The Islamic religious faith cannot grant gender equality because, the holy Quran made it clear that women are the commodities to be possessed and utilized by men and it grants permission to men to make use of the commodity at his will and pleasure. Quran commands: “Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will.” (sura ii, 223) So, men are free to use women in any activity, including sexual intercourse, at their will and pleasure. Quran is not concerned of the will and pleasure of the females, even in the act of sexual intercourse, when it established unquestionable authority of man over woman. Islam, being a theocentric religion which, never believes in the equality between man and God, believes in the graded inequality among the manifestations in the world which, are considered as the creatures created by God. The Islamic faith empowers God as the master of the whole universe and all the creations of God as his slaves. The only duty of the slave is to obey the commands of the master without asking questions because, asking questions to master by a slave have been considered as an act of disobedience. Hence, asking questions and raising doubts, regarding the revelations given by God, have been prohibited by the will of God. The disobedience of the commands of God by a slave amounts to blatant blasphemy. As, death sentence is the minimum punishment for the disobedience to the commands of God, a disobedient slave should deserve capital punishment. What God is to man is man is to women. Naturally, there is slavery in the relation between man and women in the teachings of the Quran. As a slave is not equal to his master, the women are not equal to men, according to Quran.
The Quranic God refuses to share equality with man as he keeps hierarchical order of superiority and inferiority differences and graded inequality among his creations. He places man at the top of the ladder of his creations and he is kind enough to keep the position of man, just below the level of angels. But do not forget that, man is far away from the God. According to Quranic belief, man cannot enjoy the status of God, despite all his efforts to do goodness, because, God has been conceived as an imperishable, omnipotent, omniscient, and all-pervading super power which is different from the creatures he created. All his creatures are perishable entities. The creatures are inferior when compared to the superior creator. Hence, as the God enjoys superiority over the other creations of the world, man enjoys superiority over women. Therefore, man enjoys authority over the other creations of God and he is entrusted to make use of the other creations, for his purposes, as directed by God. Since, the God in the holy Quran is not kind enough to consider women as equal to man and he appoints man as her master, then, the necessary outcome is the acceptance of androcentrism as an unquestionable theory to interpret the relation between man and woman.
While describing the rights of men and women, Quran specifically says that “And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them” (sura ii 228). What is the logical basis of the conclusion, except the theory of enslavement of the women which, has been accepted unquestionably by the followers of the Islamic faith, that, men enjoys an edge of superiority over the women, has not been explained properly in the text. The Quran is absolutely silent on the right of women in the act of cultivation by men. Her duties have been confined to subserve the purposes of man who is her master on earth. Since, it has been the decree given by God, she has no other way but to obey the commands of God, if she lays her faith in Islam. As, the God in the Quran places himself as the patriarchal head of the universe, the God kindly places man as the patriarch of the human society. Man has been forbidden from asking questions to God by the God himself, through his revelations, because, asking questions to God amounts blasphemy and a man who commits blasphemy deserves capital punishment. Quranic revelations are filled with sufficient and more warnings against the violations of the commands of God.
Quran reveals that, “We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from me a guidance; and whoso followeth my guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.” (sura ii 38) The text warns that, “but they who disbelieve, and deny our revelations, such are rightful owners of the fire.” (sura ii 39). The above aphorism reinforces the authority of God over the universe and reminds that the guidance revealed by God should be obeyed by man and any sort of failure to obey the commands of God amounts a crime which invites his wrath of God and subsequent punishment. The revelations in the Quran repeatedly reminds that, to obey the commands of God is the primary duty of man and all the other duties which, man has to perform in society, are only secondary derivatives from the primary duty. As, men must obey the commands of God, the women must obey the commands of men without asking questions regarding the validity of the commands. This is the logic that has been used to justify the customary triple talaq mode of divorce practiced by the men in the Islamic faith, denying the basic rights of women to get an answer from their husbands why they have been divorced.
The Quran admits dualism, as the basic epistemological tool to understand the world and the God. Dualism bifurcates the whole world into irreconcilable binaries and it considers subject and object of knowledge are different entities. Consequently, the physical, metaphysical, and theological worlds also have been divided into innumerable binaries. Hence, God-devil, one-many, matter-mind, heaven-hell, man-women, individual-society, time-space, animate-inanimate etc. are the binaries which share nothing in common between them. Each part of the binaries has been kept in watertight compartment and each part of the binary keeps aloofness from the other. Since, each part of the binary keeps difference from the other then, one part of the binary cannot know what happens in the other part. Therefore, human beings are unable to know the God except that which has been revealed by God to man through his faithful messenger. Again, it has been revealed that, God knows everything regarding the human beings because, in accordance with the revelations given by God, he knows everything. Then, the mode of communication would be a one way traffic, that is, it would be always in the form of instructions from the superior master to the inferior slave.
