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In the well known verse of the Qur'an it is declared:

Men are qawwam (in charge) of women, because  of fadl that Allah has given  one  over  the other (Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other,) and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great (Nisa 38)

Some of the commentators of the Qur’an and Arabic lexicographers (ulama-al-Lughah) --- are of view that men are Qawwâm on women due to their superior intellectual power. For instance, the author of Majma’ul Bayân writes: “Men are entrusted with administration and supervision of the affair of women, due to the following two reasons: 1-God’s special favour on men which has made them superior to women from different viewpoint just as their superiority in intellectual power, administrative skill, physical power, prophethood, Imâmat, performing rituals, Jihâd, martyrdom (Shahâda), and higher share in inheritance etc. 2- Man’s self-earned superiority. The secret of man’s superiority is due to the financial support to his family (nafaqah, Mehr).

Sheikh Tûsi in his commentary Tibyân, and many other mufassirs (commentators of the Qur’an) have said about the context of the revelation (Shâne-Nuzûl) that: A man thrashed his wife. The wife complained to the Prophet. At this occasion the above-mentioned verse was revealed which declared that men have authority over women. They have authority to punish them because they have to administer the family and are intellectually superior. In the book Durr-al-Manthûr it is narrated: that a women complained to the Prophet that her husband has thrashed her. The Prophet pronounced the judgement that she should take qisâs (revenge) but the âyah was revealed so the woman had to go without qisâs. In some source this sentence of the Prophet stands added. “I wanted to do one thing but God’s will was different”.

Another commentator Abul-Futûh Râzi while explaining the verse in his well-known Tafsir - Rûh-al-Jinân says: “Different views have been expressed about the superiority of men on women whether what is meant is intellectual superiority or superiority in faith and religion, as women are weaker in intellectual power and also in performance of religion duties; or what is meant is their inferiority as a witness in judicial cases, lesser authority in property or exception from Jihâd; or it refers to man’s superior rights in having four wives or having the right to divorce.

Allâma Tabâtabaî; says in Tafsîr-Al-Mizân: “Man’s superiority is in intellectual power. The existence of women is dominated by emotions, they are by nature delicate and sentimental. As this is the general trait, the authority of men over women is not only that of their husbands, but this is a general principle. It does not simply mean that husbands have authority over wives’ but that in general men have authority over women. It includes the governance and judiciary which is entrusted to men because these jobs depend on intellectual capacity , that men possess more than women.


Now, we will analyze the verse to study it in depth to find out whether it implies all those things that the commentators have inferred or it has some other connotation: Meaning of Qawwâm

In the Lexicon Aqrab-al-Mawârid it is said qawama and qâma mean to get up, to stand up erects and to rise. (as against to sit). Qâma Lahû means to rise in honor; qâma bi means ‘to be incharge’, idiomatically when it is said qâm-al-amr it means ‘the affair has become right’, Qâm-ar-rajulu-al-mar’ata alayhâ means ‘the man has accepted to pay the expenditure of the woman’. Qawwâm means manager, caretaker, keepers and custodian. The governers and guardians are also called qawwâmoon. Another authority of Arabic language, author of Sibâh-ul-Lughah says. Qawwâm means caretaker and keeper. Thus, it is said a person is qawwâm of his family, ‘he means he manages its affairs’. In the dua it is said Praise to you anta-Qayyûm-us-samâwâti-wal-ard ‘You are the Manager of heaven and the earth.

Lisân-al-‘Arab, the great Lexicographer of Arabic language, states: Sometimes the word qayâm implies ‘to guard and protect and to look after’ as it is said in the Qur’an -mâ-dumtu-alayhi-Qâima it means ‘so long as you guard and look after it’.Lisân-al-‘Arab adds:”Qayyim also mean chief. And also qawwâm is a person who is entrusted with the responsibility of expenditure and alimony as in this verse it appears. The Qur’an says ‘expenditure (nafaqah) of women is entrusted to men’.

