A study of the Qur’an and Hadith tells us that in Islam a woman enjoys the same status as that of a man. The Qur’an says:
“You are members, one of another.” (Surah Al-‘Imran, 3:195)
There is no difference between the two as regards status, rights and blessings both in this world and in the Hereafter.
1. The first verse that we find in the Qur’an on this subject is as follows:
“Mankind, fear your Lord who created you from one soul and created man’s mate from the same soul, from these two scattering on earth many men and women. Fear God, in whose name you entreat one another, and be careful not to sever your ties of kinship, God is watching over what you do.” (Surah An-Nisa’, 4:1)
This verse of the Qur’an tells us that God has created man and woman from the same soul, that is, from the same substance. The entire human race has come from Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman. Looked at in this way human beings on this earth are blood brothers and blood sisters.
2. Another verse of the Qur’an reads:
“It is He who created you from a single soul and made from him his mate so that he might find comfort in her.” (Surah Al- A'raf, 7:89)
This verse stresses the aspect of commonness between man and woman (what is common between the two) that is, both are a source of comfort to one another.
The word ‘comfort’ relates to all the activities of life, meaning thereby that God has created men and women in such a way that they assist one another in all matters of life, in order to go on life’s journey peacefully and successfully.
3. There is another verse in the Qur’an, which tells us that men and women have equal status in God’s eye. None is superior to the other.
“I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, be he male or female. You are members, one of another.” (Surah Al-‘Imran, 3:195)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the well-known commentator on the Qur’an, remarks in his commentary on this verse:
“In Islam the equal status of the sexes is not only recognised but insisted on. If sex distinction, which is a distinction in nature, does not count in spiritual matters, artificial distinctions, such as rank, wealth, position, race, colour, birth, etc., would count even less.”
Thus it will be the very same virtues in thought, word and deed, which will be prerequisites for both sexes to enter Paradise. If the qualities of piety, humility, honesty, patience and compassion are demanded of men, they will in like measure be demanded of women.
4. There is a hadith, which also explains that “women are the other half of men.” That is, they are equal halves of one another.
5. The Qur’an says that men are in charge of, that is, ‘maintainers’ of women (Surah An-Nisa’, 4:34). This does not mean that men have a distinctive status over women. Then being maintainers of women has never been intended as a form of discriminatory treatment. It rather concerns the practical management of the home, for which the man is held responsible. However, this does not mean that a woman will never be allowed to shoulder these responsibilities. If she finds that she can bear this burden, no objection will be raised from any quarter. One example of this can be found in the Qur’an with reference to the people of Sheba. They lived in Yemen. The famous dam of Marib made their country very prosperous and enabled it to attain a high degree of civilization. The Qur’an tells us that they were ruled by a woman (Surah An-Naml, 27:23) without disapproving of her rule. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba was very wise and sagacious, even more so than the men in her court. She did not want to embroil her country in war, while the men advised her to confront her enemies, namely, Solomon’s army. Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:
“In Bilqis we have a picture of womanhood, gentle, prudent, and able to tame the wilder passions of her subjects.”
It is an accepted principle with the commentators of the Qur’an that when the Qur’an reports something without any disapproval, that means that has been approved of by the Qur’an.
So when we look at this incident in the light of the Qur’an, we find the status of woman even higher than that of men. A woman is in charge of men and she has shouldered this responsibility with greater efficacy.
Thus the example of the Queen of Sheba having found mention in the Qur’an shows that ruler-ship is not man’s monopoly. A woman can be a ‘qawwam’ over a man and the Qur’an has itself testified to it.
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