A perfect explanation of the reality of Islam

 Islam[dropcap]I[/dropcap] slam is an Arabic word which means submission and surrender. Thus as a religion, Islam means complete surrender and submission to God and his laws. In Islamic texts the word Islam is used in three ways:
1) In its general sense, the whole universe is considered to be Muslim because it follows the laws that God has made for it. The sun, moon, earth, and all physical and biological entities follow the unalterable laws of God and do not make even the slightest deviation from this course.
A person who takes up the path of submission to God and follows his laws brings himself into harmony with the whole universe, but even if he denies God, biologically his own body follows the laws made by his lord. That is why unbelief in Islam is called Kufr (concealment), because by his Kufr the unbeliever tries to conceal what is inherent in his nature.

2) In its more specific sense, Islam implies the true revealed religion of God, which entails belief in God, in the prophets and in the hereafter. In this sense, Islam is the religion preached by all the Prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them all:

Indeed the only true religion in the sight of Allah is Islam; those who had received the Books differed only after the knowledge came to them, due to their hearts’ envy;…[1]

3) In its particular sense, Islam means the last and the most perfect religion and Shari’a (law) of God revealed through Prophet Muhammad (S). Islam is a universally attributable name, whoever takes on this attribute is a Muslim, irrespective of race, color, region, or country.
As mentioned, we believe that the true religion of God was the same from Adam to Muhammad peace be upon them, but that the Shari’a or detailed law of conduct has changed according to the requirements of different times and different communities. The process ended with the advent of Prophet Muhammad (S) who brought the final Shari’a and the religion in its most complete form, which was to apply to the whole of humanity for all time to come. All the previous religions and Shari’as stand abrogated, and it is the duty of all mankind to follow this religion.

Din (religion) consists of the following elements: the aqa’id (beliefs) and the shari’a (law). The fandamental beliefs are:
1) Belief in one God (tawhid),
2) Belief in the divine justice,
3) Belief in the institution of prophethood,
4) Belief in the institution of the divine leaders,
5) Belief in the hereafter (ma’ad),

The Shari’a consists of Akhlaq (ethics) and Ahkam (the legal precepts), the Ahkam includes the norm of personal behavior, the norms of social behavior, the precepts of the religious rites, and the precepts concerning worship.[2]

1. إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ الْإِسْلَامُ ۗ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ
chapter.3, verse. 19.
2. A manual of Islamic beliefs and practice, v.1, p.1,

Is the Punishment of Amputation of the Hands, Rough and Violent?

Is the Punishment of Amputation of the Hands, Rough and Violent? Before answering this question it is essential to mention the conditions which govern the punishment of amputation of a thief’s hand.

From the entire collection of Islamic traditions, it can be inferred that there are numerous requirements, which have to be fulfilled, in order that this Islamic punishment is put into execution, and failing which, initiating this punishment is not permissible. Some of these requirements are as follows:

• The item that is stolen should possess a value of at least one-fourth of a dinar.1

• It should have been stolen from a secured place such as a house, a shop, internal pockets etc.

• The theft should not have taken place during famines and droughts, when the people are suffering from hunger and possess no means.

• The thief should be sane and an adult, and should have committed the act out of his own choice and free will.

• This ruling shall not be applicable in the case of a father, who steals from the property of his son, or a partner, who does so from the property of the partnership.

• Stealing fruits from the trees of a garden has also been exempted from this ruling.

• Every instance, in which there exists a likelihood of error on the part of the thief that he may have mistaken other’s property as his own, is exempted this ruling.

• In addition to the above, there are some other conditions, which have been mentioned and explained in books of jurisprudence.

The above should not be mistaken to mean that theft is prohibited and unlawful only when all the above conditions gather together; in Islam, theft in every form, in every measure and in every way is prohibited and unlawful. What is meant by the above conditions is that only under such circumstances can this penalty be put into execution.

The measure in which the hand should be amputated

It is popular amongst our jurists that on the basis of the traditions of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) only the four fingers of the right hand must be amputation and not more – unlike the Sunnite jurists, who have stipulated more than this.

Is this Islamic penalty rough and violent?

Very often the opponents of Islam and even some of the less knowledgeable Muslims have levelled this objection that this Islamic penalty appears to be intensely harsh, and if this ruling were to be implemented in today’s world, there would be numerous hands which would have to be cut. In addition, enforcement of this ruling would entail that a person, in addition to losing an important part of his body, would become infamous and notorious all throughout his life.

In answering this objection, attention ought to be paid to this reality that:

Firstly: Just as we had mentioned in the conditions of this ruling that not every thief shall become encompassed by this law, rather, there shall be only one group of dangerous thieves, who shall be formally subjected to this punishment.

Secondly: In view of the fact that in Islam there are several requirements and conditions that need to be met in order to prove a crime, the occurrence of this punishment further diminishes.

Thirdly: Many of the objections which people, possessing less knowledge, have propounded against the Islamic laws is simply because they have sought to examine its one ruling, independently and without taking into account its other rulings; in other words, they attempt to envisage that ruling in a completely non-Islamic society.

But if we were to take into consideration the fact that Islam is not just one ruling but a collection of rulings, which when implemented in a society results in enforcement of social justice, fight against poverty, correct education and training, awakening, awareness and piety, then it would become manifest that very few people would become eligible for this punishment. However, it should not be mistaken to mean that in today’s societies this ruling should not be enforced; rather, it means that all these aspects and dimensions ought to be taken into consideration at the time of judgement.

