Man and Woman - A Comparative Study
(Excerpt from the Book, "Islam - A challenge to Religion")
 
I. Introduction

For ages, men did not treat the woman-folk with justice and fairness. That woman being inferior to man in intelligence, was, for long, regarded as a self-evident truth. All the dull and uninteresting tasks were, therefore, assigned to her. In the civilisation man built up, woman had to be content with an inferior role. It is only recently that woman has begun to assert her rights and claim equality with man. Though the intellectual climate of the present age is generally favourable to woman's demand for equality, the question of its validity has not quite emerged from the smoke of the controversy.

No doubt, there are differences between man and woman, but they are in fact far fewer than those which used to be quoted. Even these few are largely biological. A potent difference is that in physical prowess. The male surpasses the female not so much in his capacity for endurance as in the intensity of his muscular action. He generally runs faster and punches harder. His red blood corpuscles which carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles are ten percent more abundant than those of the female. Hence the tasks demanding great physical strength or regular out-door activities, such as fighting and hunting, were naturally assigned to the man, while the woman generally took over the lighter and domestic tasks, such as cooking and washing. As physical strength was an essential value for a primitive group constantly threatened by other hostile groups, man soon secured for himself a dominant position in the tribal set up. As this state of affairs continued for long ages, men consolidated their position of dominance and ruled over the women-folk with a high hand. Gradually women were reduced to the position of serfs.

The truth slowly dawned on man's mind that he had over-estimated the value of physical strength and military prowess. He realised that other abilities are equally valuable. In modern society, intelligence is valued more than bodily strength. The psychologists tell us that woman is man's equal in intelligence and some other abilities. Man is superior to woman in some abilities but inferior to her in others. For instance, he excels her in mechanical skill while she surpasses him in linguistic ability.

It is now generally admitted that woman is, on the whole, man’s equal. Nevertheless, deep down in her unconscious, the inferiority complex handed down from the immemorial past is firmly lodged. In the advanced countries of Europe and America, women are working shoulder to shoulder with men in the fields of science, industry and administration, but they too are impelled by an unconscious urge to make themselves attractive to men. The greater part of the money they earn is wasted on dress, make-up and finery. All the time they can spare, they devote to beautifying themselves. Obviously their main purpose is to make themselves fascinating and glamorous. This is because women have been told all the time, on religious authority, that God originally created man and woman was created subsequently because man felt lonely. She is, therefore, driven to the belief that she does not exist for herself but only to fulfil the wishes of man: hence her unconscious desire to become as attractive to man as possible.

The inferiority complex from which woman suffers has its roots in the remote past. The social framework which has remained basically unchanged assigned to her a status much lower than that of man. Man regarded her occasionally as a goddess, usually as a slave, but rarely as a comrade. In this man-made society, the dice were heavily loaded against her. The powerful forces of custom, law and religion were ranged against her. She could not own property in her own right. She could not choose her own mate. The father could give her in marriage to any one he liked. If the husband died even when she was still young, she was not permitted to remarry. Widowhood was her lot for the rest of her life. Sometimes she was even expected to die with her husband. The barbarous custom of Sati required her to sit on the funeral pyre of her dead husband and be burnt alive. Religion too was not kind to her. The Biblical story of Adam and Eve is hardly fair to her. It is said that God first created Adam, and then, out of his rib, He created Eve. The rib is crooked and so devout men were quite prepared to admit the same crookedness in the nature of woman. The sequel of the story shows that woman is not only crooked but also weak. She quickly succumbed to the seductions of Satan and tempted Adam into sin. The story of Adam and Eve, in which Eve plays the role of a temptress, is widely believed in throughout the Christian world. The attitude of the Christians towards women is, therefore, tinged with fear and hostility. To preserve their purity, devout men thought it necessary to avoid all contact with women. Marriage was looked upon as a necessary evil. Celibacy came to be regarded as a virtue. Woman was a hindrance to spiritual progress so, at least the priest, whose sole concern was the soul, had to remain unmarried.

