Islamic Boundary Line

Up till now we have been looking at the natural boundary line between the responsibilities of man and woman. Now, let us see how Islam – the Natural Religion – has safe-guarded that boundary.

It was mentioned earlier that Islam wants to educate boys in such a way that they develop into Men of Action; and to educate girls to make them into the Rulers of the Home.

Nature demands that all individuals should have equal rights. But it does not mean that every individual should be entrusted with every responsibility and every duty. A weak person is not expected to perform the tasks done by a strong one. If we treat both equally, it will be harmful to both.

What is then the meaning of this equality? It means that everyone should be given his or her right without let or hindrance, and be put in his or her rightful place. The words of Allah point to it

. . . and they (women) have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them; . . . (Qur’an, 2:228)

This verse ordains equality between the rights of both groups at the same time when it shows the differences between the both.

Men and women equally share the Divine gifts of thinking and will, which in their turn create free choice. She should, therefore, be free in her thinking and will, and should have freedom to choose her own course of action. In other words, she should be free to look after her life’s affairs – personal as well as social – except where there is a genuine reason to the contrary. Islam gave her this freedom in full measure. She may act independently in all matters in which a man is free to act.

She gets her share in inheritance, she is the rightful owner of whatever she may earn, she may deal with others in all types of dealings, like trade, partnership and gift, she may acquire knowledge and impart it to others, she may stake a claim, defend her rights, sue and be sued without any need of seeking permission of her husband. These few examples will show how she was given an independent personality, unfettered in her will or action by men or their guardianship. She thus got, by the Grace of Allah, what the world had denied her since the beginning of humanity, and which was unheard of before the advent of Islam.

But while sharing these basic qualities with men, she differs from them in other ways. As a result of those differences, her body is comparatively soft and elegant; and finer sentiments, like love, tender -heartedness and inclination towards beauty and adornment, are more pronounced in her than in man. On the other hand, the power of cool reasoning is more prominent in men than in women. In short, a woman lives a sentimental life; a man in comparison does not allow sentiments to cloud his judgment.

It was for this reason that Islam differentiated between the duties and responsibilities of both groups. The tasks demanding cool reasoning, like rulership and judgeship have been reserved for men; also the fighting side of jihad (holy war against the infidels) is man’s preserve, although women may attend the jihad for nursing and treating the wounded soldiers. The woman has been entrusted with bringing up of children and looking after the domestic management. Man has been given responsibility of her maintenance, for which he is compensated by a double share in inheritance.

Thus, Islam was the first to release woman from her bondage by giving her freedom of will and action. All the slogans of emancipation of women, raised in modern times, are but an echo of the clarion call of Islam. Non-Islamic societies in this matters are just following the lead given by Islam. But the trouble is that they are not con-tent with following; they want to improve upon the master-piece of Islam – forgetting that the principle laid down by Islam is a perfectly circular ring; nothing can be added to or subtracted from it without disturbing the whole alignment. Yet, in spite of their keen desire to emancipate woman, these societies have not succeeded in this endeavour. Woman is still far behind in all those fields of activities which Islam has reserved for man. The data show that the fields of rulership, judgeship and military services (in the meaning of fighting) are still a “man’s world”.

The following hadith (tradition) may give a general outline of the above-mentioned Islamic principle, al-Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said:

Verily, Fatimah (a.s.) had taken the responsibility of the domestic works, like … grinding the flour, baking the bread and sweeping the house; and `Ali (a.s.) had taken the responsibility of all works outside the door of the house, like bringing the fire-wood, and obtaining food stuff, etc.

According to this hadith the boundary between the responsibility of man and woman is the wall of the house. Woman is Supreme in whatever happens within four walls and man is Supreme in all matters outside those walls.

Islam has liberated the woman from the turmoils and troubles of outside world; so that she may concentrate on the burdensome duties of domestic affairs.

Now, we come to the mutual rights and duties of husband and wife. -al-islam.org

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