Are Women Inferior to Men?

Being that I’ve recently taken part in a few discussions pertaining to women’s issues on various blogs (among them: A Woman’s Duty? and Send Your Wife to Obedience School), I thought that I would post the following email when I saw it in my inbox. It’s an article originally found on IslamicWeb.com that was reviewed and edited by the brothers at Asaala.com (which is supervised by the students of Imam al-Albânî in Jordan). The topic relates to some of the underlying thoughts that usually arise when the issues mentioned are discussed so I thought that posting this article would be fairly beneficial to those who read it, Allah willing.

Are Women Inferior to Men? 

Taken from: islamicweb.com
Reviewed and slightly modified by: www.asaala.com

Myth: In Islam, women are inferior to men because:

  • A man can marry up to 4 wives, a woman can marry only one man.

  • A man’s share of inheritance is bigger than a woman’s.

  • A man can marry a non-Muslim, a woman cannot.

  • Women must wear the veil.

This widely held misconception does not remotely follow from the reasons given. The first and most important observation to make about the popular question “Are men and women equal?” is that it is a badly-formed, unanswerable question. The problem which many people conveniently ignore is that “equal” is not defined. This is a very critical point: the equality must be specified with respect to some measurable property. For example, women on average are superior to men if we ask who is shorter in height than the other (“Growth and Development”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1992). Women are also superior on average if we ask whom do children bond to deeper, mothers or fathers. Women are also superior on average if we ask who has a tendency to socialize more. On the other hand, men are superior on average if we ask who is taller in height than the other. And so on: every question can be turned around, and more importantly these are properties which are irrelevant.

What then, is the really important property which we are worried about in terms of gender equality? Naturally, from the point of view of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the obvious important property is who is dearer to Allah, men or women? This question is emphatically answered in the Qur’an (translation),

«If any do deeds of righteousness – be they male or female – and have faith, they will enter Paradise, and not the least injustice will be done to them» [4:124].

«For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful 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, 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» [33:35].

The Qur’an and Sunnah repeat over and over again that Allah only favors one person over another based on that person’s awareness, consciousness, fear, love, and hope of Allah ([i.e. Taqwa: Piety] ). All other criteria are excluded: gender, ethnic group, country, ancestry, etc.

Given that Allah does not favor one gender over the other in His attention to us, we can now address the differences between the genders in Islam. First, men and women are not the same as we know. The Creator states in the Qur’an (translation),

«…and the male is not like the female…» [3:36].

Men and women are different in their composition, and in their responsibilities under Islam. However, both are bound by obligations to one another, especially the following important one which must be understood in any discussion on men and women. From the Qur’an (translation),

«And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing» [24:32].

In this verse, the Creator emphasizes that marriage is to be vigorously pursued by the Muslims: the state of being single is not to be maintained. With this in mind, we can begin to understand the four reasons cited above for the nonetheless erroneous conclusion.

Men and women are different in their responsibilities towards the families that they are strongly encouraged to set up. Women are not obligated to work, whereas men are obligated. The man must provide for the family, but the woman does not have to spend out of her money for it, though she gets a reward for doing so. Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),

«Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allâh and to their husbands), and guarding in the husband’s absence what Allâh orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.)… , As to those women on whose part you see ill­ conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful). , but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allâh is Ever Most High, Most Great» [4:34].

From the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sahih Bukhari, we find:

Narrated `Amr bin Al-Harith: Zainab, the wife of `Abdullah said, “I was in the Mosque and saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying, «O women! Give alms even from your ornaments.» “Zainab used to provide for `Abdullah and those orphans who were under her protection. So she said to `Abdullah, “Will you ask Allah’s Apostle whether it will be sufficient for me to spend part of the Zakat on you and the orphans who are under my protection?” He replied “Will you yourself ask Allah’s Apostle?” (Zainab added): So I went to the Prophet and I saw there an Ansari woman who was standing at the door (of the Prophet) with a similar problem as mine. Bilal passed by us and we asked him, `Ask the Prophet whether it is permissible for me to spend (the Zakat) on my husband and the orphans under my protection.’ And we requested Bilal not to inform the Prophet about us. So Bilal went inside and asked the Prophet regarding our problem. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, «Who are those two?» Bilal replied that she was Zainab. The Prophet said, «Which Zainab?» Bilal said, “The wife of `Adullah (bin Mas’ud).” The Prophet said, «Yes, (it is sufficient for her) and she will receive a double reward (for that): One for helping relatives, and the other for giving Zakat.»

