WHO IS SUPERIOR IN ISLAM? MEN OR WOMEN?

Muslim girls offer prayers before having their Iftar (fast-breaking) meal during the holy month of Ramadan at a madrasa on the outskirts of Jammu on August 21, 2010: Courtesy: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/08/ramadan_2010.html

All through the Quran it is clear when taken in true contextual reference that gender is NOT the criterion for merit in Islam.

Men and women are enjoined with the same prayers and to stay away from the same things and both men and women if obedient and God fearing and God conscious are promised beautiful rewards in the gardens of Jannah.

At a practical level for instance, if a woman knows more Qur’an than a man, there is no Islamic basis for saying that we will not listen to her because she is a woman and that we will listen to a man even if he is a fool.

WHAT DOES ALLAH (SWT) SAY IN THE QURAN ABOUT MERIT & SUPERIORITY?

* The Qur’an makes it very clear that it bases merit and superiority on Faith-based BEHAVIOR, rather than on gender. Here are the relevant quotes:

Is the Qur’an a source of guidance relating to men or to women? That question is not relevant because the Qur’an says about itself:

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿٢

“This is the Book in which is no doubt, a Guidance sure for THOSE WHO HAVE TAQWA.” [The Qur’an 2:2]

Taqwa is translated as conduct/piety/virtue based on fear and consciousness of Allah. It is not limited to either gender.

* All the forms of Islamic worship are similarly related to TAQWA and not to gender. Let us take one of the most important: Fasting in the month of Ramadan. The Qur’an states its purpose in these words:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٨٣

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that ye may learn to have TAQWA.” [2:183]

Thus, as the Prophet, pbuh, explained in Hadith, fasting is mere hunger if it does not change behavior and brings about patience and self-restraint [various forms of taqwa.]

  • Where the Qur’an affirms the male and female identity, as well as the differences between nations and tribes, it restricts merit/nobility/superiority to those who have TAQWA. There is powerful emphasis here on the affirmation of TAQWA which makes gender and nationality/tribe secondary, if not unimportant:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ﴿١٣

“O people! We created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other [not that ye may despise each other.] Surely the noblest/best of you with Allah is the one who is best in conduct [has the most taqwa] among you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted [with all things].” [49:13]

Allah Subhanawataala has leveled the playing field in the Quran with TAQWA as the goal and the source of determining merit in a human being irrespective of gender.

Thus, we Muslims must not let the opposing forces trap us into a debate about male and female superiority and inferiority.

Dua: O Allah allow us to see truth as truth and falsehood as falsehood………

Presented at: Women’s History Conference in Atlanta, Georgia

Muslim Women’s Leadership Summit: Sis. Hadayai Majeed Presiding

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About Kaukab Siddique PhD

Professor of English, World Literature and Journalism at Lincoln University. Research specialization in Women and Islam

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