For years, misconceptions about the roles which Muslim women play have abounded. Many people believe that Muslim women are slaves to their husbands, beaten by their husbands, forced by their husbands to cover or that they are completely devoid of rights. In essence, none of this is true. There may be individual cases where these actions may occur, but the same can be stated about any religion or culture. In Islam, however, it is very easy to differentiate between the action of the individual, and the teachings of Islam.
Islam is based upon the teachings of the Glorious Quran and the tradition of the prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The tradition of the prophet (PBUH) is collected in a series of narrations, collectively know as the Hadiths. Through the Quran and the Hadiths, we, as Muslims can identify our roles, rights and duties.
These sources have some passages which are meant for all Muslims, male or female. There are some which have been dedicated to men, while others speak only to women. With the help of these sources, we, as Muslims, learn our freedoms and our limitations.
In reference to women, the Quran and the Hadiths have mandated various rules in regard to behavior, appearance and rights. Some of these may seem constricting to western women, causing them to pity Muslim women, but these women fail to realize that Muslim women do not feel constricted by these rules; we feel liberated, and in fact, as Muslim women we should pity western women. The Muslim woman is not forced to display herself to find a husband. She does not lower herself into competition with other women, using her body as a lure. Secondly, the Muslim women supports no man. Her property is off limits to her husband. It is his duty to provide for her and her children, regardless of her personal wealth. Thirdly, the man has no right to physically harm his wife. While some western scholars negate this by quoting from the Quran that a man is allowed to beat his wife, they fail to mention that the only condoned instrument for this beating is a siwak. (A siwak is a piece of wood, used as a toothbrush, about as thick as a pencil, and about half the length.) It is highly doubtful that this instrument could cause a child any damage, much less a woman. Yet, in the United States, there are still states which have no laws against a man beating his wife. Even, I once read an article where a man beat his girlfriend and killed her pet rabbit. This man was to six months for beating the woman but six years for killing the rabbit. What kind of society values the life of a rabbit more than the welfare of its women. Allah is the Just, the Supreme. Furthermore, Islam gave women the right to own property, work, inherit, and divorce long before the West had even decided that women were human and that they had souls.
Therefore, Western women should not preach to Muslim women about equal rights, because not only have Muslim woman had these rights, we have also had rights and privileges about which western women have not even thought.