Such ideas have been in vogue for centuries and, until recently, were to be found in all parts of the world. The Quran completely changed man's attitude towards woman. It placed the relation between man and woman on a basis of equality, exalting neither over the other.

The Quran does not say that man was created first and so has precedence over woman. It tells us that for every one, life originated from a mono-cell. The distinction between male and female came at a later stage, and when it appeared, both of them were very much there :

God created you from a single life-cell and from it created its mate (for man a woman and for woman a man) and from them twain, has spread abroad a multitude of men and women (4:1)

Thus, in the matter of creation, neither had any preferential treatment; nor was woman responsible for man’s first act of disobedience and his consequent expulsion from paradise. Both are said to have been led astray by Satan (2 : 36). According to the Quranic view, man and woman are equally capable of following the right path and equally liable to fall into destructive ways. Of course, they are not absolutely the same: in some things men are superior while in others women surpass them. It is a necessary consequence of the fact that their roles in life are complementary to each other. They are equal in worth although different in particular qualities :

God has so created you that one excels the other (in certain respects) (4 : 34).

Not that man excels woman but one excels the other in certain respects and is surpassed by the other in other respects. For thousands of years, man has told woman that she is inferior to him not only in physical strength but also in intelligence and other abilities. Only recently has she realised that she can equal man in many walks of life. The Quran instils into her mind ideas of her essential worth and her own capacity. The Quran liberated woman from her age-long bondage to man. it says :

If men have the potentiality to develop their personality by harmonising themselves with the Laws of Allah, then women also have a similar potentiality ; if men can be members of a movement that aims at world peace according to the inviolable Laws of Allah, then women also can participate in it by becoming its members; if, men can restrain their capabilities so as to develop them within the Laws of Allah, so can women ; if men can vindicate the truth of their conviction through its practical implementation in life, so can women vindicate it; if men can remain steadfast on the path they have chosen, so can women; if men have the in-exhaustive capacity to be more and more in harmony with the Laws of Allah once they are set on this path, so have women this inexhaustible capacity ; if men can sacrifice lower values for higher values, so can women; if men can exercise control and do not violate the limitations set on them, so can women ; if men can keep their sexual urge within the desired limits, so can women; if men can understand the Laws of Allah and focus their activities in life on them, so can women. Now if both men and women have equal capacities and potentialities, their results should also be the same for both of them. Hence both will enjoy protection and security, and all other such benefits and joy that will come out of their deeds (33 : 35).*

This verse puts it beyond doubt that men and women are equal in all things that really matter in social activities. The path of progress is open to both alike and the reward for achieving it is the same for both:

And whoso does good work, whether male or female, and he (or she) is a Believer such will enter Jannah and they will not be wronged so much as the dint in a date-stone (4 : 124).

The Quran also leaves no doubt in the matter of her right to possess:

What man earns will be his and whatever the woman earns will belong to her (4 : 32).

It will thus be seen that Quran treats man and woman as equals in all respects. The fact is that mankind will attain human stature only when it speaks about man and woman in terms of human beings, and not with reference to sex distinction. Woman (like man) has her own, personality, and the relation of personality to personality cannot be a relation of means and end; all personality is an end in itself.

II. Woman (Mother)

The rudiments of family life are also found even in the animal world. The young of most animals are helpless when they are born and cannot survive if they are left to themselves. The task of looking after them is performed sometimes by the female and, in some cases, by both together. Among the birds, male and female participate in bringing up the young. In some kinds of fish, the female is indifferent to the young, while the male provides for them and protects them from danger. Among mammals, care of the young is the chief concern of the female. Some animals, however, let their young fend for themselves at an early age. The human infant remains helpless and in need of parental care for a much longer period. The protracted infancy of the human child necessitates close association of parents with the children over a number of years. In this close companionship, tender emotions germinate and develop. Strong ties of love and affection bind the parents and children closely and permanently. Home is the stage on which the members of the family play their respective roles. Home symbolises happiness, peace, security and mutual sympathy. It is the field for satisfying social contacts and fruitful co-operation. Under parental care, the individual not only attains physical maturity but also becomes a humanised and socialised being. The family is the matrix in which his personality is shaped and moulded. Membership of the family prepares him for membership of society. Society is only the family enlarged. By virtue of the training he has received in sympathy tolerance and co-operation, he takes his rightful place in society as a free and responsible person.

