n the Qur'an, Allah informs us how belief benefits a woman:

Do not marry women who associate [others with Allah] until they believe. A slave girl who is one of the believers is better for you than a woman who associates [others with Allah], even though she may attract you. And do not marry men who associate [others with Allah] until they believe. A slave who is one of the believers is better for you than a man who associates [others with Allah], even though he may attract you. Such people call you to the Fire, whereas Allah calls you, with His permission, to the Garden and forgiveness. He makes His Signs clear to people so that, hopefully, they will pay heed. (Surat al-Baqara: 221)

Allah reveals that belief, fear and respect of Allah, and Islamic morality are the foremost causes of the believers' strength of character and virtue. Belief makes all of a person's qualities meaningful. In addition, the Qur'an's morality helps women, and everyone else, to acquire a most strong, solid, and virtuous character. As Allah revealed in the verse, "No indeed! We have given them that by which they are remembered [i.e. their honor, eminence and dignity]" (Surat al-Mu'minun: 71), this morality gives people their dignity and honor. Therefore, women who live by this morality will be respected and enjoy their deserved honor and dignity.

As we mentioned earlier, Allah has not determined separate characters for men and women and therefore calls on all people to abide by one Muslim character. Therefore, Muslims fear and respect Allah, seek His good pleasure, and seek only to win the Hereafter, in the full knowledge that this worldly life is temporary and that he or she will die one day.

All Muslims always strive to live by the Qur'an's morality. Women who do so are free from all of the character defects, weaknesses, and prejudices found among unbelievers. Instead, they develop a strong character based on their belief. Believers disregard the suggestions and criticisms of their society, family, or friends and live according to the Qur'an's values and morality.

Maryam is one of the best role models for such women, for during all of the difficult trials that she underwent at the hands of her unbelieving society, she always showed her strength of character and integrity. And, the strength that she derived from her belief in Allah, her sincere submission to Him, and her constant adherence to Islam's values enabled her to preserve her honor and integrity. In fact, she was noted for these qualities among people.

In the coming pages, we will explore the basics of a woman's ideal character and how much it differs from the character of unbelieving women.

Muslim Women Submit to God

Muslim women believe in Allah with a true heart, submit completely to Him, are aware that there is no other deity, that He is the Lord of every being and thing, and that He is All-Powerful. Therefore, she fears and respects only Him and seeks to win only His good pleasure. She worships only Him, accepts only Him as her closest friend, and seeks only His help. She also knows that only He can direct good and bad toward her, and so lives in the full knowledge that she is dependent on Him. She knows that He keeps her alive, provides and cares for her, and protects and guards her. For these reasons, she has no expectations of other people.

She believes in Allah without the slightest doubt in her heart for her whole life, never losing heart or belief regardless of the circumstances. She knows how to be grateful and content with her closeness to Him both when her life is good and when she is undergoing difficulties. She is in a state of constant submission, certain of our Lord's love, compassion, forgiveness, and providence.

When she encounters a problem, she knows that Allah has provided a solution in the Qur'an, and that what matters most is her continued sincere love, submission, and trust in Allah. She is certain of Allah's promise that He creates everything according to His justice and with wisdom and goodness.

Even if her problems seem to go on forever, she never surrenders to hopelessness or worries when His help will come. Content with what He has sent her way, she maintains her patience and submission, knowing that something good will come out of it. She remembers what the Qur'an says about those who abandon their belief in such times. In addition, she recites "My Lord is with me and will guide me" (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 62), just as the Prophets did when faced with hardship. Throughout her life, her profound faith enables her to see Allah's compassion, closeness, love, help, and friendship at all times.

This superior character becomes even more distinctive when compared with that of unbelieving women. Some unbelieving women do not show the appropriate degree of submission in their encounters, because they ignore the fact that Allah creates everything and inserts much wisdom and goodness hidden therein. One of the best-known characteristics of such women is their impatience, lack of determination, panic, and throwing tantrums when experiencing various hardships.

