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.
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
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
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
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
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.