ʿAqāʾid Course Notes Index and FAQ – Misc

Please refer to Lesson 1 of the Class 6 Madressa manual.

When we ask whether women are regarded as inferior to men in Islam, what is actually being asked is whether the status of women is lower than that of men in the eyes of Allāh (SWT). In the Qurʾān Allāh (SWT) provides a clear answer to such a question in sūrat al-Ḥujurāt, where He says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُواۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْۚإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you. Indeed Allah is all-Knowing, all-Aware.[49:13]

Allāh (SWT) is very clear in this verse that the only distinguishing factor between a man and woman in their status is the level of their God-consciousness.

The examples that are usually cited by people who claim that women are inferior to men in Islam, include the ability for men to marry up to four wives, the greater portion of inheritance they receive and the physical hijab that women are obligated to wear. Given this is an FAQ on ʿAqāʾid related topics, these matters pertaining to Islamic Law will not be discussed individually here. However, the wisdom behind each of these injunctions, as well as others, has been explained in great detail in countless works by our scholars and is easily accessible.

What is sufficient to note here is that such laws are based on a holistic understanding of the creation of men and women in Islam and the harmony in society that Islam wishes to create and maintain. It is incorrect to assume that equality between men and women means that men and women should be apportioned the “same” of everything, in the same way as giving the same amount of food to a horse and a cat would not be deemed as achieving equality and justice. Men and women have their own requirements and needs that need to be met in order for each to reach their own perfection.

Furthermore, Islam does not simply view men and women as individuals and stipulate rulings in Islamic Law simply based on this, but also how men and women can best complement each other and work together to create harmony in society. In order for a pair of shoes to be fit for purpose, we need a left shoe and a right shoe that complement each other and work together, not two left shoes or two right shoes. Many rulings in Islamic Law, such as the inheritance law, are based on such a holistic view of society, which are often viewed by people out of this context and hence misunderstood.

The companions and friends of the Prophet who believed in him and who derived wisdom from his presence, receive from us, the Shīʿah, a special reverence, whether they be amongst those martyred at the Battles of Badr, Uḥud, Aḥzāb and Ḥunayn, or of those who remained alive after the passing away of the Holy Prophet (S). All of them, insofar as they were the companions of the Prophet and believed in him, deserve our respect, and there is no true Muslim in the world that would speak badly of the companions, or express unkind opinions about them; and should anyone claim that a group of ‘Muslims’ do in fact indulge in such criticisms, such claims would be baseless.

However, alongside this issue there is another question which should be addressed without prejudice, sentimentalism or bitterness: were all the companions equally just, pious and devoid of sin? It is clear that seeing the Prophet and keeping his company, despite being a great honour, cannot be seen as rendering a person immune from sin; we cannot therefore regard all of the companions in exactly the same light, as being all equally just, pious and shorn of all sinfulness. For, according to the testimony of the Qurʾān, in spite of their having the honour of being companions, they are divided into different categories as regards to their faith and hypocrisy, and in respect of obedience and disobedience to Allāh (SWT) and His Prophet (S). Taking due account of this differentiation, it cannot be said that they are all as one, each one of them being as just and as pious as the next.

There is no doubt that the Qurʾān has praised the companions on several occasions. For example, as regards those who made the oath of allegiance to the Holy Prophet (S) at the time of the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Ḥudaybiyyah, the Qurʾān expresses the satisfaction (of God): “Allāh was well pleased with the believers when they swore allegiance to you beneath the tree…” [48:18] But this praise, their eliciting the good pleasure (riḍwān) of God, relates to them ‘when they swore allegiance to you’, and cannot thus be regarded as evidence of a guarantee of rectitude and deliverance from faults for all of them for the rest of their lives. For if one or more of them afterwards takes a wrong path, evidently, the previous pleasure of God cannot be pointed to as evidence of their continuing piety or of their being permanently devoid of faults: the rank and station of these companions who elicited the pleasure of God is not higher than that of the Holy Prophet (S) about whom the Qurʾān says: “If you ascribe a partner to Allāh, your work will fail and you will indeed be among the losers.” [39:45]

This kind of verse expresses the virtue manifested by these persons in that particular state, and of course, should they maintain such virtue until the end of their lives, they would attain salvation.

On the basis of what has been said, whenever we have definitive evidence from the Qurʾān, the ḥadīth or from history, of the deviation of a person or persons, one cannot refute this evidence by reference to such instances of the kind of praise quoted above.

By way of example, the Qurʾān refers to some of the companions by the term fāsiq, that is, a transgressor: “Oh you who believe! If a transgressor brings you some news, verify it…”[49:6]

In another verse, referring to one companion, we have: “Is someone who is a believer like him who is a transgressor? They are not alike.” [32:18]

This individual, according to definite historical evidence, was Walīd b. ʿUqba, one of the companions of the Prophet, who despite having the double merit of being a companion and of having made the Hijrah with the earliest Muslims, was unable to preserve his good name, and through having lied about the tribe of Banī Mustaliq, earned the title of fāsiqfrom Allāh (SWT).

Taking due note of this verse and other similar ones and with regard also to those aḥādīthin which certain companions are severely criticized and likewise, taking into account the historical evidence pertaining to certain companions, one cannot definitively regard all of the Prophet’s companions – whose number exceeds 100,000 as being equally just and pious.

What is at issue here is whether we can justifiably regard all of the companions as equally just; it is not a question of insulting them. Unfortunately, some people do not distinguish between the two issues, and accuse those who oppose the notion of equal justice in all the companions of falling into the error of insulting and criticizing the companions.

To conclude this discussion, we should like to stress that the Shīʿahs of the Imāmī school do not believe that the respect we have for those who have had the privilege of companionship with the Prophet should prevent us from objectively evaluating their actions. We hold that association with the Prophet cannot on its own give rise to immunity from sin for the rest of one’s life. The basis for this evaluation by the Shīʿahs is derived from Qurʾānic verses, sound aḥādīth, corroborated historical sources and from basic common sense.

It is very unfortunate that it in the modern day, religion is presented as being incompatible with science. This has taken place due to two main reasons. Firstly, due to the persecution of scientists prior to the Renaissance at the hands of the Church for proposing scientific theories that was understood as contradicting the teachings of the Bible. Secondly, due to the widely circulating propaganda against religion by ardent atheists.

The truth is that there is absolutely no incompatibility between religion and science. Most of the greatest scientists in history were devoted believers in God and the same holds true today. Science is in fact a subset of religion and a tool through which human beings can learn about the creation of Allāh (SWT). Unlike other scriptures, not a single example of a scientific error can be found in the Qurʾān. Rather, this 1400 years old scripture contains countless scientific facts which have astounded scientists, as many of these were discovered much later and continue to be discovered to this very day. Science thrived during the ʿAbbāsid era of Islamic history and Islamic teachings to explore and discover the creations of Allāh (SWT) was the main motivating factor for Muslim scientists in their endeavours. It was also due to the eventual acquaintance of the West with works of Muslim scientists that eventually allowed the Western world to come out of the Dark Ages.

Please refer to Lesson 4 of the Class 7 Madressa manual.

Please refer to Lesson 4 of the Class 7 Madressa manual.

Please refer to Lesson 1 of the Class 9 Madressa manual.