بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Men are in charge of women in Islam

The Quranic verse “And that He creates the two mates - the male and female.” (Surat al-Najm, verse 45) is clear in that Allah, the Exalted, created male and female as couple and both mutually contribute for the survival of human race on the earth. Both are called upon to worship Allah alone as the Quran enjoins: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” Women, just like men, are also obliged to observe the Islamic rituals and commandments such as Salah, Ṣawm, Zakat, Hajj and serving their parents. Similarly, both men and women will be rewarded for the virtuous deeds they perform and will be subjected to chastisement for the sins they commit. Both share the same nobility as human beings.  Women have rights over men as the men have over women and both are asked to fulfil them. The Quran says: “Women have rights similar to what they owe in recognized manner.”Surat al-Baqarah, verse 228).  The verse presents such a comprehensive code for marital life that if it is duly applied, it will ensure such a marital life for a couple where only bliss will prevail. The verse tells us that a wife has also been granted certain rights that must be fulfilled. These rights include–along with providing basic maintenance such as food and accommodation– showing affection and honouring her desires. The Messenger of Allah  is reported to have said, “The best among you are those who are best to their families (wife and children).” Obviously, a man cannot be a good person if he does not fulfil the rights his family has over him. On the other hand, the verse also tells the women that men have certain rights over them as well and a woman cannot be called a good woman if she does not pleases her husband by fulfilling her duties towards him. There are a number of Ahadith that praise a faithful, caring and loving wife and on the contrary condemn those who disobey their husbands.

Despite that, it is a fact universally acknowledged that there is a remarkable difference between both the genders. Men usually are stronger than women while women are usually more kind than men. Men are also stronger when it comes to overcome their sentiments and take wise decisions where as women go through different phases such as menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, post-birth bleeding and breastfeeding. Since beginning, in practical life as well in all the religiousteachings men are given some sort of supremacy over women– a historical fact that cannot be denied. People who try to defame Islam, especially the Orientalists, under the prelude of cruelty against women often forget to look into the teachings in their own scriptures on the issue, turning a blind eye to the suffering of women in their own societies. Thanks to electronic media, the world is now aware of the treatment and place of women in Western societies.

In view of the physical, mental and emotional differences between the two genders Islam sometimes provides different rulings to each, more compatible with their intrinsic qualities. Whether a man or a woman, there is no difference between them in terms of nobility of human beings– both are equal and each has rights over the other. But to ensure a more successful journey of life, Islam has entrusted men with more responsibilities thus granting them a kind of authority over women. Men are supposed to be protectors of women and act as the heads of their families. But it will be wrong to conclude that Islam makes it a ruler vs subjects relationship as both male and female enjoy their specific importance, place and privileges in an Islamic society. 

I will like to mention some such rulings that make a distinction between men and women despite treating them both as equal human beings.

(1) Men are supposed to head a family: Allah, the Exalted, says in the Quran: “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.” (Surat al-Nisa, verse 34) The verse mentions two reasons why men are given that specific right:

  1. Allah the Exalted (Who created everything including men and women) Himself decided to grant men a degree in authority over women. Hence, we as the obedient slaves should bow our head before the Devine decree. It is something Allah has specifically bestowed upon men and He gives whatever He wants to whosoever He wants.
  2. The second reason as mentioned in the verse is that men are supposed to bear all the expenses in a family life.

A father is responsible for spending on his daughter’s upbringing till she is married off and after marriage it is her husband who will be responsible to take care of her food, accommodation and all that she needs as clearly stipulated in the verse 223 of Surat al-Baqarah and verse 7 of Surat al-Ṭalaq. Similarly, when Hind ibn ʿUtbah (may Allah be pleased with her) complained to the Prophet about her husband Abu Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him) describing him as a miser man and that he does spend enough to allow her and her children to meet their needs, the Messenger of Allah allowed her saying, “You may take from your husband’s money what would be enough for you and your children in the recognized manner.” (Ṣahih al-Bukhari, Book of Expenses, Chapter: When a man does not spend (enough) the woman is allowed to take….) To be brief, the verse unambiguously establishes a general rule that men are in charge of women for two reasons; firstly because Allah,the Exalted,decreed it to be so and secondly in view of the efforts men make to provide sustenance to their children and wives. Despite enjoying equal human status, men are given a degree over women in authority. Another Quranic verse reinforcing the same: “And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority].”(Surat al-Baqarah, verse 228)

