Noor-Ul-Hudah Khan, Lawyer
It is often stated that women are considered lesser than men in Islam; that the teachings of the Holy Quran put women at a lower pedestal than men.
It is important to note that men and women are not created identically. Their roles and functions are prescribed in their own respects. Why then do we insist that men and women should be able to carry out identical roles? It is assumed that just because women cannot be Imams or because they are traditionally known to be homemakers they are inferior to men.
Often Islamic critics state that the Holy Quran puts men superior to women as they are stated to be guardians over women. But this does not mean that men have privileges over women. In fact, this gives men additional responsibility. It is not the physical acts and responsibilities of men and women that are of paramount importance in Islam, but rather their spirituality that is of prime importance.
Allah says in the Holy Quran that:
“But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as muchas the little hollow in the back of a date-stone (4:125).”
In Islam, it is one’s deeds that are assessed and a believer’s entry into Heaven is evaluated on this basis. Allah makes it clear in the Holy Quran that a male believer is equal to a female believer. A woman will not be punished because she did not lead the prayers and nor will a man be punished because he was unable to bear children. Therefore, it should be noted that as far as spirituality is concerned, men and women are identical.
Islam teaches that men and women should be provided with equal opportunities. Children should be taught and trained in the same way. Sons should not be provided with an advantage over daughters. Whatever is provided for sons should also be provided for daughters. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that they do not deviate from the true teachings of Islam or fall under cultural influences and put their daughters at a disadvantage.
If we as a society fall into the misunderstanding that because men and women are prescribed different roles they cannot be considered equal, then we are our own greatest enemies and will stop the advancement of society. If we follow the true teachings of Islam, we will find that the difference in roles is what allows for a healthy balance in society and harmonious movement, at the same time maintaining equality between the two genders. (Read this article in Maltese)