Women, Men, and Intellectual Deficiency

Lost in Translation

“WOMEN ARE DEFICIENT in intellect.” These words, quoted from a famous ^adîth, have been gleefully used by many Muslim men to demean and belittle women, implying that they are, by nature, inferior.

It is sad that the majority of English translations and explanations (especially the latter) regarding this ^adîth convey an overtly negative attitude, even aggressive in some cases, toward women.

Yet when one reads the original Arabic Text, and searches for other classical explanations—such as that of the renowned Mâlikî jurist of Cueta (Sabta, in Arabic), Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\ (d. 544/1149)—a different picture is painted, one which reflects not negativity, but positivity.

The key phrase that we will look at here is the following: مارأيت من ناقصات عقل ودين أغلب لذي لب منكن

One can see for oneself the differences of translation—and by extension, interpretation—clearly in the following four citations:

  1. “In spite of your lacking in wisdom and failing in religion, you are depriving the wisest of men of their intelligence.” (sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/20/11)
  2. “I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you.” (sunnah.com/muslim/1/147)
  3. “I have not seen anyone more deficient in intellect or dîn (religion). Yet the mind of even a resolute man might be swept away by one of you.” (sunnipath.com/library/hadith/H0002P0006.aspx)
  4. “I have never seen among those who have a deficiency in their intellect and their religion anyone more capable than women of swaying the intellect of the most determined of men.” (http://www.answering-christianity.com/karim/Rebuttal_to_Wiki_Islam_on___Are_Women_Deficient_in_Intelligence__.htm)

The first two are quite harsh, and a jumping board for those explanations which go into detail about how women are weak, lacking, and inferior in intelligence.

The second two are slightly more ambivalent, less condemning, as it were. Even so, in English—and, I would suspect, most languages—there is very little explanation of this phrase (and, indeed, the entire ^adîth itself) that doesn’t come off as an excuse or justification for misogyny.

Are the Knowing and Unknowing Equal?

What is a better explanation for this ^adîth, then?

In Ikmâl Al-Mu¢lim bi Fawâ’id Muslim (a commentary on ßa^î^ Muslim) by Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\, he discusses this ^adîth carefully. To begin with, he notes a small but significant detail in the ^adîth has been glossed over by many. When the Messenger of Allah œ approached the believing women to impress upon them the importance of giving |adaqah (charity) and repeating istighfâr (the asking of divine forgiveness), one of those women spoke up.

¢Abdullah ibn ¢Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah œ said: “O womenfolk, you should give charity and ask much forgiveness, for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell.” A wise lady among them said: “Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our kind is in bulk in Hell?”

Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\ takes the time to speak about this woman. In the Arabic Text, she is described as “imra’atun jazlatun.”

What does ‘jazlah’ mean? Another analysis of the ^adîth[1] defines ‘jazlah’ as “dhât al-¢aql, ra’iyy waqâr,” meaning, someone with intelligence, with an opinion based upon reason and rationale, and commanding respect.

This “imra’atun jazlah” was not merely content to hear this statement, but wanted to understand the reasoning behind it—and as Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\ states, she demonstrates her intelligence in that she did not challenge the Prophet œ in a disrespectful manner, but spoke up in a firm yet appropriate way. Nor does her question criticize the statement of the Prophet œ, but instead, she seeks to further her own understanding of his statement.

In fact, her behavior embodies the ayahIt is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. (Surat Al-A^zâb, 33:36)

Be Mindful of ‘Aql

Another interesting point that Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\ makes is how the word ¢aql is defined and understood, especially in the context of this ^adîth. Only one definition equates with the widely translated and assumed one of “intellect,” whereas he also mentions it as certain, specific types of knowledge, and also as one in possession of a surpassing, deep insight and the acumen to distinguish the true reality and nature of things.

The writer Azeez Muhammad Abu Khalaf further discusses the concept of “nâqis ¢aql,” and how it is taken out of context in this ^adîth and infused with a implication that has no evidence whatsoever either in the Quran or Sunnah, namely, the claim that women are intellectually inferior to men.

In the Quran, the use of the word ‘¢aql’ is generally related not to intellect in and of itself, but rather, it is employed as a device to push people to achieve a realization about Allah, the purpose of life, and so forth, to motivate them to work for their Hereafter, which is akin to how it is used in the context of this ^adîth: To emphasize the severity of the matter at hand. Thus, it is a mechanism to galvanize the acknowledged faith of these women in the meritorious actions of giving |adaqah, voluntary charity, and increasing their petitions for God’s forgiveness, or istighfâr.

Ability vs. Responsibility

Furthermore, Allah’s Messenger œ clarifies the ’naqsân’ (deficiencies) to which he refers and their causes, which turn out to be related solely to rules of Divine Law (^ukm shar¢î) as apply to women, specifically, regarding the issues of testimony and ~a^ârah, ritual purity, as the latter relates to |alâh, ritual prayer, and |awm, fasting.

The matter of testimony falls under ¢aql, as it is not a ritual act of worship, whereas |alâh (ritual prayer) and |awm (fasting) are acts of worship and therefore dînî, religious observances, that is to say, they are specific to the conditions stipulated for performing acts of ritual worship.

Even those who try to argue that women are inferior because their testimony equals only half that of a man’s are ignoring the fact that the Quranic ayah says simply so that one can remind the other (Al-Baqarah, 2:282), which is, properly, a matter (a commentary?) that speaks to the common societal need of social support for women (who are more likely to be vulnerable to duress), and also to the potential of societal deficiency in facilitating female social experience in the economic sphere. The point is these stipulations in no way comment on female intellect. There is no mention whatsoever of inferiority in any other way, especially with regard to intelligence, either in the Quran or the Sunnah.

