﴾ بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم ﴿

Status of women in Islam | Ashab al-Hadith

Women in Islam

 رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

Non-Muslims, in particular Western community, leave no stone unturned in using the issue of women to malign Islam. They say that Islamic principles are in favour of men and the treatment with women in Islam is not fair. It is a pity that even some educated Muslims, who brand themselves as ‘moderates’, also point their fingers towards Islamic rulings regarding women. Even some of our Muslim sisters keep challenging the rulings of Qur’an related to women.

The intention of bringing forward this article is to remove all such myths and help our Muslim brothers & sisters as well as western counterparts to understand the rulings of Islam related to women in the correct context. May Allah help us in understanding the truth.

Let us divide our discussion into three different parts:

  • Status of women in Islam
  • Rights of women in Islam
  • Responsibilities of women in Islam.

A. Status of women in Islam

Contrary to what is being highlighted by western media and other Non-Muslim communities, Islam is the only religion that came and elevated the status of women in society. Let us have a look at different stages of a woman in her life:

A.1. Status of daughters and sisters

In Pre-Islamic period (called as ‘The Period of Ignorance’), there was a heinous practice of burying the daughters alive. The society took the birth of a daughter as a bad omen and a sign of inferiority and hence they would get rid of the daughter. This practice continued for years and years, till Islam came and talked against it. Refer to following verses of Holy Qur’an:

وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِالأُنثَى ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدّاً وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ

“And when the news of (birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with grief.”

يَتَوَارَى مِنْ الْقَوْمِ مِنْ سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَى هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ أَلا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ

“He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.”

(Aayah No’s 58 & 59, Surah An-Nahl, Chapter No. 16, Holy Qur’an).

Killing anyone is a major sin in Islam; moreover, killing of daughters has been separately mentioned as a major sin. The protection of status of a female in Islam gets evident right from the time when a girl takes birth.

A step ahead and we come across the stage of upbringing of daughters. Refer to following hadith:

It was narrated that Aishah (RA), the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), said, “A woman came to me and she had two daughters of hers with her. She asked me (for food) and I could not find anything except one date. I gave it to her and she took it and shared it between her daughters, and she did not eat any of it. Then she got up and left with her daughters. The Prophet (PBUH) entered upon me and I told him about her, and the Prophet (PBUH) said: Anyone who is tested with daughters and treats them kindly, they (the daughters) will be shield for him against the Fire (of Hell).”

(Hadith No. 6693 (2629), Book of Al-Birr, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 6).

Having read this narration, if at all someone should raise voice then they should be the sons, for not having such an exclusive hadith in their support.

Let us also talk about another situation where women are left with brothers only to take care of them. Refer to following hadith in this context:

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (RA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever has three daughters or three sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, and he keeps good company with them & fears Allah regarding them, then Paradise is for him.”

(Hadith No. 1916, Chapters on Righteousness, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 4).

This explains how honoured are the status of daughters and sisters in Islam.

A.2. Status of wives

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَرِثُوا النِّسَاءَ كَرْهاً وَلا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُوا بِبَعْضِ مَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِنْ كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئاً وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْراً كَثِيراً

“O you who believe! You are prohibited to inherit women against their will; and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sex; and live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.”

(Aayah No. 19, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

Thus, a woman cannot be married without her consent. A woman has a right to say ‘No’ to any of the marriage proposal. Her parents have no authority to marry her against her will. It is absolutely clear. Then, the verse mentioned above orders the husbands to treat their wives with dignity, not to be harsh with them in words, actions etc.

A.3. Status of mother

The status of parents in Islam is very high, much above any other relationship among the human beings on this earth. Allah says in Qur’an:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْناً عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنْ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ

“And we have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years – give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.”

(Aayah No. 14, Surah Luqman, Chapter No. 31, Holy Qur’an).

This is a ruling about both parents, but mother has a special status for Muslims, as is evident from special mention of mother in the verse itself. However, following hadith shall tell us how high the status of a mother in Islam is.

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (RA) said: A man came to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and asked, “Which of the people is most deserving of my best companionship?” He said, “Your mother.” He said, “Then who?” He said, “Then your mother.” He said, “Then who?” He said, “Then your mother.” He said, “Then who?” He said, “Then your father.”

(Hadith No. 6500 (2548), Book of Al-Birr, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 6).

The status of mother is three times more than father.