In short, an Islamic government is duty-bound to fulfill the basic needs of all the individuals of the country, impart to them the necessary education and also train them with respect to ethics and morals; it is self-evident that in such an environment, offenders shall be few and far in between.

Fourthly: If we observe theft to be rampant today, it is because such rulings are not being enforced; and hence, in environments in which this Islamic ruling is enforced (like Saudi Arabia, in which until very recently this ruling had been in force), extraordinary safety is observed to prevail over them with regards money and property.

Numerous pilgrims to the House of Allah (s.w.t.) have personally witnessed purses and wallets containing money lying on the roads and in the streets with none possessing the courage to touch them until such a time that the functionaries of the Department of Collection of Lost Items carry them to the mentioned department from where the owners retrieve their lost items by presenting the necessary identifications. Most of the shops are not locked at night but despite this, no one attempts to break into them.

Interestingly, this Islamic ruling – despite being in force for centuries and under whose shade the Muslims in the initial stages of Islam lived in peace, security and comfort – has only been implemented upon a very few number.

Is the amputation of a few criminal hands an extravagant price to pay for the several-century security of a nation?

Some people object: Is the execution of this penalty with respect to a thief for the sake of a quarter of a dinar not in contradiction with Islam’s immense respect for the life of the Muslims and the importance attached by it for protecting them from all harms? This is especially so in view of the fact that the atonement money, stipulated by Islam, for cutting four fingers of a person is an amount, which is excessive and extravagant.

Incidentally, this same question, as reported in some of the books of history, had been put to the distinguished scholar ‘Alam al-Huda – the late Sayyid Murtadha – a thousand years ago. The questioner presented his query in the form of a couplet, which is as follows:

يَدٌ بِخَمْسِ مِئَين عَسْجَدٍ وُوَدِيَتْ مَا بَالُهَا قُطِعَتْ فِي رُبْعِ دِيْنَارٍ؟
“The hand, whose atonement is five hundred dinars; why should it be amputated for a quarter of a dinar?”2Sayyid Murtadha, in reply, recited this couplet:
عِزُّ الاَمَانَةِ أَاغْلاَهَا وَ أَارْخَصَهَا ذِلُّ الْخِيَانَةِ فَافْهَمْ حِكْمَةَ الْبَارِيْ
“The honour of trustworthiness made it high-priced, while the abjectness of treachery lowered its value, so comprehend the wisdom of Allah.”3 and 4

1. One dinar is equal to one legal mithqal of coined gold, and one legal mithqal is equivalent to 18 barley grains. Thus, one legal mithqal is equal to ¾ ordinary mithqal.
2. Of course, it must be noted that five hundred dinars is in the event that five fingers are cut. However, as we have previously mentioned, according to the Shi’a faith, only four fingers are to be cut for theft.
3. This incident has been mentioned in vol. 6, pg. 134 of Tafsir Alusi, however, it has been attributed to Alam al-Din al-Sakhavi instead of ‘Alam al-Huda.
4. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 4, pg. 376

The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous

Prophet Muhammad (S) was sitting in the mosque in Madina giving a talk to some of his followers while they were waiting for Salaat time to set in. A rich man wearing expensive clothes came and sat in front of the Prophet (S) to listen to his speech. Meanwhile another man who had also came to listen to the Prophet (S) sat down beside the rich man. The second man was not rich, in fact he was quite poor. The old and torn clothes he was wearing showed just how poor he was. The rich man did not like for the poor man to sit next to him. He pulled his nice, new, expensive clothes closer to himself, so that they would not be touched by the old, torn clothes of the poor man.

The Prophet (S) noticed what the rich man had done and was annoyed and disappointed. He asked the rich man why he had acted in this manner. Was it because he thought that some of his wealth might go to the poor man, or was it because he thought some of the poverty of the poor man might come to him? The rich man, who was not a bad person, realized that what he had done was wrong and was truly sorry. To make up for his mistake and to show how sorry he was, he apologized to the poor man and offered him half of all his wealth.
The poor man told him that he accepted his apology and forgave him, but did not want half of his wealth. When he was asked why, he said he was afraid that his wealth might make him proud towards his fellow Muslims just like the rich man.1

A hadith from the prophet (s)

Do not get furious when something makes you angry. Sit down and remember how Allah is merciful and patient with us when we make him angry, although he has full power over us.2

1. Mutahhari, Daastan-e-Raastan
2. Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.14.

The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

The Holy Prophet performed various miracles, the commentaries upon which are recorded in books of Hadith and history. But the eternal miracle which radiates throughout all the ages is the Holy Qur’an; and the secret as to why the Prophet of Islam, and not any other Prophet, should have been distinguished by this miracle resides in this: The religion brought by him is the last religion, and it is to last until the end of time. An everlasting religion needs an everlasting miracle, so that it be a decisive proof of prophecy in each age and for each succeeding generation; and so that mankind might, throughout the course of the centuries, have recourse directly to this miracle itself, rather than depend on the words of others.