For this reason, and to save themselves the hassle, men often try to keep women away from potentially troublesome situations. Movies and novels are full of such stories. Since they do not place their trust in Allah and do not submit to Him, they cannot find the patience and resolution to endure hard times. In fact, their strength is in direct proportion to the size of the gain they can expect from working through these difficulties.

Believing women derive their strength from their belief and their determination to win Allah's good pleasure. Therefore, their resistance can be quite powerful. The Qur'an reveals this truth in the following verse: "Allah's guidance, that is true guidance. We are commanded to submit as Muslims to the Lord of all the worlds" (Surat al-An'am: 71). Allah gives good news to those who submit to Him:

Those who submit themselves completely to Allah and do good have grasped the Firmest Handhold. The end result of all affairs is with Allah. (Surah Luqman: 22)

Not so! All who submit themselves completely to Allah and are good-doers will find their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Surat al-Baqara: 112)

The Muslim Women, the Qur'an, and the Hadiths

As is the case with all believers, a Muslim woman's sole sources of guidance are the Qur'an and the sunnah (example) of our Prophet (saas). She shapes her personality, character, lifestyle, ideals, desires, behavior, and morality according to these two sources. By asking "Do they then seek the judgment of the Time of Ignorance? Who could be better at giving judgment than Allah for people with certainty?" (Surat al-Ma'ida: 50), Allah proclaims that the most correct and best judgments are contained in the Qur'an. Moreover,

... We have sent down the Book to you making all things clear and as guidance, and mercy and good news, for the Muslims. (Surat an-Nahl: 89)

Our Prophet (saas) said: "Verily, I have left among you the Book of Allah and the sunnah (example) of His Apostle. If you hold fast to them, you shall never go astray."21 With these words, he reminded Muslims that the most important guidance is the Qur'an and his sunnah.

When looking at an unbelieving society's stereotypical ideas of women, we notice immediately that they act according to their whims or instincts. The conditioning they receive from childhood onward about the ideal woman's character become almost their sole source of guidance. Given that the women in their immediate environment act and speak in the same way, that women portrayed in films and novels display the same character, that people seem to agree on what a woman's character should be, their character is a habitual one. Thus, it is easy to predict how they will respond in certain situations, what decisions they will reach, how they will behave, and even what they will say.

On the other hand, Muslim women always react correctly, make the right decisions, and obtain the best results because they are guided by the Qur'an and the Prophet's (saas) sunnah. Besides, they do not experience the unhappiness and discontent that unbelieving women do. As the following verse reveals, Muslim men and women lead a happy life, as promised by Allah: "Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and recompense them according to the best of what they did" (Surat an-Nahl: 97).

Muslim Women Have Great Ideals

One of the unbelievers' most misguided character traits is the restrictions that they placed on people's ideals, thoughts, and lifestyle. In the case of women, society tells them that they have certain duties and responsibilities that they are expected to fulfill to the best of their ability. Usually, they are not encouraged to acquire different ideals or develop their personalities. Only when women become aware of this reality do they begin to perceive the need to seek greater ideals, widen their horizon, and develop their personalities.

Primarily, women are expected to provide for and cater to their families' needs and raise their children. Otherwise, they focus on themselves, according to the conditioning they received when young. They concentrate on their physical appearance, hair style, make-up, clothing and fashion in general; keeping their homes clean; and talking with their friends. While there is nothing wrong with such activities, it is wrong to limit their lives just to these tasks without even knowing why this is so.

Allah created men and women for a purpose and revealed their responsibilities in the Qur'an. Most importantly, each woman is responsible to our Lord, for He created her, gave her life, protected and watched over her, and provided for her. Men and women are required to lead the moral life prescribed by Allah, worship and serve Him, and to win His good pleasure. They are required to tell people who are far from the happy and contented life of following the Qur'an's values about Islam's values and to make a genuine effort to help them draw closer to Allah's pleasure, mercy, and Paradise. They must strive to save people from negative frames of mind, and from suffering under the influence of the chaos and disorder, all of which are presented by Satan and thus are devoid of true love, respect, and friendship.

