Men and Women's Rights in Islam: Equal or Equally Balanced?


Bassam Zawadi


Unfortunately there are many people who believe that because Islam gives men the right of having authority over their wives, then this means that they are superior to women and have more honor than them. Men are not superior to women and women are not superior to men in Islam due to gender. Allah Almighty makes it perfectly clear that those superior in His sight are those who have more taqwa (God fearing consciousness)... 


Surah 49:13

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).


In Islam, men and women DO NOT HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS. Their rights are different because of their nature. Their rights are not equal, rather they are EQUALLY BALANCED. 


Let me quote Dr Zakir Naik from his lecture "Women's Right in Islam Modernizing or Outdated?" who explains the concept clearly...


As I said in the beginning of my talk, Islam believes in equality between men and women - Equality does not mean identicallity.  

Suppose in a classroom 2 students, student 'A' and 'B', during an examination both come out first - Both secure 80% marks - 80 out of 100 

Out of the hundreds of students, 2 come out first 'A' and 'B' 

When you analyze the question paper, the question paper has 10 different questions, each carrying 10 marks.  

In question 1 student 'A' got 9 out of 10, and student 'B' got 7 out of 10 - So in question 1 student 'A' was higher than student 'B'.  

In question 2, student 'A' got 7 out of 10 and student 'B' got 9 out of 10,
 - Student 'B' was higher than student 'A' in question number 2.  

In question 3 both of them got 8 out of 10, both were equal 

So when we add up the marks of all the ten questions, both student 'A' and 'B' got 80 out of 100 

So in short, student 'A' and student 'B' are over all equal

In some question 'A' is higher than 'B', in some question 'B' is higher than 'A', in others both are equal 

In the same fashion, taking the example that since Allah has given man more strength - Suppose a thief enters the house will you tell, 'I believe in women's rights - I believe in women's rights' - will you tell your mother, your sister and your daughter, to go and fight the thief?'

No, but natural you'll fight him - If required they may interfere - under normal circumstances since Allah has given you more physical strength, you have to go and tackle the thief. 

So here, in physical strength, man is one degree higher than the woman

Let us take another example where. where it comes to giving respect to the -where it comes to respecting the parents - The children are supposed to respect the mother 3 times more than the father. 

Here the women have one degree higher than the men - Over all both equal  


So as we can see, men are superior when it comes to certain rights that they have over women (authority and expect obedience from the wife unless he asks her to do something impermissible; asking for sexual intercourse whenever they please unless the woman has her menses, is fasting on compulsory days or the intercourse could cause her physical harm; having more than one spouse etc.) and women are superior when it comes to rights that they have over men. In this article, I will be focusing mostly on some rights and privileges that women have over men, since misconceptions usually stem regarding women's rights in Islam and not men's rights.


The woman as a parent has a right to earn better treatment from the children than the father...


Saheeh Muslim

Book 032, Number 6180:

Abu Huraira reported that a person came to Allah, 's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Who among the people is most deserving of a fine treatment from my hand? He said: Your mother. He again said: Then who (is the next one)? He said: Again it is your mother (who deserves the best treatment from you). He said: Then who (is the next one)? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Again, it is your mother. He (again) said: Then who? Thereupon he said: Then it is your father. In the hadith transmitted on the authority of Qutalba, there is no mention of the word" the people".

A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Who has the greatest rights over a woman?" He said, "Her husband." She asked, `And who has the greatest rights over a man?" He said, "His mother." (Reported by al-Bazzar with a hasan isnad. See Majma' al-Zawa'id, 4/308, Bab haqq al-zawj 'ala'l-mar'ah, Cited here)  



The Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasized the negativity of disobeying the mother more than the father...


Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 9, Book 92, Number 395:

Narrated Warrad:

(The clerk of Al-Mughira) Muawiya wrote to Al-Mughira 'Write to me what you have heard from Allah's Apostle.' So he (Al-Mughira) wrote to him: Allah's Prophet used to say at the end of each prayer: "La ilaha illalla-h wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul Mulku, wa lahul Hamdu wa hula ala kulli shai'in qadir. 'Allahumma la mani' a lima a'taita, wala mu'tiya lima mana'ta, wala yanfa'u dhuljadd minkal-jadd." He also wrote to him that the Prophet used to forbid (1) Qil and Qal (idle useless talk or that you talk too much about others), (2) Asking too many questions (in disputed Religious matters); (3) And wasting one's wealth by extravagance; (4) and to be undutiful to one's mother (5) and to bury the daughters alive (6) and to prevent your favors (benevolence to others (i.e. not to pay the rights of others (7) And asking others for something (except when it is unavoidable).



