An article prepared by Nurhana Ibrahim Abdullah, director of Ibn-Nafees Institute

Since the beginning of time and until now, the debate over whether men and women are equal has never ended.

Until recently many scientists have thought that women are different only in terms of anatomy and physiology, and they considered women to be no more than “little men”. However recent scientific and medical studies have proven otherwise.

Researchers have shown that women are different from men in many different ways, down to the genetics of the cell. Still heated arguments persist among the feminist and the apologetic men. Nothing seems to quell the controversy.

Only Allaah (subhanaahu wa Ta’aala), the Creator of Mankind, Has resolved this debatable matter, and given the best solution, as lucidly summed up in the Holy Qur’an Surat Al-Imran (3:36)

“Then when she was delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said: ‘O my Lord! I have delivered a female child,’ – and Allaah knew better what she delivered, – ‘And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam (Mary).” 

Therefore there is no absolute equality but relative equality. The next paragraphs will highlight some major differences between the sexes, as reinforced by recent scientific studies.

Creation differences

It is an uncontested fact that the Almighty Allaah (subhanaahu wa Ta’aala) created Adam (‘Alayhisallam) many years before He created Hawwa (Eve). Moreover, Hawwa (‘Alayha-Sallam)was created from Adam’s rib. Allaah (subhanaahu wa Ta’aala) said in the Holy Quran (4:1):

“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women…”

This is further reinforced by the Hadith narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, and others, which specifies clearly that Hawwa (‘Alayha-Sallam)was created from Adam’s crooked rib, and urged men to treat them gently. 

Genetic differences

Men and Women may differ by as much as 23% of their entire genetic inheritance, which contains 30,000 genes. They do not differ by the extra X chromosome, which was thought to be inactive, but 15% of it was found recently to be expressed up to twice. Some 1,098 functional genes along the X chromosome have been identified by scientists, 14 times as many as those located on the tiny male’s Y chromosome.

Brain differences

Men’s brains are larger and more concentrated on the right hemisphere; women’s brains are more affected by memories and emotion due to larger limbic region, and are more prone to depression due to serotonin deficiency. Moreover, men have higher IQ and their brains are more proficient in mathematics. Women’s brains are more superior in verbal and language skills.

Physiological differences

Differences in height, body weight, skeletal structure, organ size, lung size, muscle body mass, body fat content, heart size and rate, and blood pressure. Other differences include hormonal patterns, core temperature, length of fingers, and hemoglobin blood content, blood count. These differences reflect positively on women, as they outlived men by an average 57 years.

Health Variances

Women are more prone to lung cancer, especially smokers. Two times many women as men died from lung cancer, and in terms of depression women are more than 2-3 times afflicted. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis afflict more women, due to silent X chromosome activation. Women are more vulnerable to alcohol fatal affect due to lack of dehydrogenase, and suffer osteoporosis more than men.

Glory of Islamic Law

Thus women are definitely different from men in countless ways and therefore should not be treated equally in every way, as this would lead to injustice and cruelty against women. Islam treats both male and female believers in accordance to their differences as stated above. Consequently, women have different dressing code; men are expected to maintain and protect women; women inherit half of men; women cannot issue divorce; they cannot travel without a Mahram; nor they are allowed to marry more than one husband at the same time; or marry non-Muslim men. However, women can wear gold and silk, which are prohibited for men; are not obliged (but allowed if they wish) to attend congregational prayer, or serve in the army. They have to wait Iddah (waiting period before remarrying) for divorce and being widow.

In terms of ibadah (Islamic obligations) women like men have to pray, fast, pay Zakat, perform Hajj, make Wudu’ and Ghusl, etc.

Moreover, in terms of capital punishment, women and men are alike, and no special privileges are given to men.

Thus men and women are equal in some ways and not equally treated in other ways due to their inherent nature. This inequality is a mercy from Allaah (subhanaahu wa Ta’aala) and not acts of injustice or oppression towards women. It is only the believers who accept and surrender to wisdom of their Creator, Allaah (subhanaahu wa Ta’aala), Who knows what suits best for His creation.



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