Because of the great variety of their cultural, geographic, and socio-economic backgrounds, it is difficult to generalize about the world’s approximately 800 million Muslim women. Some statistics might be surprising. For example, proportionately, more women are enrolled in university in Saudi Arabia than in Mexico or China.
And more Muslim women than ever before are entering the work force, with an estimated combined disposable income of almost one trillion dollars. Sadly, millions of Muslim women also suffer.
They work with little or no pay. They endure abuse. They even risk being killed by a male relative if they do anything to bring shame upon the family. 200 million women in the world today (half of them from Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia) are scarred by female genital mutilation.
While Muslim women’s lives and experiences span a broad spectrum, most Muslim women are still expected to marry, have children, and maintain the home. Yet women can have significant impact at home: they teach their children about Islam by keeping the customs and passing down the traditions. Women might not be very visible in the Muslim world, but they can be influential.
The Quran and Islamic traditions (sunna) are both positive and negative toward women. Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, was a wealthy businesswoman in sixth century Arabia. His second wife, Aisha, whom he married when she was nine years old, later led an army.
In many Muslim cultures, women are required to wear various coverings when in the presence of men they are not related to, ranging from a loose headscarf to a complete covering of their face and body. Sometimes women are considered equal in the Quran (9:72, 16:97, 33:35). But in 2:228, men have authority over women, and in 2:282 the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man. In 4:34, an admittedly controversial verse, a husband is encouraged to beat a disobedient wife.
Muhammad once noted that the majority of people in hell are women, since they were ungrateful to their husbands and “deficient in intelligence and religion” (al Bukhari 1:6:301).
While some Muslims affirm that Islamic law (sharia) protects a woman by guaranteeing provision for her, say, in the case of a delinquent husband, others claim that it denies them basic human rights. Death by stoning for adultery still happens today to women in some parts of the Muslim world.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Proverbs 31:15-17
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:25-26
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20
Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:6-7
But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Isaiah 50:7-9a
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! Ruth 4:14
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:3-11
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:1-3
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Matthew 27:55-56
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:5-8
Pray for deliverance, comfort, and healing for the abused, neglected, and oppressed.
Pray for women to know and experience the intimate and personal love of Jesus.
Pray for Jesus' unconditional love to be the new foundation of their identity and value.