All believers are obliged to help and guide those who are weak and distressed to His path:

What reason could you have for not fighting in the Way of Allah-for those men, women, and children who are oppressed and say: "Our Lord, take us out of this city whose inhabitants are wrongdoers! Give us a protector from You! Give us a helper from You!?" (Surat an-Nisa': 75)

Allah further reminds Muslims that they are obliged to assist orphans, people who are stranded, and other needy people:

Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents and relatives, orphans and the very poor, neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you, and companions, travelers, and your servants. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Surat an-Nisa': 36)

A Muslim woman is aware of all these responsibilities and so does not focus only on herself. Rather, she does her best to solve the problems around the world, such as helping people who are suffering, fighting infectious diseases, working with children displaced or orphaned by war and conflict, and taking care of the elderly and other women as if they were her own problems.

She gives her full attention to every matter in her daily life, because she knows that the truly important thing is to win Allah's good pleasure, live the Qur'an's morality, and spread this morality in order to bring true contentment and happiness to all others. For this reason, she acts in the knowledge that what she encounters each day is not so important when put into the overall context of what she was created to do.

Muslim Women Are Dignified

... And the soul and what proportioned and inspired it with depravity or heedfulness; he who purifies it has succeeded, he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams: 7-10)

The above verses warn people about the selfish ego that, when not brought under control, will lead them to limitless evil. A person's fear and respect of Allah, as well as his or her belief in the Hereafter, gives each person the strength and reason to resist these temptations.

Without this awareness, people will follow their desires and not worry about their meeting with Allah in the Hereafter, where they will be held accountable for their deeds. If his ego demands anger, jealousy, or ill-treatment of someone else, he will indulge it. If her selfish ego encourages her to vent her anger or jealous frustration with insinuations, mockery, slander, lies, conspiracies, or hypocritical behavior, she will oblige it without giving it a second thought. Such people will commit all of these sins without reservation, because they believe that they will never have to account for their deeds.

Allah, however, reveals that all of these activities are unconstrained evils called for by the selfish ego. When people act on these impulses, things just get worse. People who cannot control their emotions, even when they know that what they are doing is wrong, show that they are both weak and ignore their conscience. In other words, they seem to grow smaller. It is debasing to be unable to act maturely or respond rationally when their selfish egos suggest otherwise. As Allah reveals, the dignifying and rightful response to such evil suggestions is to ignore them and act conscientiously. This character trait needs to be worked on, for eventually it will earn other people's respect and love and raise the person's ranks in His eyes, as well as in the eyes of other people.

Muslim women have enough dignity and character to reject such debasing behavior for small gains. Allah informs us of the conspiring nature of unbelieving women: "He saw the shirt torn at the back and said: 'The source of this is women's deviousness. Without a doubt your guile is very great'" (Surah Yusuf: 28). Unbelieving women often try to resolve situations by conspiring, intriguing, or lying instead of seeking rational solutions. Indulging Satan's suggestions, they fall back on hypocrisy, cowardice, or devious methods. Believing women, on the other hand, resolve their problems by honesty, openness, and sincerity, for their awareness of Allah totally removes them from such inappropriate behavior.

Unbelieving women also are characterized by envy. Allah mentions envious people and warns others about their evil: "Say: 'I seek refuge with the Lord of Daybreak, from the evil of what He has created and from the evil of the darkness when it gathers, and from the evil of women who blow on knots and from the evil of an envier when he envies'" (Surat al-Falaq: 1-5). Some unbelieving women are prone to such behavior, which causes distrust, tantrums, broken relationships, and endless arguments, all of which result in an unfulfilled and unhappy life. In addition, they cause great suffering and damage to themselves and to those around them. Believing women, however, will disregard this aspect of human ego, knowing that it leads to great losses in this life as well as in the next.

Mockery is another character defect of unbelieving women. In the following verse Allah warns them against such behavior: "O you who believe! People should not ridicule others who may be better than themselves; nor should any women ridicule other women who may be better than themselves. And do not find fault with one another or insult each other with derogatory nicknames" (Surat al-Hujurat: 11).

