Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam



1993, 1994 by Asim Mughal


Redistribution for profit, or in altered content/format
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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 Islam
Part 9 - Islamic Resources on Internet
Part 10 - Islamic Literature: Books & Video

PART 7: Marriage Laws & Women In Islam

1. Marriage ........................................................ from IINN
2. Duties & Rights After Marriage .................................. from IINN
3. Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women ...................... from Ms.Naheed Mustafa
4. Women In Islam .................................................. from IINN
5. Who Practices Polygamy? ........................................ from III&E


1. Marriage ........................................................ from IINN



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 He has
planted love and mercy between you; In that are signs for people who
reflect. Qur'an [30 : 21]

He has planted affection and mercy between you. Qur'an [30: 12] and

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 for each
other. Just as garments are for protection, comfort, show and
concealment for human beings, Allah expects husbands and wives to be for
one another.


And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another;
they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship
and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger; as for
those, Allah will have mercy on them; Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise. Allah
hath promised to believers - men and women - gardens underwhich rivers
flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting
bliss; but the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah: This is the
supreme felicity.

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, for the

"A girl came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and informed him that
her father had married her to her cousin against her wishes, whereupon
the Prophet allowed her to exercise her choice. She then said, 'I am
reconciled to what my father did but I wanted to make it known to women
that fathers have no say in this matter'". - Hadith narrated by Ibn

Narrated Abdullah: "We were with the Prophet, peace be upon him, while
we were young and had no wealth whatever. So Allah's Apostle, peace be
upon him, said, `O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should
marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty, and
whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his
sexual power.'"

Narrated Abu Huraira: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, 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 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 amount) for
dower (Mahr) take not the least bit of it back ... Qur'an [4 : 20]

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 what
you bestow upon us (i.e. an offspring) from Satan. and if it is destined
that they should have a child, then Satan will never be able to harm



Walima is the wedding reception given to friends and family after the
consummation of marriage. It is given by the husband on this auspicious
occassion, showing his happiness and sharing it with the friends and

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, `Set the
captives free, accept the invitation (including to a wedding banquet),
and pay a visit to the patients.'"

By this saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, it is also enjoined
upon us to join in the happiness of our brothers.


2. Duties & Rights After Marriage .................................. from IINN


Allah informs us about the just rights of each other on us:

But, in accordance with justice, the wife's rights (with regard to their
husbands) are equal to the (husband's) rights with regard to them,
although men are a degree above them; and Allah is Almighty, Wise.
Qur'an [2 : 228]

The statement that men are a degree above women means that authority
within the household has been give to the husband in preference to the
wife because a heavier burden has been placed on his shoulders by
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 means.
Qur'an [4 : 34]



Jabir Narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, gave these
instructions in his sermon during Farewell Pilgrimage: "Fear God
regarding women; for you have taken them [in marriage] with the trust of
God." [Mishkat]

Narrated Aisha, God's messenger said: "Among the believers who show most
perfect faith are those who have the best disposition, and are kindest
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 the best
of you are those who are best to their wives." [Tirmidhi]

Aisha has related that the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, would enter
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 when he
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. So if
you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some bent.'"

Narrated Abu Huraira: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, `Whoever
believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his
neighbor. And I advise you to take care of women, for they are created
from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if
you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will
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 all the
day and stand in prayer all night?' I said, `Yes, O Allah's Apostle!' He
said, `Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them at
other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night.
Your body has a right over you and your wife has a right over you.'"

Narrated Ibn Umar: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, `All of you
are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a
guardian and the man is a guardian of his family; the lady is a guardian
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 following
verse of Quran:

Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you
dislike something in which God has place much good. Qur'an [4 : 19]



Anas reported God's messenger as saying, "When a woman observes the five
times of prayer, fasts during Ramadan, preserves her chastity and obeys
her husband, she may enter by any of the gates of paradise she wishes
(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 woman was
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 family.


House women wherever you reside, accoding to your circumstances, and do
not harass them in order to make life difficult for them. Qur'an [65 :

The statement of Allah in the chapter `Woman':

`Men are protectors and maintainers of women.' Qur'an [4 : 34]

Bukhari quotes the following verse under the heading: .. the superiority
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 order that
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 of God)
for him.'"

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 saying: "Of
the dinar (unit of currency) that you spend as a contribution in God's
path, or to set free a slave, or as charity given to a needy, or to
support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which
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 to wearing
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
experience LIBERATING.

I OFTEN wonder whether people see me as a radical, fundamentalist Muslim
terrorist packing an AK-47 assault rifle inside my jean jacket. Or may
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 glances. You
see, I wear the hijab, a scarf that covers my head, neck, and throat. I
do this because I am a Muslim woman who believes her body is her own
private concern.

