FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT
MARRIAGE IN ISLAM
1993, 1994 by Asim Mughal
Redistribution for profit, or in altered content/format
prohibited without explicit written permission of the author.
Any other redistribution must include this copyright notice and
This message is automatically posted to 'soc.religion.islam'
every month and when updated. This lists answers to most
commonly asked questions on the forum.
OVERVIEW: The Frequently Asked Questions document for
soc.religion.islam has been divided in parts. Below is the
Part 1 - Welcome & Index
Part 2 - Info on soc.religion.islam
Part 3 - Introduction to Islam
Part 4 - God & Worship
Part 5 - Islam, Quran & Muhammad (PBUH)
Part 6 - Prophethood and Jesus
Part 7 - Marriage Laws & Women In Islam
Part 8 - Life after Death, Moral System & Human rights in
Part 9 - Islamic Resources on Internet
Part 10 - Islamic Literature: Books & Video
PART 7: Marriage Laws & Women In Islam
1. Marriage ........................................................
2. Duties & Rights After Marriage ..................................
3. Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women ...................... from
4. Women In Islam ..................................................
5. Who Practices Polygamy? ........................................
1. Marriage ........................................................
Allah, most Gracious says about spouses in Quran:
Among His signs is [the fact] that He has created spouses
for you among
yourselves so that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and
planted love and mercy between you; In that are signs for people
reflect. Qur'an [30 : 21]
He has planted affection and mercy between you. Qur'an [30:
They are a garment for you and you are a garment to them.
Qur'an [2 :
Consider this in conjunction with the following verse:
The best garment is the garment of God-consciousness Qur'an
[7 : 26]
It requires that a husband and wife should be as garments
other. Just as garments are for protection, comfort, show and
concealment for human beings, Allah expects husbands and wives
to be for
And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends of
they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish
and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger;
those, Allah will have mercy on them; Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise.
hath promised to believers - men and women - gardens underwhich
flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of
bliss; but the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah:
This is the
Qur'an [9 : 71 - 72]
Whom to marry:
Allah also gives us freedom and urges us to:
...Marry the women of your choice... Qur'an [4 : 3] Similarly,
"A girl came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and informed
her father had married her to her cousin against her wishes,
the Prophet allowed her to exercise her choice. She then said,
reconciled to what my father did but I wanted to make it known
that fathers have no say in this matter'". - Hadith narrated
Narrated Abdullah: "We were with the Prophet, peace be
upon him, while
we were young and had no wealth whatever. So Allah's Apostle,
upon him, said, `O young people! Whoever among you can marry,
marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty,
whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes
Narrated Abu Huraira: "The Prophet, peace be upon him,
said, `A woman is
married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status,
beauty, and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman
[otherwise] you will be a loser.'"
Mahr is the gift that is given by the husband to his wife
at wedding. It
can be anything in any amount, as agreed by the bride and bride-groom.
Allah says about Mahr in the Chapter `Woman' in Quran:
And give the women (on marriage) their Mahr as a free gift.
Qur'an [4 :
If you had given the latter a cantar (of gold i.e. a great
dower (Mahr) take not the least bit of it back ... Qur'an [4
Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d: "The Prophet, peace be upon him,
said to a man,
`Marry, even with (a Mahr equal to) an iron ring.'"
Intimacy is seen as an act of procreation. An eye for the
what is about
to come is kept open in this respect as well. The following prayer
reminds us of God, results of our actions and reminds us of our
commitment to train our offspring.
Narrated Ibn Abbas: "The Prophet, peace be upon him,
said, `If anyone of
you, when having a sexual intercourse with his wife says:
In the name of Allah! O Allah! Protect me from Satan and protect
you bestow upon us (i.e. an offspring) from Satan. and if it
that they should have a child, then Satan will never be able
Walima is the wedding reception given to friends and family
consummation of marriage. It is given by the husband on this
occassion, showing his happiness and sharing it with the friends
Abdur Rahman bin Auf said, "The Prophet, peace be upon
him, said to me,
`Give a wedding banquet, even with one sheep.'"
Narrated Abu Musa: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said,
captives free, accept the invitation (including to a wedding
and pay a visit to the patients.'"
By this saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, it is also
upon us to join in the happiness of our brothers.
2. Duties & Rights After Marriage ..................................
Allah informs us about the just rights of each other on us:
But, in accordance with justice, the wife's rights (with regard
husbands) are equal to the (husband's) rights with regard to
although men are a degree above them; and Allah is Almighty,
Qur'an [2 : 228]
The statement that men are a degree above women means that
within the household has been give to the husband in preference
wife because a heavier burden has been placed on his shoulders
another verse of the Quran which says:
Men shall take full care of women, because Allah has given
the one more
strength than the other, and because they support them from their
Qur'an [4 : 34]
ADVICES TO HUSBANDS:
Jabir Narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, gave these
instructions in his sermon during Farewell Pilgrimage: "Fear
regarding women; for you have taken them [in marriage] with the
Narrated Aisha, God's messenger said: "Among the believers
who show most
perfect faith are those who have the best disposition, and are
to their families." [Tirmidhi]
Narrated Abu Huraira, God's messenger said: "The believers
who show the
most perfect faith are those who have the best disposition and
of you are those who are best to their wives." [Tirmidhi]
Aisha has related that the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him,
the house with a pleasing disposition and a smile on his lips.
Narrated Al-Aswad: "I asked Aisha, `What did the Prophet,
peace be upon
him, do at home?' She said, `He used to work for his family and
heard the call for the prayer, he would go out.'" [Bukhari]
Narrated Abu Huraira: "Allah's Apostle, peace be upon
him, said, `The
woman is like a rib; if you try to straighten her, she will break.
you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some
Narrated Abu Huraira: "The Prophet, peace be upon him,
believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble)
neighbor. And I advise you to take care of women, for they are
from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper
you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it,
reamin crooked, so I urge you to take care of women. [Bukhari]
Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As: "Allah's Apostle,
peace be upon
him, said, `O Abdullah! Have I not been informed that you fast
day and stand in prayer all night?' I said, `Yes, O Allah's Apostle!'
said, `Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave
other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep
Your body has a right over you and your wife has a right over
Narrated Ibn Umar: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said,
`All of you
are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is
guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is
who is responsible for her husband's house and his offspring;
and so all
of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards.'"
Men should forbear any shortcomings of women in view of the
verse of Quran:
Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps
dislike something in which God has place much good. Qur'an [4
ADVICES TO WIVES:
Anas reported God's messenger as saying, "When a woman
observes the five
times of prayer, fasts during Ramadan, preserves her chastity
her husband, she may enter by any of the gates of paradise she
(in other words nothing will prevent her from entering paradise)."
