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The study of women in Islam investigates the role status of women within the religion of Islam . The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world.
Sharia (Islamic law) provides for differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. Muslim-majority countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives. Conservatives argue that differences between men and women are due to different status and responsibilities assigned in the Koran, while liberal Muslims, Muslim feminists, and others argue in favor of other interpretations. A small number of women have achieved high political office in Muslim majority states.
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* 1 Sources of influence
* 2 Early historical background
o 2.1 Early reforms under Islam
o 2.2 Female education
o 2.3 Female employment
o 2.4 Marriage and divorce
* 3 Gender roles
* 4 Sex segregation
* 5 Financial matters
o 5.1 Financial obligations
o 5.2 Inheritance
o 5.3 Employment
* 6 Legal and criminal matters
o 6.1 Rape
o 6.2 Honor killings
* 7 Marriage and sexuality
o 7.1 Who may be married?
o 7.2 Marriage contract
o 7.3 Behavior within marriage
o 7.4 Sexuality
o 7.5 Divorce
* 8 Movement and travel
* 9 Dress code
* 10 Women in religious life
* 11 Women and politics
* 12 Modern debate on the status of women in Islam
o 12.1 Conservatives and the Islamic movement
o 12.2 Liberal Islam, Islamic feminism, and other progressive criticism
* 13 See also
* 14 References
* 15 Works cited
* 16 Further reading
o 16.1 Scripture
o 16.2 Footprints Books
o 16.3 Footprints Articles
 Sources of influence
Islamic law is the product of Quranic guidelines, as understood by Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), as well as of the interpretations derived from the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (hadith), which were also selected by a number of historical Islamic scholars. These interpretations and their application were shaped by the historical context of the Muslim world at the time they were written. Many of the earliest writings were from a time of tribal warfare which could have been inappropriate for the 21st Century.
The Marxist writer, Valentine M. Moghadam argues that the position of women are mostly influenced by the extent of urbanization, industrialization, proletarization and political ploys of the state managers rather than culture or intrinsic properties of Islam; Islam, Moghadam argues, is neither more nor less patriarchal than other world religions especially Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism.
Early costumes of Arab women.
 Early historical background
See also: Women in Arab societies and Women in Iraq
To evaluate the effect of Islam on the status of women, many writers have discussed the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabia, and their findings have been mixed. Some writers have argued that women before Islam were more liberated drawing most often on the first marriage of Muhammad and that of Muhammad's parents, but also on other points such as worship of female goddesses at Mecca. Other writers, have argued that women's status in pre-Islamic Arabia was poor, citing practices of female infanticide, unlimited polygyny, patrilineal marriage and others.
Islam changed the structure of Arab society and to a large degree unified the people, reforming and standardizing gender roles throughout the region, whether through coersion or assimilation. According to Islamic studies professor William Montgomery Watt, Islam improved the status of women by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce."
Some have argued that in terms of women's rights, women generally had fewer legal restrictions under Islamic law than they did under certain Western legal systems until the 20th century. For example, restrictions on the legal capacity of married women under French law were not removed until 1965.
 Early reforms under Islam
Main article: Early reforms under Islam
During the early reforms under Islam in the 7th century, reforms in women's rights affected marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood. "The dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property."
President of South Africa Omar Abdulla says that he had encouraged foreigners who attended the 'Women in Islam' congregation in Lenasia to convert to the sacred religion.
Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a "status" but rather as a "contract", in which the woman's consent was imperative. "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives." Annemarie Schimmel states that "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work."
William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who promoted womenÃ¢Â€Â™s rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains: "At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards."
During his life, Muhammad married twelve women depending upon the differing accounts of who were his wives..
 Female education
See also: Madrasah
Women played an important role in the foundation of many Islamic educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri's founding of the University of Al Karaouine in 859. This continued through to the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries, when 160 mosques and madrasahs were established in Damascus, 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf (charitable trust or trust law) system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions were also women.
According to the Sunni scholar Ibn Asakir in the 12th century, there were opportunities for female education in the medieval Islamic world. He writes that women could study, earn ijazahs (academic degrees), and qualify as scholars and teachers. This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters. Ibn Asakir had himself studied under 80 different female teachers in his time. Female education in the Islamic world was inspired by Muhammad's wives: Khadijah, a successful businesswoman, and Aisha, a renowned hadith scholar and military leader. The education allowed, was often restricted to religious instruction. According to a hadith attributed to Muhammad, he praised the women of Medina because of their desire for religious knowledge:
"How splendid were the women of the ansar; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith."
While it was not common for women to enroll as students in formal classes, it was common for women to attend informal lectures and study sessions at mosques, madrasahs and other public places. While there were no legal restrictions on female education, some men did not approve of this practice, such as Muhammad ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336) who was appalled at the behaviour of some women who informally audited lectures in his time:
"[Consider] what some women do when people gather with a shaykh to hear [the recitation of] books. At that point women come, too, to hear the readings; the men sit in one place, the women facing them. It even happens at such times that some of the women are carried away by the situation; one will stand up, and sit down, and shout in a loud voice. [Moreover,] her 'awra will appear; in her house, their exposure would be forbidden Ã¢Â€Â” how can it be allowed in a mosque, in the presence of men?"
While women accounted for no more than one percent of Islamic scholars prior to the 12th century, there was a large increase of female scholars after this. In the 15th century, Al-Sakhawi devotes an entire volume of his 12-volume biographical dictionary Daw al-lami to female scholars, giving information on 1,075 of them.
 Female employment
See also: Islamic economics in the world
A female physician in Yemen.
The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities. Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.). Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning, dying, and embroidery. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.