The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

From the time of the descent of the Holy Qur’an, the first thing that struck the Arabic-speaking world and those versed in oratory and rules of eloquence, was the beauty of the language, the elegance and originality of its composition, and the sublime meanings contained in the Scripture. This special feature of the Qur’an was clearly evident to the Arabs of that time, as it is for those of today. Thus, the pprophet challenged anyone in the world to produce the like of it; but nobody at the time of the Revelation could respond to the challenge. Even to this day, after the passage of centuries, the Qur’an ‘s inimitable uniqueness remains; as it says in the Book:

Say, ‘Should all humans and jinn rally to bring the like of this Quran, they will not bring its like, even if they assisted one another.’(Sura Bani Isra’Il, 17:88)

and because of this, the Prophet, through continuous recitation of its verses, and through repeated invitations to ponder the uniqueness of the Qur’an, cast the champions of oratory and the masters of eloquence into abasement and humiliation, causing them to gnaw at their fingers in bewildered rage at the majestic speech of the Qur’an, bitterly acknowledging its super-human quality.

Walid b. Mughayra, a renowned poet and a master orator among the Quraysh, declared, after hearing the Prophet recite some verses:

‘By God, I have just heard something from Muhammad that is unlike the speech of man or the speech of jinn. It is a speech with its own unique sweetness and beauty. The branches of its words are laden with fruit, its roots are full of blessings; it is a surpassing discourse, than which no more distinguished speech exists. Indeed, nothing can begin to rival its excellence. ‘[1]

It was not just Walid b. Mughayra who extolled the outward beauty and inward profundity of the Qur’an; other great orators also, such as ‘Utba b. Rabi’a and Tufayl b. ‘Umar, also expressed their utter incapacity to compete with the Qur’an and acknowledged it as a literary miracle.

Of course, the Arabs of the Jahiliyya, because of their low level of culture, did not grasp anything but this aspect of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. But when the sun of Islam illumined a quarter of the inhabited world, the great thinkers of the world reflected deeply upon the profound verses of the Qur’an, and were able to benefit not only from its miraculous literary aspects, but also from the evident connection that each of its other aspects had with the sacred and the miraculous; and in every age, new dimensions of its endless verities would be discovered, a process which continues to this day.

1. Fadl b. al-Hasan al-Tabarsi, Majma’ al-bayan (Tehran, n.d.), vol. 5, p. 387.

Different aspects of the Qur’an’s miraculous nature

Apart from the literary miracle of the Qur’an there are some other manifestations of its miraculous nature. If the literary miracle of the Qur’an can only be grasped by one who has some mastery in the Arabic language, the other miraculous qualities can, fortunately, be grasped by everyone.

1. The person who brought the Qur’an was unlettered and unlearned, not having been schooled; nor had he studied at the feet of a great master; nor had he read a single book, as it is stated:

And you did not recite before it any scripture, nor did you inscribe one with your right hand. Otherwise the falsifiers would have had [cause for] doubt. (Sura al-‘Ankabut, 29:48)

The Holy Prophet recited this verse to people who were well aware of his life-history. Naturally, had he studied previously, he would have been contradicted by those who knew of his past; so if he was accused by some of having had the Qur’an ‘taught to him by a man’, we know for sure that it is baseless, as are all the other accusations made against him. The Qur’an refutes this accusation, saying that the one who was supposed to have taught him was a non-Arab; while the Arabic of the Qur’an is classical, eloquent Arabic. 1

2. The Qur’an was revealed in recitation to the Holy Prophet over the course of twenty-three years, under various conditions (peace and war, whilst journeying or residing at home, etc.). The nature of such an oral discourse normally imposes at least two or more different styles or modes upon the speaker. Even authors who compose their works under unvarying, stable conditions, and who attempt to maintain thematic consistency and stylistic harmony, are often unable to avoid discrepancies and disharmony in their works; such problems are even more likely to befall one who delivers a verbal discourse gradually, and under extremely variegated conditions and circumstances.

It would be appropriate here to recall that the Qur’an contains discourses on themes as diverse as theology, history, religious law and legislation, ethics, the natural world and other matters; but despite this immense variety of subject-matter, it maintains, from beginning to end, the most supreme harmony, its style of discourse flowing marvellously through its diverse contents. The Qur’an itself mentions this aspect of its own miraculous nature:

Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.( Sura al-Nisa’, 4:82)

3. The Qur’an recognizes the capacity of human nature for farsightedness, and on that basis establishes laws. Given this fundamental capacity for insight, all aspects of the spiritual and material life of man are encompassed by the Qur’an; universally applicable principles-ones which will never fade or become outmoded-are also given in this Scripture. One of the special features of the universal laws of Islam is that they are valid in the most diverse conditions and environments. When Muslims had conquered vast parts of the world, they were able to rule with authority and dignity over generations of different human collectivities by virtue of these laws. Imam Baqir said:

‘Everything of which mankind has need and has asked for is given by God in this Holy Book, and has been explained by Him to His Prophet; and He has established for everything a limit, and for each limit, a rationale has been given.’2

4. In different verses, the Qur’an explains the intricate relationships between the mysteries of the created universe, relationships and connections of which the people of the time had no inkling. The disclosure of these mysteries, by an unlettered individual, living in the midst of people ignorant of all such things, could only have come about by means of divine revelation. Many examples of this can be given, but we shall restrict ourselves here to one alone:
The discovery of the law of universal polarity is a major finding of modern science; the Qur’an, at a time when there was not even the slightest information on such matters, refers to this law as follows:

And of all things We created two mates; perhaps you will remember. (Sura al-Dhariyat, 51:49)

