Is Islam Gender-Biased?

Question and answer details
As-amalamu `alaykum. There is an allegation against Shari`ah law that it is very unjust and gender-biased regarding the rape case. It is said that, according to classical fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence): if any female rape victim can't bring forth four male adult witnesses who saw the rape, then the accused go free. Isn't it very much weird to demand four male witness to be brought forth because, it is inconceivable that four adult just male will see the rape happening, do nothing until the rape is complete. Moreover, the witness of female is also rejected in the case of hudud. Isn't it very much gender-biased? Please, enlighten on this issue.
Wael Shihab

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, we are very pleased for the great confidence you repose in us and we really commend your apparent interest in having a better understanding of Islam and its rulings.

It is not correct to depict Islam Shari`ah as gender-biased. A reflection on Islam’s teachings and values makes it clear that Islam consider both women and women as equals. Men and women in Islam enjoy equal rights and bear the same responsibilities. Though Islam considers the different physical and even psychological natures of men and women, it secures fair and equal treatment for both genders.

Responding to your question, Dr. Wael Shihab, PhD in Islamic Studies, Al-Azhar University, and the Head of the Shari`ah Dept. of Onislam.net website, stated,

Thank you for your question.

In fact, Islam considers men and women as equals, though not similar or identical. There is a great difference between equality, which is Islamically secured for women and men, and similarity.  All people are equals, irrespective of their gender, culture, or race. However, people are not generally similar. Men have different nature than women. Therefore, Islam considers the different natures of both genders in a way that secures the wellbeing of both men and women. For example, women are exempted from praying and fasting in the times of their menses for health and other significant reasons. Women enjoy equal financial, social, devotional, etc., rights and virtues as men. Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

Verily, women are the twin halves of men”. (Abu Dawud)

Also, the Qur’an states,

{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.} (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

Therefore, it is not acceptable for anybody to claim that Islam differentiates between men and women on the basis of gender. Women and men are equally considered and respected in Islam.

As for the issue of rape, a victim of rape deserves the community’s help, care, and consideration. A rape victim is not to be punished; she should be kindly and honorably treated. She is not required to bring four witnesses, men or women. It seems that you confuse the cases of adultery and rape. A criminal, who commits the crime of rape, is to be punished as long as he is proved guilty. A judge could inflict a suitable legal punishment on the criminal even if there are no witnesses as long as the court gets proofs—such as DNA tests and other modern scientific evidences—that prove the crime.

Witnesses in many legal cases could be women. Islam has no absolute problem with women witnesses. On the contrary, in some cases, Islam prefers women witnesses. For example, in cases that needs checking or looking at some parts of a woman’s body, women experts and witnesses are generally preferred. Islam gives preference to experts and professionals in every field. So, in some cases, men witnesses may be preferred and vice versa. What matters therefore are the adequacy, authenticity, and assurance of testimonies for the wellbeing of people, women and men.

May Allah accept your and our good deeds!

Allah Almighty knows best.