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]

How Does the Heart Fast?

How does the Heart fast?
by Shaykh Aa’id ‘Abdullâh al-Qarnî

 
 
And if anyone believes in Allah, (Allah) guides his heart (aright)’ (64:11). 

The guidance of the heart is the basis of all guidance, the law of all success, the origin of every deed and head of every action. The Prophet saws said:
 ‘Truly there is a piece of flesh in the body which, if it be wholesome, the whole body will be healthy and which, and if it be diseased the whole body will be diseased. Truly it is the heart.’

Thus the goodness of your heart is the guarantee of your happiness in this world and in the hereafter. Likewise, its corruption is the surest way to destruction, the extent of which only Allah knows.
 ‘In this, behold, there is indeed a reminder for everyone whose heart is wide-awake – that is [everyone who] lends ear with a conscious mind’ (50:37). 

Every creature has a heart. In reality though they are two hearts, a heart that is alive and pulsating with the light of faith. It is filled with intense conviction and God-consciousness. The other is a dead heart, covered and diseased with every wreckage and rubbish.

Allah Almighty says concerning the hearts of the foolish folk:
 ‘In their hearts is disease, and so God lets their disease increase’ (2:10). 

 ‘But they say, “Our hearts are already full of knowledge.” Nay, but God has rejected them because of their refusal to acknowledge the truth: for, few are the things in which they believe’ (2:88). 

Allah also says:
 ‘Will they not, then, ponder over this Quran? — or are there locks upon their hearts?’ (47:24). 

 ‘And so they say, [as it were:] “Our hearts are veiled from whatever thou callest us to, [O Muhammad,] and in our ears is deafness”’ (41:5). 

From all these verses we learn that the hearts can become ill, they can be covered, locked and they die. The enemies of Allah have hearts in their bosoms but they do not perceive with these hearts. Hence the Prophet saws used to say:
 ‘O dispenser of hearts make my heart firm in Your religion.’

The heart of the believer fasts during Ramadan and outside of Ramadan. The fasting of the heart is done by emptying it of all corrupt material such as destructive forms of polytheism, false beliefs, evil suggestions, filthy intentions and degenerate thoughts. The heart of the believer is adorned with the love of Allah. It knows its Lord by His names and His qualities as He has described Himself. This heart explores with a discerning eye the lines of His names and qualities and the pages of Allah’s making in the universe and the books of His creations.

Continue reading How Does the Heart Fast?

All for a Palm Tree in Jannah

In life there will always be those people who are opportunists, or those who take advantage of any opportunity to get what they want no matter what the cost is.  Opportunists are usually thought of in a negative, “out for yourself” perspective.  In reality this depends on your intention, your acts, how you go about getting what you want, and at what costs.  In Islam, being an opportunist is not seen as cut throat, but rather it is encouraged to compete as opportunists, and even considered a praiseworthy act.  This is because an opportunist racing towards the pleasure of Allah and towards getting good deeds in this life will have success awaiting for them on Judgment Day and in the Afterlife.  This goal is more important to reach “no matter what the cost in this world”.  Here is the beautiful story of one opportunist who did not let go of his chance to get guaranteed pleasure in the Hereafter.

Abu Darda (may Allah have mercy on him) was one of those people who found an opportunity to win what is greater than the heavens and the earth.  There was a companion of the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) who cultivated his garden next to the property of an orphan. The orphan claimed that a specific palm tree was on his property and therefore belonged to him. The companion rejected the claim, so the orphan boy went to the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) to complain.  The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) measured the two gardens and found that the palm tree did indeed belong to the companion. The orphan erupted crying. Seeing this, the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) asked the companion, “Would you give him the palm tree and for you is a palm tree in Jannah?” However, the companion in his disbelief that an orphan would complain to the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam), missed the opportunity and went away angry.

But someone else saw the opportunity – Abu Darda (radi Allahu anhu). He went to the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) and asked, “Ya RasulAllah, if I buy the tree from him and give it to the orphan shall I have that tree in Jannah?”

The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “Yes.”

Abu Darda (radi Allahu anhu) had chased after the companion and asked, “Would you sell that tree to me for my entire garden?”  (Abu Darda had a garden of 600 trees)

The companion answered, “Take it, for there is no good in a tree that was complained to the Prophet about.”

Immediately, Abu Darda (radi Allahu anhu) went home and found his wife and children playing in the garden. “Leave the garden!” shouted Abu Darda. “We’ve sold it to Allah! We’ve sold it to Allah!” Some of his children had dates in their hand and he snatched the dates from them and threw them back into the garden. “We’ve sold it to Allah!”

When Abu Darda was later martyred in the battle of Uhud, RasulAllah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) stood over his slain body and remarked, “How many shady palm trees does Abu Darda now have in Paradise?”