5. The Qur’an has prophesied events, giving precise and definite information about them before they unfolded, exactly as predicted. There are several examples of this, but we shall refer to just one, When the God-fearing Christian Byzantines (al-Rum) were defeated by the fire-worshipping Sassanids, the pagan Arabs took this as a good omen, declaring that they, too, would prevail over the God-fearing Arabs of the peninsula. As regards this event, the Qur’an gives precise information:

The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious in afew years- to Allah belongs the command before and afterr- and on that day believers will rejoice. (Sura al¬Rum, 30:4)

The events took place exactly as predicted, and both God-fearing groups, the Byzantine Christians and the Arabian Muslims, prevailed over their respective enemies (Iranian Sassanids and the pagans of Quraysh), Thus we find at the end of the verse a reference to the happiness of the believers, for these two victories were simultaneous.

6. The Qur’an has spoken of the lives of the Prophets and of past communities, in a number of Suras and in various ways. It might be said that, being the final Revelation, the Qur’an clarifies much of the information found in previous Scriptures pertaining to the Prophets of the past, their missions, and their communities. In the Qur’anic accounts of the lives of the Prophets, there is not the slightest divergence either from the dictates of the intellect or of innate human nature, on the one hand, or from what the supreme status of the Prophets implies, on the other.

1. See Sura al-Nahl, 16:103.
2. al-Kulayni, al-Usul min al-kafi, vol. 1, p. 59.

Divine Justice (Justice of God)

We believe that God is just and that justice is one of the divine attributes of beauty (J). The basis of this belief is the Qur’anic negation of any possibility of any injustice on the part of God, referring to him as being upright in justice. As it is said:

Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom’s weight;[1]

And again:

Verily Allah will not deal unjustly with man in aught: It is man that wrongs his own soul.[2]

Intellectual reason

In addition to the evidence provided by these verses, the intellect can discern the justice of God with utmost clarity. For justice is an attribute of perfection, while injustice is an attribute of imperfection; and the human intellect perceives that God possesses all possible perfections, and that he is exalted beyond any possibility of any imperfection or deficiency, both as regards his essence and his actions.

In principle, injustice and oppression are always consequences of one of these factors:
1) Ignorance- the one who acts unjustly is unaware of the ugliness of injustice;
2) Incapability and need- the agent of injustice is aware of the ugliness of injustice, but is unable to avoid injustice;
3) Unscrupulousness through foolishness- the agent is both aware of the ugliness of injustice and he is able to enact justice, but since he lacks wisdom, he has no scruples about committing unjust acts.

It is clear that none of these factors can have anything to do with the divine nature, all of Gods actions being just and wise.The following hadith corroborates this; Sheikh Saduq relates that a Jew came to the prophet (S) asking various questions, some of which was related to the question of divine justice. In explaining why God does not commit injustice, the prophet (S) said,

It is because God knows the ugliness of injustice and is not in any need of it.[3]

what does the justice of God mean?

Given the verses cited above, and many others of similar import in the Qur’an, all Muslims are at one over the issue of divine justice; but there is a certain difference of opinion regarding the question of what the justice of God actually means. Muslims have opted for one of the two following positions:

1) The human intellect distinguishes between good and evil actions, understanding the former to indicate the perfection of the agent, and the later the imperfection of the agent. Since God, by nature, possesses all ontological perfections, the intellect discloses that his acts must be perfect and pleasing, his most holy nature being devoid of all kind of evil. Consequently, God deals justly in his relation with mankind.
In Islamic theology this approach goes by the name of ‘the intelligibility of good and evil'(husn wa qubh aqli). The adherents of this approach are referred to as the ‘adliyya'[4], the forerunners of whom were the scholars of the Ahlulbayt school of thought (Shi’a).
1) إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ ۖ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
2) إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ النَّاسَ شَيْئًا وَلَـٰكِنَّ النَّاسَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ
3) Sheikh Saduq, kitab al-Tawhid, chapter 61. Hadith number 13.
4) the term ‘adlyya’ refers to both the Shi’I and the Mu’tazili schools which stress justice as one of their key theological principles.

Is the Holy Qur’an Distorted?

The revealed scriptures brought by previous Prophets have, unfortunately, been gradually subjected to alteration and interpolation over the years. In addition to what is said in the Qur’an to this effect, there is historical evidence to corroborate this fact.

In contrast, nothing has been added to or taken from the Holy Qur’an itself. The Holy Prophet of Islam received 114 chapters of the Qur’an, and this constitutes, among other things, an eternal memorial of himself, and he delivered them intact into this world. The scribes of the Revelation, especially Imam ‘Ali, who wrote down the revealed verses from the very beginning, have preserved it ever since from all interpolation. Despite the passage of fourteen centuries since its descent, not a single verse or chapter has been added to or taken away from the Holy Qur’an. We allude below to some of the reasons why the Qur’an has, of necessity, remained free of any alteration.

1. How could the Qur’an possibly be subject to alteration when God Himself has guaranteed its preservation and protection? It is said:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15:9)

2. God has prohibited the entry of any kind of falsehood into the Qur’an:

Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it; [it is] a revelation from a [Lord who is] Wise and Praiseworthy.” (41:42)

As God has denied all possibility of falsehood entering the Qur’an, this means that anything that might lead to the weakening of the Qur’an-such as adding words or verses, or taking them away-is likewise excluded; thus, one can say with absolute certainty that this Scripture has not been altered in anyway.