Um Salma reported God's messenger as saying, "Any woman
who dies when
her husband is pleased with her will enter Paradise." [Tirmidhi]
Abu Huraira told that when God's messenger was asked which
best, he replied, "The one who fills [her husband] with
joy when he sees
her, obeys him when he directs and does not oppose him by displeasing
him regarding her person or property." [Mishkat]
Providing for wife and family:
Quran teaches us to be reasonable and fair to our wives and
House women wherever you reside, accoding to your circumstances,
not harass them in order to make life difficult for them. Qur'an
The statement of Allah in the chapter `Woman':
`Men are protectors and maintainers of women.' Qur'an [4 :
Bukhari quotes the following verse under the heading: .. the
of providing for one's family:
(O Mohammed!) They ask you what they ought to spend. Say:
That which is
beyond your needs. Thus Allah make clear to you His Signs in
you may give thought (to it) in this worldly life and the Hereafter.
Qur'an [2 : 219-220]
Narrated Abu Masud Al-Ansari: "The Prophet, peace be
upon him, said,
`When a Muslim spends something on his family intending to receive
Allah's reward, it is regarded as Sadqa (spending in the name
We should always remember that Allah is the one who gives
us, we are
mere trustees of the funds.
Narrated Abu Huraira: "Allah's Apostle, peace be upon
him, said, `Allah
said, O the son of Adam! Spend, and I shall spend on you.'"
Narrated Abu Huraira: "Allah's Apostle, peace be upon
him, said, `The
best alms is that which you give when you are rich, and you should
support your dependants first.'" [Bukhari]
Abu Huraira reported God's messenger, peace be upon him, as
the dinar (unit of currency) that you spend as a contribution
path, or to set free a slave, or as charity given to a needy,
support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is
you spent on your family. [Muslim]
3. Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women (from Ms.Naheed Mustafa)
"My body is my own business" by Naheed in The Globe
Dated: 25 Sep 1993 16:35:02 -0500
MULTICULTURAL VOICES: A Canadian-born Muslim woman has taken
the traditional hijab scarf. It tends to make people see her
as either a
terrorist or a symbol of oppressed womanhood, but she finds the
I OFTEN wonder whether people see me as a radical, fundamentalist
terrorist packing an AK-47 assault rifle inside my jean jacket.
be they see me as the poster girl for oppressed womanhood everywhere.
I'm not sure which it is.
I get the whole gamut of strange looks, stares, and covert
see, I wear the hijab, a scarf that covers my head, neck, and
do this because I am a Muslim woman who believes her body is
Young Muslim women are reclaiming the hijab, reinterpreting
it in light
of its original purpose -- to give back to women ultimate control
their own bodies.
The Qur'an teaches us that men and women are equal, that individuals
should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth, or
The only thing that makes one person better than another is her
Nonetheless, people have a difficult time relating to me.
After all, I'm
young, Canadian born and raised, university-educated -- why would
this to myself, they ask.
Strangers speak to me in loud, slow English and often appear
playing charades. They politely inquire how I like living in
whether or not the cold bothers me. If I'm in the right mood,
it can be
But, why would I, a woman with all the advantages of a North
upbringing, suddenly, at 21, want to cover myself so that with
and the other clothes I choose to wear, only my face and hands
Because it gives me freedom.
WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is
to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract
beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile.
When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule
contempt. Whether it's women who refuse to wear makeup or to
legs, or to expose their bodies, society, both men and women,
trouble dealing with them.
In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either
silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it's
is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person
play no role whatsoever in social interaction.
Wearing the hijab has given me freedom from constant attention
physical self. Because my appearance is not subjected to public
scrutiny, my beauty, or perhaps lack of it, has been removed
realm of what can legitimately be discussed.
No one knows whether my hair looks as if I just stepped out
of a salon,
whether or not I can pinch an inch, or even if I have unsightly
marks. And because no one knows, no one cares.
Feeling that one has to meet the impossible male standards
of beauty is
tiring and often humiliating. I should know, I spent my entire
years trying to do it. It was a borderline bulimic and spent
a lot of
money I didn't have on potions and lotions in hopes of becoming
The definition of beauty is ever-changing; waifish is good,
bad, athletic is good -- sorry, athletic is bad. Narrow hips?
Narrow hips? Too bad.
Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to
breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe.
would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality
be had only when women don't need to display themselves to get
and won't need to defend their decision to keep their bodies
Naheed Mustafa graduated from the University of Toronto last
an honours degree in political and history. She is currently
journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic University
This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News
publications. The Permission of Reprinting granted by "Islamic
Information & News Network" (Muslims @ Asuacad.Bitnet).
4. Women In Islam (from IINN)
Source: Islamic Center of Southern California
Typed in by: Ms.Iraj Ali
SEPARATING FACTS FROM FICTION
o Islam gave woman the right to reject a marriage proposal
pressure and by mutual agreement to specify in the marriage contract
that she has the right to divorce. If she deems the marriage
failed beyond repair.
o Islam does not require woman to change her name at marriage.
o Islam protects the family and condemns the betrayal of marital
fidelity. It recognize only one type of family, husband and wife
by authentic marriage contract.
o "Heaven is at the feet of mothers" is a basic
This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News
publications. The Permission of Reprinting granted by "Islamic
Information & News Network" (Muslims @ Asuacad.Bitnet).
5. Who Practices Polygamy? (from III&E)
Polygamy has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years.
the ancient Israelites were polygamous, some having hundreds
King Solomon (peace be upon him) is said to have had seven hundred
and three hundred concubines. David (Dawood) had ninety-nine
(Yacub, peace be upon them both) had four. Advice given by some
wise men state that no man should marry more than four wives.
society put any restrictions on the number of wives or put any
conditions about how they were to be treated. Jesus was not known
have spoken against polygamy. As recently as the seventeenth
polygamy was practiced and accepted by the Christian Church.
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has allowed and
polygamy in the United States.
Monogamy was introduced into Christianity at the time of Paul
revisions took place in Christianity. This was done in order
church to conform to the Greco-Roman culture where men were monogamous
but owned many slaves who were free for them to use: in other
Early Christians invented ideas that women were "full
of sin" and man
was better off to "never marry." Since this would be
the end of mankind
these same people compromised and said "marry only one."
