Does The Quran Say Men Are Superior to Women?

09 June, 2019
Q I read a verse that says men are 'qawamoon' over women; does this mean that men are superior in the sight of God in Islam than women?

Answer

Short Answer: The answer one hundred percent is NO! Allah Almighty explains clearly, in the Quran, that both men and women are equal before Him as worshippers, and their rewards are according to their tests and deeds.

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Peace be upon you, Dear Reader

Thank you so much for sending your question. This is excellent. The best thing to do when you don’t have enough information is to ask in order to have a better understanding. This is a humble and respectable attitude that people should follow: ask, do not assume.

Are Men Superior in the Sight of Allah?

The answer is one hundred percent NO!

There is a notion mentioned in the Bible that women are created for men. In 1 Corinthians 11:7-9

“7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.…

8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man.…

9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

But, this is not the Islamic perspective.

Rather, Allah Almighty explained clearly that both men and women are equal before Him as worshippers, and their rewards are according to their tests and deeds.

Allah says:

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Quran 9:71)

And Allah Almighty also says:

And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.” (Quran 4: 124)

And The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said:

“Indeed women are the counterparts of men.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]

And Allah very articulately mentioned women and their virtuous deeds being equal in His sight with men, like in this verse:

Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” (Quran 33: 35)

So, no, women are NOT inferior in the sight of Allah, and this perception is not befitting of Allah, The Just, The Wise, The Merciful.

The Misinterpretation of the Word ‘Qawamoon’

Regarding the verse you mentioned, one mistake that people often fall into is neglecting the context and the proper understanding of the language of the Quran/hadith they’re trying to understand.

So, let’s understand the verse you mentioned clearly.

The translation of the verse in English goes something as follows:

Husbands [are qawamoon] should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money.” (Quran 4:34)

  • First, what does the word “qawam” mean? The word qawam is a superlative form of the word ‘qama’. When we say someone is “qawam” at night, it means he stands earnestly in worship at night.
  • Qawam means in charge of taking care of something in particular. It is not “Saggan” (Imprisoner or oppressor). It is “Qawam” which is the protector, the maintainer, the one in charge of taking care of the affairs of…etc.
  • So, qawam is someone who works to serve and take care of something/someone else.
  • When the verse in the Quran says:

    Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money.” (4:34)

This means that men are in charge of serving and taking care of their women with what Allah has given them like their physical strength (protection of women) and money (spending on women).

Honor & Protection of Women

Islamically, a woman is not obligated to work or spend on anyone or to put herself in any physical danger/harm.

If a woman chooses to work and has her own money, then she keeps her own money to buy whatever she wants for herself. She is not instructed in to spend her money on her husband or the house.  If she did out of her own desire, it will be counted for her with Allah as charity towards them!

However, men don’t have this luxury or choice. Men are commanded to protect and spend on women.

  • In matters of protection and spending, Allah instructs men alone to take care of that. This is why they’re qawamoon, with the obligation and bounties given to them to fulfill their role. And this should be understood and respected. It’s not about both husband and wife doing the exact same role. Equality is not about sameness, it is about understanding the capabilities and needs of each party and dealing with them accordingly.

Allah Almighty instructs husbands and wives to consult one another.

For example:

Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.” (Quran 2: 233)

So even in the issue of weaning a child, they’re instructed to communicate and consult one another.

Bottom line: Qawama is a responsibility and mandate upon the man, it is not an honor bestowed upon him. It is a responsibility that he will be asked about.

Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Are Men Better Than Women in Islam?

Obedience & Respect in Marriage: For Both Spouses?

 

Why in Islam a Wife Has to Obey her Husband?