After quoting the above Quranic verses, it will be befitting to cite some injunctions of the Benefactor of Humanity our noble Prophet Muhammadfor further elaboration of the Islamic stance on the issue. The Messenger of Allah has said: “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses [and does not come], and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.” (Reported by al-Bukhari) Note: The Hadith is applicable to a woman refusing her husband’s request to come to bed without any Islamically-sound reason. The Prophet has also said: “If a woman offered the five (daily) prayers,observed fasting during the month of Ramadan, guarded her private part and obeyed her husband, it is as if she has entered Paradise.” (Musnad AHmad) Another Hadiths says:"Whenever a man calls his wife for his desire, let her come to him even if she is occupied at the oven." (Reported by Al-Tirmidhi)The Messenger is also reported to have said: “If a woman dies while her husband is happy with her she will enter Paradise.” (Al-Tirmidhi) In a yet another Hadith the Prophet said, “If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone other than Allah, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands.” (Al-Tirmidhi) The Hadith means if prostrating before anyone other than Allah was allowed, the women would have been asked to prostrate before their husbands. Once a lady came to Allah’s Messenger and said, ‘A group of women sent me to ask you something: Allah, the Exalted, ordered men to participate in Jihad. They are rewarded if they are injured and they are included in the close servants of Allah if they get martyrdom. They remain alive even after their death and are provided with special provision (as mentioned in the verse 162 of Surat Al-Imran). We the women serve them, so what is our reward?’ The Messenger of Allah told the lady to inform the women who sent her that their obedience to their husbands and acknowledging their rights equals to fighting in the way of Allah in reward but only a few among them fulfil their responsibilities properly. (Reported by Al-Bazzaz and al-Ṭabarani)  It is also reported from the Messenger of Allah that he said: “It is not allowed for a wife to observe voluntary fasting without the permission of her husband.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

(1) Prophethood only for men: Prophethood is the highest honour Allah bestows upon whosoever He chooses from His slaves. No one can achieve it through his efforts. It completely depends on the Divine Will. But in the entire chain or Prophethood we see only men who are gifted with this Divine favour without a single woman ever being entrusted with the office of prophethood. The Quran says: “And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message].”(Surat al-Anbiya’, verse 7) At another place the Quran says: “And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities.” (Surat Yusuf, verse 109) The following Quranic verse also confirms the same: “And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” (Surat al-Nahl, verse 43) Nowhere in the Quran and Sunnah is it found that any woman has ever been sent as a Prophet or Messenger. Though some scholars, however, believe that Maryam (peace be upon her) was given Prophethood yet the majority of the Ummah down the ages, in view of the Quran and Sunnah, maintain that no woman ever was entrusted with the office of Prophethood. A woman by her physical and intrinsic qualities is not capable enough to bear such a huge responsibility.

(2) One male witness is considered equal to two female witnesses: In Islam, two women’s testimony equals one testimony by a man as Allah the Exalted says: “And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses - so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.” (Surat al-Baqarah, verse 282)

Issuing Ṭalaq– an exclusive right of men: There are few possible angles to look at the issue of divorce: (1) the right to divorce be given only to women, (2) it should take place with mutual consent, (3) it be decided by the court only after proper hearing of the case and (4) men should be given the right while letting women consult the Sharia court for Khulʿ (Khula as generally pronounced i.e. a divorce on the wife's initiative and upon payment of an agreed amount to the husband). In Islam, the man is responsible to bear all the household expenses, paying off the Mahr, providing maintenance to his wife during the waiting period called ‘Iddah’ if he divorces her.Heis also supposed to spend on the upbringing and education of his children. On the other hand, women are exempted from all such liabilities. Now if women were given the right to divorce it would incur financial loss on part of the men. For instance, if a man marries a woman, pays her the Mahr, provides her accommodation with all the basic necessities and then the woman divorces him, the man will inevitably suffer a huge financial loss. Moreover, due to their fragile nature, it will increase the divorce ratio if the women are given the right. If we leave the matter for both to decide with consent, chances would be slim that they will reach a decision– it will only prolong their quarrel. If we completely leave for the court to decide, both parties would transgress the limits in their attempt to prove their respective points thus forgetting the basic human values as seen in many courts in the Western countries.

In view of the above, the best possible option was to give the right to divorce to men for they naturally are more capable to control their emotions and show endurance. But women, on the other hand, are not deprived in entirety if they want separation for valid reasons. A woman may reasonably demand divorce and if her husband refuses to do she may consult the court so that the judge may oblige her husband to leave her. It will also be a valid form of divorce in Islam.

(5) Men may revoke divorce after issuing it in revocable form (Rajʿi): It is permissible in Islam for a man to reunite with his wife anytime during the waiting period (ʿIddah) even against the consent of his wife provided it was a revocable divorce i.e. giving one or two Ṭalaqs using explicit terms. The wife cannot prevent from revoking the divorce as long as the ʿIddah lasts. However, it is recommended that one does it in the presence of two witnesses so as to avoid any dispute in future.

(6) Only women are asked to observe the post-divorce or post-death waiting period called ʿIddah: In light of the Quran (Surat al-Ṭalaq, verse 3, Surat al-Baqarah, verses 228 and 234 and Surat al-Ahzab, verse 49) and clear instructions imparted by the Messenger of Allah , the Ummah unanimously agrees that a woman must observe ʿIddah after separation whether by divorce or death of her husband. But if separation occurs by Khulʿ or by death of the wife, the man is not required to observe any ʿIddah. On the contrary, even after Khulʿ it is the woman who is obliged to observe the period. There are many reasons why a woman should wait till the period ends but initially it is a command by Allah and that should be enough reason for us.