In the American society many times when relations are strained,
husband simply deserts his wife. The he cohabits with a prostitute
other immoral woman without marriage. Actually there are three
polygamy practiced in Western societies: (1) serial polygamy,
marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce, and so on any number of
a man married to one woman but having and supporting one or more
mistresses; (3) an unmarried man having a number of mistresses.
condones but discourages the first and forbids the other two.
Wars cause the number of women to greatly exceed the number
of men. In a
monogamous society these women, left without husbands or support,
to prostitution, illicit relationships with married men resulting
illegitimate children with no responsibility on the part of the
or lonely spinsterhood or widowhood.
Some Western men take the position that monogamy protects
the rights of
women. But are these men really concerned about the rights of
society has so many practices which exploit and suppress women,
to women's liberation movements from the suffragettes of the
twentieth century to the feminists of today.
The truth of the matter is that monogamy protects men, allowing
"play around" without responsibility. Easy birth control
and easy legal
abortion has opened the door of illicit sex to woman and she
lured into the so-called sexual revolution. But she is still
the one who
suffers the trauma of abortion and the side effects of the birth
methods. Taking aside the plagues of venereal disease, herpes
the male continues to enjoy himself free of worry. Men are the
protected by monogamy while women continue to be victims of men's
desires. Polygamy is very much opposed by the male dominated
because it would force men to face up to responsibility and fidelity.
would force them to take responsibility for their polygamous
inclinations and would protect and provide for women and children.
Among all the polygamous societies in history there were none
limited the number of wives. All of the relationships were unrestricted.
In Islam, the regulations concerning polygamy limit the number
a man can have while making him responsible for all of the women
"Marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but
if you fear that
you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one
that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to
you from doing injustice." (Qur'an 4:3)
This verse from the Qur'an allows a man to marry more than
one woman but
only if he can deal justly with them. Another verse says that
is unable to deal justly between wives, thus giving permission
"You will never be able to deal justly between wives
however much you
desire (to do so). But (if you have more than one wife) do not
altogether away (from one), leaving her in suspense..."
While the provision for polygamy makes the social system flexible
to deal with all kinds of conditions, it is not necessarily recommended
or preferred by Islam. Taking the example of the Prophet Muhammad
be upon him) is instructive. He was married to one woman, Khadijah,
twenty-five years. It was only after her death when he had reached
age of fifty that he entered into other marriages to promote
friendships, create alliances or to be an example of some lesson
community; also to show the Muslims how to treat their spouses
different conditions of life.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given inspiration from
how to deal with multiple marriages and the difficulties encountered
therein. It is not an easy matter for a man to handle two wives,
families, and two households and still be just between the two.
of reasonable intelligence would enter into this situation without
great deal of thought and very compelling reasons (other than
Some people have said that the first wife must agree to the
marriage. Others have said that the couple can put it into the
contract that the man will not marry a second wife. First of
neither the Qur'an nor Hadith state that the first wife need
consulted at all concerning a second marriage let alone gain
approval. Consideration and compassion on the part of the man
first wife should prompt him to discuss the matter with her but
not required to do so or to gain her approval. Secondly, the
explicitly given permission for a man to marry "two or three
No one has the authority to make a contract forbidding something
has been granted by Allah.
The bottom line in the marriage relationship is good morality
happiness, creating a just and cohesive society where the needs
and women are well taken care of. The present Western society,
permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to
abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance
"fatherless" children, many unmarried teenage mothers;
all becoming a
burden on the country's welfare system. In part, such an undesirable
welfare burden has given rise to bloated budget deficits which
economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate.
Bloated budget deficits have become a political football which
affecting the political system of the United States.
In short, we find that artificially created monogamy has become
in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and
systems of the country.
It must be a prophet, and indeed it was Prophet Muhammad (peace
him) who directed Muslims to get married or observe patience
gets married. 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported Allah's messenger
"Young man, those of you who can support a wife should marry,
keeps you from looking at strange women and preserves you from
immorality; but those who cannot should devote themselves to
for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire." (Bukhari
Islam wants people to be married and to develop a good family
Also Islam realizes the requirements of the society and the individual
in special circumstances where polygamy can be the solution to
Therefore, Islam has allowed polygamy, limiting the number of
four, but does not require or even recommend polygamy.
In the Muslim societies of our times, polygamy is not frequently
practiced despite legal permission in many countries. It appears
the American male is very polygamous, getting away with not taking
responsibility for the families he should be responsible for.
(NOTE: In this article polygamy has been used to mean polygyny
having two or more wives. Islam forbids polyandry meaning having
## End of SRI FAQ - Part 7 ##
...This Day I have perfected your religion for
you and completed My Favour upon you and have
chosen for you Islam as your way (Deen)...
Al-Qura'an Al-Karim Suratul Ma'idah v. 3
Subj: Sis: Fully referenced khutbah
WOMEN IN ISLAM VERSUS WOMEN IN THE JUDAEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION:
THE MYTH & THE REALITY
Friday khutbah by Br. Sherif Muhammad
Kingston, February 10, 1995
[size: 42 k byte]
Four and a half years ago, I read in the Toronto Star issue
3, 1990 an article titled "Islam isn't alone in patriarchal
Gwynne Dyer. The article described the furious reactions by the
participants of a conference on women and power held in Montreal
comments of the famous Egyptian feminist Dr. Nawal Saadawi. Her
politically incorrect statements included : "the most restrictive
towards women can be found first in Judaism in the Old Testament
Christianity and then in the Quran"; "all religions
because they stem from patriarchal societies"; and "veiling
of women isn't
a specifically islamic practice but an ancient cultural heritage
analogies in sister religions". The participants couldn't
around while their faiths were being equated with Islam. Thus,
received a barrage of criticism. "Dr. Saadawi's comments
unacceptable. Her answers reveal a lack of understanding about
people's faiths", declared Bernice Dubois of the World Movement
Mothers. "I must protest" said panelist Alice Shalvi
of Israel women's
network,"there is no conception of the veil in Judaism."
attributed these furious protests to the strong tendency in the
scapegoat Islam for practices that are just as much part of the
cultural heritage. "Christian and Jewish feminists were
not going to sit
around being discussed in the same category as those wicked Muslims"
I wasn't surprised that the conference participants had held
negative view of Islam, especially when women's issues were involved.
Islam is believed , in the West, to be the symbol of the subordination
women par excellence. In order to understand how firm this belief
is enough to mention that the Minister of Education in France,
the land of
Voltaire, has recently ordered the expulsion of all young muslim
wearing the veil from french schools ! What intrigued me the
the conference was one question : Were the statements made by
any of her critics, factual ? In other words, do Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam have the same conception of women? Are they different
conceptions ? Do Judaism and Christianity , truly, offer women
treatment than Islam does? What is the Truth?
