Are women equal to men? Nowadays, it is common place to hear statements like; what a man can do a woman can do even better. Gender equality gives women 35% of ministerial appointment. These statements or slogans are geared towards one thing; Equality between the sexes. However, as Muslims what is the right perspective that we should have? Or realistically, are women equal to men? Equality can be defined as the state of being equal: rights, treatment, quantity, or value equal to all others in a specific group.
From this definition, what the proponents of gender equality are saying is that men and women are equal in the above mentioned things. However, is this correct? If yes, to what extent? Sameness of the sexes there are some areas in which Allaah and His Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] did not differentiate between the male and the female and in some areas Allaah makes a clear distinction between the two.
1. Taqwa [consciousness of Allaah] Allaah says;
"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At- Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." [Q 49:13].
In this verse Allaah makes it clear that being a male or female is not the important thing to Him. Rather, what Allaah values is the piety that the person has in him or her. Also, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Women are the twin halves of men" (Abu Dawood). In this above hadith of the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]. It is clear the he regards the male and female as same.
2. Religious Obligations We must also know that Islam regards the man and the woman as same with regards to the obligations in the religion. Amen must pray, so must a woman, a man must fast so must a woman, a man must perform hajj so must a woman ... We therefore will say that whatever is compulsory or forbidden upon the man is also compulsory and forbidden on the woman except that we see a specific text from the Quran or Sunnah that states otherwise.
Allaah says concerning the obligation and the reward that men and women get on the Day of Judgement;
"Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allaah in Islam) men and women, the believers men and women (who believe in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to Allaah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allaah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allaah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast) (the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the optional Nawafil fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues. Allaah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise). "[Q 33:35]
3. Rights of the believers the rights and Obligations that believers owe each other are the same for both men and women. There is no sexual distinction in these rights except where a text states otherwise. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said;
"The rights of a Muslim over another Muslim are six". It was said to him: What are they O Messenger of Allaah?" There upon he said; "When you meet him offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast accept it; when he seeks your counsel give him and when he sneezes and says Alhamdulillah [praise is due to Allaah], you say Yar hamakallahu [may Allaah have mercy on you]; when he falls ill, visit him and when he dies follow his bier"[Muslim]
In another narration Uqbah ibn Amir said; Allaahs Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
"A believer is the brother of a believer, so it is not lawful for a believer to outbid his brother, and he should not propose an engagement when his brother has thus proposed until he gives up. "[Muslim]
Are Women Equal to Men? Inspite of the same attributes mentioned above, women and men are not equal. What is the point of equality when Allaah has a purpose for creating a woman distinct from a man? Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: "Here we should note that there are some people who speak of equality instead of justice, and this is a mistake. We should not say equality, because equality implies no differentiation between the two. Because of this unjust call for equality, they started to ask, what is the difference between male and female? So they made males and females the same. But if we say justice, which means giving each one that to which he or she is entitled, this misunderstanding no longer applies, and the word used is correct. Hence it does not say in the Quraan that Allaah enjoins equality, rather it says:
"Verily, Allaah enjoins AI-Adl (i.e. justice)" [Q16:90]
And that when you judge between men, you judge with justice" [Q 4:58]
Those who say that Islam is the religion of equality are lying against Islam. Rather Islam is the religion of justice which means treating equally those who are equal and differentiating between those who are different. Not one single letter in the Quraan enjoins equality, rather it enjoins justice. You will also find that the word justice is acceptable to people, for I feel that if I am better than this man in terms of knowledge, or wealth, or piety, or in doing good, I would not like him to be equal to me, Every man knows that he finds it unacceptable if we say that the male is equal to the female." [Sharh al-Aqeedah al Waasitah]
Based on this, Islam does not regard men and women as equal in matters where regarding them as equal would result in injustice to one of them, because equality that is inappropriate is a severe form of injustice. There are matters in which men and women are treated differently in Islamic shareeah, such as:
1. Qiwaamah (being in charge of the household): Allaah says:
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means" [4:34]
Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: "Allaah says Men are the protectors and maintainers of women meaning that the man is in charge of the woman, i.e., he is the leader and head of the household, the one keeps others from going astray. Because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other i.e., because men are superior to women and are better than women. Hence Prophethood was given only to men, as was the position of khaleefah, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
"No people shall ever prosper who appoint a woman as their ruler. [Bukhaari].
