Islam brought a new lease of life to women. Islam elevated the status of women to great heights: so high that she stood shoulder to shoulder with man. Like men, their rights were also well defined and Islamic Courts supported them to achieve these rights. Islam granted women the right to ownership. They now owned the amount of their Mehr. They could engage in trade and have their own properties. They were also given the right to inherit the property of the deceased father and husband.
With the advent of Islam came the verse from the Quran condemning those who practiced female infanticide: And when the good tiding of the birth of a daughter is conveyed to any of them, then his face remains black all along the day, and he suppresses his anger. He hides himself from the people, because of the evil of this good tiding. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it in the dust? Lo! very bad, they judge. (16:58-59)
The Holy Quran makes no distinction between man and woman as regards to the fundamental human rights. Here we may specifically state that: Woman, like man, is the possessor of free personality, and enjoys equality with man, in respect of:
Her spiritual and moral status: The Quran says: "And covet not that whereby Allah has made one of you excel over the other. For men there is share from their earning, and for women there is share from their earning. And ask Allah for His Grace. Undoubtedly, Allah knows every thing." (4:32)
Her economic rights: The Quran says: "For men there is share in what their parents and relatives have left behind, and for women there is share in what their parents and relatives have left behind, be the bequest little or be it much, it is a share estimated, determined." (4:7)
Her legal rights: The Quran says: "And divorced women should keep their souls away till three menstruations, and it is not lawful to them that they conceal what Allah has created in their wombs. If they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the right to take them back during that period provided they will to rejoin. And the women have rights similar to those over them according to law, and men have superiority over them and Allah is Dominant, Wise." (2:228)
Islam ensured a dignified life to the fair sex, which was hitherto treated in an unfair manner. Woman became the mistress of the household. Man was not allowed to beat or manhandle them nor deprive them of their share in the property. The Holy Quran declared: "And mothers should suckle their children for complete two years, for him who intends to complete the period of suckling, and to whom the child belongs, on him there is feeding and clothing of the women according to convention. No soul shall be burdened but within his capacity, the mother should not be made to suffer because of her child and nor father because of his child or (the mother should not make the child to suffer, and nor father to his child, and the same is incumbent on the father's heir. Then if the mother and father both try to wean by mutual consent and consultation, there is no sin on them; and if you wish that your children should be suckled by nurses, then too there is no blame on you, provided what was agreed to pay is paid by you with kindness, and remain fearing Allah and know that Allah is seeing your works." (2:233).
Almighty Allah commanded man to behave well. "O believers! It is not lawful for you to be heir of the women forcibly, and prevent them not with this design that you may take away part of what you had given them as dower except in this shape that they commit an act of flagrant indecency and treat with them fairly; then if you dislike them, it is likelihood that you may dislike a thing and wherein Allah has placed much good." (4: 19)
It is necessary to establish the Quranic viewpoint with respect to the concepts of Duty and Right.
The Quranic moral code is based on the emphasis on obligation not duty in contrast to the emphasis on right. Now, the implications of the emphasis respectively on duty and right are: Right is a right against someone. Duty is a duty towards someone. Right means that someone owes something to us. For, when we say: it is our right, it means that someone has to perform a duty to us. On the contrary, when we say: it is our duty, it means that someone has a right against us.
Islam has granted to the husband a senior position in the functioning of the household and appointed him as the commander so that he could get through any crisis with the help of wisdom and initiative given to him by Almighty Allah. Islam has prescribed certain obligations that a husband has to fulfill in the interest of his wife. Simultaneously, Islam has enjoined upon the wives to appreciate their duties towards their husbands. This is a give-and-take business. Both man and woman are closely connected with each others rights and duties.