The family is all-important to the human child, and, in the family, the major role is played by the mother. One cannot over-emphasis the influence she exercises over her children. She inspires in them the ideals and imparts to them the culture of her society. It mainly depends on her whether they will become useful members of the society or will be only misfits therein.

The Quran fully recognises the mother's vital role in the family and in society. The Quranic term for the community of Muslims is Ummah, and is derived from Umm, which means mother. The mother influences the family directly and the community indirectly, but not less effectively.

The child develops a balanced personality only when peace reigns in the home atmosphere and there is harmony and concord between the parents. Discord between the parents is the main cause of personality disorders in children. The Quran, therefore, advises man to choose a congenial mate who shares his views and ideals and is in agreement with him on all important matters (2 : 221). Marriage is a contract freely entered into by both man and woman. The woman is, therefore, absolutely free to marry any one she likes. Man cannot marry a woman against her will (4 : 19). It is the duty of the married couple to provide a happy home for their children.

As the woman has to devote most of her time to the care of children, the duty of providing them with the means of subsistence, obviously, falls on man. This division of labour is in the interest of the whole family:

Men are responsible for the maintenance of women (in the home) (4 : 34)

If, however, a woman can spare the time to earn her own living, she is free to do so. Whatever she earns belongs to her (4 : 32). Man and woman are equal partners to work as a team in running the home. Neither of them should try to dominate and exploit the other. Woman's rights are to be respected as much as man's. The husband cannot encroach on the rights of his wife:

Women have rights against men like as men have rights against them in reason and law (2:228)

The relationship between husband and wife has to be closer and reciprocal:

They are raiment for you and you are raiment for them (2 : 187).

As stated above, marriage is a contract entered into by voluntary agreement of the partners. It is a solemn contract. It can still be annulled, but for good reasons when there is no way out and all attempts to save it have failed. Even when such a situation arises, the husband and wife should try to save the contract by an agreeable compromise. When this attempt has also failed, the society should intervene to bring about a reconciliation. They—the husband and the wife—should each choose a representative, and the representative should try to settle the dispute in an amicable way (4 : 35). If their efforts too are fruitless., the marriage may be formally dissolved.

As we have already seen, the purpose of marriage is to create and live in an atmosphere of love, harmony and companionship to fulfil the higher purpose of life. The idea of a man having more than one wife at a time does not fit into the purposeful scheme of such a partnership. Monogamy—one man with one woman—is, therefore the normal rule according to the Quran. There might, however, arise an occasion in which a relaxation of this rule becomes a necessity in the over-all interest of the society. For instance, prolonged war may reduce considerably the number of young men in the society thereby leaving a large number of widowed women, generally with children, and unmarried girls un-provided for. These women and girls must be protected and looked after in the fulfilment of their human needs without hurting or undermining their dignity and honour. Establishing orphanages, or "old age homes," or even making these destitute otherwise economically independent, is only remedy. Obviously, the problem is not economic only: it is much wider and deeper. It would be for the society to handle this delicate situation protecting the individual dignity of those affected, as well as the moral fabric of' the society. For this, the Quran has suggested a feasible alternatives by relaxing the rule of monogamy:

And if you fear that it will not be possible to find an equitable solution of the problem of widows and orphans in the society other-wise, then marry from amongst them those who seem suitable, by twos, threes or fours (as the situation demands),. but if you fear that you will not do justice, then marry only one (4 : 3).

This is the only verse in the Quran that bears on t he question of polygamy. It will be observed from the concluding portion thereof that even where a State does make this relaxation, it is still not obligatory on men to take, more than one wife. They may marry only if they can do justice. It is obvious that if a man marries in such an abnormal situation, it will be as a service to the nation, both on his part and the part of his first wife. She will consider it her duty to provide shelter to one of her unfortunate sisters who has been driven to such a pitiable condition through no fault of her own. It may be argued that we will rarely find a woman who will agree to a rival being brought into her home. The argument may seem valid in the present pattern of life wherein personal interests come first. But it looses its ground in the revolution of ideas brought about by the Quran in which:

The believers prefer others over themselves though they might have to undergo hardships (59 : 9).

