“In Islam, any man who raises and pays for the education of two daughters will go straight to heaven,” my late grandfather often said, pointing to the sky for emphasis.

He spoke with pride because he had raised two daughters and paid for them to attend two of Pakistan’s finest colleges. He was a religious man and followed any guidelines given in Islam for making heaven his final home.

My father also quoted this concept, which is derived from a hadith, or saying of the prophet Muhammad. The actual hadith specifies two or three daughters and includes sisters as well. The man must provide for their education and treat them with kindness, earning the man a spot in paradise. In some versions of the hadith, Muhammad holds two of his fingers together. He then says the man who educates his daughters will, on the day of judgment, be as close to the prophet as the two fingers are to each other. Muslims take great pride in this hadith and repeat versions of it like a mantra.

Ask a non-Muslim how a Muslim man can go to heaven, and the answer likely would be that the Muslim man must die as a martyr for Allah. Then he will be admitted to paradise, where virgins will cater to his every need – an answer in stark contrast to the one most Muslims subscribe to. The average Muslim is far too shy to say the words “virgin” or “sex” at all, much less visualize a Hustler-like fantasy. Certainly some Muslims, attempting to justify their deranged activities, may cite such flimsy reasoning on terrorism and martyrdom. The Western media give this attitude much more attention than Muslims do.

“One of the reasons I came to America,” one man told me at an Islamic convention in Chicago, “was so that my daughter could be whatever she wanted. She would have been limited in my home country.” Many immigrant Muslim fathers, including mine, sacrificed a carefree, affluent lifestyle in their native countries. They wanted their daughters to have a real shot at their own American dreams. For the most part, the gamble has paid off. Look at the daughters of the Muslim immigrants of the ’60s and ’70s. They are doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, dentists, businesspersons, entrepreneurs, journalists – and often very successful.

Many of these careers would not be possible in Islamic countries. Some Islamic countries have a poor record on women’s rights. Even Saudi Arabia, one of our closest allies in the War on Terror, discriminates against women in a variety of ways. This patriarchy is actually against Islam. Islam came to end such patriarchy. One of Muhammad’s strongest hadiths banned the practice of female infanticide, which was common in pre-Islamic Arabia. The Qur’an condemned this practice as an abhorrent sin. A father who engaged in it would never go to paradise. As Islam spread throughout Arabia, female infanticide declined. The horrific practice is now virtually non-existent in the Muslim world – a great accomplishment considering that only 1,400 years ago, before the birth of Islam, it was common. The Qur’an laid down other God-given rights for women, including the right to own property, to ask for a divorce, and equality. These reforms were unheard of 1,400 years ago, not just in Arabia but all over the world.

Muhammad had a close relationship with his daughter Fatima, who became a leader of the early Muslim community after her father’s death. She is a heroine to Muslims – for her piety and for assisting her father in establishing Islam. Like Fatima, I am a proud, independent Muslim woman, unashamed of my religion or heritage. This Father’s Day, I thank my father, and all American Muslim fathers, for giving their daughters the opportunity to carry on Fatima’s legacy.

Asma Gull Hasan is the author of “Why I Am A Muslim: An American Odyssey,” and is a former Denver Post Compass columnist.