#Article (Archive)

Islam the Misunderstood Religion Islam and Woman

Nov 29, 2013, 9:54 AM

Man, on the other hand, has to discharge a quite different duty for which he is equipped aptly but differently from woman. He has to engage in the struggle of life going on in the outside world be it in the form of subduingwild beasts in jungles, or contending against the forces of nature on earth and heavens, orforming of a government, or legislating about national economy. He has to tackle all these problems to scratch a living, and safeguard his person, his wife as well as his children against oppression”.

“Man as such does not need the vehement emotional nature for the performance of his functions in life. Emotion proves harmful rather than helpful in pursuance of his duties, for they are characterized with a fickleness that causes them change rapidly and into mutually quite contradictory states of mind. They are unable to pursue a course of action for long.The objects attracting them ever change. Such an even-changing emotional character is suitable for motherhood that has got to deal with mutually opposed and changing situation. But they are not helpful for man whose work demands of him constancy and steadfastness for long periods of time. Rather it is his intellectual disposition that proves helpful to a practical life where he has to contend against so many adverse forces. He has thus more efficiency in planning, in carefully revising the situation and taking note of all the possible consequences of his scheme before actually translating it into action. The intellect moves slowly but steadily, for quickness and rapidity of action are not expected of it as against the vehement emotions that lend color to the whole existence of woman it should show a most proper way to achieve its end, be it the hunting of a beast, inventing of an instrument, laying down the foundations of a new system of economy, setting up a new form of government, kindling a war, or making peace. All these activities of man depend upon his intellectual ability. Emotion creeping in cannot but spoil them.

“And, therefore, man is well adjusted only when he is engaged in his true manly pursuits and objectives in life. This should explain the various differences found in the respective constitutions of man and woman: why it is that man joyfully pursues the professions where he has mostly to draw on his physical and intellectual faculties whereas in emotional life he is just as mercurial as a child, and why is that a woman is adjusted in her natural sphere of emotional activities only and derives so great a pleasure out of these, for it is thought these alone that she can best realize the real objective of her earthly existence? That is also why she feels at ease in those professions only that have got an emotional appeal for her feminine nature viz. nursing, teaching or fostering. Similarly when she goes to work in a shop, it is because it has also got an emotional charm of its own for her as it enables her to carry out her search for a male companion. But all these activities are mere off-shoots; they cannot in themselves, however, satisfy her innate urge for a husband, a home, a family and children. It is natural, therefore, that as soon as her gets a change to perform her primary functions, she leaves off her job and devote herself exclusively to her household duties compelled otherwise by an exigency such as the need for money etc.

“This does not, however, mean that man and woman are fundamentally and irreconcilably different form each other. Nor does it imply that all the members of a sex lack all the potentialities necessary for the functions which the members of the opposite sex alone by nature are fit to perform.

“The two sexes are thus found mixed up, as it were, in a medley. If you find a woman who is capable of ruling, dispensing justice, and lifting heavy burdens and fighting in wars…. And if you come across a man who can cook, do household chores or has got very tender motherly feelings for children or is very fickle emotionally and is visited by shifting moods then you must remember that it is all natural; there is nothing unnatural about it. It is the logical result of the fact that each sex had in itself the germs of both sexes. But this does not all prove what these misguided westerners and the discordant easterners would have us believe. The real problem stated briefly rather is: can all these extra-functions that a woman is called upon to perform substitute for her real and natural function? Does she in the presence of these no longer feel the desire for a home, children and a family? Above all, does she no longer feel the need for a male partner for the gratification of her sex instinct?”

Now that we know the reality of differences between man and woman, Let us return to the points that form the basis of differentiation between the two sexes and their functions in Islam.