History tells us that in the Quranic society in Madina at the time of the Rasool, such a new-comer to the house of a Muslim, in the circumstances stated above, was greeted with blessings by those already in it. The new-comers also did not enter the house as rivals: they were rather laden with a sense of gratitude. This was the result of change which Iman brought about in their heart.

The principle embodied in the verse cited above was exemplified in the life of the Rasool himself. When he was twenty five, he married Khadijah, a widow who was much older than him. For twenty five years she was his only wife. He remarried only after her death. The conditions in which he took to himself more than one wife were such as are specified in the verse to which we have referred. The small Muslim community settled in Madina was constantly at war with enemies on all sides. War takes a heavy toll on the youth of a country. There was a sharp decrease in the number of men. Besides this, there was an influx of refugees, mostly women, from Mecca. The large number of widows and unmarried girls created a problem for the Muslims. It was a situation fraught with danger and a drastic remedy had to be applied. It was in such an (emergency that polygamy was permitted to give protection to the unprotected women-folk by giving them safety and social status. Those for whom the Rasool himself provided a home in this way are briefly described below :

Saudah and her husband had fled from the persecution of the Quraish and taken refuge in Abyssinia. On the death of her husband, she was left absolutely helpless.

Hafsah was the daughter of 'Umar and the widow of Khunais. Khunais was killed in the battle of Uhud. As she was in distress 'Umar tried to give her in marriage to one of his friends but did not succeed. He approached another friend but he too was unwilling to marry her. The Rasool came to the help of 'Umar and provided a home for her.

Zainab. Her third husband too was killed in the battle of Uhud. She was left destitute. She was, therefore, taken under protection by the Rasool, but she died two months after.

Umm Salamah. With her husband she had sought refuge in Abyssinia. After their return, her husband was killed in the battle of Uhud. She was in great distress when the Rasool came to her rescue.

Zainab II. She belonged to the family of the Rasool. Her husband, who had been once a slave had divorced her. As the wife of an erstwhile slave, her social position had been lowered in the general estimation. To bring home to the society at large that this traditional attitude was repugnant to the spirit of Islam, the Rasool himself chose her for marriage, demonstrating thereby that no one loses caste by entering into matrimony with a freed slave.

Umm Habibah. She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, one of the leaders of the Quraish. She had migrated to Abyssinia with her husband. Her husband embraced Christianity and deserted her. She returned home but no one from her family would welcome her and give her protection. The Rasool gave her status and a home.

Maimunah. When her second husband died in Mecca, she was left penniless. The Rasool provided her with a home by giving her a legal status.

Juwairiyah was also a widow. Her husband had been killed in a battle. She was the daughter of the tribal chief of Bani Mustaliq.

Safiyyah’s father, brother and husband had all been killed in the war. She had no one to support her.

A'ishah was the only virgin whom the Rasool married. He had married her before he migrated to Madina, when she was about 19 years old.

The facts speak for themselves. With the solitary exception of A'ishah, the women whom the Rasool married were all elderly widows, homeless and friendless. (The Quran does not specify the number of wives the Rasool had at a time). Social life was in a chaotic condition and lie had to make economic adjustments. As the war continued, the small community had neither the time nor the resources to provide home and subsistence to the widows and orphans. When conditions reverted to the normal, the Rasool offered to divorce them if they so desired. They rejected the offer and remained with him.