Young Muslim women are reclaiming the hijab, reinterpreting it in light
of its original purpose -- to give back to women ultimate control of
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 privilege.
The only thing that makes one person better than another is her or his

Nonetheless, people have a difficult time relating to me. After all, I'm
young, Canadian born and raised, university-educated -- why would I do
this to myself, they ask.

Strangers speak to me in loud, slow English and often appear to be
playing charades. They politely inquire how I like living in Canada and
whether or not the cold bothers me. If I'm in the right mood, it can be
very amusing.

But, why would I, a woman with all the advantages of a North American
upbringing, suddenly, at 21, want to cover myself so that with the hijab
and the other clothes I choose to wear, only my face and hands show?

Because it gives me freedom.


WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional
to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract notions of
beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile.

When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule and
contempt. Whether it's women who refuse to wear makeup or to shave their
legs, or to expose their bodies, society, both men and women, have
trouble dealing with them.

In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced
silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it's neither. It
is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person is to
play no role whatsoever in social interaction.

Wearing the hijab has given me freedom from constant attention to my
physical self. Because my appearance is not subjected to public
scrutiny, my beauty, or perhaps lack of it, has been removed from the
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 stretch
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 teen-age
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 next
Cindy Crawford.

The definition of beauty is ever-changing; waifish is good, waifish is
bad, athletic is good -- sorry, athletic is bad. Narrow hips? Great.
Narrow hips? Too bad.

Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to bear their
breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe. That
would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will
be had only when women don't need to display themselves to get attention
and won't need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to

Naheed Mustafa graduated from the University of Toronto last year with
an honours degree in political and history. She is currently studying
journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic University


This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News Network)
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


o Islam gave woman the right to reject a marriage proposal free from
pressure and by mutual agreement to specify in the marriage contract
that she has the right to divorce. If she deems the marriage to have
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 united
by authentic marriage contract.

o "Heaven is at the feet of mothers" is a basic Islamic teachings.

This article appeared in IINN (Islamic Information & News Network)
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. Many of
the ancient Israelites were polygamous, some having hundreds of wives.
King Solomon (peace be upon him) is said to have had seven hundred wives
and three hundred concubines. David (Dawood) had ninety-nine and Jacob
(Yacub, peace be upon them both) had four. Advice given by some Jewish
wise men state that no man should marry more than four wives. No early
society put any restrictions on the number of wives or put any
conditions about how they were to be treated. Jesus was not known to
have spoken against polygamy. As recently as the seventeenth century,
polygamy was practiced and accepted by the Christian Church. The Mormons
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has allowed and practiced
polygamy in the United States.

Monogamy was introduced into Christianity at the time of Paul when many
revisions took place in Christianity. This was done in order for the
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 words,
unrestricted polygamy.

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, the
husband simply deserts his wife. The he cohabits with a prostitute or
other immoral woman without marriage. Actually there are three kinds of
polygamy practiced in Western societies: (1) serial polygamy, that is,
marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce, and so on any number of times; (2)
a man married to one woman but having and supporting one or more
mistresses; (3) an unmarried man having a number of mistresses. Islam
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, resort
to prostitution, illicit relationships with married men resulting in
illegitimate children with no responsibility on the part of the father,
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 women? The
society has so many practices which exploit and suppress women, leading
to women's liberation movements from the suffragettes of the early
twentieth century to the feminists of today.

The truth of the matter is that monogamy protects men, allowing them to
"play around" without responsibility. Easy birth control and easy legal
abortion has opened the door of illicit sex to woman and she has been
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 control
methods. Taking aside the plagues of venereal disease, herpes and AIDS,
the male continues to enjoy himself free of worry. Men are the ones
protected by monogamy while women continue to be victims of men's
desires. Polygamy is very much opposed by the male dominated society
because it would force men to face up to responsibility and fidelity. It
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 which
limited the number of wives. All of the relationships were unrestricted.
In Islam, the regulations concerning polygamy limit the number of wives
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 or one
that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent
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 a person
is unable to deal justly between wives, thus giving permission but

"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 turn
altogether away (from one), leaving her in suspense..." (Qur'an 4:129)

While the provision for polygamy makes the social system flexible enough
to deal with all kinds of conditions, it is not necessarily recommended
or preferred by Islam. Taking the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace
be upon him) is instructive. He was married to one woman, Khadijah, for
twenty-five years. It was only after her death when he had reached the
age of fifty that he entered into other marriages to promote
friendships, create alliances or to be an example of some lesson to the
community; also to show the Muslims how to treat their spouses under
different conditions of life.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given inspiration from Allah about
how to deal with multiple marriages and the difficulties encountered
therein. It is not an easy matter for a man to handle two wives, two
families, and two households and still be just between the two. No man
of reasonable intelligence would enter into this situation without a
great deal of thought and very compelling reasons (other than sexual).

