Are Men More Noble/Superior to Women in the Eyes of God?
Posted by Parsin on May 14, 2008
Rights of Women in Islam
By A. Bazargan
Verse 34 of Chapter Al-Nesa, according to the following description, is clearly discriminatory with respect to inherent mental superiority of men over women, with men being more worthy of dominance over women and their leading role in the family, and that it requires women to submit to and take orders from their husbands!
الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَاللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلَا تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For God is Most High, great (above you all). (1)
Firstly, in the above Verse there is not the slightest mention of mental or inherent superiority of men over women, rather, the only reference is to men being “ghavvam” (قَوَّام) (protector and maintainer,) as a matter of fact and not to a divine decree. Ghavvam means advocate, defender, guardian, protector, attendant, one who is there for the benefit of and at the service of women, not one who is against them. As can also be seen in the world of animals the male always plays the role of the defender and protector of the female in the face of danger. The difference between humans and animals is that in the case of humans the domain of protection and guardianship is much more extensive than that of animals.
The verb ghavvam (قَوَّام) in the above Verse, which is an indication of the subsistence, and real and natural circumstances, is due to two clear reasons:
Some of the gender inequalities of the male sex (to make a generalization) are important in being a defender or guardian, e.g., muscular superiority, far-sighted planning, and being less prone to emotional feelings.
Being responsible for providing for family expenditures and managing joint family assets.
Clearly in any society the responsibilities of management and guardianship are placed foremost on the shoulders of the person who is more capable and has the talent for this responsibility (not for all roles and responsibilities,) and one who has made the monetary investment for such responsibility. With respect to family, the heavy responsibility of providing for family expenses is assigned to the man of family due to superior physical strength and experience in family provisions. Since any family service and responsibility should be reciprocated in turn, the woman’s cooperation in accepting the man as being the custodian of such responsibilities is required.
Unfortunately, many women and men(!) operate under the premise that this guardianship, i.e., supervision, means superiority and that it is a privilege which God has bestowed upon men and that is why the male sex is the preferred sex. In fact, the Qur’an in tens of Verses recognizes the superiority and excellence to be attributes of self-control and does not recognize inherent or sexual superiority.
If in keeping watch and being ghavvam (2) (قَوَّام) for the family men naturally have superiority over women, in many cases women too have obvious advantages over men which are compatible with their natural responsibilities in life.
The other point is that the subject Verse (4:34) is indicative of the way of life of the human societies at the time of the Qur’anic revelations. Clearly, as the societal roles of men and women change, i.e., women in the West nowadays partake in the army, police force, and other hard labors, the basis of the laws governing the role of women in the society will also change and the reasons once valid for such roles will become obsolete. In such cases one needs to seek the answer to the question as to whether this overhaul in the reassignment of family responsibilities based on physical and natural abilities ultimately has resulted in favor of women, or has added more responsibilities on their already weak shoulders and has weakened the foundations of the family as the main pillar of society?