As to the details of a woman’s testimony, it must be known that it is not a blanket ruling applicable to any and all situations. There are cases where a man’s testimony is rejected completely; for example, in matters of childbirth, nursing, and the like. In other cases, a woman’s testimony is considered equal to that of a man’s. The details of these situations are subjects for a discussion of fiqh.

Abu Khalaf also points out that those who try to use this ^adîth to demean women are actually missing a significant aspect of the ^adîth itself. How could the woman mentioned be described as “jazlah” if the Prophet œ was actually telling women that they are not intelligent?

Text and Context

As for the second part of the ^adîth (أغلب لذي لب منكن), which has been translated in varying degrees of similar negative connotations, it is an example which highlights the power of words.

The word ‘ghalaba’ in Arabic means ‘to defeat, to prevail, overpower, to overcome, to subdue’—basically, to have power over someone, the connotaions being of superiority and influence. Translations such as “robbing the wisdom of the wise,” “swaying the intellect of the most resolute of men,” and the like degrade women by implying that they are uniquely deceptive, cunning, and manipulative.

Yet—just as easily, and perhaps much more accurately—it can be translated as women being able to outwit and outsmart men, which, in turn, highlights that women are not, in fact, lacking in or inferior when it comes to the intellect. After all, how could someone stupid be able to outsmart “dhî lubbin”—a very intelligent, or wise, or resolute man?

Amusingly enough, there is a similar saying in Arabic (و شر غالب لمن غلب), the victor’s evil belongs to the vanquished, which implies that it is the one who is defeated who is blameworthy, not the victor[2][3].

Some explanations of this ^adîth, including that of Qâ\î ¢Iyâ\, mention that the Prophet œ uttered this statement as a compliment, an expression of admiration and affirmation of a character quality.

He also makes the interesting observation that the Prophet œ spoke these words in a special address to the women of the An|âr, who were known for their outspokenness, intelligence, and their generally equal footing with their men. This is in contrast to the people of Makkah, whose men were domineering over their womenfolk. The Prophet œ is thus, in a sense, acknowledging these women for the ease with which they are able to match wits with men, despite the latter’s general physical advantage.

It is important in studying this ^adîth—especially in light of how it has been incorrectly translated and explained—to know that this incident took place on Eid morning, an occasion for joy and celebration. It is inconceivable that the Prophet œ would say something deeply offensive, meant to hurt, or harmful to the psychology of those whom he was addressing (in this case, the believing women). Rather, it is known that the Messenger of Allah œ spoke in the best of ways and most eloquently, and that when he spoke to the believers, he did so always in a manner inpsiring them to grow closer to Allah, not more distant.

Yet this point is rarely even given consideration in English explanations of this ^adîth, misrepresenting it as all the more negative toward Muslim women.

Unalike vs Inferior

If women are, indeed, inferior in intellect, then how on earth can any woman be accepted as a scholar of Islam in any capacity? If women are inferior in intellect, then how can they be entrusted with the most important type of knowledge—that of Islam itself—endangering the souls of Muslims throughout the world?

Obviously, this is not the case. From ¢Âishah to ±afsah to Zaynab bint Abî Salamah—and the other wives of the Prophet œ and Mothers of the Belivers, may Allah be pleased with them—to our women of learning today, women have been entrusted with the Sacred Knowledge of Islam. It is incontrovertibly evidenced, moreover, that the Prophet œ and his male Companions fully recognized, acknowledged, and valued the worth of women, their intellect, and their contributions to the Ummah.

Perhaps one of the greatest evidences regarding Muslim women and their intellectual influence is the quote of the great ^adîth expert Imam Al-Dhahabî that he had never come across a female ^adîth transmitter accused of forgery (muttaham), or who had been discarded (matrûk) due to a high degree of unreliability[4]. As formidable a figure in the field of ^adîth, and specifically in the subspecialty of al-jar^ wa ta¢dîl (the science of “criticizing and crediting” the reliability of ^adîth narrators), Al-Dhahabî’s words are especially significant and meaningful.

In sum, it is enough to know that this ^adîth does not, in fact, provide any evidence or even imply that women are intellectually inferior in any manner to men. Rather, what this ^adîth does recognize and point out is what we already know from the Quran وليس الذكر كالأنثى, and the male is not like the female (Sûrat Âl ¢Imrân, 3:36), meaning that the Sharî¢ah conditions and stipulations with regard to each can be specific to gender in matters of religious obligation and prohibition (as relates to ritual worship), and where Allah has specified requirements or constraints in His Law.

The words of the Prophet œ in this ^adîth first caution the women he is addressing regarding their own behavior; then remind them of their differences as opposed to men in specific aspects of this Religion (giving testimony, praying, and fasting); then remind them that male rationality is also imperfect.

He points out that women can match wits even with “dhî lubbin” (the most intelligent of men). Some men may feel insulted or offended at the idea of a woman outsmarting them or proving herself to their intellectual superior, but the Prophet œ is telling us that this is a fact.

Allah has created men and women as partners complementing each other in every way, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. The Quran and Sunnah emphasize that Allah created men and women to asssist one another, giving both duties and responsibilities to fulfill in obedience to Him. He did not create either one superior or inferior to the other but rather designated them as diversely responsible “shepherds,” as the Prophet œ clearly states: All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).

In the case of the ^adîth naqsân al-¢aql wa al-dîn, many argue that it evidences a women’s inherent “deficiency” and inferiority to men, and based on this exaggerate woman’s “weakness,” though, as already shown, neither the Quran nor Sunnah support this understanding. Men and women are held equally accountable in the Sight of Allah, as human beings, each one responsible for using his or her intellect to distinguish between good and evil and to act accordingly.

A more appropriate translation may, therefore, go as follows: “Despite your incompleteness in ¢aql and dîn, I have never seen anyone more able to triumph over even the most intelligent of men.”

