Gender Inequality in Islam?
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
Why is the sacrifice (aqiqa) for male children two sheep and females only one? Does that mean female children are less valuable in Islam or less important, and the male gender is more valuable or more important for family, state, and society?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Sacred Law on Aqiqa
The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “For a boy, two sheep, and for a girl, one sheep, and it does not matter whether they are male or female.” [Bukhari, Tirmidhi]
Regulations about aqiqa, as with the rest of Sacred Law, conform to what Allah says in the Qur’an and what the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) taught. There is always wisdom in Sacred Law, even when we humans can’t perceive it.
Gender Equality versus Gender Equity
Females are different from males, and in both, there is goodness. Therefore, Islam values both males and females differently. Sacred Law values each gender with equity and justice and not equality, which means that the rules for each gender are slightly different but fair.
Allah says: “But when she [Hanna] delivered her [baby Mary], she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].” [Qur’an 3:36]
Are Men Favored or Women?
Superficially it may seem that Islam favors one gender over the other at different times. Sometimes it appears that the female gender is the privileged one. One example of this is the reward for fighting in God’s cause. Males have to physically defend their faith to attain that reward, while females earn it from fulfilling their Hajj. ‘Aisha, the mother of the faithful believers (may Allah be pleased with her), narrated that she said, “O Allah’s Messenger! We consider Jihad as the best deed.” The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best Jihad (for women) is a righteous Hajj (Mabrur). [Bukhari]
More examples of the above follow.
Special Blessings of Daughters
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “If anyone has a female child, and does not bury her alive [a common practice among the Arabs before Islam], or slight her, or prefer his male children to her, Allah will bring him into Paradise. [Ahmad, Hakim]
Better than Equality
In this world, nothing physical distinguishes one group’s superiority over the other. Only righteousness and piety make us ‘better’ by Allah. Allah says: “Oh humankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur’an 49:13]
In the Hereafter, our souls are absolutely equal by Allah. Allah says: “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.” [Qur’an 33:35]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.