When Islam is mentioned, one of the first things people tend to think of is Muslim women. In this series of articles, we will try to answer questions about Muslim women.


Does a woman have the right to choose her own husband?


In the 7th century, Islam gave women the right to refuse a proposal of marriage; they should not be coerced or forced into a marriage, as this would nullify the marriage contract.

Women have the right to choose their husbands in Islam. There are some cultures and traditions which oppress their children by forcing them to marry someone of the parents’ choice, claiming to be supported in this by religion. It is obvious that this is an abuse of religion. There is no place for forced marriage in Islam. This is illustrated in the following hadith of the Prophet : “Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya: That her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah's Messenger () and he declared that marriage invalid.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 5138, Book 67, Hadith 74]


This indicates that when parents have a marriage candidate for their daughter, they must ask the girl’s permission first. If she consents entirely of her own free will, only then would the marriage be valid. She should not feel any pressure when she is asked for her consent. Women have the right to decline or reject a proposal.


In some cultures, women are not asked for their opinion because some families care more about their honour or personal gain than they do about women’s happiness. Some might claim that Islam commands people to obey and respect their parents. That is true. But this obedience is subject to certain conditions. When a woman is forced to marry someone whom she does not want to, obedience to her parents is in conflict with her religion, because this is absolutely forbidden in Islam.


Do women have to obey their husbands?


No human being is the slave of another human being. Everybody has their own personal space and rights. There is one authority we must obey: Allah. Misinterpretations of Qur'anic verses should not be considered Islam. People are equal in the Sight of Allah, and their value depends on their obedience to Him. He says in the Qur’an: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one of them excel over the other, and because they spend out of their possessions (to support them). Thus righteous women are obedient and guard the rights of men in their absence under Allah's protection.” [Qur’an 4:34]


Wives and husbands have different rights and different degrees of responsibilities. Family is an institution which needs to function smoothly. It requires love and respect. Islam encourages us to marry someone whom we know, like, and respect. It is prohibited to force women to marry someone whom they do not love and desire. From this perspective, it makes sense for spouses to respect each other and show tolerance towards each other. The obedience of a woman towards her husband can be thought of as respect for his guardianship of her.


Men are always advised to treat their wives with respect and love. They are considered “protectors of their wives” because of their responsibility to their household. For example, one of these responsibilities is financial. A husband must spend his own money on his family. His wife, on the other hand, does not have to give him any of her own money. For this reason, both sides must protect their own wealth and property. They must protect themselves, their dignity and chastity, as well as that of their spouse, in their presence as well as in their absence. Additionally, they must protect their relationship and not share details of their private life with outsiders, to avoid any gossip and other problems.


Why do Muslim women pray behind men?


Congregational prayer is superior to praying alone. Since the time of the Prophet , praying in congregation has been highly recommended. It was narrated that the Prophet said: "Prayer in congregation is twenty-five levels better than a prayer offered on one's own." [Sunan an-Nasa'i 839, Book 10, Hadith 63]  Women were encouraged to attend the congregational prayers. They would go to the masjid to perform their prayers and listen to the Prophet .

Praying means talking directly to Allah. Everyone is equal in the mosque, and has the same opportunity to communicate with Allah. There is no difference between poor and rich, black and white, women and men. People are equal in terms of their proximity to Allah. For this reason, performing prayer requires the ultimate level of concentration and attention for both genders. This is why it is recommended to pray in different areas. Also, prayer venues are not only places of worship but also social locations where people go to rest, recharge, interact with others and many other activities, including breastfeeding their children. This is why it is important to feel comfortable in the mosque, and for women to have their own personal space.