We always hear the Hadith: Women are lacking in their capacity to reason and in deen i.e. religion. Some people even use it to offend women. Could you kindly explain the meaning of this Hadith?
Answer by shaykh ibn baz rahimahullah:
The Hadith reads: “I have not seen anyone more deficient in ability to reason and deen than you. A cautious sensible man can be led astray by some of you.” It was said: “O Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him)! What is the deficiency in our reasoning and deen?” He said: “Is not the testimony of two women equal to the witness of one man?” It was said: “What is deficient in her deen?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Is not it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that the deficiency in woman’s reasoning means their weak memory. Therefore, their testimony must be verified and supported by another woman to confirm their testimony, because they may forget and thus add or omit some of the testimony. Allah (He may be Praised) states:Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 282 And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her.
As for the deficiency of their deen, it means they abandon Salah and Sawm (fasting) during their menses and post-partum period. They are not commanded to repeat Salah (prayer). This is the meaning of their being lacking in deen. They will not be called to account for this shortcoming, because it is the will of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) Who legislated this for their comfort. If they were to observe Sawm during their menses and post-partum period, it would be difficult for them. Therefore, Allah commands them to abandon Sawm during their menses and post-partum period, and make up for it later. As for Salah, there is something which prevents them from ceremonial purity. Therefore, it is out of the Mercy of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) that He commands them to abandon Salah during their menses and post-partum period. However, they are commanded not to compensate for Salah because there is great hardship in this, as Salah is repeated five times a day and night, and menses may last for many days; seven, eight or more and post-partum may last for forty days. So, it was of Allah’s Mercy and Benevolence not to hold them accountable for Salah or oblige them to make up for it.
This does not mean that the lack of their deficiency to reason and deen extends to every aspect of life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that the lack of their ability to reason is because of their weak memory when giving testimony, and the shortcoming in their worship is because they abandon Salah and Sawm during their menses and post-partum period. This does not mean that they are lower in rank than men in all things, or men are better than them in everything.
Generally speaking, males excel females for many reasons. Allah states:Surah Al-Nisa’, 4: 34 Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allâh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.
However, some women may excel men. There are many women whose reason is better than men, and are stronger in deen and memorization. The report of the Prophet (peace be upon him) only indicates that the male gender is generally better in reasoning and deen than the female gender in the two aspects specified by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Women may perform more righteous deeds than men, their piety may be more than men, and thus their rank in the Hereafter may be better than the rank of men. They may focus on some matters and memorize them better than men. They exert effort in memorization and focus, so they established a reference in Islamic history as well as other things which are clear to those who consider the conditions of women during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and later. It is now evident that this deficiency does not mean that we cannot rely on her in narration or testimony, if she is supported by another woman. Anyway, this report does not prevent her from being of the best servants of Allah if they perform righteous deeds; although Sawm is overlooked during their menses and post-partum, and even if they are exempt from performing Salah. This does not mean that they are lower in everything. Men and women are equally required to observe the standards of piety, good actions, and careful performance of things in their charge. This specific lack of reason and deen is limited to what the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained. So, a Muslim must not offend women by attributing deficiency to them in everything, but it is a flaw in their worship and weakness in reasoning with regard to accuracy of testimony. Thus, the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) should be properly understood. Allah knows the best.