The Koran and Women

Figure 1.-- Here Veiled Indian Muslim women walk through a street in Bhopal. The subject of Islamic dress is a matter of discussion within the Islamic world. The Koran demands modesty, but is rather ambigous as to specifically what that means.

Women in many Muslim countries are second-class citizens. This results from both the Koran and other Islaamic teachings. The Koran has a great deal to say about the status of women in society and the treatment of women. Some if the most important deal with marriage and divorce, modesty, and inheritance. Some of the passages are quite explicit. Others are a little more difficult to understand. The Koranic passages are very important because so many Muslims believe that the Koran is the litteral word of God transcribed by his Prophet Mohammed. This means that many Muslims do not believe that these passages can be questioned and should be reflected in their country's legal code. Muslims can question the meaning of Koranic passages. And in the case of ambiguous passages this provides some room for moving away from the more extreme interpretation. Many of these passages, however, are very specific and clear and thus there is no way of questioning them.

Specific Topics

Here are the Koranic verses that that relate to toics concerning women. Some are clearly written and require no interpretation. Others are less clear. We have attempted to interpret the various passages. We welcome reader insights are insights on possible meanings.

The Family: Marriage and Divorce

Domestic Violence



Many Islamic scholars, almost all men, have written a great length about clothing, especially women's clothing. The Koran which of course is the ultimate authority in Islam, comments only briefly on clothing. About women clothing the Koran says: "And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty" (24:31). The Koran don't mention a veil covering the face. However this tradition was introduced in many places. About modesty rules, Koran makes a difference between adults and "children who have not reached puberty". Traditionally in some Islamic communities the little children have no rules about clothing and go usually naked. This was more common in rural communities. The early photographic record of the Middle East shows this very clearly. The image here is a studio portrait, but several photographs took pictures out on the streets and country side, leaving an invaluable record. Two of these photographers were the Bonfils . It is also observable in modern times when we see younger children, even in conservative Muslim countries, wearing Western dress.


Country Implementation

Readers may be interested in how authorities in various Muslim countries have interpreted and impleted these Koranic passages. So far we only have a page on Saudi Arabia.


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Created: 4:09 AM 7/19/2007
Last updated: 9:46 AM 8/15/2008