Some people have said that the first wife must agree to the second
marriage. Others have said that the couple can put it into the marriage
contract that the man will not marry a second wife. First of all,
neither the Qur'an nor Hadith state that the first wife need be
consulted at all concerning a second marriage let alone gain her
approval. Consideration and compassion on the part of the man for his
first wife should prompt him to discuss the matter with her but he is
not required to do so or to gain her approval. Secondly, the Qur'an has
explicitly given permission for a man to marry "two or three or four."
No one has the authority to make a contract forbidding something that
has been granted by Allah.

The bottom line in the marriage relationship is good morality and
happiness, creating a just and cohesive society where the needs of men
and women are well taken care of. The present Western society, which
permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to an
abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance of
"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 even an
economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate.
Bloated budget deficits have become a political football which is
affecting the political system of the United States.

In short, we find that artificially created monogamy has become a factor
in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and political
systems of the country.

It must be a prophet, and indeed it was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon
him) who directed Muslims to get married or observe patience until one
gets married. 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported Allah's messenger as saying,
"Young man, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it
keeps you from looking at strange women and preserves you from
immorality; but those who cannot should devote themselves to fasting,
for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire." (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam wants people to be married and to develop a good family structure.
Also Islam realizes the requirements of the society and the individual
in special circumstances where polygamy can be the solution to problems.
Therefore, Islam has allowed polygamy, limiting the number of wives to
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 that
the American male is very polygamous, getting away with not taking
responsibility for the families he should be responsible for.

--Mary Ali

(NOTE: In this article polygamy has been used to mean polygyny meaning
having two or more wives. Islam forbids polyandry meaning having two or
more husbands.)

## 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




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 of July
3, 1990 an article titled "Islam isn't alone in patriarchal doctrines", by
Gwynne Dyer. The article described the furious reactions by the
participants of a conference on women and power held in Montreal to the
comments of the famous Egyptian feminist Dr. Nawal Saadawi. Her
politically incorrect statements included : "the most restrictive elements
towards women can be found first in Judaism in the Old Testament then in
Christianity and then in the Quran"; "all religions are patriarchal
because they stem from patriarchal societies"; and "veiling of women isn't
a specifically islamic practice but an ancient cultural heritage with
analogies in sister religions". The participants couldn't bear sitting
around while their faiths were being equated with Islam. Thus, Dr. Saadawi
received a barrage of criticism. "Dr. Saadawi's comments are
unacceptable. Her answers reveal a lack of understanding about other
people's faiths", declared Bernice Dubois of the World Movement of
Mothers. "I must protest" said panelist Alice Shalvi of Israel women's
network,"there is no conception of the veil in Judaism." The article
attributed these furious protests to the strong tendency in the west to
scapegoat Islam for practices that are just as much part of the west's own
cultural heritage. "Christian and Jewish feminists were not going to sit
around being discussed in the same category as those wicked Muslims" wrote
Gwynne Dyer.

I wasn't surprised that the conference participants had held such a
negative view of Islam, especially when women's issues were involved.
Islam is believed , in the West, to be the symbol of the subordination of
women par excellence. In order to understand how firm this belief is, it
is enough to mention that the Minister of Education in France, the land of
Voltaire, has recently ordered the expulsion of all young muslim women
wearing the veil from french schools [1]! What intrigued me the most about
the conference was one question : Were the statements made by Saadawi, or
any of her critics, factual ? In other words, do Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam have the same conception of women? Are they different in their
conceptions ? Do Judaism and Christianity , truly, offer women a better
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 objective
or, at least, that one does one's utmost to be so. This is what Islam
teaches. The Quran has instructed us to say the truth even if those who
are very close to us don't like it: "Whenever you speak, speak justly,
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, or
your parents or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor"
The other great difficulty is the overwhelming breadth of the
subject. Therefore, during the last few years, I have spent many hours
reading the Bible, The Encyclopedia of Religion, and the Encyclopedia
Judaica searching for answers. I have also read several books discussing
the position of women in different religions written by scholars,
apologists, and critics. Today, I am here to present some of the
important findings of this humble research. I don't claim to be absolutely
objective. This is beyond my limited capacity. All what I can say is that
I have been trying, throughout this research, to approach the Quranic
ideal of "speaking justly".

Before we start, I would like to emphasize that my purpose from this
presentation is not to denigrate Judaism or Christianity. As Muslims, we
believe in the divine origins of both. No one can be a Muslim without
believing in Moses and Jesus as great prophets of Allah. My goal is only
to vindicate Islam and pay a tribute ,long overdue in the West, to the
final truthful Message from God to the human race. I would also like to
emphasize that I concerned myself only with Doctrine. That is, my concern
is, mainly, the position of women in the three religions as it appears in
their original sources not as practiced by their millions of followers in
the world today. Therefore, most of the evidence cited comes from the
Quran, the Bible, the Talmud , and the sayings of some of the most
influential Church Fathers whose views have contributed immeasurably to
defining and shaping Christianity. This interest in the sources relates to
the fact that understanding a certain religion from the attitudes and the
behaviour of some of its nominal followers is misleading. Many people
confuse culture with religion, many others don't know what their religious
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 men are
created by God The Creator of the whole universe. However, disagreement
starts soon after the creation of the first man, Adam and the first woman,
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 them from
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 God rebuked
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 pains in
childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will
be for your husband and he will rule over you." To Adam he said,"Because
you listened to your wife and ate from the tree .... Cursed is the ground
because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of
your life..."