A.4. Status of widows (and divorced women)

The treatment with widows has always been very bad by the societies. It is wrong to blame only male chauvinism for that; even the women supported the wrong practices of secluding a widow from society, considering her as a stigma, not giving her the freedom to enjoy the rights like re-marrying etc. There was a horrible practice of ‘Sati‘ prevalent in Hindu culture which ensured that the widow had to be burned alive with her deceased husband on his pyre. It was among the traditions of the society as a whole to treat widows harshly.

Islam gave the due rights to widows (and the divorced women). Who says that only a man can re-marry if his wife dies or if he divorces his wife? Islam gives equal right to a widow also to get re-married (after completing her ‘Iddah‘). Refer to following verse of Holy Qur’an:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجاً يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْراً فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait for four months & ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”

(Aayah No. 234, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 02, Holy Qur’an).

Islam allowed Polygamy, so that widows and divorced women are given a chance to live an honourable life. It is natural for some people with bad minds to eye such a widow or a divorcee who is living all by herself and striving to help her children grow. Such people will try to exploit her in all possible ways. A woman, on one hand may be stronger than a man in some things, but generally a woman is physically not stronger than a man. She needs a companion (in form of husband) to protect her from evil eyes. Apart from that, also a thought should be given to the feelings of that woman. She also has some desires; she also needs someone to be with her; she needs someone for her physical needs; she needs someone to take care of her (emotionally, financially, physically etc). There is a chance (however slightest) that a lady being denied the option of re-marrying after death of her husband or after her divorce, might opt for other hidden means to satisfy her needs. So, which status is better for a woman: An accepted & respected second wife of a man (the Qur’anic approach), Or, A virtual public property (as in the modern civilized approach)? The pious ones will definitely opt for the first option.

Note: Please refer to the article “Polygamy”, available at www.quranandhadith.com, for detailed explanation of the subject.

B. Rights of women

B.1. Economic rights

B.1.1. Right of inheritance

Islam has specified a share of inheritance for women, from their parents, husband, children and other close relatives. Refer to following verse:

لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ نَصِيباً مَفْرُوضاً

“There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest relatives, whether the property be small or large – a legal share.”

(Aayah No. 7, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

The percentages of inheritances for a daughter, sister, wife, mother etc. are very clearly specified inAayah No’s 11, 12 & 176 of Surah An-Nisa’ (Chapter No. 4).

There is a big hue and cry by Non-Muslims (and sadly now by some so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims), targeting the ruling that ‘a woman gets half the share of inheritance than a man‘; they say that this gives a raw deal to women. Let me make it clear that their understanding of this ruling is not correct at all. Insha’Allah, I shall explain this towards the end of this section.

B.1.2. Right of Mahr

Mahr is the bridal money which a husband gives to his wife at the time of marriage.

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً فَإِنْ طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ مِنْهُ نَفْساً فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئاً مَرِيئاً

“And give to the women their Mahr with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without fear of any harm.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

It is an obligation on the husband’s part to give this money to his wife. It is the right of his wife. Remember, it is totally up to the wife that she may waive off her Mahr partly; but she can’t be influenced to do so.

Subhan-Allah, the rulings of Islam are such that they ensure financial security of a Muslim woman. We have already talked about the importance Islam puts on upbringing of daughters and sisters kindly; that saves the parents and brothers from Hell-Fire and leads them to Paradise. Thus, all the responsibility of up-bringing of daughters / sisters has been put on fathers and /or brothers. Once the woman gets married (the responsibility of expenses of her marriage are also on her father and/or brothers), it is on her husband to take care of her financial requirements. All the expenses of her life (food, shelter, clothing and other expenditure) are the responsibility of her husband. If her husband dies, the duty of taking care of her financial requirements comes to her son(s). Thus, a woman is financially secure in Islam.

This explains the logic behind the share of a woman being half of a man in inheritance (though Allah might have many other reasons in His infinite knowledge). If we take an example of a property of 150 dollars, to be divided among a brother and a sister, the brother gets 100 dollars while the sister gets 50 dollars. Now the sister is not responsible for spending on her family or brother anything out of these 50 dollars. But the brother is responsible of meeting all the expenses of his family, his sister and his own. So out of these 100 dollars, most of the times, he is left with nothing at all. So who stands a winner? The girl, of course!

B.2. Educational rights

Education is not just a right of every Muslim, but it is a responsibility. The first revelation of Qur’an (Aayah No’s 1 to 5, Surah Al-Alaq, Chapter No. 96, Holy Qur’an) talks about this.

