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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Womanhood in Islam

FEAR OF God and honoring one’s fellow men—this is the twin foundation of Islam laid down in the Quran in these words:

Mankind, fear your Lord who created you from one soul and created man’s mate from the same soul, from these two scattering on earth many men and women. Fear God, in whose name you entreat one another, and be careful not to sever your ties of kinship. God is watching over what you do.32

The words, “and created man’s mate from the same soul” have been explained as meaning that first Adam was created from earth; then a rib was taken from his body, out of which Eve—his mate—was formed. But there is nothing in the Quran to support this theory. It is a biblical explanation, not a Quranic one. Here is what the Book of Genesis has to say about the creation of Eve:

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.33

From this biblical tradition comes the theory that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. This story has been given credence by some commentators of the Quran, who have used it to explain Eve’s creation “from the same soul as Adam.” But this notion does not stand up in the face of established fact, and it has been proven that, over the centuries, the Bible has been subjected to alterations and additions. Its present form is no longer as the prophets originally taught it. Along with prophetic inspiration, it has received a fair injection of human interpolation. For this reason, one cannot rely on explanations given in the Bible, nor is it proper to explain verses of the Quran in the light of biblical statements

Neither in the verse of the Quran quoted above, nor in any other verse of the Quran, is there any mention of Eve having been created from Adam’s rib. The Quran says only that Eve was created from “it.” What this “it” refers to is the point in question. Most of those commentators who have penetrated deep into the meaning of the Quran have taken “It” to refer to “species”: Eve was created—not from Adam himself—but from the same species as Adam. This is the explanation given—among others—by Abu Muslim Asfahani, and it is this explanation that fits in with other verses of the Quran

In several verses of the Quran the word for “soul” (nafs) has been used to mean “species.” Such verses provide a clear elucidation of the verse quoted above. A selection of them is given here:

God has created for you spouses, of your own kind.34 And of His signs is that He has created for you—of your own kind— spouses, that you might take comfort in them.35

Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you spouses of your own kind, and the cattle He has also created in pairs.36

From a perusal of these verses, one can see that the same word has been used for the spouses of ordinary human beings as was used for Adam’s spouse in the verse quoted above. Just as Eve was created from Adam’s nafs, so other women have also been created from the same nafs—or kind—as their male counterparts.

Clearly there is no question, in these other verses, of inferring that every female spouse has been created from the body of the male. There is no alternative but to take the word nafs, occurring in these verses, as meaning ‘kind.’ God has created for you spouses of your own kind, the Quran is telling us, in order that they may provide you with true companionship in your journey through life.

To summarize, women and men are from the same species. Biologically speaking, women have not been extracted from the bodies of their male counterparts. God fashioned them according to His Will, just as He fashioned men in accordance with His Almighty Will and Power.

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