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 you run
into harm. Then Satan whispered to them your Lord only forbade you this
tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.
And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser.So by deceit
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 us not
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 Bible,
places equal blame on both Adam and Eve for their mistake. Nowhere in the
Quran can one find even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat
from the tree or even that she had eaten before him. Eve in the Quran is
no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. Moreover, Eve isn't to be
blamed for the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Quran, punish
no one for another's faults. Both Adam and Eve committed a sin and then
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 an
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 and
Christians of all time. Let us start with the Old Testament and listen to
excerpts from what is called the Wisdom Literature in which we find," I
find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a
trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her,
but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still searching but not
finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright
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 Bible
we read," No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a
woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must
die"(Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24) Orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning
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 morning for
"making me according to Thy will" [2].

The same severe tone is found also in the New Testament. Listen to
St. Paul," A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't
permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be
silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam wasn't the one
deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner, but women
will be saved through childbearing...."(I Timothy 2:11-15) St. Tertullian
was even more blunt than St. Paul, while he was talking to his 'best
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 age: the
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 the divine
law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil wasn't valiant enough to
attack. You destroyed so easily God's image ,man." St. Augustine was
faithful to the legacy of his predecessors, he wrote to a friend, " What
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 later, St.
Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective, "As regards the
individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active
force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in
the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in
the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some
external influence." Finally, the renowned reformer Martin Luther couldn't
see any benefit from a woman but bringing into the world as many children
as possible regardless of the possible side effects," If they become tired
or even die, that doesn't matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why
they are there" [3]. Again and again all women are denigrated because of
the image of Eve the temptress, thanks to the Genesis account.

If we now turn our attention to what the Quran has to say about
women, we will soon realize that the Islamic conception of women is
radically different from that of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Let the
Quran speak for itself. "For muslim men and women, for believing men and
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 men and
women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women
who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's
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- and is
a believer- such will enter the Garden of bliss"(40:40) "Whoever works
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 their reward
according to the best of their actions"(16:97)

It is clear that the Quranic view of women is no different than that
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 they, both,
will be assessed accordingly. The Quran never mentions that the woman is
the devil's gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. The Quran, also,
never mentions that man is God's image, all men and all women are his
creatures, that's all. According to the Quran, a woman's role on earth
isn't limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many good deeds
as any other man is required to do. The Quran never said that no upright
women had ever existed. To the contrary, the Quran has instructed all the
believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those ideal
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 attitude
towards the female sex starts as soon as a female is born. For example
the Bible states that the period of the mother's ritual impurity is twice
as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Leviticus 12:2-5). The
Catholic Bible does state explicitly that "The birth of a daughter is a
loss" (Ecclesiasticus 22:3) In contrast to this shocking statement, boys
receive special praise, "A man who educates his son will be the envy of
his enemy." (Ecclesiasticus 30:3) A daughter is considered a painful
burden, a potential source of shame to her father "Your daughter is
headstrong? Keep a sharp look-out that she doesn't make you the laughing
stock of your enemies, the talk of the town, the object of common gossip,
and put you to public shame."(Ecclesiasticus 42:11)

It was this very same idea of treating daughters as sources of shame
that led the pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice female
infanticide. The Quran severely condemned this heinous practice "When news
is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens
and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from
his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on
contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?"(16:59)
It has to be mentioned that this sinister crime would have never stopped
in Arabia if it were not to the power of the scathing terms the Quran used
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 Bible, the
Quran considers the birth of a female as a gift and a blessing from God,
same as the birth of a male. The Quran even mentions the gift of the
female birth first," To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the
earth. He creates what he wills. He bestows female children to whomever he
wills and bestows male children to whomever he wills"(42:49)

4. Female education ?

The difference between the Biblical and the Quranic conceptions of
women is not limited to the newly born female, it extends far beyond that.
Let's compare their attitudes towards a female trying to learn her
religion. The heart of Judaism is the Torah, the law. However, according
to the Talmud, "women are exempt from the study of the Torah." In the
first century C.E., Rabbi Eliezer said: "If any man teaches his daughter
Torah it is as though he taught her lechery" [4]. The attitude of St. Paul
in the New Testament isn't brighter "As in all the congregations of the
saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed
to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to
inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for
it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."(I Corinthians
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 of full
submission? How can she broaden her horizons if her one and only source of
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 up
concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws at a moment of
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 freed the
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 these words
from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went straight
to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The prophet was of the opinion
that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out. Khawla
kept arguing with the prophet in an attempt to save her suspended
marriage. Shortly, the Quran intervened; Khawla's plea was accepted. The
divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter (Chapter
58) of the Quran whose title is *Almujadilah* or "The woman who is
arguing" was devoted to this incident, "Allah has heard and accepted the
statement of the woman who pleads with you (the prophet) concerning her
husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the arguments
between both of you for Allah hears and sees all things...." (58:1). A
woman in the Quranic conception has the right to argue even with the
Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her to be
silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and
only reference in matters of law and religion.