Calling Ourselves to Account

Thus, we can see the power of words, positive connotation, and the absolute necessity of having a holistic understanding of the words of Allah and His Messenger œ.

In reading this ^adîth—and others that have either been mistranslated or explained in a way that commingles them with the translator’s bias or misunderstanding—it is necessary for us to always have ^usn al-·ann, the best of thoughts, for Allah and His Messenger œ.

Allah is the Most Just and His Messenger œ is a mercy to humankind. This we can never, ever forget. Should we allow ourselves to think otherwise, to assume that the Quran and the Sunnah contain injustice in any way—this is a victory for Shaytan over us, he who strives to make us despair or doubt the perfection of Islam.

It is also an important reminder to us of the power of words. Sadly, mistranslations and harsh (mis)explanations have been directly responsible for causing much spiritual trauma, especially in relation to Muslim women.

While we cannot directly accuse translators and writers of deliberately trying to cause harm, we do have to recognize the very real consequences and effects that their words and interpretations may have upon people and our Ummah. Moreover, it is imperative for us to recognize and to challenge the misinterpretations and consequences of these translations.

May Allah make us of those who seek the truth and find it and who are given not only knowledge but wisdom and understanding of His words and His Dîn. Amîn.

[1] Azeez Muhammad Abu Khalaf, وجوه الإعجاز في حديث ناقصات عقل

http://www.saaid.net/female/m121.htm

 

[2] Ikmâl Al-Mu¢lim bi Fawâ’id Muslim; Kitâb Al-Imân; Bâb Bayân Nâqisân bi Naqs Al-Tâ¢ah; page 338, footnote 1.

[3] Hamdy Shafeeq, شبهات حول المسلمات .. حقوق النساء في شريعة السماء”

http://www.saaid.net/book/open.php?cat=6&book=6229

[4] Mizân al-I¢tidal, Fa|l: fi Al-Niswa Al-Majhûlât

Written By

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslimah who has been active in grassroots da’wah and writing about Islam and the Ummah for the last nine years. She was first published in al-Ameen Newspaper (Vancouver, Canada) at the age of 14, became a co-founder, editor, and writer for MuslimMatters.org at 16; and began writing regularly for SISTERS Magazine at the age of 19 until today. She also blogs regularly at The Salafi Feminist

"You are invited to respond to the contents of the article and to engage in conversation about the issues raised."

76 Comments

  • Good article. I really appreciate the spirit behind your work. I would just like to add one thing. A woman’s testimony is not equivalent to half of a man’s, in no less than 4 verses of the Quran. It is equal in these verses. The only verse in which two women are required is one involving business transactions, a matter in which women of the time were hardly knowledgeable. It is not so in other cases. In resolving a divorce, in bearing witness to a dying man’s will, in testifying to gay or lesbian behavior, and in revoking a husband’s sole assertion that the wife has committed adultery, the single witness of a woman is acceptable. The Hanafi and Hanbali schools of thought accept the witness of one woman as equal to that of one man’s in all matters except in business transactions.

    Moreover, if two women witnesses were indeed required in every instance, Aisha (RA) would have been required to produce another woman witness for every hadith of the Prophet (SAW) she narrated, which is not the case.

    Don’t accept what the mullahs say, even if most of them say it, without researching the matter yourself and looking at something from all angles, the way you looked at the hadith regarding women and intellectual deficiency. I hope all Muslims will learn to do this and understand that they bring their own cultural baggage with them when they sit down to interpret Quran and Hadith. We must shed this baggage and interpret instead with open minds and hearts.

    God bless.

  • I generally really enjoy your articles, so please do not take the following as a criticism. But I still find this hadith hurtful, problematic, and incomprehensible. The first part of the hadith is still saying that women are somehow incomplete in aql and deen. Perhaps I’m not understanding completely…

  • I generally really enjoy your articles, so please do not take the following as a criticism. But I still find this hadith hurtful, problematic, and incomprehensible. The first part of the hadith is still saying that women are somehow incomplete in aql and deen. Perhaps I’m not understanding completely…

    • I am hoping to do a follow up inshaAllah on the meaning of the word “naqs” to further delve into the hadith, inshaAllah. As we know, Arabic words contain a great deal of nuance and layered meanings, and very often translations are either literal or flat out inaccurate and miss out on the true meanings.

    • The Salafi Feminist I’m excited to read your follow up. This has been one of the most troubling hadith for me. The common translations are very circular – women should give alms because many of them are in Hell. Why? Because we’re deficient/lacking/incomplete in deen and intellect. Why/what’s the proof? Because of two things that Allah mandated for us – that in certain circumstances we need two women witnesses and because we can’t pray. So somehow women end up in Hell because of intrinsic qualities Allah gave us? And the proof of those qualities is other mandates of Allah?

      The usual explanations just make no sense.

    • I think there are two important things to take away from this hadith besides its actual content: first is that we take very seriously who we get our information from, second is that truly understanding the meaning and wisdom of this hadith demands that we suspend some level of judgement and what we think we know about ourselves and each other.

      Since this a common topic of controversy I’ve thought about it a lot and written a little on comments here and there, mostly expanding on the deeper linguistic dimensions of the Arabic, but I think it’s important we step back and reflect before we jump to conclusions. Take another look at the article, and especially at the “Text and Context” section, our sister, may allah reward her, does a great job of explaining a fine point many overlook..

      As for the actual content of the hadith, it doesn’t even say what people are saying it says, “that women are deficient in intellect and deen”, not even close really.. my best attempt a translation without looking a little closer at the grammar of the final construction would be: “I have not seen [other than] from you (women), from those lacking in ‘aql and deen, more overtaking of him of lubb (men)”..

