Why couldn’t Women be Prophets ?
I have some religious doubts that I would like to ask you about. I am a university student, and I am taking Islamic Studies. In the Women and Gender module of the course, the Professor talked about how there have not been any women prophets, something I have always found disturbing. He said that this was so because Islam did not want women to be in a public office, or have to face any of the hardships that prophets generally have to face. I was not too convinced by this, since it felt to me like it was the whole ‘women are weak, and cannot handle the pressure’ sort of argument. So I would like to know your thoughts on this.
According to the Quran men and women are equals in the eyes of Allah. They are both equal human beings; both are going through a trial in this life for which they will be rewarded or punished in accordance with their performance in the hereafter; both have equal opportunities to achieve moral and spiritual excellence in this life and be able to get close to God.
However they are not identical. They are different in some ways. While a man becomes a father, for instance, a woman becomes a mother. A man assumes the role of a husband and a woman that of a wife. When the rights and duties are decided on the basis of roles which each of them has to play in different capacities, the nature of each gender ought to be taken into consideration to reach the right conclusions.
Both men and women have strengths and weaknesses. In most cases the weaknesses of men are compensated for by the strengths of women and vice versa. That’s why they make partners in pairs. Identical objects don’t make pairs.
Women can be as strong spiritually as men, but they couldn’t have become prophets because of the role prophets were expected to discharge. I think it is primarily because of two reasons why women couldn’t have become prophets.
Given the nature of their job, the prophets were expected to deliver the message of God to everyone. That task caused them to earn hatred and enmity of many. In some cases the prophets got killed too. In case of women, the expression of hatred could have taken certain other forms which the sanctity and nobility of the status couldn’t have been allowed.
Apart from other obligations, the prophets were also expected to be the leaders of believers in prayers. Women, by the nature of their biological constitution, are not always physically clean to pray. Leading prayers regularly is therefore not possible for them. To go through menstrual cycles is extremely important for their reproductive ability. The same ability however makes them less eligible for other tasks. The same principle applies to men in other important projects in life.
What I am trying to say is that the manner the Almighty has designed this life, we are all imperfect; and we are all partners in contributing in the different projects of this life. These imperfections are in everyone, both in men and women. Moreover, imperfection in an individual in one sense is the cause of making him/her more appropriate for other projects. This principle is true for both men and women.
Given the nature of the job of prophets, it seems that men were more suited for the task. It doesn’t however make women inferior to them.