Given that husbands are obligated to provide for wives, and that marriage is a highly recommended goal of Islam, it is easy to see why women’s inheritance share is half that of men. We note also that men are obligated to provide a suitable dowry to women on marriage. In fact, it is preferable at this point to speak in terms of husbands and wives instead of men and women. Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),

«And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result» [4:4].

Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),

«…And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in a ma’roof way (i.e. all that which is acceptable in terms of mores, goodness, and religion), and men are a degree above them…» [2:228].

This one degree in no way affects the position of the Creator in which He has stated that He does not hold women dearer to him than men, or vice versa. Rather it is simply a way of partitioning responsibilities in a household of two adults: someone must make the final decision on daily matters, though the final decision rests with the husband, it is through mutual consultation that decisions are best reached at.

While men are allowed to marry up to four wives, they are also commanded to meet the preconditions of being able to financially support them. They must also deal with each wife justly and fairly with respect to marital and economic obligations. Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),

«If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan girls, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice» [4:3].

Moreover, women are allowed to reject any marriage proposal made to them by prospective suitors, thus if she does not feel she can abide by the rules of the Qur’an and Sunnah if she marries a certain person, she can reject his proposal. While it is irrelevant to Islam, it is worthwhile to note that both Judaism and Christianity allow polygamy. The idea is not as foreign to the non-Muslims as is often claimed.

Finally, the wearing of the veil by women is also an illogical premise to claim that women are inferior to men. It is more appropriate to indict a society of female exploitation if it tolerates pornography rather than if it enforces the veil. Allah the Exalted does not endear people to Himself based on their gender, given that the Creator cares about all of us male or female, given that the sexual and violent drive of men is stronger than that of women…given all this, it is illogical to cast a negative light on the following injunctions contained in the Qur’an (translation),

«O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed…» [33:59].

«Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allâh is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands…» [24:30-31].

On this misconception, there is a great deal more to write, most of it showing how current practices in many Muslim lands go against what the Qur’an and Sunnah have ordained, lands in which women are treated as property (unIslamic), are not educated (unIslamic), are forbidden their economic rights (unIslamic), and more. On this point in particular, we encourage everyone to consult the Qur’an and Sunnah before incriminating Islam. Always remember that Islam is a complete way of life from the Creator, and that Muslims are people who claim to follow that way of life. A Muslim may claim to follow Islam, but be wrong.

 

About Rasheed Gonzales
My name is Rasheed Gonzales. I’m a Muslim convert of Filipino descent. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was guided to Islam through one of my younger brothers and a couple of friends, all of whom had converted to Islam sometime before me (may Allah reward them greatly). I am married with four children (and the praise is Allah’s) and also a volunteer for the Qur'an & Sunnah Society of Canada, based in Toronto.

8 Responses to Are Women Inferior to Men?

  1. Ibn Rashid says:

    Assalam Alaykum Brother

    JaakAllahu khayr for interesting article.

    the main cause of the problem is that the gender roles which Islam has clearly specified have blurred due to the enormous effect “equality of the sexes” has had on everyone. Most women want to do everything the husband can, dont like to be told, have problem with seeking permission, and not to mention the obsession with work and becoming career women instead of mothers and obedient wives.

  2. Lets see if you can answer some questions, this time.

    Q: Why are you putting ancient fiction forward as evidence in your argument?

    Isnt the problem you are trying to illume illustrated wrong in this post?

    Men and women will never be equal, and i dont think anyone wants them to be. The sexes have totally different brain chemistry and interests, from birth.

    Why dont you put the question on the table like it should be.

    Q: Why doent Muslim men treat men and women as if they where of equal value to society.

    Islamic societies generally score ridiculously low on the development index, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when you effectively exclude half the population, your society and culture wont be very happy or productive.

  3. Q: Why are you putting ancient fiction forward as evidence in your argument?

    Whose argument and what ancient fiction?

