• Clear Islamic Doubts

Topic #67: Can women be leaders in Islam? Woman as leader in Islam.

Can women be leaders in Islam? Woman as leader in Islam. [women in islam; women leadership islam]

It is permissible for a woman to be an authority and leader in any position for which she is qualified, although some positions are specific only to men such as the position of prayer leader (imaam) and supreme commander of the armed forces. It is incorrectly claimed by some people that women can have no authority in Islam because men have been given the responsibility to leads, defend, and maintain the livelihoods of women, their wives and their children.

Allah said:

Men are guardians over women by what Allah has favored some over others and by what they spend of their wealth. Surat al-Nisa 4:34

The ‘favor’ of men over women refers to the physical strength of men, which is on average much greater than women and which enables men to better perform hard physical labor and military duties. In return, women should obey their husbands if they fulfill their duties of providing for them and protecting them.

The physiological differences between men and women in this regard cannot be ignored, as even today professional sports leagues are separated between men and women, and occupations like construction work and frontline combat duty are almost exclusively male. Even though there are plenty of exceptions to this general observation, as some women can be much physically stronger than some men, it is true on the whole and rules are formulated based upon the majority of cases and not exceptions.

In ancient societies, women were simply not qualified most of the time to lead the military because they generally lacked the physical strength required to be successful.

It was in this context that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

A people will not succeed who are commanded by a woman. Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4163, Grade: Sahih

There surely have been successful female military leaders, but again they are the exception.

That men have a degree of authority and responsibility does not mean women have no say in the matter. Part of Islamic chivalry is for a husband to consult his wife, or for men to consult women on pertinent issues, in order to benefit from their unique perspectives.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) once consulted his wife Umm Salamah on a serious matter, and she provided him with a key insight into his problem. It was his wife whose exceptional intelligence provided him with guidance and resolution. Intelligence is not simply a linear matter of more or less. There are varieties of intelligence, such as emotional and personal intelligence, which women can excel at and benefit men with their advice.

A woman is allowed to disagree with her husband or male leaders, as long as both parties respect each other with good manners. Men, in return, ought to be humble enough to accept that they are wrong if a woman points it out. In one episode, the Caliph of all Muslims himself was corrected by a woman in public and he accepted her correction gracefully.

And Allah knows best!

Taken from

Clear Islamic Doubts is a Islam Q&A website where you can ask your Islam related doubts or questions and I will get them answered by asking various Islamic Scholars (based in India) or searching authentic Islamic Forums. Please consider subscribing to our mailing list.