Men and Women in Islam: Both Equal and Complementary

Equality of Men and Woman in Islam, and their complementary nature to one another

In one sense, equality between men and women is possible and reasonable because they are both human, with similar souls, brains, hearts, lungs, limbs, etc. In another sense, equality between men and women is impossible and an absurdity due to their natural differences in physical, mental, emotional and psychological qualities, inclinations and abilities. Between these two we must tread to illuminate how they are equal, and how they are complimentary.

If total equality between all members of the same gender is impossible due to natural differences in strengths and other qualities, regardless of whether the gender is masculine or feminine, then it is definitely impossible between the two genders. Allah, the Exalted and Almighty, says in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And of everything We have created pairs, that you may remember (the Grace of Allah).)

[51:49]

Even atoms exhibit this dual quality with inter-related and complementary roles played by the positive and negative particles and ions, yet each is an integral part of the whole system of the so called binary basis of all life. Most living beings have male and female sexes for reproduction. As the science of biology teaches us, all mammals have similar traits in their molecular and glandular structures that determine differences in gender. These basic physical, psychological and sexual traits have their definite effects on other spheres of life.

It is natural for a man to need and find fulfillment with a woman and for a woman with a man, since they are created one from the other and for one another. They both are inseparably bound to each other. Neither can they find fulfillment except when in the company of the other as legal and honorable mate and spouse, as Allah (The Almighty) says in His Majestic Book, the Qur’an, mentioned in the two verses cited in the preface:

(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 honorable of you in the Sight of Allah is the believer who has Taqwa (piety and righteousness). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.)

[49:13]

In many instances Islam treats women as equals to men. Some of them are given below. In the coming sections we will expand on these themes in various contexts throughout the book.

1) Equality in Basic Humanity

Both the male and the female are equal in terms of their humanity. Islam does not categorize women, for instance, as the source of evil in the world for some & original sin that caused Adam (Peace be Upon Him) to be dismissed from Paradise, or to be the cause of evil in the world by setting loose a Pandora’s box of vices, as some other religious doctrines and fables teach.

Allah, the Exalted and Almighty, states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women…)

[4:1]

Allah also states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Does man think that he will be left neglected without being punished or rewarded for the obligatory duties enjoined by his Lord (Allah) on him? Was he not a mixed male and female discharge of semen pouring forth? Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned (him) in due proportion, and made him into two sexes, male and female. Is He not able to raise to life those who are dead?)

[75:36-40]

Allah illustrated in the verses that He created both sexes from one single source. There is no difference between the two sexes in terms of qualifications in humanity, and each complements the other as the two genders of the species. Islam has abolished and abrogated all the previous unjust laws that demoted women as inferior in quality and nature. The Prophet of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said:

Verily, women are the twin halves of men.

[Abu Dawood #234 , Tirmidhi #113 & others]

2) Equality in Religious Obligations

Equal religious duties and rituals are required from both women and men. Testimony of Faith (Shahaadah), Prayer (Salah), Obligatory Charity (Zakah), Fasting (Saum), and Pilgrimage (Hajj) are equally required of both genders. In some cases the requirements are a bit easier on women to alleviate their special cases of hardship. For instance, in consideration of her health and physical condition, menstruating women or a woman in the state of postnatal bleeding and recuperation are absolved from the duty of prayers and fasting. She is required to make up the days of fasting missed due to menses and postnatal bleeding, but not her prayers, as that would be too burdensome.

3) Equality in Rewards and Punishments

Both males and females have similar rewards for obedience and penalties for disobedience in this world and the Hereafter. As stated by Allah in the Glorious Qur’an:

(Whoever does righteous acts, whether male or female, while he is a believer, verily, to him We will give a good life, and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do.)

[16:97]

And the Lord Most Majestic says:

(Surely for men who submit to Allah and for women who submit to Allah, for believing men and for believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for steadfast men and steadfast women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for fasting men and fasting women, for men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity, for men who remember Allah much and for women who remember Allah much, for all of them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward.)

