Gender - Equity, not Equality
"You are the best of peoples evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah." [Al-i-'Imran 3:110]
Muslims have been given the task to be the witnesses to Truth for the entire mankind and to stand up for what is right. This is a logical consequence of one's belief and one's love for humanity. If you know that there is a right path that will lead to eternal success and that all others will lead to the exact opposite, it is natural to let others know about it. But it is also needed for one's own protection. For we live in a world where each other's thoughts and acts influence others; when a people stop calling others to the right path, they themselves become the target of their calls to the other paths.
The results of our collective dereliction of responsibility in this matter are all around us to see today. The campaign launched internationally in the name of women's rights and gender equality, which has recently gained lot of momentum, is one example of this.
Equality is a slick and catchy slogan. But what does equality actually mean?
In mathematics if two variables are equal, one can be substituted for the other without changing the result in any way at all. If men and women are equal in this sense, then a woman can do anything a man can do and vice versa. You can substitute one for the other everywhere. Thus a woman can be a truck driver, a coal miner, a prison guard, or what have you. Similarly a man can become Mr. Mom, replacing the mother in taking care of the children.
That such mathematical equality is absurd is manifest to anyone who knows the biological and psychological differences between men and women. Yet this is precisely the direction that the so called gender equality campaign has blindly taken. It aims at replacing the complementary relationship between men and women with a competitive one. The result can only be a social upheaval of unprecedented scale.
Some people in the societies that for centuries refused to consider women as human beings or to give them any rights have gone to one extreme from the other. Islam has nothing to do with such nonsense. When women had no rights in the world, it declared:
"And women shall have rights, similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable." [Al-Baqarah 2:228].
That remains its Command today and forever.
Both men and women are equal in their humanity, in their accountability before Allah, in their responsibility to perform their assigned tasks and be judged based on their performance. But their assigned tasks are not the same. They have been given different capabilities by their Creator and the tasks based on those capabilities. This differentiation is not an error that needs to be corrected. It is the only basis for building a healthy and prosperous society. Islam liberates a woman from the modern tyranny of having to become a man in order to get a sense of self worth and achievement.
If Muslims had done their job, they would be asking for universal rights for women as given by Islam and generally ignored in the world today. Based on our dismal performance, and the current discourse on the subject, that would be quite a revolutionary --- and liberating ---act. Islam's universal declaration of women's rights would include the following:
There is great wisdom in this approach. Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu unhu, said in a directive to the qadis: "Refer the family disputes to the families (so they can resolve them within the family with the help of elders), for the judge's verdicts create hatred and malice." Ignoring this scheme can only hurt the families that this new plan purports to help.
Islam admits of no blind gender equality; for bad women cannot equal good women, nor can bad men be superior to good women.