Islam in its purest form honors and elevates women, we are often told. But does it?
All too often, textual reality (the Quran) matches up with the historical reality of seventh-century Arabia. Gender inequality and oppression in the Quran reflect the culture of seventh-century desert nomads. If Allah and Muhammad improved on this patriarchy, then they did not
go far enough for a religion with a claim to universality.
Muslim women are not considered equal to men or valued equally with men in Islamic society.
The Holy Qur’an states clearly that women are to be subordinate to men. Qur’an 4.34: “Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that they expend of their wealth; and the virtuous women, devoted, careful (in their husbands’) absence, as God has cared for them. But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bed-chambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them; verily, God is high and great.”
One of the attributes of Allah is that Allah has no body and no gender. Yet Allah is always referred to as “He.” In Arabic, genderless nouns are generally given the male form. This clearly illustrates that in Arabic Islamic society, males are seen as superior to females.
The requirement that women cover their hair and dress modestly is demeaning and discriminatory. The restriction is used to justify mistreatment of women with uncovered hair, exposed arms, etc., by suggesting they “asked for it” by being immodest.
While many specifics of Sharia law (Islamic religious law) are not found in the Qur’an, traditional Muslim texts and practice are used to justify restrictions which limit women’s access to education, transportation, employment, making women reliant on men for these fundamental rights and denying women self-determination. In countries where this is the case, women and girls experience oppression, whatever the Qur’an says.
If lowering the eyes and softening the voice are recognitions of personal power and displays of humility before God, why are men not required to do it as well as women? The fact that this is not required of men demonstrates the expectation of women being submissive.
Following are the ten examples in the Quran that oppress and insult women
- Mature men are allowed to marry prepubescent girls.
The Quran in Sura 65:1, 4 says: 65:1 O Prophet, when you [and the believers] divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed
waiting—period and count the waiting—period accurately . . . 4 And if you are in doubt about those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, (you should know that) their waiting
period is three months, and the same applies to those who have not menstruated as yet. As for pregnant women, their period ends when they have delivered their burden. (Maududi, vol. 5, pp. 599 and 617, emphasis added)
Maududi correctly interprets the plain meaning of verse 4, which appears in the context of divorce: Therefore, making mention of the waiting—period for girls who have not yet menstruated,
clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl at this age but it is permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously, no Muslim has the right
to forbid a thing that the Qur’an has held as permissible. (Maududi, vol. 5, p. 620, note 13, emphasis added) Divorcing prepubescent girls implies marriage to them. So the fathers of prepubescent girls may
give them away, and their new husbands may consummate their marriage with them. If Islam ever spread around the world, no one should be surprised if Quran—believing Muslims lowered
the marriage age of girls to nine years old. This is precisely what happened in Iran after the religious revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. A girl’s marriage age was lowered to nine years. Why should this surprise us? After all, Muhammad was betrothed to Aisha when she was six, and he consummated their union when she was only nine.
The hadith says:
. . . [T]hen he [Muhammad] wrote the marriage (wedding) contract with Aishah when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed [sic, consummated] that marriage when she was nine years old.
This hadith demonstrates that Muhammad pursued Aisha when she was a little girl. The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for ‘Aisha’s hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said ‘But I am your brother.’ The Prophet said, ‘You are my brother in Allah’s religion and His Book, but she (Aisha)
is lawful for me to marry.’ (Bukhari; see this hadith that shows Muhammad’s dream life in regards to his pursuit of little Aisha.
This hadith recounts the fifty-plus—year-old Muhammad’s and the nine—year—old Aisha’s first sexual encounter. She was playing on her swing set with her girlfriends when she got the call.
. . . [M]y mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girlfriends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house, I saw some Ansari women who said, ‘Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and good luck.’ Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me
over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Bukhari; hadith)
This hadith describes Muhammad counseling a Muslim man to marry a young virgin for the extra thrill it gives him to fondle her.