Those women who are shaped by the unbelief that rules their societies do not hesitate to ridicule people for their shortcomings or to mock others, because they do not think of the Hereafter. They do not consider this behavior as wrong, but rather as a kind of humor. Often this mockery is not even verbal, but is expressed by making faces, rolling one's eyes, imitating their mannerisms, or whispering about them. Believing women shun such activities, because they know that Allah requires them to live according to the Qur'an's morality.

In another verse, Allah reminds people not to speculate or gossip about others: "O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion. Indeed, some suspicion is a crime. Do not spy and do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat his brother's dead flesh? No, you would hate it. And have fear of Allah. Allah is Ever-Returning, Most Merciful" (Surat al-Hujurat: 12).

Believing women live dignified lives. Instead of mocking others, they try to help. They compliment people who are successful, instead of succumbing to envy and gossip. And, when in the company of unbelieving people who might somehow offend them, they do not compromise their integrity or dignity.

Muslim Women Have a Strong Character and Willpower

The values of unbelief usually identify power with such things as money, fame, prestige, or status, for each of them is believed to confer power on that particular person. In fact, even one who acquires the patronage of such a person considers himself or herself to be powerful. In reality, however, power based on this world's impermanent values can disappear just as quickly as it appeared.

Muslims derive their power from their faith, and so their power never changes. This is an important factor in the character of Muslim women, and Allah describes it in the following terms:

O you who believe! If any of you renounce your religion, Allah will bring forward a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble to the believers, fierce to the unbelievers, who strive in the Way of Allah and do not fear the blame of any censurer. That is the unbounded favor of Allah, which He gives to whoever He wills. Allah is Boundless, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 54)

Hamid Aytac's calligraphy, in which the names of Prophet Muhammad (saas) and the four rightly guided caliphs are written.

Another important Islamic character trait revealed here is the believers' strong personality, which can withstand the criticism of people. Muslims know very well that all Prophets were accused and persecuted, made to suffer and forced to emigrate, or even killed. Nevertheless, these Prophets are the believers' role models, due to their strong, enduring, and solid personalities, as well as their patience and determination.

As Allah reveals, Muslims know that they will be tested in this life through hardship, suffering, and insulting words: "You will be tested in your wealth and in yourselves, and you will hear many abusive words from those given the Book before you and from those who associate [others with Allah]. But if you are steadfast and guard against evil, that is the most resolute course to take" (Surah Al 'Imran: 186). They will regard all such events as opportunities to prove their faith in Allah, their surrender and loyalty to Him, and will endure them with determination and patience.

They never show the weaknesses of unbelieving women. No one's insults, rude behavior, or criticism causes them to lose heart or become weak, and they consider it beneath their dignity to respond with an emotional display of hurt or being upset. Whatever happens, they trust in Allah and keep their peace of mind, knowing that Allah is ever Just and All-Knowing, and that "they will not be wronged by so much as the smallest speck" (Surat an-Nisa': 49). They surrender to Allah, knowing that He will expose any injustice, and so do not worry about any unfounded accusation.

Some unbelieving women consider strength and willpower to be male characteristics, out of the mistaken belief that only men have to show strength and determination for themselves, as well as for the women in their charge, in the face of adversity. Thus, they consider it to be in their best interest to surrender to men's intellect, willpower, and strength. Especially when encountering trouble and difficulty, they lose whatever little strength and willpower they have and panic, and thus give themselves up to irrational and confused behavior.

This pale and weak personality leads unbelieving women to pay too much attention to what other people think about them. Often, they knowingly do something wrong just to impress others or to win a respectable place among them. Likewise, if they are criticized, they feel belittled and disliked, and so feel devastated. Not understanding that what matters is their value in Allah's presence, they only seek the approval of people and end up being upset and distraught, thinking that all they ever do is a waste. As a result, they become depressed and lose their strength, willpower, and courage.

