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Women and the Justice of Allah

Question and answer details
Khadeeja Rahman
2012/04/29
As-salamu `alaykum, respected brothers in Islam.  Is Islam unfair to married women? Muslims believe that one of the attributes of Allah the Almighty is that He is just to His creation. One aspect of His justice is the high status he has bestowed upon mothers. The mother is favored 3 times above the father for her immense self sacrifice and love for her children. In comparison, the status of the woman as a wife seems much lower, despite the many rights and privileges she enjoys (inheritance, earnings, divorce… etc). Islam acknowledges that women have been created differently. They are physically weaker, and emotional in their responses. Men, on the other hand, are reasoned and more rational. Bearing in mind their totally different psychological makeup, why does Islam then judge them so harshly? As a wife, a women is expected to be totally serene at all times. She must bear the stresses and strains of looking after children and relatives, and also help her husband in his work if necessary. No matter if she is exhausted, depressed, or bored by any of this. She is not allowed to have a day off. She is not allowed to become irritated by any unreasonable demand of her husband. If she shows any displeasure towards him, the Qur'an advises him to rebuke, isolate, and as a last resort, beat her, though be it very lightly. Furthermore, her Prayers are not accepted if her husband is angry with her. This is surely a carte blanche for him to be as unreasonable as he likes. Burdened by the demands of caring for little children, there must be many times a woman is too tired for sex with her husband, but if she refuses in these circumstances, she is cursed by the Hoor in Heaven. The married woman is also expected to show utmost gratitude to her husband at all times. Islam tells us that the majority of women go to Hell due to their ingratitude to their husbands. Married women are advised to give lots of charity to avoid this. Since the ideal Muslim woman does not go out to work, how can she give lots of charity when she has no income of her own? Is she to ask her husband for money to give charity because she is not grateful enough to him? He would surely become angry with her! And then her Prayers would not be accepted! Throughout history men in all walks of life have oppressed women. However, in Islam this oppression of women is seen as far less sinful than women's ingratitude (however small) to their husbands. Furthermore, since most married women are also mothers, it follows that most mothers, despite their self-sacrifice, love, care, and the agony they experience in childbirth, will be in Hell. Why does Islam presume that all husbands are beyond reproach and that their wives must be punished? If they have been created differently, then surely Islam should make allowances for their emotional and hormonally driven natures. Can you explain how Islam's harsh expectations of married women equates with the absolute justice of Allah?
Shahul Hameed
Answer
Salam, Sister Khadeejah.


Thank you for your question.

First of all, let me tell you that the justice of Allah Almighty is perfect justice; it does not allow for any kind of partisanship towards the male to the detriment of the female. The Qur'an makes this perfectly clear.

*{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}* (An-Nisaa' 4:124)

Note: "And not the least injustice will be done to them."

As Muslims, isn't it our duty to accept the Word of Allah above all other considerations?

Read the following verses too:

*{They ask your instruction concerning the women; say: Allah does instruct you about them: And (remember) what has been rehearsed unto you in the Book, concerning the orphans of women to whom you give not the portions prescribed, and yet whom you desire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that you stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed which you do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith}* (An-Nisaa' 4:127)

Yet you have stated, "most mothers, despite their self sacrifice, love, care, and the agony they experience in childbirth, will be in Hell". But you yourself can see that the verses suggest something different. Particularly note "There is not a good deed, which you do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith." And again, I repeat "And not the least injustice will be done to them."

Now read the following verse:

*{If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if you do good and practice self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do}* (An-Nisaa' 4:128)

The subject here is a negotiated settlement between husband and wife. And see that no precedence is given to the husband here; but a clear warning is given to men about their inclination to be greedy: "Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do."

This could be interpreted by some men as bias against them!

But again read this emphasis on justice:

*{O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.}* (An-Nisaa' 4:135)

But you have written "As a wife, a woman is expected to be totally serene at all times. She must bear the stresses and strains of looking after children and relatives, and also help her husband in his work if necessary. No matter if she is exhausted, depressed, or bored by any of this. She is not allowed to have a day off. She is not allowed to become irritated by any unreasonable demand of her husband.

