Women and Education in Islam
Since it is obligatory on every Muslim male and female to acquire knowledge, the woman has got as much right as the man has got for acquiring knowledge and education. Hence the injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah are equally applicable to men and women.
1. The importance which the Qur’an gives to education and learning can be judged from this fact that the first few verses of the Qur’an which were revealed on Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) instructed him to read. Al-Qur’an says: “Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth, createth man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the most Bounteous, Who teacheth by the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not” - (Al-Alaq : verses 1-5). So the Holy Qur’an, which is the revealed book of Islam, starts with the word `read', if put in the chronological order. In the verses mentioned above, the Qur’an uses three words `read', `teaches' and `pen', which shows how much is the importance of reading, learning, writing and teaching.
The Prophet of Islam made it obligatory on every Muslim male and female to acquire knowledge. According to another Tradition he exhorted his followers to search knowledge though they have to go as far as China. In another Hadith it is reported that the search for knowledge is an expiation for one's sins.
2. The prayers of the Prophets and the righteous people have been mentioned in the Qur’an. The prayer of the Prophet of Islam given in the Qur’an is about increase in knowledge. Allah commanded His messenger to pray to Him in these words: “...My Lord! Increase me in knowledge” (Ta-ha : verse 114). This has been the. most popular prayer of the followers of Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him) through centuries and even the kids in the Muslim homes who can hardly speak start chanting this prayer from the very childhood.
3. Human being is the best of Allah's creation and it is because Allah has given him knowledge. It is on account of the learning and knowledge that man's superiority was established over the Angels. Allah taught Adam all the names, and then showed them to the Angels asking them to inform Him about them which they could not, but Adam did (Al-Baqarah : verses 31-33). Wisdom or knowledge is a great treasure and everlasting wealth. He is Allah Who gives wisdom to whom He likes. Unto whom wisdom is given, he had indeed been blessed with a great treasure (Al-Baqarah : verse 269). The Prophet of Islam calls the learning as a. treasure-house and he declared that superiority in education is better than superiority in divine service.
4. Islam attaches so much importance to education that the Qur’an instructs the believers that all of them should not go out for fighting, rather they should leave some of them behind who should acquire sound knowledge of religion and should teach the others when they return from fighting (At-Tauba : verse 122) Jihad is obligatory on every adult male Muslim in case the security of Islamic state is in danger. But even in such a state of emergency and critical position, the importance of learning is not being ignored. The believers are being commanded that all of them should not go forth together for participation in Jihad. It would be better if they leave some contingent behind who should devote themselves to studies in religion and should acquire the capability to teach others.
The Prophet of Islam released some of the prisoners who had been captured in the Battle of Badr, without ransom on the condition that each of them should teach at least ten Muslim children how to read and write. This shows how the Prophet viewed the need of education and literacy for the Muslim children.
5. Most of the commentators of the Qur’an are unanimously of the view that Sura Al-Ahzab verse 34 is addressed to the wives of Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him). The wives of the Prophet are being instructed to learn which is recited in their homes of the Qur’an and wisdom. In the sublime company of the Prophet, whatever they learn by closely observing his conduct and attentively listening to his discourses of wisdom, they should impart it to the members of Muslim Ummah very faithfully and without any omission or commission. The history of Islam tells us that the wives of the Prophet did acquire sound learning of the Qur’an and the Traditions in the company of Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) and they played indeed an admirable role in popularising the teachings of the Qur’an and the Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam. Indirectly this injunction of the Holy Qur’an may also be taken to be applicable to the Muslim women in general. The role of the mothers in training and educating the future generations is well known and thus the Qur’an impresses upon them to get education and thus educate in turn the future of the Ummah.
6. According to Sura Al-Mujadila verse 11 of the Qur’an, Allah will give high ranks and rewards to those believers who have acquired knowledge and learning. The Qur’an (Sura Al-'Imran verse 18) includes the learned persons among the list of the witnesses who give evidence about the Unity of God. Do you know who are the witnesses? They are Allah (Himself), the angels and the men of learning! Can there be any higher rank than this? Obviously, no. According to a Hadith, the rank of a learned man is higher than that of a pious worshipper. According to another Hadith, the man who goes out in search of knowledge is in the path of Allah (Jihad) till he returns.
7. The importance of the writing and the pen (symbol of writing) is that at one place in the Qur’an (Al-Qalam : 1-2), Almighty Allah swears by the pen and at another place He commands the believers to reduce their contracts and agreements in writing. (Al-Baqara : 282)