The great distinctive mark of Islam is that it is a practical system of life and is ready to make due allowance for the human nature never seeking to oppose or make it deviate from its natural course. It calls upon men to purify their souls and makes them ascend to such higher planes of being as approximate the realm of ideals and dreams, but in the whole process of improving and edifying men, it does not seek to alter their natures, nor does it believe that such a change in human nature is even possible or useful for the welfare of mankind, if ever possible. It rather believes that the noblest achievements of humanity are those that it achieves through and with the help of its own basic nature after its refinement and ascension to the noblest planes of voluntary virtue from being a mere captive of its material needs.

The attitude adopted by Islam about the problem of man and woman too is quite in line with the human nature. Thus it affects equality between them where there is a natural ground for it; and differentiates between them where such a differentiation is but natural. Let us take two outstanding situations in which Islam differentiates between the sexes: the distribution of inheritance and the headship of the family.

About inheritance Islam says: “To the male the equivalent of the portion of two females,” which is quite natural and justified, for it is man alone who is charged with shouldering all the financial obligations. The woman is under on such obligation as to spend money on anyone but her own person and toilet, except, of course, when she should head her family but such a situation is very rarely met with in an Islamic society, for so long as a woman has got a relation however distant she need not take upon herself the support of her family. Can such an arrangement be termed as injustice towards woman as the votaries of feminism aver? Leaving aside these vain postulations and prejudiced claims, the problem is just one of a simple reckoning: on the whole woman gets one-thirds of the inherited property to spend it on her person, whereas man is given to two-thirds of it to discharge his financial obligations in the first place, towards his life (that is the woman), and secondly his family and children. As such, speaking in terms of simple mathematics, to whom does the larger portion go? There may be certain men who are wont to spend all their money on themselves and are disinclined to marry or found a family, but such cases are uncommon. Normally it is the man who shoulders the financial burdens of his family including a woman-his wife-not as an act of grace but as a moral obligation. If a woman possesses a property of her own, her husband cannot take it away from her without her consent; he would even then have to bear her financial burden as if she had nothing in her possession to support herself with, and if he should refuse her this allowance or should he be miserly in proportion to his income she can lodge a complaint against him in the court and force him to give her the sustenance allowance or get free from him. There is as such no justification to say that in inheritance woman receives a share less than that of man, as in view of his obligations it is but natural that a man should get double the share of a woman.

Islam maintains a similar proportion in the distribution of a bequest. The law followed here is one of the fairest ones yet known to mankind; “For every person according to his need,” the standard to determine the need being the social burdens that one has to bear. But so far as their earnings are concerned, there is no difference between man and woman; or in their wages for a work, nor in the profit gained in trade, nor in revenues from land etc., for, in these matters Islam follows another law, the law treating on a perfectly equal footing man and woman with regard to their labors and the wages thereof. No injustice is to be done to either of them. The impression generally current among the common masses of Muslims and purposely spread by the antagonists of Islam that in the eyes of Islam woman is worth half of what man is worth, is false as we have shown above by a simple mathematical calculation.

That the evidence of two women is in Islam equivalent to that of one man also does not prove that woman is not better that a half man. It is rather a wise step to secure and preserve the genuine character of legal evidence in courts through all possible means and against all possible perversities irrespective of the fact whether the evidence is for or against the accused. The woman is by her very nature vehemently emotional, impressionable and liable to digress from the real facts of the case in hand. Therefore it is wise to have another woman along with her “so if the one erreth the other will remember,” for it is quite possible that the accused against or for whom a woman appears as a witness, may be an attractive woman which may make the witness jealous and hostile towards her and so give a wrong evidence; again may be that the accused is a young man whose sight may so arouse the mother in the witness that knowingly or unknowingly she proffers evidence that is false. But it is very rare that two women appearing before the court at once should fall a prey to such an error, both of them offering false evidences. The chances in such situations are rather that if one of them is deceived or confused about truth, her companion may correct her. It must, however, be added here that a single woman’s evidence is quite dependable if the witness concerned be a specialist in female diseases and she appears as a witness in a case concerning these…... To be continued