Are women in Islam equal to men?

I’m a Muslim woman who converted to Islam three years ago. I believe that women are not equal to men in a number of concerns, and that’s why I disagree with you about allowing women to be heads of state, or judges. Here is my evidence:

  • Islam says we need 2 women to be witness instead of 1 and for man, only 1 man is sufficient enough to be witness then how can a woman be a judge?
  • Islam gives the right to divorce to men only.

As for your first point about witnesses, that is contingent on the women being forgetful in financial matters, which was the norm in the Seventh Century. The verse clearly says,

“If there are no two men then a man and two women you approve of as witnesses, lest one of them should err so the other would remind her” (2:282)

As established in Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction), a contingent ruling goes with its contingency. So, if the contingency is not there, so is not the ruling. What that means, is that if there is a woman whose memory and integrity are undoubted, she can replace a man as witness by herself. It also means that if a man’s memory or integrity cannot be trusted, he cannot be a witness either.

As for your second point, God and His Messenger, peace be upon him, gave women the authority to divorce. It’s called in the Sharee`a Khul` (severance).

From the Quran and Hadith it’s clear that men are leaders and women are followers, in all affairs.

The Quran does not say that men are leaders and women are followers. This is a common fallacy. The Quran says that men and women are here for each other,

“And the believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is recognized [as right] and forbid what is frowned upon [as wrong], establish prayer, give alms and obey God and His Messenger. Those – God will have mercy upon them. Indeed, God is Exalted in Might and very Wise.” {9:71}

A girl, or a boy, is required to obey both their father and mother. A wife is required to obey her husband. Those are arrangements within a family. They have nothing to do with the world outside the home. Outside the home, we are all required to obey God, His Messenger and our duly appointed righteous heads of state.

Leadership does not mean one orders and the follower obeys. Leadership is a quality that can only be earned. Our best example of a leader is the Prophet, peace be upon him. He ordered only what he was told by God to order. In all other matters, he consulted with his companions and wives.

He consulted his wife Umm Salama at the treaty of Hudaybiya. Muslims rebelled and would not obey him. He went into his tent where Umm Salama was staying and helping out and said to her, “Muslims have perished, Umm Salama! I ordered them and they did not comply.” She asked him what happened and then gave him a wise, cool-headed advice, “Pack your stuff and start heading back to Medina. When Muslims see you do that, they will follow you.” She was right. He did and they did as she expected.

That’s an example of the Prophet (PBUH) obeying his wife. BTW, “obey” is not a derogatory word, as some people have come to believe. It simply means to agree with what you’re asked to do and do it.

In one battle, the Prophet (PBUH) ordered the troops to camp at some site. A soldier asked him, “Is this a site God ordered you to camp at, or are we talking opinion, war and tactics?” The Prophet (PBUH) answered, “Rather, it’s opinion, war and tactics.” The man said, “This is no camp site.” Then he pointed to another site and the Prophet followed him and the rest of the soldiers as well. That’s an example of the Prophet (PBUH) obeying one of his soldiers.

In both of these examples, the prophet (PBUH) taught us that a leader leads by example, not by orders, and engages whom he leads. That example was followed by the righteous caliphs. Both Abu-Bakr and Umar, may God have been pleased with them, said the following in their acceptance speeches,

“I’ve been appointed over you but I’m not the best of you. If you find me doing right, support me. If you find me doing wrong, correct me.”

After Umar said it, a man shouted, “If we find you doing wrong, we will correct it with our swords!” Umar replied,  “Thank God that there are Muslims who would correct Umar if he deviates.”

Now, I’d like to address the meritorious argument that some verses in the Quran seem to suggest that men are leaders and women are followers. Two verses have been mentioned,

  1. “Men are the caretakers of women, for what God has given more of to some over other and for what they spend from their wealth.” {4:34}

    First, This verse is talking about the relationship between a man and his wife, evidenced by the phrase “in beds” later in the verse. Therefore, it is not a valid argument for the relationship between men and women in general and outside the home.