      This is a complex grammatical construction and it shows so many things about the nature of our prophet ﷺ —honestly, with the proper reading, it clearly is the lightest and warmest statement in the hadith, I wish I knew a better word for it, but it honestly reads like light-hearted praise and ever so subtle advice. I won’t go into details, because there are so many things to talk about really; every word is revealing. But, instead take a look at this sentence which I modeled based on that last part of the hadith in question, it is an odd kind of statement, and one which you wouldn’t hear many people make, but I think it will help to show how the Arabic is working, and how grossly misinterpreted the hadith has become:

      “I haven’t seen any, from those lazy and unmotivated students, *still scoring better than* the one spending all night studying *other than* from you guys” or, slightly reworded: “I haven’t seen any lazy and unmotivated students score better than the one spending all night studying other than from you guys”. (I’m keeping the first sentence even if it reads more awkward because it shows the concision of Arabic: all of the English words in between the * are captured in the meaning of one word in Arabic equivalent (آغلب where “the one spending all night studying” is in place of “him of lubb”).

      It’s a tricky construction, but the basic idea is to highlight a unique quality or characteristic of whoever is being addressed without actually saying it, but rather highlighting a potential risk of that quality or characteristic. In this case, something about the students allows them to score well but not have to study, which can lead to being lazy and unmotivated, even though they are scoring well. So, note that it doesn’t say all lazy and unmotivated students score well, and it’s not saying that all of those addressed are lazy and unmotivated either, it’s specifically saying that of all the possible students who are lazy and unmotivated, most of the ones that are still able to score well are those addressed because of whatever quality they have. So same thing with the hadith: of all those who are lacking in intellect and deen, most of those who are still able to overtake him of lubb (men), were those addressed (all womenkind).

      It’s a lot of explanation to get to the basic idea maybe, but I believe this shows the richness and depth of Islam and the character of our prophet ﷺ. He’s talking about female charm overtaking men of wisdom/intellect (and I believe there is another narrration آذهب للب الرجل الحازم (more taking away of the wisdom/intellect of a resolute man) which is more direct using the same speech technique or style rhetoric) but not talking about female charm. Just as in the sentence where I’m talking about the unique intellect or talent of some students over others but not talking about the unique intellect or talent of some children over others.

      Last thing I’ll say is that I think the most interesting things about this hadith are how we specifically understand the words, ‘aql and deen, because these are two components essential to understanding gender differences; ‘aql regarding how we think, maybe, but more loosely how we manage our selves, and deen as simply religion, but more rightly, as our outward conduct and code, that is because we are not judged by our deen nor by anything else, but rather by what is in our hearts, and though they may be entangled they are not the same, so it is important to understand how they interact. All in all, I think it’s clear to say what no one really focuses on with this hadith, that if a woman could easily overtake/sway a man, knowingly or otherwise, and without relying on intellect or piety, and, more importantly maybe, that a man could not do so, at least not so subtly, then it is an obvious advantage over the man and a temptation a woman must be aware of. And I don’t think it’s outside of the scope of this hadith to suggest, or to say it suggests that women are more capable of leading men on than man are of women, and even that women may do this without realizing. And of course it shows the weakness of men at the same time, that we might not care for substance (this is what “lubb” means) in a woman, but just the physicality or the appearance of things. It’s all about the interplay of what we can see and what we cannot, appearances and their shadows you might say, it’s different from person to person but also from gender to gender, and I think this is what the hadith tackles with the supreme wisdom and subtlety of our prophet ﷺ.

      Sorry for the wall of text! This is a favorite subject of mine! If I said anything of benefit it was from Allah if I said anything otherwise it was from me and may allah forgive me and us all.

    • Omar Ibrahim BarakAllahu feek for that awesome comment! SubhanAllah it’s amazing how much insight can be derived from this grammatical knowledge… no wonder it was a requriement for scholars. JazaakAllahu khayran for taking the time to share.

  • I generally really enjoy your articles, so please do not take the following as a criticism. But I still find this hadith hurtful, problematic, and incomprehensible. The first part of the hadith is still saying that women are somehow incomplete in aql and deen. Perhaps I’m not understanding completely…

    • I am hoping to do a follow up inshaAllah on the meaning of the word “naqs” to further delve into the hadith, inshaAllah. As we know, Arabic words contain a great deal of nuance and layered meanings, and very often translations are either literal or flat out inaccurate and miss out on the true meanings.

    • The Salafi Feminist I’m excited to read your follow up. This has been one of the most troubling hadith for me. The common translations are very circular – women should give alms because many of them are in Hell. Why? Because we’re deficient/lacking/incomplete in deen and intellect. Why/what’s the proof? Because of two things that Allah mandated for us – that in certain circumstances we need two women witnesses and because we can’t pray. So somehow women end up in Hell because of intrinsic qualities Allah gave us? And the proof of those qualities is other mandates of Allah?

      The usual explanations just make no sense.

    • I think there are two important things to take away from this hadith besides its actual content: first is that we take very seriously who we get our information from, second is that truly understanding the meaning and wisdom of this hadith demands that we suspend some level of judgement and what we think we know about ourselves and each other.

      Since this a common topic of controversy I’ve thought about it a lot and written a little on comments here and there, mostly expanding on the deeper linguistic dimensions of the Arabic, but I think it’s important we step back and reflect before we jump to conclusions. Take another look at the article, and especially at the “Text and Context” section, our sister, may allah reward her, does a great job of explaining a fine point many overlook..

      As for the actual content of the hadith, it doesn’t even say what people are saying it says, “that women are deficient in intellect and deen”, not even close really.. my best attempt a translation without looking a little closer at the grammar of the final construction would be: “I have not seen [other than] from you (women), from those lacking in ‘aql and deen, more overtaking of him of lubb (men)”..