It is not easy to search for and find answers to these difficult
questions. The first difficulty is that one has to be fair and
or, at least, that one does one's utmost to be so. This is what
teaches. The Quran has instructed us to say the truth even if
are very close to us don't like it: "Whenever you speak,
even if a near relative is concerned" (6:152) "O you
who believe stand out
firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves,
your parents or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or
The other great difficulty is the overwhelming breadth of the
subject. Therefore, during the last few years, I have spent many
reading the Bible, The Encyclopedia of Religion, and the Encyclopedia
Judaica searching for answers. I have also read several books
the position of women in different religions written by scholars,
apologists, and critics. Today, I am here to present some of
important findings of this humble research. I don't claim to
objective. This is beyond my limited capacity. All what I can
say is that
I have been trying, throughout this research, to approach the
ideal of "speaking justly".
Before we start, I would like to emphasize that my purpose
presentation is not to denigrate Judaism or Christianity. As
believe in the divine origins of both. No one can be a Muslim
believing in Moses and Jesus as great prophets of Allah. My goal
to vindicate Islam and pay a tribute ,long overdue in the West,
final truthful Message from God to the human race. I would also
emphasize that I concerned myself only with Doctrine. That is,
is, mainly, the position of women in the three religions as it
their original sources not as practiced by their millions of
the world today. Therefore, most of the evidence cited comes
Quran, the Bible, the Talmud , and the sayings of some of the
influential Church Fathers whose views have contributed immeasurably
defining and shaping Christianity. This interest in the sources
the fact that understanding a certain religion from the attitudes
behaviour of some of its nominal followers is misleading. Many
confuse culture with religion, many others don't know what their
books are saying, and many others don't even care.
1. Eve's fault ?
The three religions agree on one basic fact : Both women and
created by God The Creator of the whole universe. However, disagreement
starts soon after the creation of the first man, Adam and the
Eve. The Judaeo-Christian conception of the creation of Adam
and Eve is
narrated in detail in Genesis 2:4-3:24. God prohibited both of
eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. The serpent seduced
Eve to eat
from it and Eve, in turn, seduced Adam to eat with her. When
Adam for what he did, he put all the blame on Eve "The woman
you put here
with me --she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it."
Consequently, God said to Eve "I will greatly increase your
childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your
be for your husband and he will rule over you." To Adam
you listened to your wife and ate from the tree .... Cursed is
because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the
The Islamic conception of the first creation is found in several
places in the Quran, for example 7:19-25 "O Adam dwell with
your wife in
the garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or
into harm. Then Satan whispered to them your Lord only forbade
tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.
And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser.So
he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their
shame became manifest to them...............
Their Lord called unto them did I not forbid you that tree...They
said: our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if You forgive
and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be lost..."
A careful look into the two accounts of the story of the Creation
reveals some essential differences. The Quran, contrary to the
places equal blame on both Adam and Eve for their mistake. Nowhere
Quran can one find even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam
from the tree or even that she had eaten before him. Eve in the
no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. Moreover, Eve isn't
blamed for the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Quran,
no one for another's faults. Both Adam and Eve committed a sin
asked God for forgiveness and He forgave them both.
2. Eve's legacy
The image of Eve as temptress in the Bible has resulted in
extremely negative impact on women throughout the Judaeo-Christian
tradition. In order to understand how negative the impact on
women was we
have to look at the writings of some of the most important Jews
Christians of all time. Let us start with the Old Testament and
excerpts from what is called the Wisdom Literature in which we
find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart
trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will
but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still searching
finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one
woman among them all." (Ecclesiastes 7:26-28) One has to
ask what is the
wisdom in denying the existence of even one upright woman on
earth ? In
another part of the Hebrew literature which is found in the Catholic
we read," No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness
woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must
die"(Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24) Orthodox Jewish men in their
prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that
Thou has not made
me a woman." The women, on the other hand, thank God every
"making me according to Thy will" .
The same severe tone is found also in the New Testament. Listen
St. Paul," A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she
silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam wasn't
deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner,
will be saved through childbearing...."(I Timothy 2:11-15)
was even more blunt than St. Paul, while he was talking to his
beloved sisters' in the faith, he said," Do you not know
that you are each
an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this
guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway:
You are the
unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of
law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil wasn't valiant
attack. You destroyed so easily God's image ,man." St. Augustine
faithful to the legacy of his predecessors, he wrote to a friend,
is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is
still Eve the
temptress that we must beware of in any woman." Centuries
Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective, "As
individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the
force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness
the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a
the active force or from some material indisposition, or even
external influence." Finally, the renowned reformer Martin
see any benefit from a woman but bringing into the world as many
as possible regardless of the possible side effects," If
they become tired
or even die, that doesn't matter. Let them die in childbirth,
they are there" . Again and again all women are denigrated
the image of Eve the temptress, thanks to the Genesis account.
If we now turn our attention to what the Quran has to say
women, we will soon realize that the Islamic conception of women
radically different from that of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Quran speak for itself. "For muslim men and women, for believing
women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for
men and women
who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for
women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men
who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much
praise-- For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great
reward"(33:35) "Whoever works evil will not be requited
but by the like
thereof, and whoever works a righteous deed -whether man or woman-
a believer- such will enter the Garden of bliss"(40:40)
righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him/her
we will give
a new life that is good and pure, and we will bestow on such
according to the best of their actions"(16:97)
It is clear that the Quranic view of women is no different
of a man. They, both, are God's creatures whose sublime goal
on earth is
to worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and
will be assessed accordingly. The Quran never mentions that the
the devil's gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. The
never mentions that man is God's image, all men and all women
creatures, that's all. According to the Quran, a woman's role
isn't limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many
as any other man is required to do. The Quran never said that
women had ever existed. To the contrary, the Quran has instructed
believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those
women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharoah's wife (66:11-13)
3. Shameful daughters ?
In fact, the difference between the Biblical and the Quranic
towards the female sex starts as soon as a female is born. For
the Bible states that the period of the mother's ritual impurity
as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Leviticus 12:2-5).
