Spousal Submission

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim Al-Hamdulillah Rabb Al-Alameen. Baari' al khalayk ajma'een, wal salaat wal salaam 'ala Rasoolihi wa habibihi Abil Qasim Muhammad, allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad, wa ala ahlibaytihi al tayyibeen al taahireen al ma'soomeen.

Assalaamu aleikum wa-rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. It is very nice to see some faces I have not seen before, & in a while, alhamdulilah, salamun alaykum.

Any topic dealing with the rights of women and relationships of women and men in Islam is always a topic of controversy and emotion and so forth and so on. And I think it is a very appropriate topic to present here tonight. The topic spousal submission, the submission of one spouse to another. Is it a one-way street? In other words, is it only or basically concerning women's submission to men? Or is it a two-way street? Do men also submit to women? So we want to explore this idea tonight. And inshaAllah, we are looking forward to some heated discussion, I would assume. But please let us not get out of hand like it did last time. You know, no swearing at Umar and talking out of turn and so on.

Now Allah subhanah wa ta'ala says in the Holy Qur'an: Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim ar-rijalu qawwamuna ʿala n-nisaʾ bi-ma fadhdhala llahu baʿdhahum ʿala baʿdhin wa-bi-ma ʾanfaqu min ʾamwalihim fa-s-salihatu qanitatun hafizatun li-l-ghaybi bi-ma hafiza llahu. Allah says: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because of that which Allah has made some of them excel the other and because they support them from their means. Good women, therefore, are obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded.[Qur'an 4:34]

Qawwamun, says Allah. We translate Qawwamun as the maintainers and protectors of women. It comes from the word Qama - Qawwam is an intensified form. You have Qa'im - a person who is standing. Qawwam is helping somebody else stand. Standing means, in many cases, being able to exist, being able to maintain its identity, being able to preserve something. And because of its intensive meaning, it indicates something that is a continuous and ongoing process.

We talk about Iqamat al salaat, meaning maintaining the prayer. This idea does not just simply mean maintaining. It means keeping up the identity of the prayer, preserving the prayer from falling in disrepute, and therefore it involves all those essential things that are responsible for the existence of that thing. What maintains that thing, what keeps that thing up, is that which addresses itself through to the identity of that very thing itself.

So this rule, as, for example, Allama Tabataba'i says, is a general rule that all men, all men, Allah says al-rijaal, all men are responsible for maintaining women, not necessarily all men are responsible for taking care of women in terms of providing Nafaqa, providing their sustenance. This happens in the marital relationship.

But in society in general, all men are supposed to be looking out for women.

All men are supposed to be helping women preserve their identity. And we find that, for example, in this society, we have slight indications of this remaining. For example, opening doors for women and standing up in a bus or in a crowded place and giving a woman your seat and so on. It goes all back to that, that men give women priority in terms of their social activity. So this is not some kind of idea of male superiority to women. It is the idea of men having a very central role in maintaining women and preserving them on all aspects of their being, protecting them, for example, from the danger of the world. This is why, for example, we have standing armies to protect society in general and women in particular. This is the type of thing that Islam is talking about. A society where men look after women.

We find in today's society, for example, this idea is being lost at the altar of equality, an equality that so far even this society has not been able to preserve.

Now why Allah says that men should do this? Why should men stand up for women? Why should men respect women? Why should men not hurt women either emotionally or physically? Why should men not do this? He says, bi-ma fadhdhala llahu baʿdhahum ʿala baʿdh, because Allah has made some of them excel over others. Allah has given some of them an advantage over others. Allah has given something extra over others. Now there is a difference in opinion among some of the mufassireen with respect to this phrase. Whether it is one that is applied to the male-female relationship in marriage, whether it is one that applies to men in general over woman, or whether it is a general rule that is being applied.

But there should be no contradiction if any one of these reasons are taken up, because the general tends to include the specific. That, in fact, there is a general rule in Islam that those people who have advantages over others, that advantage should be used to the benefit of others.