Islam acknowledges that women have been created differently. They are physically weaker, and emotional in their responses. Men on the other hand are reasoned and more rational. Bearing in mind their totally different psychological make up, why does Islam then judge them so harshly?"

I think you are reflecting here the prejudiced opinions of some men. How can the Qur'an or the Prophet (peace be upon him) undermine Islam by supporting grievous injustice against the weaker party?

You have acknowledged that the status of woman as mother is great in Islam, but at the same time you said that Islam allows for the oppression of woman as wife: "If she shows any displeasure towards him, the Qur'an advises him to rebuke, isolate, and, as a last resort, beat her, though be it very lightly. Furthermore, her Prayers are not accepted if her husband is angry with her. This is surely a carte blanche for him to be as unreasonable as he likes."

First, the Qur'an does not give men a carte blanche to be as unreasonable as they like in their dealings with their wives. Allah in the Qur'an has repeatedly made it clear that no soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. So no woman shall be treated unfairly on account of her position as wife.

The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to their wives:

*{O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good}* (An-Nisaa' 4:19)


Note the command: "Nor should you treat them with harshness… live with them on a footing of kindness and equity."


Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) also said, "Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of Allah. …Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner." (Muslim)


The reasons for the detailed procedure of divorce in Islam will be evident to anyone who has understood the great emphasis Islam places on the family system. We know the disastrous results of the collapse of the family system in the West: How single women are sexually exploited and abused and finally left in their old age to lead a lonely and miserable life without anyone to care for them.


But Islam takes all the necessary steps to keep the family from breaking down. There is the Qur'anic method of solving marital disputes: They are to be handled privately between the parties as far as possible, and if disputes are not resolved thus, then representatives of the two families are to mediate and try their best for an amicable settlement. Divorce is permitted only as the last resort.


The Qur'an does not allow or condone family violence or physical cruelty. The maximum allowed in extreme cases is a gentle tap that is only symbolic and not intended to leave a mark on the body, and it is allowed only as a last step in an attempt to save the marriage from collapsing.


Even this has been disputed by some scholars, who have interpreted this "maximum" differently, pointing out that Muslims are told to follow the Prophet's example — the same Prophet who never hit a woman or child or servant.


Now consider the Prophetic saying you quoted. I quote just one out of a number of narrations of the same saying:


`Abdullah Ibn `Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah observed:


"O women, you should give charity and ask for much forgiveness for I saw you in majority among the dwellers of Hell." A lady among them said, "Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our gender is in majority in Hell?" Upon this the Prophet observed, "You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you." Upon this the woman remarked, "What is wrong with our common sense and with religion?" He observed, "Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to that of one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense, and you spend some nights (and days) in which you do not offer Prayer and in the month of Ramadan (during the days) you do not observe fast, that is a failing in religion." (Muslim)

The first point to note is that many scholars agree that the Prophet was merely using humor to urge the ladies to donate more. As for the "lack of common sense", the reason given is that the evidence of two women is equal to one. We know that being a witness in a dispute is a serious and onerous task, often causing a lot of mental strain for the witnesses. For a woman-witness in a court of law, it would be a great consolation to have a woman-companion to bear the burden of giving testimony. Thus we may view this provision given by Allah in the Qur'an as a concession to women, and not be a charge against them. Moreover, Shari`ah accepts the witness of one woman as equal to one man's witness if that woman demonstrates sufficient knowledge and expertise.

Similarly, no one can say that the ladies are to blame for their monthly period. Allah created them that way, and again it is Allah Almighty Who has given them the concession about praying and fasting. How can we say that accepting this God-given concession is "a failing in religion"?

The point I wish to stress here is that it is a mistake to take the words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a harsh criticism of women's natural dispositions. He probably uttered those words about the failing on the part of women jokingly, in order to urge them to do more good for the sake of Allah Almighty.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam

Useful Links:

Are Women in Bad Marriages Given Unfair Religious Rulings?

"House Arrest" for Muslim Women?

Women in Islam… Again and Again!

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