[33:35]

4) Equality in Preservation of Honor and Nobility

Women have the same moral obligations and are entitled to the same general rights as men in guarding chastity, integrity and personal honor and respect, etc. No double standards are allowed. For instance, those who falsely accuse a chaste woman of adultery or fornication are publicly punished, just as if a man is slandered. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Glorious Qur’an:

(And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty lashes, and reject their testimony forever. Indeed, they are those who are disobedient to Allah.)

[24:4]

5) Equality in Financial Dealings and Property Ownership

Women are equally qualified and allowed to engage in financial dealings and property ownership. According to Islamic law women can own, buy, sell and undertake any financial transaction without the need for guardianship, and without any restrictions or limitations – a situation unheard of in many societies until modern times.

6) Best of you is the Best to his Womenfolk

Islam indicates that a man who honors, respects and deals with women justly and integrally, possesses a healthy and righteous personality, whereas a man who mistreats them is an unrighteous and unrespectable man. The Prophet of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said:

The most complete believer is the best in character, and the best of you is the best to his womenfolk.

[Tirmidhi #1162 and verified]

7) Equality in Education and Cultivation

Islam entitles women to the same rights as men in terms of education and cultivation. The Prophet of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said, as reported and authenticated by the scholars of prophetic traditions:

Seeking knowledge is compulsory for each and every Muslim (i.e. both male and female).

[Ibn Majah #224 al-Baihaqi and verified]

Muslim scholars collectively agreed that the word Muslim when used in revealed scriptures includes both male and female, as we indicated in parenthesis. Thus, Islam entitles women to the same right of education in order to understand the religious and social obligations, and obligated them both to raise their children in the best manner, in accordance with the right Islamic guidance. Of course women have certain obligations in bringing up their children that are commensurate to their abilities and men have complementary obligations to finance, protect and maintain according to their added responsibilities in the family unit.

The Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) said:

Whoever takes care of two girls until they reach puberty, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection like this.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) then joined his fingers to illustrate this.

[Muslim #2631]

About female slave girls, the Prophet of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said:

Whoever has a female child with him (under his guardianship from slavery), and trains her in the best behavior, and teaches her well, and then frees and marries her, will have a double reward.

[Bukhari #97 & Muslim #154 ]

8) Equality in Social Responsiblities

Men and women have similar obligations and responsibilities to reform and correct the society to the best of their capability. Men and women shoulder the responsibility of enjoining good and forbidding evil equally, as Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

(The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakah (Obligatory Charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)

[9:71]

9) Right to Receive Fair Share of Wealth

Men and women have set and determined rights to receive their fair share of wealth, just as they are obliged to give Zakah (Obligatory Charity) according to the set calculation. All Muslim scholars unanimously agree upon this. A woman has her set share of inheritance, as will be discussed in more detail later, which was a right unthinkable in many societies.

Allah (The Almighty) says:

(There is a share for men from what is left by parents and those closely related, and there is a share for women from what is left by parents and those closely related, whether the wealth be small or large: a legal mandatory share.)

[4:7]

10) A woman, just like a man, can give someone the right of seeking refuge and security among the Muslims

Allah, the Exalted, says:

(And if one of the polytheists seeks refuge, give him until he hears the words of Allah, then take him to his place of security.)

 

The Messenger of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said:

And the protection of Muslims is one, and the least among them can give protection; and whoever usurps the right of a Muslim then the curse of Allah and His angels and all the people is upon him, and no repentance or ransom will be accepted from him

[Bukhari #3008]

This is also proven by the famous story of Um Hani’ (Mother of Hani’) when she gave protection to a polytheist who sought refuge with her on the day of the conquest of Makkah after her relative threatened to kill that person (for some past enmity) so the Messenger of Allah (Peace be Upon Him) said,

We protect and give asylum to whomever you give asylum O Um Hani’.