Tâj-al ‘Arûs is another authentic classic lexicon of the Arabic language. It says “Qayyim is the elder and the leader. In the Arabic usage a guardian is also called qayyim.”

We should note that the Qur’an has not used the word qawwâm in the later Fiqhî (legal) terminology where qayyim means the guardian (of the child or mentally infirm and insane persons) who has the right to manage their affairs and property. It is evident man do not have this kind of legal right to manage affairs of women because Islam has given them full rights to manage their property and economic, social and religious affairs. Though, Some mufassirîn (commentators) have interpreted “qawwâm” in the meaning of qayyim but it is clear from many other verses that women have equal religious rights and right over their property. Man is incharge of the family and administrator of the family affairs but not a guardian (Qayyim) in the fiqhî and legal sense. Thus, in view of the Arabic usage and literal meaning of the key word ‘qawwâm’ (used in this verse), we reach to the conclusion that the phrase men are ‘qawwâm’ over women means they are incharge of the family and entrusted with the responsibility of managing its affairs and finances.


A study of the context of the revelation of this verse shows that it refers to man’s position as in-charge of family and its bread earner. We would like to mention two points in this context: 1-There is a difference in the two narrations about the context of the revelation. According to the first the woman demanded qisâs (punishment and right to revenge) from her husband who had thrashed her. According to the second tradition, it was the Prophet who pronounced the Judgement to punish the husband. 2-Some traditions have added that the Prophet said: “I wanted one thing (revenge against the husband) but God willed another”. Here the following points should be taken note of. Firstly, if the tradition means a husband who thrashed or hurt his wife, has no punishment or qisâs (revenge) this is not the case in the Islamic law. Only in case of open infidelity and illicit relations, husbands can punish their wives (in no other case it is allowed). Second, it is improbable that the prophet would say “I wanted one thing and God wanted another. The Prophet was in such a stage of surrender to the Will of Allah that it is impossible he would say something like this. If the Prophet had pronounced one judgement and the Qur’an negated it, this is not in harmony with the principle of the infallibility of the prophet.


Thus, what we can infer from this verse is not superiority of men over women but a social arrangement for the smooth functioning of family where man is made in-charge of the management of the family. The responsibility to earn bread and do financial management of the family is thrown on his shoulder. He is the manager of the family. This cannot be interpreted as inherent superiority of men over women. There is a difference between making one manager and incharge of family and pronouncing that one is superior to the other. The Qur'anic verse gives direction about the mode of organization and management of family and not about superiority of man over woman. This verse gives the responsibility of earning and managing the affairs of the family to men, because women should be spared for upbringing of the future generations. The implication of man being entrusted to manage the family and being in-charge of its affairs is not that he should crush the personality of woman inside the family, or outside in the society. The verse only stipulates the duties and responsibility of man and woman within the family. The sentence “Men are “qawwâm” over the women” is not only informative but stipulative. It means men should take the responsibility of earning and managing the family and men and women should co-operate with each other for the smooth and congenial functioning of the family. The environment outside the house is an environment of work; inside the house is a place of comfort. It is in smooth functioning of the family where there are no contradictions and conflicts that peace of mind of all the members could be guaranteed. The verse implies that men have to work to fulfill the responsibility of managing the family and women should accept them as incharge of the family.  Any social unit cannot work without some kind of organization and leadership, otherwise there will be chaos and conflict. If men and women both follow this Qur’anic dictate, there will be harmony and love in the family. There will be no tension, breaking of families and divorce.

