Thursday 27th of January 2022
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Every one of us has experienced a special relationship with a woman. We have been born from our mother’s wombs; we have shared our thoughts and opinions with our sisters; they have perfected our lives to the extent that we consider them as major players in the center stage of our existence. This is why when we write about the human nature of women we are writing about humanity at its best.


 Religious messages devote a large attention to significant women. Examples such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, Khadija, his wife, and Zaineb, the sister of Imam Hussein, are highly regarded in Islam. The human nature of these women is so close to perfection that they are seen as ideal examples for both men and women throughout history.


But not all societies and schools of thought treat women as such. Friedrich Engels[1]  suggested that the relationship between men and woman in marriage is the first step towards class conflict in society, concluding that male dominance in the family is a reflection of class conflict. Even Talcott Parsons[2], a Functionalist sociologist, dehumanizes women in the family by suggesting that wives are biological tools to produce productive individuals in society.


Looking at women from different perspectives would enlighten us to understand her nature differently because discussing rights and obligations are not enough to characterize a woman. Women can be idealized when they invest their potential qualities that are already designed in them by their Creator.


Mentally and psychologically, women are capable not only in bearing the pain and enduring suffrage through natural laws such as pregnancy and delivery, but also they can be a source of power in very critical moments of tragedy. Take for example Zaineb, the sister of Imam Hussein. Not only did she witness the tragedy taken place at Karbala in the seventh century, but also she challenged the social and political system after the tragedy. Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, had the courage to stand up for her rights defending the very essential principals of Islam immediately following the death of her father. Khadija, the wealthy woman who took a strong position against her tribe in Arabia, supported her husband’s cause morally and financially, and as a result was isolated by the idolaters in her family.


Two factors consider these women as heroines, first they challenged social norms vociferously, and second they showed humanity (men and women) the guidance to choose good principles over evil. In other words, they invested their potential qualities that were already designed in them by God.


While heroines are found in every culture, there is a difference in their roles. Historically, there are women such as Joan of Arc (1412-31) the French military leader, who after being accused of heresy, was burned at the stake. Marie-Joseph Angelique (died 1734), a Portuguese-born slave woman accused of arson, confessed through torture, was condemned to death by hanging after having her hand cut off. Mulan, an Asian warrior who disguised herself as a man in place of her ill father, to fight to in defend her country and family. These women represented self determination and struggle for their rights and status but while they strove for their cause they were nevertheless tainted as being insane, criminal, or simply legendary. They didn’t leave an ethical code, of choosing good over evil, for future generations.


 The heroic women of Islam are not following a social mirror that was proposed by Charles Cooley[3]  who theorized that we see our selves through other people’s eyes. In other words we regularly do what our society expects us to do. Instead, those Islamic women behaved totally independent from their social norms. They established a new reality for women and they offered society an actual model about the nature of women and their roles in social life. Without a religious message and framework, they would not have the ability to do it. But a religious message, namely Islam, inspired these women to show their human nature to society rather than succumbing to the social nature imposed on them by their socio-environmental forces.


     The human nature of women is one that has a will, a soul, a conscience that can praise or blame, and a mind with clear intentions. This human nature is not related to feminism or masculinity, rather it is a part of the Divine design of creatures and creation.


     Women should take an active role in social life, the Islamic message tells us. Their constructive contributions to society should be consistent with the very delicate human nature that we discussed previously. This beautiful nature flourishes at home through nurturing new generations to be peaceful, intelligent, constructive, and loving beings. Women’s roles should expand to the areas of management, public education, nursing and medicine, and creative moral expressions, setting and ethical idealistic frameworks for society.


     Inferiority of women, in some societies, is more of social norms than of religious beliefs and practices. Most Divine messages that are sent to humanity place woman (wives, or mothers, or sisters) in upper stage of our lives. In Islam we observe the pure nature of our heroic women such as Fatima, Khadija, Zaineb, and Mary (may God’s peace be upon them). We strive to elevate our standard of beliefs and practices to their standard.



[1] Engels, Friedrich. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. New York: International Publishers, 1942.


[2] Parsons, Talcott. The Social System. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1951.


[3] Cooley, Charles. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner’s, 1902.


 Related References:


(1) Ibn Qutaiba, Abdullah. The History of Caliphs (Leadership and Politics). Cairo: Halabi, 1960.


(2) Al-Tabari, Mohammad. The History of Kings and Messengers. Beirut: Usul Deen, 1987.

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