      This is a complex grammatical construction and it shows so many things about the nature of our prophet ﷺ —honestly, with the proper reading, it clearly is the lightest and warmest statement in the hadith, I wish I knew a better word for it, but it honestly reads like light-hearted praise and ever so subtle advice. I won’t go into details, because there are so many things to talk about really; every word is revealing. But, instead take a look at this sentence which I modeled based on that last part of the hadith in question, it is an odd kind of statement, and one which you wouldn’t hear many people make, but I think it will help to show how the Arabic is working, and how grossly misinterpreted the hadith has become:

      “I haven’t seen any, from those lazy and unmotivated students, *still scoring better than* the one spending all night studying *other than* from you guys” or, slightly reworded: “I haven’t seen any lazy and unmotivated students score better than the one spending all night studying other than from you guys”. (I’m keeping the first sentence even if it reads more awkward because it shows the concision of Arabic: all of the English words in between the * are captured in the meaning of one word in Arabic equivalent (آغلب where “the one spending all night studying” is in place of “him of lubb”).

      It’s a tricky construction, but the basic idea is to highlight a unique quality or characteristic of whoever is being addressed without actually saying it, but rather highlighting a potential risk of that quality or characteristic. In this case, something about the students allows them to score well but not have to study, which can lead to being lazy and unmotivated, even though they are scoring well. So, note that it doesn’t say all lazy and unmotivated students score well, and it’s not saying that all of those addressed are lazy and unmotivated either, it’s specifically saying that of all the possible students who are lazy and unmotivated, most of the ones that are still able to score well are those addressed because of whatever quality they have. So same thing with the hadith: of all those who are lacking in intellect and deen, most of those who are still able to overtake him of lubb (men), were those addressed (all womenkind).

      It’s a lot of explanation to get to the basic idea maybe, but I believe this shows the richness and depth of Islam and the character of our prophet ﷺ. He’s talking about female charm overtaking men of wisdom/intellect (and I believe there is another narrration آذهب للب الرجل الحازم (more taking away of the wisdom/intellect of a resolute man) which is more direct using the same speech technique or style rhetoric) but not talking about female charm. Just as in the sentence where I’m talking about the unique intellect or talent of some students over others but not talking about the unique intellect or talent of some children over others.

      Last thing I’ll say is that I think the most interesting things about this hadith are how we specifically understand the words, ‘aql and deen, because these are two components essential to understanding gender differences; ‘aql regarding how we think, maybe, but more loosely how we manage our selves, and deen as simply religion, but more rightly, as our outward conduct and code, that is because we are not judged by our deen nor by anything else, but rather by what is in our hearts, and though they may be entangled they are not the same, so it is important to understand how they interact. All in all, I think it’s clear to say what no one really focuses on with this hadith, that if a woman could easily overtake/sway a man, knowingly or otherwise, and without relying on intellect or piety, and, more importantly maybe, that a man could not do so, at least not so subtly, then it is an obvious advantage over the man and a temptation a woman must be aware of. And I don’t think it’s outside of the scope of this hadith to suggest, or to say it suggests that women are more capable of leading men on than man are of women, and even that women may do this without realizing. And of course it shows the weakness of men at the same time, that we might not care for substance (this is what “lubb” means) in a woman, but just the physicality or the appearance of things. It’s all about the interplay of what we can see and what we cannot, appearances and their shadows you might say, it’s different from person to person but also from gender to gender, and I think this is what the hadith tackles with the supreme wisdom and subtlety of our prophet ﷺ.

      Sorry for the wall of text! This is a favorite subject of mine! If I said anything of benefit it was from Allah if I said anything otherwise it was from me and may allah forgive me and us all.

    • Omar Ibrahim BarakAllahu feek for that awesome comment! SubhanAllah it’s amazing how much insight can be derived from this grammatical knowledge… no wonder it was a requriement for scholars. JazaakAllahu khayran for taking the time to share.

  • I generally really enjoy your articles, so please do not take the following as a criticism. But I still find this hadith hurtful, problematic, and incomprehensible. The first part of the hadith is still saying that women are somehow incomplete in aql and deen. Perhaps I’m not understanding completely…

    • I am hoping to do a follow up inshaAllah on the meaning of the word “naqs” to further delve into the hadith, inshaAllah. As we know, Arabic words contain a great deal of nuance and layered meanings, and very often translations are either literal or flat out inaccurate and miss out on the true meanings.

    • The Salafi Feminist I’m excited to read your follow up. This has been one of the most troubling hadith for me. The common translations are very circular – women should give alms because many of them are in Hell. Why? Because we’re deficient/lacking/incomplete in deen and intellect. Why/what’s the proof? Because of two things that Allah mandated for us – that in certain circumstances we need two women witnesses and because we can’t pray. So somehow women end up in Hell because of intrinsic qualities Allah gave us? And the proof of those qualities is other mandates of Allah?

      The usual explanations just make no sense.

    • I think there are two important things to take away from this hadith besides its actual content: first is that we take very seriously who we get our information from, second is that truly understanding the meaning and wisdom of this hadith demands that we suspend some level of judgement and what we think we know about ourselves and each other.

      Since this a common topic of controversy I’ve thought about it a lot and written a little on comments here and there, mostly expanding on the deeper linguistic dimensions of the Arabic, but I think it’s important we step back and reflect before we jump to conclusions. Take another look at the article, and especially at the “Text and Context” section, our sister, may allah reward her, does a great job of explaining a fine point many overlook..

      As for the actual content of the hadith, it doesn’t even say what people are saying it says, “that women are deficient in intellect and deen”, not even close really.. my best attempt a translation without looking a little closer at the grammar of the final construction would be: “I have not seen [other than] from you (women), from those lacking in ‘aql and deen, more overtaking of him of lubb (men)”..

