Islam was the most revolutionary liberalization of women's rights the civilized world has ever seen.
Unlike feminism movements, women's liberation in Islam wasn't started by women but was revealed by Allah to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the seventh century. The Qur'an and the Hadith or Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights, responsibilities and duties.
Men and women are equaled in front of Allah; this is in terms of worshiping, obeying, and glorifying Him. Nevertheless they're equally punished when committing any sin. For instance when committing adultery, the man and the woman share the same punishment.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you)! Allah has been a Watcher over you." Qur'an (4:1)
Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal regarding their human rights. Women cannot be considered evil by nature (as some people may think) or then men would be evil also. Similarly, neither gender can be superior because it would be a contradiction of equality.
Islam also granted women many civil rights; a Muslim woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. First, she is free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states:
"There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error."Qur'an (2:256)
In Islam, women's role is balanced but fair. She has been removed from the burden of supporting herself. Instead men take this responsibility, a woman's father and or brother and even the government, if the other two are not available a responsible to take care of the woman and support her financially. If she does not want to work, she does not have to. She has the freedom to decide to stay at home and spend her time raising her children and tending to her family, social and religious life. However, if she wants to work, she is not forbidden to do so. Actually Islam has encouraged the woman to educate herself and to know Allah and know her duties, so that she can educate her children. She is discouraged from leaving her children without guidance and example. Moreover she is given the most honorable and important job in the universe, she is more encouraged to be a mother.
Muslim women have the right to choose their husbands and keep their names after marriage. Islam also encourages women to contribute their opinions and ideas; there are many examples of women who offered their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Also, a Muslim woman’s testimony is valid in legal disputes.
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
"Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female)."
This includes learning the Qur'an and the Hadith as well gaining knowledge in science and many other fields. Since both men and women have the capacity for learning and understanding, Muslim women must acquire the appropriate education in order to promote good behavior and condemn bad behavior in all spheres of life.
While maintenance of a home, supporting husbands, breading and teaching children are regarded as the priorities for a woman, if she has the skills to work outside her house for the good of the family, then she may do so as long as she doesn't ignore her main family duties.
Moreover Islam gives high respect to motherhood, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
"Heaven lies under the feet of mothers."
This implies that the success of a society is traced to good mothers. Therefore, a woman must be educated and conscientious in order to be a skillful parent.
Fourteen hundred years ago, Islam started giving women the right to vote .On any public matter; Muslim women may vote their opinion and participate in politics. This established the right of women to select their leader and publicly declare so.
For example, Abdurrahman Ibn Auf consulted many women before he recommended Othman Ibn Affan to be the Caliph.
While guardianship and greater financial responsibility is given to men in Islam, a Muslim woman has the privilege to earn money, the right to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage all of her assets in any way she pleases. She can run her own business and no one has any claim on her earnings including her husband.
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:
"And in no wise covet those things in which Allah hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted what they earn, and to women, what they earn; but ask Allah of His bounty, for Allah hath full knowledge of all things." Qur'an (4:32)
Islam liberated women by giving them rights and duties 1400 years ago that most women do not enjoy up till now, even in the West. These duties and rights were given by Allah and are designed to keep balance in society; what may seem unjust or missing in one place is compensated for or explained in another place because Islam as is a complete way of life.
"And it not of a believing man or a women, when Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) have declared a matter, for them to have any choice in that matter. And anyone who disobeys God and His Messenger has indeed gone astray into open error." Qur'an (33:36)