The correct understanding of women being deficient in Aql (intellect) & Deen
A Hadith which is commonly misunderstood is the Hadith regarding women being deficient. Some people use this to push the idea that Islam is a religion which oppresses women and that Nabi ﷺ degraded women with this statement. Unfortunately there is also some young Muslim males—
—who use these Hadith to degrade Muslim women. So if a woman falls into an error they will put her down and shut her up by calling her deficient in intellect and religion. And والله this is a fallacious understanding and a misapplication to mean what wasn’t intended.
There is no degradation of women in this Hadith. How could Nabi ﷺ say this on Eid day in front of a group of women? If we say for arguments sake it was meant to degrade women why did none of them say anything and show their anger? It’s well known how outspoken the Arabs were,—
—why did none of the men & women come to dispute this statement? Simply because there was no degradation in any way or form found in his words.
Deficiency (نقص) in Arabic can be used to:
1. To disparage or find fault in something.
2. To show a shortage or reduction - eg if person A is taller than person B it can be said in Arabic A is deficient in height. This doesn’t mean to insult and degrade A, what is intended is to describe the reality - that A is shorter than B.
So when the Prophet ﷺ said this there was no degradation intended and the Arabs understood it with this second meaning.
An important point is sometimes developments in language occur and something that was meant in a certain context could mean something different to us now.—
—Or due to lack of knowledge of the Arabic language we understand this Hadith with a contemporary understanding. This is a source for many doubts surrounding Hadith so it’s important for us to understand Hadith the way Nabi ﷺ and those who heard from him رضي الله عنهم did.
In this Hadith the Prophet ﷺ clarified what he meant and he didn’t mean complete deficiency, he meant a shortage from a certain perspective. It’s not permissible for someone to interpret this himself to mean something when the Prophet ﷺ already clarified what he meant.
The deficiency in intellect here refers to the testimony of 1 man being equal to 2 women. This is what Allah ordered taking into consideration the nature of the women; she has been gifted with more mercy than her male counterparts.
So considering her compassion and preserving herself and other than her, her testimony is strengthened by another woman for complete precision in the testimony and complete mercy on the one being witnessed.
The aim is not to deny women being intellectual or say they’re deprived of understand. This is disproven by the fact there has been many women who exceeded men in knowledge, understanding and wisdom such as Aisha رضي الله عنها who senior companions would return to for rulings.
Even modern science affirms that the intellect of women differs to the intellect of males. Women are distinguished from males in some things and vice versa. Specialists & researchers have spoke about the biological differences including essential differences in the make up of—
—the brain. The neuroscientist Elanour Maguire discovered that the Hippocampus part of the male brain is larger than women’s, it contains more grey matter and develops quicker. Men are better than women at some things, special awareness being one of them. Likewise women are—
—better than men in some things, eg multitasking, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. This is how Allah created them.
If one wishes to do further reading on this they can refer to the research paper Equality Between Males & Females is a Biological Lie by Dr Inayat Izt Uthman.
As for deficiency in the religion then this has been explained by Imam an Nawawi, he says:
“Whoever is deficient in his worship is deficient in their religion, so deficiency in religion could be either;
1. When one is sinful like abandoning Salah, fasting or other—
—obligatory acts of worship without an excuse.
2. When one is not sinful like not attending Jum’ah or taking part in a battle due to a valid excuse.
3. When one is encouraged to do so such as the menstruating woman missing prayers or fasts.”
This means the deficiency of a woman in her worship is a deficiency which she is responsible for and commanded to do. Rather she is rewarded for it according to some Ulamaa.
This is clarified by Qadhi Iyaadh when he says: “as for them being described as deficient in religion,—
—It is correct to say all acts of worship are called Deen except there is no blame on women for that because them leaving Salah for that period is obedience.”
So her deficiency in religion (shortage in acts of worship) here is obedience to Allah and there is no blame on her.
Another point is this Hadith contains praise for the woman. The Prophet ﷺ said she can overcome a strong minded man. Despite the difference between both genders, Nabi ﷺ still said she can overcome a sensible cautious man. This proves the intelligence of the woman.
As for the deficiency in religion this is something which is obedience and she will be rewarded for it. So there is no degradation in the context of this statement. It is impermissible to understand the Hadith in this way or use it for the sake of insulting women.
may Allah ﷻ bless @IbnAbdillah_ for his work on this thread and may Allah guide us to what is good to him