Catholic Bible does state explicitly that "The birth of
a daughter is a
loss" (Ecclesiasticus 22:3) In contrast to this shocking
receive special praise, "A man who educates his son will
be the envy of
his enemy." (Ecclesiasticus 30:3) A daughter is considered
burden, a potential source of shame to her father "Your
headstrong? Keep a sharp look-out that she doesn't make you the
stock of your enemies, the talk of the town, the object of common
and put you to public shame."(Ecclesiasticus 42:11)
It was this very same idea of treating daughters as sources
that led the pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice
infanticide. The Quran severely condemned this heinous practice
is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his
and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself
his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain
contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide
It has to be mentioned that this sinister crime would have never
in Arabia if it were not to the power of the scathing terms the
to condemn this practice (16:59, 43:17, 81:8-9). The Quran, moreover,
makes no distinction between boys and girls. In contrast to the
Quran considers the birth of a female as a gift and a blessing
same as the birth of a male. The Quran even mentions the gift
female birth first," To Allah belongs the dominion of the
heavens and the
earth. He creates what he wills. He bestows female children to
wills and bestows male children to whomever he wills"(42:49)
4. Female education ?
The difference between the Biblical and the Quranic conceptions
women is not limited to the newly born female, it extends far
Let's compare their attitudes towards a female trying to learn
religion. The heart of Judaism is the Torah, the law. However,
to the Talmud, "women are exempt from the study of the Torah."
first century C.E., Rabbi Eliezer said: "If any man teaches
Torah it is as though he taught her lechery" . The attitude
of St. Paul
in the New Testament isn't brighter "As in all the congregations
saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are
to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they
inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at
it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."(I
14:34,35) How can a woman learn if she is not allowed to speak?
How can a
woman grow intellectually if she is obliged to be in a state
submission? How can she broaden her horizons if her one and only
information is her husband at home?
Now, to be fair, we should ask: is the Quranic position any
different? One short story narrated in the Quran sums its position
concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws at a
anger pronounced this statement: "You are to me as the back
of my mother."
This was held by pagan Arabs to be a statement of divorce which
husband from any conjugal responsibility but didn't leave the
wife free to
leave the husband's home or to marry another man. Having heard
from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went
to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The prophet was of
that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out.
kept arguing with the prophet in an attempt to save her suspended
marriage. Shortly, the Quran intervened; Khawla's plea was accepted.
divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter
58) of the Quran whose title is *Almujadilah* or "The woman
arguing" was devoted to this incident, "Allah has heard
and accepted the
statement of the woman who pleads with you (the prophet) concerning
husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the
between both of you for Allah hears and sees all things...."
woman in the Quranic conception has the right to argue even with
Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her
silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the
only reference in matters of law and religion.
Women's position, role, rights, and duties in the Quran are
different from those found in the Bible. Let us take some examples.
Adultery and fornication are considered sins in all religions.
decrees the death sentence for both the adulterer and the adulteress
(Leviticus 20:10). Islam also equally punishes both the adulterer
adulteress (24:2). However, the Quranic definition of adultery
different from the Biblical definition. Adultery, according to
is the involvement of a married man or a married woman in an
affair. The Bible only considers the extramarital affair of a
woman as adultery (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, Proverbs
6:20-7:27). The extramarital affair of a married man isn't per
se a crime
in the Bible. Why this dual moral standard? According to Encyclopedia
Judaica, the wife was considered to be the husband's possession
adultery constituted a violation the husband's exclusive right
to her; the
wife as the husband's possession had no such right to him .
Testament echoes the same attitude in Matthew 5:31-32, where
attributed to Jesus to have said," I tell you that anyone
who divorces his
wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become
adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits
Why didn't he label the man who divorces his wife and marries
woman as adulterer? To the present day in Israel, if a married
indulges in an extramarital affair with a woman, his children
woman are considered legitimate. But, if a married woman has
with another man, her children by that man are not only illegitimate
are forbidden to marry any other Jews except converts and other
This ban is handed down to the child's descendants for 10 generations
until the taint of adultery is presumably weakened .
The Quran, on the other hand, never considers any woman to
possession of any man. The Quran eloquently describes the relationship
between the spouses by saying," And among His signs is that
He created for
you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility
them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily
in that are
signs for those who reflect" (30:21) This is Quranic conception
marriage: love, mercy, and tranquility, not possession and double
6. Bearing witness
Another issue in which the Quran and the Bible disagree is
of women bearing witness. It is true that the Quran has instructed
believers dealing in financial transactions to get two male witnesses
one male and two females (2:282). However, it is also true that
in other situations accepts the testimony of a woman as equal
to that of a
man. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the man's.
man accuses his wife of unchastity, he is required by the Quran
solemnly swear five times as evidence of the wife's guilt. If
denies and swears similarly five times, she isn't considered
guilty and in
either case the marriage is dissolved (24:6-11).
On the other hand, women were not allowed to bear witness
Jewish society . Women in Today's Israel are not allowed to
in Rabbinical courts because the Talmud says: "Women are
light-headed" . The Rabbis, also, justify why women can't
by citing Genesis 18:9-16, where it is stated that Sara, Abraham's
lied. The rabbis use this incident as evidence that women are
to bear witness. It should be noted here that this story narrated
Genesis 18:9-16 has been mentioned more than once in the Quran
hint of any lies by Sara (11:69-74, 51:24-30).
If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, her testimony will
considered at all according to the Bible. The accused wife has
subjected to a trial by ordeal (Numbers 5:11-31). In this trial,
faces a complex and humiliating ritual which was supposed to
guilt or innocence. If she is found guilty after this ordeal,
she will be
sentenced to death. Also, if a man takes a woman as a wife and
accuses her of not being a virgin, her own testimony will not
parents had to bring evidence of her virginity before the elders
town. If the parents couldn't prove the innocence of their daughter,
would be stoned to death on her father's doorsteps. If the parents
able to prove her innocence, the husband will only be fined one
shekels of silver and he must not divorce his wife as long as
(Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Why should the poor woman live with the
slandered her in public for the rest of his life?
7. Female inheritance
One of the most important differences between the Quran and
is their attitude towards female inheritance of the property
of a deceased
relative. According to Numbers 27:1-11, widows and sisters don't
at all. Daughters can inherit only if their deceased father had
Otherwise the sons receive the entire inheritance. Among the
before Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to
relatives. The Quran abolished all these unjust customs and gave
female relatives their just share (4:7,11,12,176).