But Muslim women never stagger because of people's criticism. Given that they measure themselves by the yardstick of the Qur'an, which spells out clearly what is right and what is wrong, they strive to live up to the Qur'anic morality. If they are criticized for doing so, they become even more determined and stronger in their pursuit of His good pleasure, which is the highest goal to pursue. Believing that only the Qur'an's morality gives them any value in this world and the next, they do not care what other people think of them. Even if they are all alone, they do not follow the majority but remain independent. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, when discussing this matter, stated that the people's approval has no significance for those who live in ways designed to win His good pleasure:

The Divine assent is sufficient. If He is your beloved, then everything is your beloved. If He is not your beloved, then the applause of the entire world is utterly worthless.22

You should seek Divine pleasure in your actions. If Almighty Allah is pleased, it is of no importance even should the whole world be displeased. If He accepts an action and everyone else rejects it, it has no effect. Once His pleasure has been gained and He has accepted an action, even if you do not ask it of Him, should He wish it and His wisdom require it, He will make others accept it. He will make them consent to it, too. For this reason, the sole aim in this service should be the direct seeking of Divine pleasure.23

O lower self, if you acquired your Creator's assent with your piety and devotion, then it shall be sufficient and there shall be no need to look for people's assent. If the people agree and accept on Allah's behalf, then it is good. If they act to gain worldly blessings, then it shall be utterly worthless. Because they are weak servants, just like you...24

Muslim Women Are Balanced and Measured

People who live by their own self-made rules can easily make compromises when they deem it in their best interests to do so. No paramount guiding principle shapes their lives and gives permanence to their personalities. Therefore, from time to time, their personalities show signs of change and cannot be considered consistent.

The defining factor is usually their selfish ego, for Allah reveals that all people have been created with egotistic tendencies. If people are ruled by their ego, all of their behavior will be determined accordingly. This will have an impact on their personality's balance, consistency, and stability. For example, they can become angry, emotional, cross, or envious at a moment's notice and then reflect it in their behavior. Such people constantly surprise others with their unexpected reactions, and so evoke distrust and uncertainty.

Such character traits are found among unbelieving women. Since they are far removed from the Qur'an's values, they surrender to the stereotyped emotions of women and let their lives be determined by this behavior. Eventually, this leads them to irrational and imbalanced behavior.

Believing women, since they read the Qur'an, know that their ego always tempts them toward wickedness and that Satan will try to persuade them to indulge in imbalanced and irrational behavior and to act on their instincts. In many verses, He reminds people that those who accept the Qur'an's guidance and follow the voice of their conscience will develop an ideal personality and become distinguished in both worlds.

Muslim women acquire this strong and superior personality by following the path shown by Allah. This involves conforming their responses to Islam's values in order to develop a measured and balanced personality. Their actions, viewpoints, and logic will never surprise other people, for their personalities will always reflect the stability flowing from the Qur'an's morality. In other words, they will have reliable personalities, unlike all unbelieving women.

Muslim Women Are Not Emotional

Unbelievers think that being emotional is an important part of the human character. According to this view, the resulting behavior is a feeling that needs to be experienced. Such behavioral defects as being angry, upset, and introverted, or weeping, complaining, and apathy, are encouraged, for they supposedly come from the heart. This view is completely wrong. In unbelieving societies, such emotionalism, especially that seen in women, is responsible for a weak personality. And, as we saw above, people with weak personalities are, to a great extent, unable to think rationally or logically and thus cannot make appropriate decisions.

Muslim women know the selfish ego's qualities and how to fight them, for their personalities and lives are defined by the Qur'an. They know that emotionalism clouds the mind, prevents reality from being seen as it is, and causes weakness and irresolution. In addition, they are very well aware that such stereotypical qualities as being sentimental, upset, introverted, angry, and envious are not consistent with the believers' character, because Allah does not like it and tells Muslims to refrain from it.

