Q / A
23. Men one degree above Women?
Thank you for your
efforts in da`wah and jazakum Allah khayran. Why does Allah tell
us in the Qur’an that men have one degree upon women ? I need to know this
because that may help me and other Muslims to answer many allegations, and it
may also help in da`wah.
Answering your question concerning the verse that means:
* And they (the women) have (rights) like (the obligations) they are under with beneficence, and men have a degree above them, and Allah is Ever-Mighty, Ever-Wise. (meaning of Qur’an 2: 228)
Careful reading of the verse, and in the context of other verses, does not imply inequality. Rather, “And they (the women) have (rights) like (the obligations) they are under with beneficence” , as well as other verses, emphasize the equality of man and woman in rights and obligations, in nature and mental characters, in responsibility and accountability towards Allah and His Message. Read for example:
* Then their Lord responded to them, “I do not waste the deed of any doer among you, any male or female. The one of you is as the other. (meaning of Qur’an 3: 195)
* Surely the male donors and the female donors and the female donors and (those) who lend to Allah a fair loan, it will be doubled for them, and they will have an honorable reward (meaning of Qur’an 57: 18)
* Surely (for) male Muslims and female Muslims, and male believers and female believers, and devout males and devout females and sincere males and sincere females, and patient males and patient females, and submissive males and submissive females, and male donators and female donators, and fasting males and fasting females, and males who preserve their private parts and females who preserve their private parts, and males who are much mindful of Allah and females who are much mindful of Allah – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a magnificent reward. (meaning of Qu’an 33: 35)
We should understand that ‘equality’ is something different from ‘sameness’. Actually it is the latter that the feminist movements nowadays call for, while Islam and sound intellect totally reject. Men and women ‘are’ different emotionally as well as in physical characteristics and endurance. Hence they were naturally created for two different, but complementary, functions and roles. This has been demonstrated by the variance of roles of men and women in all ages, civilizations and cultures. The long history of humanity did not witness women prophets, eminent philosophers nor mighty fighters. It would be absurd to ascribe this to the male self-imposed supremacy or coercion. Rather one should ask: why did Allah exclusively send His Messages through men, unless this is the Will and Norms of His creation.
As created, the emotional character of women, their motherly instinct and their basically tender compassionate nature qualify them for their vital roles as: careful mothers, affectionate wives, daughters and sisters. Such roles are basically essential to bring up healthy generations, happy households, and closely-knit society.
Equally, men bear the major responsibility of earning for living, harnessing the earth, developing its resources, facing life hardships and defending his family and community against dangers. Man is responsible to financially support his wife (even if she were rich), his daughters until they are married, his sons until they are able to support themselves, his needy parents as well as other blood relatives. To fulfill these major responsibilities, he should assume the role of leadership, and this is what is meant by “a degree above them.” Leadership does not thus imply any sort of inequality or dictatorship. In any egalitarian association between two or more persons, whether a family or a business or other human activity group, one should have the final word. The alternative is chaos or disruption of the association, sooner or later.
This all does not exclude exceptions (rather than the general norms) of women excelling in various trades and professions, or having to bear the major responsibility of their households. In another verse, the Qur’an clearly sets the leading role of men to be conditional on their capability and bearing carrying the responsibility of care and support:
* Men are the ever upright (managers) (of the affairs) of women for what Allah has graced some of them over (some) others and for what they have expended of their riches. (meaning of Qur’an 4: 34)
Allah blesses you and guides us all to the truth and supports us in confronting the endless devilish whisperers.