Mohammed’s views on women
Mohammed loved and admired the women in his life. He tried to give women more rights than they had before in Arabia, or under Roman and Sassanian law. The Quran tried to make rules that would help women. In general women had more rights under Islam than they had had before. For instance, under Islam women had to agree to get married in order for the marriage to be legal.
Who was Mohammed?
What is the Quran?
Women in early Mesopotamia
Women in medieval Europe
All our Islamic Empire articles
How the Quran protected women
Once they were married, the Quran said that their husbands could not take away their dowry. The Quran also said that men could not beat their wives too badly. (It was legal all over Asia for men to beat their wives then. It still is legal in most parts of Asia.) And in theory, at least, women could divorce a bad husband.
Other things stayed the same under the Islamic Empire as they had been before. Most girls still did not get to go to school, though some certainly did. Women still did a lot of unpaid work spinning and weaving linen and wool and cotton, cooking and cleaning, and taking care of children.
Medieval Islamic schools
Invention of the spinning wheel
History of cotton
What about flax and linen?
Women in medieval Islam
Polygamy: One husband with four wives
And there were some other differences. Where Roman men could have only one wife, the Quran let men marry up to four women each. Most men still just had one wife. But rich men often had four wives. This was sometimes good for the women, if for example they were widows who would have been homeless otherwise. Sometimes it was not so good, if it meant that the husband was too poor to feed all his children (or wives).
Medieval Islamic women with power
But some Islamic women certainly were educated, like the Sufi poet Lalla Arifa. And even though the Islamic empire generally kept power for men, some women did get political power, like the Ayyubid queen Shajar al-Durr. And some women did get religious power, like the woman imam in the picture.
But women weren’t equal
Even though some women had power, and even though the Quran intended to protect women’s rights, medieval Islamic women did not have anywhere near equal rights with men. Women were much less likely to go to school. They could not inherit property the same way their brothers did. And it was legal for their husbands and fathers to beat them.