      This is a complex grammatical construction and it shows so many things about the nature of our prophet ﷺ —honestly, with the proper reading, it clearly is the lightest and warmest statement in the hadith, I wish I knew a better word for it, but it honestly reads like light-hearted praise and ever so subtle advice. I won’t go into details, because there are so many things to talk about really; every word is revealing. But, instead take a look at this sentence which I modeled based on that last part of the hadith in question, it is an odd kind of statement, and one which you wouldn’t hear many people make, but I think it will help to show how the Arabic is working, and how grossly misinterpreted the hadith has become:

      “I haven’t seen any, from those lazy and unmotivated students, *still scoring better than* the one spending all night studying *other than* from you guys” or, slightly reworded: “I haven’t seen any lazy and unmotivated students score better than the one spending all night studying other than from you guys”. (I’m keeping the first sentence even if it reads more awkward because it shows the concision of Arabic: all of the English words in between the * are captured in the meaning of one word in Arabic equivalent (آغلب where “the one spending all night studying” is in place of “him of lubb”).

      It’s a tricky construction, but the basic idea is to highlight a unique quality or characteristic of whoever is being addressed without actually saying it, but rather highlighting a potential risk of that quality or characteristic. In this case, something about the students allows them to score well but not have to study, which can lead to being lazy and unmotivated, even though they are scoring well. So, note that it doesn’t say all lazy and unmotivated students score well, and it’s not saying that all of those addressed are lazy and unmotivated either, it’s specifically saying that of all the possible students who are lazy and unmotivated, most of the ones that are still able to score well are those addressed because of whatever quality they have. So same thing with the hadith: of all those who are lacking in intellect and deen, most of those who are still able to overtake him of lubb (men), were those addressed (all womenkind).

      It’s a lot of explanation to get to the basic idea maybe, but I believe this shows the richness and depth of Islam and the character of our prophet ﷺ. He’s talking about female charm overtaking men of wisdom/intellect (and I believe there is another narrration آذهب للب الرجل الحازم (more taking away of the wisdom/intellect of a resolute man) which is more direct using the same speech technique or style rhetoric) but not talking about female charm. Just as in the sentence where I’m talking about the unique intellect or talent of some students over others but not talking about the unique intellect or talent of some children over others.

      Last thing I’ll say is that I think the most interesting things about this hadith are how we specifically understand the words, ‘aql and deen, because these are two components essential to understanding gender differences; ‘aql regarding how we think, maybe, but more loosely how we manage our selves, and deen as simply religion, but more rightly, as our outward conduct and code, that is because we are not judged by our deen nor by anything else, but rather by what is in our hearts, and though they may be entangled they are not the same, so it is important to understand how they interact. All in all, I think it’s clear to say what no one really focuses on with this hadith, that if a woman could easily overtake/sway a man, knowingly or otherwise, and without relying on intellect or piety, and, more importantly maybe, that a man could not do so, at least not so subtly, then it is an obvious advantage over the man and a temptation a woman must be aware of. And I don’t think it’s outside of the scope of this hadith to suggest, or to say it suggests that women are more capable of leading men on than man are of women, and even that women may do this without realizing. And of course it shows the weakness of men at the same time, that we might not care for substance (this is what “lubb” means) in a woman, but just the physicality or the appearance of things. It’s all about the interplay of what we can see and what we cannot, appearances and their shadows you might say, it’s different from person to person but also from gender to gender, and I think this is what the hadith tackles with the supreme wisdom and subtlety of our prophet ﷺ.

      Sorry for the wall of text! This is a favorite subject of mine! If I said anything of benefit it was from Allah if I said anything otherwise it was from me and may allah forgive me and us all.

    • Omar Ibrahim BarakAllahu feek for that awesome comment! SubhanAllah it’s amazing how much insight can be derived from this grammatical knowledge… no wonder it was a requriement for scholars. JazaakAllahu khayran for taking the time to share.

  • You my dear sis, are a hero of mine. And bro Siraaj Muhammad too. Dont interact much but your posts are high on my list. Has to be said. May Allah bless you both, always, all the time.

  • You my dear sis, are a hero of mine. And bro Siraaj Muhammad too. Dont interact much but your posts are high on my list. Has to be said. May Allah bless you both, always, all the time.

  • You my dear sis, are a hero of mine. And bro Siraaj Muhammad too. Dont interact much but your posts are high on my list. Has to be said. May Allah bless you both, always, all the time.

  • I guess what i’m trying to say when I mention gender in Islam is the way language and connotations play a big role. In many cases (and in my experience) misinterpretations, cultural baggage and language is used to demean females. My experience has been very different to what I know (i.e. islam empowers women). El Shayma Ismail

    • Understood. As ive said before islam and culture are two different things. Islam is just and true while culture usually isn’t

    • I know that and I keep telling myself that. It gets very frustrating when experience conflicts with the the truth. Grrr lol

  • I guess what i’m trying to say when I mention gender in Islam is the way language and connotations play a big role. In many cases (and in my experience) misinterpretations, cultural baggage and language is used to demean females. My experience has been very different to what I know (i.e. islam empowers women). El Shayma Ismail

    • Understood. As ive said before islam and culture are two different things. Islam is just and true while culture usually isn’t

    • I know that and I keep telling myself that. It gets very frustrating when experience conflicts with the the truth. Grrr lol

  • I guess what i’m trying to say when I mention gender in Islam is the way language and connotations play a big role. In many cases (and in my experience) misinterpretations, cultural baggage and language is used to demean females. My experience has been very different to what I know (i.e. islam empowers women). El Shayma Ismail

    • Understood. As ive said before islam and culture are two different things. Islam is just and true while culture usually isn’t

    • I know that and I keep telling myself that. It gets very frustrating when experience conflicts with the the truth. Grrr lol

  • I guess what i’m trying to say when I mention gender in Islam is the way language and connotations play a big role. In many cases (and in my experience) misinterpretations, cultural baggage and language is used to demean females. My experience has been very different to what I know (i.e. islam empowers women). El Shayma Ismail

    • Understood. As ive said before islam and culture are two different things. Islam is just and true while culture usually isn’t

    • I know that and I keep telling myself that. It gets very frustrating when experience conflicts with the the truth. Grrr lol

  • Absolutely love this. I’ve never understood this hadith cause there’s evidence all around that some women are much more intelligent than some me. I’ve never been able to accept that hadith and now I can. Makes so much sense now.