3. History shows us that the Muslims were graced in a special way as regards learning and memorizing the Qur’an. At the time of the Revelation, the Arabs were famed for their excellent, powerful memories, so much so that after hearing a long sermon just once, they were able to repeat it by heart afterwards. In such a context, where there were so many people who knew the Qur’an by heart, how could anyone claim that it might have been altered?

4. There is no doubt that Imam ‘Ali had a difference of opinion, in certain matters, with the other three caliphs, and that he expressed these differences in a clear and logical manner, in, for example, the sermon entitled Shiqshiqiyya, one of his most famous discourses.1  But we observe that this great soul, to the end of his life, never said anything about even a single word of the Qur’an having been altered. If, God forbid, such an alteration had in fact taken place, a person such as he would never have remained silent. Rather, we see the contrary: that he continuously called upon people to meditate upon the Qur’an:

O people, for whosoever follows the Qur’an, there is no poverty or indigence; and without following the Qur’an, there is no riches or freedom from want. So throughout your lives, sow the seed of the Qur’an [in your hearts] and follow it.” 2

For these, and other reasons, the great scholars of the ahl al-bayt, from the beginning of Islam to the present day, have stressed the immunity of the Qur’an against any alteration (tahrif). It must be stressed that this has been the position of all Shi’i authorities’ in all periods; and to this day, all the Shi’i leaders without exception uphold this position. 3

In some books of Hadith and Qur’anic exegesis, there are certain narrations which have given grounds for the idea that some alteration of the Qur’an has in fact taken place, but the following points should be borne in mind:

1. Most of these narrations are transmitted by persons and in books that are not trustworthy, such as the Kitab al-qira’a of ‘Ahmad b. Muhammad Sayyri (d. 286 AH). His narrations are classified as weak by those versed in knowledge of transmitters of hadith (‘ilm al-rijal); and his legal school is classified as corrupt.4 Another such book is that of Ali b. Ahmad al-Kufi (d. 352 AH), about whom the same scholars said:

At the end of his life, he took the path of fanaticism (ghuluw).” 5

2. Those parts of these narrations that ostensibly relate to alteration are more akin to commentaries on verses. In other words, the content of a given verse is brought together with its meaning in a single narration, and some have wrongly supposed that the commentary is part of the verse, having elided it therewith.
For example, the ‘straight path’ of the Sura al-Fatiha is read in some narrations along with its commentary, ‘the path of the Prophet and his family’. It is clear that such commentary is a way of affirming the sublimity of the Prophet.

3. Imam Khumayni has divided those narrations on the basis of which alteration is deemed to have taken place, into three categories: (a) weak reports, in which nothing is proven; (b) forged reports, in which interpolations are clearly evident; and (c) strong reports, which, if their import be carefully considered, reveal that what appears to be an alteration of Qur’anic verses is in fact a comment upon the meanings of these verses, not a change in the literal wording of the Qur’an. 6

4. Anyone wishing to attain a true understanding of the actual beliefs of a given school of thought must study the authoritative books on doctrine and belief as found in that school, rather than looking at some books of narrations compiled by those whose aim was but to gather up material, leaving to others the task of verification and evaluation. Similarly, referring to a few unusual opinions held by some followers of the school is insufficient for arriving at a sound knowledge of the school, as is basing oneself on the words of one or two people who oppose the majority of the authoritative scholars in the school of thought.

1. Nahj al-baliigha, Sermon no. 3.
2. Nahj al-baliigha, Sermon no.171.
3. The following authorities can be referred to regarding this matter: 1) Fadl b. Shadhan, (d. 260/873 AH; he lived in the time of the Imams), Kitab al-idah,, p. 217; 2) Shaykh Saduq (d. 381/991), Kitab al¬i’tiqadat, p. 93; 3) Shaykh Mufid (d. 413/1022), Majmu’at al-rasa’il; p. 266; 4) Shaykh Murtada ( d. 436/ 1044), Jawab al-masa’il al-tarabilsiyyat; 5) Shaykh Tusi (d. 460/1067), Kitab al-tibyan, vol. 1, p. 3; 6) Shaykh al¬Tabarsi (d.548/1153), Majma’ al-bayan (see his introduction where he clearly stresses the absence of any possibility of alteration with regard to the Qur’an); 7) Sayyid b. Tawus (d. 664/1265), Sa’d al-su’ud, p. 144 (where he says: ‘The non-existence of alteration-such is the position of the Imiimiyya); 8) ‘Allama Hilli (d. 726/1325), Ujubat: al-masa’il al- ·mihnaiyya,p.121(where he says;This is the truth that no addition or diminution has been effected in regard to the Qur’an, and I seek protection from God against speaking the word “alteration” (tahrif); for such an idea causes doubt to be cast on the miracle that was authentically transmitted to us by the Holy Prophet.’).
4. See Ahmad al-Najashi, Rijal al-Najashi (Beirut, 1409/1988) vol. 1, no. 1 go, p. 2 1 1.
5. al-Najashi, Rijal; vol. 1, no. 689, p. 96.
6. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khumayni, Tahdhib al-usul (Qom 1405/ 1984), vol. 2, p. 96.

Why is the inheritance of women half of that of men?