    Second, the verse gives an affectionate, benevolent description to the responsibility of a man toward his wife: care taker. The word God uses, “Qawwaam” means one who is taking care of something and alert to anything that might infringe on it. It is used for a business owner or a landlord as well.

    Last, God gives the contingency, or reason, why this responsibility is assigned to men. They are endowed with strength and finances. That means they are in a position to take care of and defend women.

  2. “Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs if they believe in God and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation. 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]. And God is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (2:228)

    Clearly, the verse is again talking about a man’s responsibility toward his wife. Thus, it cannot be used to generalize the relationship between men and women outside the home. In addition, the degree God refers to in this verse may be interpreted in two ways: authority or responsibility. If you go for the authority interpretation, then the meaning is “Divorced wives must agree to go back to their husbands if they want them back during the grace period.” If you go for the responsibility interpretation, then the meaning is “Men who divorced their wives and then took them back should be extra careful not to do that again. They are expected to act responsibly, not in haste or emotionally.” Unfortunately, many Muslims interpret the degree as a degree of favor. There is no linguistic basis for that, since the words God has used in the Quran to indicate favor have been “Fadhl” and “Ni`ma”, not “Daraja” (degree).

So, what is the relationship between men and women in general as the Quran specifies? It’s the verse from Chapter 9 that I quoted above. Here it is again,

“And the believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is recognized [as right] and forbid what is frowned upon [as wrong], establish prayer, give alms and obey God and His Messenger. Those – God will have mercy upon them. Indeed, God is Exalted in Might and very Wise.” {9:71}

Can your ally be your leader? Sure, God says in the holy Quran,

“God is the ally of those who have believed.” (2:257)


“Your ally is none but God, His Messenger and those who have believed – those who establish prayer and give alms, and they bow [in worship]. ” (5:55)

OK. How do you then explain 92:3-4,

“And how He created the male and the female. Your strife is different.”

God is giving examples of the variety in His creation to state the fact that our actions are all over the place. Some of us, men and women, take the straight path and others stray and others deny. To prove that this is what is meant, simply continue reading and you’ll find,

As for he who gives and fears God,
And believes in the best [reward],
We will ease him toward ease.

But as for he who withholds and considers himself free of need
And denies the best [reward],
We will ease him toward difficulty.
And what will his wealth avail him when he falls? ” (92:5-11)

How would you explain the authentic hadith of “You are all shepherds and are all responsible for your flocks … and the woman is a shepherdess and responsible in her husband’s home.”?

Doesn’t that prove that a woman can be a good manager? Isn’t that what a shepherdess is? Where does this hadeeth state that this responsibility prevents her from all other responsibilities? She still has to connect with her parents, siblings and relatives. She still can do charity work. She still can help out during times of war. So why is it that she cannot serve as judge or ruler if she is qualified and has the time?

A woman will have to follow orders from her husband, a man need not!

That’s not accurate. A wife must disobey her husband when he orders her to do something wrong. And a husband should listen to his wife when she corrects something wrong he’s doing. The duty of commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong is upon all Muslims, men and women as clearly stated in 9:71.

for muslims the imaam (who leads the prayers) is a leader. On community basis or national its the imaam who leads. But muslim women are not allowed to be imaams. I say imaam, because it’s him who leads us while we are doing the most important thing in our life, when the worshipers of ALLAH bow to HIM. It’s the man who leads so how can a women lead in other cases?

What is the aspect of analogy (وجه القياس) here? Why is leading the prayer analogous to leading the country or the court room? Each of these has its qualifications. There is evidence that the leader of the prayer must be a man, but there is no evidence that the leader of the country or court room must be a man.

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One Response to “Are women in Islam equal to men?”

  1. light says:

    Alhamdulillah, great post. Good job brother. May Allah Bless you.

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