What did Abu Darda lose? Dates? Bushes? Dirt? What did he gain? He gained a Jannah whose expanse is the heavens and the earth.

Subhan’Allah, how beautiful is this story, of one Sahabi who gave up everything he had, just to have one palm tree in Jannah.  Allahu Akbar.

You are Beautiful, Masha’Allah!

You are Beautiful, Masha Allah!
By Na’ima B. Robert

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and smiled: `Alhamdulillah’? Chances are, your last encounter with a full-length mirror was conducted with a worried frown on your face as you ran down a long, humiliating list of your figure’s faults and flaws.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

As women, the pressure to live up to a collagen-enhanced, air-brushed ideal of beauty is greater than ever. We are constantly bombarded with images of women with impossibly clear skin, symmetrical features, long, glossy hair, perky fronts and backs, toned thighs, dainty feet: no wonder we feel inadequate! Even being a Muslimah doesn’t necessarily shield one from our society’s insistence on codifying `beauty’ and making it a standard that all women should aspire to.  What’s a girl to do?

Some of us rise to the challenge: we work out, watch what we eat, keep our daily `cleanse, tone and moisturize’ routine and invest in flattering make-up and complementary clothes in shades that suit our complexions. BUT… if you are like the many Muslim women that I know – busy wives, even busier mothers – you just don’t have time for such a hectic grooming schedule. So, in a way, some of us opt out. We give up trying to compete. We cover our bodies with our abayas, hide our split ends under our hijabs and bury ourselves in the many demands of home and family life.  But we are not `conscientious objectors’. We have not taken the decision to neglect ourselves as a matter of principle and so, we are still unhappy when we look at ourselves in the mirror. We are still dissatisfied. And we are still ungrateful.

Yes, we are ungrateful. We agonise over our stretch marks and ignore the miracle of the womb that blossomed and left us with those silvery marks. We worry about our dimply thighs and forget that our legs are strong and capable of bending in prostration, of walking around the Ka’aba and carrying us through life. We fret about our flabby upper arms and turn a blind eye to the amazing strength of our arms that have carried schoolbooks, rocked babies and comforted husbands and friends. 

 
My sister, look at your body. Take a long, hard look. Then say the du’a of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam): “O Allah, as you have made my appearance beautiful, make my character beautiful.”  That’s right, my sister, you are beautiful, masha Allah: believe it!  You are a unique, amazing creation of Allah ta’ala and your body is a witness to His Majesty every single moment of every day, with
every breath you take and every beat of your heart. And your beauty is not fleeting or in and out of fashion like the false ideal of beauty being peddled on the high street. Your beauty is more than skin-deep: it radiates from your soul, from the beauty of your iman, from a life lived for the sake of Allah.  For the ideal of beauty that we should be striving for is the beauty of the believer: the light of inner peace, the glow of the night prayer, the smile of contentment and gratitude, the beauty of a righteous and noble character. That is the true beauty and the only one worth striving for.  So, if you work out, keep a daily exercise routine and keep your high standards, you go, girl. And if you don’t, just do your best.  But just remember that beauty is about so much more than clear skin and toned thighs. It is about acknowledging the bounties of Allah and recognising the beauty He looks for and can see. And that is the kind of beauty that everyone should aspire to.

This article was published in the first issue of SISTERS.  If you liked this article, why not subscribe to SISTERS and get the latest issue and all our past online issues free?

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18 Things Sisters can do For the Local Islamic Center

The Prophet (PBUH) said: If the wife of any one of you asks permission (to go to the masjid) do not forbid her.” (Bukhari)

Given this, here are some practical things sisters can do for their local Islamic Center.

1. Do it for the sake of Allah

What other reason to do this than for the sake of Allah? None. Make your intention clear, then assess what you can do. Insha Allah (if Allah wills) you’ll be rewarded for your sincerity and dedication.

2. Fight for your right

Do you know that you even have a right to go to the mosque? Request the masjid board to provide the reference from the Quran or hadith for denying women to go to the masjid. Provide the board with textual references from the Quran and Sunnah indicating otherwise. This may be presented by way of a letter or a presentation at a board meeting. Identify brothers on the board and other community leaders who believe women should not be denied access. These brothers will be important allies in your struggle. Don’t make your struggle be seen as a sister vs. brother problem. It is important to stress to the board that the participation of women in the masjid is a God-given right. If space is seen as a problem, provide suggestions as to how the masjid can become more sister-friendly. Remind these brothers that while their wives go shopping, or some cases work, by denying them the right to go to the mosque, they are being denied the change to gain Allah’s blessings through praying and learning in the mosque. Denying women their God-given right to attend the masjid is a form of zulm (oppression).

Continue reading 18 Things Sisters can do For the Local Islamic Center