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THE ROLE OF A WOMAN

According to Qur’anic as well as Biblical accounts, Moses was born into an Israelite family. The Egyptian king, Pharaoh, had ordered all the Israelite boys to be killed as soon as they were born. But God Almighty intervened and made Moses the exception. One part of his story is given in the chapter Al-Qasas (The Story) of the Qur’an: We inspired Moses’ mother saying, ‘Suckle him, and then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and have no fear and do not grieve, for We shall return him to you, and shall make him one of the Messengers.’ Then Pharaoh’s household picked him up—later to become for them an enemy and a source of grief for them: Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts were wrongdoers—and Pharaoh’s wife said, ‘He will be a joy to the eye for me and you! Do not slay him: he may well be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ They did not realize what they were doing. Moses’ mother’s heart was full of anxiety—she would have disclosed his identity had We not strengthened her heart so that she might be a firm believer [in Our promise]. She said to Moses’ sister, ‘Go, and follow him.’ So she watched him from a distance, like a stranger, without anyone noticing her. We had already made him refuse all wet nurses. So his sister said to them, ‘Shall I tell you of a family who will bring him up for you and take good care of him?’ Thus We restored him to his mother so that she might be comforted and not grieve anymore, and so that she would know that God’s promise was true. But most of them do not realize this. (28:7-13)

This part of Moses’ story gives us an interesting example of how a woman can play an important role. Moses’ sister, Mariam, just fifteen years old at the time, was able to enter Pharaoh’s palace—where it would have been impossible for a man to go. It was possibly because of her youth and femininity that she was able to do so. From this, it would appear that sometimes a woman can play a more subtle role than a man. And the above incident gives a very fine example of this reality.

According to the Qur’an, men and women are born different from each other in nature. The Qur’an holds that men and women are both equal in the sense of being worthy of respect, but that they are different in the roles they play. Men can perform certain tasks better than women, and at the same time, women can perform certain tasks better than men. This is according to the Creation plan of God. The Qur’an propounds the equality of men and women as human beings but does not apply this rule for every kind of task to be undertaken. The above-mentioned story provides a good example of this.

The Qur’an holds that men and women are both equal in the sense of being worthy of respect, but that they are different in the roles they play. Human life has different aspects; it requires different abilities for different kinds of undertakings in every walk of life. That is why God Almighty created men and women with different qualities. This difference is exactly in consonance with specific needs. A good human life can be built only by accepting this reality of creation.

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