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You are here: Home > Myths & Misconceptions >Women in Islam > Equality of Men and Women

Are Men and Women Equal in Islam? ladyequality

SUMMARY

Most Muslims are aware that women were provided rights and protections through God’s words in the Quran over fourteen hundred years ago. While in the West, British women were not allowed custody of their children after divorce until 1839, were not awarded secular divorce until 1857, and were not allowed to own property until 1870.  If the Muslim women were afforded these rights and protections long before Western women, then why are the majority of Muslim women treated as second class citizens in today's Islamic world?  We will see that such a status for women is attributable to religious laws other than God’s laws in the Quran. Scriptural passages from the Quran will be explored and we will see a great disparity between what the Quran advocates versus the current practices that we find in the “Muslim” countries.

Click a link below to "jump" to a specific section:

Equality of Men and Women
Women and Worship Practices
Are Women Men’s Property?
Are Two Women Equal to One Man in the Quran?
Women as Leaders
Dress Code
Polygamy
What Causes the Status Difference in Islam?
Conclusion


Equality of Men and Women

God does not favor one gender over the other, as we can witness through His choice of wording in the Quran:


[3:195] Their Lord responded to them: "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female - you are equal to one another…
[4:124] As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice.
[16:97] Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world…
[40:40] Whoever commits a sin is requited for just that, and whoever works righteousness - male or female - while believing, these will enter Paradise wherein they receive provisions without any limits.

[9:71] The believing men and women are allies of one another. They advocate righteousness and forbid evil, they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and they obey GOD and His messenger. These will be showered by GOD's mercy. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise.
[9:72]  GOD promises the believing men and the believing women gardens with flowing streams, wherein they abide forever, and magnificent mansions in the gardens of Eden. And GOD's blessings and approval are even greater. This is the greatest triumph.

Equality of Men and Women
[33:35]  The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.

It is not a big surprise that the above verses are congruous with other verses throughout the Quran concerning different women’s rights issues.

Women and Worship Practices

Most Muslim women abstain from important religious practices like fasting and daily Contact Prayers, and even reading Quran during menstruation due to teachings of the scholars and the misinterpretation of the following Quran passage:


[2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, "It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean."

We can see that in the above verse, God is only prohibiting sexual intercourse through the duration of menstruation, and “cleanliness” is referring to the manner of sexual intercourse between the couple, it is harmful during menstruation.  We can see a continuation on the theme of the manner of sexual intercourse as the important aspect in the next verse:


[2:223] Your women are the bearers of your seed. Thus, you may enjoy this privilege however you like, so long as you maintain righteousness. You shall observe GOD, and know that you will meet Him. Give good news to the believers.

Women are not being prohibited from performing important religious practices through the above verses.  God does not contradict Himself and so would not prohibit worship practices some of the time while stating in other verses the following:


[70:34] They (believers) consistently observe their contact prayers (Salat) on time.
[2:183] O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation.

All believers are enjoined to perform their worship practices and on time, this includes women.

Are Women Men’s Property?

In some “Muslim” cultures, women are referred to as the "private part". Thus their community has come to see women as men’s private property. When the religious leaders are asked what the woman’s "private part” is, they answer that the whole woman is a private part. In Arabic the private part is "awraat" and this word has been used in the Quran in three places. Unfortunately, the following verses have been misinterpreted and abused to give women their lowered position in their society.

[24:31] …They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty (awraat)…

In the above verse, “awraat” means puberty, or the time at which the individual develops sexual awareness.  The same meaning applies in the following verse 24:58: "O you who believe, permission must be requested by your servants and the children who have not attained puberty (awraat) (before entering your rooms). This is to be done in three instances - before the Dawn Prayer, at noon when you change your clothes to rest, and after the Night Prayer. These are three private times for you. At other times, it is not wrong for you or them to mingle with one another. GOD thus clarifies the revelations for you. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise."

With the last verse in the Quran that uses the Arabic word awraat, verse 33:13, the meaning refers to vulnerability to attack.

[33:13] A group of them said, "O people of Yathrib, you cannot attain victory; go back." Others made up excuses to the prophet: "Our homes are vulnerable (awraat)," when they were not vulnerable. They just wanted to flee.

It is obvious from the above verses that the word "awraat" is not referring to women as “private parts”.  In the Quran women are called "nisa." Although women can be vulnerable to attack by unrighteous men, the last verse is not encouraging women to be hidden away as property, and actually has nothing to do with women.  It is clear from the above verses that the Quran does not encourage men to claim women as “private parts” or personal property.

Are Two Women Equal to One Man in the Quran?

[2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. No scribe shall refuse to perform this service, according to GOD's teachings. He shall write, while the debtor dictates the terms. He shall observe GOD his Lord and never cheat. If the debtor is mentally incapable, or helpless, or cannot dictate, his guardian shall dictate equitably. Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all.  Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so…

Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as a witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. Unreasonable laws in “Muslim” countries have been made and continue to be made through abuse of this verse, which results in a lowered status for women.

Women as Leaders

What role can a Muslim woman play in the political system?  The Quran provides clear answers to this question.


God gives the history of Bilquees the Queen of Sheba (27:22-44) in the Quran. In the Quran, she is a woman in a leadership position who ran the affairs of the Nation in a democratic format through respectful consultation with advisors (27:29).  The Quran thus provides an example to demonstrate that women can be in leadership roles; including the leading of a nation.

Dress Code

The following article explores the details of the woman’s dress code (link headcovers article).  In summary, much of what is considered today as a Muslim woman’s proper dress such as headcover, abaya, or jilbab is not prescribed by God in the Quran, rather it is imposed by sources outside of the Quran such as religious scholars, tradition, and regional customs.  Much of the imposed dress code is unreasonable, encumbering, and has nothing to do with God’s religion.

Polygamy

The following article explores the details of the feasibility of polygamous marriages (link polygamy article).  In summary, verse 4:3 makes it clear that the ONLY condition for polygamy is for the sake of orphans, while verse 4:129 discourages polygamy even for that one exception since a person can never be equitable when dealing with more than one wife.

What Causes the Status Difference in Islam?

The Quran prohibits even Prophet Mohammad from issuing any religious teachings other than the Quran in verses 69:43-47. The religious scholars, however, in defiance of the Quran have created religious laws.  These were never authorized by God.  Some of the laws that give women a lowered status from outside of the Quran (called Hadith) state the following:

One Hadith by Abu Bakra who narrated as reported in Bukhary, states that any community ruled by a woman will never succeed.

Two other Hadith also reported in Bukhary and used by religious leaders to contradict God’s sacred word in Quran and lower women’s value state the following:
The first narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri says:  “I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women) … I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you” …
The second untruthful statement used for making rules –narrated by 'Aisha:  “… So when the real menses begins give up your prayers..."

There are many, many other unacceptable and unauthorized Hadith narrations that are used by religious leaders to make rules and challenge God’s authority in the Quran.  It is important to disregard these lies that contradict God’s words in the Quran.

Conclusion

Belief in God mandates that we believe what God tells us. God has stated in his final proven scripture, the Quran, that it is fully detailed and the only source of religious guidance for True Muslims.  As submitters (Muslims) we have to accept God's declared truth and look to God’s words in the Quran for guidance.  The Quran makes it clear that women have an equal status to men in Islam.

 

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