5. Adultery

Women's position, role, rights, and duties in the Quran are very
different from those found in the Bible. Let us take some examples.
Adultery and fornication are considered sins in all religions. The Bible
decrees the death sentence for both the adulterer and the adulteress
(Leviticus 20:10). Islam also equally punishes both the adulterer and the
adulteress (24:2). However, the Quranic definition of adultery is very
different from the Biblical definition. Adultery, according to the Quran,
is the involvement of a married man or a married woman in an extramarital
affair. The Bible only considers the extramarital affair of a married
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 and
adultery constituted a violation the husband's exclusive right to her; the
wife as the husband's possession had no such right to him [5]. The New
Testament echoes the same attitude in Matthew 5:31-32, where it is
attributed to Jesus to have said," I tell you that anyone who divorces his
wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an
adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
Why didn't he label the man who divorces his wife and marries another
woman as adulterer? To the present day in Israel, if a married man
indulges in an extramarital affair with a woman, his children by that
woman are considered legitimate. But, if a married woman has an affair
with another man, her children by that man are not only illegitimate but
are forbidden to marry any other Jews except converts and other bastards.
This ban is handed down to the child's descendants for 10 generations
until the taint of adultery is presumably weakened [6].

The Quran, on the other hand, never considers any woman to be the
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 with
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 of
marriage: love, mercy, and tranquility, not possession and double

6. Bearing witness

Another issue in which the Quran and the Bible disagree is the issue
of women bearing witness. It is true that the Quran has instructed the
believers dealing in financial transactions to get two male witnesses or
one male and two females (2:282). However, it is also true that the Quran
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. If a
man accuses his wife of unchastity, he is required by the Quran to
solemnly swear five times as evidence of the wife's guilt. If the wife
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 in early
Jewish society [7]. Women in Today's Israel are not allowed to give evidence
in Rabbinical courts because the Talmud says: "Women are temperamentally
light-headed" [8]. The Rabbis, also, justify why women can't bear witness
by citing Genesis 18:9-16, where it is stated that Sara, Abraham's wife had
lied. The rabbis use this incident as evidence that women are unqualified
to bear witness. It should be noted here that this story narrated in
Genesis 18:9-16 has been mentioned more than once in the Quran without any
hint of any lies by Sara (11:69-74, 51:24-30).

If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, her testimony will not be
considered at all according to the Bible. The accused wife has to be
subjected to a trial by ordeal (Numbers 5:11-31). In this trial, the wife
faces a complex and humiliating ritual which was supposed to prove her
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 then
accuses her of not being a virgin, her own testimony will not count. Her
parents had to bring evidence of her virginity before the elders of the
town. If the parents couldn't prove the innocence of their daughter, she
would be stoned to death on her father's doorsteps. If the parents were
able to prove her innocence, the husband will only be fined one hundred
shekels of silver and he must not divorce his wife as long as he lives
(Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Why should the poor woman live with the man who
slandered her in public for the rest of his life?

7. Female inheritance

One of the most important differences between the Quran and the Bible
is their attitude towards female inheritance of the property of a deceased
relative. According to Numbers 27:1-11, widows and sisters don't inherit
at all. Daughters can inherit only if their deceased father had no sons.
Otherwise the sons receive the entire inheritance. Among the pagan Arabs
before Islam, inheritance rights were confined exclusively to the male
relatives. The Quran abolished all these unjust customs and gave all the
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 Jewish
population. The male relatives who inherited all of her deceased
husband's estate were to provide for her from that estate. However, widows
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 ancient
Israel and widowhood was considered a symbol of great degradation (Isaiah
54:4). But the plight of a widow in the Biblical tradition extended even
beyond her exclusion from her husband's property. According to Genesis 38,
a childless widow must marry her husband's brother, even if he is already
married, so that he can produce offspring for his dead brother, thus
ensuring his brother's name will not die out. The widow's consent to this
marriage is not required. The widow is treated as part of her deceased
husband's property whose main function is to ensure her husband's
posterity. This biblical law is still practiced in today's Israel [9]. The
pagan Arabs before Islam had similar practices. The widow was considered a
part of her husband's property to be inherited by his male heirs and she
was, usually, given in marriage to the deceased man's eldest son from
another wife. The Quran scathingly attacked and abolished this degrading
custom (4:22).

