Q&A: husbands are superior to wives?

Is it true that in Islam husbands are superior to wives?

An email from a reader

We were recently sent an email by ‘Lee’ who asked the above question of us and wanted a detailed response to help him educate people who argue that Islam treats women as second class citizens.

Well Lee this misunderstanding has arisen because of mistranslation and misinterpretation by our non-Ahmadi brothers of verse 34 of the chapter 4 of the Holy Quran. The word in 4:34 whose translation has given rise to misunder-standing is qaw-wa-mina in the original text. Here are two examples of the non-Ahmadi translation of this verse:

Men are the managers (qaw-wa-min) of the affairs of women because Allah made the one superior to the other . . .” (The meaning of the Holy Quran by Syed Abul A La Maududi, vol. 1, page 117)


Men are protectors and maintainers (qaw-wa-min) of women because Allah has given one more (strength) than the other . . .” (The Holy Quran English translation of the meanings and Commentary distributed by IFTA, Saudi Arabia, page 219)

Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali has translated this verse as:

Men are the maintainers of women, with what Allah has made some of them to excel others and with what they spend out of their wealth. (4:34)

Arabic language is based on roots and adding extra letters to the 3 or, in rare cases, 4-letter root, makes new words. So to determine what a word means in a particular context we have to look at all the derivatives of the root and consider which is more suitable. In the same chapter at verse 5 a slightly different word, qiyam, from the same root as qaw-wa-min is used.

Maulana Maududi translates qiyam as:

“ . . . property which Allah has made the means of your maintenance (qiyam) . . .” (ibid, page 91)

The English translation distributed by the Saudi Government, referred to above, does not translate the word qiyam at all.

Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali has translated this verse is translated as “…your property…a support (qiyam) for you…”

The conclusion therefore is that here men are being put under an extra obligation – that they are to support the household whereas wives are under no obligation financially to maintain the household. And the word “excel” should be taken to mean an extra duty men have to bear. I would suggest that the word support has a broader meaning, which includes emotional support, helping with children etc. I base this on the interpretation that property protects us from cold winters, hot summers as well as rain and snow. It allows us to rest and be safe. In the same way the husband should protect his wife and create a home where she feels at peace and secure from problems of life.

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