Gender Equality in Islam-04

2. “And call in to witness two men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witnesses as you approve of, that if one misremembered (later on when needed) the other will remind her” Cow: 282

The verse here discusses the civil regulations for debts in commercial or personal transactions; we understand this from the preceding parts of the verse. Advising Muslims to document their debts in a written contract, and further endorse it with two male witnesses or a man and two women. The reason was neither a disregard to women mental abilities, in the way several anti-Islam writings depicted, nor the one claimed by traditional interpretations saying women to have a weaker memory, which is proven false by science. We know today, to the contrary of this interpretation, average women are more capable to receive and record details more than average men, who usually focus on global views. Being fond of details, shall always make the woman unequalled witness in civil as well as criminal cases. So, why the verses stated two women to replace one man in witnessing civil transactions?

Knowing the mental status of women in bedouin societies, and knowing they were mostly apart from commercial transactions, its trends, common practices, terminologies and other related details, this will definitely hinder their perceptive capabilities to understand the meanings of the written contract and act as a reference when needed. Thus, it was wise to replace the male witness when necessary by a couple of female witnesses.

Shall this affect our perception of today’s woman as a witness?

It all depends on the judge ability to estimate her/ his witness’ mental and social exposure capacity. We definitely need a doctor male or female as an expert witness in a medical case, a finance man in a finance related case, and better a woman in women related affairs, while any man or woman can be a witness in criminal cases. Therefore, it is a matter of witness compatibility to the case subject. This how can we implement the verse today, to consider intellectual capacity of the witness apart from his gender, as this what the verse taught in its broad meaning when we relate it to its cultural background.

We would like to take the opportunity to elaborate about important concept toward understanding Quran, the concept of “Clear and ambiguous” among Quranic verses. According to the holy verse “It is He who revealed to you the Book, wherein are verses clearly competent that are the essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God and those firmly rooted in knowledge, those who say, ’We believe in it; all is from our Lord’; yet none remembers, but men possessing clever minds.” Emrans: 7.

So, what was meant to be clear and distinctive and what was meant to be ambiguous in Quran?

Defining Clear and Ambiguous in Quranic Verses:
We understand the verses expressed as “Clearly Competent” in Quran, and described as the “Essence of the Book” to be the verses that remains applicable by its direct meaning eternally. Those related to non-temporal facts, to divine wisdom, God will, souls, righteousness, goodness, evils….etc. It is the verses supporting humankind morally to carry out his divine mission as vicegerent on Earth. Besides other verses handling in broad and elastic terms the facts of the universe aiming to trigger human mind to seek further knowledge about his world, which also supports his eternal mission.

On the other hands, we believe verses related to daily life, which was dynamic during apostle’s life, are the ambiguous part of Quran, as it was subject of abrogation and replacement with other verses. God wanted to teach us the global direction of Islam to righteousness, to develop our skills, so we can construct for each society and temporal conditions, its compatible regulations. Typically, this is why some verses were abrogated, yet kept narrated in Quran, to learn from the succession of regulations, where the global direction of Islam wants us to go on long term. Being the last revelation to humanity, God wanted Quran to come in a “Learning to Learn” model, which is the most recent in development modules now. His mercy wanted to give us a tool to engrave, not a ready-made icon to follow. This is surely witnessed by the multiplicity of verses motivating man to research and think in Quran.

The development of Abrahamic faiths came from request for absolute subordination in Old Testament, to the smart metaphor style dominating Christ teachings in New Testament, and the last logical step was the educational module which Quran offered, teaching humankind how they should handle their lives and their activities in the way serves the overall goal of Earth prosperity.

3. “Divorced women shall observe for conception for three periods; and it is unlawful for them to hide what God has created in their wombs; if they believe in God and the Last Day. In such time their mates have better right to restore them, if they desire to set things right. Women have such honorable rights as obligations, but their men have a degree above them; God is All-mighty, All-wise.”
Cow: 228

We here prefer the explanation of “ibn Abbas” on the meaning of “but their men have a degree above them” as the task assigned to men to take the initiative seeking reconciliation, as a noble and righteous initiative. As most of women will feel it humiliating to her femininity to ask their ex for reconciliation, God encourages men, stating it as a noble degree to possess the ability taking an initiative. May God bless “ibn Abbas” for his comprehensive understanding. As we find most of other interpretations to drift far away, explaining the degree as a sign of male superiority and divine right to dominate!

4. “God charges you, concerning your children (inheritance after you die): to the male like of the portion of two females.”
Women: 11

There is no misinterpretation about this holy verse. Islam has definitely granted the son double the portion of heritage granted to daughters.

Shall this appear a bias to men?

This is why we listed the holy verse here, to disambiguate this controversial area of inheritance, which we find frequently commented in anti-Islam writings. However, we can excuse them for attacking this point when they pick it from its global framework, as it is extremely hard to perceive the justice of this verse without a comprehensive understanding of the whole “Social Contract” Islam created in this regard.

Islamic Social Contract among Men and Women:
Against the privilege of double inheritance, Islam assigned to males some financial duties, including:

- Satisfying his dependants’ needs according to his social and financial status. Including-but not limited to-hiring a nursing nanny if the wife wanted so, also a housekeeper if possible. Again, everyman according to his capacity is assigned to give his dependants the best possible conditions of living. Financing the family in Islam is an absolute duty of the husband.

- He shall not employ any part of his wife’s inheritance, wealth or earnings in their common life, as far as he is capable to work and earn. If occasionally he had to borrow from her, it is considered as a normal debt and follows the civil laws. i.e. complete separation of the couples as financial entities.

- If husband was permanently disable to finance his family for any reason like physical disabilities, and if the wife wished to finance herself and her kids in freewill, this is counted to her as almsgiving, and can be calculated as part of her due “Zakat”

- What the man should bear toward his wife financially should also bear toward his mother once widowed, and his sisters in case of divorce or widowing as well.

- A man shall not use emotional pressure to motivate his wife giving him part of her wealth. This is considered false willingness and this money is unlawful earning to him.

Then, why Islam did not make it a simple sharing model, in which both finance their family, then both genders will be eligible to equal portions of inheritance?

Absolute separation between husband and wife financial entities was necessary in Islam. Based on the temporal availability of female slaves, and the possibility of polygyny, as it would to be very unfair if a husband and wife had a common financial pool, then she finds her husband getting married to another woman, probably employing her own money, or even buying a slave-girl with this money. Logically, as Islam assigned men to carryout the responsibilities of wives, mothers, and unmarried sisters, it was understandable to grant them the double of women portion in inheritance.

In the coming post. We shall start the most difficult part of our trip among the Holy Scriptures of Islam about women and their rights. We shall start visiting a group of misnarrated and misperceived teachings, traditionally linked to Apostle of God.

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