February 25, 2009
Andy Derksen asks: Are men and women considered equal in Islam?
Absolutely men and women are considered equal in Islam. Several Qur’an verses (the ultimate authority for Muslims) emphasize this point:
“And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another:…’ (3:195)
“If any do deeds of righteousness, — be they male or female — and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (4:124)
“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.” (33:35)
“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.” (9:71)
Some point to disproportionate inheritance laws as justification of the inequality of men and women in Islam; however, the context is that Islam has overthrown Arab tradition by giving women a share of the inheritance. The share of men is in some cases larger because they are required to spend part of their share in support of women. The point of the verse is it is only fair that men support women from their bigger share of the inheritance. (Not to mention that in modern America married men earn almost double the wages of married women in similar positions.) The woman’s share, though smaller (though not in all cases), belongs totally to the woman and she is not required to support men out of it. Some scholars have interpreted the “more” given to men as more strength than women. This ignores the context of inheritance, but perhaps they have a point and the Qur’an may be subtly alluding to the broader context of the social relationships between men and women that have been the case in every society in history. But in no case does this verse in any way imply any spiritual superiority of men over women whatsoever. Nor can such an interpretation be defended. (1) It is against the simple meaning of the text; (2) it is violates the context; (3) it contradicts the numerous other verses in the Qur’an insisting on the spiritual equality of men and women (as in 33:35 quoted above). Indeed, the opening verse of the surah named “Women” exalts the status of women demanding: “Revere the wombs that bore you” (4:1).
Minaret of Freedom Institute