The following points should be noted: Firstly this verse does not say ‘men are in charge of the women’ but it says ‘husbands are in charge of the wives’. Secondly, this guardianship is not a proof of man’s superiority over women, but indicates only responsibility, which is thrown on the shoulder of husband. In respect of his wife (and not outside this circle). It is incumbent upon a woman to obey man as the husband, just as it is sometimes incumbent upon men to obey and respect women as mothers. In this case woman has authority over man and it is duty f sons to follow the mother otherwise mother can ‘’âq’ him (i.e. declare that he has no connection with her) An Analysis of the Last part of the Verse:

-A survey of the Meaning of the Last Sentence “bima-fad-dal-Allâh”

The last part of the verse also proves that what is meant is not absolute superiority of men over women but that man has authority only in the family. The verse is dealing only with the organization of the family. The last sentence of the verse explicitly refers to the family life and relation between husband and wife; so this verse cannot be held to prove general superiority of man over women,

As  some commentators have interpreted this phrase ‘due to what fadl (superiority) God has given to men’, as indicating man’s Intellectual superiority over women, so it is imperative to discuss meaning of the phrase. Fadl may mean superiority, excellence, or excelling, The phrase ‘due to “fadl” that We have given to one upon another’ describes the reason why husband are given authority over wives. The verse indicates that husband is given authority over wife due to his physical and psychological characteristics. Existence of man and women is necessary for sustenance of human kind. Both sexes are equally important for sustaining human existence. The scheme of creation depends, on the principle of Justice and equity, The Qur’an declares ‘Your Lord does not inflict injustice on any person’ (Kahf:49). If there are differences and distinction, they aim at smooth management and organization. The Qur’an says: “Are they the ones who assign your Lord's mercy? We have assigned their shares in this life, raising some of them above others in ranks, in order to let them serve one another. The mercy from your Lord is far better than any material they may hoard”. (Zukhruf:32) God created on things with different potentialities. If all were created alike the scheme of existence could not have sustained, because the functions call for different potentialities and skills. So we cannot negate differences. However this difference is for the sake of division of work and compability. It is not the ground for superiority. If anybody considers differences in potentialities and the division of work as ground for superiority, he should revise his view. This view that one who is manager of the family, is superior to others, is not Islamic view point. Islam consider the spiritual and moral perfection as the secret of superiority


Following are some of the usage of the word ‘fadl’ in the Qur’an “

And your Lord best knows those who are in the heavens and the earth; and certainly We have made some of the prophets to excel others, and to Dâwûd We gave a scripture. (Bani Isrâ`îl: 55)

“And Allah has made some of you excel others in the means of subsistence, so those who are made to excel do not give away their sustenance to those whom their right hands possess so that they should be equal therein; is it then the favor of Allah which they deny?( Nahl: 71)

“The holders back from among the believers, not having any injury, and those who strive hard in Allah's way with their property and their persons are not equal; Allah has made the strivers with their property and their persons to excel the holders back a (high) degree, and to each Allah has promised good; and Allah shall grant to the strivers above the holders back a mighty reward” (Nisâ: 95)

It is obvious that ‘fadl’ does not imply inherent or natural superiority. It does not mean that some prophets are, as a matter of creation, superior to others. Or, there is something in their existence, which others lack. Or, that the mujâhids, those who struggle in the way of God are inherently superior to those who do not perform Jihâd. Fadl indicate some characteristics, which make one better equipped to perform some jobs. Sometimes, fadl indicate earning and economic potential.

You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor. GOD will enrich them from His grace. GOD is Bounteous, Knower.Noor: 32

“If they are in poverty God will enrich them through his fadl. Here fadl is in the meaning of earning. “And surely We have honored the children of Adam, and We carry them in the land and the sea, and We have given them of the good things, and We have made them to excel by an appropriate excellence over most of those whom We have created.”(Bani Isrâ`îl: 70) “The two seas are not the same; one is fresh and delicious, while the other is salty and undrinkable. From each of them you eat tender meat, and extract jewelry to wear. And you see the ships sailing through them, seeking His provisions, that you may be appreciative.” (Fâtir:12)

“Your Lord knows that you meditate during two-thirds of the night, or half of it, or one-third of it, and so do some of those who believed with you. GOD has designed the night and the day, and He knows that you cannot always do this. He has pardoned you. Instead, you shall read what you can of the Quran. He knows that some of you may be ill, others may be traveling in pursuit of GOD's provisions, and others may be striving in the cause of GOD. You shall read what you can of it, and observe the contact prayers (Salat), give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and lend GOD a loan of righteousness. Whatever good you send ahead on behalf of your souls, you will find it at GOD far better and generously rewarded. And implore GOD for forgiveness. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful”. (Muzammil: 20)