Widows and divorced women were so looked down upon in the biblical
tradition that the high priest must not marry a widow, a divorced woman,
or a prostitute (Leviticus 21:13). In Israel today, a descendent of the
Cohen caste (the high priests of the days of the Temple) cannot marry a
divorcee, a widow, or a prostitute [10]. In the Jewish legislation, a woman
who has been widowed three times with all the three husband's dying of
causes is considered 'fatal' and forbidden to marry again [11]. The Quran,
on the other hand, recognizes neither castes nor fatal persons. Widows and
divorcees have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. There is no
stigma attached with divorce or widowhood in the Quran (2:231,232, 234,

9. Polygamy

Let's now tackle the important question of polygamy. Polygamy is a
very ancient practice found in many human societies. The Bible didn't
condemn polygamy. To the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic
writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy. King Solomon is
said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) Also, king
David is said to have had many wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). The
Old Testament does have some injunctions on how to distribute the property
of a man among his sons from different wives (Deut. 22:7). The only
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 [12]. European
Jews continued to practice polygamy until the sixteenth century. Oriental
Jews regularly practised polygamy until they arrived in Israel where it is
forbidden under civil law. However, under religious law which overrides
civil law in such cases, it is permissible [13].

What about the New Testament? According to Father Eugene Hillman in
his insightful book 'Polygamy reconsidered'," No where in the New
Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be
monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy" [14]. Moreover,
Jesus hasn't spoken against polygamy though it was practiced by the Jews
of his society. Father Hillman stressed the fact that the church in Rome
banned polygamy in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture (which
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 wife"
African churches and African christians often remind their European
brothers that the Church's ban on polygamy is a cultural tradition and not
an authentic Christian injunction.

The Quran, too, allowed polygamy, but not without restrictions, " If
you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, 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"(4:3). The Quran,
Contrary to the Bible, limited the maximum number of wives to four under
the strict condition of treating the wives equally and justly. It should
not be understood that the Quran is exhorting the believers to practice
polygamy, or that polygamy is considered as an ideal. In other words, the
Quran has "tolerated" or "allowed" polygamy, and no more, but why? Why is
polygamy permissible or allowed? The answer is simple, there are places
and times in which there are compelling reasons for polygamy. Islam as a
universal religion suitable for all places and all times couldn't ignore
these compelling reasons.

In most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U.S. there
are, at least, eight million more women than men. In a country like Guinea
there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there are 95.1
males per 100 females [16]. What should a society do towards such unbalanced
sex ratios? There are various solutions, some might suggest celibacy,
others would prefer female infanticide (which does happen in some
societies in the world today !). Others would think the only outlet is
that the society should tolerate all manners of moral decadence :
prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality ...etc. Other societies
(like most African societies today) would see the most honourable outlet
is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and socially
respected institution. The point that is often misunderstood in the west
is that women in other cultures don't necessarily look at polygamy as a
sign of women's degradation. For example, many young African brides
(whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise), would prefer to marry a
married man who has already proved himself to be a responsible husband.
Many African wives urge their husbands to get a second wife so that they
don't feel lonely [17]. The problem of the unbalanced sex ratios becomes
truly problematic at times of war. Native American Indian tribes used to
suffer highly unbalanced sex ratios after wartime losses. Women in these
tribes, who in fact enjoyed a fairly high status, accepted polygamy as the
best protection against indulgence in indecent activities. European settlers,
without offering any other alternative, condemned this Indian polygamy as
'uncivilized' [18].

After the second world war, there were 7,300,000 more women than men
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 [19]. Many of these women needed
a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the household in
a time of unprecedented misery and hardship. The soldiers of the victorious
Allied Armies exploited these women's vulnerability. Many young girls and
widows had liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many American
and British soldiers paid for their pleasures in cigarettes, chocolate,
and bread. Children were overjoyed at the gifts these strangers brought.
A 10 year old boy on hearing of such gifts from other children wished from
all his heart for an 'Englishman' for his mother so that she need not go
hungry any longer [20]. We have to ask our own consciences at this point:
What is more dignifying to a woman? An accepted and respected second wife
as in the native Indians' approach, or a virtual prostitute as in the
'civilised' Allies approach? In other words, what is more dignifying to a
woman, the Quranic prescription or the theology based on the culture of
the Roman Empire?

The world today possesses more weapons of mass destruction than ever
before and the European churches might, sooner or later, be obliged to
accept polygamy as the only way out. Father Hillman has thoughtfully
recognized this fact," It is quite conceivable that these genocidal
techniques (nuclear, biological, chemical..) could produce so drastic an
imbalance among the sexes that plural marriage would become a necessary
means of survival....Then contrary to previous custom and law, an
overriding natural and moral inclination might arise in favour of
polygamy. In such a situation, theologians and church leaders would
quickly produce weighty reasons and biblical texts to justify a new
conception of marriage" [21].