Women have a right for security (financial and emotional) from their husbands...


Surah 4:4

And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, Take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.


Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 7, Book 64, Number 272:

Narrated 'Aisha:

Hind bint 'Utba came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Abu Sufyan is a miser so is it sinful of me to feed our children from his property?" Allah's Apostle said, "No except if you take for your needs what is just and reasonable. "


Saheeh Muslim

Book 018, Number 4251:

A'isha reported: Hind. the daughter of 'Utba, wife of Abu Sufyan, came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Abu Sufyan is a miserly person. He does not give adequate maintenance for me and my children, but (I am constrained) to take from his wealth (some part of it) without his knowledge. Is there any sin for me? Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Take from his property what is customary which may suffice you and your children.

Awn ibn Abi Juhayfah narrated that his father said: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) established brotherhood (mu'aakhah) between Salmaan and Abu'l-Dardaa'. Salmaan visited Abu'l-Dardaa' and noticed that Umm al-Dardaa' appeared scruffy and unkempt (this was before the aayah of hijaab was revealed). He said to her, What is the matter with you? She said, Your brother Abu'l-Dardaa' has no need of this world. Then Abu'l-Dardaa' came (to visit him). He made some food for him, and said, Eat. [Abu'l-Dardaa'] said, I am fasting. [Salmaan] said, I will not eat until you eat. So he ate. When night came, Abu'l-Dardaa' went to pray qiyaam, but [Salmaan] said to him, Sleep, so he slept. Then he wanted to get up for qiyaam, but [Salmaan] said, Sleep. When the last part of the night came, Salmaan said, Now get up. So they prayed, then Salmaan said to him, Your Lord has a right over you, your soul has a right over you and your wife has a right over you, so give each one his due. He [Abu'l-Dardaa'] went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him about that. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "Salmaan is right." (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1867, cited here).

'Abd-Allaah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'Aas (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to me, "O 'Abd-Allaah, have I not heard that you fast all day and pray all night?" I said, yes, O Messenger of Allaah. He said, "Do not do that. Fast and break your fast, pray qiyaam and sleep, for your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, your wife has a right over you and your visitors have a right over you. It is sufficient for you to fast three days of every month. For every good deed (hasanah) you will be rewarded tenfold, so that will be like fasting for an entire lifetime." But I went to extremes and made things hard for myself. I said, O Messenger of Allaah, I can do more than that. He said, "Then observe the fast of the Prophet of Allaah, Dawood (peace be upon him), and no more." I said, What is the fast of the Prophet of Allaah, Dawood (peace be upon him)? He said, "Half a lifetime." After he grew old, 'Abd-Allaah used to say, I wish that I had taken the easier option which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) offered me. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1874; Muslim, 1159, cited here)


The following narrations are taken from


'Umar ibn al-Ahwas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say during his Farewell Pilgrimage:

"Verily, you have rights over your women, and your women have rights over you. As for your rights over your women, they are that they should not allow anyone to sit on your beds whom you dislike, or allow anyone into your houses whom you dislike. Verily, their rights over you are that you should treat them well with regard to their clothing and food." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 1163, and Ibn Maajah, 1851).

Mu'aawiyah ibn Haydah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said:

"I said, 'O Messenger of Allaah, what are the rights of the wife of any one of us over us?' He said, 'That you feed her when you feed yourself and clothe her when you clothe yourself, that you do not say to her, "May Allaah make you face ugly!", and that you do not hit her.'" (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/244; Ibn Maajah, 1850; Ahmad, 4/446).

Imaam al-Baghawi said: "Al-Khattaabi said: this is a command to spend on women and clothe them, according to the capabilities of the husband. As the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made this a right of women, it is necessary whether the husband is present or absent. If the husband is not able to do it, it become a debt which he owes, as with all other duties, whether or not the qaadi (judge) issues a decree to that effect."

It was reported that Wahb said:

"A freed slave of 'Abd-Allaah ibn 'Amr said to him, 'I want to go and spend this month there in Jerusalem.' He said, 'Have you left enough for your family to live on during this month?' He said, 'No.' He said, 'Then go back to your family and leave them what they need, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying: "It is enough sin for a man not to give food to the one whom he is supposed to feed."'" (Reported by Ahmad, 2/160; Abu Dawood, 1692). 

Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said:

"I heard the Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying, 'By Allaah, if one of you were to get up in the morning and carry firewood on his back, and sell it and meet his own needs from the money and give some away in charity, this would be better for him than coming to a man and begging from him, and either being given something or not. The upper hand (the one which gives) is better than the lower hand (the one that takes), and start with those for whom you are responsible." (Reported by Muslim, 3/96). According to a report narrated by Ahmad (2/524), it was said: "For whom am I responsible, O Messenger of Allaah?" He said, "Your wife is one of those for whom you are responsible."


