Critiquing Islam (II): The Place of Women according to the Qur’an and the Hadiths
Hey there! Welcome to my blog! If you are a first time reader; all love here – no hate.
It should be noted beforehand that these articles are not about criticizing anybody’s religion. Critiquing in its meaning is undertaking a detailed and in-depth analysis or assessment of something; these could be: literal works, philosophical works, religious works, etc. Of which, as intellectual thinkers, I believe, should be a key pursuit for everybody – especially on all issues pertaining to life as we know it.
Before I begin, I would like to give a disclaimer: you may encounter expressions of adult content, as well as trigger words such as: domestic violence, rape, paedophiles…on this blog post, therefore, if you are triggered by such names, it would be advisable to stop here.
I began the series ‘Critiquing Islam’ under my spoken truth category last week, if you have not read the first post; I would encourage you to begin by reading it first.
For this post, we are looking specifically and critically at the place of women at home and in the society according to the Qur’an and the hadiths.
Firstly, as a woman myself, I feel this issue touches close to the heart because whenever I look back in times past at the place of women in the society and even at home, I often say, “Thank you God for giving me life at such a time as this, in such a country as this, and at such a home as I have been raised in.”
Now, not to say that the rest of the women who live in oppressive cultures are accursed of God or anything like that – but just acknowledging that indeed, it is a blessing to be born in a country that constitutionally upholds the rights and freedoms of men and women equally.
I recognize that the place of women in some cultures and societies has not been as progressive as that of my community or my home (just to narrow it down). And I have to thank God for the power of education, for it has largely contributed to this progression. There are still several, and I insist several, communities like the Masaai people who are up to the present time, practicing FGM in this country and this has to be one of the most heart breaking and saddest things to picture especially as a woman.
FGM- Female Genital Mutilation
Aside from it being illegal, an ignorant practice, and a violation against the basic human rights of women and girls, it is practiced as a result of deeply entrenched social beliefs and norms in communities where violence against women and girls is socially acceptable.
Please read that again.
And it is exactly for these reasons above, I always seek and insist to critically analyse all issues touching on beliefs and especially the ones bordering matters faith. Why? So that we may bring our minds and hearts to the table and lovingly go through these hard issues one-by-one until when at last we have reached an impasse, we can cry out to God (the One who listens and hears – whoever He is) to direct us – and not by means of blind faith or by unchallengeable convictions but – through facts based on evidence and solid confirmations in our hearts that can only arise from Him as our sole creator and knower of our frame, thoughts and intents of our hearts. Though, I would prefer to begin with the latter than the former myself!
Now, Islam to the heartbreak of the society, I discovered, encourages toleration of domestic violence, promotion of sex slavery, child marriage, divorce and has a loose regard for marriage in general.
Again, it is also most probable, that a high percentage of Muslims today especially in areas where education is seriously valued do not practice or uphold some of what is taught in the Qur’an and the hadiths; and some even term these teachings as backward and retrograde. And to these Muslims, I applaud. Because the true face of Islam in effect – according to the literal teachings of the Qur’an and the hadiths – is what the Taliban is presently trying to enforce in Afghanistan presently as you read this.
Now, Muslims living in unrestricted states might possibly find these messages deceptive and almost heretical, but only because they base their understanding of Islam on life rooted in countries where it is illegal to discriminate against women, violate their basic human rights and beat them. However, Muslim women living in strict Islamic states have a totally different tale to tell as they are the ones who experience and truly understand the effect of the Qur’an and the hadiths’ teachings upon their lives.
My only notable and very genuine question to Muslims who shun most of what the Qur’an teaches would be – if they found some of the teachings not apt with human rights and social justice, how dependable would the entire Qur’an be as well? Food for thought?
Delving into the issues:
Child Marriage & Polygamy
Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses. God’s word and plan from the beginning was, and has always been: monogamy according to the Bible. Yet, even in the Bible days, polygamy was still practiced. Thus, it should come as no surprise to us when we find it still being practiced today seeing that man has been known to be a violator of God’s commands since the Garden of Eden.
