The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
presenting Islam as peaceful, tolerant, rational, inspiring
1. Islam

Articles and booklets

Lessons in the Quran

Lesson 38

2. Publications
3. Activities
4. Ahmadiyya Movement
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

Discussion forums
Site Statistics
Contact us
Search the website


Previous Lesson | Next Lesson

Lesson - 38


"And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and men are a degree above them. And Allah is Mighty, Wise." Ch. 2:228

Quranic charter of woman liberation

The status of woman in Islam was the subject of discussion in the previous lesson. We continue the same discussion in this lesson, and I will further elaborate on the very important verse above, which sets forth the rights of men and women. In my previous discussion, I covered only a few of the many injunctions on the rights of women over men. These are so many of these injunctions, and of such significance, that it may lead men to think that they have been treated unfairly. God's purpose in these Divine ordinances is manifold. Women have always been subjected to injustice. Therefore, the Holy Quran, almost fourteen hundred years ago, gave to women rights, especially in the inheritance of property, which are not enjoyed even today by their counterparts in the western world, where the women are supposedly liberated, or in any other non-Muslim country. It is unfortunately true that Muslim men are guilty of usurping some of these rights, but the Holy Quran is the final arbitrator in the matter, and it has given a clear judgment, i.e., women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner. This charter of women liberation should be hailed by women, and they should be eternally grateful to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the Holy Quran for it.

Criticism of the charter answered

Alas! for the thankless nature of mankind, women have raised objection, to the Quranic statement, "and men are a degree above them." I will discuss the rationale for this later on. At this point I would simply like to ask women, if any other religion has given the equality of rights that Islam has? Far from giving equality, other religions even to this day consider woman to be as contemptible. I have shown this to be the case in Christianity (and in the Bible). In the Hindu religion too, woman is still considered a property of man. I have, however, not seen a Christian, or a Hindu woman raise objections to her religion like the Muslim women do. I think this is a result of the freedom that Islam has given to women since, about fourteen hundred years ago. One should, however, refrain from the misusing of such liberty. If one does not understand a certain issue, it is quite appropriate to inquire and ask questions. However, it is inappropriate to raise objections, and criticize an injunction of the Holy Quran without investigation. I will give an example of this later on. First, I would like to narrate an incident which illustrates the status of woman in the Hindu religion from which many of us have converted to Islam [this is in reference to the history of the Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent — Translator].

In 1935 I was an assistant commissioner in Nasik (Bombay Presidency, British India). To the best of my knowledge, the legal basis of arguments in this incident are unchanged to this day. This is so because the arguments are based on the Hindu shastars (code of law) which was written by Manu, and the founders of the Hindu religion thousands of years ago. Who can dare to alter this today? It so happened that, a Hindu Marhatta woman petitioned my court under the criminal procedure code for seeking judicial assistance against her husband for financial support, and restitution of marital rights. I asked the husband if he was willing to give her marital rights. To this he replied in the negative. Hindu religion does not recognize divorce (I am not aware whether the law of the land has now altered this). Even if such a law had been there, the man was neither ready to divorce his wife, nor give her maintenance. This twenty four years old woman was in a pitiful state. She had all her life ahead of her, but under the circumstances she could neither marry, nor had any means of financial support. According to the relevant code, I ordered the woman be given financial support and maintenance.

That evening, I came across Mr. Vasodiyo, a session judge and his wife in the country club. Mr. Vasodiyo was rightfully famous for his legal expertise. A few months later he was appointed as a judge to the Bombay High court, where his judgments were frequently considered as judicial standards. Both the husband and wife were modern, and broad minded in their outlook. Feeling good about the judgment I had given, I narrated to Mr. Vasodiyo, how I was instrumental in giving a Hindu woman her rights. I was extremely surprised when Mr. Vasodiyo became extremely angry at my narration, and asked me what right I had to interfere in their religion? There upon I learned from him for the first time that in the Hindu religion the wife is the property of the husband, and he can do with her as he pleases. She has no more rights than a cow or a buffalo that man possesses. I looked at Mrs. Vasodiyo to see her reaction, but she smiled at me and kept quite. Mr. Vasodiyo pronounced in a loud voice that if the husband went in appeal to his court against my decision, he would readily rescind it.