Note: Please refer to the article “Chronology of Initial Revelations (of Qur’an) and it’s Significance”for details on this subject; it is available at www.quranandhadith.com.

The message is clear; the first step for a Muslim is to learn (to read & write) and acquire knowledge. And this ruling applies equally to both genders, male and female. Therefore, a Muslim woman has an equal right to get education, on par with her male counterparts (both, modern as well as Islamic education). And the responsibility of spending money on the education of women is upon their fathers, brothers, husbands and even sons.

Whoever tries to stop women from getting education is going against Qur’an; be they the Talibans or be they the stereo-typed scholars of any region.

B.3. Political rights

B.3.1. Right to vote

A Muslim woman has an equal right to vote. The voting system is a system adopted for choosing a leader. Islamic society had (and still has) a much better system of choosing a leader, that is called ‘Bai’ah‘ (i.e. the Oath of Allegiance). Allah ordered our beloved Prophet (PBUH) to accept Bai’ah of believing women. Refer to following verse of Holy Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتُ يُبَايِعْنَكَ عَلَى أَنْ لا يُشْرِكْنَ بِاللَّهِ شَيْئاً وَلا يَسْرِقْنَ وَلا يَزْنِينَ وَلا يَقْتُلْنَ أَوْلادَهُنَّ وَلا يَأْتِينَ بِبُهْتَانٍ يَفْتَرِينَهُ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِنَّ وَأَرْجُلِهِنَّ وَلا يَعْصِينَكَ فِي مَعْرُوفٍ فَبَايِعْهُنَّ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُنَّ اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

“O Prophet (PBUH)! When believing women come to you to give the Bai’ah (the pledge), that they will not associate anything in worship with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit illegal sexual intercourse, that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey you in Ma’ruf, then accept their Bai’ah, and ask Allah to forgive them. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

(Aayah No. 12, Surah Al-Mumtahanah, Chapter No. 60, Holy Qur’an).

B.3.2. Involvement in law-making

Incidents from Islamic history related to the times of Muslim Khilafah prove that women had their say in law-making as well. There is a very well known incident that took place during the Caliphate of Umar (RA).He was thinking of fixing an upper limit on the amount of ‘Mahr’. On that a woman stated that how Umar (RA) can put a restriction on something on which Allah has not put any restriction. On this, the Commander of Faithful said, “The woman is right, Umar is wrong.” And he left the idea of putting any such restriction.

B.4. Legal rights

B.4.1. Punishments for sins

The punishments specified in Islam (for different sins) are same for both genders. For example: punishment of a thief is to cut the hands, whether he is a male or she is a female. Similarly, punishment for a murder is death, both for male as well as female.

B.4.2. Right of testimony (witness)

The testimony of two women is equal to the testimony of one man; why?

This is yet another point which is misunderstood by us. This ruling is mentioned in Aayah No. 282 of Surah Al-Baqarah in Qur’an. This is the longest verse of Holy Qur’an. This verse starts with: “O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down………”. Then the same verse states in between: “And get two witnesses out of your men. And if there are not two men, then a men and two women, such as you agree for witnesses so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her……”.

Now let me list down the reasons which are associated with this ruling:

  • The first thing to remember about this ruling is that it is restricted to financial deals only. In other cases, the testimony of a woman is equal to that of a man; but in financial cases, two women constitute a testimony equal to that of a single man.
  • It should be very clear that financial responsibilities have been ordained on men. Men are better equipped by The Almighty to handle financial matters; exceptions can always be there but the general principle is this.
  • Women have a tendency of forgetting the things. This is a blessing in disguise for women, because if they are not equipped with this tendency, they won’t be able to live their married lives, where they have to leave their parents homes and get adjusted in altogether in a new environment.

If we keep these reasons in our mind, we may be able to understand this ruling in a better manner and shall see that it is not at all against the women.

B.4.3. Right of separation from her husband (Al-Khul)

It is true that Islam allows a husband to divorce his wife, but a wife cannot divorce her husband. But that does not mean that if mistreated or not happy with her husband, a woman has no choice but to suffer; no…. not at all. Islam has an option of Al-Khul for women; if they feel that their lives are not on happy terms with their husband, they can ask for a separation by means of Al-Khul.

Al-Khul means parting of wife from her husband by giving him certain compensation. Refer to following verse:

فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ

“Then if you fear that they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back for her Al-Khul;”

(Aayah No. 229, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

Now there are reasons for allowing men to give divorce while a woman has to seek Al-Khul. There may be numerous reasons in infinite knowledge of Allah; however, let me cite one reason. A woman has to undergo her menstrual cycles every month. Everyone knows that her behavior changes during her menstrual periods; she gets irritating, emotional along with several hormonal changes that take place during those times. Now, if the women had the right to divorce her husband, these days would have been lethal for a married couple.

