Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Medicine & Director, Training Center, International Islamic University PO Box 70 Jln Sultan PJ 46700 Telephone 60 3 755 3433 fax 60 3 757 7970 Seminar on ‘Building Leaders of the Community,’ Madrasah Wak Tanjomg al Islamiah, Singapore  31 May-1 June 1996


This paper presents the basic Islamic principles on which the definition of the woman’s public leadership roles is based. It emphasizes the differences between men and women are for purposes of creating a harmonious society with division of responsibility to ensure complementality. Men and women have many similar religious, ethical, civil, and legal duties & responsibilities. The exceptions are few and are explained by their different natures and responsibilities. The woman’s participation in public leadership comes secondary to her role as a mother.




Islam teaches equal worth / status of the 2 genders.


Men and women are from the same creation.


Islam does not blame the woman for the original sin.


Religious education and religious obligations are the same for men and women.


Islam assures moral and legal equality of the 2 genders.


Islam fosters a dual and not unisex society. There should be no competition between the sexes. They should work together and have a just division of labor. Women are allies of men.


The sexes are not identical or equivalent. There are biological and psychological differences between them.


Women get equal reward for equal work. The woman however should not forced to do exactly what a man does. She can get equal reward for alternative work..


Islam assures economic independence of women and their economic freedom if that will not interfere with their family duties.


Women and men equally challenged in some activities. There are areas in which the challenge is to men just there are other areas in which the challenge is for women.


Both men and women are required to be modest but in different ways


Islam establishes interdependency and not individualism. Men and women need one another.


A weak woman means a weak future generation. A weak mother can not bring up children strong enough to stand up to imperialism and exploitation of their countries


The woman an individual and not an appendage of man. Islam ushered in a major social revolution by giving a woman her status as a person and not a mere appendage to the man. The Qur'an addresses women directly not through the agency of men. A woman must as an individual accept the Islamic creed to be a Muslim. Ibadat by a woman is her personal responsibility. She has a direct devotion to God without having any man intercede on her behalf. The woman is accountable for her work on earth and in the hereafter as an individual




Stereotyping makes it difficult to discuss gender issues logically


Gender identity is established very early in life. This is reinforced by gender socialization


Women are different from men biologically, psychologically, and emotionally. These differences are part of Allah's plan to create a balanced society.


Differences do not confer consistent advantage or superiority to one gender to the disadvantage of the other.


Women have certain biological and psychological advantages over men and vice versa.


It is un-Islamic to look at these differences as justification for one gender dominating the other. They should instead be seen as a tool to reinforce complementation between the two.


The following are well established gender differences: (a) Men are superior to women in visual-spatial abilities, quantitative ability, and aggression (b) Women are superior in verbal ability (c) Communication styles of men and women differ. The other apparent differences are not so well established and are influenced by circumstances.




Women and men are equal in their religious, ethical, civil rights, duties and responsibilities (16:97). Exceptions are very few and arise because of different responsibilities (4:34) or differences in basic nature.


The Qur’an assures religious equality (3:175, 9:71-72, 16:97), ethical equality (3:195, 9:71-72, 16:97), and civil equality (60:12, 5:38, 24:2, 4:32).


Different does not automatically mean unequal.. One of the greatest fallacies advocated by the feminist movement (new and old) was that the woman will have to behave like a man, work like him in order to achieve equality.


What is needed is equity and not similarity. The apparent differences are mutually compensated for. For example the woman has the burden of child-bearing while the man has the financial burden.


Each gender should accept its identity and not try to compete with or emulate the other (4:32)


The rules of Sharia and acts of worship in Islam apply equally to men and women. There are only a few differences in the details due to different natures of men and women and role prioritization.


Women are excused from duties such as jihad and family maintenance because of their greater domestic duties but they can undertake them if men fail to fulfill their duty of if men's performance is not adequate and women have to complement.


Rules of evidence apply differently to women because they are not used to commercial transactions. Women are similar to men in the testimony of the faith and Zakat.


Women are excused from congregational prayer and salat al juma because of their greater domestic responsibilities. They are excused from fasting when they are physiologically weakened by pregnancy or menstruation.