  • It’s clear you’ve interpreted the hadith according to your own unique “common sense”, tastebuds and what you want Islam to be. I might interpret it differently if I was left to my own devices. Another person will interpret it differently according to their unique intellect. Another person might find the Hadith completely irreconcilable with their tastebuds no matter how it is twisted and interpreted and thus decide that the hadith should be rejected. The permutations are endless. So who’s interpretation, slant and “common sense” do we go by?

    • Logic and common sense working differently for different people is an undeniable reality as this issue will clearly demonstrate. And yes it is “dangerous”, as you put it, when juhalaa attempt to project their own logic and common sense as authoritative. Let’s take the issue being discussed. On the one hand you have the sister here putting forward her own unique slant, and on the other hand you have the clear authoritative and qualified stance of a galaxy of Fuqaha, muhadditheen, and Mufassireen which is at complete odds with what the sister is attempting to portray. I will give you a glimpse of what the Real Authorities have had to say about this issue, although I will have to warn that those who have been undeniably influenced by the Kuffaar and their Kufr concepts will naturally exhibit violently allergic reactions to the truth which has become Ghareeb just as prophesized. I will start with what the great accepted Mufassir, Hafiz Ibn Kathir has to say in his authoritative Tafseer, regarding this matter which actually reflects accurately what ALL the Real Authorities had to say on this matter. Then people can be free to decide whether to trust the Real Authorities on this issue, or optional instead for the interpretation of a random unqualified individual just because the latter interpretation conforms with their kufr-influenced Nafs.

    • Apologies, I just saw this. I understand you’re position and am even a little surprised at my own wording, but it was 3am.. certainly we all have our own style of logic and common sense, I completely agree with this, and I don’t actually say otherwise above.. but our idiocyncracies aside, there are fundamentals.. there is such a thing as grammar and convention in language, however these things may change over time.. this was my meaning.. I think what I wanted to address was just the idea that there is no common ground possible, that everything is arbitrary, especially with regard to the interpretation of texts.. there is such a thing as objectivity, though it comes in degrees of course, and I think the sister did a great job in this regard and your statement really undermines this, as though she’s giving her reflection or personal thoughts on the matter, when the article is actually a very balanced and thorough account of the issue at hand.. there’s no “slant” or agenda to me as you seem to suggest.. but reading your second comment I don’t really understand your position.. who are the Real Authorities and why should I trust you? I find it impossible that an honest account from any “real authority” would contradict anything the sister said in her article..

  • It’s clear you’ve interpreted the hadith according to your own unique “common sense”, tastebuds and what you want Islam to be. I might interpret it differently if I was left to my own devices. Another person will interpret it differently according to their unique intellect. Another person might find the Hadith completely irreconcilable with their tastebuds no matter how it is twisted and interpreted and thus decide that the hadith should be rejected. The permutations are endless. So who’s interpretation, slant and “common sense” do we go by?

    • you have the dangerous position of claiming everyone has their own “common sense” or that logic works differently with different people when the reality is that there is depth and height and some people can reach some heights and certain depths while others cannot.. as for who you can trust? well, those who have the most integrity can usually see the farthest and connect with you the deepest, so that is a personal issue to some extent, just look closer.

    • Logic and common sense working differently for different people is an undeniable reality as this issue will clearly demonstrate. And yes it is “dangerous”, as you put it, when juhalaa attempt to project their own logic and common sense as authoritative. Let’s take the issue being discussed. On the one hand you have the sister here putting forward her own unique slant, and on the other hand you have the clear authoritative and qualified stance of a galaxy of Fuqaha, muhadditheen, and Mufassireen which is at complete odds with what the sister is attempting to portray. I will give you a glimpse of what the Real Authorities have had to say about this issue, although I will have to warn that those who have been undeniably influenced by the Kuffaar and their Kufr concepts will naturally exhibit violently allergic reactions to the truth which has become Ghareeb just as prophesized. I will start with what the great accepted Mufassir, Hafiz Ibn Kathir has to say in his authoritative Tafseer, regarding this matter which actually reflects accurately what ALL the Real Authorities had to say on this matter. Then people can be free to decide whether to trust the Real Authorities on this issue, or optional instead for the interpretation of a random unqualified individual just because the latter interpretation conforms with their kufr-influenced Nafs.

    • Apologies, I just saw this. I understand you’re position and am even a little surprised at my own wording, but it was 3am.. certainly we all have our own style of logic and common sense, I completely agree with this, and I don’t actually say otherwise above.. but our idiocyncracies aside, there are fundamentals.. there is such a thing as grammar and convention in language, however these things may change over time.. this was my meaning.. I think what I wanted to address was just the idea that there is no common ground possible, that everything is arbitrary, especially with regard to the interpretation of texts.. there is such a thing as objectivity, though it comes in degrees of course, and I think the sister did a great job in this regard and your statement really undermines this, as though she’s giving her reflection or personal thoughts on the matter, when the article is actually a very balanced and thorough account of the issue at hand.. there’s no “slant” or agenda to me as you seem to suggest.. but reading your second comment I don’t really understand your position.. who are the Real Authorities and why should I trust you? I find it impossible that an honest account from any “real authority” would contradict anything the sister said in her article..

