Girls' Education in Islam

What does Islam say about girls' education?

Female students are pictured during the Military Stabilisation Support Team (MSST) visit to Abbazhan School and Women’s Centre in Gereshk, Helmand.
POA(Phot) Sean Clee/MOD/Wikimedia Commons/Open Government License

According to the teachings of Islam, education is very important. The first revealed word of the Quran commanded the believers to "Read!"

This command did not distinguish between male and female believers. The first wife of the Prophet Muhammad, Khadeeja, was a successful businesswoman in her own right. The Prophet Muhammad praised the women of Madinah for their pursuit of knowledge: "How splendid were the women of the Ansar; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith." At various other times, the Prophet Muhammad told his followers:

  • "Acquisition of knowledge is binding on all Muslims, male and female."
  • "Seek knowledge, from the cradle to the grave."
  • "Acquire knowledge, even if you have to go to China for it."
  • "The person who goes forth in search of knowledge is striving hard in the way of Allah, until his/her return."

Indeed, throughout history many Muslim women were involved in the founding of educational institutions. Most notable of these is Fatima al-Fihri, who established the University of Al-Karaouine in 859 CE. This university remains, according to UNESCO and others, the oldest continually-running university in the world.

According to a paper by Islamic Relief, a charity organization which supports education programs throughout the Muslim world: "... girls' education in particular has been shown to have substantial economic and social benefits.... Studies have shown that communities with a high proportion of educated mothers have less health problems." The paper also cites many other benefits to societies that promote women's education.

In modern times, those who disapprove of girls' education are not speaking from a sound religious perspective. There is nothing in Islam which prevents the education of girls; quite the contrary as we have seen. There may be discussion and debate over the content of secular education, or the separation of boys and girls in school.

However, these are issues which are possible to resolve and do not justify a blanket prohibition against girls' education.

"It is impossible to be a Muslim, to live according to the requirements of Islam, and at the same time live in a state of ignorance." -FOMWAN