Home Women in Islam Equality between men and women in theory and practice (part 1)

Equality between men and women in theory and practice (part 1)

By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Translated by: Bayynat editor

Q: Islam has equated between the man and the woman at the theoretical level; however, going through the Islamic history reveals that there was no such equality at the level of the rules and behavior. In your opinion, what is the reason behind that?

A: There are several reasons and they are as follows:

Firstly: The deviation of the Islamic authority from the caliphate system and its transformation into a monarchy that simulated the Persian and Roman kingdoms surrounding the Islamic world.

Secondly: The lack of the reliable wise leaderships entrusted with taking care of the nation's originality, since the Umayyad and later the Abbasid authorities worked on confining the Imams of the Members of the Household (a.s.); the ones qualified for these positions, and on isolating them from the general social reality as well as from enjoying any influence on it, had they had the opportunity to implement a certain course of action.

Thirdly: The fact that Omar Bin Al-Khattab prevented writing down the Sunnah under the pretext of avoiding mixing up between the Prophet (p.)'s traditions and the Quran, which led to the loss of a large part of the Prophetic experience narrated by the traditions. His act also made it possible to distort certain issues by means of lying due to the lack of written resources, and the fact that people depended on other people that are subjected to memory loss, deviation, and could be influenced by money or any other thing such as certain narrators who were of the Messenger's companions. Moreover, the Israeli conceptions also had their effect by certain people, such as Wahab Bin Munabbah and Abdullah Bin Salam who penetrated Islam and tried to interpret the Quran referring to the Torah's history.

Fourthly: Alienating the Imams (a.s.) from the historic and cultural movement.

Fifthly: The prevalence of chaos in the Islamic society, which led the women to a state of backwardness, so they were stigmatized with this image, and it became hard to regard the woman with respect to the intellectual and mental level, because of her backward reality itself.

All these reasons managed to destabilize the Islamic mentality at the level of certain concepts regarding women and other issues and paved the way for the dominance of the ignorant (pre-Islamic) view towards this issue without any limitation or shock.

Q: If Islam does recognize the principle of equality between the man and the woman at the human level, can we conclude that Islam recognizes the slogan of equality raised by the westerners, and how?

A: Actually, the term "equality" can be interpreted in two ways:

The first eliminates the singularity of masculinity and feminism, so that both the man and the woman are regarded as human beings without any reference to the sex of each of them, and none of them enjoys any singularity. As a result, the woman would be given the rights and obligations of the man without any differentiation.

The second preserves the diversity of the human singularities that differentiate between both of them, giving each of them the chance to move freely within the circle of their own characteristics. Thus, the woman enjoys her humanity as a woman freely and the regulations set for organizing the man-woman relationship preserves the balance between the woman's and the man's singularities, so they would both complete each other in the movement of life and its activities and projects and the like.

Islam tends to adopt the second kind of equality, for He says: (And do not covet that by which Allah has made some of you excel others; men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace; surely Allah knows all things.) (04:32) i.e. the woman enjoys the right over what she earns, at a time the man - whatever he means to her - has no authority to violate that right, the same thing goes for the man.

Therefore, we can say that Islam has confirmed equality on the basis that it has given every human being - according to the characteristics of his existence - the opportunity to achieve himself in a vivant and continuous manner by the Shari'ah system that gives every rightful person his right and determines for each party the elements that complement a party with the other. 

Q: Upon comparing theory with reality, we find out that the status of the woman in the Islamic movements nowadays is not up to the required level, for there is a tendency to lock women at home and prevent them from performing any active and efficient role, even at the level of the leaders' wives. Actually, this phenomenon is present in even the most open Islamic movements, the Islamic movement in Lebanon, so what future is expected for women in terms of such a situation? And how do you explain that?


A: Firstly: The Islamic movement has always been a man's movement and not a woman's one; in this case, the man enjoys certain privileges.

Secondly: Most leaders got married to women who were not of a high cultural level due to the circumstances they went through in their youth.

Thirdly: The leaders are preoccupied round the clock, and allowing their wives to get engaged in the Islamic work jeopardizes their work due to the lack of social institutions that would organize their activities. This is one of the reasons that made it difficult for women to act in certain positions.

Fourthly: It must be noted that the Islamic movement came from a higher level; i.e. it is a political movement rather than a cultural one, therefore, their movement would not reflect a cultural dimension that could be used as a basis. Despite all that, women ought to struggle, and strive and work hard to attain high positions.

Q: What is your opinion on the women's reality nowadays?

A: Nowadays, the women's movement has many positive points. When the doors of knowledge were opened before women, they managed to be very creative in the fields of knowledge, and when the doors of work and experience were opened before them and they were given the opportunity to acquire experience, they accomplished many positive results at this level. The same thing goes for the political, social, and cultural levels, in general.

However, we cannot ignore that this upheaval that achieved lots of gains for women was associated with several issues that harm the woman's morality and image. Even though the previous situations imposed on women to be sexual tools for men, the modern reality also did its part, for it did not delete this image but rather confirmed it by means of the media policy that resorted to the image of the naked or half naked women to market their merchandise, rendering them a means to attract men towards the marketed goods. From such policies, the idea of making beauty pageants or modeling gained ground, because the aim was to use the women's bodies to attract men and eventually, that body became the main determinant of the woman's value and status in the society.

Therefore, the woman's perfect figure has become a prerequisite in many jobs, considering it a successful marketing means, because we can see that the employers in the fields of media, commerce, and industry believe that the saleswoman or the secretary or the newscaster should be beautiful in order to attract customers, and therefore, gaining more money and prestige. Moreover, intelligence agencies tend to use attractive women in the process of spying to attract people, recruit them, and so on. The man's view on women is governed by the concept of the Harem. In spite of the fact that the Harem regime has disappeared, men treat women as preys bragging about how many they have hunted.