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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family Matrimonial Rights

Matrimonial Rights - Distinction Between the Sexes

Article Index



Islam has freed women from the offensive traditions and customs of the pre-Islamic era, honored them, raised their ranks, and decided their being equal to man in humanity, principles, sanctity of blood, honor, and property, and the deserving of the rewar ds and penalties of the life to come. On bases of fairness and wisdom, it has identified women’s values and standings to men. In some situations, Islam, depending upon advisability and rightness, has deemed women as same as men, but it, because of the di fferent qualifications and responsibilities in the various fields of life, has also made a distinction between them through nominating certain rights, duties, and rulings for each.

In all these affairs, Islam has aimed at achieving wisdom, uprightness, and fair evaluation of humankind’s natures and traits. By preferring man in certain rulings, Islam has not aimed at humiliating or wronging woman. Its one and only purpose has been t he achievement of justice through granting each sex the rights that befit the qualifications and responsibilities.

We, hereinafter, will refer to the most significant points of distinction between the two sexes so as to realize the reasons of the Islamic rulings in this regard:

1. Maintenance

Each society, no matter how small it is, is in need for a well-qualified guardian whose mission is to supervise its affairs and achieve prosperity and development. From this cause, each family is in an inevitable need for a guardian and supervisor who, though engaged in serious task requiring sagacity, practice, willpower, and enough experience in this life, must govern his family member with well management and secure means of acceptable livelihood.

Now, which one is the worthiest of supervising and maintaining the family? Is it man or woman?

Owing to his qualifications, man is more experienced in the life affairs, more competent of supervising the family morally and materially, and more capable of achieving means of good living than woman is. This matter has been decided by the eternal const itution of Islam:

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property. (4:34)”

Maintenance, however, does not mean absolute dominance and policies of severity and violence against the family members, since such practices are in violence of the ethics of Islam. The true maintenance relies upon mutual understanding, cooperation, and emotional and intellectual consent between the paterfamilias and his family members:

“Women have benefits as well as responsibilities. Men have a status above women. (2:228)”

In view of her femininity, woman is tenderhearted, sensitive, and touchy. Frequently, women’s emotions prevail on their minds. All these matters qualify her to fulfill the mission of maternity whose functions require such feelings, and take her way from the leadership of family that requires sagacity, emotional balance, tolerance, and firmness. All these traits are found with man; therefore, he is more qualified than woman is in fields of maintaining the family.

Finally, positive woman usually disrespects the inactive, feeble husband and honors the husband of great and attractive personality.

2. Man’s Preference to Woman in Inheritance

The Islamic Sharia has decided that man should enjoy the double of woman’s share of heritage. Some simple-minded people misthink that such a law is considered as mortification and wronging for woman. In fact, Islam has never degraded or wronged woman. Be cause of man’s big responsibilities, Islam has decided for him double share of heritage so that fairness and equity can be achieved.

Unlike woman, man is responsible for securing his family members’ food, clothing, house, education, and medical treatment. He is, unlike woman too, responsible for protecting Islam by all possible means. Finally, man is responsible for many social obliga tions that require spending. In the light of this comparison, it is fair to decide for man a double share of heritage. Woman, however, is luckier than man is, since she is not responsible for many family and social obligations. Hence, Islam has decided:

“Let the male inherit twice as much as the female. (4:11)”

Finally, woman’s possessive and vested rights are completely saved for her alone, and man has no right to do anything to such properties before her satisfaction and permission are obtained. Woman, in this field, is equal to man.

3. Testimony

The Islamic Sharia has considered two women’s testimony as one man’s so as to protect woman’s testimony from falsity and to guard the litigants’ rights from wronging and waste.

As she is prevailed by agitated emotions, sensitivity, and passivity towards a definite party, woman deviates from justice and neglects the right and the obligation of providing exact testimony. Evading so, Islam has decided the joining of two women in t estimony so that one may remind the other and prevent her from false testifying:

“Let two men or one man and two women whom you choose, bear witness so that if one of them makes a mistake the other can correct him. (2:282)”

Modern medical experiments have proved that some women, during their monthlies, suffer symptoms causing their mental powers to be enfeebled. Hence, they become oblivious. 41 Such experiments support the necessity of joining two women during bearing testimo nies.

4. Polygamy

The enemies have waged wrong campaigns against Islam using various forms of bitter criticism and empty censure one of which is their vituperating Islam’s permitting polygamy, which is, as they have claimed, considered as injury and confusion for the mari tal life.

First of all, Islam was not the originator of polygamy. Many centuries before Islam, polygamy was decided by the divine religions and positive laws.

“Polygamy was not forbidden in the most ancient code. Likewise, it was not forbidden in the Torah and the Gospel. Since the reign of Prophet Abraham up to the Nativity, none of the prophets forbade polygamy. In the Gospel, we cannot find a single text te lling the illegality of a matter which was decided as legal in the Old Testament. Everything that is mentioned in the Gospel asserts the legality of polygamy in every situation except one: the bishop who shows failure in standing monasticism must satisfy himself with a single wife…

Edward Westermarck, whose major interests were history of marriage, says that ‘polygamy, as the Church confesses, perpetuated until the seventeenth century. Moreover, it occurred frequently beyond the sights of the Church and the ruling authorities.’

Hence, Islam, allowing polygamy, has not brought something heretic. However, the new thing that Islam has brought in this regard was reforming the disorder created by absolute polygamy and taking in consideration the necessities that God does not neglect . In some circumstances, or even general social circumstances, the allowance of polygamy is more beneficial than its forbiddingness.” 42

As a matter of fact, those who denied Islam’s allowing polygamy have certainly practiced it by means of deviation and sinful relations. Had they thought about the matter perceptively and impartially, they would have found that polygamy is the one and onl y solution for the problems and crises that befall individuals and societies.