Does Islam consider Women equal to Men?

It is a widely spread view in the people of Indian Subcontinent that Islam has declared women inferior to men. This notion has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, this belief is a product of our ancient traditions which are reinforced by misusing the religion.

In our societies, our ladies are always taught to regard themselves as beings who were eventually to be married off, have children and serve the husband – whether he was kind or not.

At the occasion of marriage, the family of the bride is required to pay the dowry (Jaheze) to the husband’s family. And the husband could ask for anything, irrespective of whether the bride would have difficulty paying it. Not only that, if after marriage she was not able to pay the full dowry, she would be tortured both emotionally and physically.

She could end up being a victim of “kitchen death” where the husband, or both the mother-in-law and the husband, try to set fire to the wife while she is cooking or is in the kitchen, to make it look like an accidental death.

In addition to all this, men in our societies are treated as gods. Young girls are taught that your husband will be your master and you will be his slave. Husbands often ride roughshod over their wives.

If a woman is widowed, she has no other option except to live an inferior life. In many parts of our region, widows are not allowed to remarry. At least, everyone considers the second marriage of a widowed woman an unforgivable sin and people look down their nose at such lady.

Contrary to this, Islam presents an entirely different point of view. Allah Almighty has revealed a full Surah (Chapter) about women which is the second largest Surah of the Quran. According to its first verse, both men and women are the progeny of a single couple and are equal in front of God.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالاً كَثِيراً وَنِسَاءً وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَتَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيباً۔

O mankind! Be careful about your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created his wife of like nature and from them twain scattered countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the blood relations, for Allah ever watches over you. (Quran 4:1)

At another place, both men and women are referred at the same level.

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۔

For men and women who submit themselves to God,

for believing men and women,

for devout men and women,

for true men and women,

for men and women who are patient and constant,

for men and women who humble themselves,

for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves),

for men and women who guard their chastity,

and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise,

for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Quran 33:35)

Islam declares that the marriage is a social contract between two “independent” parties. Without mutual consent of both parties, marriage cannot be substantiated. If a single side does not agree to marry, he/she cannot be forced to enter into this contract. If it is not possible for either of them to continue their relation, a procedure of divorce is defined for them.

Contrary to our tradition of dowry, Islam requires men to pay a lump sum amount of money to their life partner.

Keeping in mind the biological difference between men and women, the Quran urges the men to be kind to their 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. وَإِنْ أَرَدْتُمْ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنطَاراً فَلا تَأْخُذُوا مِنْهُ شَيْئاً أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَاناً وَإِثْماً مُبِيناً؟ وَكَيْفَ تَأْخُذُونَهُ وَقَدْ أَفْضَى بَعْضُكُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنْكُمْ مِيثَاقاً غَلِيظاً؟

O Believers! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the money you have given them, except where they have been guilty of open lewdness.

On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike something, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.

But if you decide to marry another woman instead of your wife (on valid grounds), even if you had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back: Would you take it by slander and manifest wrong? And how could you take it when you have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a solemn covenant? (Quran 4:19-21)

When a man and a woman enter into a contract of being life partner, the institution of family comes into existence. The Quran assumes the husband as the head of this institution but it is based on fulfilling certain conditions.

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 given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard.

As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first). (Next), refuse to share their beds. (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): (Bear in mind that) Allah is Most High, Great (above you all and watching you). (Quran 4:34)

It indicates that if a husband is unable to provide his wife the means of sustenance, he has no right to claim the position of the ‘head of family’ merely on the grounds of his masculinity.

As the head of the institution, a gradual process is prescribed for disloyal wives. It does not give an open license to abuse women. As mentioned in the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم, such treatment is only allowed if a woman commits an act of open lewdness. The punishment should only be symbolic and light.

The Quran has ordained a similar process for the same type of men. If a wife is unable to protect herself from the abuse of her husband, she can get support from her relatives and government. The Quran makes the government responsible for protecting the rights of a woman.

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ شِقَاقَ بَيْنِهِمَا فَابْعَثُوا حَكَماً مِنْ أَهْلِهِ وَحَكَماً مِنْ أَهْلِهَا إِنْ يُرِيدَا إِصْلاحاً يُوَفِّقْ اللَّهُ بَيْنَهُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيماً خَبِيراً۔

(O people in power!) If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah has full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things. (Quran 4:35)

In societies like ours, where the judicial system is not tuned up enough to protect the rights of oppressed, a woman can put up a condition for the right of divorce at the time of marriage to prevent herself from abuse. This is acceptable under all schools of Islamic Jurisprudence.

The solution to the problem of abusing women is nothing less than a moral and intellectual reform. We should learn to respect our wives, daughters and sisters. It is a directive ordained by Allah, the Almighty to respect women. It is the responsibility of religious and moral reformers to make it a topic of their sermons and writings.

I end up this article with the words of our beloved Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم:

أما بعد أيها الناس إن لنسائكم عليكم حقاً ولكم عليهن حق. لكم أن لا يواطئن فرشهم غيركم، ولا يدخلن أحداً تكرهونه بيوتكم إلا بإذنكم ولا يأتين بفاحشة، فإن فعلن فإن الله قد أذن لكم أن تعضلوهن وتهجروهن في المضاجع وتضربوهن ضرباً غير مبرح، فإن انتهين وأطعنكم فعليكم رزقهن وكسوتهن بالمعروف، واستوصوا بالنساء خيراً... وإنكم إنما أخذتموهن بأمانة الله واستحللتم فروجهن بكلمة الله فاتقوا الله في النساء واستوصوا بهن خيراً – ألا هل بلغت....اللهم فاشهد۔

أيها الناس إن ربكم واحد وإن أباكم واحد كلكم لآدم وآدم من تراب أكرمكم عند الله اتقاكم، وليس لعربي على عجمي فضل إلا بالتقوى – ألا هل بلغت....اللهم فاشهد۔

O People! Your women have certain rights over you and you also have rights over them. It is your right that they should not have sexual relations with anyone besides you. They should not allow anyone you dislike to enter your home and should not commit any lewd act.

If they do so, God has already permitted you to admonish them, refuse to share bed with them and beat them in a harmless way. If they change themselves and follow you, then it is your responsibility to provide them with sustenance and clothing according to the practice of the society. Be careful about the women in a righteous way.

Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. Be careful about them and treat them in a righteous way. Have I conveyed? O Allah! Be witness….

O people! Your Lord is One and your father is One. All of you are the progeny of Adam who was created out of dust. The best of you is the one who is more God-fearing. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab. Have I conveyed? O Allah! Be witness….

(Author: Muhammad Mubashir Nazir)

Think about it!

·        Islam gives women equal rights to men but our traditional religious people do not appreciate that. What is the reason behind that attitude?

·        What behavioral changes you require in yourselves to treat the women of your family?

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Does Islam consider Women equal to Men?
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