There is No Male-Preference in Islamic law

Reviewing Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali's new book

Women aren’t obliged to go on the Big J, men are. Women aren’t obliged to attend Jumu’ah or pray in congregation, men are. Women don’t have to pay a dowry, men have to pay a dower. Women can ask for as much dower as they like, men cannot limit it in any way. Women bear none of the costs of the wedding or marriage, men do. Divorced women are owed alimony, men aren’t. Divorced women get full custody of the children unless they remarry, men get visitation. Women don’t pay child support, men do.

As far as I’m aware, there is no movement among Muslim scholars – male or female – to revise or update any of the above rulings so they’re more in-line with current gender norms. If men and women are equal, why not? What’s stopping us?

Despite this, people – Muslims and non-Muslims – have the audacity to accuse Islam and Muslim jurists of a male-bias. What kind of intellectual debility, imbecility, pusillanimity is this?

So it’s a good thing the late Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil (Allah have mercy on him) wrote his book, La Dhukuriyyah fi’l-Fiqh. And that Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid ‘Ali (Allah raise his rank) translated it and published There is No Male-Preference in Islamic Law (gonna call it NMP after this.)

I bought a copy – you should too (link below) – so I can review it for MuslimMan™ (subscribe to our newsletter.)

Before I start, I’ll say I’d never heard of Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil before this. Never met him, studied under him, or read any of his 16 books. But you can judge a shaykh by his students. And Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid ‘Ali is one of the Shaykh’s students. And Dr. Abdullah is legit. So the Shaykh had to be legit. Allah have mercy on all our scholars.

shaykh muhammad al-ta'wil and dr abdullah bin hamid ali author of there is no male-preference in islam

Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil and Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali.

What you can expect when you buy NMP

NMP is 69 pages long, not including the table of contents, the translator’s introduction, or index. You can read it in one sitting. It has three chapters.

The first chapter is the author’s introduction. In the second chapter, he refutes the claim of male bias in fiqh. In chapter three, he highlights the secrets behind legal distinctions between men and women.

From the author’s introduction:

“Accusing Islamic law of male-centeredness incites ridicule. And it clearly demonstrates the degree of embarrassment with which its advocates are stricken down and the compounded degrees of ignorance by which they are characterized: an ignorance of the understanding of fiqh, its origin, and the relation of the jurist to it; an ignorance of the applied reality of fiqh and its judgements; and an ignorance of its wisdoms and subtleties.”

Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta'wil, La Dhukuriyyah fi’l-Fiqh

Compound ignorance, or jahl murakkab in Arabic, means they don’t know what they don’t know. Basically, someone who says there’s a male bias in Islam is such a dumb-ass, she has no idea how much of a dumb-ass she is. And we ask Allah to protect us from insanity.

But what about “mUh MaLe LeNs”?

Throughout the book, the author gives several examples of female Muslim scholars giving rulings on women’s issues that are harsher than their male counterparts. Side note: Fellas, this is why you should get yourselves a female lawyer if you ever end up in divorce court. He also gives examples of female Muslim scholars correcting the mistakes of male scholars, and the men retracting their position.

If there was a male bias in Islam, or if male jurists were biased in favour of men, this wouldn’t be the case. Can jurists make mistakes? Yes. But that’s ‘cause they didn’t have or understand the right sources, or they misapplied legal principles. These mistakes aren’t due to some Islamic conspiracy against women.

The wisdom behind rulings that appear to favour men

I like the author’s approach in NMP because it’s, “Allah says so; our job is to submit.” To put it another way: if Allah commands it, it’s necessarily true and good. But he doesn’t stop there. Where he’s able to grok wisdoms and subtleties in Allah’s law, he does. And if they’re difficult to figure out based on Scripture, he goes back to the Muslim axiom.

In NMP, the author reveals the wisdoms behind:

  • Why polygyny and not polyandry (yuck)

  • Why a woman’s wergild (look it up) is half that of a man’s

  • Why a woman’s testimony is half that of a man’s

  • Why only men can be rulers/leaders

  • Why only men can unilaterally divorce

  • Why women get half the inheritance of men (in general)

  • Why men are in charge of women


If you’re a Muslim man or woman, you must read this book for three reasons.

  1. One, it will strengthen your faith.

  2. Two, if you have doubts about Islam or you’re having a hard time with some rulings, NMP will clear them up.

  3. Three, if a Muslim or non-Muslim tries to claim male bias in Islam, you’ll have arguments to refute them.

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