Review of Islamic Law in the Context of Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (Part 4)

Written by: Dr. Mohammad Ali Faghihi

Published on: August 13th, 2019

Part 1 | 2 | 3

Part IV: Special Identities of Men and Women—Differences in their Creation

This issue has a long history. From the time of Plato, hundreds of books and thousands of papers have been written on the differences in creation between men and women.

Some of those books and papers focus on biological and physiological differences between men and women, which included genetic variations or other differences with regard to sex hormones, genitals and reproduction system, body growth, cells and brain weight.

Other differences pertain to psychological, such as emotions, sensory and intellectual perceptions as well as intelligence and memory.

Research findings on the differences between males and females can generally fall into two categories.

  1. Sex differences: Such differences are simply natural. However, some researchers were willing to consider a non-biological origin for such differences and, therefore, there are three approaches to them: deterministic, environmentalist, and dialectic.
  2. Gender differences: Such differences have social aspects, which are usually as a result of conditioning. Therefore, gender differences are more of a social and cultural nature.”

Some studies have focused on the impact of these differences on rights, obligations as well as social and family inequalities.

1. Differences in question

Undoubtedly, men are women are of equal value in terms of human perfection and we only want to discuss their specific identities; that is, the characteristics that distinguish men from women. In this section, the issue is not as straightforward as the first section. As said before, there are many viewpoints with regard to examples of differences. However, it should be noted that those differences are considered by us and Islam that stem from specific identities of men and women. The late Allameh Ja’fari says in this regard, Psychological and brain activity differences among men are so remarkable that if it were not for apparent similarities among men, we could have divided men into various groups of humans. Can you equate a man with such human sentiments as Imam Ali (AS) and another man as bloodthirsty as Hajjaj ibn Yousol‘?

Also, one cannot ignore differences among Women in terms of psychology and intellect. Is a mother, who only considers herself conduit for birth of her child, be considered equal to another mother who believes that her children are an extension of herself.
ln general, there are two types of differences between men and women, as follows.

1. Differences that are unrelated to special identities of men and women, but are similar to differences that are found among men and women. Such differences should not be considered as differences between identities of men and women.

2. Differences that are the result of special identities of men and women. Such differences are unrelated to character of men and women. The Islam has put great emphasis on this fact. Such differences are natural for both sexes and necessary for them to play their role in reproduction.


2. Types of difference

When the word “difference” is used to indicate disparity in creation, it may be associated with implication of superiority and inferiority and when it is applied to legislative and social affairs, it may imply inequality and discrimination. However, it should be noted that this is not the reality and such an association is nothing but a mistake. The reason for committing that mistake is that we have taken equality as an absolute value. Therefore, wherever there is no equality, then it should be condemned. However, in the light of numerous scientific and psychological studies that prove existence of natural differences between the two sexes, we must change our attitudes toward this concept. We must not ignore the fact that equality and difference are not absolute values. In some places, equality is worthless and appalling while some dissimilarities may be valued.

Since variations among the existing things are of many types, we must first explain those types before focusing on differences between men and women:

  1. Difference, which completely separates two things from each other and leads to “differentiation.”
  2. Difference, which means opposition; that is, two things are of the same type, but they cannot be present at the same place at the same time, like black and white. Both of them are colors but no object can be simultaneously both white and black.
  3. Difference, which means “have” as opposed to “have-not” like eyesight as opposed to blindness.
  4. Difference, which means dependence when existence of one thing depends on the existence of another. For example, no boy can be a son in the absence of a father and vice versa.

Of course, these are philosophical and logical terms, but they are useful for this discussion.

The difference between men and women is not of the first type because we have proven that they have many things in common including in humanity. Therefore, they are not two totally different creatures.

The difference between men and women is not of the second type too, though many people think so and therefore, have tried to attribute many differences in creation to environment because they consider those differences as the root cause of conflicts.

The third type of difference requires that one of the two sexes should be considered inferior to the other and certainly smacks of humiliation. Islam has never believed in such differences.

The fourth type of difference is the same type that has been recognized by Islam as existing between men and women and is the basic reason why they fall in love with each other. In this type of difference existence of one side depends on the existence of the other side and as long as both of them are not present, none of them can attain prosperity.

Islam powerfully rejects the difference, which is a sign of humiliation. The difference that has been recognized by Quranic verses is the cause of compassion and purposeful interaction between men and women.

A careful survey of the world4l will show that many differences are more 1 beautiful than equalities. All things that we see are not trees and trees are not I of the same type and do not bear the same fruit. There is night and day, warmth and cold and the beauty of creation is due to such differences. Is a garden more beautiful when it is filled with colorful flowers or when it has only one flower?

The difference between two sexes is not like the difference between thorn and flower. It is like the difference between two flowers in a garden and even more delicate than that because two flowers in a garden do not attract each other. It is like the difference between nightingale and flower which create I magnetic attraction between them.


3. Secret of differences

If asked what contributes to love, many are sure to answer “beauty”. The question then is, why is beauty so attractive? What is the reason behind that attraction? Basically, what is beauty which has caused people to forget about their ordinary lives?

Perhaps the only answer to this question is that “beauty is a symbol of perfection!” There is some perfection in beauty that attracts the lover. Therefore, “love”  in the backgrounds of need and the loved one enjoys the perfection which is a manifested as love in the eyes of the beholder.

