Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
We have probably come across people, even Muslims, who are convinced that in Islam, men are better than women. Some of us have these beliefs so ingrained in our mind that even in the face of contradicting evidence, we find it difficult to let go of these beliefs.
In fact, some prominent scholars have held some of the points below to be true, and many women actually believe them. Some of them seem to be like Dysfunctional Automatic Thoughts, a concept from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
I don’t assume to have the qualification to refute them. So let us together have a deeper look at them in order to come to our own conclusions in sha Allah. May Allah increase us in knowledge and wisdom.
- Quran always addressed men, with a few exceptions, and so men are better. Men are supposed to study the Quran, understand it, and then pass on the information to the women in his household.
In the history of English literature, we have seen many celebrated non-Muslim (mostly male) writers use ‘he’ whenever they were addressing all human beings. But Quran was not penned by a male-chauvinistic author, rather it is the literal Word of Allah Azza wa Jall. Why then is it primarily addressed to men? Let us look at a few relevant points:
In Arabic grammar, the word ‘hiya’ address women only, but ‘huwa’ could be used for an indefinite person, be they male or female. The pronoun ‘hunna’ addressed exclusively women, three or more, whereas ‘hum’ addresses a group of men or group of men and women. When you say ‘Muslimoon’, you are automatically including women Muslims according to the rules of Arabic grammar. In fact, in the places in the Quran where women are mentioned separately, either have a significant meaning that applies exclusively to women, or putting emphasis on the inclusion, or honouring women. For example:
Divorced women (mutallaqaat) remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them (hunna) to conceal what Allah has created in their (arhami-hinna) wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. [2:228]
The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. [9:71]
- Men are given power to be obeyed by their wives and discipline them, and so men must be better.
In every company there are managers and employees. The manager has the power to be obeyed by his (or her) employee, correct them if they’re wrong and cut their salaries for deliberate slacking. That means the managers have more power than the employees, but can one conclude that the managers are better human beings than employees? Also, a mother is allowed to discipline her child, but does that mean she is better than her child? What the concerned ayah actually says is this:
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property. [4:34]
- One male witness is equal to two female witnesses, and so men are doubly better than women.
Actually, that is the case only on specific situations and not a general rule. These situations are marriage contract, or sales and business contracts, where men generally are more knowledgeable than women. Of course, we can argue that nowadays times have changed. We can find women executives, doctors, lawyers, who greatly excel over their male peers. But Islamic shariah is not for specific populations for specific eras. Consider all the women of all parts of the world, and you’ll see that actually men are more knowledgeable in business contracts in general than women.
There are other instances where only women’s witness is valid, i.e. men are totally excluded from being witnesses. In these areas women are more knowledgable than men, such as related to breastfeeding, menstrual cycles etc. In other areas, a woman’s witness is equal to a man’s, such as moonlighting. In fact, when the Muslim ummah was in danger and men were going out to fight, it was the women who preserved Islamic knowledge and the hadiths of the Prophet.