Gender roles: the debate between men and women
As you browse the internet and social media in particular, you may come across discussions between men and women with different points of view. Some women express concern about how men treat them. Others, based on these stories, hold the view that men can exhibit toxic behavior and advocate for change. They may mention male dominance and patriarchy as factors that can negatively affect the growth and well-being of women. Some feminists believe that the harmful behavior of some men can contribute to many social problems.
The need for gender balance
This topic brings to mind the concept of a pendulum in physics, which swings from one extreme to the other before finally reaching a state of equilibrium. Similarly, there are some people who have expressed the belief that women are of little importance in the world and that only men are capable of running it. However, this perspective overlooks the important contributions of women and the importance of gender diversity in all aspects of life. If men were really the only ones necessary for the functioning of society, then Adam (peace be upon him) would have been the only human created, or natural selection would have eliminated the female species entirely.
It is important to recognize that both men and women have unique strengths and should be valued equally. While fighting for gender equality is important, it is not about women trying to imitate men or compete with them for the same life choices. Instead, it is about creating a society where both genders have equal opportunities to pursue their interests and goals.
Finding a balance between extremes
For example, while it’s important to encourage girls to explore STEM fields, it’s not helpful to promote it as a male-only field and that girls should only enter to prove they can. It is important to provide a level playing field and allow people to choose their own roads based on their own interests and strengths, rather than trying to reach a benchmark set by men. When feminists strive to compete with men, for the sole purpose of imitating their life choices, they may overlook their unique strengths, which can lead to an unfulfilling life. It is important to recognize that both genders have different strengths that complement each other.
Gender extremism: how extreme views are harming society
Instead of adopting the attitude of “anything men can do, women can do too”, it is essential to value and celebrate diversity. For example, in the United States, there is a push to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields, which have traditionally been dominated by men. While it’s admirable that women pursue their passions, it becomes problematic if the bar is set at the level of male performance, which can lead to undue pressure to conform to a certain standard.
It is evident that there is a climate of reciprocal retaliation, with both genders, particularly those on the extremes, not willing to give in to the other side, both in their words and in their actions. The confrontational nature exhibited by both parties is not only detrimental to healthy discourse but also hinders the overall functioning of society. Internal conflict is eroding the social fabric and creating divisions that will take a lot of time and effort to heal.
Islam’s perspective on gender relations: allies in faith and family
When examining gender relations from an Islamic perspective, one verse in particular stands out that defines the ideal mutual relationship that should exist between men and women.
Believing men and believing women are allies with each other. They command what is right and they forbid what is wrong and they establish the prayer and they give the zakah and they obey Allah and the Messenger of him. Those – Allah will have mercy on them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Power and Wisdom. (Quran 9:71)
Through the concept of “allies”, Islam establishes a framework for collaboration. The term used in Arabic for “allies” also encompasses the meanings of “helpers, supporters, friends and protectors.” If these essential elements of alliance break down within a partnership, the first casualty is often the family unit. When families become dysfunctional and break up, children are more susceptible to developing behavior problems and making unhealthy life choices. Therefore, preserving the integrity of the family unit is crucial to fostering the well-being and positive development of children.
Spiritual equality, social differences
To ensure the proper functioning of society, Islam provides guidelines to safeguard the rights of all individuals. Gender roles are defined and responsibilities assigned based on the unique physical, emotional, and physical capabilities of each gender. Scientific evidence suggests that the intelligence quotient (IQ) of both genders is the same. It is likely that because of this equality, Islam does not restrict women to a narrow domain, contrary to common perception. Women are encouraged to pursue education, careers, and even entrepreneurship. However, your primary responsibility remains your home and family. Islam also advises women not to harbor envy of the privileges or blessings bestowed on the opposite gender. It is common for some people to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side. When one is preoccupied with what others possess, it is easy for them to overlook the blessings they themselves have received, leading to a life consumed with bitterness and resentment for what they lack.
Islam’s View on Gender: Complementary Roles, Unique Strengths
Gender roles in Islam are defined based on their physical and emotional capabilities and are complementary in nature. Usually, men are assigned the role of breadwinner in the family, as they are more suitable for hard and heavy tasks. However, this does not mean that women are not allowed to earn money and keep it for themselves, as long as it does not interfere with their domestic responsibilities. Housework, on the other hand, is usually assigned to women, as they are more compassionate and caring by nature. The bottom line is that each gender adds strength to the other with its unique capabilities, and neither can do without the other. It is important to recognize that these gender differences are by design and each gender has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
The importance of collaboration in Islam: a way to achieve a prosperous society
The challenge of achieving a harmonious and prosperous society is increasingly complex in an egocentric and individualistic culture. In this context, people tend to prioritize their personal interests and ideas, which makes it difficult to develop a collective and collaborative spirit. The solution, therefore, lies in moving from an “I” mentality to a “we” mentality, which builds trust and improves teamwork. Islam recognizes the importance of collaboration in creating a well-functioning society, where a competitive spirit is encouraged but must be accompanied by mutual respect and realistic expectations between genders. Without that framework, a combative attitude can threaten the functioning of society.