  • It’s clear you’ve interpreted the hadith according to your own unique “common sense”, tastebuds and what you want Islam to be. I might interpret it differently if I was left to my own devices. Another person will interpret it differently according to their unique intellect. Another person might find the Hadith completely irreconcilable with their tastebuds no matter how it is twisted and interpreted and thus decide that the hadith should be rejected. The permutations are endless. So who’s interpretation, slant and “common sense” do we go by?

    • you have the dangerous position of claiming everyone has their own “common sense” or that logic works differently with different people when the reality is that there is depth and height and some people can reach some heights and certain depths while others cannot.. as for who you can trust? well, those who have the most integrity can usually see the farthest and connect with you the deepest, so that is a personal issue to some extent, just look closer.

    • Logic and common sense working differently for different people is an undeniable reality as this issue will clearly demonstrate. And yes it is “dangerous”, as you put it, when juhalaa attempt to project their own logic and common sense as authoritative. Let’s take the issue being discussed. On the one hand you have the sister here putting forward her own unique slant, and on the other hand you have the clear authoritative and qualified stance of a galaxy of Fuqaha, muhadditheen, and Mufassireen which is at complete odds with what the sister is attempting to portray. I will give you a glimpse of what the Real Authorities have had to say about this issue, although I will have to warn that those who have been undeniably influenced by the Kuffaar and their Kufr concepts will naturally exhibit violently allergic reactions to the truth which has become Ghareeb just as prophesized. I will start with what the great accepted Mufassir, Hafiz Ibn Kathir has to say in his authoritative Tafseer, regarding this matter which actually reflects accurately what ALL the Real Authorities had to say on this matter. Then people can be free to decide whether to trust the Real Authorities on this issue, or optional instead for the interpretation of a random unqualified individual just because the latter interpretation conforms with their kufr-influenced Nafs.

    • Apologies, I just saw this. I understand you’re position and am even a little surprised at my own wording, but it was 3am.. certainly we all have our own style of logic and common sense, I completely agree with this, and I don’t actually say otherwise above.. but our idiocyncracies aside, there are fundamentals.. there is such a thing as grammar and convention in language, however these things may change over time.. this was my meaning.. I think what I wanted to address was just the idea that there is no common ground possible, that everything is arbitrary, especially with regard to the interpretation of texts.. there is such a thing as objectivity, though it comes in degrees of course, and I think the sister did a great job in this regard and your statement really undermines this, as though she’s giving her reflection or personal thoughts on the matter, when the article is actually a very balanced and thorough account of the issue at hand.. there’s no “slant” or agenda to me as you seem to suggest.. but reading your second comment I don’t really understand your position.. who are the Real Authorities and why should I trust you? I find it impossible that an honest account from any “real authority” would contradict anything the sister said in her article..

  • After reading your interview the other day I’ve been considering striking up a conversation with you over this exact topic. Subhan Allah!

  • After reading your interview the other day I’ve been considering striking up a conversation with you over this exact topic. Subhan Allah!

  • After reading your interview the other day I’ve been considering striking up a conversation with you over this exact topic. Subhan Allah!

  • excellent read! We need to also trace the origins of this assumption of ‘women being created from a man’s rib’ which is a Christian concept found in the Bible:

    http://biblehub.com/genesis/2-22.htm

    and it’s influence on interpretation of hadith, etc. since there were Jews and Christians that converted, and it influenced how some things are interpreted; i.e., Tafsir Ibn Kathir is based heavily on Jewish accounts, although filtered; it is undeniable that it has occurred.

    Or it could be a misinterpretation of the words in the Bible, as I am reading in this interesting article:

    http://www.irfi.org/articles3/articles_4701_4800/made%20from%20adam's%20rib%20-%20the%20issue%20of%20woman's%20creationhtml.htm

    • Hadith is sahih Bukhari and Muslim.

      Abu Hurayrah narrated (may Allaah be pleased with him). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a bent rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the top part, so treat women kindly.”

  • excellent read! We need to also trace the origins of this assumption of ‘women being created from a man’s rib’ which is a Christian concept found in the Bible:

    http://biblehub.com/genesis/2-22.htm

    and it’s influence on interpretation of hadith, etc. since there were Jews and Christians that converted, and it influenced how some things are interpreted; i.e., Tafsir Ibn Kathir is based heavily on Jewish accounts, although filtered; it is undeniable that it has occurred.

    Or it could be a misinterpretation of the words in the Bible, as I am reading in this interesting article:

    http://www.irfi.org/articles3/articles_4701_4800/made%20from%20adam's%20rib%20-%20the%20issue%20of%20woman's%20creationhtml.htm

    http://louisville.edu/artsandsciences/about/hallofhonor/inductees/riffat-hassan

    • Hadith is sahih Bukhari and Muslim.

      Abu Hurayrah narrated (may Allaah be pleased with him). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a bent rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the top part, so treat women kindly.”

  • excellent read! We need to also trace the origins of this assumption of ‘women being created from a man’s rib’ which is a Christian concept found in the Bible:

    http://biblehub.com/genesis/2-22.htm

    and it’s influence on interpretation of hadith, etc. since there were Jews and Christians that converted, and it influenced how some things are interpreted; i.e., Tafsir Ibn Kathir is based heavily on Jewish accounts, although filtered; it is undeniable that it has occurred.

    Or it could be a misinterpretation of the words in the Bible, as I am reading in this interesting article:

    http://www.irfi.org/articles3/articles_4701_4800/made%20from%20adam's%20rib%20-%20the%20issue%20of%20woman's%20creationhtml.htm

    http://louisville.edu/artsandsciences/about/hallofhonor/inductees/riffat-hassan

    • Hadith is sahih Bukhari and Muslim.

      Abu Hurayrah narrated (may Allaah be pleased with him). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Treat women kindly, for woman was created from a bent rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the top part, so treat women kindly.”

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