8. Plight of widows
Because of the fact that the Old Testament recognized no inheritance
rights to them, widows were among the most vulnerable of the
population. The male relatives who inherited all of her deceased
husband's estate were to provide for her from that estate. However,
had no way to ensure this provision was carried out and lived
on the mercy
of others. Therefore, widows were among the lowest classes in
Israel and widowhood was considered a symbol of great degradation
54:4). But the plight of a widow in the Biblical tradition extended
beyond her exclusion from her husband's property. According to
a childless widow must marry her husband's brother, even if he
married, so that he can produce offspring for his dead brother,
ensuring his brother's name will not die out. The widow's consent
marriage is not required. The widow is treated as part of her
husband's property whose main function is to ensure her husband's
posterity. This biblical law is still practiced in today's Israel
pagan Arabs before Islam had similar practices. The widow was
part of her husband's property to be inherited by his male heirs
was, usually, given in marriage to the deceased man's eldest
another wife. The Quran scathingly attacked and abolished this
Widows and divorced women were so looked down upon in the
tradition that the high priest must not marry a widow, a divorced
or a prostitute (Leviticus 21:13). In Israel today, a descendent
Cohen caste (the high priests of the days of the Temple) cannot
divorcee, a widow, or a prostitute . In the Jewish legislation,
who has been widowed three times with all the three husband's
causes is considered 'fatal' and forbidden to marry again .
on the other hand, recognizes neither castes nor fatal persons.
divorcees have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. There
stigma attached with divorce or widowhood in the Quran (2:231,232,
Let's now tackle the important question of polygamy. Polygamy
very ancient practice found in many human societies. The Bible
condemn polygamy. To the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic
writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy. King
said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3)
David is said to have had many wives and concubines (2 Samuel
Old Testament does have some injunctions on how to distribute
of a man among his sons from different wives (Deut. 22:7). The
restriction on polygamy is a ban on taking a wife's sister as
a rival wife
(Leviticus 18:18). The Talmud advices a maximum of four wives
Jews continued to practice polygamy until the sixteenth century.
Jews regularly practised polygamy until they arrived in Israel
where it is
forbidden under civil law. However, under religious law which
civil law in such cases, it is permissible .
What about the New Testament? According to Father Eugene Hillman
his insightful book 'Polygamy reconsidered'," No where in
Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should
monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy"
Jesus hasn't spoken against polygamy though it was practiced
by the Jews
of his society. Father Hillman stressed the fact that the church
banned polygamy in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture
prescribed only one legal wife while tolerating concubinage and
prostitution). He cited St. Augustine, "Now indeed in our
time, and in
keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another
African churches and African christians often remind their European
brothers that the Church's ban on polygamy is a cultural tradition
an authentic Christian injunction.
The Quran, too, allowed polygamy, but not without restrictions,
you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans,
women of your choice, two or three or four but if you fear that
not be able to deal justly with them, then only one"(4:3).
Contrary to the Bible, limited the maximum number of wives to
the strict condition of treating the wives equally and justly.
not be understood that the Quran is exhorting the believers to
polygamy, or that polygamy is considered as an ideal. In other
Quran has "tolerated" or "allowed" polygamy,
and no more, but why? Why is
polygamy permissible or allowed? The answer is simple, there
and times in which there are compelling reasons for polygamy.
Islam as a
universal religion suitable for all places and all times couldn't
these compelling reasons.
In most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U.S.
are, at least, eight million more women than men. In a country
there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there
males per 100 females . What should a society do towards
sex ratios? There are various solutions, some might suggest celibacy,
others would prefer female infanticide (which does happen in
societies in the world today !). Others would think the only
that the society should tolerate all manners of moral decadence
prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality ...etc. Other
(like most African societies today) would see the most honourable
is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and
respected institution. The point that is often misunderstood
in the west
is that women in other cultures don't necessarily look at polygamy
sign of women's degradation. For example, many young African
(whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise), would prefer to
married man who has already proved himself to be a responsible
Many African wives urge their husbands to get a second wife so
don't feel lonely . The problem of the unbalanced sex ratios
truly problematic at times of war. Native American Indian tribes
suffer highly unbalanced sex ratios after wartime losses. Women
tribes, who in fact enjoyed a fairly high status, accepted polygamy
best protection against indulgence in indecent activities. European
without offering any other alternative, condemned this Indian
After the second world war, there were 7,300,000 more women
in Germany (3.3 million of them were widows). There were 100
men aged 20
to 30 for every 167 women in that age group . Many of these
a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the
a time of unprecedented misery and hardship. The soldiers of
Allied Armies exploited these women's vulnerability. Many young
widows had liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many
and British soldiers paid for their pleasures in cigarettes,
and bread. Children were overjoyed at the gifts these strangers
A 10 year old boy on hearing of such gifts from other children
all his heart for an 'Englishman' for his mother so that she
need not go
hungry any longer . We have to ask our own consciences at
What is more dignifying to a woman? An accepted and respected
as in the native Indians' approach, or a virtual prostitute as
'civilised' Allies approach? In other words, what is more dignifying
woman, the Quranic prescription or the theology based on the
the Roman Empire?
The world today possesses more weapons of mass destruction
before and the European churches might, sooner or later, be obliged
accept polygamy as the only way out. Father Hillman has thoughtfully
recognized this fact," It is quite conceivable that these
techniques (nuclear, biological, chemical..) could produce so
imbalance among the sexes that plural marriage would become a
means of survival....Then contrary to previous custom and law,
overriding natural and moral inclination might arise in favour
polygamy. In such a situation, theologians and church leaders
quickly produce weighty reasons and biblical texts to justify
conception of marriage" .
It has to be added also that polygamy in Islam is a matter
consent. No one can force a woman to marry a married man. The
the other hand, sometimes resorts to forcible polygamy. A childless
must marry her husband's brother, even if he is already married,
regardless of her consent (Genesis 38).
It should be noted that in many Muslim societies today the
of polygamy is rare since the gap between the numbers of both
sexes is not
huge. One can, safely, say that the rate of polygamous marriages
Muslim world is much less than the rate of extramarital affairs
West. In other words, Men in the Muslim world today are far more
monogamous than men in the Western world !
10. The Veil
Finally, let us shed some light on what is considered in the
the greatest symbol of women's oppression and servitude, the
veil or the
head cover. Is it true that there is no such thing as the veil
Judaeo-Christian tradition? Let's set the record straight. According
Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature
University) in his book 'The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature',
the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering
sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free .
some famous ancient Rabbis saying," It is not like the daughters
to walk out with heads uncovered" and "Cursed be the
man who lets the hair
of his wife be seen....a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment
brings poverty." Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of
prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering
woman's hair is considered "nudity" . Dr. Brayer
also mentions that
"During the Tannaitic period the Jewish woman's failure
to cover her head
was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered
might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offense." Dr.
explains that veil of the Jewish woman wasn't always considered
a sign of
modesty. Sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction
rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority
noble women. It, also, represented a woman's inaccessibility
sanctified possession of her husband . It is clear in the
that uncovering a woman's head was a great disgrace and that's
priest had to uncover the suspected adulteress in her trial by
What about the Christian tradition? It is well known that
Nuns have been covering their heads for hundreds of years, but
all. St. Paul in the New Testament made some very interesting
about the veil," Now I want you to realize that the head
of every man is
Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours
head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered
dishonours her head - it is just as though her head were shaved.
woman doesn't cover her head, she should have her hair cut off;
and if it
is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved
should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since
he is the
image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For
come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created
but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels,
ought to have a sign of authority on her head." (I Corinthians
Paul's rationale for veiling women is that the veil represents
a sign of
authority of the man, who is the image and glory of God, over
who was created from and for the man. St. Tertullian in his famous
treatise 'On The Veiling Of Virgins' wrote," Young women,
you wear your
veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church,
them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your
Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a
require women to cover their heads in church . Some Christian
denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example,
their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil,
by their Church leaders, is "The head covering is a symbol
subjection to the man and to God" : The same logic introduced
by St. Paul
in the New Testament .