“And certainly We gave to Dawood excellence from Us: O mountains! sing praises with him, and the birds; and We made the iron pliant to him.” (Saba:10)


Sometime fadl implies superiority of one kind of species over the other. Just as superiority of animal over vegetation. Sometimes fadl indicates superiority of one kind (nau’) like the superiority of man over other animals. Sometimes superiority is in certain characteristics for especial jobs. The superiority of man over women is in the matter of managing the family and responsibility of earning. The verses in respect of man and women refer to this kind of fadl. According to this verse the married man is incharge of his family but an unmarried man has no authority over women


The verse ar-rijâlu Qawwâmûn ‘alan-Nisâ’ determines the formale of a Muslim family Husband is in charge. His authority has to be accepted by the whole family. MANAGEMENT OF THE FAMILY BY THE HUSBAND AND ITS REASONS The above mentioned verse only determines the duties and responsibilities of a wife and her husband inside the family. So that the manager should know his responsibilities and the wife must accept this role. A husband is incharge of his family. His authority has to be accepted by the entire family. This is a test of husbands more than that of the wives. Someone may assume that this dominant role of the husband inside the family shows that man is intellectually superior to women. The main reason for this arrangement is that in all spheres of social life, leadership is needed for a smooth functioning. For the smooth functioning of this social unit, it is necessary that some one should be entrusted with the leadership role, may be the wife or her husband.

There are four possible ways to organize the family: (a) Both the husband and wife may be on in-charge of the family. This is not possible. (b) Woman may be entrusted with the management of the family. In view of the fact that the manager has to work hard for earning and taking over hard works, this is not in accordance with the delicate nature of women. A woman has to take up the function of the sustenance of human race and go through difficult stages of pregnancy, breast-feeding and up bringing of new generations. It is not justified to place hard responsibilities on her shoulder, which may be detrimental for children as well. (c) A dictatorial patriarchal system may be established. (d) A harmonious co-operative system may govern the family where full respect is paid to the views of woman but man having over all command in the family matters.

Why man has been made the chief of this social unit? It is simply due to the physical characteristics not any superior social or existential status. Man can face the hardship, of nature and social life more. He has to work hard for earning the bread. On the other hand women has natural constraints duringthe period of pregnancy and up bringing of children. But the function of women is no less important. Islam places high value on the upbringing of new generations and sustenance of human species. In the modern period man has been devalued in comparison with machine; thus, this function has been devalued. This is the reason why doubts arise that religion has assigned lesser role to women. . We will see in later discussions that woman and man have differences in physical and psychological powers and this is due to different functions that Nature has assigned to them.. Woman has been endowed with sentimental and emotional aspects, and man has been made in a mode to face hardships of life.

CHAPTER 2: Men Have a Degree Over Women

CHAPTER 2: Men Have a Degree Over Women 



Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (Surah Baqarah - Âyah 228)

Some Muslims scholars feel that this âyah is a concrete proof that men are superior to woman. Allah has already said that men and woman have equal status and rights. The last part of the âyah implies that men are superior intellectually. However, we must take note of the following points: Firstly, this verse is explaining the legal position within the family and has nothing to do with the natural shortcoming of women as such. Secondly, we see that some of the Commentators refer to the superiority of man over women while dealing with this verse. For example, they refer to the bigger share of man in inheritance, as witness two women are equal to one man, or that man is entitled to polygamy and try to conclude that man is superior to women in the matter of intellect and faith. However, if we ponder over the beginning and end of this ayah, it is quite clear it is referring to the respective role of man and women within the family.

The beginning of the verse indicates it is dealing with the matter of divorce (Talâq-ar-raj’î)

 “Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation.”