When I got married, Allah’s Apostle said to me, ‘What type of lady have you married?’ I replied, ‘I have married a matron.’ He said, ‘Why, don’t you have a liking for the virgins and for fondling
them?’ Jabir also said: Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Why didn’t you marry a young girl so that you might play with her and she with you?’ (Bukhari).
This hadith describes Muhammad’s and Aisha’s ill-timed sexual encounters: Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet and I used to take a bath from a single pot while we were Junub. During the menses,
he used to order me to put on an Izar (dress worn below the waist) and used to fondle me. While in Itikaf, he used to bring his head near me and I would wash it while I used to be in my periods
There are news reports reveals Pakistan lowering the marriage age to twelve for a girl.
- Husbands may hit their wives even if the husbands merely fear highhandedness in their wives (quite apart from whether they actually are highhanded).
The Quran in Sura 4:34 says 4:34 . . . If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then
ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great. (Haleem, emphasis added) The hadith says that Muslim women in the time of Muhammad were suffering from domestic violence in the context of confusing marriage laws: Rifa’a divorced his wife whereupon ‘AbdurRahman bin Az—Zubair Al—Qurazi married her.
‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s Apostle came, ‘Aisha said, ‘I have not seen any woman
suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!’ (Bukhari, emphasis added)
This hadith shows Muhammad hitting his girl—bride, Aisha (see rule no. 1, below), daughter of Abu Bakr, his right—hand Companion:
‘He [Muhammad] struck me [Aisha] on the chest which caused me pain.’ (Muslim no. 2127) See this article for fuller details on wife-beating. It clarifies many translations of the verse. In the end, it has many links to modern interpretations of Sura 4:34 and to arguments for wife-beating today. This article is a shorter version. This article, though long, offers a clear analysis of wife-beating, examining the hadith and other early source documents, as well as refuting
modern Muslim polemics. This mid-length article answers a Muslim defense. This article is a superb analysis of the subject, giving various translations of Sura 4:34. It cites the hadith and classical commentaries and refutes modern defenses.
- A husband may simply get rid of one of his undesirable wives.
The Quran in Sura 4:129 says: It is not within your power to be perfectly equitable in your treatment with all your wives, even if you wish to be so; therefore, [in order to satisfy the dictates of Divine Law] do not lean towards one wife so as to leave the other in a state of suspense. (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 381) Maududi provides an interpretation of the verse (vol. 1, pp. 383—84, note 161). He writes: Allah made it clear that the husband cannot literally keep equality between two or more wives because they themselves cannot be equal in all respects. It is too much to demand from a husband that he should mete out equal treatment to a beautiful wife and to an ugly wife, to a young wife and to an old wife, to a healthy wife and to an invalid wife, and to a good-natured wife and to an ill-natured wife. These and like things naturally make a husband more inclined
towards one wife than towards the other.
This means that wives are the source of a man’s inability to treat all of them equally. One is beautiful, while another is ugly. How can Allah demand from a husband superhuman strength under changing circumstances in his wives?
Maududi continues: In such cases, the Islamic law does not demand equal treatment between them in affection and love. What it does demand is that a wife should not be neglected as to be practically reduced to the position of the woman who has no husband at all. If the husband does not divorce her for any
reason or at her own request, she should at least be treated as a wife. It is true that under such circumstances the husband is naturally inclined towards a favorite wife, but he should not, so to
say, keep the other in such a state of suspense as if she were not his wife.
Maududi says here that the wife should not be suspended between marriage and divorce. If the husband stays with the no—longer desirable wife, then he should treat her fairly and provide for
- A man may be polygamous with up to four wives.
The Quran in Sura 4:3 says: And if you be apprehensive that you will not be able to do justice to the orphans, you may marry two or three or four women whom you choose. But if you apprehend that you might not be able to do justice to them, then marry only one wife, or marry those who have fallen in your possession. (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 305) The clause ‘marry those who have fallen in your possession’ means slave—girls who were captured after a war. Men may ‘marry’ them because slaves do not incur very much expense, not
as much as free women do. This means that the limit on four wives is artificial. Men could have sex with as many slave—girls as they wanted.
