A 2007 survey conducted by David Barrett revealed that the world is home to 1.5 billion Muslims. No statistics exist about the number of Muslim women. Muslim women have been shrouded in mystery and misunderstandings since the rise of Islam itself. Local tribal customs and standards have distorted women's obligations under Islam. However, the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad provide the clearest source of the expectations of Muslim women.
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There are five principles, known as pillars, of Islam. These pillars are pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving charity, praying five times a day and the belief in the oneness of the Almighty and that Mohammad was his final prophet. Islam requires both men and women to fulfil these obligations, especially the belief in one God. Pregnant and nursing women do not have to fast, but that does not excuse them from their other religious duties.
Responsibilities in Marriage
In chapter 30, verse 21, the Qur'an states that men and women complement each other. A happy marriage should lead to a prosperous and happy society. To that end, a married woman must undertake certain responsibilities. She should be chaste, and not expose her husband to humiliation by her actions. She must also not refuse her husband's sexual advances without good cause. Childbearing within wedlock is strongly encouraged, and the wife has the responsibility of raising the children as good Muslims. If the family's situation permits it, a woman may work outside the home, and does not have to contribute her earnings to the family.
A Duty to Be Educated
Islam relies not only on the Qur'an, but also on sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed. Such a saying is called a hadith in Arabic. A reliable hadith can be traced back to the Prophet. One reliable hadith, passed down by the commentator Bukhari, states: "It is the duty of every Muslim to seek knowledge." This statement applies to both males and females. Therefore, Muslim women must be educated. If they do not receive education, their guardians violate the word of Islam's prophet.
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