Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth, best who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (Qur'an 16:125)
There are various types of brotherhoods - brotherhood based on blood relations, brotherhood based on regional affiliations, or brotherhood on the basis of race, caste, creeds, ideology, etc. But all these types of brotherhood are limited in their scope, coverage and benefits.
Islam, on the other hand, prescribes Universal Brotherhood. It rejects the thought that human beings have been created in castes or in different levels. In the Glorious Qur’an, in Surah Hujurat, Chapter No. 49, Verse No. 13, Allah (SWT) describes the Islamic concept of Universal Brotherhood:
‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most Righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
This Verse of the Glorious Qur’an indicates that the whole human race originated from a single pair of male and female. All humans have common great-grandparents and ancestors.
Further, Allah (swt) says that he has made nations and tribes, so that humans can recognize each other, and not so that they may despise each other and fight amongst themselves.
This verse also clarifies that the criteria for judgment in the sight of Allah (swt) does not depend on caste, colour, creed, gender or wealth, but on Taqwa - God consciousness, piety and righteousness. Anyone who is righteous, pious and God-conscious, is honoured in the sight of Allah (swt).
Further it is stated in the Glorious Qur’an in Surah Ar-Rum verse. 22, that:
‘And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages, and your colours: Verily in that are signs for those who know.’
These variations in colour and language are not for the purpose of creating animosity or differences between groups of humans. Every language on earth has its own beauty and significance.
A foreign language may sound strange and funny to you, but it sounds sweet to those for whom it is the mother tongue.
Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an, in Surah Israa, Ch. 17, Verse 70:
‘We have honoured the sons of Adam’
Allah does not say that He has honoured only the Arabs or the Americans or a particular race. He states that He has honoured all the children of Adam, irrespective of race, caste, colour, creed or gender.
While there are many religions that believe that humankind originated from a single pair - Adam and Eve (peace be upon them), there some faiths that say, that it is because of the sin of the woman (Eve - may Allah be pleased with her) that the humans are born in sin. They blame only on the woman, which is Eve, for the downfall of human beings.
The Qur’an speaks about the story of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them) in several chapters, but in all the places, the blame is placed equally on both -Adam and Eve (peace be upon them).
According to Surah Araf, Ch. 7 : Verses 19 to 27 Both of them disobeyed Allah (swt), both of them repented, and both were forgiven.
Both are equally blamed for the mistake. There is not a single verse in the Glorious Qur’an, which puts the blame only on Eve (may Allah be pleased with her).
In Surah Taha, Ch. No. 20, V. No. 121, it is stated that Adam (pbuh) disobeyed Allah (swt).
Certain faith, on the other hand state that because Eve disobeyed God, it is she who is responsible for the sin of humankind’. Hence God cursed the woman, and said that she will bear labour pains. This means that pregnancy is a curse.
Islam of course does not agree with this unjust view.
In Surah Nisa, Ch. No. 4, V. No. 1, Allah states: ‘And (reverence) the wombs (that bore you).’
In Islam, pregnancy does not degrade a woman - it uplifts a woman. In Surah Luqman, Ch. 31, V. No. 14, it is stated that:
‘And we have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. In travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning.’
The Qur’an says in Surah, Ahqaf, Ch. 46, V. No. 15...’We have enjoined on man to be kind to his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth.’
Islam states that men and women are created equal.
According to a Hadith mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, Vol.No. 8, in the Book of Adab, Chapter 2, Hasith No. 2:
‘A person came to Prophet Mohammed (saw), and asked him, ‘Who is the person who deserves the maximum love and companionship in this world ?’
The Prophet replied, ‘Your mother.’
The man asked, Who next?’
The Prophet said, ‘Your mother.’
The man asked, ‘After that who?’
The Prophet repeated for the third time, ‘Your mother.’
The man asked, ‘After that who?’
Then the Prophet said, ‘Your father.’
So, 75% or 3/4 of the love and companionship of the children are due to the mother and only 25% or 1/4 of the love and companionship goes to the father. In other words, the mother gets the gold medal, she gets the silver medal, as well as the bronze medal. The father has to be satisfied with a mere consolation prize.
These are amongst the teachings of Islam.
In Islam, men and women are equal - but equality does not mean identicality. There are many misconceptions about the status of women in Islam. These can be removed if one studies the authentic sources of knowledge of Islam and its teachings - the Glorious Qur’an and the Sahih Hadith.
While men and women are overall equal, equality does not mean identicality. Let’s take an example. In a class, two students - student ‘A’ and ‘B’ get the highest marks in a subject - 80 out of 100.
The question paper consisted of 10 questions, each of 10 marks.
In the first answer student ‘A’ gets 9 out of 10, student ‘B’ gets 7 out of 10. So in question 1 student ‘A’ has a degree of advantage than student ‘B’.
In question 2, student ‘B’ gets 9 out of 10, and student ‘A’ gets 7 out of 10. So in question 2, student ‘B’ has a degree of advantage, than student ‘A’.
In the remaining 8 questions, both get 8 out of 10, and if you total the marks of both the students, both get 80 out of 100.
So if you analyze, both student ‘A’ and ‘B’ have got over all equal marks.
But in answers to some questions, student ‘A’ has a degree of advantage and in answers to some other questions, student ‘B’ has a degree of advantage - but in terms of overall marks, both are equal.
Similarly in Islam, men and women are equal.
Brotherhood in Islam does not only mean that the same sexes are equal. ‘Universal Brotherhood’ in Islam means, that besides race, caste, and creed, even the sexes are overall equal. Men and women are equal in Islam, but in some aspects, men have a degree of advantage while in some other aspects, women have a degree of advantage - but overall both are equal.
For example, if a robber enters my house, I will not say, ‘I believe in women’s rights, and I believe in women’s liberation and therefore my sister, my wife, my mother, should go and fight the robber.’
Allah says in Surah Nisa, Ch. 4, V 34, ‘God has given the one (man) more strength than the other’’. Men have more strength than the women.’
So where strength is concerned, men have a degree of advantage. Since they have been given more strength, it is their duty to protect women. Here the men have a degree of advantage.
Where love and companionship from children is concerned, the mother gets three times more love and companionship than the father. Here women have a degree of advantage.
For more details, you can refer to the video-cassettes of my talk on ‘Women’s Rights in Islam - Modernizing or Outdated? Part I has the lecture and Part II has the Question-Answer session.