Women can participate fully in all political endeavors with the sole exception of being head of state. During the time of the prophet women participated openly in all public activities. They attended Isha prayers in the prophet's mosque. They attended both mixed public lectures as well special lectures for them. They could express their views on public affairs. In the selection and election of Othman, women were among those consulted. There were women engaged in business


Islamic law gives the women full competence to own and dispose of property. Working outside the home is associated with the following problems. The need for modesty and avoiding mixing with men limits employment choices. neglect of the children could result into many social problems later. There are however conditions of necessity when the woman must work outside her house. In such a case she must have the permission of her wali and must follow the Islamic etiquettes when in public places.


Islamic law forbids forced marriage of women. Sharia allows a woman to propose marriage. She can accept or reject any suitor. A woman can legally obtain a divorce from an unwilling husband. Men have special leadership roles in a conjugal relationship. It must however be remembered that the relationship started with free consent of the woman.


The Qur'an actually places very few restrictions on women. Most verse are restrictions on men to prevent their transgression against the rights and modesty of women. Women are not allowed to travel alone for fear of violence and violation of her rights.

Jobs that interfere with the maternal role are not allowed


The law allows a woman to go out of her house to fulfill her needs.She can engage in baiyat, jihad, education/scholarship, politics, mosque, business, and public gatherings. Going out of the home should not result in a complete neglect of the home which can lead to instability of the marital relationship. Going out is restricted in societies that do not offer adequate protection for a woman outside the home. Some societies have sexual immorality that is encouraged when women walk out.


Mixed gatherings of men and women are discouraged. The requirement of ghadh al basr can not be fulfilled in situations of continuous interaction. Thus the criterion for deciding whether women should attend mixed gatherings is that of temptation. If we are sure it will not occur, there is no reason for forbidding their attendance.


Excessive male jealousy sometimes leads to transgression against women's rights. Moderate jealousy is needed to preserve the family and the social order. Too much is negative and is destructive


In many societies the woman's status is defined in terms of her economic functions. Sharia gives the woman full property rights before and after marriage. On marriage the woman is entitled to financial support by the husband even if she is rich. The woman has her due share of inheritance. She can spend or use it as she wishes. There is no evidence that women participation in the work-force has increased economic productivity. With present technology women can concentrate on education of children without any damage to the economy.


Women and education... Education is a right that the husband and society can not deny a woman. Ignorant mothers means ignorant youths and later ignorant citizens. The starting point for improving women status is education.. Co-education has many disadvantages. Parallel education institutions for women are the solution.






And in no wise covet those things in which Allah hath bestowed his gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn: but ask Allah of His bounty: for Allah hath full knowledge of all things.

Qur'an 4:32


If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter heaven and not the least injustice will be done to them.




It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love).  When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed).  When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): "if Thou givest us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.". Qur'an 7:189



And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands their fathers their husbands' fathers their sons their husbands' sons their brothers or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons or their women or the slaves whom their right hands possess or male servants free of physical needs or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.  And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah that ye may attain Bliss. Qur'an 24:31



Allah has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to Allah: and Allah (always) hears the arguments between both sides among you: for Allah hears and sees (all things). Qur'an 58:1



The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular charity, and obey Allah and his messenger, on them will Allah pour his mercy; for Allah is exalted in power, wise. Qur'an 9:71



And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; and the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. Qur’an 24:6-9



"Ibn Abbas reported: I bear testimony to the Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) offering prayer before Khutba. He ( after saying prayer ) delivered the Kutba, and he found that the women could not hear it, so he came to them and exorted them and preached them and commanded them to give alms, and Billal had stretched his cloth and the women were throwing rings, earrings and other things. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Ayyub with the same chain of transmitters"

Muslim 2:417, Chapter 313, Hadith #1924



"Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle cursed those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners) of women and those women who are in the similitude (assume the manners) of men.". Bukhari 7:513, hadith #773



And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh behold she said: "O my Lord ! build for me, in nearness to  a mansion in the garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong. And Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity: and we breathed into (her body) of our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of his one of the soviet ( servants ). Qur'an 66:11-12  



Allah sets forth, for an example to the unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut they were ( respectively ) under two of our righteous servants, but they were false to their ( husbands ) and they profited nothing before Allah on their account, but were told " enter you the fire along with ( other ) that enter!. Qur'an 66:10



