1. The term equity is used instead of the common expression 'equality" which is
sometimes mistakenly understood to mean absolute equality in each and every detailed
item of comparison rather than the overall equality. Equity is used here to mean justice
and overall equality of the totality of rights and responsibilities of both genders. It does
allow for the possibility of variations in specific items within the overall balance and
equality. It is analogous to two persons possessing diverse currencies amounting, for
each person to the equivalence of US$1000. While each of the two persons may possess
more of one currency than the other, the total value still comes to US$1000 in each
case. It should be added that from an Islamic perspective, the roles of men and women
are complementary and cooperative rather than competitive.
2. The Sunnah refers to the words, actions, and confirmations (con-sent) of the Prophet
Muhammad in matters pertaining to the meaning and practice of Islam. Another
common term which some authorities consider to be equivalent to the Sunnah is the
Hadeeth (plural: Ahadeeth) which literally means "sayings."
3. In both Qur'anic references, 15:29 and 32:9-9, the Arabic terms used are basharan
and al Insaun both mean a human being or a person. English translations do not usually
convey this meaning and commonly use the terms "man" or the pronoun" him" to refer
to "person" without a particular gender identification. Equally erroneous is the common
translation of Bani Adam into "sons of Adam" or "men" instead of a more accurate
term "children of Adam."
4. The emphasis is ours. The explanatory "both"{ was added whenever the Our'anic
Arabic text addresses Adam and Eve, like "lahoma, akala, akhrajahoma." This was done
in order to avoid misinterpreting the English term "you" to mean an address to a
singular person. For the Biblical version of the story and its implications, see The Holy
Bible, RSV, American Bible Society, New York: 1952: Genesis, chapters 2-3, especially
3:6, 12, 17-17; Levi-ticus 12:1-7; 15:19- 30; and Timothy 2:11-14.
5. A common question raised in the West is whether a Muslim woman can be ordained
as a priest as more "liberal" churches do? It should be remembered that there is no
"church" or "priesthood" in Islam. The question of "ordaining" does not arise.
However, most of the common "priestly" functions such as religious education, spiritual
and social counseling are not forbidden to Muslim women in a proper Islamic context.
A woman, however, may not lead prayers since Muslim prayers involve prostrations
and body contact. Since the prayer leader is supposed to stand in front of the
congregation and may move forward in the middle of crowded rows, it would be both
inappropriate and uncomfortable for a female to be in such a position and prostrate,
hands, knees and forehead on the ground with rows of men behind here. A Muslim
woman may be an Islamic scholar, In the early days of Islam, there were several
examples of female scholars who taught both genders.
6. This contrast with the legal provisions in Europe which did not recognize the right
until nearly 13 centuries after Islam. "By a series of acts starting with the Married
Women's Property Act in 1879, amended in 1882 and 1997, married women achieved
the right to won property and to enter into contracts on a par with spinsters, widows,
and divorcees." See Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, vol. 23, p. 624.
7. This period is usually three months. If the wife is pregnant, it extends until
8. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (compiler), Musnad Ibn Hanbal, Dar al Ma'arif, Cairo: 1950 and
1955, vols. 3 and 4. Hadith nos. 1957 and 2104.
9. Narrated in Al Bayhaqi and Ibn Majah, quoted in M. S. Aftfi, Al Martah wa
Huququhafi al Islam (in Arabic), Maktabat al Nahdhah, Cairo: 1988, p. 71.
10. Ibn Majah (compiler), Sunan Ibn Majah, Dar Ihya' al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo:
1952, vol. 1, Hadith #1873.
11. Matn al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 257.
12. Riyad al Saliheen, op. cit, pp. 140.
13. In the event of a family dispute, the Qur'an exhorts the husband to treat his wife
kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. If the problem relates to the wife's
behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this
measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband
may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner by sleeping in a separate bed
from hers. There are cases, however where a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment of
her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband
may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such
a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the
face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one. Following is the
related Qur'anic text:
Men are the protectors and maintains of women because Allah has given the one more
(strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore
the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband's) absence what
Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and
ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them
(lightly); but if they return to obedience seek not against them means (of annoyance):
for Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Qur'an 4:34)
Even here, that maximum measure is limited by the following:
a) It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect,
kindness and good treatment discussed earlier. Based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, this
measure may be used in the case of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme
refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis
(nushuz). Even then other measures such as exhortation should be tried first.
b) As defined by the Hadeeth, it is not permissible to strike anyone's face, cause any
bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadeeth qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih
or light beating was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolical) use of the miswak (a
small natural toothbrush).
They further qualified permissible "beating" as beating that leaves no mark on the
body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen centuries old qualifier is the criterion used
in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from
"abuse" in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort and
"lesser of the two evils" measure that may save the marriage does not meet the
definitions of "physical abuse," "family violence," of "wife battering" in the twentieth
century laws in liberal democracies, where such extremes are commonplace that they
are seen as national concerns.
c) Permissibility of such symbolical expression of the seriousness of continued
refraction does not imply its desirability. In several Ahadeeth, Prophet Muhammad
discouraged this measure. Among his sayings: "Do not beat the female servants of
Allah," "Some (women visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating
them). These (husbands) are not the best of you," "[Is it not a shame that], one of you
beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her
at the end of the day." See Riyad Al Saliheen, op cit., pp. 130-140. In another Hadeeth,
the Prophet said:
"How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may
embrace (sleep with) her?" Shaheeh Al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 8, Hadeeth no. 68, pp.
d) True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad,
who never resorted to that measure regardless of the circumstances.
e) Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and
circumstances of diverse times, cultures, and circumstances but unnecessary in others.
Some measures may work in some cases, cultures, or with certain persons but may not
be effective in others. By definition a "permissible" it is neither required encouraged,
or forbidden. In fact, it may be better to spell out the extent of permissibility such as in
the issue at hand, than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified or ignoring it all together.
In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way
lending to excesses and real abuse.
f) Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any "Muslim" can
never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur'an and Hadeeth). Such excesses
and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself as it shows that he is paying lip
service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and is failing to follow the true sunnah of
the Prophet.
14. For more details on marriage dissolution and custody of children, see A. Abd al
Ati, Family Structure in Islam, Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1977, pp.
15. For more details on the issue of polygyny, see Jamal A. Badawi, Polygyny in
Islamic Law, Plainfield, IN: American Trust Publications, also Islamic Teachings (audio
series), Islamic Information Foundation, 1982, album IV.
16. See for example, Edward A. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, 4th
ed. (London: Macmlllan, 1925), vol 3, pp. 42-43; also Encyclopedia BibRca, Rev. T. K.
Cheyene and J. S. Black, eds.) (London: Macmillan, 1925), vol. 3, p 2946.
17. A. M. B. 1. Al- Bukhari (compiler) Matn al Bukhari, Cairo: Dar Ihya al Kutub al
Arabiyah, n.d., vol. 3 Kitab al Adab, p. 47. Translated by the author. For a similar
English translation of this Hadeeth, see Sahih al Bukhari translated by M. M. Khan
Maktabat al Riyadh al Hadeethah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, i982, colt 8, the Book of ai
Adab, Hadeeth no. 2, p. 2.
18. Narrated by Aisha, collected by Ibn Asakir in Silsilat Kunaz al Sunnah 1, Al./ami
Al Sagheer, Ist ed. 1410 AH. A computer program.
19. Riyadh al Saliheen, op. cit., p. 139.

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