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There's a hadith which describes women as "deficient":

Narrated Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri: ... "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." -- Sahih al-Bukhari 304 (sunnah.com)

This is unsurprisingly controversial, e.g., "There's no way you can convince me that a woman is deficient in mind and in her iman." -- Rasha Al-Disuqi (YouTube).

However, Shehzad Saleem (listed as "a student of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi" on YouTube) states:

Actually, in this narritive, the expression [...] has been translated as a woman who is [...] or who deficient in her intellect. Now the gravest of grave errors has been made in this interpretation is that this narrative has been translated keeping in view its Urdu meaning. We must realize and we must know, and scholars of Arabic in particular know that there are words which mean different in different languages even if they are the same and they are called cognates. So the word [...] in Arabic actually means "to give concession; to reduce something" while in Urdu it means "defect and deficient". And the erroneous conclusion of [...] meaning that a lady is deficient in intellect has arisen because this expression has been translated keeping in view its Urdu meaning. -- Shehzad Saleem (YouTube starting 1:57)

There's obviously a massive distinction between between "deficiency" and "concession". And it's not hard to find via a Google search men (and male scholars) who claim that women are literally intellectually deficient compared to men.

That being said, the word "concession" seems to fit better into the structure of the hadith, e.g., women not praying during menses nor needing to catch up these prayers seems very much like a concession.

Question: Is "concession" a better translation than "deficiency" when referring to women's deficiencies?

I'm asking about how accurate Shehzad Saleem's interpretation is.

  • Even if concession is a better translation, the question still remains. To make sense of such hadiths, one opinion is that men and women when compared to each other have physiological dis/advantages over one other but precisely because of those relative dis/advantages they complement each other in marriage. Women due to their physical nature are less "intelligent" but they are instead gentler, more flexible which are necessary given their unique roles in family. If men are more intelligent naturally, then that's for different roles they have to fulfill. – infatuated Mar 2 '17 at 4:16
  • This is all while both genders can transcend their first-nature attributes, since deep in their souls, men and women are sexless and created from one archetypal principle. – infatuated Mar 2 '17 at 4:17
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حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ أَبِي مَرْيَمَ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي زَيْدٌ ـ هُوَ ابْنُ أَسْلَمَ ـ عَنْ عِيَاضِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، قَالَ خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي أَضْحًى ـ أَوْ فِطْرٍ ـ إِلَى الْمُصَلَّى، فَمَرَّ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ فَقَالَ ‏"‏ يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ تَصَدَّقْنَ، فَإِنِّي أُرِيتُكُنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِ النَّارِ ‏"‏‏.‏ فَقُلْنَ وَبِمَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏"‏ تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعْنَ، وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ، مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ أَذْهَبَ لِلُبِّ الرَّجُلِ الْحَازِمِ مِنْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْنَ وَمَا نُقْصَانُ دِينِنَا وَعَقْلِنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏"‏ أَلَيْسَ شَهَادَةُ الْمَرْأَةِ مِثْلَ نِصْفِ شَهَادَةِ الرَّجُلِ ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْنَ بَلَى‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ عَقْلِهَا، أَلَيْسَ إِذَا حَاضَتْ لَمْ تُصَلِّ وَلَمْ تَصُمْ ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْنَ بَلَى‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ فَذَلِكَ مِنْ نُقْصَانِ دِينِهَا ‏"‏‏.‏

The Arabic words used are Naqis and Nuqsan. Literally they convey decrease, loss, removal, lessened, diminished and also deficient, incomplete, weakness and imperfection etc.

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Source: Edward William Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon

http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000095.pdf http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume8/00000096.pdf

Quranic verses which use the words include: 7:130, 13:41, 21:44, 35:11, 50:4, 73:3. You can see the list of Hadith on sunnah.com which use the words here and here.

  • That Allah's creation is imperfect can be understood in a different sense. That is, since only Allah is perfect, the creation are all more or less imperfect but in different as well as relative ways. That is a trait that causes ill in one area can have a benefic effect in another such as women's natural disposition to be more emotional rather than rational. – infatuated Mar 2 '17 at 12:48
  • There's also the question of what then makes women entitled to a concession in their worship (as a positive practice) if there's not an actual "imperfection" (in the same relative sense since menses have both advantages and disadvantages) in their physical being. – infatuated Mar 2 '17 at 12:51

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