    Islamic societies generally score ridiculously low on the development index …

    Got any facts to back up that claim?

  4. your argument – “Also, why is the word “obey” a problem when in the Qur’an (4:34) Allah describes the righteous women as “qânitât”, which means submissive, obedient, humble women.” from the ancient fiction the koran.

    The 3 lowes scoring countries in the world

    Mali muslim score 0388
    Sierra leone muslim 0335
    Niger muslim score 0.311

  5. your argument – “Also, why is the word “obey” a problem when in the Qur’an (4:34) Allah describes the righteous women as “qânitât”, which means submissive, obedient, humble women.” from the ancient fiction the koran.

    Ah, quotes from another discussion taking place on another person’s blog.

    Well, to answer your original question then, if you didn’t notice, the discussion was taking place among Muslims, between Muslims; Muslims who believe that what you claim is ancient fiction is actually revelation from a God you believe doesn’t exist. The texts quoted in that discussion are very relevant for us, and represent evidence for our beliefs and religious tenets—something you obvious shouldn’t really care about since you’re a retard an atheist, after all.

    As for your stats, your original statement is quite exaggerated (which isn’t surprising). Generally, most “Islamic societies”, as you call them (obviously the distinction between an Islamic country and a Muslim country is either unknown to you or ignored), are in the middle of the pack; not exactly “ridiculously low”. (source)

  6. The post was relevant to the topic.

    why are you so defensive about the “muslim and muslim” stuff? i get an impression that your faith isnt as solid as you proclaim. Your posts on “muslim” blogs is a lot less restrained than posts with me, with me you often try to avoid answering. Instead posting questions back.

    i get the impression that you know that your faith is bull your mind just havent accepted it yet, so you try to avoid anything that forces your reason into play.

    i wish you luck

  7. Bander says:

    The post was relevant to the topic.

    Yes but you originally asked, “Why are you putting… [the Qur’aan] forward as evidence in your argument?” as a reply to THIS post. Without initially specifying, it’s stupid to then bring quotes from ANOTHER discussion taking place in ANOTHER person’s blog and putting them forward as if they were the ‘true’ intent behind your first question.

    why are you so defensive…

    He’s not being defensive at all. He answered you in a simple and clear way. He has not displayed the vulgar manners that YOU have.

    …about the “muslim and muslim” stuff?

    It’s the obvious answer to your question. Muslims would OBVIOUSLY use the Qur’aan as evidence in discussions amongst each other, making your question idiotic to have been asked in the first place.

    …with me you often try to avoid answering. Instead posting questions back.

    Try asking questions that are relevant. Like he said, he answered the questions that were relevant to the topic at hand. The discussion would have gone nowhere if he responded to every unrelated point you made and let you drive the conversation.

    i get the impression that you know that your faith is bull your mind just havent accepted it yet, so you try to avoid anything that forces your reason into play.

    lol Completely baseless (not to mention oxyMORONic), but if that helps you sleep at night…

  8. The post was relevant to the topic.

    Which post, your initial comment to this blog entry or the discussion taking place on the other person’s blog?

    why are you so defensive about the “muslim and muslim” stuff?

    As Bander rightly noted, I wasn’t being defensive at all. I was trying to put things into context for you, which like many other things, has seemed to fly right over your self-proclaimed intellectually superior head. So far you aren’t doing too great a job showing the readers of my blog how intellectually superior you are to us people of religion. As Bander mentioned, (which should have been obvious to you), Muslims discussing certain aspects of their religion and beliefs would obviously be referring to their legislative texts to prove their points.

    i get an impression that your faith isnt as solid as you proclaim.

    My faith is doing just fine, thank you. I’m 100% certain that my beliefs concerning this religion and God are true.

    i get the impression that you know that your faith is bull your mind just havent accepted it yet, so you try to avoid anything that forces your reason into play.

    Actually, it’s quite the opposite of what you gather. My heart and mind are both in agreement that my religion is true, with 100% certainty. If they weren’t, I would not have converted to Islam in the first place.

    Oh, btw … what of your bogus claim that “Islamic societies” generally score “ridiculously low” on your beloved Development Index? Don’t you have anything to say about how the facts expose your claim as being b.s.?

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