It is quite clear the verse is explaining legal rights of man and women in the matter of divorce and has nothing to do with the so-called intellectual or natural superiority of man over women. The verse explains that women and man both can take the initiative for reconciliation, but man has some advantage in this matter: And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise”

One of the characteristics of the Islamic system is that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; one who has to shoulder more responsibility also enjoy more rights. This is why man has an advantage over women within the family organization. Likewise if parents are given some rights, they have also to shoulder the responsibility. The verse states that the women have rights equal to their responsibilities in the family. The justice consists in this equality of rights and responsibility. The same is true for men also. Their rights should be proportionate to their responsibilities. If they have to shoulder more responsibilities, they will have slightly more authority within the family system. However, this legal position within the family unit, which is proposed for better organization of the family, does not prove any intellectual or natural superiority of man over woman. Men have no superiority over women. Both are equal as human beings. The word darajah connotes a social or legal position, not natural position.

The verse says "for men is a darajah higher"meaning but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. Râghib Isfihânî has said that darajah indicates not inherent but social grade. This is also possible that the verse is only referring to the point that man is entitled to take initiative for reconciliation after separation, a bit more than women and the phrase but men have a degree (of advantage) over them” refers to this point. Thus, this verse does not prove man’s natural superiority over women but only a slightly higher responsibility and right to manage the family or to take initiative in matter of divorce.

If the contract of marriage is a irrevocable contract (‘Aqd-e-lâzim), neither man nor woman can terminate it. Talâq results in partial end of the marriage responsibilities, because some of the responsibilities, just as mehr,maintenace during ‘iddah period remains; it is not complete revocation. Complete annulment of the marriage contract is possible only when man or woman may have one of the grave faults or ‘aib that are explained in legal treatise. In this case both man and woman have equal right to revoke the marriage contract. This proves that man’s right to divorce does not prove his superiority over women. ( However, woman can also assume the right to divorce , if it is stipulated at the time of marriage)

THIRD AYAH to Physical Ornaments and weak Intellect



Is then one brought up among trinkets, and unable to give a clear account in a dispute (to be associated with Allah.? (Zukhruf-16-)

Some commentators feel that this ayah highlights two features in woman (1) Their interest to physical and ornamental decoration and (2) weak intellect - It means that they are weak in arguments.

However, again two points should be taken into consideration: Firstly, This verse aims at refuting the belief of those pagans who said the angels are daughters of God. In this verse, God says: when these people get the news of birth of a daughter, they are thoroughly disappointed and believe that daughters are good only for ornaments and weak in argumentation, then how they ascribe daughters to God. Why they ascribe to God that they do not like for themselves.

Secondly, these two characteristics, which are described for woman, are in fact narration of the point of view of pagans and for refuting their argument. It does not prove that one who is refuting approves this point. Abraham refuted the belief of the pagans in this manner. Here also the same style is employed. The context, beginning and the end of the ayah clearly indicates the sentence has occurred as a rhetorical device to refute wrong belief of the Pagans


When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! And they make the angels -- them who are the servants of the Beneficent God -- female (divinities). What! did they witness their creation? Their evidence shall be written down and they shall be questioned. But why have not bracelets of gold been put upon him, or why have there not come with him angels as companions? [And if We please, We could make among you angels to be successors in the land.”

It is quite clear that this verse has nothing to do with the superiority of men over women. Thirdly, in the ethical and moral perfections, there is no difference between man and woman.. These characteristics belong to the spirit, which is neither male nor female. Fourthly, if two above-mentioned features of being given to ornamentation and being weak in argumentation -are generalized characteristics of women, these are social characteristics and not inherent natural traits. Thus, they cannot prove inferiority of women folk. The verse does not state any inherent characteristic of woman, which cannot be changed by the training. History proves there were a number of outstanding women not given to these traits.. First we should give proper opportunities and training to women only then can pass any Judgement about their traits and capacities. Unfortunately a few women who have these traits, give a bad name to women I general. They only think about consumption and ornaments, instead of devoting themselves to intellectual development reasoning and arguments. But with education things are changing.






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