As for the Qur’an, Islam allows men to take up up-to four wives provided he is able to treat each of them fairly. (It should be noted that the vice-versa is not allowed, that is, women taking up-to four husbands.)
“If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hand possess. That you would be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.” Surah 4:3
The verse in context, is giving a conditional clause in the treatment of orphans and slaves, and then introduces the rules of marriage. (I will go in-depth on the verse above below).
These rules however, did not apply to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. He was allowed special benefits -for some reason- and had a total of thirteen recorded wives and concubines, one who was a child at the time of her marriage.
In fact, according to the hadiths, it is written- Narrrated Qatada: “Anas bin Malik said, the prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Has the prophet the strength for it? Anas replied, “we used to say that the prophet was given the strength of thirty (men): And Sa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).” Al Bukhari 268
And now since we have brought up the issue of children brides, there are several Islamic communities that practice child marriages following Muhammad, the prophet of Islam’s example of his child bride: Aisha.
The writer may have probably (my thoughts) used the word rape to demonstrate the gravity of injustice committed to this six year old girl.
Narrated Aisha: “The prophet married her (Aisha) when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death)” Al Bukhari 5133
I believe it is important to note that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, at this point was fifty three years of age.
According to the Qur’an, there is no age limit for girls to get married. Today, majority of the extremely strict Islamic states allow for child marriages as most of their laws are derived from the Sharia law. Now, I do not desire to linger too long on this issue because it is a grey area in many communities and cultures because there exists numerous contentions regarding the desirable age for marriage; particularly where the state leaves the issue unaddressed. Thus, such issues are left to the mercy of pubescence and the choice of the girls’ and their guardians.
However, what I will certainly not turn a blind eye to as I conclude on the issue, is the difference in age between the man and his bride; for this is outright child abuse, paedophile behaviour, child molestation and its legalization thereof.
There are also several communities that practice similar marriages in Kenya, which is illegal according to the constitutional laws of the land. Again, the Masaai community is notorious for such practices. Yet, I know the gospel is able to rid the beautiful Massai people of these ignorant practices.
Talk about wrestling with issues, this was a hard one! Now, what I personally found most wicked in the Qur’an was the concealing of rape as ‘marriage’ which I have termed: ‘undercover rape’ for this post as you will notice the phrases ‘provided you seek them in marriage’ and ‘there is no blame on you.’
During the wars and raids carried out under the directives of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, in the name of Jihad, Muslim men captured captive men, women and children, and he allowed them to undercover rape the women. Muhammad told them that it was allowed by Allah. Beginning with citations from the Qur’an as below:
The context of the below surah of the Qur’an is – prohibitions of whom to marry.
“Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hand possess (women captives in a Jihad). Thus Allah ordained (prohibitions) against you: except for these, all others are lawful provided you seek them in marriage with gifts from your property – desiring chastity, not lust. Seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed: but if, after a dower is prescribed, ye mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is all-knowing, all wise.” Surah 4:24
Narrated on the authority AbuSa’id (Al-Khudri): – “They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed: “And women already married except those whom your right hand possess.” Hadith Sahih Muslim 1456 (d)
I did not even know where to classify the below – unwarranted violence?
Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid: – “The prophet said, “If a slave girl (Ama) commits illegal sexual intercourse, scourge her; if she does it again, scourge her again; if she repeats it, scourge her again.” The narrator added that on the third or fourth offense, the prophet said, “sell her even for a hair rope.” Al Bukhari 2555
This was another problem for me. According to the Qur’an, it is permissible to discipline a wife if she is disobedient to the husband.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first). (Next), refuse to share their beds, (and last), beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For Allah is most high, great (above you all).” Surah 4:34
According to the hadith from Sahih Al Bukhari, – Narrated Ikrima: “Rifaa divorced his wife whereupon, AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s messenger came. Aisha said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!” When AbdurRahman heard that his wife had gone to the prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, “By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this,” holding and showing the fringe of her garment. Abdur-Rahman said, “By Allah, O Allah’s messenger! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifaa. Allah’s messenger said, to her, “If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to marry Rifaa unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you.” Then the prophet saw the two boys with Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), “Are these your sons?” On that AbdurRahman said, “Yes.” The prophet said, (to her) “You claim what you claim (i.e.. that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow.”” Al Bukhari 5825
Muhammad, on this issue, neither found fault with the man, nor rebuked AbdurRahman for beating his wife until she turned green. Additionally he gave emphasis to some unreasonable recourse in order for divorce to take place.
