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Chapter 1: THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT 

Foundations of spiritual and human equity 

1. According to the Qur’an, men and women have the same human spiritual nature. 

"O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person (nafsin- waahidah), created, of like nature, his mate, and from them two scattered (like seeds) countless men and women--reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you...." (Qur’an 4:1)

"It is He Who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord (saying) “If You give us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful." (Qur’an 7:189)

"(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you! There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the one that hears and sees (all things)." (Qur’an 42:11)

2. Both men and women alike are recipients of the “divine breath,” because they are created with the same human spiritual nature. Indeed, as the Qur’an states, Allah originated them both from a single person or “one soul” (nafsin-waahidah). Reflecting the magnitude of this universal divine gift, the Qur’an states: 

"But He fashioned him (the human, or insan) in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and understanding: Little thanks do you give!" (Qur’an 32:9)

Referring to Adam, the father of both men and women, the Qur’an relates that Allah commanded the angels to bow down (in respect) to him: 

"So if I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in obeisance unto him." (Qur’an 15:29)

3. Allah has invested both genders with inherent dignity and has made men and women, collectively, the trustees of Allah on earth. 

"We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea, given them for sustenance things good and pure, and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation." (Qur’an 17:70) 

"Behold, your Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said “Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? While we celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?” He said: “I know what you know not.” "(Qur’an 2:30) 

4. The Qur’an does not blame woman for the “fall of man,” nor does it view pregnancy and childbirth as punishments for “eating from the forbidden tree.” On the contrary, the Qur’an depicts Adam and Eve as equally responsible for their sin in the garden , never singling out Eve for blame. It also esteems pregnancy and childbirth as sufficient reasons for the love and respect due to mothers from their children. 

"O Adam! You and your wife dwell in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you (both) wish: but approach not this tree or you (both) run into harm and transgression. Then Satan began to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame was hidden from them (before): he said, “Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you (both) should become angels or such beings as live forever.” And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall. When they tasted the tree, their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: “Did I know forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! we have wronged our own souls: If You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (Allah) said: “Get you (both) down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling- place and your means of livelihood for a time.” He said: “Therein shall you (both) live and therein shall you (both) die; and from it shall you (both) be taken out (at last)...” O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith." (Qur’an 7:19-27) 

Regarding pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur’an states: 

"And We have enjoined on (every) person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) “Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal.” "(Qur’an 31:14) 

"We have enjoined on (every) person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in pain did she give his/her weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he /she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he/she says “O my Lord! grant that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam (submission).” "(Qur’an 46:15) [5] 

5. Men and women have the same religious duties and responsibilities. Each human being shall face the consequences of his or her deeds. And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them: 

“Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he/she male or female: you are members one of another...” If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them." (Qur’an 4:124) 

"For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patent and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise-- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." (Qur’an 33:35) 

"One Day you shall see the believing men and the believing women, how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands. (Their greeting will be): “Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein forever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!” " (Qur’an 57:12) 

Foundations of spiritual and human equity 

The Qur’an is quite clear about the issue of claimed superiority or inferiority of any human male or female: 

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." (Qur’an 49:13)

A few observations about this verse may be helpful in tracing the foundation of spiritual and human equality before Allah: 

  • It begins by addressing not only Muslims but the whole of mankind, irrespective of their gender and their national or religious backgrounds. As such, it is a universal declaration to all made by the Creator of all. 

  • It states that there is only One creator of all mankind. As such there is no room for arguments of superiority based on one’s having been created by a “superior” God, as there is only One god (Allah). Nor is there any basis for a caste system based on some having been created in a way which is “different” from others or is superior. As Prophet Muhammad (P) explained, “... You all belong to Adam, and Adam was created from dust.” In the process of human reproduction there is no superiority or inferiority; kings and paupers, males and females, are created from what the Qur’an describes as “despised fluid.” Our having been crated by the One and Only Creator implies our basic equality before Him; He is just to all. 

  • Being a faithful creature, servant and worshipper of the One god is at the heart of one’s real spirituality and humanness. In this, the essence of gender equality finds its most profound basis. 

  • The verse states that all human beings are created min thakarin wa-untha, which can be translated literally as “of male and female.” This means in pairs, as the Qur’an explicitly mentions elsewhere (e.g. 78:8). Each component of the pair is as necessary and as important as the other and hence is equal to him or her. The wording of this verse has been commonly translated as “from a (single pair of) a male and a female,” referring to Adam and Eve. this serves as a reminder to all mankind that they belong to the same family, with one common set of parents. As such they are all equal, as brothers and sisters in that broad and “very extended” family. 

  • Variations in gender, languages, ethnic backgrounds and, by implication, religious claims, do not provide any basis for superiority or inferiority. The implication of “that you may know each other” (Qur’an 49:13) is that such variations constitute a deliberate mosaic that Allah created, which is more interesting and more beautiful than a single “color” or a “unisex”. 

  • Most significant and relevant to the topic at hand is the clear categorical statement that the most honored person in the sight of Allah is the one who is most pious and righteous. this precludes any other basis for superiority, including. gender. 

6. Nowhere does the Qur’an state that ones gender is superior to the other. Some interpreters of the Qur’an mistakenly translate the Arabic word qiwamah (responsibility for the family) with the English word “superiority.” The Quran makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness, not gender, color or nationality. 

From this chapter, it is clear that in terms of spirituality and humanness, both genders stand on equal footing before Allah. It is clear also that nowhere in the primary sources of Islam (the Qur’an and Sunnah) do we find any basis for the superiority of one gender over the other. Human misinterpretations, culturally-bound opinions or manipulations are not congruent with what Islam teaches. The full equality of all human beings before Allah is beyond doubt. This equality should not be confused, however, with role differentiation in the spirit of cooperation and complimentary. This is why equity is a more accurate term than “equality.” 

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Last Updated on April 6, 200212 Nov 2002 13:02:28 -0500

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