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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

2.  Equality and Inequality of Women and Men

 

from the Qur’an, major hadith collections and Islamic jurisprudence

 

 

Equality and Inequality of Women and Men

From the Qur’an

 

The Qur’an has numerous verses in which men and women are treated as equals and some in which they are treated differently or unequally. Some examples are summarized here.

 

Contents

 

Equality in Human Creation (Qur’an)

 

Equality in marriage (Qur’an)

 

Restrictions on menstruating women (Qur’an)

 

Inequality of men and women among polytheists (Qur’an)

 

 

Equality in Human Creation (Qur’an). The Qur’an says that Allah (God) created humankind from the dust of the earth[1]and then from a single drop of sperm.[2]  He produced all people from a single person.[3] First one was created and then, from that one, the mate.[4] People were made in pairs.[5]  This was so the first one might rest in the spouse.[6] Between them, man and woman, Allah put love and mercy.[7] And when the woman became pregnant, they both called to Allah for a righteous child.[8] All, who Allah created from a single person and that person’s then-created mate, should pay heed to Allah and think of their duty to Allah. What is due by right to each person from another is from Allah.[9]

 

All, both men and women, are valued by Allah. They come, one from the other, and Allah does not permit the work of men or women to be wasted.[10]

 

Equality in marriage (Qur’an). How husbands and wives are to treat each other according to the Qur’an is discussed on a separate page on marriage here.  How nursing mothers and wives are to be supported is discussed here, in the Food section of this website.

 

Restrictions on menstruating women (Qur’an). The Qur’an says to stay away from women during their menstrual periods. Once they have been purified, then one is to go to them as Allah has commanded.[11]

 

Inequality of men and women among polytheists (Qur’an). The Qur’an says that polytheists believe that what is in the wombs of cattle is for men only and not for women, but if it is stillborn then it is for men and women alike.[12]The good news of the birth of a daughter fills a polytheist with grief.[13] It causes him to hide from his people because he believes that the good news of his daughter’s birth is actually evil.[14] The polytheist thinks that he must make the decision of either facing the humiliation of permitting his daughter to live or else bury her in the dust.[15] The Qur’an criticizes the polytheists who say that God’s daughters are goddesses and angels, but themselves want only sons, not daughters.[16] The Qur’an condemns the practice of polytheists of killing their children[17] and cites the practice of burying female infants alive.[18]

 

 

 

Equality and Inequality of Women and Men

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim

 

Contents

 

Women and their actions are praised and elevated (hadith)

 

Differences between men and women (hadith)

 

Links to hadith summaries on other aspects of equality and inequality of men and women

 

Muhammad tolerated rude behavior by women (hadith)

 

 

Women and their actions are praised and elevated (hadith). A hadith reports that Muhammad said that a pious woman is the best object of benefit.[19] When Muhammad called on the people to give alms, most of those who did so were women.[20]

 

Muhammad forbade the burying of one’s daughters alive, thus ending a practice that valued male children over females.[21]

 

A woman who gives to charity from things in her husband’s house will be rewarded for what she has given,[22] as will her husband,[23]

and the storekeeper[24] as well. The reward of one does not reduce the reward of the other.[25] Husband and wife will get equal rewards.[26] If the wife’s giving of the husband’s things to charity is done without the husband’s permission, the wife’s reward will be half that of the husband.[27]

 

Differences between men and women (hadith). Hadiths report that Muhammad said that many men have achieved perfection but only two women have done so: Asiya the wife of the Pharaoh (in the time of Musa (Moses)) and Maryam (Mary) the daughter of Imran (and mother of ‘Isa (Jesus)).[28]

 

Muhammad said that after he dies, the most harmful thing he will leave behind will be women.[29]

 

Hadiths say that it is women who are the source of evil omens, in addition to horses and houses.[30] But one hadith lists the three sources of bad luck – land, servants, and horses – without mentioning women.[31]

 

Muhammad said that the religion of a woman is deficient because, when menstruating, a woman does not pray and does not participate in the fasting of Ramadan.[32] He also said that the fact that the testimony of two women as witnesses is equal to that of one man shows that women have a mental deficiency in common sense.[33]

 

When Muhammad heard that the Persians had made a woman their ruler, he said that a nation ruled by a woman cannot be successful.[34]

 

Muhammad said that most of the inhabitants of Hell are women[35] and that women are a minority in Paradise.[36] He said that the reason women are in Hell is that they curse frequently[37]and are ungrateful to their husbands.[38]

 

When Muhammad invited only men to hear him, one of his wives, Umm Salama, insisted that she also had a right to be there since she is one of the people.[39]

 

Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, said that if Muhammad had seen the innovations that women were practicing, he would not have permitted them at the mosque at all.[40]

 

 

Links to hadith summaries on other aspects of equality and inequality of men and women.

