Equality or identicalness:
The basis point which is used in these arguments is that the necessary result of
men and women’s sharing in human dignity and honor is that their rights should
be the same and the identical. Now the thing on which philosophically speaking
we should put our finger is to determine exactly what is the necessary result of
man and woman’s sharing in human dignity. Is the necessary conclusion that each
of them should have rights equivalent to the other so that there should be no
privilege or preference in favor of either of them or is it necessary that the
rights of man and woman besides having equivalence and parity should also be
exactly the same and that there should be no division what so ever of work and
duty. No doubt the sharing of man and woman in human dignity and their equality
as human beings demands their having equal human rights but how can there be
identicalness of rights?
If we can begin to put aside the imitation and blind following of western
philosophy and allow ourselves to think and ponder over the philosophical ideas
and opinions which have come to us from them we must see firstly whether
identicalness of rights is or is not necessary for equality of rights. Equality
is different from identicalness.
Equality means parity and equitableness and identicalness means that they are
exactly the same.
It is possible that a father distributes his wealth equally and equitably among
his sons but he may not distribute it identically. For example it is possible
that a father has different kinds of wealth: he may own a commercial firm some
agricultural land and also some real estate but due to his having examined his
sons and found different talents among them for example he may have found that
one of them had a gift for commercial affairs and that the second had ability in
agriculture and the third had the capability to manage real estate. When he
comes to distribute his wealth amongst his sons in his life-time bearing in mind
that he must give equally to his sons in terms of the value of the property and
that there should be neither preference nor discrimination he bequeaths his
wealth according to the talents which he has found in them.
Quantity is different from quality. Equality is different from being exactly the
same. What is certain is that Islam has not considered there to be identicalness
or exact similarity of rights between men and women but it has never believed in
preference and discrimination in favor of men as opposed to women. Islam has
also observed the principle of equality between men and women. Islam is not
against the equality of men and women but it does not agree with the
identicalness of their rights.
The word “equality” has earned a kind of sanctity because it embraces the
meaning of equivalence and absence of discrimination. This word is attractive
and draws respect from listeners specially when this word is joined to the word
“Equality of rights” — how beautiful and sacred is this combination of words!
Can there be anyone with a conscience and an innate moral sense who does not
reverse these two words?
But why is it that we who were once the standard bearers of knowledge philosophy
and logic have come to such a position that others want to impose their opinions
on us concerning the identicalness of the rights of men and women in the sacred
name of equality of rights.
It is exactly like someone who wants to sell boiled beet roots and calls them
What is certain is that Islam has not granted the same rights to men and women
in everything in the same way as it has not imposed the same duties and
punishment on both of them on all occasions. However is the sum total of all the
rights that have been established for women less in value than the rights that
have been granted to men? Certainly not as we shall prove.
Here a second question arises. Why has Islam granted dissimilar rights to men
and women in certain instances? Why did it not allow the same rights for both of
them? Would it not have been better for the rights of men and women to have been
both equal and identical or is it preferable that the rights should be only
equal but not the same? To study this point thoroughly it is necessary that we
should discuss it in three parts:
1. The view of Islam concerning the human status of woman from the point of view
2. What is the reason for the differences which exist in the creation of man and
woman? Are these differences the cause of there being dissimilarities in their
natural rights or not?
3. The basic philosophy behind the differences that exist in Islamic law for men
and women which in certain respects place them in different positions. Are these
philosophical reasons still justifiable and do they still hold good or not?
* A book named:
The Rights of Women in Islam. By: Ayatullah Morteza Motahari