So we have, for example, the idea of Zakaat. Zakaat in the general sense, not in the specific sense as the poor tax. Everything has a Zakaat. For example, Imam Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, has said: there is (Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa aali Muhammad) Inna likuli shay' Zakaatun, wa Zakaatul 'ilm yata'alamahu ahlah. He says everything has a Zakaat and the Zakaat of knowledge, those people who have knowledge, is to teach those who are for the acquisition of knowledge. So we see here in one case again that a person might have an advantage, that advantage is knowledge. What should that person do with that knowledge? Well, you have one of two directions, one of two ways in which one can express that. One can either use that knowledge for one's advantage over another person, or one can use that knowledge to educate others. This is the essence of Islam. And so Allah is saying on a social level and on a specific level, that if men have a particular advantage over women, than men should be using that advantage for women. So in this idea of reciprocity, in this idea of fulfilling the needs of others, is the idea of justice. And there is also this idea of opposites, the idea of things being different to each other. One thing having an advantage over the other in something. And so it has a type of reciprocal relationship between them.

And when we look at relationships and when we look at creation, we find that this is true right throughout creation. Indeed, Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, wa-min kulli shayʾin khalaqna zawjayni laʿallakum tadhakkarun. And in all things we have created pairs that you might take admonition.[Qur'an 51:49] In other words, all things, all things in existence, in material existence especially, are created in pairs everything, including males and females. And there is a relationship between these pairs of things. Without these pairs of things, we cannot have reality. We can not have up without down. We cannot have right without wrong. We cannot have black without white. We cannot have truth without falsehood. If we are living in an environment of falsehood, like a society, like many modern societies, eventually falsehood tends to take on the appearance of truth.

So this is why we have Shaytan existing, because if we do not have Shaytan, human beings cannot have an opponent, somebody or some entity or some force by which it could be tempted and could fight that force and thus bring the good out of itself. And because of Shaytan, la'natullah alayh, because of Shaytan and our struggle against Shaytan, we become worthy of paradise. If there was no Shaytan, we would not achieve the level of spiritual combativeness and spiritual development that we should have.

And so we find that this opposite, this reciprocity, this complementarity existing between men and women. Now Allah, subhanah wa ta'ala, says that all of the things that He has created are signs, signs that point out to what? Signs that point out to Him, that indicate Him. And indeed, many of the great teachers of Islam, many of the great urafaa' and so on, have said that this creation is the self expression of Allah. It is Allah expressing himself, that behind everything are the names of Allah. And in these expressions of the names of Allah, there is a hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy is Insaan - men and women. And among men and women, we represent more than anything else all of the names of Allah either actualised, for example, in the case of the Prophets and the Imams, 'aleyhim asalam, or in potential, like in our cases.

And we know that, for example, Allah's names are divided between the names of beauty and the names of majesty. And it is in this realm that we find men and women representing certain aspects of the divine names. Men represent the dhaahir names, the outward names, the names of majesty and the names of power. And women represent the names of beauty, the names of softness, the names of love. And it is under these two orbits that men and women exist.

And so therefore, when we are talking about the word of submission, when we are talking about obedience and so forth. Obedience and submission have two different reflections, two different expressions among males and females. Submission, obedience, power, and these types of things, are expressed in men in a different way as they are expressed in women.

And one very good case in point, is that because men represent this dhaaheri aspect, the power aspect, you find therefore men would represent in themselves a more direct, a more directly operative expression of power, you see. So you find that men, for example, would tend to be in commanding roles in society. And it is because of this that you find that in Islam, certain occupations, a very small number of them, by the way, certain occupations are preserved only for men. For example, that of judge, that of the military activity, that of ruler and so forth. Why? Because these things represent the Jalaali names of Allah. The names of power and majesty of Allah. You would find women, for example, being more representative of the Baatani or the hidden aspects of Allah's names, the aspects of mercy, the aspects of love. So therefore, when, in the relationship of a man with a woman, you might find that, for example, the idea of commanding on a man's level in an outward general sense, more apparent, more open. And you would find that, for example, commanding on a woman's level, more subtle. So a man might tell a woman directly, I would like you to do so-and-so and expect her to do this, whereas a woman might take a different approach to expecting a man to do something that she wants him to do. She might take that role as, for example, a suggestive role. 'Why don't you do so-and-so?' 'It is a better thing for you to do so and so'. To offer a reward for so and so.