 

Harmony and Discord in Marriage

 

Support of Nursing Mothers and Wives

 

Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

 

Inheritance by Men and Women

 

Trial procedures and witnesses – roles of men and women

 

Restrictions on menstruating women

 

More on restrictions on menstruating women

 

 

Muhammad tolerated rude behavior by women (hadith). Hadiths says that when a woman in mourning was rude to Muhammad, he responded with kindness and understanding.[41] In another instance, a woman was openly annoyed when Muhammad refused to accept a drink from her; his response is not recorded.[42]

 

When a woman complained to Muhammad that her husband is impotent, a man who was present said that she should not talk so freely to Muhammad. But Muhammad simply smiled and continued talking with the woman.[43]

 

When two of Muhammad’s wives, Aisha and Zainab, were arguing loudly with each other, Aisha’s father, Abu Bakr, became angry with them and called upon Muhammad to stop them. But Muhammad just went out as it was time for prayer.[44]

 

Muhammad never beat any woman or servant with his hand.[45]

 

 

Equality and Inequality of Women and Men

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller

 

 

Links to summaries of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia) concerning equality and inequality of men and women.

 

Harmony and Discord in Marriage

 

Support of Nursing Mothers and Wives

 

Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

 

Inheritance by Men and Women

 

Trial procedures and witnesses – roles of men and women

 

Restrictions on menstruating women

 

 

 

________________

 

§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 12, 2016

 

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Table of Contents – Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.



[1] QR 35:11

[2] QR 35:11, QR 53:45-46

[3] QR 6:98

[4] QR 4:1, QR 7:189, QR 16:72, QR 39:6, QR 30:21, QR 35:11, QR 42:11, QR 75:38-39

[5] QR 78:8, QR 35:11, QR 36:36, QR 43:12, QR 51:49

[6] QR 7:189, QR 30:21

[7] QR 30:21

[8] QR 7:189

[9] QR 4:1

[10] QR 3:195

[11] QR 2:222

[12] QR 6:139

[13] QR 16:58, QR 43:17

[14] QR 16:59

[15] QR 16:59

[16] QR 6:100, QR 16:57, QR 53:19-22

[17] QR 6:137, QR 6:140

[18] QR 81:8-81:9

[19] ML 8:3465

[20] ML 4:1931

[21] BK 3:41:591, BK 8:73:6, BK 8:76:480, BK 9:92:395, ML 18:4257-4258, ML 18:4260

[22] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:520, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234, ML 5:2238

[23] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:520, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234, ML 5:2238

[24] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, ML 5:2232-2233

[25] BK 2:24:506, BK 3:34:279, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234

[26] BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2238

[27] BK 3:34:280

[28] BK 4:55:623, BK 4:55:643, BK 5:57:113

[29] BK 7:62:33, ML 36:6603, ML 36:6604-6605

[30] BK 4:52:110, BK 4:52:111, BK 7:62:29, BK 7:62:30, BK 7:62:31, BK 7:62:32, ML 26:5523, ML 26:5526-5527, ML 26:5528, ML 26:5529-5530

[31] ML 26:5531

[32] BK 1:6:301, BK 3:31:172, ML 1:142

[33] BK 1:6:301, BK 3:48:826, ML 1:142

[34] BK 5:59:709, BK 9:88:219

[35] BK 1:2:28, BK 1:6:301, BK 2:18:161, BK 2:24:541, BK 4:54:464, BK 7:62:124, BK 7:62:125, BK 7:62:126, BK 8:76:456, BK 8:76:554, BK 8:76:555, ML 1:142-143, ML 4:1926, ML 4:1982-1983, ML 36:6596, ML 36:6597-6598-6599

[36] ML 36:6600-6601

[37] BK 1:6:301, BK 2:24:541, ML 1:142-143

[38] BK 1:2:28, BK 1:6:301, BK 2:18:161, BK 2:24:541, BK 7:62:125, ML 1:142-143, ML 4:1926, ML 4:1982-1983

[39] ML 30:5686-5687

[40] ML 4:895-896

[41] BK 2:23:372, BK 9:89:268, ML 4:2012, ML 4:2013-2014

[42] ML 31:6008

[43] BK 7:72:684, ML 8:3355-3356

[44] ML 8:3450

[45] ML 30:5756-5757