[Bukhari #350]

The Muslim Woman and Herself

She keeps company with righteous people and joins religious gatherings

In order to attain this high status, the Muslim woman chooses righteous, Allah-fearing friends, who will be true friends and offer sincere advice, and will not betray her in word or deed. Good friends have a great influence in keeping a Muslim woman on the Straight Path, and helping her to develop good habits and refined characteristics. A good friend – in most cases – mirrors one’s behaviour and attitudes:

  • “Do not ask about a man: ask about his friends, / for every friend follows his friends.”47
  • Mixing with decent people is an indication of one’s good lineage and noble aims in life:
  • “By mixing with noble people you become one of them,/ so you should never regard anyone else as a friend.”48
  • So it is as essential to choose good friends as it is to avoid doing evil:
  • “If you mix with people, make friends with the best of them,/ do not make friends with the worst of them lest you become like them.”49
The Muslim woman is keen to attend gatherings where there is discussion of Islam and the greatness of its teachings regarding the individual, family and society, and where those present think of the power of Almighty Allah (SWT) and His bountiful blessings to His creation, and encourage one another to obey His commandments, heed His prohibitions and seek refuge with Him. In such gatherings, hearts are softened, souls are purified, and a person’s whole being is filled with the joy of faith.
  • Abdullah ibn Rawahah (RAA), whenever he met one of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), used to say, “Come, let us believe in our Lord for a while.” When the Prophet (PBUH) heard about this, he said, “May Allah have mercy on Ibn Rawahah, for he loves the gatherings that the angels feel proud to attend.”50
  • The rightly-guided khalifah `Umar al-Faruq (RAA) used to make the effort to take a regular break from his many duties and the burden of his position as ruler. He would take the hand of one or two men and say, “Come on, let us go and increase our faith,” then they would remember Allah (SWT).51 Even `Umar (RAA), who was so righteous and performed so many acts of worship, felt the need to purify his soul from time to time. He would remove himself for a while from the cares and worries of life, to refresh his soul and cleanse his heart.
  • Mu`adh ibn Jabal (RAA) would often say to his companions, when they were walking, “Let us sit down and believe for a while.”52
The Muslim is responsible for strengthening his soul and purifying his heart. He must always push himself to attain a higher level, and guard against slipping down: ( By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; and by its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it!) (Qur’an 91:7-10)
 
So the Muslim woman is required to choose with care the best friends and attend the best gatherings, so that she will be in an environment which will increase her faith and taqwa:(And keep your soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.) (Qur’an 18: 28)
47. See ‘Adiyy ibn Zayd al-‘Ibadi by the author, 172.
48. Anonymous.
49. See ‘Adiyy ibn Zayd al-‘Ibadi by the author, 172.
50. Reported by Ahmad (3/265) with a hasan isnad.
51. Hayat al-Sahabah, 3/329.
52. Ibid.
[Taken from “The Ideal Muslimah – The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Quran and the Sunnah” by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi]

The Islam That Made You Convert

I had the pleasure of attending a gathering today with my fellow sisters; some of whom converted to Islam such as myself, and some of whom were born into an Islamic family.  While discussing Islam, one sister who was born Muslim said, “I want to learn Islam.  I want to learn the Islam that made you guys convert.  Upon saying that another sister agreed with her and stated how amazing it was to see the conviction and practice of converts. 

That statement hit me hard.  I wasn’t thinking so much about the practice of converts vs. the practice of born Muslims – I thought about the conviction behind the practices.  In a split second I was equally amazed, grateful, inspired and humbled.  I shared in their appreciation and it made me reflect upon my own path to Islam.  I learned about Islam for about year and a half before taking my shahadah, from converts, born Muslims, and through my own reading.  I understood and loved everything I learned, but still did not want to take that plunge.  The events of September 11th inclined me to view life with a purpose, a beginning and an end, and was a big turning point for me.  I remember hearing a sister speak about the coming of Judgment Day and the need to correct our affairs.  It wasn’t so much what she was saying that affected me, but it was more of how she was saying it – it was spoken with such conviction.  Her certainty or ‘yaqeen’ showed me her Iman and although it was like water for her it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was taken back by witnessing her firm beliefs and faith, in something I also believed in, but did not have the same level of faith in.  I had the belief, but the faith was not there.  I heard a Sheikh once say that belief and faith are not always the same – they are two different things.  At times they go hand in hand, and at times they do  not, which is what Allah refers to in the Qur’an.  Now I understand why.

