This is continuation of an article from last issue, which discussed the “partial equality” is a balanced relationship between men and women.
Equality and Differences between Men and Women
Section 1: Common identity (humanity)
The Holy Quran has put men and women on equal standing, either in creation or spiritual progress. This was unlike the former culture, which dominated the east and the west as well as the local culture where Quran appeared on Prophet Mohammad (Praise Be Upon Him “PBUH”). Quran has considered no privilege for either genders, let alone, preferring one over the other.
Major points to be discussed include:
l. Equality of men and women in the tale of creation;
2. Equal creation of man and woman with respect to human aspects;
3. Equality of men and women in achieving human perfection.
Let’s look at each point separately.
l. Equality of men and women in the tale of creation
l.1. In the tale of creation of Adam and Eve, they go hand in hand from early stages of creation until their descent on Earth.
l.2. God settles both of them in the Garden of Eden allowing them to take advantage of its blessings equally: “And We said: ‘Adam! Settle you and your wife in Eden and eat from its fruits anywhere you want.’”
1.3. Both of them are equally prohibited from approaching the forbidden
tree: “And don’t approach this tree.”
1.4. The temptation of Satan targets and deceives both them: “And he deceived both of them.” Quran has not blamed the woman for deceiving the man, but has considered them to enjoy the same level of thought and instinct and Satan has tempted both of them.
1.5. Both of them have repented and God has accepted their repentance: “They said: “Our Lord! We wronged our souls and if you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be among the lost ones.”
1.6. The order to descend to the Earth and attain perfection was issued to both of them “He Said: ‘So descend there. Some of you will be foes of others. If guidance came from Me, anyone who follows My guidance will not go astray.”
2. Equal creation of man and woman
2.1. “And God created you from mud, then from an egg, and made you couples.” (Fatir: ll)
2.2. “Does Man think that he has been left on his own? Wasn‘t he a drop of semen then He turned him into a clot of blood and then elaborated him. Then He created males and females.” (Qiyamat: 36-39)
The above verses show that human beings are created from zygote and then are born as male or female.
2.3. “Creator of Heavens and Earth; He created spouses for you from yourselves and created couples of beasts of burdens for you.” (Shoura: ll)
2.4. “And one of His signs is that He created spouses for you along whom you ﬁnd comfort.” (Rome: 21)
2.5. There is a verse in the Holy Quran which is among mystic verses of Quran and introduces Man as carrier of “divine trust” and mystics consider it as the main distinction between Man and other creatures. In that verse, the trust has been presented to true nature of humanity and has nothing to do with being a man or woman. It is interesting that the main secret of that presentation is Man’s movement between two opposing poles (blasphemy and faith). When the verse talks about blasphemy and faith, it uses the phrase “pagan men and women as opposed to faithful men and women”. That is, those who accepted the burden of responsibility are faithful men and women and those who accepted it, but betrayed it later, are pagan men and women.
Therefore, both of them are capable of accepting the trust and are also, capable of ﬂourishing their talents in two different directions.
The above verses make us reach the conclusion that:
i. Men and women are of the same origin and enjoy a single human nature. Therefore, there is no reason for them to deride each other and women have not been created from part of the men’s body to be something parasitic.
ii. Both of them are equal in shouldering the burden of responsibility and can fare equally successful in competition toward perfection. They have the same abilities and therefore, the most worthy one is he, who has attained perfection.
iii. None of them have been left on then own, but are responsible and have commitments in this world.
iv. When the word “Man” is used in Quran, it addresses men and women equally because the verse mentioned in paragraph 2.2 noted above, shows that men and women are two manifestations of creation.
3. Equality of men and women in achieving human perfection.
3.1 Achieving pure thought and wisdom:
“Verily in the creation of skies and Earth and alternation of day and night, there are signs for the Wise; those who remember God while standing, sitting and lying on their sides and think about creation of skies and Earth saying: ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this with no purpose. You are Pure! Guard us against the torment of Fire. Our Lord! Anyone who has entered the Fire has been humiliated and oppressors find no helpers. Our Lord! We heard a crier who invited us to believe in our Lord. So, we believed. So our Lord! Forgive our sins and cover our bad deeds and die us with the Good Ones Our Lord! Bestow upon us what you have promised your emissaries and don‘t humiliate us in the Day of Reckoning because You are not one to break Your promise. So, their Lord accepted their supplication. I will not ignore the acts of any doer among you whether male or female.” (Al-e lmran: l90-l95)
Unfortunately, those who have mentioned the above verses to explain the status of men and women in Quran, have only referred to the words “male or female” and have not paid attention to “So, their Lord accepted their supplication.” Therefore, the verses have been brought here in full to show that the male and female mentioned at the end of the verses refers to wise ones. This will prove that men and women are the same in achieving perfection.
