Women's Participation In Government

The Qur'an states that one of the most important duties of the organization of Believers which enforces the Qur'anic laws is to "order that which is recognized by the divine laws and forbid what is unauthentic".

The Qur'an has a specific term for this duty which is known as "amr bil maruf wa nahy an il munkar". This means ordering all things recognized by the law of Allah as right and forbidding all that which is un-authentic. This was among the functions of Nabi (SAW) as he was the first leader of the Islamic state:

"He orders them with Al-Maruf (what is recognized by the divine laws) and forbids them from Al-Munkar (that which is termed unauthentic by the divine laws), and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were upon them." (7:157)

This function of ordering with Al-Maruf and forbidding from Al-Munkar, is not just a matter of mere sermons from mosques only, but the Qur'an states that this is the duty of an Islamic government:

"Those who, if We establish them in the land, establish Salat and give Zakat and order with Al Maruf (what is recognized by the divine laws) and forbid from Al-Munkar (that which is termed unauthentic by the divine laws); and Allah's is the end of affairs."(22:41)

In this most crucial responsibility of an Islamic government, the Qur'an has included men as well as women:

"And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they order with Al Maruf and forbid from Al Munkar and establish Salat and give Zakat, and obey Allah and His messenger; (as for) these, Allah will show mercy to them; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise." (9:71)

Thus both men as well as women run the government together in a state which is established on Qur'anic principles. Women are also to take an active part in running the affairs of the state. The Qur'an has also narrated the example of Queen Saba, who was the leader of a Nation and this implies that women are capable of being equal participants in government along side with men. See Sura 27:23-44.

Girl's Share In Inheritance

Often it is cited that Islam discriminates against women by giving them a lesser share in inheritance than their male counterparts. However this view is not quite correct. The Qur'an has given equal share to women with the exception of the daughter of the deceased. For just this instance we are informed by the Qur'an that the share of a son is equal to that of two daughters:

"Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females.." (4:11)

To comprehend the reason for this division, it should be understood that the Qur'an establishes a society in which responsibility of acquiring livelihood lies with the men and it is not an obligation on women to provide for her husband and family. A woman is also incapacitated during certain periods due to her natural disposition (pregnancy).

It is thus apparent that a man should get a larger portion from the division of resources, as he has been laid with the responsibility of the provision of maintenance to his family. That is why, in inheritance, boy's share has been kept twice as much of a girl.

Daughters have neither been made responsible for their own, nor their family's expenditure. But on the other hand, a son has to maintain not only himself, but his wife and family as well. As such, he should be vested with a larger share.

Where the dispersion of inheritance is amidst the people of the same generation, as is the case of a brother and sister (in case the deceased was issue-less and parents were still living) each of them gets one sixth (equal).

"..and if a man or a woman leaves property to be inherited by neither parents nor offspring, and he (or she) has a brother or a sister, then each of them two shall have the sixth.." (4:12)

For parents, it is again one sixth each for mother and father.

"..and as for his parents, each of them shall have the sixth of what he has left if he has a child.." (4:11)

Therefore, it is not correct to state that the Quran has made a general rule that the woman's share is half of the man's; it is only so for sons and daughters, members of the future generation or others where the situation is similar that the male is alloted more than the female.

On the other hand, in a situation in which men are neglecting this duty of theirs and it is feared that the woman would be rendered impoverished, the Quran gives authority that, in a will, a person can divide his property as he pleases according to the dire straits of the circumstances.

The division of inheritance as given in the Quran is only applicable if a person dies without leaving a will, or if his will does not cover all his whole property. Thus it is evident that apportioning a lesser share for a daughter neither lessens her rights nor degrades her status in the society as against the man.

Are Men A Degree Above Women?

People having a narrow look at the guidance of Allah's Book, are often seen intimating that men are superior to women. They back up this statement just by a portion of verse 2:228 of Sura Al-Baqara, and do not present the whole context, but rather reach this short sighted conclusion and imply that Islam maintains the superiority of men against women.

It is an irony that the very verse which equates rights and obligations of gender is usually quoted to say that men are superior to women.

What they fail to realize is that in matters of biological construction men and women are different and have certain rights related to that aspect (i.e. maternity leaves are for women, not men) but apart from biological disposition, both men and women are equal according to Qur'an and both are equally capable and responsible for developing those qualities in themselves which the Qur'an has said are essential for believers. The Qur'an says:

"..And they (women) shall have rights similar to the rights against them in a just manner.." (2:228)

In other words, for every responsibility given to them, they acquire a right. This is the equality they have been granted. Thus men and women have same rights as each other. The above verse continues to say:

"..and they have rights similar to the rights against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them.." (2:228)

It would be contradictory to conclude from the statement: "li Rijaale alayhenaa darja" "men are a degree above them" that men are superior to women, as at one hand the verse says that women and men have rights similar to each other, and the implication that men are superior, will contradict this impression..

One gender cannot be superior to another if their rights and obligations are equal. The word used by the Quran is "Daraja" meaning "degree". This "degree" can be understood easily by reviewing the whole verse. The context of this verse informs us that it deals with the conditions attached to remarriage after divorce. The verse is:

"And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation; and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty, Wise." (2:228)

The context of the verse makes it clear that Divorcees should refrain (from remarriage) for three menstrual cycles, so that whatever has been created by Allah becomes pronounced etc, then it goes on to say that men have one advantage. This advantage given to men is that they can remarry right away and women have to wait almost three months, or more if found to be pregnant, before they can re-marry).

Obviously, an advantage in a peculiar situation does not mean one is superior than the other. It is only for this reason only that men have one degree above women, because of their biological construction they do not have to wait for a stated period ("Iddah") for the purpose of getting married again upon divorce or if their spouse dies. Only in the matter of "Iddah", that men have a degree higher than women, but apart from this both have equal rights.