The Ideal of Sex Equality in Islam

By Hajjin Zanobia Mohammed, BA


“For Muslim men and women,

For believing men and women,

For devout men and women,

For true men and women,

For men and women who are

Patient and constant, for men

And women who humble themselves.

For men and women who give

In charity, for men and women

Who fast (and deny themselves),

For men and women who

Guard their chastity, and

For men and women who

Engage much in God’s praise,

For them has God prepared

Forgiveness and great reward.”

(Holy Qur’aan, Suurah XXXIII, Verse 35)


A careful study of the above verse tells us in no uncertain manner that God demands and expects of both sexes the same degree of faith and action in all their religious virtues and duties; and in a like manner, promises them “Forgiveness and great reward”.


Another, among many similar verses in the Holy Qur’aan, says:


“Whoever works righteousness, Man or woman and has faith, Verily, to him will we give a new life, a life that is good and pure, and We Will bestow on such, their reward According to the best of their Actions.”

Suurah 16, Verse 97).


Sex equality is further illustrated in the question of marriage partners. A profligate, a man who has “sown his wild oats”, cannot marry a chaste woman. He must choose for a wife one who is also unchaste, and vice-versa. On this the Holy Qur’aan says in Suurah XXIV, Verse 26:


“Women impure are for men impure

And men impure arc for women impure

And women of purity

Are for men of purity

And men of purity are for women of purity.”


On the same question of chastity and modesty, both men and women are similarly admonished in Verses 30 and 31 of the same Suurah


“Say to the believing men

That they should lower

Their gaze and guard

Their modesty...


And say to the believing women

That they should lower

Their gaze and guard

Their modesty..


About husband-wife relationship and the equality of Status between them the Holy Qur’aan says in Suurah 11, Verse 187:


They are your garments

And ye are their garments.”


Hadith literature also contains many references to the ideal of sex equality in Islam:


(1)“Women are the twin halves of men.”


(2 “When a woman performeth the five times of prayer, and fasteth in the month of Ramadaan, and is chaste, and is not disobedient to her husband, then tell her to enter Paradise by whichever door she liketh.”


From the foregoing we should see that “the ideal of sexual equality in Islam” extends to those areas of religious faith and practice desirable of all Muslims regardless of sex. But because of certain biological, physical differences between men and women, differences which affect their role and relevant status, it is not always possible to adhere to the ideal of sex equality. Most outstanding is woman’s biological role as mother, the one who for nine months nurtures within her body the human foetus and after delivering of her baby, retains that natural intimacy in so many ways. In the family unity, pride of place is given to the mother:


“Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”

(Prophet Muhammad [upon whom be peace]).


The above quotation may cany a two-fold meaning:

(I) A child’s earning paradise depends on the relationship of that child to its mother and her blessings bestowed on it.

(II) A child’s earning paradise depends on the training received from its mother to deserve same.


Both interpretations show the vital role of the mother in the family unit.


Abu Huraira (R.A.), a close companion of Prophet Muhammad (u.w.b.p.), reported that a man enquired:


“0 Prophet of Allah! Who is the most proper person for my association?” “Thy mother,” he replied. Again he asked: “Who is next?” “Thy mother”, he replied. Again he asked: “Who is next?” “Thy mother”, he replied. He enquired: “Who is next?” “Thy father”, he said. What more convincing words of the mother’s role and importance in Islam!


Although the above places importance on the mother’s role, it does not negate the importance of the father in the family. The Holy Qur’aan, Suurah 17, Verses 23 and 24 declares:


“And do good to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them even “Uff’, nor chide them and speak to them generous words. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: “Oh my Lord, have mercy on them, as they brought me up when I was an infant.”


A Muslim should always pray: “0 Allah, forgive me and my parents.” Children should fulfill the promises made by their parents, honour their friends and relations, and give charity in their names.


Because of women’s biological difference, the Holy Qur’aan makes the father the breadwinner:


“Men are the protectors

And maintainers of women

Because God has given

The one more strength

Than the other.”

(Suurah IV, Verse 34).


But where necessity demands it, the woman can leave the confines of her home to be a breadwinner. The Holy Prophet (u.w.b.p.) says:


“I and a woman whose colour and cheeks shall have become black from toiling in the sun, shall be near to one another in the next world as my two fingers; and that is a handsome widow, whose colour and cheeks shall have become black in bringing up her family.”


What words of praise and encouragement to the self-sacrificing mother!


Any woman’s chastity and good name should be so cherished and guarded that the Holy Qur’aan in Suurah XXIV, Verse 4, warns:


“And those who launch

A charge against chaste women

And produce not four witnesses

(To support their allegations),

Flog them with eighty strips

And reject their evidence

Even after; for such men

Are wicked transgressors.”


The normal amount of witnesses necessary is two.


The role of woman as wife in the family unit is so important to the well-being of a community that Hadith literature teems with references to a wife’s status:


(a) “A virtuous wife is a man’s best treasure.”


(b) “He is the most perfect Muslim whose disposition is best, and the best of you are they who behave best

to their wives”.


Because of the general degradation of women in pre-Islamic times, women in any role, be it wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, widow, divorcee, step-mother or foster or adopted female relatives, all should be treated with respect and courtesy:


       “The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.” (Prophet Muhammad [u.w.b.p.]).


Pride of place goes to the Holy Prophet’s words:


“The world and all things in it are valuable; but the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous woman.”


My dear Muslim sisters, whatever position

we occupy in our homes and community, we should remember that Islam considers you a very special person. The laws of the Holy Qur’aan and the sayings of Hadith, liberated us fourteen hundred years ago. We do not need any other medium to do it. But we must make ourselves aware of our rights and also our duties. And just as we demand our rights, we must similarly perform our duties. We have Just completed, by Allah’s Grace and Will, a month of rigorous discipline. Let us continue on that momentum, praying for Allah’s guidance on As-Siraat-ul-Mustaqeen (the Right Path).






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