Meaning of pure thought
The Arabic word “Lob” means kernel without shell. Therefore, “pure thought” is coming from revelation of truth human’s wisdom can do many things. The important thing from the viewpoint of Islam is that, wisdom is a blessing from God and like other blessings; it can be either used in the right direction or go astray. For example, eyes have been meant to see. But seeing everything is not good for the eyes and mind. Some people and events may upset the individual. Therefore, what a human being should see and should not see.
Therefore, human’s wisdom is like all other senses and is meant to lead the way. It has to discover the unknown, but what unknown? What thought and knowledge have been useful for him and could save him? All these issues depend on the management of “I” as a human being. It should be made clear whether I am an opportunist, an arrogant person, or a perfectionist? You must get rid of the surrounding environment for some moments, think about your own being and come to know the Truth by discarding illusions, prejudices and worldly profits.
Anytime the human’s wisdom gets rid of illusions and hallucinations, as well as prejudices, it will achieve “purity”. This is the main function of wisdom, which protects him against going astray and guides him toward the Truth. Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “Your wisdom should suffice you to differentiate between deviation and guidance.
Men and women are equal in achieving pure thought and discarding whatever is an obstacle on the way of recognizing the Truth.
3.2. Achieving efficient management of one’s personality
“O people! We created you from a male and a female and made you into branches and tribes, so that, you would know one another. Verily, the most worthy of you with God is the most pious of you.” (Hujarat: l3)
Man and woman are equal in achieving piety and every one of them who achieves it would be more worthy in the eyes of God.
“Piety” is an active element of religious text and is n lofty goal for human being and the only perfection, which will lead lo salvation of human. But what is “piety?”
Piety has two components:
A) Management and control of oneself
Sometimes, human intellect, emotion, and behavior are subdued to customs and traditions or proclivities of human soul. However, when they take control of their souls and minds and manage their behavior on the basis of what is suitable and expedient, they would have achieved the first component of piety. Such a human, is no more slave to worldly pleasures. They will purify their souls of the arrogance, which makes other people suffer.
B) Direct management
The mere control of soul is not enough, but control should be directed at a human end and for the satisfaction of God, because the Man will benefit from satisfying God.
– “And he, who endeavors, endeavors for himself because God is needless of their efforts.” (Spider: 6)
-“Everybody who denies God will harm himself, and those who do well, also beneﬁt themselves.“ (Rome: 44)
The Holy Quran has described the pious people as enjoying such human characteristics as honesty, faith, chastity, benevolence, lenience and tolerance.
The truth of piety is that human beings should not perish themselves because human existence is a blessing from God and the creation by God should not be wasted. He has not been created for this world and he belongs to much worthier world. Therefore, he should get rid of worldly attachments in reality without having to live like a hermit. He should not think that this world is the end. In short, after recognizing his own talents and the world around him, the Man should guard his soul against corruption.
Men and women are equal in achieving such perfection.
3.3. Other valuable trails
“Verily, Muslim men and Muslim women, pious men and pious women, worshiper men and worshiper women, honest men and honest women, supplicant men and supplicant women, generous man and generous women, fasting men and fasting women, chaste men and chaste women, as well as men and women who remember God frequently; God will have mercy on all of them and has prepared big rewards for them.“ (Ahzab: 35)
Islam, faith, worship, supplication, and remembrance of God are among those traits that have been highly valued by religion and have been introduced as the root cause of all good traits. Also, honesty, patience in the face of misfortune, helping the less fortunate people and chastity are among those traits that are valuable for all mankind. Men and women are equal in acquiring those traits because those are means of human salvation.
3.4. Acting as role models for each other
If a man or woman achieves the above values and virtues, he or she could act as role model for the other side, just in the same way that the wife of Pharaoh has been mentioned as a role model for the faithful:
“And god brought an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh.” (Tahrim: 11)
According to religious teachings, there is no difference between men and women in terms of achieving human perfection. Doing the above and similar verses, leaves no doubt about lack of humiliation of women by religion. Can one deny the equal standing of men and women with regard
to achieving such basic and lasting characteristics?
Since men and women are equal in true essence of humanity, they will also be the same with regard to rights and obligations considered for humans such as the right of human dignity, freedom and so on.
To be continued in next issue.