There is no difference between men and women on the issue of humanity, spiritual positions and the many intellectual and scientific talents that they have.
The third set of the characteristics of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) is his governmental characteristics which are an offshoot of the issue of imamate. Imamate means governing like this. Of course, there are some peaks and troughs, but the best form of it can be seen in a personality like the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.). What are examples of governmental characteristics? These characteristics are justice, fair-mindedness, and considering all people as equal, even those who live in your society but who do not practice your religion.
When the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) heard that Basar ibn Artat [one of the commanders in Muawiyah’s army who was the governor of Basra for a while] attacked a city and entered people’s houses by force, he delivered a sermon which was full of grief and sorrow: “I have come to know that every one of them entered upon Muslim women and other women under protection of Islam and took away their ornaments from legs, arms, necks and ears” [Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 27]. In this sermon, he says that he heard that these oppressive, cruel and transgressing forces have entered the houses of Muslim and non-Muslim – “Muahad” means the Jewish and Christian people who lived in the Islamic community – women and that they have pulled away their clothes, their ornaments, their bracelets and anklets.
After that, he says that, “if any Muslim dies of grief after all this he is not to be blamed”. Notice that this is his personality. Such is his pity and sympathy for people. And it was for all people because in the Islamic community of those times, there were Jews, Christians and the like. Such people were referred to as Muahad. So, these are his governmental characteristics: justice, fair-mindedness, and equality for everyone.
Equality or equity?
If we want our outlook towards the issue of women to be healthy, reasonable and precise, the first condition is that we should completely clear our minds of the statements that westerners make about women – about their employment, management and sexual equality.
One of the greatest mistakes of western thoughts about the issues of women is this sexual equality. Justice is a legitimate concept, but equality is sometimes legitimate and sometimes illegitimate. Why should we separate an individual who has been built for a particular domain – in terms of one’s natural make up, whether physical or emotional – from that particular domain and drag her towards another domain which Allah the Exalted has built for another make-up? Why should we do this? What reason do we have for doing so? What kind of sympathy is this? Why should women be entrusted with carrying out male tasks? What kind of honor is to have women carry out male tasks?
I am sorry that sometimes women and ladies themselves show sensitivity over this issue. They ask, “What is our difference with men?” Well, there is no difference between men and women on many issues. Islam looks at men and women as human beings. There is no difference between men and women on the issue of humanity, spiritual positions and the many intellectual and scientific talents that they have. But they have two different molds. Each of these molds is shaped for a particular task. Of course, there are certain common tasks among them. Is it a service if we separate either of these two molds from their domain and put it in another domain? This is what westerners are doing. Many of their international conventions result from this outlook.
They have destroyed their own lives because of this wrong thought. They want to destroy other people’s lives as well. Thankfully, you ladies are knowledgeable, well-informed and outstanding and I respect you.
Women are like flowers
The typical image of women at home is the image of a creature of secondary importance who is responsible for rendering services to others. This image is shared by many people. Some people openly express it and some people do not, although they believe it in their hearts. This is the exact opposite of what Islam has mentioned.
I have repeatedly quoted this well-known hadith: “Women are like flowers. They are not servants” [Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 31]. The Arabic word “ghahraman” means one’s employee or servant. One example is: “He said to his ghahraman to do such and such a task” [Speaking in Arabic]. Another example is that a person who has many properties and lands orders his ghahraman to carry out such and such a task. This is the meaning of ghahraman. This hadith says that we should not think women are the servants of the house and that they should only do household chores. This is not the case.
Well, notice that this is one of the several chapters about women: the issue of respecting women’s work at home. They are not obligated to do household chores and their work can be bought. That is to say, they can receive money for the work that they do at home. These are the things which exist in Islam and Islamic fiqh. As the lady who delivered a speech in this meeting pointed out, our fiqh is really advanced and outstanding. Some people highlight some aspects of it and forget about the rest. Besides, they completely distort certain aspects of it in order to make it compatible with western deceitful and fallacious thoughts. We have witnessed this as well.