B.5. Other rights

B.5.1. Rights of a mother

We have already discussed in Section A.3. about the status of a Muslim mother. Islam orders its followers to serve their mothers, take care of them and respect them the most among all. Refer to following hadith:

It was narrated from Mu’awiyah bin Jahimah As-Sulami that Jahimah came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad), and I have come to ask your advice.” He said, “Do you have a mother?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet.”

(Hadith No. 3106, Book of Jihad, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4).

This narration tells us that a Muslim may achieve Paradise by serving his/her mother. Subhan-Allah, the greatest honour, among all the relations on this earth, is for mother (a woman).

B.5.2. Right to pursue professional career

A Muslim woman has the right to pursue a professional career; there is absolutely no ruling in Qur’an or ahadith that prohibits her from doing so. In fact Islam recommends women to pursue certain careers. For example: it is responsibility of our society to produce female doctors specialized in gynaecology and radiology.

In order that women pursue these careers, they need to study these courses. Here comes need of another career for Muslim females, that of a teacher, who can teach these courses to female students. Syeda Aishah (RA) is a role model for female teachers. She not only taught females but many males also used to come and ask her about different rulings of Islam. We come across several thousand ahadith from Aishah (RA).

Therefore, it is need of the hour that females come forward and take on meaningful career roles. However, there are certain conditions associated with it and have to be met with stringently. These are as follows:

  1. Working ladies should ensure that they observe all do(s) and don’t(s) for women in Islam, like Hijab etc.
  2. The career she opts for should be a meaningful one. Tell me what is the point in a lady working as a bank executive, or on any other similar post? This point hurts me a lot when I connect it to times of recession like nowadays. Several women can be seen working in places just for the sake of pursuing their careers (they might not be requiring money as the financial needs of their families might have been taken care of by their husbands/fathers/brothers already), whereas on the other hand, several men have lost their jobs and finding it difficult to earn bread for their families. Imagine, if these ladies had not been working, it would have created extra vacancies that could have helped many men earn livelihood for their families.
  3. The professional career of a wife should not affect her marital life. If it is against the wish of her husband (reason could be any), such a career should not be pursued. The professional career of a wife should not lead her to ignore her duties towards her home and kids. If her career means leaving the kids unattended at home, at the mercy of maids, then such a career has to be abandoned. Note: Refer to the article “Husband-Wife relationship” for details regarding this point; it is available at www.quranandhadith.com.
  4. Even if a woman pursues her profession, the primary responsibility of providing the family with food, clothes etc. remains with the male (father/brother/husband/son) of the family. In case the woman is forced to work out of necessity (if her husband is dead or she has no one else to earn livelihood for her family), then she bears the responsibility of providing her family the daily necessities; and in such a case, she is free to opt for any honourable profession (be it a clerical job or sales etc.).

B.5.3. Right of a wife to complain against her husband

Some people are of the opinion that a wife has to obey her husband silently, even if he treats her in a wrong manner; she is not supposed to complain about her husband, as he is her appointed Imam; this is yet another wrong concept. A wife is not supposed to obey her husband if he asks her to do anything against the will of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). Now if such a situation leads to clash, then what shall the lady do? Should she keep quiet? No; Islam has given her the right to complain about her husband. Refer to following:

It was narrated from Aishah (RA) that she said: “Praise be to Allah Whose hearing encompasses all voices. Khawlah came to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) complaining about her husband, but I could not hear what she said. Then Allah, the Mighty & Sublime, revealed:

قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّتِي تُجَادِلُكَ فِي زَوْجِهَا وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ

“Indeed Allah has heard the statement of her that disputes with you concerning her husband, and complains to Allah. And Allah hears the argument between you both. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer.” – Aayah No. 1, Surah Al-Mujadilah, Chapter No. 58, Holy Qur’an.

(Hadith No. 3490, Book of Divorce, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4).

This is regarding Khawlah bint Tha’labah who came to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) complaining about her husband, and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! He spent my wealth, exhausted my youth and my womb bore abundantly for him. When I became old, unable to bear children, he pronounced Zihar on me. O Allah! I complain to you.” Zihar means saying of a husband to his wife that ‘you are unlawful to me for co-habitation just like my mother’. On this Surah Al-Mujadilah was revealed.

