This post is from a response comment of mine on the Reddit forum /r/ahmadiyya. The original post was on whether the Qur’an promotes domestic violence. My comment is a response to user TheMotorCityCobra, who posted this comment.
The moral, spiritual and economic equality of men and women as ruled by Islam is unquestionable
Really? This seems to be (and has been) a hot button issue for Islam for a very long time. It’s often true that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Let’s start with economic inequality. This is evident from a disparity in inheritance:
“Allah commands you concerning your children; a male shall have as much as the share of two females; …” (Qur’an 4:11, Ahmadi Muslim translation).
Yes, yes. I know you’ll say that this is because Islam views men and women having different roles in society. I see Ahmadi Muslim couples in the West have both partners working, in most cases. Both partners contributing to the economic operation of the household. This “inequality because of different roles” argument might have worked in 7th century Arabia, but it doesn’t work today. It hasn’t worked for a long time.
Whenever I do see clear statements about equality from early Islamic sources, it’s always in reference to the Hereafter. Relative to the mechanics of this very life, it doesn’t apply. You seldom, if ever, see that from the Qur’an and Sahih Hadith.
Islam has really elevated the status of women.
Sure, relative to 7th century Arabia. Even though this narrative of the “Jahiliyyah” period’s actual level of dysfunction is disputed, with women like Khadija already inheriting from her parents, being able to propose marriage herself and be an entrepreneur. That’s a whole other topic. See this article if you want to explore it:
But like Janet Jackson sings, What have you done for me lately?
Islam’s prescriptions, frozen in time in scripture, are now quite outdated. Yes, yes, I’m sure you’ll disagree and quote me back statements from Ahmadi khulifa and commentators in more modern times. I don’t dispute that Ahmadiyyat is trying to reinvent both Islam and itself from just 100 years ago. Again, a whole other topic/post.
The Holy Quran expresses the moral and spiritual equality of men and women
Ah, see my point above about such clear equality not relating to rights in this very life on Earth. So convenient. “It’s coming later. Just wait for it.”
Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is the one who is the most righteous among you
Yup. Again, misses the point about this very life on Earth. You can say anything about the next world, full of roses and cartwheels of equality. All the strongest language in Islamic scripture on equality is squarely focused on the next world. It’s easy to make promises for an unproven and disputed world/existence. So the real meat of the discussion is about Islam’s claims in and for this very life that we all know that we have. Our common reference point.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) echoed the same principles of equality and egalitarianism in his last sermon
I appreciate the sentiment and your desire to draw equality out of this. But you must know that unless religious scripture is explicitly addressing women, it is addressing men (e.g. “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; …” Qur’an 2:223).
In a land where Muhammad united previously fragmented tribes in Arabia under one banner, you should know that the context of “All of you are equal” is not addressing men and women relative to each other, it is the disparate tribes/races that formed the Ummah that was the focus of that statement. Context matters. Historical usage matters too.
It is remarkable that the Quran makes absolutely no statements about the inherent ethical or intellectual superiority of men over women
Seriously? Have you not read Qur’an 4:34, the verse this giant post is about?
“Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because men spend on them of their wealth…” (Qur’an 4:34 – Ahmadi Muslim translation).
The commentary for this verse, by Malik Ghulam Farid, later disagreed with by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, suggested that one of the reasons for this guardianship, as drawn from the phrase “some of them excel others” is the “superior mental faculties” [of men, relative to women].
If a learned Jama’at tafsir author can draw that justification from this verse (as do hundreds of years of famous Muslim exegetes of the Qur’an, and hundreds of years of Muslim theology, based on sahih hadith that say the same thing), are you really going to tell me that, “the Quran makes absolutely no statements about the inherent … intellectual superiority”?
Don’t confuse the issue by citing alleged future “spiritual” or “ethical” equality. Criticism of Islam today isn’t really focused on abstract brownie points for the Hereafter. It feels like an evasive tactic in the discourse on women’s rights here on Earth.
An inability to stay on the specific issue being discussed, and being able to defend it, reflects poorly on the laudable sentiments that are wishing Islam was as egalitarian as one’s internal moral compass.