Women are the focus, the locus of divine love. And so therefore women tend to dominate men on the basis of love. In fact, the love of a woman is what makes many men serve that woman. The love of a woman is what makes men feel a sense of validation for themselves. If a woman does not love a man, then a man does not feel self validated. So you have a different aspect going on here, a different type of dynamic that is going on here. And it is in this way that Islam preserves this dichotomy, this separation, this difference between men and women.

So the question is, is this spousal submission a one way street? Is it only that women obey men and men do not obey women? Definitely not. When we talk about commanding, a man takes the more direct and overt role. When we come to women, women represent a more subtle and influential role. And we find this also reflected in the fitra. Because whatever Allah talks about in the Holy Qur'an with respect to men and women or respect to anything, He talks about the essential nature of that thing. And for example, we know that women in their fitra cannot stand a man who they could boss around. They just can't stand it. They can't stand a man who does not take the initiative. You know, they can drive, but they would rather you drive them around, okay? That is how they are. And when a man always asks a woman, 'So what do you think we should do now?' He asks her one more time, she tells him 'That's the door. Get out of here.' You know, because I don't want that from a man.

But He does not mean to say women want to be bossed around. And this is one of the ideas that the Western media and also in some really extreme tribalist types of societies tend to propagate. That Islam is something that wants to be always over the head of women, and wants to bash them every time, and wants to suppress them. It is not the case at all.

What Islam is talking about is preserving this divine dichotomy, this divine system of opposites that is responsible for the world going around. Preserve this in the family, preserve this in society. And in the preservation of this, we will arrive at peace. We would arrive at stability. When you are shifted only in one direction, one creates an instability in society. And we find modern society being just that. Because you have the general shift towards a male orientation of understanding of oneself in society, not an equal one, but a male orientation, you find that people become very destabilised. And so you find, for example, in a society like this, we have not only gender confusion, but gender instability. So twenty, thirty years ago, we were talking about gay rights. Now we are talking about LGBT rights and the alphabet continues. Because you don't know LGBT Z, V, W, X, Y and Z rights are going to happen in the next 20 years.

This shows us that this society is unstable. That the idea that people have of themselves and of their identity is something that is in crisis. And because they live in this type of compound ignorance, because it is an ignorance that masquerades as enlightenment, they tend to propagate and advertise their views in the most glossy sense, which leaves a lot of Muslims confused, which leads a lot of Muslims to think that their religion is backward, and this leads a lot of Muslims to try to reform their Islam and try to make it follow the same path that the society is going.

What are we supposed to do? We have to start thinking about these things in a deeper way. We have to start thinking about what Islam is teaching us, in a way that is with an open mind, try to get close to our laws that we could understand, we could create and expand our understanding. And in this way, we could discover the wisdom behind what Islam is encouraging us to do.

And on the level of the family, which is the basic unit of human society, if we do not follow and implement these teachings of Islam, our society will become just like that, just like the others. And in fact, it is becoming like this. You find that, for example, the rate of divorce in the Muslim community is rising. You find the rate of inter-gender conflict in the family, in the Muslim community is rising. You find that Muslims are starting to fall into the same kind of gender confusion that we find in this society. We have a lot of Muslims, for example, who walk around saying: "I can not understand why Islam is so hostile to homosexuality. Because I have a great friend at work who is so nice, and he is such a friend of the girls because he is such a nice guy. What's wrong with him and these types of ideas?" This is because we do not understand the profound teachings of Islam. InshaAllah I want to stop there and open up the floor to questions and hopefully we will have a nice evening this evening.