Therefore, a woman has a right of raising her voice and complaining about her husband (of course in a graceful manner); in case he does not deal with her justly.

B.5.4. Chastity and modesty of a woman is very important in Islam

Islam guards and honour the chastity and modesty of a woman in all possible ways. Hijab is one such ruling which stands for guarding the modesty of women. Another example of importance of chastity of a woman in Islam is that accusing a chaste woman is a major sin in Islam. Refer to the following verse of Qur’an:

وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَاءَ فَاجْلِدُوهُمْ ثَمَانِينَ جَلْدَةً وَلا تَقْبَلُوا لَهُمْ شَهَادَةً أَبَداً وَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْفَاسِقُونَ

“And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever. They indeed are the Fasiqun.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah An-Nur, Chapter No. 24, Holy Qur’an).

In this context, some one asked me: Why four witnesses are required to prove a rape on a woman? Such a question tells us that this ruling has been misunderstood by some. It should be understood the other way round, actually. If someone accuses a chaste woman of fornication (i.e. illegal sex), then four witnesses are required; not that in order to prove a rape, four witnesses are required. It is all about honouring the chastity and modesty of women.

C. Responsibilities of women

Rights do not come alone, they come along with responsibilities. Bigger the rights, bigger the responsibilities; and vice-versa! In order to understand the responsibilities of a Muslim woman, and how different they are with the responsibilities of a man, let us go to the basic system of a Muslim society.

If the life of a Muslim is a structure, then it can be divided in to three parts: the Foundation, the Pillars and the Super-structure.

C.1. Foundation

The foundation of a Muslim society is Iman. And all men and women are absolutely equal in terms of fulfilling this responsibility of having Iman.

C.2. Pillars

The pillars of Islam are four: SalatSaum (fasting), Hajj and Zakat. Both men and women are equal when it comes to fulfilling the responsibilities of these four pillars of Islam. However, some differences start coming in now. For example: A man can go to Hajj alone, whereas a woman can’t; she is supposed to be accompanied by a Mahram relative (husband / brother / son / father) for this. Similarly, it is recommended that men offer their Salat in mosques, whereas for women it is recommended that they offer their prayers at home.

So we see that basic responsibilities are same, but the manner of carrying out the responsibilities start changing from here onwards.

C.3. Super-structure

The super-structure of a Muslim society comprises of the actual life of the Muslims. By this I mean that our day-to-day life which includes education, marriages, upbringing of kids, working to earn livelihood,Daawah (inviting to Islam) etc. The ideal super-structure comes into being when we succeed in completingIqamat-e-Deen. By this we mean that a society based on Islamic principles is established; each and every decision in such a society takes place according to the rulings of Qur’an and ahadith.

Establishment of such a society is what an Islamic life is aimed at. It is very interesting to know that both the genders have their respective roles and responsibilities in establishment of a Muslim society. Some responsibilities may be similar, some may be entirely different. For example, acquiring knowledge is responsibility of both men and women, equally. Marrying is responsibility of both men and women (of course both genders are required to complete a marriage). Moving the generation ahead (i.e. giving birth to babies) is also the responsibility of both men and women, but here the degrees of responsibilities change. Woman (a mother in this case) takes more responsibility of keeping the baby in her womb for nine months; she takes all pain to ensure the safe delivery of the baby in this world, Be-izn-Allah. The child literally grows on the blood of the mother in womb. In direct proportionality, the mother has been given the right of highest status in Islamic relations, three times more than the father. Now the supporters of equality among men and women should advocate that the fathers should raise their voice that they should also be allowed to bear pregnancy? Ridiculous, isn’t it?

The respective responsibilities of men and women are beautifully described in following verse of Qur’an:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَاللاَّتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلا تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيّاً كَبِيراً

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (then) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.”

(Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

This verse is misinterpreted by both genders. Let me explain the message in the verse. The first part tells us that men are protectors and maintainers of the women i.e. care-takers of the women. Some men take this verse as implying that men have a higher status over women, which is a wrong explanation. Men are physically stronger than women and they earn livelihood for them and their families. Earning bread is not an easy task and a person comes across so many hurdles which he has to overcome in order to earn livelihood. Then he spends it on his wife for all her needs. This is the responsibility of a husband. Along with this, husband has to protect his wife from all worries of outer world, from bad eyes of people and give her a dignified life along with his love. Refer to following hadith:

It was reported from Hakim bin Mu’awiyah Al-Qushairi, from his father, that he asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! What are the rights that our wives have over us?” He replied, “That you feed her when you eat, and clothe her when you wear clothes, and that you avoid hitting her in face or disgracing her, and that you avoid abandoning her except at home.”

