The third characteristic of the Qur’anic society which is strongly assertive of women’s position is the insistence on the interdependence of the members of society. Contrary to the contemporary trend to emphasize the rights of the individual at the expense of society, we find the Qur’an repeatedly emphasising the interdependence of the male and female as well as of all members of society.
The wife and husband, for example, are described as “garments” (libas) of each other (2:187), and as mates living and dwelling in tranquillity (33:21; see also 7:189). Men and women are directed to complement each other, not to compete with each other. They are the protectors of each other (9:71). Each is called upon to fulfil certain assigned responsibilities for the good of both and the larger group.
In order to insure this interdependence which is so necessary for the physical and psychological well-being of both men and women, Allah, in the Holy Qur’an, stipulated the reciprocal or mutual duties and obligations of the various members of the family-men and women, fathers and mothers, children and elders, and relatives of all degrees (17:23-26; 4:1, 7-12; 2:177; 8:41; 16:90; etc.). The care of and concern for other members of society is equally a duty of the Muslim.
It is not righteousness that you turn faces to the east and the west; but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and gives his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free … (2:177)
The Qur’an thereby instils in the Muslim a sense of a place within, and responsibility to society. This is not regarded or experienced as a repression of the individual. Instead the Muslim is constantly encouraged in this interdependence by experiencing the benefits it brings.
The economic, social and psychological advantages of such close relationships and concerns within the social group provide more than ample compensation for the individual to sublimate his/her individualistic aspirations. The anonymity and lack of social interdependence among its members in contemporary Western society have caused many serious problems.
Loneliness, inadequate care of the aged, the generation gap, high suicide rates, and juvenile crime can all be traced back to the ever-worsening breakdown of social interdependence and the denial of the human necessity for mutual care.
Adapted from: “Women in a Qur’anic Society” by: “Lois Lamya ‘ al-F’aruqi”