Besides this natural disposition of mutual love, both the husband and the wife have been given distinct rights. Allah, Most Exalted, has revealed that:
“Women have the same [rights in relation to their husbands] as are expected in all decency from them; while men have a degree over them. Allah is Powerful, Wise." [Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:228]
In this verse, Allah, Most Merciful, has alluded to the rights of women before referring to the rights of men. A point of expediency in this sequence is that men invariably secure their rights by sheer strength but women are usually unable to secure their rights by force, therefore the need for safeguarding their rights is more serious. [Tafseer Maarif al Qur’an]
Another textual indication in this sequence is that men should take the initiative in fulfilling the rights of women. The seniority of men referred to in the Qur’anic verse neither implies greater rights of men nor suggests any excellence in terms of the life hereafter.
The following Qur’anic revelation conveys this reassurance:
“Verily men who submit [to Allah] and women who submit, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who are obedient and women who are obedient, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who are patient and women wo are patient and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.”(Qur’an, Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:35).
In fact there are many subtleties in this Divine statement. As explained by Abdullah bin Abbas (radhialiaho anho), a companion of the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihi wasallam), expalains: "It simply suggests that men should have greater forbearance towards women. The implication is that should women be remiss in discharging the rights of men, it is expected that they would tolerate such lapses but not fall short themselves in fulfilling the rights of women."
We have observed the spiritual elders exercising such magnanimity. Other beneficial purposes and points of wisdom about this issue can be found in the various interpretations of the Qur’an.
The gist of those explanations is that this degree of seniority is also for the benefit of women. The Holy Prophet (sallallaho alaihi wasallam), a blessing for all the worlds, was especially compassionate and lenient towards women and exalted their status. He had a deep concern about protecting them from all kinds of loss and discomfort, and he equated the reward of their routine activities with the rewards which men earn only after making tremendous sacrifice and effort.
While Allah, Most High, in His wisdom has made women physically delicate, at the same time He has thrust the load of the hard struggles and burdens of their lives upon men. Thus men have been charged with the responsibility of maintaining women and being lenient, compassionate and forgiving. They have also been strictly forbidden from dealing harshly with women.
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