What would be the stance on feminism in Islam? Would a feminist be considered a Non-Muslim? My idea is that there are different waves of feminism and first wave feminism was only for voting, so those would be considered fine, but the third wave feminists now take it to extreme levels. Some say the ideologies of feminism is non-Islamic therefore any feminist is a Non-Muslim, but is it really ok to put such a blanket statement when there are different schools of thoughts within feminism itself?
Jazakallahu Khair in Advance.
(Question posted as received)
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
You refer to two issues in your query:
- Feminism in Islam.
- Is a feminist still a believer?
- Feminism in Islam
Feminism is a highly ambiguous term. It is defined by Wikipedia as: “a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that share a common goal, i.e. to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.”
However, feminism seems to be calling towards liberation, but in actual fact, it is the call for gender privilege masquerading as equality. In essence, feminism denies the human reality, it is unclear, and not a cause for justice.
To begin. Feminists advocate that women have traditionally been dehumanised by a male dominated society, which they call the patriarchy; and that it has always been better to be a man. But this one-sided claim snubs the privileges that women have often enjoyed simply for being women. This privilege is not appreciated by feminists because, privilege is invisible to those who have it.
Feminism denies human reality, and does not understand or accommodate the natural proclivities of the genders.
Virtually all species, from bees to primates have different gender roles, with different biological abilities across the sexes. Yet feminists insist that any gender difference between humans is invented and there is nothing biological about men or women that should inform their social roles. Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated, however, the role of testosterone in building muscle, in increasing competitiveness, confidence and risk taking – making men better suited to the more hazardous and competitive roles of society. Because of testosterone, men naturally tend to be faster, bigger, possess more stamina and are physically stronger. So, teaching a girl that she can naturally compete equally with men in everything is misleading.
With the onset of Islam and its special teachings, the life of women entered into a new phase – a phase which differed vastly from the previous one and became one in which women availed of all kinds of individual, social and human rights. The basis of Islamic teachings with respect to women is exactly what we read in the Noble Qur`an:
وَ لَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ (البقرة:228)
Translation: “and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner” (Al-Baqarah:228)
i.e. the women possess rights and privileges in the same measure as the responsibilities which they shoulder within the society.
Islam has promised the benefits of complete prosperity to both the sexes. In Islam, men and women and their actions are equal in the eyes of Allah Ta’alah. Allah Ta’alah says in the Qur’an:
وَ مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْـثى وَ هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُولٌئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ (غافر:40)
Translation: “…and whoever does good, whether male or female, and he is a believer, these shall enter the garden.” (Ghaafir:40)
مَنْ عَمِلَ صالِحاً مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْـثى وَ هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَ لَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (النحل:97)
Translation: “Whoever does good whether male or female and he is a believer, we will most certainly make him live a happy life, and We will most certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.” (An-Nahl:97)
فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ أَنِّي لَا أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَامِلٍ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَىٰ ۖ بَعْضُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْضٍ ۖ (آل عمران:195)
Translation: The Lord heard their prayer and answered: “I suffer not the good deeds of any to go waste, be he a man or a woman: The one of you is of the other. (Aal-Imraan:195)
It has elucidated that every man and woman, by adhering to and implementing the Islamic curriculum, can achieve material and spiritual perfection, and possess a pure, good life that is replete with ease and comfort.
Islam considers a woman, like man, to be completely free and independent. It declares this freedom to be for all people, men and women. Allah Ta’alah mentions in the Qur`an:
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ (المدثر:38)
Translation: “Every soul is held in pledge for what it earns.” (Al-Mudassir:38)
مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحاً فَلِنَفْسِهِ وَ مَنْ أَسَاءَ فَعَلَيْهَا (فصلت:46)
Translation: “Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is against himself.” (fussilat:46)
On the other hand, since independence is an inevitable consequence of (free) will and choice, Islam has also extended this independence to all monetary privileges, permitting women to enter into various kinds of monetary transactions and regarding her as the rightful owner of her income and investment. Allah Ta’alah mentions:
لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا وَ لِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ (النساء:32)
Translation: “Men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn.” (An-Nisaa:32)
We can easily infer that Islam holds the fiscal independence of women in great esteem and does not differentiate between a man and a woman in this regard.
However, despite the above verse, Islam mandates that a man’s earnings must be used to provide for the women of the household irrespective of whether they work or not. As a wife, she has the right to be provided for, including her own living space, and is guaranteed financial safeguards should her marriage not work out.
Furthermore, marriage is the bedrock of family life and the fundamental unit of Islamic society, giving us rights and duties to one another. Above that, as a mother, the woman is given preference for respect from her children over their father. Such is the esteemed role she plays as the heart and soul of the family and, by extension, society.
Islam primarily addresses men and women the same because men and women, by and large, share the same human characteristics. Islam considers a woman, just like a man, to possess a human soul, will and choice, and perceives her to be on the path of spiritual perfection, which is actually the purpose of human creation. It is for this reason that it has placed man and woman alongside each other, addressed them together:
ياَ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ
ياَ أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا
Men and women are addressed separately only in relation to the few areas where men and women differ. Through polygamy, marital related issues (divorce etc), political participation, inheritance laws, and dress code, it advocates complementarity with men and not competition. In all of these aspects and others, the reason for the differentiation is within understanding of a person of sound mind. Up until the occurrence of feminism, a woman not being allowed to work, asked to dress modestly, and made to travel with a guardian etc., was looked at as an act of honour, respect and dignity towards women. Today, it has been termed as unjust.
