An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

The Role of Men and Women: The Principle of Function

[In the light of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 34]

The second reason given for the precedence of men is that they spend their earnings to take care of women. Here too, there are some points to ponder. To begin with, it removes the possible doubt that may creep up due to the share of men being twice that of women as described in the ayaat of inheritance. This is done by the present ayah when it declares that all financial responsibilities before her marriage rest with her father and after marriage, these pass on to the husband. With this in view, giving a twofold share to a man is not really too much, for it zooms back to women after all.

Now let us pursue the second hint about an important principle in life. The principle is that woman, in terms of her creation and nature, should not be subjected to go out, work and earn her own livelihood.

Also, the very attributes of her being are hardly conducive to her running around offices and markets, doing jobs and laborious work to earn a livelihood. So, to keep her safe from roughing it out like men, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has placed her total responsibility on men. Before she is married, her father takes care of her, and after her marriage, she becomes the responsibility of her husband. Woman, as opposed to her sweating it out in the work places in the name of income, career or liberation has been made the means of human procreation. Then, the responsibility of being mothers of children and that of managing and holding the house and the family together has also been placed on her shoulders. Man cannot handle the burdens of responsibilities in these areas.

Keeping this in view, it is not possible to deduce that the status of women has been reduced by making them dependent on men in the matter of her expenses. There is no value judgment being made here. This is no more than a functional distribution of duties, except that, the interacting precedence between duties which exists elsewhere exists here too. In short, the two reasons given show that the precedence of men does not lower the status of women, nor does this hold any special gain for them. Whatever gain there is, it reverts back to women after all.

[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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