(7) Only men are allowed to have more than one spouse:  Men are allowed to have up to four wives at a time while women cannot be in wedlock with more than one man at the same time. Allah the Exalted says: “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one” (Surat al-Nisa’, verse 3) There are several reasons why polygamy is allowed for men in Islam. Basically it is the natural differences between the two genders and a command by Allah the Exalted which we, as humble slaves, should be happy with.

(8) Men usually get double the share as that of women in inheritance: The Quran says: “To the male, a portion equal to that of two females.” (Surat al-Nisa’, verses 11 and 176) There is a difference between the shares each of the deceased’s parents get. Similarly, husband’s share differs from that of the wife. For more details, you may read the verses of the Quranic chapter Al-Nisa’ (the Women) that deal with inheritance issues. Before jumping to any conclusion we should bear it in mind that Islam does not burden a woman in terms of providing sustenance and other necessities of life even for herself let alone doing it for her husband or children. Whatever she receives as her share in inheritance belongs to her alone without any liability to spend on herself or the family.

(9) Different rulings for men and women with regard to journey: A man is free to travel without his wife while a woman must travel in the company of her husband or a mahram (non-marriageable) relative. The Messenger of Allah  said: “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel the distance of one day, except with a mahram.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim) In consideration of this Prophetic injunction, majority of the scholars are of the opinion that a woman is not allowed to travel a distance of more than 78 km without accompanying her husband or a mahram relative.

The special mandate of Hijab for women:In light of a number of verses in the Quran (such as Surat al-Nur verses 31 and 60 and Surat al-Ahzab, verses 33, 53 and 59) and the Prophetic injunctions the Ummah has been unanimous on the obligation of maintaining Hijab for women before those who fall under the category of ghayr-mahram i.e. males whom a woman is permitted to marry. Similarly, baring her hands, feet and face, the rest of a woman’s body is considered satrand it is forbidden for a woman to expose the prescribed portion in front of  anyone – whether a mahram relative or a woman– except her husband while a man’s satr is from below the navel to below the knees.

(11) A child belongs to his father in lineage: A child according to the Sharia law belongs to his father in terms of lineage. If the father, for example, belongs to the Ṣiddiqi clan, while the mother to the Ansari clan, the child will be considered to be a member of the Ṣiddiqi clan. It is not be permissible for the child to introduce himself as an Ansari.

(12) Women’s deficiency in terms of intellectandreligion:Women by their very nature are deficient as compared to men in matters pertaining to intellect and religion. Abu Saʿid al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that: Once Allah's Messenger went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of Eid-ul-Adha or Eid-ul-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Messenger ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Messenger ! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." (Reported by al-Bukhari)

Some women can of course be better than men in terms of wisdom and faith. The judgment of the Sharia is based on the general condition of men and women.

(13) Difference between boy and girl in Aqiqah:The Prophet said: “Two sheep for a boy’s ‘Aqiqah and one sheep for a girl’s” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad) He said at another place: "For the boy are two sheep, and for the girl is one, it will not harm you if they (i.e. the sheep) are male or female." (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad)

(14) Difference between man and woman in terms of blood money:In the light of the Ahadith of the Prophet , all the blessed Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and all the four imams unanimously agree that the compensation for the blood of a human being in case of male is hundred camels, ten thousand dirhams or one thousand dinars or anything of the same value or an agreed upon sum. But if the diseased is a woman, the compensation will get decreased up to half of the said value (hence it will reduce to fifty camels, five thousand dirhams or five hundred dinars or anything of the same value or an agreed upon sum). No one of the blessed Companions, the Successorsorthe Disciples of the Successors ever differed in regards with blood money of the woman being half of man’s.

Apart from the above mentioned issues, Islam has maintained difference between man and woman in some other issues we cannot mention in details as we don’t want to change this short article into a detailed treatise. Just for an example, man attends Jihad, but it is not compulsory on woman. Staying at home (to bring up children) and performing Hajj have been considered as Jihad for her. Man is commanded to perform all the five daily prayers in congregation in the mosque. Unlike that, home has been considered the best place of worship for woman. Furthermore, a Salah that a woman performs in a corner of her house has been considered better than the Salah she performs in the veranda.

In short, Allah,the Exalted, has made man guardian over woman due to the obvious difference between the two in terms of their physical and mental abilities, though there exists no difference between them in their nobility as human beings or their birth rights. Man has got a degree of superiority over woman. So, man should make the best use of his God-gifted talents and well manage the household system. He must not consider his wife as his servant or slave. He should fulfil her all the due rights instead. He should necessarily consult his wife in domestic affairs, but keep the right to make important judgments with himself. As the woman, according to the Divine Law to which the entire world has bowed down, discharges the responsibilities of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, no one dares to proclaim that man should also bear these hardships as woman does.  So we should happily accept the system introduced by Allah that man has got a degree of superiority over woman and that it is he who is supposed to supervise the family in human societies.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (http://www.najeebqasmi.com/)