III. Slave Girls

Before the advent of Islam., slavery prevailed all over the world. To men in those days, it seemed perfectly normal for the strong and wealthy to have slaves whom they had captured in war or purchased in the market. The Greeks were the leaders of thought in the ancient world. No Greek thinker had ever raised his voice against the institution of slavery. The Quran proclaimed the equality of all men in the sight of God. It struck at the root of slavery by recognizing the moral worth of man as man. However, there were, at the time of the advent of Islam, numerous slaves, both men and women, in Arabia as elsewhere in the world. The Arab economy was based on slavery. To abolish it at one stroke was impracticable. It could not be done without plunging the whole society into confusion. Yet, in every conceivable way, the Quran discouraged slavery and improved the lot of the slaves. The Muslims were urged to be kind and considerate to their slaves. They were told that to emancipate a slave was a meritorious act. They could atone for some of their offences by setting a slave free. Thus the number of slaves was gradually reduced and society was made less dependent on slave labour. The words "whom your right hand possessed" occurring in the Quran are in the past tense and refer to those who had already been enslaved. When they were emancipated through a gradual process, slavery died a natural death. The main source of slaves-men and women-was prisoners in war. The Quran laid down that they should be set free either for a ransom or as a favour (47 : 4). The door for future slavery was thus closed by the Quran for ever. Whatever happened in subsequent history, was the responsibility of the Muslims and not of the Quran.

Islam brought about a revolution in human relations placing master and slave, man and woman, on a footing of equality before God. In Arabia, as in most other countries, man had been accustomed to look on women just for the gratification of his lust. Marriage was a device to prevent men from quarrelling for the possession of desirable women. The Quran raised the status of women in society and made them equal partners of men in the enterprise of living.

IV. Sex and Society

The sex urge is part of the instinctual equipment of man and woman. The continuity of the race is ensured by the individual's desire to engage in procreative activity. It is the means by which the torch of life is carried forward. In the classical classification of instincts on the basis of the ends they subserve, the sex urge belongs to the class of instincts of race preservation.

It is now generally admitted that the sex motive is a powerful determinant of human behaviour. For a long time, however, under the influence of Puritanism and rationalism, the sex life of man was not considered worthy of serious study. In good society, the subject was scrupulously eschewed. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, a reaction set in and the fashion now is to exaggerate its importance in human life. Some psychologists, led by Freud, regard it as basic in "human nature" and ubiquitous in human life. The psychoanalyst digs up the sex motive in such simple activities as eating and playing. He tries to lift the veil from sex and discovers it in unexpected places. The mathematician pondering over lines and curves and the mystic absorbed in meditation may both be satisfying the same urge, though in different ways. Libidinal energy, repressed and diverted into socially approved channels, creates culture and civilisation.

The Western people, it would seem, have swung from the extreme of cold indifference to sex to the opposite extreme of intense preoccupation with it. The Quran steers a middle course. It assigns to sex its rightful place in life but no more. In this attitude it is supported by science. Experimental studies of animal behaviour show that the, sex drive, though a strong one, is by no means the strongest. It is weaker than hunger and thirst. It is also weaker than the parental instinct.

Another point to be noted in this connection is that man cannot live without food or water for more than a few days. But the satisfaction of the sex urge maybe postponed indefinitely without injury to his physical or mental health. Some great men have led a perfectly normal life, without sex indulgence. Celibacy has been the normal way of life for some men. It would seem that the energy of the sex drive is displaceable and can be diverted into other channels.

There is another angle also. An excessive indulgence in matters other than sex will harm the intemperate man himself. But misbehaviour in sex will also have concern for society at large. Sex love being monopolistic would give rise to the strong and sometimes uncontrollable forces of rivalry and jealousy which are so destructive for the society.

It is necessary to call, attention to another aspect of sex. Sex primarily subserves the biological end of race preservation but the activity to which it leads is eminently pleasurable to the individual also. It is nature's device to induce the individual to engage in an activity which is mainly beneficial to the race and not to the individual. Man, however, values sex for his personal pleasure it yields. This pleasure becomes his main goal. For the sake of enjoying it, he artificially stimulates his sex appetite and so perverts it and deflects it from its natural end. Sex, thus, becomes an impediment to man's progress in self-realisation.