Before answering this question, it is necessary to remember that the rule that states that the portion of inheritance of a man is twice that of a woman is not true across the board.

In some cases we find that men and women take an equal sum of inheritance, like for instance the father and the mother of the deceased who take an equal amount of inheritance. In this case there is no difference between man and woman.

Having said this, it is necessary to address the question of why the share of a woman’s inheritance is half of that of a man’s. Is this not a type of favouritism?

In a tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) was asked as to why women take one portion of inheritance when we see that they are weaker than men and they are more in need of help than them? Why is it that a man, who is stronger than a woman and whose body is more powerful than hers should get a double share of inheritance? Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) replied:

the reason for this is that a man has more responsibilities and he must go to war, enduring many expenses in the process. Aside from his own expenses, a man must also take upon himself the expenses of his spouse and children. What’s more, he must give money to the family of a person accidentally injured by one of his family members.” 1

in another tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) emphasized the fact that it is the man which must give dowry to the woman-this being a recompense to the loss incurred by her in her inheritance 2.

Islam’s position on inheritance is in reality to the benefit of the woman. In the Age of Ignorance, the daughters and wives of the deceased were deprived of inheritance and all of the wealth of the deceased went to his sons. Islam, however, came and annulled the laws of the ignorant times and made women amongst the inheritors of the deceased. From its inception, Islam gave women independence in ownership and monetary matters, this being a matter that has only but recently entered the laws of European nations.

Even though apparently the inheritance of a man is double that of a woman, when we probe into the matter more thoroughly, we find that the inheritance of a woman is two times that of a man. The responsibilities that have been placed on the shoulders of men necessitates that they spend half of their income on women. Any given man is obligated to spend money on his spouse’s home, clothes, food, and other expenses, while the cost of living of himself and his children are on his shoulders.

This responsibility of upkeep is to such an extent that even if a woman’s social position necessitates her having a servant and she herself does not have the means to pay for such a person, the salary of the aforementioned servant is upon her husband.

These responsibilities are on the shoulders of men, whereas we see that women are exempted from paying any living expenses, including their own-whether that clothes or food. Therefore and in all practicality, it is woman who has more of a portion of wealth than man.

In the commentary of the Qur’an, Tafsir-e-Namunah, an example has been given that is useful in clarifying what we are trying to say. Consider, for example, that the sum total of all the wealth of the world is 30 billion pounds.

Say that this wealth was distributed by means of inheritance between men and women. From this amount of money, 20 billion pounds went to men and 10 billion went to women. Since women do not have to spend on themselves, they can save that 10 billion and become partners with the men in the remaining 20 billion (since the portion of men is spent on women and children), so half of the portion of men, which is 10 billion pounds, goes to women.

When we add this amount to the portion that the women saved from before, their sum total becomes 20 billion pounds.

By taking into consideration what was just said, we can say that the reasons that women’s portion of inheritance is less than that of men’s are three:

1. Dowry: At the time of getting married, man is responsible to take into consideration a suitable dowry for the woman. Whenever the woman asks for it, the man is responsible to give it to her.

So from the beginning, man is religiously responsible to allot an amount of money as the dowry of his wife. This is one of the reasons that have been alluded to in the saying of our Noble Imams (a.s).

2. Allowance: In family life, aside from the fact that a man must look after his own expenses, he is responsible to take upon himself the expenses of his wife and children. For amongst the responsibilities of a man is the provision of food, clothes, and shelter for his wife that is in line with her social status.

Even if a woman were to have a large amount of wealth, she has no responsibility in this regards. Not only does a woman have no obligation in this regards, but if she wanted to, she could ask of a wage for the work she does at home such as breastfeeding her children, cooking, etc.

3. Special responsibilities of man: Some very heavy responsibilities have been placed on men’s shoulders; responsibilities that women have been excused from. A good example is warfare in the path of Allah .

A man must wage war with his life and his wealth. In some of the verses of the Noble Qur’an war by means of wealth has even been placed ahead of war by means of life.

A man must spend from his own pocket the expenses of his going to war. Or when someone is killed by another person, the men of the family of the culprit must pay money to the victim’s family, but women are freed form such an expense.

As can be seen, Islam did not intend to pass laws for the benefit of man and to the detriment of woman, or vice versa. Islam is not an advocate of “woman’s rights,” or that of men’s. More than anything, when passing laws Islam, has taken into consideration the eternal felicity of men, women, their children, and society as a whole.

In any case, in line with the monetary responsibilities that it has relegated for men, Islam has in many instances divided wealth between men and women-such an instance being inheritance.

It is not possible for us to claim that there is discrimination in this regards. Also, the whole corpus of the laws of Islam regarding men and women necessitate that the laws of inheritance be a certain way. This matter does not allow us to object to the civil laws of Islam.

In the end, it is possible for us to say that if it is true that the expenses of the woman are upon the shoulders of the man, then what use does woman have in hoarding a large amount of wealth? We can answer by saying that the dowry and inheritance of the woman is like a savings that is for her future, in case she separates from her spouse or her spouse dies.

It is so she can lead a comfortable and respected life in case such events happen. But the reason that the expenses of the woman is upon the man is so that she can, without any sort of mental anxiety, raise good and pious children. In this way the family, which is the cornerstone of society, will be filled with warmth and love.

In the end we would like to point our reader’s attention to the following: If it should arise that circumstances necessitate that the owner of the wealth should help out the wife or the daughters more than his sons, then this person can do this by following the procedures laid out in Islamic Jurisprudence.

