The Almighty reminds us that on the final day of judgment we are all accountable for our actions and compensated for our deeds equally, whether we are male or female (or however we choose to identify).
“I shall not lose sight of any of you who labors my way, whether it be male or female, for each of you is equal in the sight of me” (The Holy Quran 3:195).
When we meet our maker, it’s not like a woman will receive 30 cents for every good deed a man gets, right?
So, if the Divine gives everyone their due remuneration, literal or symbolic, in a just manner, then why, on this earthly plane, in this lifetime, has this calculation shifted?
Why does the Divine’s view differ from some human views on the rights and status of the female?
First, for centuries, conferences, symposiums, edicts and legal jurisdictions dictating the fate of women’s rights have been spearheaded by leaders and decision-makers other than females.
This has not only been present in governmental, educational and business entities, but also particularly notable at places of religious veneration.
Yet, what house of worship – and often much of it is behind-the-scenes operations – from weekend school to community programs to religious service preparation is not usually run by a woman?
Who wasn’t taught the most difficult subjects while in Catholic school by a nun? Who hasn’t run into a religious, female physician or professor at a university or college?
From the Mother Earth to the Mother of all Humanity herself, from Eve to Sarah, Hagar and Mary, mother of Jesus (the only female specifically mentioned in the Quran) and Khadija (wife of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him), from the many mythological goddesses from around the world to the biblical females and females revered in the Dharmic traditions, women have represented creation, fertility, the sun, the moon, protection, comfort, wisdom, invention, healers, hunters, protectors of animals, good fortune, wind, fire, air, spirit, the tree of life itself, triumph over evil, the muses, knowledge, speech , language and self-mastery itself.
Yet, the perception that religion suppresses women has become the norm. Why?
Our scriptures come alive in the actual, day-to-day living out of our religion. And vise-versa.
Often, we don’t live by the rules God decreed for us to live by. Sometimes we skew scripture to fit our own agenda and make up new rules to live by. And then we adopt those rules as a divine decree.
I have yet to find any faith tradition that denies the sanctity of a female, that inherently denies her the right of protection, the right to an education, the right to choose a spouse, the right to ask for a divorce, the right to work and have her own bank account, and yes, even the right to drive.
In contrast, I find most scriptures, the Quran especially, specify a woman’s right to her own moral agency, the right to read, think, analyze and debate, the right to self-determination, the right to speak for herself, the right to protect her modesty if she chooses to, and the right to bring the movement for a just world forward for the sake of God if she wishes to as well.
The fact that some religious traditions allow for women to have a built-in prenuptial agreement within their marriage ceremony (as in Judaism and Islam) is a bonus. And the fact that some traditions, including Islam, have rules of divorce that favor women, is also helpful in times of family hardship.
All of this, along with a female’s inherent possibility to reproduce, makes for a powerful combination indeed.
So, when I think of International Women’s Day, not only do I think of the chapter in the Quran entitled “The Women,” but I also think of one of the Quran’s verses, etched onto the wall of the entrance of Harvard Law School Library.
This verse has been named by the law professors as one of the 100 greatest quotes on justice of all time: “O ye who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for all can best protect both” (Quran 4:135).
On this International Women’s Day, let’s remember that we who labor in God’s way, the way of a just world, shall not be lost sight of, for each of us is equal in the sight of God, Alhamdulillah (“praise be to God”).
And let’s not forget to apply that within the context of our daily lives, Insha’Allah (“if God wills”).
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series for International Women’s Day (March 8). The other articles published to date are:
Adding Women’s Voices Today to a Timeless Story | Rachel Ain
Say Her Name – Remembering Women Outside the History Books | Chris Smith
Why I Didn’t Celebrate International Women’s Day Growing Up | Lina Toth