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Women of Faith: Muslim Perspective

Queen of Sheba by Piero della Francesca

Women have worked hard over the past century to gain rights and to stand on an equal footing with men in society. For instance, it was not until 1920 that women gained the right to vote in North America, and even today one can still find discrimination against women in the work force. There is still a large gender gap when it comes to women occupying top leadership positions on a global level.

Given the relatively recent emergence of this struggle for gender equality, one is naturally filled with admiration for ancient examples of female leadership. The 27th chapter of the Holy Qur'an provides us with such a fascinating example. In this chapter, God contrasts two very different leadership examples. On one hand, the evil Pharoah, a male, is shown as an arrogant leader who denies the signs of God as presented to him by Prophet Moses. He also denies the rights of the Israelites and resorts to intimidation and persecution of Prophet Moses and the Israelites.

In contrast to the Pharoah, the Qur'an then presents us with the Queen of Sheeba - Bilqis. She is shown as being a powerful ruler with a mighty army. She is also however wise and fair, as the Qur'an demonstrates. She consults with her advisors (who demonstrate an enthusiasm for battle), but she makes her own decision preferring to take the route of diplomacy and dialogue, opting for what is best for her people.

What a beautiful example she is of a morally upright, powerful and noble female leader! The Qur'an illustrates how women can also be great leaders and serve as role models for both men and women. As God says in the Qur'an, "Never shall I lose sight of the labour of anyone of you, male or female. Each of you is equal to the other." (Qur'an 3:195)