• Nour Goda

Balance of the Sexes: Submission to the Natural Order of Allah's Design

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لَا يَنْفَعُ، وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لَا يَخْشَعُ، وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لَا تَشْبَعُ، وَمِنْ دَعْوَةٍ لَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا

اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِي وَ عَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي وَ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا


O Allah, I seek refuge from knowledge which does not benefit, from the heart that is not submissive to you, from the soul that does not feel content and the supplication that is not answered. O Allah, benefit me from that which You taught me, and teach me that which will benefit me, and increase me in knowledge.

In a meta-analysis that was conducted by sociologist Paul Amato, of all the family changes that occurred during the 20th century, the single most dramatic and far-reaching in its implications has been divorce. Most children of divorce suffer from poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety, less quality contact with their parents, their standard of living decreases. On average, they tend to have less satisfying relationships with their parents later on in life. They have more difficulty in their own marriages later on and are much more likely to get divorced themselves.


There is a moral imperative for us to have honest dialogue and to take fruitful action. Three failed marriages are not my business. Thousands of failed marriages are everyone's business. When the demise of the smallest social unit becomes an epidemic, we all stand to lose a great deal.


Insh'Allah, in an effort to address this problem, I hope to provide a look at gender dynamics among present-day Muslims from the Islamic worldview.


To that end, I have written four essays which are meant to be a reminder for myself and fellow Muslims about objective truths, which Allah ﷻ has communicated to us through the Qur’an and His Messenger ﷺ, and which have been explained to us by our long line of righteous scholars. The essays in this series are:


1) Balance of the Sexes: Submission to the Natural Order of Allah's Design

2) Balance of the Sexes: From Boy to Man

3) Balance of the Sexes: From Girl to Woman

4) Balance of the Sexes: Clarifying Common Misconceptions


Insh'Allah, essays 2 - 4 will be available in the fall. (Scroll down and subscribe via email to be notified of updates.)


As the opener to the collection, the purpose of this first essay is to clarify the correct worldview from which we must discuss and seek to understand the issue of gender dynamics, and indeed all matters. By the end of this essay, we should be able to:

  • recognize competing worldviews as a root cause for the discord between today’s Muslim men and women in the West;

  • articulate the connections between Allah’s ﷻ balanced and orderly design, fitra (natural disposition), and gender dynamics; and,

  • understand how submission to Allah’s ﷻ design inevitably and inherently brings about justice, balance, order, and harmony on all levels.




We should acknowledge that for some time now, our conversations on gender and related issues have been fraught with confusion and misunderstanding. In large part, this is due to competing worldviews: Islam and secular liberalism (1).


As the Yaqeen Institute explains, "The ideological underpinnings of contemporary movements that may contradict the foundations of Islamic doctrine are often lost on most young people who gravitate towards vehicles they find empowering." Today, secular ideologies like feminism and gender studies have been absorbed by young Muslims to the extent that most are unable to even think about the subject outside of that framework.


Like our non-Muslim counterparts, we have come to view our Western undergraduate and graduate studies as unquestionable sources for objective truth. Professors are taken for granted as truth-bearers, masters of valuable knowledge. Some are admired as stoics, while others are idolized as social justice heroes.


We fail to understand that, by virtue of the fact that our academic studies belong to a tradition of secular philosophical and political thought, so much of what we ingest in Western colleges and universities are the decaying innards of a godless value system. This tradition, which builds upon itself with each passing era, rests on the premise that man is his own raison d'etre, the highest good for which he should strive. In this way, what we learn in our academic training conditions us to adopt and defend social and political theories, the premises of which are not always explicitly stated and the complexities of which most of us simply do not comprehend. While studying these theories, we find grains of truth that resonate with some of our personal experiences, and thus, we make the hasty generalization that such theories must therefore be true. Too many of us have accepted the West’s definition of “equality,” which is both superficial and paradoxical. “Equal rights for all people” has left looming practical questions that ironically subject individuals to injustices. Truly, what have been the implications of liberalism’s attempt to erase human differences under the guise of social equality? (2)


Divine revelation has become secondary knowledge at best, and at worst, it has gone out the window. This will never bring justice, balance, order, and harmony.


As Umar ibn al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه) said:


“Verily, we were a disgraceful people and Allah honored us with Islam. If we seek honor from anything besides that with which Allah honored us, Allah will disgrace us.”


Self-accountability from brothers and sisters alike is the only solution for improved gender dynamics within our ummah. This means recognizing and rectifying our transgressions of Allah’s ﷻ Word.


I do not believe in the claim that "men must change first." As I will elaborate in the essays to follow, this is an exercise in futility and goes against Islamic principles. Nevertheless, it is incontestable that without men doing their part, neither group can expect justice, equity, balance, and harmony to prevail.


Allah ﷻ Almighty said:


ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا۟ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ


Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Surah Ar-Ra'd, 13:11)


To be sure, secular ideologies have their significance as key factors in the destruction of families. However, the claim that women, and women alone, are to blame for the decline of marriages and families is both false and unjust. As will hopefully become clear from this essay collection, it is only when both genders respect and own their fitra (God-given natural dispositions) that justice, balance, and harmony can exist.


May Allah ﷻ purify our hearts and increase our taqwā (God-consciousness), reminding each of us that we are always under His ﷻ watch and ward.




Long ago, the word “cosmos” was commonly used to refer to the universe. “Cosmos” comes from the Greek kósmos, meaning “order,” the opposite of chaos. It implies recognizing the universe as a complex, well-ordered whole.


Man’s universal existential question is a cosmic one--Why am I here?