(Hadith No. 2142, Book of Marriage, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2).

This is what is meant by men being care-takers of the women; there is no question of men having a higher status over women. It is just Allah’s decision to make men responsible for this job. So, women should not feel that this verse is against them. Neither should men try to use this verse to emphasize their superiority over women.

Let us go back to Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’, where Allah mentions that woman is a guardian in her husband’s absence. The husband goes out to earn livelihood. The wife stays at home. It is her duty, in absence of her husband, to be a guardian.

Narrated Ibn Umar (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your words. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his off-spring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards.”

(Hadith No. 5200, Book of Nikah, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

Thus, taking care of husband’s home and up-bringing of the children (i.e. the role of a lady as a wife and as a mother) is the biggest responsibility of a woman. Children spend more of their time at home with their mothers. Fathers are away from home due to their works. Therefore, the kids grow learning basic values of life and Islam from their mothers. Kids look up to their mother for getting their food, their clothing and other day-to-day works done. This takes a lot of effort for a woman. But this is what Allah wants her to do, for her success in the Hereafter depends on all this.

The core of an ideal society is the ‘Institution of Family’, which is ought to be well-knit and strong. And a Muslim mother plays a pivotal role in establishing a proper Muslim family. She is said to be the custodian of future generation.

Anas (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Among the women of this world, only these four are enough: Maryam bint Imran; Aasiya, the wife of Fir’aun; Khadija bint Khuwalid and Fatima (RA).

(Hadith No. 4447, Musnad Abdullah Bin Masood, Musnad Ahmad Hambal, Vol. 2).

It is worth noting that the Prophet (PBUH) did not include Syeda Aishah (RA) in this list. The common feature among these four great women is that all four were mothers, involved in upbringing of the kids. This is yet another proof that the most important responsibility of a Muslim woman is that of a mother. And, even the best of the Muslim males of modern age stand no where near to these great women in terms of honour in Islam.

Concluding Remarks

Thus we come to know that all these talks about equality and women not being treated well in Islam are baseless, coming out of ignorance and lack of proper knowledge about Islam. When talking about equality, we should be very clear that in front of Allah, both men and women are equal. This is evident by following verse of Qur’an:

إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيراً وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْراً عَظِيماً

“Verily, the Muslims men & women, the believers men & women, the men and women who are obedient (to Allah), the men & women who are truthful, the men & women who are patient, the men & women who are humble, the men & women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat & alms), the men & women who observe Saum (the fast), the men & women who guard their chastity, and the men & women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues – Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward.”

(Aayah No. 35, Surah Al-Ahzab, Chapter No. 33, Holy Qur’an).

Therefore, men and women are equal in front of Allah.

Men & women are equal in most of the aspects, but not similar in all aspects. Basic differences in rights and responsibilities are due to biological, physical and physiological differences in the two genders. For example: a woman’s body has been designed by The Almighty to give birth to a baby, and a man cannot do that. Similarly, man has been designed to undertake tough jobs which are suitable for his make.

Just give it a thought, why are there separate competitions for men and women in international sporting events? Why a separate Wimbledon Championship for women and another for men? If they advocate equality among women, it should be a single tournament. Similar should hold true for other sports also. But they know, and everyone knows, that if men and women are said to compete in all sporting activities that involve physical strength at a common platform, it won’t be a match.

Thus, it is not a matter of equality; rather it is a matter of maintaining balance in the Muslim society. Hence the roles and responsibilities of men and women are different; though both are equal in significance in front of Allah.

Please remember, Allah is our Creator. He knows what is better for us; we are mere mortals and it is impossible for us to match Allah’s wisdom. We can’t challenge His words; no one ever has done any good to himself by doing so. I request all to concentrate on their respective roles, instead of raising challenges to the rulings of Qur’an. Fulfill the respective responsibilities in a righteous manner, and be sure that Allah shall treat both His creations on an equal footing, solely on the basis of their faith and deeds. Insha’Allah!

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Whoever works righteousness – whether male or a female – while he (or she) is a true believer, verily, to him (her) We will give a good life (in this world), and We shall pay them certainly a reward (in Hereafter) in proportion to the best of what they used to do.”

(Aayah No. 97, Surah An-Nahl, Chapter No. 16, Holy Qur’an).

And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.

سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

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