The same applies to the position of qaadi (judge), etc. And because they spend (to support them) from their means refers to the mahr and the spending on women's maintenance that Allaah has enjoined upon men in His Book and in the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). So a man is inherently better than a woman, and he is superior to her because he spends on her. So it is appropriate that he should be in charge of her, as Allaah says:
"but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them [Q 2:228].
Ali ibn Abi Talhah [RAH] said, narrating from Ibn Abbaas [RA]: "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women means that men are the leaders of women and they should obey them in areas where Allaah has enjoined obedience. Obedience may mean treating his family kindly and protecting his wealth." (Tafseer lbn Katheer)
2. Testimony or bearing witness. The Quraan states that the testimony of one man is equivalent to the testimony of two women. Allaah says:
"And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her" [Q 2:282]
There may be some women who are wiser than some men, but this is not the usual rule and such women are not in the majority. Shareeah is based on what is general and most common. This is due to the fact that the reasoning of women is often overtaken by their emotions, and this happens to women more often than it happens to men. No one would deny this except one who is arrogant.
3. A woman inherits half of what a man inherits. Allaah says:
"Allaah commands you as regards your children (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females" [Q4:11]
AI-Qurtubi said: "Because Allaah knows better than they do what is in their best interests, He made the division of inheritance based on differentiation, because He knows what is in their best interests. [Tafseer al-Qurtubi]. For example, a man is obliged to spend more than a woman, so it is appropriate that he should have a larger share of inheritance than a woman.
4. Clothing: A woman awrah includes her entire body. The least that can be said is that she should not uncover anything except her face and hands. Allaah says:
"0 Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful" [Q 33:59]
The awrah of a man is the area from the navel to the knees. Abdullaah ibn Jafar ibn Abi Taalib [RAJ, said: "I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, The area between the navel and the knee is awrah." [al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak]
5. Other examples include the following, which is not a comprehensive list.
a. A man can marry four women, but a woman can only have one husband. Similarly, a man may marry a woman from among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), but a Muslim woman must not marry anyone but a Muslim.
b. Prayer in the mosque is obligatory for men, but not for women; a woman prayer in her house is more beloved to Allaah.
c. Jihad is obligatory for men, but jihad in the sense of fighting is not obligatory for women. This is the mercy of Allaah towards them, and consideration for their nature.
d. A man may travel without his wife or any of his mahrams but a woman may not travel unless she is accompanied by a mahram. e. A woman may wear silk and gold, but a man must not wear them. Everything that we have mentioned is based on the difference between men and women, because the male is not like the female. Allaah says:
The male is different from the female in many ways, in his strength, in his body, in his toughness and roughness, whereas women are soft and gentle. It was narrated that Aaishah said:
"The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was asked about a man who finds some wetness (on his clothes) but did not have an erotic dream, and he said, "He should do ghusl." He was asked about a man who had an erotic dream but did not find any wetness, and he said, "He does not have to do ghusl." Umm Salamah said, "0 Messenger of Allaah, if a woman sees that, does she have to do ghusl?" He said, "Yes, for women are the twin halves of men." (Tirmidhi)
Conclusion: Women are like men in some aspects and they differ from them in others. Most of the rulings of Islam apply to men and men equally. In cases where a distinction is made between the sexes, the Muslim regards that as a mercy from Allaah and a sign of His knowledge of His creation, but the arrogant disbeliever sees it as oppression and injustice, so he stubbornly insists on claiming that men and women are the same.
So let him tell us how a man can carry a foetus and breastfeed it? He stubbornly ignores the weaker strength of women and how they bleed during their monthly period, beating his head against the rock of reality. But the Muslim is still at peace with his faith, surrendering to the command of Allaah:
"Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves), All-Aware (of everything)" [Q 67:14].
And Allaah knows best.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited