Are Women Intellectually And Spiritually Inferior?
Many verses of the Qur’an and practices of the early Muslims bear witness to the fact that woman is, at least, as vital to life as a man is, and that she is not inferior to man in any way. Islam never belittles women or underestimates her role in society. Allah has made this clear in the Glorious Qur’an, by stating shining examples of some women for the believers — male and female — to emulate. In this context, the Glorious Qur’an discusses the issue in detail in Surah At-Tahrim 66 Verses 11-12.
Thus, we’d like to make it clear that no Hadith depicts a woman as inferior; not at all. As it is a fact that man has been given a form and nature by Allah which is distinct from that of woman, it is also a fact that the form and nature of man and woman is complementary.
This indicates that the distinction in form and nature must not be equated with an intellectual pre-eminence on the part of man.
Based on this, we’d like to stress that the issue of having a woman’s testimony corroborated by another woman does not imply a sign of gender superiority. One will get this point clear by bearing in mind that shyness is a specific feature of woman as compared to a man. In this case, she needs another woman to stand by her side and corroborate the evidence.
There is nothing wrong with having a witness’s testimony corroborated by another witness if the statement of the former falls short of being admissible as conclusive evidence. So the main issue here is how to make justice run its course.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that women’s mental deficiency is reflected in their weak memory, the fact that makes Shariah stipulate that a woman’s testimony must be corroborated by another woman. Thus, this injunction does not imply woman’s inferiority to man; rather it has more to do with justice than with gender.
As for the shortcoming in religion, this stems from the fact that when menstruating or having post-partum bleeding, women neither pray nor fast, and they do not have to make up for their prayers. As we know, women have no hand in the obstacles that disrupt their religious performances. This is something divine, which reflects Almighty Allah’s overflowing mercy to them, for it will be extremely hard for a woman to be tasked with religious obligation while she is having menstruation or post-partum bleeding. That’s why she is exempted from fasting or praying, as a sign of mercy on her. Also, they do not make up their prayers. This is because if they were ordered to make up their prayers, it would be extremely hard for them, given that prayers are performed five times a day. Menses may last for a number of days, up to seven or eight or more. Post-partum bleeding lasts for forty days. It’d be definitely hard for women to be obliged to make up the prayers missed while responding to the demands of nature.
So, in the light of the above-mentioned facts, the Hadith does not have any indication of disparagement of women or considering them as inferior, especially when we know that some women excel men in many matters. Yes, no one can deny the fact that a woman may perform many good deeds and exceed many men in virtue, morality, etc. Islamic history abounds with examples of great women who have made a great contribution to the progress of mankind.
This is very clear to anyone who is well-informed about the status of women during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the early generations.
In addition, the Hadith in question does not disqualify women from being narrators of Ahadith, and there is nothing that prevents a woman from being one of Allah’s pious servants if she is steadfast in her religion even with her being excused from fasting or praying during menstruation or post-partum bleeding.