Thursday, March 14, 2013
  International Women's Day Khutbah, part 11 -- Spiritual and Moral equality


So we have seen that men and women were created as equals, partners to one another.  Throughout history,  this partnership has been posited as one of unequals, complementary but not the same, however, we have seen that there is no basis for that understanding in the description of the creation of mankind.  Our natures are the same, as are our desires, our drives, our moral and spiritual capacity.

This fundamental equality is demonstrated in the Qur’an over and over again. First let’s look moral and spiritual potential, which is the fundamental concern of the Qur’an. That the moral and spiritual capacity or men and women are identical is borne out in dozens of verses in the Qur’an, where Allah encourages women and men in the same terms to piety and good deeds. For instance:

4:124 If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.

57:18  For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.

48:4-5 It is He Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the Believers, that they may add faith to their faith -- for to Allah belong the Forces of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom --

That He may admit the men and women who believe, to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for aye, and remove their ills from them;- and that is, in the sight of Allah, the highest achievement (for man),

40:40 He that works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof: and he that works a righteous deed - whether man or woman - and is a Believer- such will enter the Garden (of Bliss): Therein will they have abundance without measure.

9:72 Allah hath promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah. that is the supreme felicity

16:97 Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.

And of course, the famous, 33:35:

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.

Statements of our fundamental spiritual and moral equality are sprinkled throughout the Qur’an, as a constant reminder. Repetition is the principal tool that Allah uses to accentuate the most important messages in the Qur’an, returning to important themes and mantras over and over for emphasis. Thus the continual reminder of male-female spiritual and moral equality denotes it as something essential.

Perhaps the most poignant statement of the theme is in chapter 9, verses 71-72:
The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise
Allah hath promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah. that is the supreme felicity.

In this verse, we see not only do men and women have the same spiritual capacities and duties, but they are placed together as friends and protectors of one another. Thus Allah tells us that men learn from women, and women learn from men; women prohibit men from evil and enjoy what is just upon men and vice versa. Thus this verse goes beyond telling us that we have the same spiritual capacities and duties, the same moral code, to putting us in a relationship of mutual benefit, men and women together, protecting one another from wrong doing. It is not men keeping women in line, or women keeping men in line, but all of humankind looking out for one another.
This notion is reinforced by the fact that we are given examples of pious women to follow – such as Sheba, Maryam, and Asiya the wife of Pharoah. In each of these cases, it is these women’s recognition of Divine Truth and commitment to God that makes them worthy examples. Sheba leads her people into faith; Asiya saves Moses against the tyranny of pharaoh; and Maryam who dedicates her life to the service of Allah.
Equally important, God responds to women in the Qur’an as he does to men. There are various verses that begin, “They ask you about…” followed by questions of the day –what should we spend on charity, (2:215); is it ok to fight during Hajj season (2:217); what about wine and games of chance (2:219); how do we deal with orphans (4:129).
In 58:1 God answers a question posted specifically by a woman:


GOD has indeed heard the words of her who pleads with thee concerning her husband, and complains Unto God. And God does hear what you both have to say: verily, God is all-hearing, all-seeing.

He also addresses the situation where Ayesha was being accused of infidelity in verses 24:4-24:24, vindicating her innocence and condemning those who spread slander. Thus, contrary to what some have said, that the Qur’an only addresses men, in fact it addresses all human concerns, demonstrating that God is equally accessible, equally responsive to women and their spiritual and mundane needs.
 
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.


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