31.1 GENDER, al dhukkura & unuuthat

By Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.


Islamic Law assigns roles, rights, and obligations based on the acknowledgement of similarities and differences between the genders. The Qur’anic concept of parity, zawjiyat, is the basis for complementary relations between males and females. Issues of equity, equality, justice, and division of labor are associated with parity. Males and females are from the same creation (7:189).  Males and females are allies of one another (9:71). Males and females get reward equal to that of men for work that they do (4:124). Women’s opinions are respected (58:1). Women participate in the political process (61:12). The testimony of one woman is equal to that of one man (24:6-9) except in some business transactions. Women fought side by side with men (Muslim 3:1001, Chapter 743, Hadith #4453). Despite many equal or similar challenges and responsibilities, women should not behave like men because they are different (Bukhari 7:513, hadith #773).



Women and men are equal in their religious, ethical, civil rights, duties and responsibilities (16:97). Exceptions are very few and arise because of different responsibilities (4:34) or differences in basic biological nature. The Qur’an assures religious equality (3:175, 9:71-72, 16:97), ethical equality (3:195, 9:71-72, 16:97), and civil equality (60:12, 5:38, 24:2, 4:32). Men and women are from the same creation. They have equal worth, equal moral and legal status, equal religious and educational rights, and equal reward for equal or equivalent work. Women and men are equally challenged in some activities and are unequally challenged in others. Women have their individuality, responsibility, and accountability independent of men. Islam fosters a dual and not unisex society. There should be no competition between the genders but interdependency. Women are allies of men. Men and women need one another.



Each gender should accept its identity and not try to compete with or emulate the other (4:32). Biological, psychological, and emotional differences between the genders are Allah's plan for a balanced society and do not confer consistent advantage or superiority to one gender to the disadvantage of the other. There are very few established and consistent gender differences. Men are superior to women in visual-spatial abilities and quantitative abilities. Women are superior to men in verbal ability. Males and females communicate differently.



Different does not automatically mean unequal. What is needed is equity and not similarity. The rules of Sharia and acts of worship in Islam apply equally to men and women. There are only a few differences in the details due to different natures of men and women and role prioritization. Islamic law gives the women full competence to own and dispose of property before and after marriage. Working outside the home is allowed if it does not hurt the family and rules of modesty and interaction with the other gender are followed. Islamic law forbids forced marriage of women. The sharia allows a woman to propose marriage. She can accept or reject any suitor. A woman can legally obtain a divorce from an unwilling husband. Men have special leadership roles in a conjugal relationship. It must however be remembered that the relationship started with free consent of the woman. The Law places very few restrictions on women. Most verses are restrictions on men to prevent their transgression against the rights and modesty of women.



The woman is a human being like the man. She is not responsible for the original sin; Adam and Hawa were equally guilty.  Her work is accepted by Allah as much as is the work of the man. She is not a bad omenShe has the right to inherit and the right to own property. She is equal to the man in rights and obligations. The woman differs from the man in the amount of diyat, the amount of inheritance, and giving court evidence. There are gender-specific regulations for taharat, ibadat, dress, and child custody. The rest of the Law makes no distinction between men and women. The woman has a right to work. The work may be ‘amal duniyawi or’amal ukhrawi. “Amal ukhrawi is obligatory for both men and women. Work of the duniya, ‘amal al duniya, for purposes of earning a living is obligatory for men, waajib ‘ala al rijaal, and mubaah for women if certain conditions are fulfilled. The woman has a role in public leadership.

(c) Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. 2004