Critical Analysis: Women in Islam

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Islam: A Critical Analysis
By: S.T.
Ch.1: Burden Of Proof
Ch.2: Judaism and Islam
Ch.3: Imperfect Text
Ch.4: Qur'anic Grammar
Ch.5: What Others Say
Ch.6: Hypocrisy in Islam
Ch.7: Hell
Ch.8: Violence in Islam
Ch.9: Logical Fallacies
Ch.10: Women in Islam
Ch.11: Muhammad’s Wives
Ch.12: Inheritance Laws
Ch.13: Qur'anic Ethics
Ch.14: Existence of Allah
Ch.15: What is Prophecy?
Ch.16: Unclear Qur'an
Ch.17: The Need for Hadith?
Ch.18: Miscellaneous
Ch.19: Numerical Patterns in the Qur'an
Ch.20: Summary
Ch.20: Quotations
Ch.22: Further Reading

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 67: Sahih Bukhari

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! How can we know her permission?" He said, "Her silence (indicates her permission)."
[4.34] Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

Irshad Manji, "The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in her Faith", wrote:

As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Let me get this straight: To deserve a beating, a woman doesn't actually have to disobey anybody, a man merely has to fear her disobedience. His insecurity becomes her problem. Swell. I know I'm oversimplifying, but oversimplification runs rampant...
Irshad Manji, "The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in her Faith", page 34
Book 11, Number 2141: Sunan Abu Dawud

Narrated Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab:

Iyas ibn Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) as saying: Do not beat Allah's handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad's family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.

Ibn Warraq also has some quotes in his chapter on women in "Why I am not a Muslim" p. 299

Omar the second caliph (581-644) said: "Prevent the women from learning to write! say no to their capricious ways."

On another occasion he said, "Adopt positions opposite those of women. There is great merit in such opposition." And again, "Impose nudity on women because clothes are one reason for leaving the house, to attend marriages and to appear in public for ceremonies and parties. When a woman goes out frequently she risks meeting another man and finding him attractive even if he is less attractive than her husband; for she is attracted and distracted by anything she does not possess".

The antifeminist sayings of Ali (600-661), the Prophet's cousin and the fourth caliph are famous:
Ibn Warraq, "Why I am not a Muslim" p. 299
"The entire woman is an evil and what is worse is that it is a necessary evil!"

"You should never ask a woman her advice because her advice is worthless. Hide them so that they cannot see other men!... Do not spend too much time in their company for they will lead you to your downfall!" "Men, never ever obey your women. Never let them advise you on any matter concerning your daily life. If you let them advise you they will squander all your possessions and disobey all your orders and desires. ... And finally to a man teaching a woman to write: "Do not add evil to unhappiness."

It will be appropriate to end this introduction… from the famous and much revered philosopher al-Ghazali (1058-1111), whom Professor Montgomery Watt describes as the greatest Muslim after Muhammad. In his "The Revival Of The Religious Sciences" Ghazali defines the woman's role:

"She should stay at home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well-informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary; she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything; she must not cheat on him nor extort money from him; she must not leave her house without his permission and if given his permission she must leave surreptitiously. She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice or recognize her; she must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need

Men get twice the inheritance as women

[4.12] Allah commands you concerning your children; a male shall have as much as the share of two females; but if their be females only, numbering more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased leave; and if there be one, she shall have the half. And his parents each of them a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a child, but if he have no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have a third; and if he have brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have a sixth, after the payment of any bequests he may have bequeathed or of debts. Your fathers and your children; you know not which of them is more beneficent to you. This fixing of portions is from Allah. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, Wise

In the case of 2:282, ideally one should get two male witnesses. However, if this is not possible, then having one man and two women are acceptable. In no case, is it acceptable to rely on female witnesses without a male witness. (The verse also refers to the scribe and borrower as “him”.)

[2.282] O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.

Staying at home

[33.32] O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.
[33.33] And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore; and keep up prayer, and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Apostl. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from youe, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying

33:33 commands Muhammad’s wives to stay in their houses. It raises the question that if his wives were so wonderful, wouldn’t they be able to contribute more to society if they weren’t confined to their home. More importantly, since Muslimahs are supposed to pray, give charity, obey Allah and His apostle (as indicated in 33:33) and that the lives of Muhammad’s wives can serve as an example to all women, some Muslims argue that women should stay inside. This argument becomes stronger if her husband commands her to stay at home as she should not disobey her husband.

Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 29, Number 85:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

The Prophet said, "A woman should not travel except with a Dhu-Mahram (her husband or a man with whom that woman cannot marry at all according to the Islamic Jurisprudence), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a Dhu-Mahram." A man got up and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I intend to go to such and such an army and my wife wants to perform Hajj." The Prophet said (to him), "Go along with her (to Hajj)."
Volume 1, Book 4, Number 149: Sahih Bukhari

Narrated 'Aisha:

The Prophet said to his wives, "You are allowed to go out to answer the call of nature. "

Jan Goodwin in the “Price of Honor: Muslim Women lift the veil of silence on the Islamic world" page 56 (chapter 3: Pakistan one step forward two steps back), 1995 writes:

The Koranic injunctions for men to cast down their eyes when in the presence of the opposite sex appeared forgotten. According to women's right activists Khawar Mumtaz and Farida Shaeed, women were now being scrutinized in a manner that was previously unheard of. Theologian Dr. Israr Ahmad, who was also a member of the advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, and was handpicked by Zia for the Federal Council, actually stated on government-controlled television that no one could be punished for assaulting or raping a woman until an Islamic society had been created. By that he meant a total absence of female visibility. He and President Zia wanted women to return to the traditional chador and chardiwari---"the veil and four walls."

Under this custom, which is still practiced in conservative regions of Pakistan and particularly in the provinces of Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier, it is said that a woman should go out only three times in her life: the first time, when she is born; the second, when she is married and taken to her husband's home; and the third time, when she dies and is taken to be buried. And on the occasions when she does goes out, she is expected to wear a burqa veil, a tentlike garment that covers her from head to toe, shrouding her completely except for her feet. The only opening is a small embroidered grill at eye level, through which she is destined to view the world in blurred glimpses.

The burqa is stifling in Pakistan's extreme summer heat. Everyday errands, even going out for groceries, are undertaken by the males in the family. This confinement is frequently carried out to such extremes that women suffer from a host of ailments caused by lack of physical exercise and exposure to sunlight. There is a high incidence of osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, in Muslim countries where women are completely veiled. The lack of sunlight reaching the skin also contributes to conditions such as eczema and to ulcers.

The segregation of women is taken so seriously that many houses in Pakistan are surrounded with eight-to ten-foot-high purdah walls. All rooms face inward, with windows on the ground floor either built close to the ceiling or with frosted glass to ensure that the women who live there are never seen by passing male guests or tradesmen. In the Northwest Frontier Province, it is illegal to build a house with windows that overlook the windows or garden of another house. In addition to these precautions, Muslim homes also have one room set aside for guests, which usually has direct outside access to further ensure that unrelated male visitors will not catch a glimpse of women living there.

Quran’s Chapter on Women

Chapter 4 of the Quran is the chapter on women. The Quran uses the term "you" or "your" to refer to the male reader. The word "you(r)" in the verses below are masculine, as when Allah created Arabic, there were no gender neutral terms for "you". Based on the context, "you" refers to males.

"You" must refer to males.

[4.3] And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.

You are males, they are females.

[4.4] And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result.

Your women, means that women are possessions of men. The four witnesses must be men.

[4.15] And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them.
[4.20] And if you wish to have (one) wife in place of another and you have given one of them a heap of gold, then take not from it anything; would you take it by slandering (her) and (doing her) manifest wrong?
[4.23] Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers' daughters and sisters' daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, (born) of your wives to whom you have gone in, but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you (in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[4.24] And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you.

[4.25] And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens; and Allah knows best your faith: you are (sprung) the one from the other; so marry them with the permission of their masters, and give them their dowries justly, they being chaste, not fornicating, nor receiving paramours; and when they are taken in marriage, then if they are guilty of indecency, they shall suffer half the punishment which is (inflicted) upon free women. This is for him among you who fears falling into evil; and that you abstain is better for you, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

[4.34] Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

Rationalizing Sexism

Some traditionalists argue that men and women are different so they require different laws and roles. However, people of different age groups, occupations, fitness levels, health categories, etc. are different, so why just focus on gender-based differences? Also, in whatever ways one believes that men are different from women, there will be many exceptional cases. For example, assume you feel that men should get a larger inheritance because men financially support a family. Suppose one’s daughter supports her spouse and family while one’s son relies on his wife to support him. Who should get a larger inheritance?

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