From all the above evidence, it is obvious that Islam didn't
the head cover, but Islam endorsed it. The Quran urges the believing
and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and then
believing women to extend their head covers to cover the neck
bosom "Say to the believing men that they should lower their
guard their modesty......And say to the believing women that
lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not
their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof;
they should draw their veils over their bosoms...." (24:30,31).
is quite clear that the veil is an essential part of a recipe
the purposes of modesty, but why modesty? The Quran is still
prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women
should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad)
they should be known and not molested" (33:59). This is
the whole point,
modesty is prescribed to protect women from molestation or simply,
Thus, the only purpose of the veil in Islam is protection.
Islamic veil, unlike the veil of the Christian tradition, is
not a sign of
man's authority over woman nor is it a sign of woman's subjection
The Islamic veil, unlike the veil in the Jewish tradition, is
not a sign
of luxury and distinction of some noble married women.The Islamic
only a sign of modesty with the sole purpose of protecting women,
women. The Islamic philosophy is that it is always better safe
In fact, the Quran is so concerned with protecting women's bodies
women's reputation that a man who dares to falsely accuse a woman
unchastity will be severely punished," And those who launch
against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support
allegations)- Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their
ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors"(24:4).
Compare this strict Quranic attitude with the extremely lax
punishment for rape in the Bible " If a man happens to meet
a virgin who
is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,
shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must
girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long
lives" (Deut. 22:28-30). One must ask a simple question
who is really punished? The man who only paid a fine for rape,
or the girl who is forced to marry the man who raped her
and live with him until he dies? Another question that
also should be asked is this: which is more protective of women,
Quranic strict attitude or the Biblical lax attitude?
Some people, especially in the West, would tend to ridicule
argument of modesty for protection. Their argument is that the
protection is the spread of education, civilised behaviour, and
restraint. We would say: Fine but not enough. If 'civilization'
protection, then why is it that women in North America, dare
alone in a dark street - or even across an empty parking lot
Education is the solution, then why is it that a respected university
ours has a 'walk home service' for female students on campus?
restraint is the answer, then why are cases of sexual harassment
workplace on the news media every day? A sample of those accused
harassment, in the last few years, includes: Navy officers, Managers,
University professors, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, and
of the United States! I couldn't believe my eyes when I read
following statistics, written in a pamphlet issued by the Dean
office at Queen's University:
* In Canada, a woman is sexually assaulted every 6 minutes",
* 1 in 3 women in Canada will be sexually assaulted at some time
* 1 in 4 women are at the risk of rape or attempted rape in her
* 1 in 8 women will be sexually assaulted while attending college
* A study found 60% of Canadian university-aged males said they
commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn't get
Something is fundamentally wrong in the society we live in.
change in the society's life style and culture is absolutely
culture of modesty is badly needed, modesty in dress, in speech,
manners of both men and women. Otherwise, the grim statistics
even worse day after day and , unfortunately, women alone will
the price. Therefore, a society like France which expels young
schools because of their modest dress is, in the end, simply
In the light of the evidence presented above, there is no
Islam has immensely improved the status of women compared to
Judaeo-Christian tradition. The Quran has offered women dignity,
and protection which ,for long, have remained out of their reach.
why it is no surprise to find that most converts to Islam, today,
country like Britain are women. In the U.S. women converts to
outnumber men converts 4 to 1 . The problem is that the majority
population in the West do not know these facts. They easily believe
media's distorted image of Islam. Therefore, it is a must that
our defensive attitude towards the whole issue of women in Islam.
stop being apologetic. We have nothing to be ashamed of. What
has given to women is unparalleled in the history of religion.
always reacting to the consistent barrage of articles defaming
women, we have to take the initiative. We have to act first and
others react. We should boldly initiate discussions with our
colleagues regarding the true status of women in Islam. Tell
them how the
Quran has ended so many injustices against women found in other
scriptures. We have to talk to the media, write to the press,
the whole world to read the Quran, read other scriptures and
themselves. It goes without saying that the sisters' role is
important than the brothers' in this respect.
The Quran is an incredibly powerful book and it is our task
its impressive message to the world. But, are we up to this task
1. The Globe and Mail, Oct. 4,1994.
2. Thena Kendath, "Memories of an Orthodox youth"
in Susannah Heschel, ed.
On being a Jewish Feminist (New York: Schocken Books, 1983),
3. For all the sayings of the prominent Saints, see Karen
Gospel According to Woman (London: Elm Tree Books, 1986) pp.
also Nancy van Vuuren, The Subversion of Women as Practiced by
Witch-Hunters, and Other Sexists (Philadelphia: Westminister
4. Leonard J. Swidler, Women in Judaism: the Status of Women
Judaism (Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1976) pp. 83-93.
5. Jeffry H. Togay, "Adultery," Encyclopaedia Judaica,
Vol. II, col. 313.
Also, see Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from
Perspective (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1990) pp.
6. Lesley Hazleton, Israeli Women The Reality Behind the Myths
Simon and Schuster, 1977) pp. 41-42.
7. Swidler, op. cit., p. 115.
8. Hazleton, op. cit., p. 41.
9. Ibid., pp. 45-46.
10. Ibid., p. 47.
11. Ibid., p. 49.
12. Swidler, op. cit., pp. 144-148.
13. Hazleton, op. cit., pp 44-45.
14. Eugene Hillman, Polygamy Reconsidered: African Plural
the Christian Churches (New York: Orbis Books, 1975) p. 140.
15. Ibid., p. 17.
16. Ibid., pp. 88-93.
17. Ibid., pp. 92-97.
18. John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters:
of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper & Row Publishers,
1988) p. 87.
19. Ute Frevert, Women in German History: from Bourgeois Emancipation
Sexual Liberation (New York: Berg Publishers, 1988) pp. 263-264.
20. Ibid., pp. 257-258.
21. Hillman, op. cit., p. 12.
22. Menachem M. Brayer, The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature:
Psychosocial Perspective (Hoboken, N.J: Ktav Publishing House,
23. Ibid., pp. 316-317. Also see Swidler, op. cit., pp. 121-123.
24. Ibid., p. 139.
25. Clara M. Henning, " Cannon Law and the Battle of
the Sexes" in Rosemary
R. Ruether, ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the
Christian Traditions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974) p.
26. Donald B. Kraybill, The riddle of the Amish Culture (Baltimore:
Hopkins University Press, 1989) p. 56.
27. The Times, Nov. 18, 1993.
WOMEN IN SHARI'AH (ISLAMIC LAW)
by Abdur Rahman I. Doi (1992)
(Presently a Professor at the International Islamic University,
* Women in Society (Page 17-19)
Maulana Abul A'La Maududi has made a fine psychological distinction,
however, between women looking at men and men looking at women.
he says, "...is by nature aggressive. If a thing appeals
to him, he is
urged from within to acquire it. On the other hand, the woman's
one of inhibition and escape. Unless her nature is totally corrupted,
can never become so aggressive, bold and fearless, as to make
advances towards the male who has attracted her. In view of this
distinction, the Legislator (the Prophet) does not regard a woman's
looking at other men to be as harmful as a man's looking at other
In several traditions it has been reported that the Prophet (peace
him) let Aisha see a performance given by negroes on the occassion
'Id. This shows that there is no absolute prohibition on women
other men. What is prohibited is for women to sit in the same
together with men and stare at them, or look at them in the same
which may lead to evil results.
* Social Behavior
The Shariah has placed restrictions on men meeting strange
privately. Similarly no other man other than her husband is allowed
touch any part of a woman's body. The following traditions of
(peace be upon him) are worth noting in this connection :
"Beware that you do not call on women who are alone,"
said the Messenger of Allah. One
of the Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what about
the younger or
elder brother of the husband?" The Prophet replied, "He
(Tirmidhi, Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet said, "The one who touches the hand of a
woman without having
a lawful relationship with her, will have an ember placed on
his palm on
the Day of Judgement."
(Takmalah, Fath al-Qadir)
Aishah says that the Prophet accepted the oath of allegiance
only verbally, without taking their hands into his own hand.
touched the hand of a woman who was not married to him.
Umaimah, daughter of Ruqaiqah, said that she went to the Prophet
company of some other women to take oath of allegiance. He made
promise that they would abstain from idolatry, stealing, adultery,
slander, and disobedience to the Prophet. When they had taken
they requested that he take their hands as a mark of allegiance.
The Prophet said, "I do not take the hands of women.
Verbal affirmation is
(Nasai and Ibn Majah)
It is most unfortunate, however, that in spite of this guidance
Prophet (peace be upon him) many Muslims have adopted the Western
of shaking hands with women, using these traditions in respect
women as justification. This is clearly an unreasonable extension
permission. It is therefore, submitted that the Muslims the world
and ulama in particular, must pause to reflect and stop this
practice which has crept into our society. There cannot be a
of greeting than uttering ASsalamualaikum (peace be upon you)
back with Waalaikumsalam
(peace be upon you too).
* The Mosque - Page 29
There is a clear tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
women to offer their prayers inside their houses : "The
best mosques for
women are the inner parts of their houses"
Since the Prophet had not forbidden women to attend the mosques,
continued to come to the mosques. But after his death it became
increasingly clear that it was not keeping with the dignity and
Muslim women to come to the mosques for prayers, especially at
because men, being what they were, would tease them. Therefore,
Umar told women not to come to the mosques, but to offer their
inside their own houses. The women of Madina resented this prohibition
complained to Aisha. But they received a fitting reply from her
: "If the
Prophet knew what Umar knows, he would not have granted you permission
go out (to the mosque)".
It is reported by Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (peace be
upon him) said,
"The best row for men is the first, and the worst for them
is the last.
The best row for women is the last, and the worst is the first."
* Divorce (Page 84)
Talaq is a right available mainly to the husband, but not
to the wife.
even though Islam allows divorce, the Prophet (peace be upon
him) says :
"Of all things that Islam has permitted, divorce is the
most hated by Allah. "
This shows that the right is to be exercised only when there
sufficiently compelling reasons to do so. Hasty and wanton use
right of divorce is regarded as most condemnable in Islam. The
said, "Marry and do not divorce, undoubtedly the Throne
of the Beneficient
Lord shakes due to divorce".
Thus Islam encourages reconciliation between spouses rather
of their relations.
* Repentance of the Slanderer (Page 126-127)
If a husband puts forward an accusation against his wife or
a wife against
her husband, the Holy Quran lays down the following procedure
"And for those who launch a charge against their spouses,
and have (in
support) no evidence but their own, their solitary evidence can
received if they bear witness four times with an oath by Allah
are solemnly telling the truth. And the fifth (oath) should be
solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell
a lie. But
it would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness
times with (an oath) by Allah that he (her husband) is telling
a lie. And
the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath
of Allah on
herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (24 : 6-9)
* Women and Education (Page 138-139)
The Holy Prophet made women integral to his plan for Muslim
learning when he declared :
"An acquisition of knowledge is obligatory for every
Muslim, male and female"
The Holy Prophet made it a point of duty for every father
and mother to
make sure that their daughters (and sons) did not remain ignorant
teachings of Islam because they would, after the marriage, have
important roles as housewives and as mothers of children. In
parents had failed to impart such knowledge to their daughters,
made incumbent upon husbands to teach their wives the basic principles
that they would lead their lives according to the teachings of
It is reported that Malik Ibn Huwayrith and a group of young
men had come
to live near the Prophet and acquire knowledge from him.
When they decided to return to their respective homes, the
Prophet told them,
"Return home to your wives and children and stay with
them. Teach them
(what you have learnt) and ask them to act upon it." (Al
"Ignorant and illiterate mothers cannot possibly rear
their children and
raise them to be good, effective, capable and intelligent Muslims,
world today" (Maryam Jameelah Answers Questions, The Criterion,
To conclude, the seven brilliant jewels of a mu'mins faith
mentioned in these verses are :
1. Humility 2. Avoidance of vanity 3. Charity 4. Sexual purity
5. Fidelity to trusts 6. Fidelity to covenants
7. An earnest desire to get closer to Allah
"Waqul Rabbi Zidni Ilma"