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Gender equality and how Islam sees it

  • Published at 05:13 am September 24th, 2013

One particular issue that Bangladesh has looked pretty concerned about in the past few years is that of “gender equality.” Women and men are supposed to be equal to men in terms of “rights.”

According to feminists, women must be entitled to play any role in society that a man is able to play. A man is not to be differentiated from a woman in terms of ability and potential. Moreover, the duties which are traditionally thought to be assumed only by women are to be shared by men as well.

For example, child-care at home is not to be considered as a duty only for females anymore. The male parent should contribute significantly in duties such as changing diapers. In short, duties should not be, in any way, dependent on the sex of the person to which they are assigned.

What is wanted in the name of “gender-equality,” as has been discussed in the last paragraph, is something that makes my mind assume a sceptic disposition.

I think it is necessary to understand how many followers of Islam see it. There are fundamental differences, both physical and mental between men and women. Just as there are differences between a shirt and a pair of pants. They have different attributes and serve different purposes. A shirt is simply not designed to cover our bottom half and vice versa.

The concept of equality in the case of men and women is somewhat similar. Women are physically and mentally fit for the purpose nature asks them to serve. Men, on the other hand, have been assigned a duty in the society as well. Each of these two sexes has been given attributes that are useful in serving the purpose they are intended to serve.

To illustrate the concept introduced in the last paragraph, let us consider the physical structure of the sexes. Women have been given the physical mechanism needed to not only harbour a baby for ten months but to nurse and feed it in the later phase. It is interesting to note that men’s breasts are unable to feed the baby. God has created this discrimination. Believers can argue that the Creator could have given men one breast for feeding babies and women another. But instead, women have to bear both.

In the same way men do not carry the baby for four and a half months and then ask women to carry it for four and a half more. The woman must carry it all by herself! These physical signs clearly indicate that it is the woman who is intended to carry the baby and feed it.

The man, on the other hand has a tougher structure, can go through physical strain and endure adverse conditions. This indicates that while the mother is carrying the baby, the man is supposed to work and support her adequately. The division of responsibilities is thus pretty clear. It is thus unwise and against the fundamental laws of nature to claim that no difference should exist in terms of responsibilities between men and women.

There are many who would stand up and point out that despite having physical differences, men and women are equal in terms of mental qualities and abilities. This is very true indeed! Women can not only be as intelligent as men are but sometimes can show surpassing mental abilities. It is definitely not true that women are inferior performers in mathematics or other technical fields of knowledge.

Studies show that women are less represented than men in higher level mathematics and scientific subjects in America. America is still not producing as many female physicists as male ones, even though, in terms of education and other civil rights, a woman in America “enjoys” so called equality with men. Science is still powerfully dominated by men.

Why is there such a strange and unexpected imbalance? Women are not stopped from enrolling themselves in courses on physics and mathematics. Perhaps women, in general, are simply not interested in being a Newton or an Einstein!

Women in general, go wherever you may, are interested in the sources of love. They want to bond. They want to build a family. I have met women of varying educational achievements of different nationalities. Nowhere did a woman ever seem more interested in the quantum mechanical model of the hydrogen atom than her own family and above all, her man.

One wonders where the question of men being “better” than women comes in. It is incredibly stupid to call women inferior or to call men superior. They have separate qualities, separate abilities and separate duties. I believe Islam has shown a remarkable astuteness in assigning duties to the sexes. Men and women have been given responsibilities that they are fit for.

Some writers in our country, influenced by some writers from the West, support concepts of gender-equality and feel embarrassed about how our country is not developing because our women are not as liberated as the ones in other lands.

They also try to somehow establish that Islam says women are equal to men. I do not think women were ever declared to be equal to men in Islam. One may disagree with what Islam says and say women are equal to men, but no one should fabricate a quote to support their point of view.

Islam never raised an objection against women studying, working or running businesses. If Islam ever imposed certain restrictions on the free-mingling of women and men, it was to ensure the safety of women and to ensure that the society does not become immoral by indulging in pleasure and lust, while forgetting that the real goal of life is to achieve spiritual purity.