I am MUSLIMAH...

So, if you don't know I am a female Hausa (African/Nigerian) Muslim. I know, I hit the trifecta. Anyway, I have for a long time chose to not talk about my religion, except when asked, because of the polarizing effect it has. Even within us Muslims, the subject can be very touchy, which is why when a few days ago I got a message from a college friend asking me if I was a Muslim all I could think was 'not again'. Because I thought I again had to defend my religion and my choice to practice it for the umpteenth time. To my surprise, this is what she said: "I'm tired of hearing 'Hindus', few of them, proudly stating that Muslim women are not happy with their religion because they're not treated well by the men in their family". Yup, you can imagine, my jaw fell to the floor and my eyes bulged out like a cartoon character. And before I could send her a reply, she went on and on defending how absurd she found the whole notion to be. I realized that she needed to vent out, I took the cue and allowed her to get what she needed off her chest. By the time she was done all I could say was "wow", literally. We talked for a little while and in the end, she asked me to write about what it is like to be a Muslim woman. So that is what I am about to do. 
But before I do so, I am putting this out there I, in no way, feel adequate enough to stand for millions of Muslim women and their experience/relationship with Islam nor do I feel that I will do justice in defending Islam itself, because there is so much I do not know and so much I am learning every day. But anyway, here I go. 
To begin with, Islam is a monotheistic religion in which we worship Allah, and follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). There are five things that make a person Muslim: Shahadah, Salat, Sawm, zakat, and Hajj. So once you accept and practice these 5 pillars you are a Muslim. However, what makes Islam standout in a sea of religions is the fact that it isn't merely about one's relationship with their creator but also a socio-economic and political way of life. Which in some way is the reason why Islam has today become a threat to many ideologies. 
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "O people! Verily your Lord is One and your father (Adam) is one. An Arab is no better than a non-Arab, and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab; a white man is not better than a black man, and a black man is not better than a white man- except in piety." (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 22391). In the Islamic holy book, Qur'an [3:195], Allah (SWA) says: "Their Lord responded to them: I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you MALE OR FEMALE, YOU ARE EQUAL TO ONE ANOTHER...". These lines from the Hadith and Qur'an explain the position of human beings in Islam i.e. the only thing that differentiates a human from another, no matter their demography is piety. And since this article is about the position of women in Islam I am going to stick to that context. 
When Muslim women are compared to Muslim men, the evidence of their oppression is usually found in a handful of points. And in order to understand the reality of Islam, I am going to break down those points.

CULTURE VS. ISLAM

The greatest disparity between (Muslim) men and women usually comes from the mashing up of religion and culture. This is visibly seen when you compare the before and after of the socio-economic status of women during the time of the Prophet. Before Islam, women were considered property and to be dealt with according to the judgment of men. And it is because of this very reason that female infanticide, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, little to no education, no financial security etc. prevailed within those times. In the Qur'an (16:58-59) and (81:8-9), respectively, Allah (SWA) says "And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief. He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide" and "When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” These verses are examples of how Islam perceives issues like female infanticide and other crimes against women. And despite Islam having articles directed against most of the ways men oppress women today, these cultural practices that I listed earlier still exist. This simply means, most (or even all) of the gender disparity that occurs within Muslims is a result of culture NOT ISLAM.

The second, third and fourth part of the series are available. Cick here to go to the next.