Women in Islam

Islam     Session Twenty-Two

Item #6, bullet 2 of outline:  Women in Islam

Bukhari, in hadith 1:6:301 records the following about Muhammad’s attitude toward women: 

“Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla on Id-al-Adha for Al-Fitr prayer.  Then he passed by the women and said, ‘O women!  Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).’  They asked, ‘Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle?’  He replied, ‘you curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands.  I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you.  A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.’  The women asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle!  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.”  (#1, PP. 84-85)

Thus we begin our discussion of women in Islam with the above rather harsh words from the mouth of Muhammad regarding women in general. Let us now focus on non-Muslim women under Islam before discussing Muslim women under Islam.

Non-Muslim women in Islam

Muhammad’s treatment of female captives set the precedent for Muslim men to use captive women for sexual purposes.  Sura 4:24 clearly allows such treatment and the hadith of Sahih Muslim affirms it:

“It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with captive women after she is purified (of menses or delivery).  In case she has a husband, her marriage is abrogated after she becomes captive.” (Sahih Muslim, 8: 567) 

The above is from Mark Durie’s book, “The Third Choice”.  (#3, P. 53)

This legal “right” of Muslim’s to abrogate (annul) the marriage of women taken captive is cruel beyond words.  What kind of god would grant a victor the “right” to do as he pleases with a captive woman and further humiliate them by arbitrarily dissolving their marriages?

As we described in the previous session, if a non-Muslim woman is living under a dhimma pact her situation is better than that of an ordinary captive woman, but she still lives in constant peril.  If she or her husband or the dhimmi community were to violate, or be accused of violating, any aspect of the dhimma pact; she immediately becomes the object of jihad and subject to rape, concubinage or death.  Even in every-day living under the dhimma pact she is subject to humiliation and treatment as someone far below a Muslim.

Muslim women in Islam

As an introduction to the treatment and perceptions of Muslim women the following is presented:  In March of 2014, the Council of Islamic Ideology (“CII”) conducted their 192nd meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan.  They concluded their meeting with the ruling that, “women are un-Islamic and that their mere existence contradicted Sharia and the will of Allah.”  The chairman of the meeting, Maulana Muhammad Khan Shirani, went on to say that there were actually two kinds of women – haram and makrooh.  Shirani stated, “Now the difference between haram and makrooh is that the former is categorically forbidden while the latter is really really disliked.”  (godlikeproductions.com website, 3/31/2014)

To say that the above is a hateful indictment of women, would be an understatement. Fourteen hundred years after Muhammad, we will see that Islam still treats women according to barbaric seventh century rules and precedents.  First will be some general commentaries followed by particular examples of the treatment of women in Islam.

Nonie Darwish was born in Egypt and lived under Sharia law for her first 30 years.  She has written a book, “Cruel and Usual Punishment”, about life of Muslim women under Sharia law.  She begins the Introduction to her book with this statement: “For the first thirty years of my life, I lived as a virtual slave.  I was a bird in a cage; a second class citizen who had to watch what I said even to my close friends.”  Later, in “Cruel and Usual Punishment” she gives the following summary of Sharia laws as they pertain to women:

“If I were to mention all the misogynist (“women-hating”) Sharia laws, I would need far more than just one chapter.  However, I would like to summarize a few:  A Muslim woman who commit adultery is to be stoned to death; unmarried girls who have sex must be flogged; women’s testimony in court is half the value of a man; women get half the inheritance of a man; there is no community property between husband and wife; if a woman is killed, her indemnity money is half the indemnity money of a man; if her family follows Shafi’I law, then her clitoris mist be removed at a young age – that is female castration in order for the man to make sure her sexual appetite is suppressed; she needs her guardian’s permission for marriage or else it is void; she needs her husband’s or male relative’s permission for travel; she must cover all her body except her face and hands.  (Other, more radical Hanbali-Wahabi views require that every inch of a woman be covered including her face and hands, and she can only have a hole in front of her eyes through which she can see.)” (#1, P. 65)

The eleventh century Muslim theologian Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali has provided valuable insights into Islam’s attitudes toward women by providing a list of women’s punishments under Sharia law because of Eve’s actions in the garden of Eden.  Below is the listing as stated in Nonie Darwish’s book, “Cruel and Usual Punishment:

“When Eve ate the fruit which He had forbidden to her from the tree in Paradise, the Lord, be He praised, punished women with:  (1) menstruation; (2) childbirth; (3) separation from mother and father and marriage to a stranger; (4) pregnancy; (5) not having control over her own person; (6) a lesser share in inheritance; (7) her liability to be divorced and inability to divorce; (8) its being lawful for men to have four wives, but for a woman to have only one husband; (9) the fact that she must stay secluded in the house; (10) the fact that she must keep her head covered inside the house; (11) the fact that two women’s testimony has to be set against the testimony of one man; (12) the fact that she must not go out of the house unless accompanied by a near relative; (13) the fact that men take part in Friday and feast prayers and funerals, while women do not; (14) disqualification for rulership and judgeship; (15) the fact that merit has one thousand components, only one of which is attributable to women, while 999 are attributable to men.” (#1, P. 83)

A possession of men. The Koran equates a woman to a field.  “Your women are a tilth (field) for you to cultivate so go to your tilth as ye will.”  (Sura 2:223)

Men can have four wives.  The Koran allows men to marry up to four wives. (Sura 4:3)  Women can have only one husband.