For example, if the father thinks it prudent to help his daughter more, he can, in his lifetime, give as a gift, some of his wealth to her. Also he can give a larger portion than her share of inheritance by writing a specific will in this regard.

[1] al-Kafi, vol. 7, p. 85:
مَا بَالُ الْمَرْأَةِ الْمِسْكِينَةِ الضَّعِيفَةِ تَأْخُذُ سَهْماً وَاحِداً وَ يَأْخُذُ الرَّجُلُ سَهْمَيْنِ قَالَ فَذَكَرَ بَعْضُ أَصْحَابِنَا لِأَبِي عَبْدِ اللهِ (ع) فَقَالَ إِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهَا جِهَادٌ وَ لاَ نَفَقَةٌ وَ لاَ مَعْقُلَةٌ وَ إِنَّمَا ذَلِكَ عَلَى الرِّجَالِ وَ لِذَلِكَ جَعَلَ لِلْمَرْأَةِ سَهْماً وَاحِداً وَ لِلرَّجُلِ سَهْمَيْنِ
[2] ‘Ilal al-Shara’i, vol. 2, p. 570:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللٌّهِ بْنِ سَنَانِ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللٌّهِ (ع) قَالَ: قُلْتُ لِأَيِّ عِلَّةٍ صَارَ الْمِيرَاثُ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلَ حَظِّ الأُنْثَيَينِ؟ قَالَ : لِمَا جَعَلَ لَهَا مِنَ الصِّدَاقِ
Ref: Faith and Reason, A Compendium of Fifty Questions and Answers Related to Islamic Theology, Jurisprudence and Other Themes, Compiled by The Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institution, Translated byA Group of Muslim Scholars, Published by: The Islamic Education Board of the World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities

What is the status of women in Islam? Are they the same as men?

If we don’t turn a blind eye to the truth and be realistic, we will see that the perfection of the woman doesn’t lie in her having a status like that of men, and that it is also wrong for men to take pride in their gender. The truth of the matter is that the creation of the human circles around two separate but harmonious halves, the man and the woman.

What brings superiority for both men and women is endeavor for achieving humanity, and in other words, using the potential placed in all of us for the best. Except for differences that are necessitated by the order of creation, there is no difference between the two genders from the Quran and revelation’s perspective.

Since this question is about the status of the woman in Islam, it is necessary to refer to Islamic sources, meaning the Quran and the traditions of the prophet (pbuh) and Ahlul-Bayt, to see what Islam’s view is on the issue.

The different dimensions of the woman’s status

The woman’s status in Islam can be looked at from three perspectives:

     a) Her character

1- The woman is a symbol of elegance, tranquility and beauty. Every single thing in this universe is the manifestation of the attributes and names of Allah (swt), because creating which is one of His attributes of action (not one of the attributes of essence) is the manifestation of the creator in His different creations, as Imam Ali (as) puts it:

All praise is due to Allah (swt) who showed Himself to His creations through His creation.” 1 &2

From the Quran’s perspective, the secret behind creating the woman and establishing the base of the family and the union of marriage is higher than just lust and fulfilling desires and achieving temporary pleasures.

And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect” 3

2- All racial, gender related, etc. advantages are vain, and

“Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you” 4

3- All heavenly books and prophets have addressed humanity and not a specific gender saying:

“Whosoever follows me indeed belongs to me” 5

4- The status of the woman has no boundaries; she can succeed, possess and reach anything she desires:

O man! You are laboring toward your Lord laboriously, and you will encounter Him” 6 , “Every person is in custody of his own doings” 7, “And that man can only have the fruit of what he has strived for; verily, the result of his effort will soon Be observed” 8.

5- Whosoever serves Allah (swt) will be close to Him, regardless of whether it is a man or woman.

When My servants ask you about Me, [tell them that) I am indeed close. I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.” 9

6- In order to reach the tayyeb life (good and pure life), two conditions must be fulfilled:

Whoever acts righteously, [whether] male or female, should he be faithful, We shall revive him with a good life and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do” 10

7- Whosoever disregards the truth, will be cursed by Allah (swt):

Indeed those who turn faithless and die while they are faithless, it is they on whom shall be the curse of Allah, the angels and all mankind”. 11

What is easily concluded from these verses is that the human is their addressee, not a specific gender. Humans are “hostages” of their faith and actions and they “pick the fruit of whatever they themselves plant”, let them be men or women. In revelation’s sight, the woman is a human and gender has no effect on the fundamentals of the obligations and character of people.

     b) The woman and the “ladder” of knowledge and nearness to Allah (swt)

1- Allah (swt) doesn’t exclusively belong to men nor women and the same goes for knowledge and getting closer to Him. There is a general formula that if one goes by, he/she will indeed achieve such a goal, and that formula is: knowledge, affection, obedience and nearness. It doesn’t make a difference who and how much one goes after knowledge and wisdom, what is important is guidance and it is after guidance that this verse applies to us:

Those who strive in our way, we will guide them to ways of nearness to Allah (swt)”

many have done so, men and women, and the Quran gives two examples of those who went this way and two examples of those who went the opposite:

Allah draws an [other] example for those who have faith: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said,” My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot” 12

In the next verse, Allah (swt) gives the second example of a good character, which is Lady Maryam.
Also, the two bad people the Quran speaks of are also women (Prophet Nuh and Prophet Lut’s (pbuh) wives). 13 These good and bad women are examples for all, not just for women!