Therefore, there is no possibility for a dialogue in the mode of communication between the master and slave. The duty of a slave is either to obey the commands or to ignore it. If, a slave ignores the commands of his master, then, he would be punished. There are many revelations in the Quran which, terrorize the slaves of the severe consequences of disobedience, if they ignore the commands, as specified by God. So, the only possible form of communication between the master and slave is monologue, that is, the God speaks to the hearer and the hearer listens to his revelations without asking questions. The person, who, engages in a monologue according to the Quranic faith, believes in the empowerment of God to reveal the ultimate truth. But, nobody, including the God, is empowered to tell the ultimate truth in a dialogue because, everyone who engages in a dialogue has to accept that everyone has the right to experience and narrate truth, in accordance with his merit and ability. So, the person who engages in dialogue believes in give and take relations in the act of communication. It cannot be a one-way traffic form of communication from the speaker to the hearer as in the case of a monologue. The act of communication should be an act of sharing. The speaker and the hearer enjoy equal right to tell the truth and to share their experience of the same.
The experience and narration of truth can never be a one person-centered activity in a dialogue, however mighty the person who, engages in a dialogue, is. The act of communication in a dialogue is always the result of a give and take process. When, a speaker tells something to the hearer then, the latter has the right to ask questions and former owes the responsibility to answer the questions and both must accept the right part of knowledge suggested by the hearer and the speaker in the act of communication. But in dualism, the mode of communication must be a monologue. In a monologue, the speaker refuses to hear anything from anyone but he always issues commands and the duty of the hearer is either to obey the commands or to face the consequences for disobedience. Naturally, there would be superior-inferior relation between the parts of the binaries. Hence, god is superior to all his creations, including human beings. So, the only possible form of relation, as per the specifications of epistemological dualism, is the hierarchical command and obey mode in the act of communication.
The necessary outcome of the epistemological dualism is the acceptance of an external super power center, either in the form of God or a mighty man who, presumes himself as the master controller of everything. The super power, whether it is God or dictator, can only pronounce commands and all the members of the inferior group are destined to obey the commands issued by the superior master. The super power, whether it is God or dictator would always terrorize those who are expected to disobey the commands of the higher authorities. As, the God in the Quran terrifies the man for the disobedience of his commands, the man in turn issues commands of the same magnitude to the women. The rewards and punishments also must vary in tune with the magnitude of the graded inequality accepted by the person who enjoys authority to pronounce judgements. Both the punishment and the rewards vary in accordance with the will and pleasure the authority who takes the decision.
The Quranic God prescribes different modes of punishment for the one and the same crime committed by men and women. “As for those of your women guilty of lewdness, call of witness four of you against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine them to the houses until death take them or (until) Allah appoint for them a way (through new legislation)” (sura iv 15). The God prescribes life-long imprisonment for the women who has been caught for the illegal sexual intercourse. The Quranic God insists that they should be confined to the prison until they die. It refuses to give a chance to repent and correct herself. But what should be the punishment for the men who commit lewdness in accordance with the Quran? The answer is that, “And as for two of you who are guilty thereof, punish them both. And if they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo Allah is relenting, merciful” (sura iv 16). The God in the Quran is kind enough to exonerate the men who commit lewdness if they repent and improve. But the God refuses to grant permission to the women to repent and improve. Only God knows the logic for the discrimination of men and women for the commission of one and the same crime having identical immoral magnitude.
If, you still have doubts regarding the discrimination prescribed in the Quran against women then, it has been made clear that, “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made one of them to excel the other, and because of they spent of their property (for the support of women). So, good women are the obedient, guarding in secret what Allah hath guarded. As for those whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them to beds apart and scourge them. Then if they obey you seek not a way against them. Lo Allah is ever high exalted great” (Sura iv 34. The aphorism has mentioned the following points:
(1) Men are in charge of women as directed by the Allah because Allah has made men to excel the women.
(2) Since, women are treated as the property, because, she has been financially supported by men then, the women must obey the commands of men.
(3) A good woman is the one who submits herself to the commands of God and man.
(4) Men must punish the disobedient women as men possess the power to punish them because women are their enslaved properties.