If the considerations urged above are borne in mind, we can understand and appreciate the Quran’s attitude to sex. We will see that the restrictions it has imposed on sex expression are perfectly reasonable and in the best interests of the human species. Of course, the sex behaviour of man - has been regulated in every society. The Quran, however, never loses sight of the biological end of the sex drive. Some great religions have taught that sex is essentially evil and that "spiritual" progress is only possible in celibacy. The Quran rejects this view and regards the sex urge as a natural appetite which may be gratified, albeit, in moderation and under conditions in which it does no harm to any one who is affected thereby. In the West, adultery is penalised but not fornication. The Quran forbids all sexual relations outside of marriage. Man is permitted to have such relations only with his lawful wife. Even here, he is warned against making pleasure his goal. He is advised to keep in mind that he is helping to bring into existence a responsible rational being. For years, he will have to devote himself to the task of bringing up and educating his son or daughter so that he or she eventually becomes a useful member of the society. If it is not possible for him to give his child a fair start in life, he should not have begotten him. The Quran seeks to instil a sense of responsibility into the minds of both partners engaged in an activity which will lead to the production of a new being. They are admonished to look beyond the immediate pleasure and realise the responsibility they are undertaking. Pleasure is permissible, but it is wrong to become a slave to it. The Quran tells man that he can and should control his sex drive and attend to it moderately, thinking seriously of the duties that will devolve on him in consequence of it.


V. Chastity

Consistent with this view, the Quran lays particular stress on chastity. It is regarded as a cardinal virtue and as such helps forward the moral and mental progress of man. Chastity is essential for moral purity and mental health. The Freudian theory of sex has, rightly or wrongly, encouraged men to think that sexual abstinence is harmful to mental health. It is supposed to be a fruitful cause of neurotic troubles. Those who hold this view are doing an injustice to Freud. He himself did not defend licentiousness. It is not sexual abstinence but repressed sexuality that produces neurotic disorders. This is what Freud actually taught. Some medical men, who have only superficial knowledge of the psychoanalytic doctrine, actually advise their neurotic patients to overcome their sexual inhibitions and let themselves "go" : no wonder that the patients sometimes get worse instead of getting better. Because of a constitutional bias the neurotics are obsessed with sex and are also prone to repression. Sexual abstinence does no appreciable harm to normal men. Rather, abstinence is conducive to mental health.

What a man is to do if circumstances do not permit him to marry? The Quran advises him to guard his chastity and to abstain from gratifying his sex appetite till it is possible for him to get a suitable mate:

And let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah enriches them by His grace (24 : 32).

The drives of hunger and thirst are imperative and must be satisfied under any circumstances. The satisfaction of the sex drive, however, can safely be postponed for a fairly long period, or even for ever. Unlike the drives of hunger and thirst, sex appetite never rouses itself : it is excitable by conscious volition. The point needs further elaboration. A man, even when busy and deeply absorbed in his work, will feel thirstily when his system needs water, irrespective of the fact whether he is conscious about the need or not. At first the feeling will be mild, but as time passes, it will become unbearable so much so that he will have to leave aside his work and attend to it if he wishes to survive. The same will hold good in the case of food. But the sex urge is quite different. It never becomes a compelling drive on its own unless it receives a stimulus, mental or physical. The most important exciting factor is the thought of sex itself which has to be held in check. This is why chastity is not a physiological or psychological impossibility. The Quran, by emphasising the importance of chastity, also helps to solve population problem. Chastity is not only in extramarital relationship, but even a married, couple should turn towards the sex urge only when they are ready to welcome an addition to the family. This ideal will benefit both the body and the human self alike and also make a sensible check on the growth of population. Today, with the current state of morals, this may seem a counsel of perfection. It is so only because the pursuit of pleasure is the dominant aim. Self-indulgence has dimmed the vision of the purpose of life which is to befit oneself for a higher plane of existence. The Quranic advice is meant for those who are alive to the demands of this purpose. It is not just a pious advice. The Quran gives it a practical shape. The first thing is to cultivate the right attitude towards sex. The way to do this is to bear in mind that the purpose of the sexual activity is procreation and not mere pleasure. It will exercise a moderating influence on passion and will engender a sense of responsibility in us. Knowledge of the possible consequences of our intended action will restrain us from acting thoughtlessly and so assuming duties which we cannot properly discharge. In animals, the sex impulses are controlled by nature and the sex drive arises only when nature wishes to bring about conception. Animals, therefore, cannot rear a "planned family". Man, on the other hand, possesses freedom of choice, including sexual matters, so that he may bring children into the world according to his own plans. He may, however, abuse his freedom and indulge in sex for the sake of pleasure, which results in accidental and unwanted births with all the miss-adjustments that follow for the individual as well as for society.