Maria Montessori, the celebrated Catholic educator and founder of the timeless method of education which bears her name, observed this natural force within children from the moment of birth. Her educational philosophy and methodology hinges on respecting man’s natural disposition, or fitra. She wrote extensively on the natural force with which man is born, and she believed that the purpose of education was to prepare for life. To do so effectively, Montessori maintained, we must first understand and never lose sight of the fact that man possesses a natural force that guides him towards self-actualization. In this way, we should provide the conditions that satiate this innate urge.


In one of her most profound books, To Educate the Human Potential, she wrote:


“Let us give [the child] a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child to become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge.”


From early childhood, we seek to understand our place in the universe. The vital task of the adult in the child’s life is to make reality known to the child by not interfering with the natural force that guides the child toward truth.


Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) reported Allah's Messenger ﷺ as saying:


"Every person is given birth to by his mother while pure-natured. His parents then make him a Jew, Christian, or Magian. Had they both been Muslims, he would be Muslim.”


That every man and woman is created a believer and a servant of Allah ﷻ means that our natural inclination is to submit to the balance and order of all things He ﷻ has created. We should now pause and reflect on what "submission" means. What does it mean to be a servant of Allah ﷻ?


It is first and foremost adherence to the five pillars of Islam.


Submission then means recognizing that Allah ﷻ has created a design according to divine power and wisdom unfathomable to the human brain. Though we may not be able to grasp it, we are told that this divine design is balanced and perfect, and very importantly, that we must not tamper with this balance, lest we wish to bring calamity upon ourselves.


Allah ﷻ says in Surat Ar-Rahman:


لشَّمْسُ وَٱلْقَمَرُ بِحُسْبَانٍۢ

وَٱلنَّجْمُ وَٱلشَّجَرُ يَسْجُدَانِ

وَٱلسَّمَآءَ رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ ٱلْمِيزَانَ

أَلَّا تَطْغَوْا۟ فِى ٱلْمِيزَانِ

وَأَقِيمُوا۟ ٱلْوَزْنَ بِٱلْقِسْطِ وَلَا تُخْسِرُوا۟ ٱلْمِيزَانَ


The sun and the moon run on their fixed courses (exactly) calculated with measured out stages for each (for reckoning, etc.)

The stars and the trees prostrate.

And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance

In order that you may not transgress (due) balance.

So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. (5-9)


The natural world behaves instinctively, having no free will to do other than what Allah ﷻ created each living and non-living thing to do. From microscopic unicellular organisms to the immeasurable cosmos, all of creation bows down to the One and Only God, Allah ﷻ.


Animals fulfill their roles according to their God-given instincts from the moment they come into existence. The instincts of a hawk, a cow, and an ant, which vary by species, guide each creature in its respective environment; to eat and be eaten, thus ensuring the continued balance and order of life. As we are told in Surat Ar-Rahman, the celestial objects orbit according to Allah's ﷻ perfect design, which is inherently one of balance and order.


Unlike Allah's ﷻ other creations, man and jinn have been endowed with free will. Nevertheless, even free will remains limited. It is not an open invitation to do whatever we will without consequence.


Free will, or volition, is the choice to obey or disobey God. It is the option to either act in accordance with the natural order of things or to tamper with it. Both options have their sets of repercussions. Still, we remain confined to the natural order of things in the sense that we cannot reorder or recreate God's design. Try as man may, his attempts at doing so consistently fail. These failed attempts at assuming the role of the Creator cause disorder. By choosing to tamper with God's design, or the natural order and balance, we bring onto ourselves and others injustice, imbalance, disharmony, and the like.


Our natural tendency is towards sensing and obeying the balance of everything, beginning with our fitra (natural disposition). It is our God-given free will which can serve our souls by enhancing our understanding of what it means to be 'ibaad (servants of) Allah ﷻ. Likewise, it is our free will which can also lead us astray.


Fortunately, our free will comes with safeguards. That is, measures which correct us when we diverge from the natural order of things. Al-'Adl ﷻ (the Just One) creates each of us with the propensity for righteousness. Al-Muqsit ﷻ (the Upholder of Equity) has provided us the divine message of the Qur'an, as well as the lived example of a perfect human being ﷺ so that we may remain rightly guided within our temporary environment (the dunya).


When we begin to err, we are redirected in various ways towards goodness and truth, toward acting in accordance with Allah’s ﷻ design, which is inherently just and balanced. We can choose to heed or ignore these reminders. When we choose the latter, we bring injustice upon ourselves and others.


If we realize that to disobey is to resist the balance and order, we can see how sinning is disorder in itself as well as the cause of injustice. The Arabic term ظلم (ẓulm) refers to injustice and unfairness, which we can inflict upon others as well as ourselves.


Let us consider a way in which our fitra guides us towards what is good and true.


Ḥayâ’, loosely translated as shyness, modesty, or shame, is a human quality of complex and subtle meaning that cannot be adequately conveyed in the English language. Nevertheless, we should understand that ḥayâ’ is an instinctive and learned safeguard with which Allah has endowed each of us (3). “Allah has deemed this quality to be specific to human beings, so that they may be deterred from the shameful acts provoked by their desires; they should not be like beasts that pounce without shame upon whatever they desire” (4). In this way, ḥayâ’ is one of the safeguards that keeps us from using our free will to our detriment. Maintaining ḥayâ’ prevents us from falling into sin, and what is sin but disobedience of Allah’s natural order of things?


As an instinctual quality, ḥayâ’ is a part of our fitra. Much of our fitra is universal to both male and female. For instance, faith in a higher power is a universal predisposition. Through our free will and through our interactions with others, (all of whom are also endowed with free will), we may become lost or misguided.