There are varying perspectives of the conservative and liberal Muslims towards the rights of women in Islam. This has indeed perplexed the western or the non-Muslim world as neither of the stances presents the true picture. The traditional and the noninterventionist, having two extreme viewpoints, miss out the actual or the true attitude towards women as put forward by Islam. The typical conventional belief is to confine her within the walls of a house and wrap her in veil or hijab. On the other hand, the open-minded Muslims believe in freedom of women in all aspects, without any social or religious limitations. Unfortunately, the Muslims themselves often misinterpret the real philosophy of Islam.
Unlike the traditional school of thought, Islam gives women all the right to work, study and socialize. The wife of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), Hazrat Khadija, was a business woman, which confirms that woman may work or do trade. Woman has as much right to education as men. According to a famous tradition of the Prophet (may peace be upon him), “To seek knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim (men and women)”. Similarly, women are given right in inheritance and to marry the man of their choice.
Now the most pertinent issue: Hijab or veil, which has been misinterpreted by many. In an Islamic society where all the Islamic laws are implemented, the enforcement of hijab is also one of the many obligations. However, this is given hype, as some women may not like to cover their heads. Nevertheless, the sacred scripture, the Holy Quran mentions, “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error.” In the light of this verse, we can draw that it is not necessary for a person to follow any principle if he or she does not will, but at the same time, the truth in evident. The point to ponder is that all the laws that have been advocated by Islam are meant for the social welfare of all and in this case, hijab is meant for the protection of women. As rightly stated by Zakir Naik, the famous Indian-Muslim scholar, there are lesser chances of a woman being harassed when she is in hijab than when she is in western clothes. If we look closely, all the great religions including Hinduism and Christianity, profess the same law of women being well covered. However, it is strange that on a global level, hijab is only associated with Muslim women.
The liberals believe that there should be no restriction, but they do not realize that in this case, the scenario would become like a jungle! What if a woman wants to go around all nude? Can you call it freedom of choice? Of course not! You need to draw the line somewhere and Islam has done it for us. Where Muslim women are asked to cover themselves, men have also been commanded to lower their gaze and guard their modesty. Owing to this aspect of social welfare and the practical laws of Islam, the western world is turning to it at a rapid pace.
Both the conservative and liberal perspectives lack in real knowledge. Islam allows women to participate in all fields of life, but she must cover herself and dress up modesty that would not enchant men and trigger shamelessness and evil in society. It presents the right path, but does not push anyone to practice it. It is entirely your choice to follow Islam or not, but it for sure guides you to what is best for yourself and your society.
Unfortunately, the world is more focused to the physical rituals of Islam and consequently overlooks the real meaning and spirit behind it. It is much more than merely praying or having a beard or wearing hijab. These are just the physical practices; the spiritual facets are totally neglected. In Islam, the intention behind each action counts and the criterion of being is a good Muslim lies on self-purification and how good you are towards others. For women also, the benchmark of her being noble lies on how chaste and pure she is in her intention and conduct; hijab or veil is just one thing out of many prerequisites to qualify as a noble Muslim woman.