Question 31: Difference in blood money between man and a woman in Islamic Jurisprudence
Question: Why is the blood money of a woman half of that of a man?
All of the laws of Islam are based upon certain benefits. Every law has wisdom. If something has been prohibited in Islam it is because it is harmful. If something has been made obligatory it is because it has a benefit. Of course perhaps it is not possible for us to find out all of the benefits and harms of all the laws and prohibitions, but if we rely on a sound intelligence and base ourselves on realities and of course on the sayings of the Infallibles (ع) we can understand some of these things.
In regards to the blood money of a woman being half of that of a man there is definitely some wisdom behind such a law to which we will briefly refer:
1. If Islam was purely a materialistic school of thought and if the foundations of its laws were monetary and economic matters and, given this, women’s blood money was half of that of men’s, then this objection would be proper that why is the value of women half of that of men and why have they valued women at half the price of men. But these are not the foundations that are used and in Islam the value of human beings is according to their Spirit and their spiritual qualities. In Islam that which is valuable is piety. Human beings can be like Musa (ع) who spoke with Allah (awj) or be like Maryam (ع) who used to receive heavenly revelations. In regards to traversing the path of felicity and obtaining spiritual positions, men and women are equal. There is no difference between them in this regard in principle, and in fact, the matter depends upon their personal ambition and effort. But blood money is an economic matter. Blood money is a matter related to the physical aspect of human beings, therefore in this regard there is no difference between the blood money of a prominent member of the Islamic society and an average labourer.
2. Generally speaking we can say that human beings, whether they be men or women, have three dimensions to their existence:
a. The human or divine dimension: In this dimension there is no difference between men and women. The path to human and divine perfection is open to both of them and both of them can progress in these regards as far as they want. In verse number 97 of Surat al-Nahl (16), Allah (awj) says:
“Whoever amongst you whether they be man or woman and they have faith without a doubt we will give them pure life in this world and in the hereafter we will give them a reward in recompense to their good deeds.”
In Surat al-Ahzab (33), the same matter has also been alluded to.
b. The intellectual dimension: According to the intellectual dimension there is no difference between men and women. Islam does not believe that there is a difference between men and women as regards the gaining of knowledge. “Gaining knowledge is an obligation on both men and women.” The Qur`anic verses that have been revealed as regards knowledge and learning have not discriminated between men and women and these verses are almost 40 in number.
c. The economic dimension: In Islam men and women differ from each other in the economic responsibilities that been placed on each of their shoulders. These responsibilities have been divided according to the bodily and psychological strengths and weaknesses of both. Principally women are weaker than men in economic matters.
Even in this age and in societies that have apparently not discriminated between men and women, the economic output of women is less than that of men. The truth of the matter is that women must become pregnant and after giving birth they must breastfeed their children. They subsequently must take care of their children. The pregnancy and breastfeeding takes quite a bit of time and energy from the women.
Even though this is a valuable matter in itself, it is not an economic matter. There is no economic output produced by such work. From another point of view the body of men and women differ drastically from one another. Women have delicate bodies and they can be injured with the slightest accident while the bodies of men are strong and generally powerful and therefore more suited for difficult tasks. For this very reason, many of the difficult jobs of society that require much power have been placed in the hands of men. It is very obvious that without men the family is more at an economic loss. It is therefore necessary that men’s blood money be more than that of women.
3. The vacuum felt by a family with the loss of a man is far greater than the loss felt at the absence of a woman. According to jurisprudential and historical studies, blood money is an economical matter. It has been legislated in order to compensate for the loss incurred by the injured. From another point of view, in an ideal society, which Islam attempts to create, most of the economic activity is carried out by men.
When we look at the general economic responsibilities of men we find that men have duties that women have been excused from. While the most important responsibility of a woman, but not the only one, is to manage the cornerstone of society, in other words the family, the most important duty of man, but not the only one, is to provide for the economic needs of the family. Aside from this, the daily expenses of the children are upon the shoulders of the man not the woman. Therefore with his departure some people who should be looked after find themselves at a loss.