To save man from such a ruinous situation and to bring about, instead, healthy results, the Quran asks us to practice self-control. If self-control is practised, the sex impulse can be directed into healthy channels. Needless to say that it will prove to be beneficial to the individual as well as to the society at large. It will strengthen the moral fibre of man and, at the same time, avert the danger of overpopulation.

To sum up, the Quran seeks to regulate the sex behaviour of man in the following ways :

1. It asks man to keep his eye fixed steadily on the purpose of life. It assures him that he can achieve this purpose by pursuing absolute values.

2. It assures women that she is not a tool for the sex gratification of man; that she too is a free, independent and rational being. "She is an end unto herself." Her aim in life should not be to make herself a. source of temptation to men but to impart meaningful partnership.

3. The Quran condemns lewdness, indecency, pornography and all things that excite and ponder to

the sex passion:

Say, my Rabb forbiddeth indecencies, such of them as are apparent and such as are within (7 : 33).

4. It affirms the value of chastity and commands men and women equally to lead a pure and chaste life. It regards chastity as essential for the development of human personality, both for man and woman.

5. It reminds man of his duty to his children. He is enjoined to bring up his children properly, to educate them, to inculcate in their minds the human level of life (as against the animal level) and permanent values, and to give them a fair start in life.

Some modern writers, after an extensive study of the sex life of primitive as well as civilised men, have come to the conclusion that chastity is essential to the progress of humanity. J.D. Unwin of Cambridge University, has studied the sex life of some eighty primitive tribes and of sixteen civilised nations. He has set forth his views in his book Sex and Culture. In the Preface he writes:

Briefly stated, my final conclusion is that the cultural behaviour of any human society depends, first, on the inherent nature of the human organism, and, secondly, on the state of energy into which, as the result of its sexual regulations, the society has arrived 1

The conclusions he draws from his study of the primitive peoples are as follows:

1. That group was on the lowest level of culture in which sexual intercourse without marriage was openly permitted;

2. the tribe in which there were some restrictions on sexual relations without marriage were on the middle level; and

3. On the highest level were the tribes which insisted on pre-marital chastity.2

Summing up the results of his investigation, he says:

I submit, therefore that the limitation of the sexual opportunity must be regarded as the cause of the cultural advance.3

Again :

No society can display social energy unless a new generation inherits a social system under which sexual opportunity is reduced to a minimum. If such a system be preserved, a richer and yet richer tradition will be created, refined by human entropy.4

Unwin's concluding remarks deserve careful consideration :

If a vigorous society wishes to display its productive energy for a long time, and even for ever, it must re-create itself, I think, first by placing the sexes on a level of complete legal equality, and then by altering its economic and social organisation in such a way as to render it both possible and tolerable for sexual opportunity to remain at a minimum for an extended period, and even for ever. In such a case the face of the society will be set in the Direction of the Cultural, Process; its inherited tradition would be continually enriched, it would achieve a higher culture than has yet been attained ; by the action of human entropy its tradition would be augmented and refined in a manner which surpasses our present understandings. 5

The Quran, by granting to woman the status of a free responsible citizen, by placing the sexes on the level of complete legal equality, and by reducing sexual opportunity to the minimum,, is only seeking to set up the conditions which find support from human research.
 
 
 

References
 

1. J.D. Unwin, Sex and Culture, p. xiv.

2. Ibid, pp. 300-325.

3. Ibid, p. 317.

4. Ibid, p. 414.

5. Ibid, p. 432.
 

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