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Gender Equity, not Equality

This article was originally published in ´┐ŻImpact International´┐Ż July 2000; written by Khalid Baig.


You are the best of peoples evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right,
forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. 
(Aal-e-Imran, 3:110)


Muslims are witnesses to the Truth for the mankind. It is incumbent upon them to stand up for what is right. This is a logical consequence of one's belief and one's love for humanity.

For the need of one's own protection, others ought to be informed about what is right. We live in a world where each others thoughts and acts influence others; when a people stop calling other to the right path, they themselves become the target of their urge to follow the other paths.

The results of our collective dereliction of responsibility in this matter are all around us today. The campaign launched internationally in the name of women's rights and gender equality, which has recently gained lot of momentum, is one example of this.

Equality is a slick and catchy slogan. But what does equality actually mean? In mathematics, two variables can be swapped without affecting the result in any way. If men and women are equal in this sense, then a woman can do anything a man can do, and vice versa. You can substitute one for the other anywhere. Thus a woman can be a truck driver, a coal miner, a prison guard, or what have you. Similarly, a man can become Mr. Mom, replacing the mother taking care of the children.

Such mathematical equality between men women is manifestly absurd. One only needs to look at the biological and psychological differences between men and women. Yet, this is precisely the direction that the so-called gender equality campaign has taken blindly. It aims at replacing the complementary relationship between men and women with that of an adversary.

The civilisations and societies that for centuries refused to consider women as human beings, or to give them any rights, have now gone from one extreme to another. Islam has never had anything to do with such nonsense. When women had no rights in the world it declared;

And women shall have rights, similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable.
(Al-Baqarah, 2:228)


That still remains Islam's command today and forever. Similar rights, not same rights. Qualitative, not quantitative equality. Both men and women are equal in their humanity and in their dignity; in their accountability before Allah; in their responsibility to perform their assigned tasks and be judged according to their performance.

However, their assigned tasks are not the same. They have been given different capabilities by their Creator: the tasks are based on those capabilities.

This distinction is not an error that needs to be corrected. It is the only basis for building a healthy and prosperous society. Islam liberates a woman from the modern tyranny of having to become a man in order to get a sense of self worth and achievement.

If Muslims had done their job, they would now be asking for universal rights for women as given by Islam, generally ignored in the world. Based on our dismal performance, and the current discourse on the subject, that would be a revolutionary - and liberating - act. Islam's universal declaration of women's rights would include the following:

1. The Creator has given men and women dignity, but forces of immorality and darkness attack it in many ways. One such pernicious attack on women is pornography. It is an affront to the respect and honour of women. And it produces an atmosphere where other crimes against them become possible.

In some countries it is a multi-billion dollar 'industry', and they are exporting this filth to other parts of the world. Newer technologies, especially the Internet, have also become mediums of choice for the purveyors of filth. Thus posing a serious threat to morality everywhere. Pornography must be rejected and all trade in porn outlawed universally in the same way as dangerous drugs are banned.

2. Prostitution must be recognised as a despicable act of exploitation of women. No one who condones it can be taken seriously in their claims to respect women's rights.

3. It is men, sons, fathers, husbands and brothers, to defend and to provide for their mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. Islam frees women from slaving outdoors, so she can queen over the better half of the empire. All efforts to snatch this freedom and economic security from the women, forcing them out of the peace and dignity of home into the harsh and often cruel labour market, must be rejected.

4. Homemaking is a very honourable task and a serious responsibility; it is the foundation for a healthy society. The societies that show disrespect for homemaking lose their homemakers which leads to broken homes and broken societies. Belittling the task of homemaking is anti-family and anti-society; it must be recognised as such and curbed.

5. It is a Muslim woman's right to dress modestly, wear hijab, and refuse to be put on display. This right must be accepted universally and any effort to restrict this right must also be recognised for what it is: r religious discrimination and/or persecution.

6. There is only one legitimate form of the family, that which is created by a legitimate union between a man and woman, as provided in all revealed religions. Any other form is not only immoral, but also poses a serious threat to humanity.

7. Families should be protected from outside intrusion, especially intrusion by governmental as well as non-governmental institutions. This also includes intrusion in the name of providing help. For resolution of family Disputes, Islam suggests a three-phase procedure,

  • Resolve the conflict within the home.
  • Resolve it within the family by involving elders from the families of husband and wife.
  • As a last resort, resolve it through courts of law.

There is great wisdom in this approach. Sayyidna 'Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, said in a directive to the qadhis (Islamic judge): 'Refer the family disputes to the families (so they can resolve them within the family with the help of elders), for the judge's verdicts create hatred and malice.'

Ignoring such scheme can only hurt the families that this new plan purports to help.

Islam admits of no blind gender equality; for bad women cannot equal good women, nor can bad men be superior to good women.

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