Discuss how adequately this sums up the relationship between males and females in Islam.
Many people believe that because of the similarities between men and women, they should be, and are, completely equal and should be treated so. Other people however believe that because of the natural physical and mental differences, they can never be fully equal and that should be respected. Other people however, maintain that equality is an abstract relative concept and so full equality can never be achieved because we’ll never agree on what constitutes true equality.
In some senses, many Muslims agree that men and women are equal. For instance in the sense that in the Quran it maintains that all souls will be judged according to its own deeds. Every human being, regardless, will have to take responsibility on the Day of Judgement. In others however, they strongly disagree. For instance, men and women are given clearly different guidelines, even where the principles are the same; both men and women have to dress modestly, but only women are obliged to wear hijabs, it is not compulsory for men to cover their hair.
Allah states in the Quran ”Does man think that he will be left neglected without being punished or rewarded for the obligatory duties enjoined by his Lord (Allah) on him? Was he not a mixed male and female discharge of semen pouring forth? Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned (him) in due proportion, and made him into two sexes, male and female. Is He not able to raise to life those who are dead?” In this verse, Allah illustrates that in terms of humanity, men and women are not that different, they are created from a single source. The prophet Muhammad once said “Verily, women are the twin halves of men.” Which also illustrates the equality there is in Islam.
This is further shown in the similarities between religious obligation for men and for women. For instance, as aforementioned, both men and women have to dress modestly. Men and women have also similar social obligations and responsibilities to reform and correct the society to the best of their capability. Men and women shoulder the responsibility of enjoining good and forbidding evil equally. The five pillars also apply to both as Allah says in the Quran: “The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakah (Obligatory Charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise”
Many people believe however, that the standing of woman in prayers behind men indicates she is inferior to him. However, Muslims could argue that woman is exempt from attending congregation prayers which are obligatory on men but even if they do attend, this is not symbolic as an act but more a regulation of discipline in prayers and not a classification of importance. The order of lines, they could say, is set such that every Muslim is helped to concentrate on his/her own meditation. Also, being organised in this way is useful to avoid embarrassment and distraction, fulfil the true purposes of the prayers and maintain harmony and order among worshippers.
Many people, Muslims included, believe that it is an injustice to a woman that right after she is the ‘property’ of her male family members, she becomes that of her husbands. However it could be argued that this is just a negative perception of a good thing. It could be argued that it’s not that she’s been imprisoned so much as it is that she has a right to security and provision by her father and her brother. As a wife she is entitled to demand a dowry from her prospective husband, she is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by her husband. If she wishes to work that is her choice; but it is her privilege to be provided for.
As is very rarely addressed, men could argue that in certain cases, THEY are treated unfairly. For instance, sometimes women are exempt from prayers and fasting, they are always exempt from congregational prayers and she is exempt from all financial liabilities. Also, as a mother, she enjoys more recognition in the sight of God. However, this is levelled out possibly by the fact that the testimony of a woman is worth but half of a man’s and she has additional responsibilities and burdens such as childbirth.
In conclusion, I believe that there is a difference between equal and identical. The status of women, as shown in history, hadith and the Quran, is high and realistically suitable to her nature. Usually it is found that if she is deprived of one thing, she is compensated for it with more things in other aspects. As mentioned in the Quran: “And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but man have a degree (of advantage as in some cases of inheritance) over them” (2:228) I feel this verse clearly sums up the relationship between men and women in Islam. It highlights God’s abundance and omniscience in distributing duties, obligations and rewards perfectly amongst the “twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women” (4:1)