In the internal organization of the family in Islam, a man is in the position of the head and the overall supervisor. A man’s major responsibilities lie outside the family.
He is to support the family economically and materially. He has to look after the relations of the family with the rest of the society, its economy, and policy, and he has to take care of the demands of internal discipline within the family.
A woman’s major responsibilities lie within the family. A spectrum of mutual rights and responsibilitieshas been evolved in such a way that balanced relationships are developed between all.
In Muslim society, there is no joint family system of the type found in traditional Hindu society, for example, wherein the economic resources of the family are joined together into one business unit and the head of the family exerts real control over them. There is economic co-operation in a Muslim family, but no joint economic organization and control, except where arranged mutually.
The Quran says:
Men are those who support women, since God has given some persons advantages over others, and because they spend their wealth (on them). (4:34)
Women have the same rights (in relation to their husbands) as is expected in all decency from them; while men stand a step above them. God is Mighty, Wise.(2:228)
This is in the interests of proper organization and management within the family. There is equality in rights. There is a demarcation of responsibilities.
Man has been made head of the family so that order and discipline are maintained. Both are enjoined to discharge their respective functions with justice and equity.
The question of equality or inequality of the sexes has often been raised. This issue, is, however, the product of a certain cultural and legal context, and is really not relevant to the Islamic context where the equality of men and women as human beings has been Divinely affirmed and legally safeguarded.
There is differentiation of roles and responsibilities and certain arrangements have been made to meet the demands of organizations and institutions not on the basis of superiority or inferiority of the sexes but in the light of the basic facts of life and the needs of society.
Every role is important in its own right and men and women are to be judged according to the responsibilities assigned to them. Their roles are not competitive but complementary.
In Terms of Inheritance
A perusal of the Islamic law of inheritance is very instructive in this respect. For instance, the share of a daughter is half of the share of a son. This means there is apparent inequality, but when this is considered in the context of the economic roles and responsibilities of men and women, its justification becomes manifest.
The responsibility for earning and spending on the family is that of man, while woman has the right to hold property and investments in her own name and keep their returns to herself.
Due to this differentiation of roles and contributions, shares have been kept different. But where men and women inherit as men and women, and not as relatives with specific economic and social responsibilities, equal shares go to the two.
For example in the presence of the sons and daughters of the deceased, the share of the father or mother of the deceased, whoever is alive and of both of them if they are living, is the same proportion of the deceased’s inheritance.
In the cases where both the parents are alive, both of them share equally the part that goes to the parents. The mother’s share is not half of the father’s share. Both get equal shares. Similarly the shares of uterine brothers and sisters are equal.