As far as the history of man on this planet is concerned, women have been victims of series of discriminations and people look upon them as lowly, unprogressive and unproductive class of the society. However, it is therefore necessary to examine the status in the pre-Islamic and the modern periods with a view to appreciate the position of Islam with regards to the womenfolk.
Women in the Pre-Islamic period
In the pre-Islamic ‘Jahilliyah’ (Ignorance), woman was considered a burden and a second-class citizen and unproductive class and consequently associating the birth of a female in a family with a bad-omen to that family. Woman, first, was regarded as lowly, imperfect creature. At this period, a woman was regarded as a devil that inspires with sinning and evil. Similarly, the women were deprived of their rights and they inherited just like properties or riding animals.
In this regard, Allah says:
"And when a daughter is announced to one of them, his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge”.
Women in the Modern period
On the other hand, in the modern period, woman is deprived of her legitimate rights and leading roles in life in the name of ‘religion’, while her dignity and honour has also been snatched in the name of ‘freedom’ by the West as well.
In the modern Western civilization, after long strife and big sacrifices, woman could win her freedom and rights when the modern Western civilization came to its climax. Woman, hence, have been able to feel her being equal to man and share him in offices, shops, industries, and various social activities. The Western woman has been glad at the gains that she could obtain after centuries of shedding tears and suffering misfortunes. Unfortunately, she has ignored the reality of the wrong and loss that she has to encounter in this field. If woman used the criterion of logic for comparing the gains that she has achieved with the losses that have befallen her, she would feel grief, disappointment, and damage. The propagandists of liberalism in this material civilization have certainly deceived, beguiled, and exploited women’s innocence so meanly and cunningly.
Women in Islam
During the luminous age of Islam, woman occupied a high rank that has never been achieved by women of any other nation. Islam considers a woman as a human being (a special creature) just like man, endowed with all potentials for developments and perfections without any defect or fault in the essence of her entity. It is obvious that all creatures in this material world are categorized as either a male or a female, and thus human being was classified into these two classes, for the sake of their eternity.
Therefore, in Islamic perspective, manhood or womanhood on its own is not considered as a strength or a defect. The most respected and honoured individuals in the sight of Allah are those who are conscious of God. Allah does not attribute strength and perfection to man nor associate the woman with weakness and deficiency solely because of their physical and psychological compositions. In actual fact, both of them are giving the same opportunities to reach any height in human endeavours and they are also giving equal potentials to attain lofty positions in the spiritual realms.
Moreover, there is a claim that the woman was created from the man thereby showing their imperfection, using the following verses of the Holy Qur’an to support their views.
In the Qur’an, Allah says:
"O mankind! Be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being and created from it, its mate, and spread from these two, many men and women...”
In accordance with the verse and some traditions, some Muslims are of the opinion that the women are created from the crooked ribs of men in the same way Eve was created from the Adam’s ribs. Whereas, Allamah Tabatabai in his Tafsir gives the following interpretation of the verse as follows:
"The apparent meaning of the verse: "...and from it, He created its mate” being that God has created a spouse of the same species of the man, and all the human-beings belong to two equal and alike individuals. The word "min” (from) in the verse is a genetic preposition (i.e. it shows the origin of something). This verse, like other verses, discusses the issues of creation of the woman and man, like the verses: "...and one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves...” and the verse " and Allah has made wives for you from among yourselves...” and others. On this basis, whatever is stated in regard of these interpretations like that the denotation of this verse is to indicate the fact that the woman is derived from Adam and a part of him, according to some narrations (one of which claiming that God has created the wife of Adam from his rib), being all baseless claims for which no evidence is ever established”
Besides, here are some traditions from the pure Household of the Holy Prophet in this regards:
Imam Jafar As-Sadiq (a.s) was once questioned thus:
"Some people are of the opinion that Hawau (Eve) was created from Adam’s rib, what is your view sir? He (a.s) replied: "Verily, God is absolutely pure and free from this. Is God unable to create a spouse for Adam from other than his rib? So that to close the door leaving no room or excuse to be exploited by some evil-minded to raise any doubt, to say that Adam has gotten married to himself? May God judge between us and such people”
In another tradition, he (a.s) said:
"God has created Eve (Hawau) from the surplus of the clay of Adam and similar to him”
Meanwhile, Allah created a woman for the benefits of a man, in the same way; a man is created for the benefits of woman. Each of them is indeed a complement of another. And without any distinction, both of them are created for the sole purpose of creation (i.e. a servitude to Allah) and would be rewarded accordingly for their obedience or punished for their negligence. Hence, it should be understood that creation of human being as either a male or a female is neither an honour nor defect because it has nothing to do with their spiritual status and perfection. However, the most honoured and respected ones to Allah are those with piety ‘Taqwa’.
In the Qur’an, Allah says:
"O you people! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely, the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty)...”
Thus, it can be said that Islam does not discriminate or attached any form of superiority to man (even though there is difference in their societal roles) simply because of his gender, but rather, it looks at both equally as pure human entity and prepares for them the ground for development and progress. The woman, just like their male counterpart, is given the opportunity to develop herself to any height and to participate in the economic, social and political developments in her community, but with the optimum consideration of the Islamic laws and etiquettes.
On a final note, however, Islam neither considered a woman as a defective or an unprogressive class of the society as opined neither in the pre-Islamic ‘Jahilliyah’ nor given her unlimited freedom without any restriction as in the case of the modern Western civilization Rather, it considered her as the mate of man and a partner in progress.
Islam has freed women from the offensive traditions and customs of the pre-Islamic era, honored them, raised their ranks, and decided their being equal to man in humanity, principles, sanctity of blood, honor, and property, and the deserving of the rewards and penalties of the life to come. On bases of fairness and wisdom, it has identified women’s values and standings to men. In some situations, Islam, depending upon advisability and rightness, has deemed women as same as men, but it, because of the different qualifications and responsibilities in the various fields of life, has also made a distinction between them through nominating certain rights, duties, and rulings for each. In all these affairs, Islam has aimed at achieving wisdom, uprightness, and fair evaluation
 . Qur’an 16: 58-59.
 .Sayyid Mahdi as Sadr; The Ahl ul-Bayt; Ethical role models P. 264-265.
. Qur’an 39: 6; Qur’an 7: 189.
 . Qur’an 4: 1
 . Qur’an 30: 21.
 . Qur’an 16: 72.
 . Allamah Tabatabai; Al-Mizan, Vol. 4, P. 136.
 . Hurr ‘Amuli; Wasail as-Shiah, Vol. 20, P. 352.
 . Allamah Majlisee; Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 11, P. 115.
 . Qur’an 49: 13