These behavioral defects issue from flawed beliefs and the lack of sufficient awareness of certain facts. People who easily surrender to them have either forgotten or else continue to deny the fact that Allah is All-Powerful; creates everything according to His wisdom, justice, and goodness; creates whatever He wills; and answers all prayers.

Genuine surrender and dedication to Him, as well as knowing that He controls everything, results in seeing goodness in everything and prevents inappropriate emotion-based behavior. Muslim women guard themselves against all such behavioral defects out of their strong love, and fear and respect of Allah. They seek to be role models of Islamic behavior, personality, and high morality, as the following verse reveals: "Those who say: 'Our Lord, give us joy in our wives and children and make us a good example for those who guard against evil'" (Surat al-Furqan: 74). Thus, they never give way to depression or emotionalism.

Avoiding these non-Islamic character traits, they acquire a strong personality in order to serve as examples to other women and act in full awareness of this responsibility. By cleansing their ego from wickedness, they find generosity and contentment in both worlds and thus live happy lives: "It is the people who are safeguarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful" (Surat al-Hashr: 9).

Muslim Women Have a Genuine and Natural Personality

Sincerity means to be the same in every situation; to have one's heart reflect its feelings as they are; and to be honest, open, and clear. In other words, it consists of fully and honestly revealing one's personality and thoughts without seeking any gain for doing so. An important feature of sincerity is the impossibility of imitating in one's life what goes on in one's heart. A sincere person's behavior comes from the heart, is natural, and creates a very positive and lasting impression on other people. A genuine person's looks, conversation, style, and body language are natural and influential.

However, many people are unaware of sincerity's power and effect and so look for it elsewhere. Some people resort to pretence, hoping to discover what behavior or way of thinking will please the other people. Since all people have different character traits, these insincere people develop a suitable personality for each person they want to influence, behave differently, and try to appear as if they were representing different thoughts. But since this insincere approach forces people into hypocrisy, it does not have the desired effect and eventually creates an atmosphere of repulsion, coldness, and distance. In addition, such people make others nervous, for they never know what to expect.

Allah tells us about such people:

Allah has made a metaphor for them of a man owned by several partners in dispute with one another, and another man wholly owned by a single man. Are they the same? Praise be to Allah! The fact is that most of them do not know. (Surat az-Zumar: 29)

Kazasker Mustafa Izzet's calligraphy: "Allah is the Best of protectors. He is the Most Compassionate of the compassionate."
Unbelievers consider pretence a legitimate behavior, because they do not reflect sufficiently upon the consequences of insincerity toward Allah and other people. Pretence is especially common among unbelieving women, for some of them appear to like and take an interest in others, whom they neither respect nor like, but backbite nevertheless because of some common interests that they may have. They can lie and cheat one another without a second thought or, by concealing their antipathy, create the opposite impression. Likewise, they can conceal these feelings and try to fool the people they value and like very much.

Muslim women do not behave this way, because their lives are guided by their sincere fear and respect of Allah. They never worry about pleasing anyone for some small material gain, for Allah and many other people despise such behavior. Rather, they seek to behave in a way that will win them His good pleasure. They also know that Allah likes only those who are sincere, for "He knows what the heart contains" (Surat ash-Shura: 24). In another verse, Allah says: "Though you speak out loud, He knows your secrets and what is even more concealed" (Surah Ta-Ha: 7). For this reason, only unbelievers seek to conceal from others what is really in their hearts.

Besides, Muslim women know that winning people's pleasure will not benefit them in either world, for Allah has revealed that He will not forgive anyone who ascribes partners to Him. Therefore, all believers must refrain from such behavior, for seeking to win other people's approval is just one of the many ways of ascribing partners to Allah.

Muslim Women Are Honest Allah reminds people not to lie:

O You who believe! Have fear [and respect] of Allah and speak the right word. He will put your actions right for you and forgive you your wrong deeds. (Surat al-Ahzab: 70-71)

... Have done with the defilement of idols and with telling lies. (Surat al-Hajj: 30)

He also reveals that turning the truth upside down and lying brings evil and Satan's friendship: