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Look at the evidence
Prophet Muhammad and women's rights

By Persia Lover
January 28, 2001
The Iranian

Yesterday my Arab friend and I had an argument over the idea of "Islamic Feminism" which has found some supporters in our country, Iran. My friend believes that Prophet Muhammad was, in his own time, a supporter of women's rights.

Given the historical and cultural background of Arabia at the time of the Prophet, she believes the Prophet had the guts to prohibit the burying alive of newborn girls, which was common practice among Arabs at that time, and had the courage to take in matrimony a woman who was a trader, another a warrior. Moreover, he made the education of women a sacred duty and gave them the right to own property.

She believes that the darker aspects of Islam regarding women (such facts as females are alloted half the inheritance of males; women's testimonies in court are worth half that of men, husbands can beat their wives for insubordination in bed, ...) are man-made rules that should not be attributed to Islam.

I remember from my high school years in Iran that in our "History of Islam" class we read about the Prophet who had taken a man captive in a war and after realizing that the man had a very beautiful daughter he released him in return for taking his daughter as his concubine. In my mind, I find it difficult to resolve these contradictions in attitude towards women.

Did the Prophet prohibit the killing of female children to take them as his concubines later in life? Or was he really feeling sorry for the poor Arab girls? In order to provide more ammunition for my argument that feminism and Islam are contradictions that cannot be reconciled I went to the local library to find out more about Islam's position on the issue.

To my amazement I found that the Prophet sometimes even appeared as a devout misoginist. Look at the evidence:

According to Al-Bukhari (SAHIH AL-BUKHARI Vol. I, which is considered by Muslim scholars to be the undisputed compilation of the prophet,s tradition and the most authentic book after the Book of Allah), after the Prophet learned that the Persians had named a woman to rule over their country after the death of Kisra, Abu Bakra heard the Prophet ask: "Who has replaced Kisra? The answer was: "They have entrusted power to his daughter.

Here the Prophet said the Hadith: "Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity. This probably refers to 628 AD at the time of the wars between the Persians and the Romans. After Heraclius invaded Ctesiphon and the Persian King Khusro Parviz was assasinated there was a period of instability between 629 AD and 632 during which two women were among the various claimants to the Sassanid throne.

Another Hadith quoted in SAHIH AL-BUKHARI (Hadith No. 301)goes: "Allah's Apostle once said to a group of women : 'I have not seen any one 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 of your 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 your religion.'"

Another such Hadith reads that: "Women are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favours and the good (charitable) deeds done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, 'I have never received any good from you." (SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, Vol. 1 Hadith No. 28).

In another Hadith we read that: "A woman is a toy, whoever takes her let him care for her (or do not lose her). (Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, AL-MAR'AH WAL- ISLAM, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 180).

In MISHKAT AL-MASABIH the role of women has been encapsulated in the following Hadith: "The prophet of Allah said: When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire, let her come to him though she is occupied at the oven." (Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book I, Section 'Duties of husband and wife', Hadith No. 61).

There is another such revealing Hadith that goes: "If a woman offered one of her breasts to be cooked and the other to be roasted, she still will fall short of fulfilling her obligations to her husband. And besides that if she disobeys her husband even for a twinkling of an eye, she would be thrown in the lowest part of Hell, except she repents and turns back." (Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, AL-MAR'AH WAL- ISLAM, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 176. It is also quoted in AL-MUSANAF by Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn 'Abd Allah Ibn Mousa Al-Kanadi who lived 557H., vol. 1 part 2, p. 255).

Another Hadith has it that somebody asked the Prophet: "'O Messenger of Allah ! What right has the wife of one among us got over him?' He said: 'It is that you shall give her food when you have taken your food, that you shall clothe her when you have clothed yourself, that you shall not slap her on the face, nor revile her, nor desert her except within the house.'" (Sunan Ibn Magah, Kitab al-Nikah, Hadith No. 1850).

Female slave-holding and having sex with female slaves was also endorsed by the Prophet. It is reported in the SAHIH AL-BUKHARI of Imam Ismail Bukhari. He said "[in a battle] we captured some female slaves with whom we practised coitus interruptus. we asked the prophet, he replied, "You may practice it This is reported three times.

Even in the Quran we are told that: "And it is for the women to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness; but the men are a step above them." (Q. 2:228) "Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other."(Q. 4:34). The Quran says that: "Righteous women are therefore obedient ... And those you fear may be rebellious [nushuz] admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them." (4:34).

There are numorous comments made on these Quranic verses and the Prophet,s Hadith indicating that women are considered as sex objects and second-class citizens in the world of Islam. Suyuti, commenting on Q. 4:34, (in MISHKAT AL-MASABIH, English translation, Book I, Hadith No. ii) writes that "There are three persons whose prayer will not be accepted, nor their virtues be taken above: The runaway slave until he returns back to his master, the woman with whom her husband is dissatisfied, and the drunk until he becomes sober."

Click Here to Pay Learn More Amazon Honor SystemCommenting on the Qur'anic verse Q. 30:21 which states "And of His signs is that He created for you, of yourselves, spouses, that you may repose in them" Seyyed Razi observes: "His saying 'created for you' is a proof that women were created like animals and plants and other useful things, just as the Most High has said 'He created for you what is on earth' and that necessitates the woman not to be created for worship and carrying the Divine commands. We say creating the women is one of the graces bestowed upon us and charging them with Divine commands to complete the graces bestowed upon us, not that they are charged as we men are charged. For women are not charged with many commands as we are charged, because the woman is weak, silly, in one sense she is like a child, and no commands are laid upon a child, but for the grace of Allah upon us to be complete, women had to be charged so that they may fear the torment of punishment and so follow her husband, and keep away from what is forbidden, otherwise corruption would be rampant." (AT-TAFSIR AL-KABIR, Razi, Commenting on Quran 30:21).

After compiling my evidence (which also came as a shock to myself) I went back to my friend. She was dumbfounded. She tried to reason me into believing that my documentation was faulty. Perhaps she did not quite know, until I gave her the evidence, how far Islam has gone in humiliating women.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Persia Lover


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