Every difference, in actual fact, is of benefit to women. For e.g., let us take a look at some conditions that befall people of any society, and then assess whether polygyny is a good solution for the problems that occur, and also to see if the practice of polygyny is in favour of a woman or against her. The following points prove that monogamy in many situations leads to promiscuity, prostitution or divorce:
- If a woman is infertile and the husband is interested in having children, should he divorce the woman and marry another wife? Or, if she chooses to stay married to him, should he take a second wife giving them both equal rights as his lawful wives?
- If a wife is chronically ill and cannot maintain her marital relations with her husband, should he keep her and take a second wife wherein she remains perfectly honoured, cared for and provided for by her husband? Or should he divorce her?
- Some men are financially strong, and also possess higher levels of carnal desires. One wife may not be able to fulfil his lawful and natural desires. What is better for both husband and wife in such a case? Is it better for the man to remain frustrated and pent up, or seek unlawful satisfaction outside the marriage? Or to acquire other lawful wives who can help to keep him chaste and satisfied?
- In various parts of the world, international and civil wars and other catastrophes often take their toll on men more than women. Even naturally, the demographic number of females, for various reasons, is more than males in a number of countries. The best examples would be the cases of the First and Second World Wars, which claimed the lives of an astronomical number of men who had participated in the fighting, with tens of millions of them being killed.
In other trouble spots the disproportionate death ratios are similar. In such a case, if every man had only one wife, what would be the necessary destiny of the women left without lawful marriage to satisfy their social, financial and sexual needs? Some women may be tempted to satisfy their carnal desires in unlawful ways through fornication or prostitution, a destabilizing factor for any society. The abundance of women without husbands is one factor that helps spread corruption and illegitimate sexual activities in societies. What is better for a society and for such women in this case: to remain single and suffer all the consequences of life without marriage; or to accept to be a second wife with an honest, protective, honourable and chaste man?
In short, Islam regards a woman as a fundamental element of the society and thus, she should not be treated as an entity that is lacking in will, and dependent upon or in need of a guardian.
The Islamic system is not based on selfish individualism. In Islam, women do not serve men, nor do men serve women. Rather, we serve Allah Ta’alah by helping each other and giving to each other based on human needs, with the understanding that humans are not all the same.
Islam provides a clear, natural and just solution to ensuring justice for all humans, and has no need for feminism’s vain attempts to reinvent the wheel that Islam set in motion over 1400 years ago1.
- Is a feminist still a believer?
The answer to the above question is that a feminist can still be a Muslim and, in most cases, they do not lose their Imaan. Possessing non-Islamic ideologies, does not remove one from the fold of Islam. Each and every ideology of the feminist movement will have to be scrutinized individually. However, there are certain ideologies and questions feminist pose that may affect their Imaan, but painting every feminist with the same brush is not correct. One must be very careful to remove a person from the fold of Islam. Utmost effort and excuses must be made to keep one within the fold of Islam.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.
1) I relied on the following book when answering this query. This book will make a good read for further understanding related to this topic.
2) (قَوْلُهُ فَكَانَ مَنْدُوبًا) إنَّمَا يَكُونُ كَذَلِكَ بِالْقَصْدِ؛ أَمَّا إذَا قَصَدَ التَّلَهِّيَ أَوْ الْفَخْرَ أَوْ لِتُرَى شُجَاعَتُهُ فَالظَّاهِرُ الْكَرَاهَةُ، لِأَنَّ الْأَعْمَالَ بِالنِّيَّاتِ فَكَمَا يَكُونُ الْمُبَاحُ طَاعَةً بِالنِّيَّةِ تَصِيرُ الطَّاعَةُ مَعْصِيَةً بِالنِّيَّةِ ط (قَوْلُهُ أَمَّا بِدُونِهِ) ظَاهِرُهُ أَنَّهُ مُرْتَبِطٌ بِكَلَامِ الْأَئِمَّةِ الثَّلَاثَةِ، وَمَا يَأْتِي يُفِيدُ أَنَّ هَذَا لِأَهْلِ الْمَذْهَبِ ط وَمِثْلُهُ مَا قَدَّمْنَاهُ آنِفًا عَنْ مَسَائِلَ شَتَّى (قَوْلُهُ فَيُبَاحُ كُلُّ الْمَلَاعِبِ) أَيْ الَّتِي تُعَلِّمُ الْفُرُوسِيَّةَ وَتُعِينُ عَلَى الْجِهَادِ، لِأَنَّ جَوَازَ الْجُعْلِ فِيمَا مَرَّ إنَّمَا ثَبَتَ بِالْحَدِيثِ عَلَى خِلَافِ الْقِيَاسِ، فَيَجُوزُ مَا عَدَاهَا بِدُونِ الْجُعْلِ. وَفِي الْقُهُسْتَانِيِّ عَنْ الْمُلْتَقِطِ مَنْ لَعِبَ بِالصَّوْلَجَانِ يُرِيدُ الْفُرُوسِيَّةَ يَجُوزُ وَعَنْ الْجَوَاهِرِ قَدْ جَاءَ الْأَثَرُ فِي رُخْصَةِ الْمُصَارَعَةِ لِتَحْصِيلِ الْقُدْرَةِ عَلَى الْمُقَاتَلَةِ دُونَ التَّلَهِّي فَإِنَّهُ مَكْرُوهٌ. (الدر المختار وحاشية ابن
(رد المحتار) (6/ 402)