John Gray wrote a book titled “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus”. This bestseller sold over fifty million copies worldwide. It has some valuable stuff that has saved many marriages. It emphasizes the difference between men and women. It also lays failure of relationships upon not being able to understand these gender differences. We will reflect upon this book highlighting some points worth mentioning.
Firstly, it is imperative to understand whether the differences between males and females are innate or acquired. Are they biological or learned through social interaction? It is amazing to learn that babies react differently to certain stimuli so naturally when they have not yet acquired any behavioural characteristics. Hence, certain differences are inborn and inbuilt. Cultural expectations are different from the two.
How can we build a successful relationship?
For starters, a huge hurdle is the problem of generalization, even though every single human being is unique. We are always dealing with individuals. It doesn’t harm us to appreciate that men and women think and behave differently. A word of caution is that in spite of recognizing these gender differences, we do not fall into the issue of gender conflict. For Muslims, the basis of everything is Islam. In Islam, men and women are supporters and companions to each other. Their innate nature is meant to complement one another.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (May Allah exalt his mention and protect him from imperfection) said: “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! You will not enter Jannah until you believe, and you shall not believe until you love one another. May I inform you of something, if you do, you love each other. Promote greeting amongst you (by saying As-salamu ‘alaikum to one another).” (Muslim)
What does love mean? It is not just a word or an emotion. It governs our behaviour. Your beloved’s well-being is connected to yours. You are unhappy, when your spouse is sad. You cannot relax, if he/she is distressed. For Muslim homes, mercy should be the pre-dominant emotion that ensures peaceful homes.
In Islam, interestingly, men and women have been treated equally and same. Women are considered to be twin half of men. Whenever Allah (swt) addresses believers, He calls out to both men and women, unless the Prophet (sa) has specifically mentioned something that is gender specific. In reality, men and women are from the same planet, and they have more in common.
Some ways that they differ could be their unique ways of reacting to stress. Men retreat to their cave. We have a supreme example in our own Messenger (sa) of that. Perturbed about the despicable state of Arabia’s affairs, he spent solitary time in Cave Hira. Men value competence and like to figure out stuff themselves. The last thing a man needs in times of stress is intervention from someone.
Women, on the other hand, like to discuss things. When they work very hard, they expect men to automatically understand what’s troubling them. And when they have no clue to their feelings, women get upset.
The Prophet (sa) used to tend to his own clothes and help at home by serving his family. He didn’t wait for his wives to break down. He acted proactively.
Similarly, when the Prophet (sa) was shocked by his experience with angel Gabriel (as) for the first time, he ran to Khadijah (rta). Men want to be trusted and appreciated. Look, how she behaved. She validated and assured him.
Lastly, it is important to note that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah (swt) based on their worship.
Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan from a talk at Mercy Mission, Karachi.