O Prophet! when believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah that they will not steal that they will not commit adultery (or fornication) that they will not kill their children that they will not utter slander intentionally forging falsehood and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter  then do thou receive their fealty and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. Qur'an 61:12



"Narrated 'Ubada bin As-Samit: Allah's Apostle said to us while we were in a gathering, "Give me the oath (Pledge of allegiance for: (1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah, (2) Not to steal, (3) Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse, (4) Not to kill your children, (5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people), (6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds. The Prophet added: Whoever amongst you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him." So we gave the Pledge for that. (See Hadith˙No.˙17,˙Vol.˙1). Bukhari 9:243-244, hadith # 320



"it has been narrated on the authority of Anas that, on the Day of Hunain, Umm Sulaim took out a dagger she had in her possession, Abu Talha saw her and said: Messenger of Allah, this is Umm Sulaim. She is holding a dagger. The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) asked ( her): What for are you holding this dagger? She said: I took it up so that I may tear open the belly of a polytheist who comes near me. The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) began to smile ( at these words ). She said: Messenger of Allah, kill all those people other than us whom you has declared to be free ( on the day of the Conquest of Mecca ). ( They embraced Islam because ) they were defeated at your hands ( and as such their Islam is not dependable ). The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) said: Umm Sulaim, God is sufficient ( against the mischief of the polytheists ) and He will be kind to us ( so you need not carry this dagger).". Muslim 3:1001, Chapter 743, Hadith #4453



"Hazrat Ayesha says says that the women of the Ansar are the best women. shyness didn’t prevent them from questioning regarding religion and acquire religious understanding" Hayat 3:250



" Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Some women requested the Prophet to fix a day for them as the men were taking all his time. On that he promised them one day for religious lessons and commandments. Once during such a lesson the Prophet said, "A woman whose three children die will be shielded by them from the Hell fire." On that a woman asked, "If only two die?" He replied, "Even two (will shield her from the Hell-fire).". Bukhari 1: 80-81, hadith # 101



Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Once Allah's Apostle came out while Bilal was accompanying him. He went towards the women thinking that they had not heard him (i.e. his sermon). So he preached them and ordered them to pay alms. (Hearing that) the women started giving alms; some donated their ear-rings, some gave their rings and Bilal was collecting them in the corner of his garment. Bukhari 1:78, hadith # 97



"Qabisah bin Zuaib stated that Aishah was the most learned amongst all the people. The great and respectable Companions used to inquire propositions from her. Abu Salmah stated: I did not see anyone who knew his holiness’s sunnah more and more intelligent in giving opinion should his/her opinions be required nor more knowledgeable about the cause of the revelation of a verse and obligations as much as Aishah knew them" Hayat 3:294



"Narrated Aisha: Sauda (the wife of the Prophet) went out to answer the call of nature after it was made obligatory (for all the Muslims ladies) to observe the veil. She was a fat huge lady, and everybody who knew her before could recognize her. So 'Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her and said, "O Sauda! By Allah, you cannot hide yourself from us, so think of a way by which you should not be recognized on going out. Sauda returned while Allah's Apostle was in my house taking his supper and a bone covered with meat was in his hand. She entered and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I went out to answer the call of nature and 'Umar said to me so-and-so." Then Allah inspired him (the Prophet) and when the state of inspiration was over and the bone was still in his hand as he had not put in down, he said (to Sauda), "You (women) have been allowed to go out for your needs.". Bukhari 6:300-301, hadith # 318



"Narrated Salim's father: The Prophet said, "If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to go to the mosque, he should not forbid her.". Bukhari 7:120, hadith # 165



"Narrated Aishah : The believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with Allah's Apostle, and after finishing the prayer they would return to their home and nobody could recognize them because of darkness.”. Bukhari 1:321, hadith # 552



"Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Allah's Apostle said, "While I was sleeping I saw (in a dream) some people wearing shirts of which some were reaching up to the breasts only while others were even shorter than that. Umar bin Al-Khattab was shown wearing a shirt that he was dragging." The people asked, "How did you interpret it? (What is its interpretation) O Allah's Apostle?" He (the Prophet ) replied, "It is the Religion.". Bukhari 1:10, hadith # 22

© Professor Omar Hasan Kasule May 1996