This vacuum must be filled by some means. It is only natural then that the blood money of a man should be more than that of a woman. This matter has no relation to the essence of men and women. Rather it relates to the external accidents that are incurred by a family. When we take into consideration all that has been just said, we can come the conclusion that blood money is not a means by which we value men and women. Their difference in this matter is not something to be objected to. From another point of view the economic responsibilities of a man necessitate that in some matters (like blood money) that are directly related to economics a certain difference between men and women show up. There is no difficulty in this matter.
Men are stronger than women and are capable of performing more difficult tasks than women. Their existence provides peace and tranquillity to the family. From another point of view, with their loss some people are left without a helper and provider. It is therefore natural that their blood money be more than that of women.
We conclude this answer by turning our attention to a point that is not without subtlety and by answering two questions.
First of all, man’s blood money is double that of woman’s in the case that the blood money should reach one third of the required portion. In any other case, their blood money is equal. If her blood money’s being half were a proof of her inferiority to that of man, then in all cases it should be half. Secondly, just as men have more blood money than women, they are also responsible to participate in the money paid to the family of someone killed or injured by one of their family members. This is while women are excused from such an obligation.
It is possible that someone may object by saying that in this era men and women work side by side in the workforce. Therefore there is no reason that in this age her blood money should be half of men’s.
In answer to this objection we can say that first of all, it is true that women today participate in economic activities alongside men but in no instance can they provide the security that men can provide for their family. Secondly, there are many high paying jobs that do not suit the fragile composition of women and are therefore exclusively for men. It is natural that this would raise the economic status of men over women. At the same time we can object by saying that if the economic output of women were really equal to that of men as some of these countries that are advocates of equality between the sexes claim, then why is it that most of the dignitaries and managers and ministers are men?
Another objection that is likely to be raised is this: Is the fact that the blood money of women is half of that of men a discrimination against her in favour of men? The answer to this question is that Islam is a religion of equality. To be male or female is no superiority in this religion but in the matter of blood money there is a wisdom that necessitates that men’s be more than that of women’s. There are laws in Islam that are to the benefit of women based on a certain wisdom that lies in such laws. For example if a man becomes an apostate, according to the view of many jurisprudents he is to be killed even though he may repent afterwards. But if a woman becomes an apostate and repents then she is returned to her ordinary life. Or for instance if a man becomes insane after getting married the wife has a right to end the marriage, while if the same thing happens to a woman the man has no such right.
According to jurisprudential and historical studies, blood money is an economical matter. It has been legislated in order to compensate for the loss incurred by the injured. From another point of view, in an ideal society, which Islam attempts to create, most of the economic activity is carried out by men. When we look at the general economic responsibilities of men we find that men have duties that women have been excused from. While the most important responsibility of a woman, but not the only one, is to manage the cornerstone of society, in other words the family, the most important duty of man, but not the only one, is to provide for the economic needs of the family.
When we pay attention to this matter we can easily conclude that Islam must strengthen those matters that have financial consequences for men and amongst these matters is blood money. Men play a pivotal role in the economic life of the family. From another point of view, blood money is related to the physical aspect of the human being. Hence, if someone’s body were stronger his blood money would be more. Since men are more productive economically than women, their blood money is more than that of women. This does not mean of course that in Islam the position and status of a woman is less than that of a man. If blood money was related to the worth and position of individuals, then the blood money of a scholar or the leader of society would not be equal to that of an average worker.
Another important point pertains to the role a man plays in the security of his household. It is very clear that it is the man that protects the family. This would imply that the loss inflicted on a family if the man was not present would be far greater than if the woman was not there. In the end it is necessary to keep this in mind that in every case the laws that have been presented by a religion or school of thought are always in line with the principles that that religion or school of thought has formed in regards to that matter. It is in accordance to the sum total of those viewpoints that the law been passed. In regards to blood money as well, Islam has formed its law while taking into consideration the responsibilities and rights of both men and women and the general laws that pertain to the family system. We cannot therefore look at them in a separately and object.