"The male is not the same as the female"
By: A. Muhammad

The following glorious Quranic verse contains some remarkable words which need stopping at and analysing:

Then when she (Mary's mother) delivered her, she said, "My Lord, I have given birth to a female". God was well aware of what she delivered, and that the male is not the same as the female. "I have named her Mary, and I seek Your protection for her and her offspring from the outcast devil." 3:36

The knowledge that nothing in the Quran is arbitrary leads us to dig deep and try to find significance for the unusual manner in which the underlined sentence was phrased.
We note that God said:

"The male is not the same as the female."

God did not say:
'The female is not the same as the male.'

The second sentence (female not the same as male) would have been the expected one to see since the newly born child was a female and not a male, so it would have been more in line with the context of the verse to say that the newly born, who was a female, is not the same as a male.

So why did God deliberately chose to reverse the sentence and say:

"The male is not the same as the female"

Initially, it may appear that both sentences arrive at the same conclusion, but in fact they do not.
This will become apparent when we examine other Quranic verses where the words (not the same as) are used:

Have you considered the offering of drinks to the pilgrims and the maintenance of the Masjid Al-Haram to be the same as believing in God and the Last Day and striving in the cause of God? They are not the same in the sight of God. God does not guide the transgressing people. 9:19

And God cites an example of two men, one of them is dumb and cannot do a thing and is a burden on his master. Wherever he sends him, he brings back nothing good. Is he the same as one who advocates justice and is on a straight path? 16:76

Say, "The bad and the good are not the same, even if the abundance of the bad may impress you. So you shall reverence God O you who possess intelligence so that you may succeed." 5:100

Say, "Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?" Say, "God." Say, "Have you then taken up allies besides Him who do not possess for themselves any benefit nor harm?" Say, "Is the blind the same as the seer? Or, is darkness the same as the light?" Or, have they assigned for God partners who created what is similar to His creation, so that all the creations seemed similar to them? Say, "God is the Creator of all things and He is the One, the All-Conquering." 13:16

Blindness and sight here are in reference to the content of the heart and not the physical sight.

Not the same are the sedentary among the believers,except the disabled and those who strive in the cause of God with their money and themselves. God has favoured, in rank, the strivers with their money and themselves over the sedentary. For both, God promises good things, yet God favours the strivers over the sedentary with a great reward. 4:95

Do we notice anything common between all these verses? It may escape the reader, but if we inspect the arrangement of the 2 categories of people who are compared in any of the above verses, we will note that in every case, the lesser category is placed first and the more valued category (by God) placed last.
To confirm further, God tells us in 4:95, which is the last of the verses above, that the second category is the better and more valued category of the two.
This is confirmed with the words:

"God has favoured, in rank, the strivers with their money and themselves over the sedentary"

With this knowledge, let us consider the implication of this arrangement on the words in 3:36:

"The male is not the same as the female."

Following from the pattern we derived from the 5 verses above, we can conclude that God placed the male first, and stated that the male is not the same as the female, because God honours the woman more than the man in the Quran.
Indeed, we note a number of notable confirmations in the Quran for how God honoured women above men, the following are some examples:

God instructed us to treat our parents kindly (31:15 and 46:15), yet we note that it is the role of the mother in carrying and suckling her child that is acknowledged and honoured in these verses, but there is no acknowledgement for the father for his role in bringing up his child.

In the case of adultery, it is the man (and not the woman) who is required to produce four witnesses if he accuses his wife of adultery (24:4). This demonstrates how God placed more value on the honour of women.

Women are much more protected in the Quran in the case of divorce than men. To name a few examples:
- It is the woman who is not to be evicted from the marriage home (65:1).
- It is the woman who should receive a divorce compensation (2:241).
- The woman receives an alimony for one year if her husband dies (2:240).
- Men are not to take any gifts they gave their wives if they divorce them (2:229).

It is the man who must suffer the humiliation of seeing his wife marry another man if he divorces her three times and wishes to take her back (2:230). This rule does not apply to the wife if she divorces her husband three times.

It is the women who must be financially supported by their men in a marriage and not the other way round (4:34).

Having said that, this must not be confused with other issues that may wrongly imply that men are more honoured than women in the Quran.
We know for example that God deemed that all prophets be men and not women. This is not to honour men above women, but simply because in the role of prophethood is more suited to men for what they require of resilience and the capability to endure the life of persecution and hardship that is associated with prophethood. If we consider the stories of all prophets, with the exception of probably David and Solomon, we would find that their lives were extremely arduous and full of hardships and persecution.
For the rebut of the claim that the Quran promotes male superiority see:
Are men superior in the Quran?