Men should not be harsh with women, they should treat them with kindness...


Surah 4:19

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and God brings about through it a great deal of good.


And if the man does not take care of this wife whom he has authority over appropriately then there are dire consequences...


Saheeh Muslim

Book 020, Number 4496:

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that the Holy Prophet (May be upon him) said: Beware. every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A slave is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust.


And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Allaah will ask every person in a position of responsibility about that which was entrusted to him, whether he took care of it or was negligent, until He will ask a man about the members of his household." (Narrated by Ibn Hibbaan, classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Ghaayat al-Maraam, no. 271, cited here)


Saheeh Muslim

Book 001, Number 0261:

Hasan reported: 'Ubaidullah b. Ziyad paid a visit to Ma'qil b. Yasar Muzani in his illness of which he (later on) died. (At this juncture) Ma'qil said: I am going to narrate to you a hadith which I have heard from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and which I would not have transmitted if I knew that I would survive. Verily I have heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: There is none amongst the bondsmen who was entrusted with the affairs of his subjects and he died in such a state that he was dishonest in his dealings with those over whom he ruled that the Paradise is not forbidden for him. (You can see the Arabic version of the hadith here)


"There is no person to whom Allaah has given people to take care of, and he fails to take care of them properly, but he will not smell the fragrance of Paradise." (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6731; Muslim, 142, cited here


Women get to wear gold and silk while men are not allowed to...


"These two [gold and silk] are forbidden for the males of my ummah and permissible for the females." (Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 3640; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah, cited here)


In Islam men have a jihad, which is to fight in the sake of Allah. However, the women's jihad is only to perform Hajj...


Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 043.

Narrated By 'Aisha : (That she said), "O Allah's Apostle! We consider Jihad as the best deed. Should we not fight in Allah's Cause?" He said, "The best Jihad (for women) is Hajj-Mabrur (i.e. Hajj which is done according to the Prophet's tradition and is accepted by Allah)."  


In Islam we have a concept of the seven deadly sins...


Saheeh Muslim

Book 001, Number 0161:

It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed: Avoid the seven noxious things. It was said (by the hearers): What are they, Messenger of Allah? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Associating anything with Allah, magic, killing of one whom God has declared inviolate without a just cause, consuming the property of an orphan, and consuming of usury, turning back when the army advances, and slandering chaste women who are believers, but unwary.



Here we see that one of the seven deadly sins is slandering chaste women. Why is it that slandering chaste men is not mentioned above although this is also a great sin? That is because the sin for slandering chaste women is worse. This is the honor that God Almighty has given to Muslim women in order to preserve and maintain their honor.



Some people find it unfair that a husband gets to have more than one wife while a wife could not have the same right. However, we have to understand that this is one of the tests for women here on earth. The woman who pleases her husband has such great honor that it could lead her straight to paradise. For a Muslim man to achieve that he would probably have to die as a martyr! So just imagine how much easier it is for the woman to do so in order to attain paradise. If she is in a polygamous marriage it would actually be much easier for her because she has other women helping her in pleasing her husband. Only if women truly understood this they would all want to be in a polygamous marriage. Earning paradise is not easy and the woman is required to be patient. This is her test in life. Just look at the magnificent awards that an obedient and pleasing wife would receive out of something that she should be happy doing anyways...


A woman's being patient in obeying her husband is one of the means of entering Paradise, as it says in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Hibbaan: "If a woman offers her five daily prayers and fasts her month (i.e., Ramadaan) and guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: 'Enter Paradise from whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.'" (This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami' al-Sagheer, no. 660, Cited here)  


Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `Any woman who dies, and her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise.'" (Ibn Majah, 1/595, Kitab al-nikah, bab haqq al-zawj 'ala'l-mar'ah; al-Hakim, 4/173, Kitab al-birr wa'l-silah; he said its isnad is sahih, Cited here)


A woman came to ask the Prophet (PBUH) about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, "Do you have a husband?" She said, "Yes." He asked her, "How are you with him?" She said, "I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me." He said, "Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell."13 (Reported by Ahmad and al-Nisa'i with jayyid isnads, and by al-Hakim, who said that its isnad was sahih. See al-Mundhiri, Al-Targhib wa'l-Tarhib, 3/52, Kitab al-nikah, Cited here)


In conclusion, we see that men have privileges that women don't have and vice versa. To distribute rights equally does not mean that it is being distributed fairly. Islam distributed and allocated the rights to the different genders fairly.


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