Why men are given a degree above women

The declaration of equal rights between men and women, by the Holy Quran is followed by the statement, "and the men are a degree above them." I will now give a reason for this. There is a very appropriate, and important intent behind this. If there is a disagreement between a man and a woman, who is to be the final arbiter? Disagreements between husbands and wives are a common every day matter, for just as Allah has not created two beings with similar features, he has also not given them similar likes and dislikes. Such differences exist even between men. In case of men and women there is also the difference of gender. Women are emotional, that is why they can accomplish the difficult task of rearing children, and also promoting mutual relations between families. Men have to face the adversities of worldly life. They are, therefore, more practical in nature. Difference of opinion between husband and wife is, therefore a natural consequence. This is the reason why the Holy Quran, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) have laid particular stress on kind treatment of women. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), according to one Hadith said, "the best amongst you is the one who treats the members of his household kindly."

Most differences of opinion, between a husband and wife can be resolved by mutual understanding and goodwill, but occasionally differences arise in which each party takes a stand on their own opinion. How is this situation to be resolved, because as a matter of principle, the rights of both parties are equal? Should they go to the courts for decision in such matters? Should they ask their parents to intervene? These are not practicable alternatives for day to day living. The only solution is that in such eventualities, the opinion of one party should be accepted. The Holy Quran, therefore states that in such matters the opinion of the husband should be accepted. The main reason for this is that often such differences arise about financial issues, and the husband has been made responsible for the financial well being of the family, by the Holy Quran. Often in matters of marriage, and exchanging gifts, women being sentimental tend to spend beyond their means. Some are influenced in this matter by public opinion, and consider such spending as a matter of prestige. They do not care if their husband has to sell property, get into financial debt, accept a bribe, or be involved in a dishonest transaction to procure the money for this lavish spending. All they are interested in is a display of their vanity. How could the Holy Quran give such unlawful freedom to women? Besides being the provider for his wife, the husband has also been given the responsibility for her protection by the Holy Quran. If the wife seeks freedom not permissible by religion, then it is the duty of the husband to prevent her from doing so. In such a situation can the wife refuse to comply by stating that her rights are equal to those of her husband, therefore what right does he have to stop her? The Holy Quran has given the correct decision in this matter i.e., the word of the one who is charged with the responsibility of provision and protection should be accepted.

A warning to men: How excellent are the words that follow! "And Allah is Mighty, Wise." Man is warned that if Allah has given him the upper hand in this matter, he should not forget that Allah is Mighty, and always has the upper hand over him. If he takes advantage of his strength, then he should fear the Might of Allah. Women are informed that Allah is Wise, and there is wisdom in His decision. In addition to the wisdom behind this decision mentioned above, if the wife insists on her point of view, there is the danger of her losing the affection of her husband and the marriage may ultimately end in divorce.

Public discussions on the subject

I have frequently made this Quranic wisdom the theme of my sermons at marriages, when I have been called upon to officiate at such functions. The reaction of some women to my comments has been very negative. They have remarked that if they had the microphone in their hands they would have definitely given me a piece of their mind. Afterwards when I inquired from them privately as to their objection in accepting their husband's decision in matters where mutual decision was not possible, their answer was, 'How can we accept a wrong decision by the husband?' I pointed out to them that often in such matters right and wrong is subjective. From their husband's point of view they are in the wrong. What would be the next step to resolve this issue? Should they refer the matter to the courts? Or should they ask their parents to decide the matter for them? Even if we accept that in a certain matter the decision of the husband is incorrect, my advice would be to settle the matter at home by accepting the husband's decision. They could, at some other time convince their husband to accept their advise, and women know many ways to influence their husbands, the details of which I do not want to discuss at this point. Let us assume that there is a husband who is totally unwilling to accept his wife's opinion. In such a situation, we may take an analogy from the workplace where sometimes a person can get a boss who is unwilling to listen to any opinion even when wrong. Man has to face these situations with equanimity.

In my own case, I have served, by the Grace of Allah, in the highest offices of the civil service. I always had to listen to, and accept the opinion of higher officials, and ministers, although at times I was convinced that their opinion was incorrect. If I was given an order by a higher official or a minister which I considered was wrong, I would respectfully point out their error, and support my opinion with arguments, and try to convince them to change their order. If they insisted, the final decision was theirs. I accepted it, without raising the standard of rebellion, or being angry, and critical like many women are when they have to accept their husband's decision. Now that I am retired and no longer a high ranking official, I have to accept the orders of even junior officials, like the office attendants, when I visit an office for some work. It is a great Divine favor upon woman, that after being given equality of rights, and warning the husband to fear the Might of Allah, if he misuses his position of strength, she has been asked to only occasionally obey a loving husband.

I have to regretfully admit that my arguments had no apparent effect on these ladies.
Previous Lesson | Next Lesson
Website created and published by: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A.
Contact us.