Rafed English

Women’s rights in Islam

Adapted from: "The Position of Women from the Viewpoint of Imam Khomeini (r.a.)"

As regards the issue of the right of the woman to execute a divorce, if, at the time of marriage, she stipulates that she would possess this right either conditionally or unconditionally, the question has been raised: What about those women who have already entered into matrimony?
They oppose this legal power of the faqih even when they don’t know what his powers are. If a man mistreats his wife, this is one of the concerns of the faqih who will first of all counsel him then secondly punish him, and if he sees that none of this has worked, he will grant the divorce. Support this guardianship of the faqih, it is a gift from God the Blessed and Exalted to the Muslims.
Among the concerns the faqih deals with are matters relating to the question you have just posed: what must those women do who already have a husband and are experiencing difficulties in their marriage? They must refer the matter to a faqih, either at a court or elsewhere, and he will deal with it. If the complaint is valid, he will punish the husband, he will try to compel him to behave properly, and if this fails, the faqih will grant the woman a divorce. He has the legal power to do so if he sees that it would be damaging to the people involved if the marriage were to continue.
Even though divorce is the prerogative of the man, in situations where the faqih believes it to be in the interests of Islam, in the interests of the Muslims, and when he realises there can be no other course of action, he will grant the woman a divorce. This is what the guardianship of the faqih is about. It is a divine gift to you. (58)
31 October 1978 (9 Aban 1357 AHS)
Islam put women on a par with men, and made them equal with men. Of course, there are certain Islamic precepts, which apply only to men, and others which apply only to women, but this does not mean that Islam discriminates between men and women. (59)
11 December 1978 (20 Azar 1357 AHS)
Question: Women make up a large section of the Muslim population, what role and what rights do you foresee for them in the Islamic system?
Reply: The Muslim women of Iran are currently participating in the political struggle and the demonstrations against the Shah. I have been told that in some Iranian cities they hold political meetings. In the Islamic system, women will have the same rights as men: the right to education, the right to work, the right to own property, the right to vote, the right to stand for election.
In all aspects that men have rights, women have the same rights. However, there are some things unlawful for men, because of the corruption they create in men, and others unlawful for women because of their tendency to corrupt women. Islam wants the human dignity of both men and women to be safeguarded. It doesn’t want women to be playthings in the hands of men. The image they have portrayed abroad of women being treated harshly under Islam is not a correct one.
This is false propaganda emanating from elements motivated by self-interest. In Islam both men and women enjoy free will, any differences, which exist, do so for both of them and concern their different natures. (60)
7 December 1978 (16 Azar 1357 AHS)
The laws of Islam are all for the benefit of both man and woman. (61)
6 March 1979 (15 Isfand 1357 AHS)
Just as the rights of men are propounded in Islam, so too are those of women. Indeed, Islam shows a concern for women that it does not show for men. It pays a greater regard to their rights than those of men. Women have the right to vote; indeed they enjoy more rights than women in the West. They have the right to vote, the right to elect or be elected. They control their finances; they are free, free to choose their profession. In the East certain restrictions are placed on men for their own good.
Consequently Islam prevents gambling, drinking and the use of heroin because these are a cause of corruption. Restrictions exist for everyone. Religion imposes restrictions for the benefit of society, it is not the case that something is beneficial to society and Islam places restrictions on it. (62)
29 March 1979 (9 Farvardin 1358 AHS)
The rights of all segments of the population have also been observed in the law. The rights of the religious minorities, women and other segments of society have all been taken into consideration. Islam does not discriminate between the various groups (in society), the only difference between them stems from their piety and fear of God the Exalted. (63)
1 April 1979 (12 Farvardin 1358 AHS)
Because Islam has laid down special rights for women, show moderation in their case if it is not proved that they are spies. Likewise the black Americans, for they have been subject to oppression and suffering for an age and those there may have been forced to come to Iran. Dear Students!1
