Sheikh Aatif

Gender based division of labour: an Islamic perspective

Gender based division of labour: an Islamic perspective
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Being a student of Sociology, I came across the theory of Emile Durkheim on Divison of Labour. In his theory, he says there are two types of societies viz. Primitive (Mechanical society) and the Advanced (Organic). He defined the former one as the society in which there was less divison of labour i.e. workforce was lagrely on one person and he was supposed to do a lot of tasks at the same time or at different times. In the primitive society a person was having lot of experience and society was taking all benefits from that person.

As soon as the people became educated and skilled, they started to learn things and they became advanced with time. Now they began to do lot of things and started to put their efforts in one task. Thus, they became proficient of that work which lead to the division of labour as per speciality. Now a person was performing a single task of which he was the master.This society came to be known as advanced society on behalf of workforce which was divided on each person in a society. Thus Divison of Labour was attained in progressive mode. The prevailing society in which we are living where every member of the society is having a specific work and peculiar position in the society.

Islam has defined Divison of Labour in a meritorious way that befit with all types of societies and makes it clear to all mundane people what actually Divison Of Labour is.
Islam is in itself the complete way of life; the statement we all know but never understood logically. Let me clear this statement with this Divison Of Labour theory.
Allah created human beings and landed them on this earth which was created for them; bestowed them with the knowledge of conscious.This was the world’s foremost Divison of Labour when Allah (S.W.T) created two different kinds with same origin. The most important factor of this Division of Labour was that it was based on Spritual realm and cause, not on materialistic realm on which current Divison Of Labour is founded. Allah implicated the first
meaning of Labour Divison from the very begining of Humans when they were created. If there wasn’t a difference between the Men and Women with respect to their work and role, He (Allah) wouldn’t had created the two but one. To survive together Allah assigned them the basic work i.e Marriage (Reproduction) or Procreation of childrens.

The Prophet of Allah stated: “Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce
offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims), so that on the Day of Resurrection, I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah.”
From this Hadith we get to know the authentication of the divison of labour from the Prophet of Islam which means it is not a social construct by people but is divinely held principle to regulate human instincts and desires. However, western thoughts of world criticise this ideology of Islam and argue that islam creates a gender difference and does not give full empowerment to women of society which they deserve. But Islam provides humans equality of all kinds. The Qur’an teaches in Surah 4 that no human is superior in origin or nature, for all were created from the same human soul. Prophet Muhammad (saw)  has also said that all people are as equal as the teeth of a comb. Hence, there will be social equality  of the classes. Once the human conscious is free, both the poor and rich will desire equality because they will realize that it is
God’s will. All races will also be treated equally because God’s revelation was universal for people of all skin colors.

Islam has been criticized for its ‘unequal treatment’ of women but Islam has
guaranteed a complete equality of women with respect to men. Both men and
women were created from the same soul, they have no inherent inequality. However, their differing physical endowments give the sexes different practical roles in society. Due to their maternal responsibility, women must tend to the family and the raising of children. Males have no such child- bearing physical qualities;  therefore, he is able to attend to work and societal affairs. As a result of their differing roles, men and women develop different abilities. These abilities are natural and are given
to men and women from the Creator and not by a mere mundane law. Meanwhile, Islam provides a holistic spiritual equality that recognizes the differing qualities of the sexes.

As we know the family is the basis of any society. For a society, Division of Labour starts from the family and if the family is betteroff we can have a good society. From the Spiritual Base of Labour Divison we extract our materialistic needs. For example Children are a result of the Labour Work. Now for their nourishment and care we drive material things like first feeding them then their schooling, job and it goes on until they also get into marital affair. So, if the family is the basis of society and basis of the family is the divison of labour between the couple; upbringing of children is the most important function of the family then such a
society has indeed just divison of labour and that kind of society/family provides the environment under which human values and morals develop which then grow in the next generation. On the other hand if western liberal ideals become the basis of society then Divison of Labour is not satisfied and relationship between man and woman is driven by materialism and lust. If Men and Women both are are freed from their basic
work(bringing up children) then the actual motive of Divison of Labour is destroyed right form the cell of society i.e  Family.

Author is currently doing graduation from Aligarh Muslim University, India. He can be mailed at

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.

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