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Islam as a Religion of Equality

Islam is the religion where equality of the rights for both sexes can be observed but the misinterpretation of the people has stereotyped the religion. As a result, not only the non-Muslims but also the Muslims have drawn a bad sketch for Islam. This paper will reflect the Islamic perspective and Muslim practices regarding gender equality. Moreover, the impacts of misinterpretations will be addressed. Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

“O you who have faith, stand firm in equity (list) as witnesses for Allah, even if it were against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your desires, so that you may be just (tail).” (Surah Al-Nisa’ 4:135)

People today tend to invoke the word equality on several issues as if it were a synonym for justice. Usually, by saying equality they mean all people are equal in basic rights, duties, and dignity, and our justice systems should be fair, impartial, and unbiased. Certainly, people are equal in Islam regarding their right to life, property, and human dignity, regardless of their religion, race, gender, or ethnicity. Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ

“O you who have faith, stand firm for Allah as witnesses in equity (list, and let not the hatred of people cause you to not be just. Be just (‘idle), for that is nearer to righteousness.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

Allah Almighty stressed the word for all human beings irrespective of creed, breed, caste, colour, status, and sex. However, the people interpreted it in a way that education is reserved for males only not for females. Moreover, Islam’s first revelation was made in the context, where the darkness of ignorance was ruling over. The brutality was at its peak point. Allah says:

لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ نَصِيبًا مَّفْرُوضًا

“For the men a portion of what (is) left (by) the parents, and the near relatives and for the women a portion of what (is) left (by) parents and the near relatives of what (is) little of it or much – a portion obligatory.” (Surah an-Nisa 4:7)

The people of the male dominant society believe that a married woman is ready to serve not only her husband but also the family of her husband. If someone asks a family about their daughters-in-law, they let them introduce to them as housewives who do not work. However,r she works at the home like washing, cleaning, cooking, ironing, etc.

Equality between males and females:

  1. Equality in humanity: O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam). (Al Nisaa, 1)
  2. Equality in subliming: Then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him).(As-shams, 8)
  3. Equality in dignity and honour: And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisas (the Law of Equality in punishment), O men of understanding, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).).(Al Baqara, 179)
  4. Equality in all religious duties: So their Lord accepted of them (their supplication and answered them), “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another);(Al Imran, 195)
  5. Equality in education and politeness: The best of what a father might give his child is good manners.
  6. Equality in knowledge, individual duty, and collective duty: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”).(Taha, 114)
  7. Equality in holding on to morals: So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord..(Al Kahef, 110)
  8. Equality in the six fundamentals: The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. (Al Noor, 2)
  9. Equality in inheritance:
  10. Equality in calling to Allah: By Al-’Asr (the time). Verily! Man is in the loss, Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience..(Surat Al ‘Asr)

The truth of this matter becomes clear when seen about the obligatory alms (al-Zakat). The standard 2.5% of surplus wealth to be given yearly in charity should be distributed to the poor and those whom scholars recognize as the most in need; it should not be given to the wealthy. Allah says:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَجَعَلَ الظُّلُمَاتِ وَالنُّورَ ۖ ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ يَعْدِلُونَ

“All praise is due to Allah, who created the heavens and the earth and made darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve claim equals (ya’dilun) with their Lord.” (Surah Al-An’am 6:1)

If the rich and poor are treated equally in terms of charity, it would be manifestly unjust to the poor. The poor are entitled to receive enough charity for them to meet their basic needs, while it is a duty upon the wealthiest of us to give them charity. This arrangement is not equal, but it is equitable and produces justice. Allah says:

وَفِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ

“And in their properties is a right for the needy and deprived.” (Surah Al-Dhariyat 51:19)

Islam does not value a person because of his wealth, property, position, origin, colour or tribe but values a person with his piety and consciousness of duty towards the Almighty. Equality and Justice in Islam are supreme, this can be best illustrated in the early history of Islam. Leaders in Islam are not allowed to practice supremacy. Thus Islam establishes equality and justice between various classes of people. Allah says:

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ

“The believing men and women are allies of one another.” (Surah Al-Tawbah 9:71)

In our society, there is injustice with the woman as well as with the man. In this system, a woman relies on the earning of a man in the shape of a father, a brother, a husband or a son. On the other hand, the man is overburdened by the woman in the shape of a mother, a sister, a wife or a daughter. It is a male dominant society where males have the right to choose, select, order, wish, annoy at, or get angry while the females have just a right to serve, cry, weep, obey or request. Allah says:

فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ أَنِّي لَا أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَامِلٍ مِّنكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ ۖ بَعْضُكُم مِّن بَعْضٍ

“Their Lord responded to them: Never will I cause to be lost the deeds of any among you, whether male or female; you are of one another.” (Surah Ali Imran 3:195)

The Islamic teachings made the people aware of the term “education for all”. In the light of Islamic education, Prophet used to release all war prisoners for only teaching a single word to the companions of the Prophet. Furthermore, some of the Nikkahs was done only based on educating each other whatever each of the spouses knew. Allah says:

يُوصِيكُمُ اللَّهُ فِي أَوْلَادِكُمْ ۖ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الْأُنثَيَيْ

“Allah enjoins you regarding your children: for the male one share like two females.” (Surah Al-Nisa’ 4:11)

The prophet explained to the society that women had the same needs whatever men had and both had equal rights. Prophet gave the example referencing The Glorifying Quran that They are your garments and you are their garments. Adding to this point, he said both the man and the woman are the two halves of one body. Allah says:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ

“Men are guardians over women by what Allah has favoured some over others and by what they spend of their wealth.” (Surah Al-Nisa 4:34)

The first Martyr in Islam was a woman, namely Sumayah and her husband Yaser who was killed in the line of their commitment to their belief, and because they held on to this righteous religion. Hence, women also call to Allah and spread this religion in the field suitable for them and within the permissible limits. Allah says:

الزَّانِي لَا يَنكِحُ إِلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةً وَالزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنكِحُهَا إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌ وَحُرِّمَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“The fornicator (will) not marry except a fornicatress or a polytheist woman, and the fornicatress – (will) not marry her except a fornicator or a polytheist man. And is forbidden to the believers.” (Surah An-Nur 24:3)

ISLAM declares that human beings are equal, they all come from the same origin — the same father (Adam) and the same mother (Eve), therefore there is none superior or inferior within and/or amongst mankind. The Islamic perspective shows equality in both genders in terms of their spaces, jobs, access and control but the Muslim practices are different.