Are Women Less Sensible Than Men?
The following Hadith is generally presented to support the view that women are less sensible than men:
عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ قَالَ خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي أَضْحَى أَوْ فِطْرٍ إِلَى الْمُصَلَّى فَمَرَّ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ فَقَالَ …مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَذْهَبَ لِلُبِّ الرَّجُلِ الْحَازِمِ مِنْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ قُلْنَ وَمَا نُقْصَانُ دِينِنَا وَعَقْلِنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ أَلَيْسَ شَهَادَةُ الْمَرْأَةِ مِثْلَ نِصْفِ شَهَادَةِ الرَّجُلِ قُلْنَ بَلَى قَالَ فَذَلِكِ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ عَقْلِهَا أَلَيْسَ إِذَا حَاضَتْ لَمْ تُصَلِّ وَلَمْ تَصُمْ قُلْنَ بَلَى قَالَ فَذَلِكِ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ دِينِهَا
Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrī narrated: “Once the Prophet (sws) set off for the prayer place on the occasion of id al-fitr or id al-adha He passed by a group of women and said: ‘… and I have seen no one more than you rob even a resolute man of his senses in spite of being naqis at aql wa din .’ They said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! What is this naqis in our religious and worldly affairs?’ He said: ‘Is not the evidence of a woman equal to half of a man’s.’ They said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘This is the naqis in their worldly affairs.’ He said: ‘Is it not a fact that when they enter the period of menses they neither pray nor fast.’ They said: ‘Yes.’ Whereupon he said: ‘This is the naqis in their religious affairs.’”
This misconception has arisen because of a wrong translation of the Arabic phrase nāqisāt ‘aql wa dīn. The word naqs has generally been translated as “defective” keeping in view the Urdu meaning of the word. However, in Arabic, the verb نَقَصَ(naqasā) means “to reduce” and the word عقل(‘aql) here means “worldly affairs” since it is used in conjugation with the word دين(religion). Keeping in view, both these aspects, the correct translation of the above phrase, if the context is also taken into consideration, is that women have been given a relief and reduction in their worldly and religious affairs.
The relief in worldly responsibilities, as is mentioned in this Hadith, is that women have not been dragged in certain activities and spheres. For example, the Quran urges men to testify on legal documents so that women are relieved of appearing in courts and wasting their precious time on affairs which others can handle. Only if men are not available should a society involve women in such affairs.
The relief women have been given in religious affairs is that they are not required to pray or fast during their monthly periods as is mentioned in this Hadith.
So what must be kept in mind is the fact that the meaning of a word does not always remain the same in two different languages. For example, the word غَلِيْظin Arabic means “firm” while in Urdu it means “dirty”. Thus the Quran (4:21) has referred to marriage as مِيثَاقاًغَلِيْظَا(a firm agreement).
Moreover, people who think that women are less sensible than men on the basis of this Hadih do not realize that the Hadith is not merely saying that women are nāqisāt-i ‘aql, it is also saying they are nāqisāt-i dīn. If nāqisāt-i ‘aql means that there is some defect in their ‘aql (intellect), then by the same token, nāqisāt-i dīn should mean that there is also some shortcoming in the religion they follow! This of course is absurd and as referred to above is the result of keeping the Urdu meaning of the word in consideration.
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