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Men and Women: Equality or Justice?

Question and answer details
Aayisha
2012/09/25
We live in a society where women are said to be equal with man, so my question is what are the limits? And how to maintain a healthy relationship?
Mohsen Haredy
Answer

Salam dear Aayisha,

Thank you for your question.

Let’s agree first that when we deal with issues related to gender in Islam, we are dealing with different concepts according to different situations and circumstances. We have cases where both men and women are treated equally. There are cases where men and women are treated differently.

The general and comprehensive rule in Islam is justice. All people are to be treated justly without any differentiation due to sex, color, race, etc. We read in the Quran what means:

{Indeed God enjoins justice.} (An-Nahl 16:90)

As a reflection of this justice, on the Day of Judgment both men and women are held accountable for their intentions and deeds without any discrimination. We read in the Quran what means:

{…no human being shall be of the least avail to another human being.} (Al-Infitar 82:19)

The Quran addresses both men and women and equates between them in terms of qualities and good manners. Read for example the Chapter of Al-Ahzab verse no 35.

In acts of worship, men and women are commanded in the Quran and the Sunnah to perform the same rituals and they are promised the same reward. Men and women are asked to pray five times a day, pay Zakah, fast during the month of Ramadan, and perform Hajj if they have the financial and physically ability.

Likewise, men and women have the right to receive education. Men and women have the right to engage in economic transactions. Women have their own legal entity and they have the sole authority over their properties.

While dealing with gender issues, we should not ignore inherent physical and psychological differences which are recognized by even secular societies. It is unfair to teat men and women equally in these situations. The privilege given to either men or women does not imply any superiority of one over the other or inferiority of one to the other. Islam asks men to spend on their families. On the other hand, Islam asks women to take care of upbringing the children in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah.

When it comes to inheritance, if males are given double the share of females, this is due to fact that males are obliged to sustain their family members, especially unmarried sisters. On the other hand, females are not obliged to spend on family members and they have the right to spend on their own interests.

These are the general rules of establishing justice between men and women. There no limits in the area of justice. As for equality, Islam considers the physical and psychological nature of men and women and assigns each sex what fits it.

With regard to how to maintain a healthy relationship between men and women, there is no general rule that governs this relationship. The Quran and Sunnah are full of instances where men and women interact with each other freely. Examples are Al-Qasas 28:11-12, Al-Qasas 28:23-24, and An-Naml 27:32.

In the Sunnah we read that a female Companion approached the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah! I am a woman who buys and sells." This kind of interaction includes both men and women and the Prophet did not see any harm in conducting it.

Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) appointed Samra' bint Naheek as a police officer (muhtasibah). She carried a "whip to use in enforcing good and forbidding evil." (At-Tabarani)

Throughout the Islamic history women went out in search of knowledge. They attended classes with male counterparts. They gave classes which were attended by both males and females. Women excelled in many fields especially Hadith literature.

Therefore, there is no restriction on interaction between men and women as long as respect and politeness are maintained.

I hope this answers your question.

Salam.

Useful Links:

The Status of Women

Equal Rights For Women

Eminence Islam Gives Women

Men... One Degree Above Women?

Islamic Gender Discrimination?!

Social Equity Between Man and Woman

 

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