense, unhappy, and troubled. In other words, their decision,
whether conscious or not, to adhere to this misguided tradition's view
of the ideal woman makes them miserable, because they are following the
wrong ideals, purpose in life, and worldview.
Just like all unbelievers, women chase the temporary life of this world
and its illusory attractions. Their foremost ideals are to enjoy this
life's pleasures as much as possible, raise their living standards continuously,
have a good name and status in the community, and win their society's
compliments and admiration.
They are saddened by things that they cannot control, such as worrying
about what the future may bring and fearing for their lives and property.
As their society suggests, they seek to be only good housewives, mothers,
or wives. Or, the other thing expected of them is that they acquire a
good job and pursue a career that will enable them to become financially
It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with pursuing such
goals, for these are things people can rightfully desire in life. However,
what is wrong is to encourage women to spend their lives within these
boundaries and thereby limit their ideals. All human beings will be either
rewarded or punished on the Day of Judgment according to their efforts,
or lack thereof, to win Allah's good pleasure.
Unbelieving women have one fundamental character flaw: their desire to
enjoy only the pleasures of this world and to live accordingly, because
everything they have (e.g., prestige, status, friends, family, or children)
are all destined to disappear. The only thing that remains forever is
Allah. Therefore, people should choose their personality, morals, lifestyle,
ideals, and everything else in order to win His good pleasure. Otherwise,
people will find themselves imprisoned in their own little lives and in
their own little worlds, and then meet with eternal suffering and regret
in the Hereafter.
No doubt, many women are dissatisfied with their place in society and
thus continue to question and escape the ideal woman tradition. They often
achieve visible success in their chosen fields and point out the wrongness
of their soceity's stereotypical views of women. But because they continue
to live by their unbelieving society's values and do not adopt the character
that would win them Allah's good pleasure, they fail to get what they
truly seek: true respect and their society's trust. Even if they seem
to have realized their goals, they remain unhappy and discontented because
they know that they have not truly and permanently achieved them.
People who blindly adopt their society's stereotypes have some excuses
for their behavior. First of all, they believe that these social creeds
prevent women from discarding the character type envisaged for them. They
fear that society will criticize or accuse them, or even make them outcasts.
Therefore, they prefer to live according to their unbelieving society's
ideal character types rather than risking any possible negative repercussions.
Another reason why some women hesitate to discard the socially acceptable
female role model is the pressure they fear from those people of influence
and authority over them in their immediate environment. This attitude
prevents them from moving away from this character type, even though they
clearly recognize its faults.
But the main reason why these women cannot escape this misguided character
type is that they do not know how to find the ideal character that would
enable them to force society to accept them once they had broken with
this tradition. Since they lack this knowledge, they continue to look
for a solution in the wrong places. For instance, a housewife thinks that
she will find a better place in society, as well as more respect and love
from those around her, by becoming a businesswoman or another type of
professional. Likewise, a businesswoman believes that she will find the
same things by climbing the corporate ladder or moving to a better, more
In reality, all such ways of thinking are flawed. There is only one way
of life, one character, and one morality that will make them honorable
and superior in both worlds: living according to the Qur'an, which endows
all people with the strongest character and the highest morals, and earn
them Allah's good pleasure as well as the people's love and respect.
Therefore, every person must not adopt the ideal personality thought
fit for them, but rather seek out and find the truth. Allah has revealed
the truest character traits and the best personality for all people, and
the way to acquire them is the simplest, easiest and most perfect. Allah
But as for him who believes and acts rightly, he will
receive the best of rewards, and We will issue a command, making things
easy for him. (Surat al-Kahf: 88)