Thursday, November 6, 2008

To be or not to be equal: Comments on gender equity in Islam

Question: Are women equal to or inferior to men in Islam?

Answer: Women are NOT INFERIOR to men, women are NOT EQUAL to men, women are SUPERIOR to men in Islam.
Men have been appointed our guardians and protectors, and as such have been accorded certain rights over us (that is obedience and fidelity, guarding what one must guard in any relationship). They have to go out and earn the bread, they have to provide food, clothing and comfort for the wife, the children, his parents and the rest of the family including unmarried or widowed sisters, and the community at large, according to their means, and discharge these financial duties with love, kindness and willing happiness!
Women have been given the burden of pregnancy and childbirth, and as such, have been exempted of everything else. They have the freedom to do business/ jobs, but are not required to spend a single penny from it on anybody, except of their own free will.
The institution of marriage is to get ‘sukoon’….. that is peace and contentment/ happiness/ a state of felicity! Furthermore, men are required to give a gift (mehr) to the wife at the time of the nikah, before consumption of marriage, according to the financial means of the groom, which is hers to keep and do whatever she wishes with it, and she is not required to return it even if they eventually divorce.
Men may have been allowed to marry more than once BUT under certain conditions………… they are to take care of the orphans in the society…. And if they are not able to foster-parent the orphans, they may marry( I think the ayat implies the widowed mother), and yet the ayat continues to say that you may alternatively use the services of your servants/slaves for the purpose of taking care of the orphans, and that ONE(wife) is better for you if you know!
Men may have been given the right to divorce, but under so many conditions that it is extremely difficult, if they want to follow letter and spirit. Women have also been given the right to khula.
Furthermore, in the event of death or divorce, Allah tells the women to wait for a period prescribed till it is established if the woman is pregnant or not, so that the father of the child may be accurately identified, but after the prescribed time-period, the woman is free to marry. Don’t find any advice for re-marriage for men anywhere except for the care of orphans!
In financial transactions, it is prescribed to take as witness one man or two women; in cases of adultery, the witness of four pious men is required, and if they are found lying, then forever their word is not to be accepted in any matter!
What is essential is the spirit within, in that case, all humans are equal, the male or female body is simply the mortal shell without, and thus the different rules for the time we spend here on this temporary abode.
May Allah grant us all the guidance to study the Quran, understand it, and follow it and may Allah grant us all success in both this world and the hereafter. Amen.

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