At that time I had known this sister for about a year, and she was one of the people who made me really love Islam – through her behavior, her etiquette, and her actions.  It was through her Islam that portrayed to me the true teachings of Islam and mannerisms of a Muslim.  That is what appealed to me so much. 

I always reflect upon the great blessing of hediya that Allah SWT willed for us, and also for putting good examples of Muslims in my path.  Not everyone has this experience wa la quwatta illah billah.  My friend and a few other sisters have made such a positive impact in my perception of Islam – before my shahadah and right after.  All praise is due to Allah SWT first and foremost, and for using them to show me ‘their Islam’.  It was through ‘their Islam that made me convert.’  Alhamdulillah.

May Allah SWT make all of our Islam the Islam that makes others want to convert.  A reflection of the true teachings of Allah and His Messenger (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam).  Allahumma Ameen.   

The Islamic Will (Al-Wasiya)

I wanted to post a *VERY* important reminder about the Islamic will (wasiyya).  I cannot express enough how important this is.  Here are some things I compiled about the will.  A really great book on this subject is “The Final Bequest – The Islamic Will and Testament” by Muhammad al-Jibaly.  He goes over the will and inheritance laws from A-Z.  

The Obligation of Writing a Will

Writing an Islamic will is unfortunately neglected today, or not stressed upon enough to say the least.  There are obvious reasons of not wanting to think about it, putting it off, or not knowing the importance of having one.   But for Muslims this should be the opposite attitude – it is very very *very* important to have a will, and we should make it a priority to have one ASAP if we don’t already have one, and update it as often as needed.   Nobody knows when they are going to die, so we should hasten to write our will.  When a Muslim dies their will should be read and executed.  Everyone has certain rights that need to be fulfilled, all of which were described and prescribed by Allah and His Messenger (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam)   

  • “It is prescribed for you, when death approaches any of you, if he leaves wealth, that he makes a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable manners. (This is) a duty upon Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” Surah al-Baqarah 2:180
  • “(The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts” Surah al-Nisa 4:11
  • “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
  • Ibn Omar (radiyAllahu anhu) then noted, “Not even one night passed me, ever since I heard this from the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam), without having my will with me” (Bukhari, Muslim, and others)  
  • “A man may do good deeds for seventy years but if he acts unjustly when he leaves his last testament, the wickedness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Fire. If, (on the other hand), a man acts wickedly for seventy years but is just in his last will and testament, the goodness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Garden.” (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)  

Protecting Our Rights

As Muslims we have many rights over each other, with our families, our children, our friends, and with our own selves.  Having a wasiyya will insha’Allah ascertain with Allah that we did our best to make sure we fulfilled these rights.   Death comes to anyone at any given place and at any given time.  We are not guaranteed anything, not even another second.   We don’t want to die without giving someone their rights, nor do we want to die and not have our rights given to us.   Rights are so important that they will hang over us on Judgment Day until scores are settled – because Islam is a religion of justice.   Alhamdulillah.  We should take advantage and make our will while we are of sound mind and health.  We do not want to be on our deathbed, or sick, suffering from pain, incoherent, (may Allah protect us all) while trying to verbalize our will wishes.   We want to make sure that our instructions on what will happen to our family, children, wealth, property, assets, debts, and our bodies, etc are articulated and clearly understood.   We want to protect the rights of our kids, our families, and ourselves.  

