Are Women in Islam Inferior to Men?

 

The issue of women in Islam has always been a topic prone to misunderstanding and distortion, partly due to propaganda and media that misrepresent Islam and partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims or pseudo-Muslims, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, which are taken to represent the real visage of Islam.

 

Those who accuse Islam of considering a lower rank or status for women, mostly forget in their debates the differences among women and men which are necessitated by order of creation. Contrary to popular myth, Islam has never acknowledged the superiority of men over women but has taken into account their differences and set appropriate regulations and guidelines based on them [1].


Women in Islam and Men Are of the Same Spirit

 

One of the issues addressed in the holy Quran is the creation of woman and man. Unlike some sacred books saying that: “woman was created out of an inferior stock to that of man or Adam's wife was created from one of his left-side parts of body”, the Quran explicitly states in several verses that woman was created from the nature of man, and from the same essence: “who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it” (4:1), (7:189).

 

This demonstrates that women in Islam and men are of the same origin; hence, neither of them is superior to the other in the first place. Besides, men and women in Islam are each created for the other: “they are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:187), and a woman is designated as the source of solace and comfort for man’s heart (30:21) which highlights her importance.

 

women in Islam

 

Universe Is Created to Serve Both Women and Men

 

It is directly and clearly stated in the Quran that the earth and the sky, the clouds and the winds, plants, and animals, all have been created for “mankind” [i]. It means that everything in the universe is there to serve every single human being and not only men.

 

Women in Islam Can Reach Spiritual Excellence

 

A woman is created to pave the way for improvement, like a man, and to reach the perfection that a human being deserves. The Quran has firmly declared that the afterlife reward and nearness of God do not depend upon one’s gender, but on his/her faith and deeds.

 

In verses (3:195) and (4:124), it is specified that whoever does acts of blessing and is a believer “whether male or female," God will give them an abundant reward.

 

The Quran also demonstrates the women’s role by emphasizing the importance of the company of a great and pious woman alongside every great and pious man (11-12: 66), (28: 7). The wives of Adam and Abraham, and the mothers of Moses and Jesus (PBUH) are the examples of great women mentioned in the Quran. There is, therefore, no superiority between men and women in Islam in the spiritual sense.

 

women in Islam

 

Menstruation is not a Weakness

 

Among the Jews and Arabs of the pre-Islamic age, there was a belief that woman is filthy and weak during her menstrual period, so, she was isolated and avoided until she became clean. The Quran says: “They ask you concerning [intercourse during] menses. Say, ‘It is hurtful.’ So keep away from wives during the menses...”(2:222).

 

It means that menstruation is harm leaving the woman’s body, but it is not deplorable at all. Instead, menstruation is a preliminary to receive a blessing from God, a miracle that takes place inside a woman’s womb and places paradise at the feet of mothers [2].

 

Women in Islam Can Attain the Superior Social Status They Deserve

 

Men and women have undoubtedly “equal” rights in Islamic ideology, but the point is that their rights are not “similar”; in some conditions, women are given more rights while in other cases men have more rights. Every Muslim, female or male, is encouraged in Islam to seek knowledge.

 

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female” [3]. Education, learning and gaining knowledge are therefore duties assigned to every woman as much as to every man.

Regarding the economic rights also, men are not superior to women unlike what is reported in the media and many beliefs. The misunderstanding about the inheritance, for example, is caused by ignoring the whole rights and duties each of men and women have and the balance between those rights.

 

That is why in the Quran, people are told: "Do not covet the advantage, which Allah has given some of you over others. To men belongs a share of what they have earned and to women a share of what they have earned." (4:32) [4].

 

Contrary to the false impression that says Islam has restricted women to stay at home and does not permit them to appear in the society, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women in many social positions. There must be, for instance, women physicians and women nurses for some special treatments that women need; or, women teachers as girls require some teachings and guidance when they reach the age of puberty.

 

women in Islam

 

Last word …Are Women Inferior to Men in Islam?

 

In Surah Nisa, it is said that: “Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth” (4:34). Some use this verse to argue that Islam has given the superiority to men, but the interpretation of these words will clarify the wisdom behind:

 

A family is known to be the smallest social unit. It requires, therefore, a supervisor or manager like any other social unit. This duty is generally attributed to the man in the family, mostly because men are physically stronger than women and they are less affected by their emotions [ii].

 

Moreover, the woman might also be given this responsibility after her husband’s death. Knowing the man as the supervisor of the family does not prove any inherent superiority in men, but assigns him the heavy responsibility of providing for his family needs from which women are exempted [5].

 

It is now clear that Islam has never inhibited women nor given them an inferior position to men; instead, it has undoubtedly caused the status of women to be improved by firstly recognizing their full personhood, and then describing the goal of their creation and the capacities and rights they have.

 


Notes:

[i] (2 :29), (24:32-33), (45:13)

[ii] Exceptions might exist, but, the general case is always considered to set the regulations and guidelines.

References:

[1] http://www.hawzah.net/fa/Magazine/View/2689/4292/28387

[2] M. Reyshahri, "Mizan al-Hikma," T. 22691".

[3] M. B. Majlesi, "Bihar al-Anwar," vol. 1, p. 177.

[4] N. Makarem Shirazi, “Tafsir Nemooneh”.

[5] http://www.hawzah.net/fa/question/view/7227

Women Inferior to Men