Thus, it becomes clear that men and women have been born for attachment (of course, not solely due to an animal attraction). Here, dependence is the same as attachment. Dependence between them is a form of attachment. It is for this reason that according to Quranic verses, the love that men and women feel for each other is bilateral. They are attached to each other, and therefore, are dependent on each other. Their interdependence is due to a difference of the fourth type, so that, they can supplement each other. Alexis Carrel explains the main function of such differences in this way: “If women enjoyed the same physical and psychological characteristics as men. They could not have gotten men to fall in love with them. Also, if men were like women, they could not have manifested their finesse in conquering a woman’s heart.”

Quran has emphasized on this difference and notes that masculinity and femininity is a reality of not only the human world, but the whole living world. This specific difference has been attributed to God’s creation:

  1. “And of everything we have created pairs: That you may receive instruction.” (Zariyat: 49);
  2. “That it is He Who grants Death and Life; that He did create in pairs, male and female.” (Najm: 44-45)
  3. “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle.” (Shoura: ll)

Creation of couples is a law which is enforced in the whole world of creation as well as the human world. The important question is:

What is the main reason behind this difference?

3.1. Reproduction of humans

“If the Law of Nature had created men and women totally alike, wouldn’t it have led to distinction of human race, just as happened to prehistoric animals? It is strange that men and women have joined hands and without attention to the fact that natural advantages of men and women are no reason for superiority of one sex over the other, have created the enigma of man and woman.”

3.2. Peace, love and mercy

If we wanted to ignore the difference between men and women in creation and study every one of them separately to draw up relevant laws, or if we wanted to consider one sex to be superior to the other, instead of considering them equal in human terms and, thus, concluding that they are dependent on each other, then we would have fostered animosity and violence between the two sexes.

The Almighty God says in the Holy Quran: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Rome: 21)

There are three important points in the above verse: dwelling in tranquility; love, and mercy.

The first point denotes that God has created humans in couples so that when one of them feels the presence of the other one on his/her side, they would feel comfort and tranquility.

“Love” is a compassion that is uttered and expressed. This second feature of the system of couples is necessary to make them dependent on and attached to each other.

“Mercy” is a blessing from God. If a family enjoyed the above characteristics, then it would attract the mercy of God and would live in happiness.


4. Dealing with differences

It is noteworthy that the type of difference between men and women is necessary to cement their relationship and the problem between the two sexes is not due to actual differences, but a result of artificial differences and the way that actual differences are dealt with. It is not a flaw for a knife to be sharp. It depends on the user to avail of the sharpness to save somebody’s life or deprive them of their lives. The world is not bad in itself, but it is our approach to the world, which can be good or bad. There is no doubt about the benefits of knowledge and when it is used in an evil way, the knowledge itself is not evil, but the one who uses it in that way is evil. Therefore, instead of resorting to such theories as equalization or gender discrimination to solve the riddle, we must try to value true differences and correct wrong approaches to this issue.

The existing differences can be dealt with in three ways:

  1. Attitudinal
  2. Emotional
  3. Behavioral

4.1. Attitudinal treatment of differences

When talking about feminine nature, some lay people erroneously associate it with weakness and inferiority while associating manhood and masculinity with power, respect and the one who deserves to enjoy special rights. When women are referred to as the “second sex”, which reminds them that they are inferior to men and should try to become equal, the worst insult has been directed at women. The reality, at least in Islam, is something else. Women are equal to men in terms of human values, but not in physical terms. Physical differences, however, should not be translated into inferiority. Their difference is somehow like the difference between scales used by goldsmiths and fruit dealers. Although a fruit dealer’s scale is bigger and can tolerate more weights, it is not superior to goldsmith’s scale, because the latter is complete in form and equal to the first scale, but has been designed to bear less weight because it should be more accurate. The natural characteristics have been designed by God and His creation is not incomplete. A pear and an apple are perfect in themselves, though they are not the same.


5. Islam’s attitude to differences and veneration of women

Here, we will take a look at Islam’s teachings with regard to apparent weaknesses in women’s creation and veneration of women in Quran. In addition to the fact that Islam considers natural differences as another aspect of human nature, it takes a special and respectful approach to it.

Quranic verses:

  • “No want of proportion will you see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn your vision again: do you see any flaw?” (Malek: 3-4)
  • “…and has given you shape; and made your shapes beautiful…” (Mu’men: 64)
  • “He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases.” (Al-e Imran: 6)
  • “O man! What has seduced you from your Lord Most Beneficent? Him Who created you. Fashioned you in due proportion, and gave you a just bias; in whatever form He wills, does He put you together.”
    (lnfitar: 6-8)

Since we noted in the past chapters that men and women are equal in human values and attributed creation and shaping of men and women to God, Whose every act is balanced, then the female gender in Quran deserves the same respect as man and there is no flaw in her creation.

  • “If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.” (Nisa: 19)

This verse has referred to the habits of pre-Islamic Arabs who did not like women and were not willing to give women their deserved status. Through a mild tone, so as not to provoke the audience’s anger, Quran says that the dislike of men is not an issue and women are the source of many goods.


Catch up on previous articles! Part 1 | 2 | 3

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