2- The most important requisite for getting closer to Allah (swt) is the heart and a broken heart, and women bear it more than men: “The ways to ascend and go higher for people varies. One way is through dhikr (invocation) and another is through thought; if women aren’t higher and more successful than men in the first, which is the way of the heart and love and affection, they are certainly equal to them.” 14

3- The holy prophet of Islam (pbuh) says:

The best knowledge is tawhid, and the best worship is istighfar (asking for repentance).” 15

Clearly, there is no difference between men and women in reaching such knowledge.

4- If we are pious and wary of Allah (swt), we will reach spirituality, and piety and taqwa don’t belong to a specific gender and group.

Indeed if one is God wary and patient Allah does not waste the reward of the virtuous” 16

But as for him who is awed to stand before his Lord and forbids the soul from [following] desire, his refuge will indeed be paradise” 17

To make it short, different women who had reached very high levels of spirituality in various eras are clear proof that the way is open to all, even women.

     c) The status of the woman in Islamic law and divine rulings

It seems what gives rise to your question regarding the status of woman in Islam, is a series of Islamic laws that pertain to women, but with a general look at the framework of Islamic laws and the effect of gender on them, you will be able to find your answer.

Islamic laws, when looked at from a gender perspective, are divided into several categories:
1. Common rulings: such as fasting, prayer and hajj.

2. Women’s rulings: such as laws pertaining to menstruation

3. Rulings that seem to be discriminative at first sight: such as inheritance, blood money, etc.

Generally speaking, the reasons for such so called controversial rulings can be the following:

i) The man of the home is responsible for the expenditures and sustenance of the family, hence the difference of the share of inheritance compared to that of women (of course in some cases).

ii) When some hadiths speak of women badly, what they are really speaking of aren’t women in terms of them being part of the human race, but what is meant is the adoration of women. (For instance, the hadith that says: “The woman is a scorpion, but her sting is sweet”) 18

iii) Some other hadiths (especially in the Nahjul-Balaghah) that scold women, are only scolding the women of Imam Ali’s (as) time who had risen against the imam in the battle of Jamal (with the leadership of Aisha). 19

iv) Some rulings that aren’t the responsibility of women, like initial jihad, judging, etc. aren’t deprivation, but are a grace and mercy from Allah (swt) so that harsh and hard responsibilities that aren’t in harmony with their delicate spirits don’t rest on their shoulders.

Imam Ali (as) says:

The woman is like a delicate and sweet-smelling flower, not like a harsh and bulky warrior.” 20

v) Some rulings such as coming of age earlier than men, are so that women begin to be trained earlier so they can be ready to train future generations, especially since the age of getting married for women is lower than that of men.

vi) Some restrictions and limitations are so that some boundaries are set in order to prevent certain problems and dangers which indeed need to be prevented. For instance, women have been ordered to speak well but not in a thin and attractive voice so that “those who have sick hearts aren’t tempted”. 21

vii) The same way that badness and deficiency are proportional, preferring and making the man prior are also proportional. Therefore, whenever you see a limitation or reproach of women, consider it proportional. In Islam, there are numerous instances where women have been given advantages, namely:

The prophet of Islam (pbuh) said:

If you are in the middle of a mustahabb prayer and your father calls you, don’t break the prayer, but if your mother calls, break it.” 22

The clear and direct command of the Quran is:

And You should treat women honourably” 23

For further information, see:
Morteza Motahhari, Nezame Huquqe Zan dar Eslam
Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Zan dar Ayneye Jamal va Jalal

[1] الحمد لله المتجلي لخلقه بخلقه
Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 108
[2] Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Zan dar Ayneye Jamal va Jalal, p. 21.
[3] و من آياته ان خلق لکم من انفسکم ازواجاً لتسکنوا اليها و جعل بينکم مودة و رحمة
[4] Hujurat:13.
[5] فمن تبعني فانه مني
[6] Inshiqaq:6.
[7] Tur:21.
[8] Najm:39.
[9] Baqarah:186.
[10] من عمل صالحاً من ذکر و انثي و هو مؤمن فلنحيينه حياة طيبة…
[11] ان الذين کفروا و ما توا و هم کفار اولئک عليهم لعنة الله والملائکة والناس أجمعين
[12] وضرب الله مثلاً للذين آمنوا إمراة فرعون إذ قالت رب ابن لي عندک بيتاً في الجنة و نجني من فرعون و عمله و نجني من القوم الظالمين
[13] ضرب الله مثلاً للذين کفروا امراة نوح و امراة لوط…
[14] Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Zan dar Ayneye Jamal va Jalal, p. 197.
[15] خير العلم التوحيد و خير العبادة الاستغقار
Kuleini, Usul Kafi, vol. 2, p. 517.
[16] Yusuf: 90.
[17] Naze’at: 40-41.
[18] Nahjul-Balaghah, short sayings, no. 61.
[19] For instance: Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 80,
ان النساء النواقص الايمان…
[20] فان المراة ريحانة و ليست بقهرمانة
Nahjul-Balaghah, letter 31.
[21] Ahzab:32.
[22] Jame’u Ahadith al-Shia, vol. 21, pp. 428-429.
[23] و عاشروهن بالمعروف