Hand over those African Americans and women whom you do not believe to be spies to the Foreign Ministry so their immediate departure can be arranged. The noble nation of Iran does not give permission for the others to be freed, consequently they will be detained until the American government acts on the (Iranian) nation’s demands. (64)
17 November 1979 (26 Aban 1358 AHS)
When women wish to marry, there are certain prerogatives they can stipulate for themselves that are contrary neither to the shari‘a nor to their own self-respect. For example, a woman can stipulate that if her future husband turns out to be of corrupt moral character or if he mistreats her, she would possess the right to execute a divorce.
This is a right that Islam has granted to women. If Islam has imposed certain restrictions on both women and men, it is for the benefit of both. All Islamic laws, be they those which permit or those which prohibit, are for the benefit of all. Similarly, just as Islam has granted man the right to divorce, it has also granted it to woman, on condition that the parties stipulate at the time of the marriage that if the husband behaves in a certain manner, the wife will have the right to execute a divorce.
Once the man has accepted such a stipulation, he can never repudiate it. Apart from making it possible to include such a stipulation in the marriage contract, Islam forbids the husband to mistreat his wife; if he habitually mistreats her, he is to be punished, lashed even, and if he still persists, the mujtahid will grant the wife a divorce. (65)
1 February 1980 (12 Bahman 1358 AHS)
Just as God has laid down laws for men imposing restrictions to prevent them from becoming corrupt, so too He has laid down laws for women. These are for your benefit; all Islamic laws are for the good of society. (66)
1 February 1980 (12 Bahman 1358 AHS)
Question: What exactly are the rights of women in an Islamic republic? What will become of coeducational schools? And how will such issues as birth control and abortion be dealt with?
Reply: In an Islamic republic, from a human rights point of view, there is no difference between men and women for both are human beings, and women have as much right as men to determine their destiny. In some areas, however, differences exist between men and women, which have nothing to do with their status as human beings. Anything that is not incompatible with the high social standing and dignity of women is allowed. Abortion is prohibited in Islam. (67)
5 November 1980 (16 Aban 1359 AHS)
Question: The issue of divorce being a man’s prerogative is something that has upset and worried a group of militant Iranian women who believe that under no circumstances do they have the right to execute a divorce. Some people have and still are exploiting this issue. What is your opinion?
Reply: The law has prescribed an easy way for the respected women to be able to execute a divorce, and that is when she enters into marriage she must stipulate her conditions. If she stipulates that she can execute a divorce whenever she wants or under certain conditions, such as if the husband were to mistreat her or get another wife, then she will have no problem in getting a divorce. I ask God Almighty to grant the honourable women success. It is hoped that you will not fall under the influence of those who oppose Islam and the Islamic revolution, for Islam is beneficial to all. (68)
29 October 1980 (7 Aban 1359 AHS)
Question: Please tell us how married women should practise taqlid.2 Can she follow the rulings of a different mujtahid3 from the one her husband follows, and if so would that contradict the requirement of a woman to obey her husband?
Reply: Women are independent in matters relating to taqlid, but must obey their husbands in marital affairs. They should not leave their homes without their husbands’ consent.
Istifta’at, Vol. 1, p. 13.
Question: During the taghut period, when the so-called courts for family protection finalised a divorce, they would collect a sum of money from the husband as ‘rent’ on the bride’s dower, if it were cash, because of the period which had elapsed since the marriage, in addition to the main dower to be paid to the woman. If the dower is cash and the time for collecting it has not been legally stipulated, is it permissible to put rent on the original dower?
Reply: Rent cannot be put on money and taking an additional sum is prohibited.
Istifta’at, Vol. 1, p. 210.
Question: If, when the marriage vows are exchanged, the woman stipulates that she reserves the right to execute a divorce, can this right be taken from her?
Reply: If she stipulates this condition at the time of the marriage, it cannot be taken from her later.4
Istifta’at, Vol. 2, p. 319.


  • 3. - Refer to footnote 3.

  • 4. - If when exchanging the marriage vows the woman stipulates that she will become the man’s wife only if he accepts her condition that she has the irrevocable right to execute a divorce, and the man accepts this condition, then that right of the wife cannot be taken away from her.


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