Review of Islamic Law in the Context of Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (Part 1)

Written by: Dr. Mohammad Ali Faghihi

Published on: August 9th, 2019

Parts 2 | 3 | 4

Part I: Conceptual and value-based recognition of differences and similarities

There are many theories, declarations and regulations regarding women and issues such as equality, difference, discrimination and violence. The main proposition is the one, which emphasizes on equality of men and women, so that inequality is considered tantamount to discrimination and violence. Therefore, violence and related concepts should be analyzed and their value should be assessed.


Equality: means two individuals are equal (same) to each other;

Difference: variation, distance or separation between two individuals;

Disparity: being different, lack of equality;

Discrimination: treating people differently; preferring some people over others without logical or legal reasons; preferring one person to another person;

Similarity: being alike;

Tyranny: oppression, harassment.


When two individuals are compared to identify their similarities and differences, the following propositions are conceivable:

  1. They are equal in all aspects and there is no difference between them; relationship A or absolute equality.
  2. They are completely different with no commonality; relationship B or “disparity” (complete difference).
  3. They have both similarities and differences; relationship C or “partial equality” and “partial difference”. Commonalities and differences can be maximum or minimum.
  4. One of them is preferred over the other without good reason; relationship D or “discrimination”.


Assessment of gender-related concepts

1.1. Discrimination

Preferring one individual over the other without reasonable justification is inhumane, both with regards to sexual aspects of gender and with respect to law and duties. This is a blatant case of injustice and Islam has rejected tyranny and discrimination in all fields. It will be later explained that Islam has not discriminated against women, either in laws or duties.

1.2. Disparity (complete difference)

Such relationship does not exist between men and women, because they share many human aspects and are not two completely different creatures, living in totally different worlds.

1.3. Equality

The main question is whether equality between men and women, either in creation or law, is absolute or partial.

Is equality (in its absolute sense) an ideal to make equality tantamount to justice and inequality tantamount to injustice?

The concept of equality has two aspects. When we talk about “commonality” or “equality” we must explain equality in what context and equality with regard to what.

To discuss the true meaning of equality, we need to answer the first question, while the answer to the second question is needed to value that meaning. However, a third question can be asked: “Equality for what? What is the result of equality?”

Please pay attention to the following propositions:

“Tax equality is necessary.” Or “Equality in payment of tax is necessary.” If we say, “tax equality is necessary”, it would not be just because taxes should be proportionate to revenues and production. However, “equality in payment of tax is necessary”, means that all people should be treated equally with regard to tax payment and this is true. Now compare “equality of people in occupations” and “equality of qualified people with regard to occupations.” The first proposition is illogical, while the second one is quite logical. Then equality needs to be two sided for comparison, with regard to external manifestation and valuation. It is just like “love” which, is meaningless in the absence of a loved one. If the loved one is a human, then the love is worldly and unoriginal. If it is heavenly love, it is praiseworthy. Therefore, the concept of “equality” needs comparison and it cannot be considered as an absolute value.



Relationship C or “partial equality” is a balanced relationship between men and women both with regard to “what is” and “what should be”. However, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of discrimination against women has indirectly considered all forms of inequality as an instance of discrimination in its articles 6 and 12. Also, in article 16, where it has given priority to the rights of children, it disrupts equality in certain cases. Therefore, it is understood from the contents of the convention that men and women are equal in many respects and different in few instances. Therefore, difference, per se, is not tantamount to discrimination and humiliation.

Men and women are equal with regard to obligations and rights because they are both human beings. However, due to intrinsic differences between men and women, they cannot be “absolutely” equal. It should be noted that if equality amounts to discrimination, it should be discouraged. In short, we must first see what grounds necessitate equality or inequality and what goals they are seeking?


Continued in parts 2 | 3 | 4

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