Q-Why does Islam not consider women equal to men?
ANS: There is a very common misconception about Islam that it makes society male dominated. But in actual it is not so.
Let us first consider one thing;
There are many issues on which human intellect is bound to fail especially when it comes to rights & obligations of;
1-Man & Woman
2-Employer & Employee, and
3-Ruler and the ruled
To have balanced rules for all these cases we need to refer to some Super-Human, All-Knowing and All-Wise Authority—ALLAH subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Men, only the protectors of women.
There is no Quranic verse or Saying of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) which speaks of superiority of one sex over the other. Let us examine a Quranic verse often misunderstood in this regard.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means”.(4:34)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s writes in his commentary to this verse;
“Qawwam: one who stands firm in another's business, protects his interests, and looks after his affairs- or it may be, standing firm in his own business, managing affairs, with a steady purpose.”
People say the word‘Qawwam’ means, ‘one degree higher in superiority’ - But actually the word ‘Qawwam’ comes from the root word ‘Iqamah’
‘Iqamah’ means for example ‘when you give the Ikamah before prayers - You stand up’.
So ‘Iqamah’ means to standup - so the word ‘Qawwam’ means one degree higher in responsibility, not one degree higher in superiority.
Even if you read the commentary of ‘Ibne-Kathir’ - He says that the word ‘Qawwam’ means one degree higher in responsibility, not one degree higher in superiority.
And this responsibility, should be carried out by mutual consent of both husband and wife.
Thus we can see that in this verse the only thing told is that ‘men are the protectors and maintainers of women; and nothing more. And that too because they by nature have more physical strength.
Different role of man & woman.
Yes, in Islam there are different rules for different members of the society. And very reasonably Islam assigns different duties to men and women. In Islam a man is responsible for the financial and administrative affairs of the household whereas a woman is responsible for the internal affairs of the house. They can help each other but only when each of them has justly fulfilled his/her own obligations first. .
A woman is generally supposed to stay at her house and keep doing her primary job, managing the inside affairs.
“And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger”(Al-Quran 33:33)
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said; “The greatest right upon a woman is that of her husband while the greatest right upon a man is that of his mother.”
See ! How justly has Islam kept a balance between a man and a woman.
Equal reward of good deeds..
As for as reward of good deeds is concerned, a man and a woman are absolutely equal in this regard. ALLAH says in the Quran;
“Whoever works righteousness, Man or Woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.” (16:97).
Share in inheritance.
Yes, it is true that Islam gives a male child double share in the inheritance then a female child. Quran says;
“Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (4:11)
But again this is not without reason. As described earlier Islam makes the man responsible for the finances of the family not the woman. And for this reason he is given a double share. Man, being the manager of finances, has to spend money on his family while a woman is not bound to do that.
To sum up I think the following lines adequately describe the status of women in Islam;
Woman was made from the rib of man,
She was not created from his head to top him,
Nor from his feet to be stepped upon,
She was made from his side to be close to him,
From beneath his arm to be protected by him,
Near his heart to be loved by him.
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST !!!
....By Waqar Akbar Cheema