It has to be added also that polygamy in Islam is a matter of mutual
consent. No one can force a woman to marry a married man. The Bible, on
the other hand, sometimes resorts to forcible polygamy. A childless widow
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 practice
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 in the
Muslim world is much less than the rate of extramarital affairs in the
West. In other words, Men in the Muslim world today are far more strictly
monogamous than men in the Western world !

10. The Veil

Finally, let us shed some light on what is considered in the west as
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 in the
Judaeo-Christian tradition? Let's set the record straight. According to
Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva
University) in his book 'The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature', it was
the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which,
sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free [22]. He quotes
some famous ancient Rabbis saying," It is not like the daughters of Israel
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 blessings or
prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering the
woman's hair is considered "nudity" [23]. 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 she
might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offense." Dr. Brayer also
explains that veil of the Jewish woman wasn't always considered a sign of
modesty. Sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction and luxury
rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority of
noble women. It, also, represented a woman's inaccessibility as a
sanctified possession of her husband [24]. It is clear in the Old Testament
that uncovering a woman's head was a great disgrace and that's why the
priest had to uncover the suspected adulteress in her trial by ordeal
(Numbers 5:16-18).

What about the Christian tradition? It is well known that Catholic
Nuns have been covering their heads for hundreds of years, but that's not
all. St. Paul in the New Testament made some very interesting statements
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 is God.
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his
head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered
dishonours her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. If a
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 off, she
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 man didn't
come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman,
but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman
ought to have a sign of authority on her head." (I Corinthians 11:3-10) St
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 the woman
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, you wear
them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..."
Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a law that
require women to cover their heads in church [25]. Some Christian
denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep
their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil, as offered
by their Church leaders, is "The head covering is a symbol of woman's
subjection to the man and to God" : The same logic introduced by St. Paul
in the New Testament [26].

From all the above evidence, it is obvious that Islam didn't invent
the head cover, but Islam endorsed it. The Quran urges the believing men
and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and then urges the
believing women to extend their head covers to cover the neck and the
bosom "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and
guard their modesty......And say to the believing women that they should
lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display
their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that
they should draw their veils over their bosoms...." (24:30,31). The Quran
is quite clear that the veil is an essential part of a recipe designed for
the purposes of modesty, but why modesty? The Quran is still clear "O
prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they
should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that
they should be known and not molested" (33:59). This is the whole point,
modesty is prescribed to protect women from molestation or simply, modesty
is protection.

Thus, the only purpose of the veil in Islam is protection. The
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 to man.
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 veil is
only a sign of modesty with the sole purpose of protecting women, all
women. The Islamic philosophy is that it is always better safe than sorry.
In fact, the Quran is so concerned with protecting women's bodies and
women's reputation that a man who dares to falsely accuse a woman of
unchastity will be severely punished," And those who launch a charge
against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their
allegations)- Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence
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, he
shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the
girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he
lives" (Deut. 22:28-30). One must ask a simple question here,
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, the
Quranic strict attitude or the Biblical lax attitude?

Some people, especially in the West, would tend to ridicule the whole
argument of modesty for protection. Their argument is that the best
protection is the spread of education, civilised behaviour, and self
restraint. We would say: Fine but not enough. If 'civilization' is enough
protection, then why is it that women in North America, dare not walk
alone in a dark street - or even across an empty parking lot ? If
Education is the solution, then why is it that a respected university like
ours has a 'walk home service' for female students on campus? If self
restraint is the answer, then why are cases of sexual harassment in the
workplace on the news media every day? A sample of those accused of sexual
harassment, in the last few years, includes: Navy officers, Managers,
University professors, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, and the President
of the United States! I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the
following statistics, written in a pamphlet issued by the Dean of Women's
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 in their
* 1 in 4 women are at the risk of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime",
* 1 in 8 women will be sexually assaulted while attending college or
university, and
* A study found 60% of Canadian university-aged males said they would
commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn't get

Something is fundamentally wrong in the society we live in. A radical
change in the society's life style and culture is absolutely necessary. A
culture of modesty is badly needed, modesty in dress, in speech, and in
manners of both men and women. Otherwise, the grim statistics will grow
even worse day after day and , unfortunately, women alone will be paying
the price. Therefore, a society like France which expels young women from
schools because of their modest dress is, in the end, simply harming


In the light of the evidence presented above, there is no doubt that
Islam has immensely improved the status of women compared to the
Judaeo-Christian tradition. The Quran has offered women dignity, justice,
and protection which ,for long, have remained out of their reach. That's
why it is no surprise to find that most converts to Islam, today, in a
country like Britain are women. In the U.S. women converts to Islam
outnumber men converts 4 to 1 [27]. The problem is that the majority of the
population in the West do not know these facts. They easily believe the
media's distorted image of Islam. Therefore, it is a must that we change
our defensive attitude towards the whole issue of women in Islam. We must
stop being apologetic. We have nothing to be ashamed of. What the Quran
has given to women is unparalleled in the history of religion. Instead of
always reacting to the consistent barrage of articles defaming Muslim
women, we have to take the initiative. We have to act first and let
others react. We should boldly initiate discussions with our friends and
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, and Invite
the whole world to read the Quran, read other scriptures and compare for
themselves. It goes without saying that the sisters' role is far more
important than the brothers' in this respect.