Importance of an Islamic Will

  • Everything we have in this world, our wealth and our property, is from Allah and a trust from Him.    While we are alive we are required to utilize our wealth in the best way and we will be asked about that on Judgment Day.   When we die, part of that trust is to pass our wealth and property along appropriately.  Aside from having non-Muslim families who may not know the Islamic practices, many countries do not recognize or follow the laws of Allah.   We have to be very careful of this, and make sure we do what we can to protect our rights and be in accordance with the Shari’ah.
  • Certain rights and duties between people must be settled before a person’s estate can be divided according to the inheritance laws in the Qur’an.   Examples are loans, promises, unpaid bills, borrowed items, unpaid zakat, dowry, etc.   We have to give everyone their due right.  We can include names and contacts of anyone we owe loans to, creditors information, and so on in our wills. 
  • Islam is perfect and prescribes a way for everything.   Many practices today, including funeral procedures, washing, burying, and mourning, etc are not done in accordance with the Sunnah; there is a lot of innovation (may Allah protect us from that).   The will can specify the requests of the deceased to be honored – to have all practices and procedures done according to how Allah and His Messenger prescribed.  (Buried in a Muslim cemetary, buried as soon as possible, without structures on the grave, without excessive wailing, etc etc etc)

You can also specify and name certain people whom you want to wash your body.  The person should be pious, one who knows how to do the Ghusl and wrapping according to the Sunnah, one who will protect your dignity and honor (should they see anything on you that might harm your honor during the washing, they will never tell), and so on.   Before we get put in the grave, we want to be cleaned and wrapped in the best way insha’Allah. 

Basic Elements of a Will

There is no specific wording for a wasiyya, but basically it should have the following elements:

  • The testator’s expression of sound mental ability and health
  • Declaration of faith (the Shahadah)
  • Commanding the survivors to do good and avoid sins
  • Declaration of liabilites and assets
  • Appointing an executor of the will and guardian(s) of wealth and children
  • Bequeathed part of the estate (Naming beneficiaries and indicating the amount of your estate you wish to bequeath – up to 1/3) 
  • Emphasizing Islamic heirship (specifying legal heirs and their correct shares)

The will should be notarized and signed by 2 witnesses.  Legal advice is also recommended.  The will has a special sanctity and must be observed and executed.  Anyone who changes it or hides any part of it is sinful and liable for Allah’s punishment!

  • “And if (after the testator’s death) anyone alters such a provision after having come to know it, the sin of acting thus falls only upon those who have altered it.  Indeed Allah is Hearing and Knowing.”  (Surah al-Baqara 2:181)

My dear brothers and sisters, dont delay what we have to do today until tomorrow because we never know what can happen to us.  There are many standard wills available online, which can be modified according to specific requests/ needs:

http://icbr.org/Docs/LastWill_Testament.pdf

http://www.dremali.com/articles/current/last-will-testament.html

 ~Um Yusuf as-Siddiq 

Women’s Liberation Through Islam

Many people have the concept that women are liberated in the West and that women’s liberation was born some time in the 20th century. In actuality, women’s liberation did not begin with a movement, or by a group of women, but it began by revelation from God to a man in the seventh century by the name of Mohammed (peace be upon him), who is known as the last Prophet of Islam. Islam raised the status of women, liberating them and freeing them from the many injustices that have been wrongly imposed upon them throughout time. The status of the Muslim woman is a very noble one, as her role greatly effects society as a whole. The Muslim woman is the initial teacher in the building of a society. The great importance of Muslim women’s roles – whether as a mother, grandmother, aunt, wife, sister, daughter, and the rights that are due to her and the obligation due from her – have been explained in the Qur’an and Traditions of the Prophet (Sunnah).

Among her God given rights are:

  • Human rights
  • Civil rights
  • Social rights
  • Political rights
  • Economic rights
  • The high rank of a mother
  • The rights and honor of a wife
  • And much more…

 

Read more in detail on page entitled Women and Islam