His response therefore, does not come as a surprise because he was known to have said: Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab: “A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.” Sunan Abi Dawud 2147
Again I wondered, regardless of the contentions faced in marriage, is it justifiable to beat, and even deny conjugal rights to women in marriages due to disagreements experienced in a marriage?
Discrimination against women & the place of women in leadership
✓ As noted above, Islam teaches that wives are subject to punishment by their husbands whenever they disobey. And the husband may not be questioned as to why he beats his wife.
✓ Any nation that has women elected leaders is doomed for failure.
Narrated Abu Bakra: – “During the battle of Al-Jamal, Allah benefitted me with a word (I heard from the prophet). When the prophet heard the news of the people of Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said, “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.” Al Bukhari 7099
✓ According to the hadith Sahih Al Bukhari, women are not married for love but— for only four things:
Narrated Abu Huraira: – “The prophet said, “A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers.” Al Bukhari 5090
✓ According to the Qur’an, the woman is objectified sexually:
“Your wives are as a tilth unto you so approach your tilth when or how you will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah and know that you are to meet him (in the hereafter), and give (these good tidings) to those who believe.” Surah 2:223
Tilth: prepared surface soil especially in respect to suitability for sowing seeds.
I researched further on the statement ‘when or how you will’ and found the below from the hadiths Sunan Ibn Majah and Sahih Al Bukhari respectively:
“Abdullah bin Abu Awfa said, “When Muadh bin Jabal came from Sham, he prostrated to the prophet who said, ‘What is this, O Muadh? He said: ‘I went to Sham and saw them prostrating to their bishops and patricians and I wanted to do that for you.’ The messenger of Allah said: Do not do that. If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone other than Allah, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands. By the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad! No woman can fulfil her duty towards Allah until she fulfils her duty towards her husbands. If he asks her (for intimacy) even if she is on her camel saddle, she should not refuse.” Sunan Ibn Majah 1853
Narrated Jabir: – “Jews used to say: “If one has sexual intercourse with his wife from the back, then she will deliver a squint-eyed child.” So this verse was revealed: “Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when and how you will.” Al Bukhari 4528
✓ Women are not allowed to fast except with their husbands’ permission.
Narrated Abu Huraira: – “The prophet said, “A woman should not fast (optional fasts) except with her husband’s permission if he is at home (staying with her).”” Al Bukhari 5192
✓ Wives are not allowed to deny their husbands sexual intercourse lest they are smitten by Allah’s curse. However, husbands are allowed to abstain from their wives for a time.
For the women:
Narrated Abu Huraira: – “The prophet said, “If a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning.” Al Bukhari 5193
Narrated Abu Huraira: – “The prophet said, “If a woman spends the night deserting her husband’s bed (does not sleep with him), then the angels send their curses on her till she comes back (to her husband).” Al Bukhari 5194
For the men:
“Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts, and he is oft-forgiving, most forbearing. For those who take an oath for abstention from their wives, a waiting for four month is ordained; if then they return, Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful.” Surah 2:225-226
✓ Women are deficient in mind and religion; and the majority of people in hell, are women according to the hadiths.
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri: – “The prophet said, isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man? The women said, “Yes.” He said, “This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.” Al Bukhari 2658
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri: – “Once Allah’s apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of Id-al-Adha or 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 intelligent 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.” Al Bukhari 304
✓ Women are a bad omen and are harmful to men.
Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d: – “Allah’s apostle said, if at all there is bad omen, it is in the horse, the woman, and the house,” Al Bukhari 5095
Narrated Usamah bin Zaid: – “The messenger of Allah said, “I am not leaving behind me any tribulation that is more harmful to men than women.” Hadith Sunan Ibn Majah 3998
✓ Women are not permitted to wear weaves or wigs.
Narrated Abdullah (bin Mus’ud): – “Allah’s apostle has cursed the lady who uses false hair.” Al Bukhari 4887
Narrated Ibn Umar: – “The prophet said, “God has cursed the woman who adds some false hair and the woman who asks for it, the woman who tattoos, and the woman who asks for it.”” (Bukhari and Muslim) Mishkat al- Masabih 4430
There are so many issues I found, I wouldn’t even exhaust them even if I wanted to and honestly, I do not even want to. Because, this post isn’t about slamming Islam, but taking a critical analysis on what the hadiths and Qur’an really teach about women.
Islam, if we are brutally honest, is a man’s religion as the above examples have demonstrated. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, commanded the seclusion of women and permitted his followers to practice rape, child marriage, polygamy and divorce.
And if we would be able in some way, to listen to the stories of many women in Islamic countries, especially in the Middle East, we would see the heart-breaking outcome of the true face of Islam, and the low estimation many women have of themselves, and the burdensome loads they shoulder everyday because of these teachings.
And this is why the gospel message is extremely important. The gospel message tells us that God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten son – that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And that is what true love does – it gives, it lays down its life for others, it goes to the lengths of even suffering to confirm and demonstrate its truth and veracity.
There are no amount of works we can ever do to be pleasing in the sight of God; because, we are saved only by grace through faith (believing) in Jesus Christ, not by our own works so that no man can ever boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
Jesus is the truth and the only way to have a right relationship with God. He offers true peace of mind, He loves us unconditionally and He sets us free from all types of bondage and slavery and gives us freedom.
Jesus elevated the woman to a position of dignity and honor. He also demonstrated His love for women throughout the whole of His ministry on earth namely: the Samaritan woman who had multiple husbands (John 4:4-26), the woman converted from prostitution who anointed His feet (Luke 7:36-50), the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48), even the woman caught it adultery (John 8:1-11).— All redeemed by Him in such a beautiful and loving way.
As I conclude this second last post on critiquing Islam, I pray with all my heart that God our Father bring salvation to my Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world – that they may lay down the heavy burden of good deeds and works at the cross of Jesus Christ and experience the beautiful and deep rest that He offers for free.
To be noted that all quotations cited on this post have been obtained only from trusted Islamic sources mainly: the Qur’an (The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, translation- Abdullah Yusuf Ali) and the hadiths (The Translation of the Meaning of Sahih Al Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah, and Mishkat al- Masabih).
Featured Image Credit: From The Evening Standard.
Okay… Let’s just be honest, whenever most people hear anything about religion, their first reaction and instinct is probably to cringe or brush off the whole matter entirely.
Why? Most likely because it is a subject that is associated with extreme cases of fanaticism, it brings about a lot of conflicts and controversies, and even offends easily.
Religion is famously known for: manipulation, stagnation, repression, ignorance, bigotry and is too often a threat to liberty. And rightly so. I do agree. With that said, I recommend you to read two of my posts as well as encourage you to do a personal, extensive, and honest research on your own regarding this matter. Why?
As intellectuals (critical thinkers), I believe we owe it to ourselves to interrogate, examine, and ask hard questions regarding matters touching on faith rather than choosing to ignore them or even worse— follow blind faith. Click here for the first post.
Who speaks the truth with regards to a genuine, sincere and true relationship with God? Is it Buddha? Muhammad? Jesus? Zoroaster? Confucius? Joseph Smith? Guru Nanak? Krishna? Among others? Find out on this second post:
My heart overflows with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalms 45:1
Thank you for reading this blog. Feel free to share it with others whenever and wherever.🙂