The Quran is an incredibly powerful book and it is our task to spread
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), pp. 96-97.

3. For all the sayings of the prominent Saints, see Karen Armstrong, The
Gospel According to Woman (London: Elm Tree Books, 1986) pp. 52-62. See
also Nancy van Vuuren, The Subversion of Women as Practiced by Churches,
Witch-Hunters, and Other Sexists (Philadelphia: Westminister Press)

4. Leonard J. Swidler, Women in Judaism: the Status of Women in Formative
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 a Feminist
Perspective (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1990) pp. 170-177.

6. Lesley Hazleton, Israeli Women The Reality Behind the Myths (New York:
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 Marriage and
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: A history
of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988) p. 87.

19. Ute Frevert, Women in German History: from Bourgeois Emancipation to
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: A
Psychosocial Perspective (Hoboken, N.J: Ktav Publishing House, 1986)
p. 239.

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 Jewish and
Christian Traditions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974) p. 272.

26. Donald B. Kraybill, The riddle of the Amish Culture (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1989) p. 56.

27. The Times, Nov. 18, 1993.


by Abdur Rahman I. Doi (1992)

(Presently a Professor at the International Islamic University, Malaysia.)

* 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. The man,
he says, " by nature aggressive. If a thing appeals to him, he is
urged from within to acquire it. On the other hand, the woman's nature is
one of inhibition and escape. Unless her nature is totally corrupted, she
can never become so aggressive, bold and fearless, as to make the first
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 women.
In several traditions it has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon
him) let Aisha see a performance given by negroes on the occassion of the
'Id. This shows that there is no absolute prohibition on women looking at
other men. What is prohibited is for women to sit in the same gathering
together with men and stare at them, or look at them in the same manner
which may lead to evil results.

* Social Behavior

The Shariah has placed restrictions on men meeting strange women
privately. Similarly no other man other than her husband is allowed to
touch any part of a woman's body. The following traditions of the Prophet
(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 is death".

(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 from women
only verbally, without taking their hands into his own hand. He never
touched the hand of a woman who was not married to him.


Umaimah, daughter of Ruqaiqah, said that she went to the Prophet in the
company of some other women to take oath of allegiance. He made them
promise that they would abstain from idolatry, stealing, adultery,
slander, and disobedience to the Prophet. When they had taken the oath,
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 from the
Prophet (peace be upon him) many Muslims have adopted the Western system
of shaking hands with women, using these traditions in respect of old
women as justification. This is clearly an unreasonable extension of the
permission. It is therefore, submitted that the Muslims the world over,
and ulama in particular, must pause to reflect and stop this Un-Islamic
practice which has crept into our society. There cannot be a better form
of greeting than uttering ASsalamualaikum (peace be upon you) and greeting
back with Waalaikumsalam
(peace be upon you too).


* The Mosque - Page 29

There is a clear tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraging
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, they
continued to come to the mosques. But after his death it became
increasingly clear that it was not keeping with the dignity and honour of
Muslim women to come to the mosques for prayers, especially at night,
because men, being what they were, would tease them. Therefore, the Khalif
Umar told women not to come to the mosques, but to offer their prayers
inside their own houses. The women of Madina resented this prohibition and
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 to
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. "
(Abu Dawud)

This shows that the right is to be exercised only when there are
sufficiently compelling reasons to do so. Hasty and wanton use of the
right of divorce is regarded as most condemnable in Islam. The Prophet
said, "Marry and do not divorce, undoubtedly the Throne of the Beneficient
Lord shakes due to divorce".

Thus Islam encourages reconciliation between spouses rather than severance
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 be
received if they bear witness four times with an oath by Allah that they
are solemnly telling the truth. And the fifth (oath) should be that they
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 four
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 education and
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 of the
teachings of Islam because they would, after the marriage, have to play
important roles as housewives and as mothers of children. In case the
parents had failed to impart such knowledge to their daughters, it was
made incumbent upon husbands to teach their wives the basic principles so
that they would lead their lives according to the teachings of Islam.

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 -Bukhari)

"Ignorant and illiterate mothers cannot possibly rear their children and
raise them to be good, effective, capable and intelligent Muslims, in the
world today" (Maryam Jameelah Answers Questions, The Criterion, p.46)

To conclude, the seven brilliant jewels of a mu'mins faith (iman) as
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"


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