Islam and misogyny
Misogyny means: “Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women” [http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/misogyny].
Unfortunately, many people claim Islam is a misogynistic religion and that Muslim women are oppressed. However, this claim is false and unjustified. Islam honors women and gives them their status.
Prior to Islam, the polytheists of the Arab disliked girls and were sadden by their birth. Allah says:
وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِالْأُنْثَى ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ
يَتَوَارَى مِنَ الْقَوْمِ مِنْ سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَى هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ
And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision [16:58-59]
Imam al-Alusi rahimahullah said:
“The verse is clear in the dispraise of being sad if given the glad tidings of a girl because it was narrated that it was the action of the disbelievers. As for the real believer, then he is pleased with what Allah has allotted for him and the decree of Allah is better than the judgement of a person himself…verily Allah informed you of their [the polytheist’s] actions to avoid it and prohibit it” [Tafseer al-Alusi (10/206)].
Quite the contrary, the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
لاَ يَفْرَكْ مُؤْمِنٌ مُؤْمِنَةً إِنْ كَرِهَ مِنْهَا خُلُقًا رَضِيَ مِنْهَا آخَرَ
A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another [Muslim no.1468]
Shaikh Ibn ul-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:
“…That is: his wife, his sister, and his mother. However the intent here is his wife…“[Sharh Riyaadhus-Saliheen (6/244)].
So Islam does not believe women are a source of sadness or shame. Islam believes women are the twin-sisters of men.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
نَعَمْ إِنَّمَا النِّسَاءُ شَقَائِقُ الرِّجَالِ
Yes. Woman are counterpart of men.
[Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood no. 236]
Imam al-Khattabi (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:
“[In this Hadith is proof] that the audience [of Ahaadith] if reported with the wording men is [also] addressing women. Except in the places that are specified [for women] by the evidences” [‘Awn al-Ma’bood (1/275)].
Imam as-San’aani rahimahullah said commenting on the Hadith:
لعن الله الرجلة من النساء
Allah cursed mannish women
“Mannish women who imitate men in their appearance and in their speech and the likes of that. As for [regarding] knowledge and opinion, then it is praiseworthy [i.e. that women be like men]. I say: it is not resemblance, rather it is acting upon what they have been ordered to do. For verily the women are the counterparts of men. They were ordered with knowledge and action. The manner of teaching and learning is not specific to men“[Tanweer Sharh Jami’ as-Sagheer (9/48)].
Some people may say that Islam favours men over women and they point to the verse in the Quran that states:
الرجال قوامون على النساء بما فضل الله بعضهم على بعض وبما أنفقوا من أموالهم
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means [4:34]
According to Imam Shawkaani (may Allah have mercy upon him), this verse means:
“Verily they [the men] only deserve this virtue due to Allah favoring men over women because of what He has favored them with in terms of being caliphates, sultans, rulers, ameers, soldiers, and other than that of affairs” [Fathul-Qadir (1/694)].
It does not mean all men are better than women, but that men have been favored over women from this angle.
Shaikh Bin Baz (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:
“…It does not necessitate from this [verse] that every man is better than every woman. Verily this preference is in general. As for detail, then a woman can be better than a man. This is a real, well-known affair. However, in general the male gender was favored over the female gender and this is known through the legislation, intellect, and natural disposition. Through the knowledge of reality and experience. However, how many women are better than a man due to her knowledge, religion, steadfastness, and insight. By looking at the attributes of the female Companions, Tabi’een, and Scholars of this Ummah of the women, you will know there are good women who are better then many men“[Noor ‘ala Darb (26/106)].
And as mentioned earlier, women are the counterparts of men. However, there are certain positions or fields that men are given preference and this is a virtue given by Allah. It does not mean women are less than men or that they are not as good as men or despised by men.
Some may point then to this verse:
فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَى
And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her [2:282]
Saying that this means women are less than men and why is the testimony of two men equal to one man? Allah explained in the above verse that if one of them errs the other can remind them.
Imam Ibn Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon him) said that his teacher Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:
“In this verse is evidence that the testimony of two women in place of the testimony of one man is only for one woman to remind the other if she errs. This is only in [the affairs] that have error in them in customarily. That is forgetfulness and inaccuracy. So in this meaning, the Prophet (ﷺ) said the Hadith:
أما نقصان عقلهن فشهادة امرأتين بشهادة رجل
As for you deficiency in intellect, then it is that the testimony of two women is equal to the testimony to one man [صحيح مسلم]
So he clarified that she has half the testimony because of the deficiency in intellect [i.e. memory and accuracy] not in religion. So it is known by that that the trustworthiness of a women is in the same position as the trustworthiness of a man. And that her intellect can be more deficient than his [i.e. in this angle]. In the matters of testimony in which error is not feared customarily, then her testimony is not half of that of a man’s. Two testimonies [in this situation] is not accepted. The places when a single testimony is accepted is in things which she saw, or touched with her hand, or heard with her ear [which do not] depend [solely] on the intellect. Like regarding birth, or the voice of the child when being born, or in menstruation, or the defects underneath the [woman’s] clothing. For verily the likes of these affairs are not forgotten customarily” [at-Turuq al-Hukumiyyah (1/221-222)].
The Hadith cited by Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy upon him) above is also another common contention in the opinion of some people. It is when the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
وَمَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَغْلَبَ لِذِي لُبٍّ مِنْكُنَّ
I have never seen anyone lacking in discernment and religion more overwhelming to a man of wisdom than you [Muslim no. 79]
Shaikh Bin Baz (may Allah have mercy upon him) commented on this Hadith saying:
“…It does not necessitate from this Hadith that the deficiency in her intellect is in everything and the deficiency in her religion is in everything. Verily the Prophet (ﷺ) clarified that the deficiency in her intellect is from the angle that inaccuracy occurs in testimony and her deficiency in religion is from the angle that she leaves off the prayer and fasting in the situation of menstruation and post-natal bleeding. It does not necessitate also that she is less than a man in everything and that a man is better than her in everything. Yes, so it is not necessary for a believer to accuse her [the woman] of being deficient in everything and have deficiency in all her religion. Verily it is a specific deficiency in regards to accuracy in testimony and the likes. So it is necessary to have fairness with her [woman] and carry the speech of the Prophet upon the best of possible meanings. And Allah Knows best” [Fatwa Noor ‘ala Darb (29/101-102].
So this clarifies that Islam does not believe women to have inferior minds than men in general. It is only in relation to her memory and accuracy in certain affairs of testimony. Otherwise, there are many instances of women in Islam who were Scholars and teachers, like Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) and Fatimah bint al-Mundhir (may Allah have mercy on her).
So we can conclude from what has been mentioned above that Islam is not a misogynistic religion. Far from that, Islam is a religion of justice and honor.
And Allah Knows Best
Faisal Ibn Abdul Qaadir Ibn Hassan