According to the Holy Qur’an, man and woman are two units of a pair. When both are taken independent of each other, there are certain obvious vacuums in the mental, physical and emotional personalities of each. God has created the two in such a way that they complement each other in different ways, so that these vacuums are removed and in order that man and wife may live a blissful life together.
However, as far as a Muslim’s relationship with Allah Almighty is concerned, there is no difference between man or women. Both are promised the same reward for their good conduct, and the same punishment for wrong doings. The Holy Qur’an says: “And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” (2:226)
The Qur'an, in addressing the believers, often uses the expression, ‘believing men and women' to emphasize the equality of men and women in regard to their respective duties, rights, virtues and merits. It says: “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” (33:35)
The Qur'an says that women have souls in exactly the same way as men and will enter Paradise if they do good: Enter into Paradise, you and your wives, with delight. (43:70) Who so does that which is right, and believes, whether male or female, him or her will We quicken to happy life. (16:97)
Considering the fact that before the advent of Islam the Pagan Arabs used to bury their female children alive, make women dance naked in the vicinity of the Ka'ba during their annual fairs, and treat women as mere chattels and objects of sexual pleasure possessing no rights or position whatsoever, these teachings of the Noble Qur'an were revolutionary. Unlike other religions, which regarded women as being possessed of inherent sin and wickedness and men as being possessed of inherent virtue and nobility, Islam regards men and women as being of the same essence created from a single soul. The Qur'an declares: O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and reverence the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you. (4:1)
The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) said, "Women are the twin halves of men." The Qur'an emphasizes the essential unity of men and women in a most beautiful simile: They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them. (2:187)
Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. "The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." Islam does not consider woman an instrument of the Devil, but rather the Qur'an calls her ‘muhsana’ - a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of rectitude in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a most virtuous act. He said: "When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion." He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: "Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)." The Qur'an has given the raison detre of marriage in the following words: And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (30:21)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was full of praise for virtuous and chaste women. He said:
"The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman. He once told the future Khalif, 'Umar: "Shall I not inform you about the best treasure a man can hoard? It is a virtuous wife who pleases him whenever he looks towards her, and who guards herself when he is absent from her."
On other occasions the Prophet said:
"The best property a man can have is a remembering tongue (about Allah), a grateful heart and a believing wife who helps him in his faith." And again: "The world, the whole of it, is a commodity and the best of the commodities of the world is a virtuous wife."
Before the advent of Islam women were often treated worse than animals. The Prophet wanted to put a stop to all cruelties to women. He preached kindness towards them. He told the Muslims: "Fear Allah in respect of women." And: "The best of you are they who behave best to their wives." And: "A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good." And: "The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was most emphatic in enjoining upon Muslims to be kind to their women when he delivered his famous khutba on the Mount of Mercy at Arafat in the presence of one hundred and twenty-four thousand of his Companions who had gathered there for the Hajj al-Wada (Farewell Pilgrimage). In it he ordered those present, and through them all those Muslims who were to come later, to be respectful and kind towards women. He said:
"Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means."
To summarise, the Shari'ah, therefore, regards women as the spiritual and intellectual equals of men. The main distinction it makes between them is in the physical realm based on the equitable principle of fair division of labour. It allots the more strenuous work to the man and makes him responsible for the maintenance of the family. It allots the work of managing the home and the upbringing and training of children to the woman, work which has the greatest importance in the task of building a healthy and prosperous society, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) did state:
“The lap of the mother is the first university for a child.”
The Holy Grand Sheikh, Hazrat Khwaja Sufi Mohammed Aslam Saheb (RA), who is currently resting in the Gardens of Darbar-e-Alia Shadpur Sharif-Jehlum, Pakistan,[May Allah have mercy on his blessed soul Aameen] frequently used an analogy regarding the relationship between man and wife. His Excellency referred to a married couple as a motor vehicle, travelling on the journey of Sirat-ul-Mustakeem. Each sex representing a pair of wheels and the petrol, or drive of the vehicle being the love of Islam. If any of the wheels is unable to function efficiently, then the journey will no doubt be hindered and no matter how much fuel is put into the vehicle, it will not be able to proceed with the journey. Should all the wheels function efficiently, however, the ultimately destination, which is to endure the presence of Allah Almighty will, insha'Allah, be reached.