Thus, the Quran unconditionally establishes the enslavement of women in an androcentric society. The Quran is silent on the logical justification for the practice of brutal discrimination against women. The only justification is that the almighty Allah reveals so. One cannot but ask the question that, why the God keeps partiality in favour of man ignoring the basic rights of women?
The Quranic god does not show kindness to the women even in heaven where, it is believed that, there is no space for any form of discrimination, at least in principle. Heaven has been envisaged as place meant “For those who keep from evil, with their lord, are gardens underneath which rivers flow wherein they will abide, and pure companions, and contentment from Allah. Allah is seer of his bondmen” (sura iii 15). Heaven has been conceived as a place for the slaves of God who keep away from evil act and who observe the righteous action as dictated by God. Again, it has been clarified that, “But those who keep their duty to their lord, for them are gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will be safe forever. A gift of welcome from their lord. That which Allah hath in store is better for the righteous” (Sura iii 198).Heaven has been envisaged as a place where there is balanced weather condition, that is, it is free from extreme hot and extreme cold. Those who dwell in heaven will be provided with delicious food and comfortable luxury. Though, the balanced whether condition has been maintained in the heaven, the God failed to maintain the balanced treatment to men and women.
Fortunately, the almighty Allah permits women to enter the heaven. “Allah promiseth to the believers, men and women. Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide–blessed dwellings in the gardens of Eden. And—greater (far)!—acceptance from Allah. That is the supreme triumph” (Sura ix 72). Though, Allah permitted women to enter the heaven he was not ready to grant them equal status and treatment with men. According to Quran, heaven is not the place where everyone gets equal treatment in getting facilities. There are gradations even in the quality of facilities provided in the heaven to men and women, corresponding to their merit and ability, as assessed by the God on the day of judgment. The God is pleased to provide with young and beautiful heavenly ladies to satisfy the sexual desires of men who are permitted to enter the heaven. But Quran is silent on the right of the women to get young and vibrant heavenly males to satisfy their sexual desires. The Quranic God keeps discrimination against women in providing facilities for the satisfaction of the instinctive sexual desires for the reasons only known to him. If, the satisfaction of sexual desire is a forbidden fruit in the heaven then, both males and females must be prevented from the enjoyment of sexual pleasures. But the Quranic God offers with pleasure that, he would be providing immense sensual pleasures to those men who willingly obey his commands. The God who speaks eloquently for his men that, he would provide them with sexual pleasures, keeps silence on the rights of women.
There is nothing wrong if the provision to enjoy sexual pleasures would have been denied to men and women alike. But the God generously permits the men to enjoy sexual pleasure as and when they desire to enjoy the same with sensually attractive heavenly ladies. At the same time, the God is silent on the provision to get the same facilities to women. Quran specifically warns that, men and women should not do anything which has not been sanctioned by the God. So, the women cannot take their own decisions to get men for them without getting the permission from God. But the God denies the right to the women to enjoy sexual pleasures for the reasons known to him alone. The God in the Quran cannot escape from the charge of nepotism as, he keeps special favour for men in granting permission to enjoy the instinctive level sensual pleasures while denying the same to women. So, the Quranic God is very particular to reserve everything, that is valuable, for the enjoyment of the men only as, men are his favorite choice when compared to women. Hence, he appointed men as the masters of the women and according to the Quran, masters must enjoy higher privilege than the slaves. The Quran never sees any injustice in the denial of the right of the women to enjoy something which has been permitted for men, for the simple reason that, a slave cannot make the claim to enjoy something which his master enjoys. Therefore, there is God-permitted discrimination against women in the Islam.
Since, men are the masters, then, the lion’s share of the properties in the physical world must keep under the control of the masters. According to Quranic law, women are not eligible to enjoy equal right on the family property. The sharing of the family properties, in accordance with the androcentric patterns of life, has been elaborately narrated in the aphorisms 11, 12, and 176 of the Sura iv of the holy Quran. The almighty God is so specific to see that, equal rights should not be guaranteed to the woman in getting her family properties. The God issues his decree that the male member must get “the equivalent of the portions of two females” and reminds the bonded men of Allah that “it is an injunction from Allah”. So, it cannot be violated by a Muslim. The Islamic jurists, right from the early days of Islamic religion, spent too much time to frame the norms for the sharing of the family property with a specific intention to allot only lesser portion for women when compared to men, as directed by Allah. Indeed, the Quranic God prompts the males to practice discrimination against women.
( The author is an academic, writer and orator)