Men are superior to women.  “Women shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised against them, although men have a status above women.” (Sura 2:228)  Note that women’s rights are “similar” to, but not equal to those of men.  Also, it is clearly stated that, “men have a status above women.”

Inheritance.  The Koran rules that son’s inheritance should be twice that of a daughter.  “Allah directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females.” (Sura 4:11) (As cited in #17, P. 159)

A Woman’s testimony worth only one-half of a man’s.    This is clearly stated in Sura 2:282.

No cause, no recourse divorce.  “Under Sharia laws, instant final divorce is the right of the husband only.  And all it requires is to repeat the words “I divorce you” three times.  Actually, verbally saying it is not even required.  He  can hold up a thumb and two fingers as he says it.  He can also do it by sticky note . . .  Sharia places no restraints on a man’s divorcing his wife or wives, and no reason is required.”  (#1, P. 41)

Wife beating.  The Koran serves to divinely sanction the beating of wives.  “Good women are obedient.  They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.”  (Sura 4:34) 

The husband does not have to justify beating his wife to anyone.  The Hadith says: “A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.” (Sunaan Abu Dawud 11:21:42, Hasan) (As cited in #1, P. 49) This is not a practice confined to the 7th or 8th century – it is still in vogue in Islamic controlled areas.

Covering the female body.  “One of the most important responsibilities of a Muslim woman is to protect the honor of her male family members, and her body is a symbol of that honor. “ (#1, P. 78)  “She must shield and conceal it and live with no identity in public because the alternative could be humiliating corporal punishment by a male flogger.” (#1, P. 79)  “ Muslims use the words nikab, burqa, or hijab to basically mean the same thing. In Arabic hijab literally means ‘a barrier or veil’ because it hides the face of a woman.  But that is not all that it does; by covering the face and identity, the nikab also adds to the alienation and loneliness of Muslim women.  What seventh-century Bedouin women needed to wear to have a small sense of privacy has become a shield of isolation and symbol of subjugation in the twenty-first century.  Besides the increased sense of alienation, the hijab is unfriendly.  It sends the message, ‘I do not want to know you on a personal basis.  I am just a shadow confined to the home.’ “ (#1, P. 81)

Enforcement of the dress code for female Muslims rose to a ridiculous and lethal extreme in Mecca in 2002.  A fire broke out at a girls’ school when the girls had removed their Muslim garb; there were no men present.  The girls tried to flee the school building but the Saudi religious police would not allow them to exit because they were not wearing the required Muslim covering.  At least fifteen girls died because their deaths were preferable to their being seen by Muslim men without the proper covering!

Rape.  The treatment of rape in Islamic cultures is strictly male-favored to the extreme detriment of the female victim.  Sharia law requires the testimony of four male witnesses to the act itself.  It is obvious, that finding four male Muslims who would testify against a fellow Muslim is virtually impossible.  To make matters worse, if a Muslim women dares to accuse a Muslim male of rape she runs the risk of harsh punishment of even death because she will probably be deemed to have caused it!

This law is based on an incident in the life of Aisha; one of Muhammad’s wives. ( She was nine years old when the marriage was consummated.)  She was accused of adultery, but was cleared by a revelation from Allah: 

“Why did they not produce four witnesses?  If they could not produce any witnesses, then they were surely lying in the sight of God.”  (Sura 24:13)

Even though the above was not a case of rape, the requirement of four witnesses has, and is, applied to rape cases.  As stated above, if a Muslim woman accuses a Muslim male of rape and cannot produce four Muslim men witnesses to the rape she will probably be treated as the perpetrator, not the victim.  If she is married, she will likely be convicted of adultery.  Under Sharia law the penalty for adultery is death, probably be stoning.  If she is not married, she will likely be convicted of fornication.  The penalty for fornication is 100 lashes. (Sura 24:2)  There are no similar penalties for Muslim men guilty of the same transgressions.  In addition, the Muslim woman lives in terror of dishonoring her family and being killed by a family member.

The next session will begin by continuing the discussion of Women in Islam:  Honor Killing