Maududi paraphrases the verse: ‘If you need more than one [wife] but are afraid that you might not be able to do justice to your wives from among the free people, you may turn to slave girls because in that case you will be burdened with less responsibilities’ (note 6) (See Sura 4:24).
However, Muhammad would not allow polygamy for his son—in—law Ali, because an extra wife would hurt Muhammad’s first daughter Fatima, by his first wife Khadija. Fatima was
married to Ali.
I heard Allah’s Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, ‘Banu Hisham bin Al—Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don’t give
permission, and will not give permission unless ‘Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see,
and what hurts her, hurts me.’ (Bukhari)
Muhammad’s special marriage privileges
Moreover, it seems that Allah gave Muhammad special permission to marry as many women as he desired or take them as slaves or concubines, just as in the pre—Islamic days of ignorance.
The Quran in Sura 33:50, a lengthy verse, grants Muhammad wide latitude in his marriages: O Prophet, We have made lawful to you those of your wives, whose dowers you have paid, and
those women who come into your possession out of the slave—girls granted by Allah, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, and of your maternal uncles and aunts, who have
migrated with you, and the believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet may desire her. This privilege is for you only, not for the other believers . . . . (Maududi vol. 4, p. 111,
This verse says that besides those women whose dower Muhammad paid, he may marry slave-girls—that is, he may have sex with them (see this article and this one for more
information on this Quran—inspired immorality). Maududi references three slave-girls taken during raids, and Mary the Copt, a gift from an Egyptian ruler. Muhammad had sex with her, and there does not seem to be a political need for this. Second, Muhammad may marry his first
cousins, and Maududi cites a case in which this happened. Third, if a believing woman offers herself to Muhammad, and he desires her, then he may marry her (Maududi vol. 4, note 88).
This hadith shows that Muhammad was intimate with his slave—girls.
But the capstone of these ‘special’ marriages occurs when Muhammad also marries the ex-wife (Zainab) of his adopted son (Zaid). His son—in—law divorced her with the Prophet standing in
the background. In fact, early Islamic sources say that Muhammad catches a glimpse of his daughter—in—law in a state of undress, so he desired her. Once the divorce is final, Allah
conveniently reveals to him that this marriage between father—in—law and daughter—in—law is legal and moral in Sura 33:36—44.
This hadith says that Muhammad used to visit nine (or eleven) wives in one night.
- Slave—girls are sexual property for their male owners.
The Quran in Sura 4:24 says: And forbidden to you are wedded wives of other people except those who have fallen in your
hands [as prisoners of war] . . . (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 319).
Sayyid Maududi (d. 1979), a highly respected traditional commentator and scholar, says in his comment on the verse that is it lawful for Muslim holy warriors to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry them, but two other schools say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44). But why would a debate over this cruelty emerge in the first place? No marriage should take place between prisoners of war and their captives, married or not. In fact, no sex should take place
between women captives and their Muslim overlords.
Islam allows deep immorality with women who are in their most helpless condition. This crime is reprehensible, but Allah wills it nonetheless—the Quran says so. For more information on this
Quran—inspired immorality, see this short article. See also Suras 4:3; 23:5—6; 33:50; 70:22— 30, all of which permit male slave—owners to have sex with their slave-girls. Suras 23:5—6
and 70:22—230 allow men to have sex with them in the Meccan period, during times of peace before Muhammad initiated his skirmishes and wars in Medina.
The hadith demonstrate that Muslim jihadists actually have sex with the captured women, whether or not they are married. In the following hadith passage, Khumus is one—fifth of the
spoils of war.
Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son—in—law, had just finished a relaxing bath. Why? The Prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus [of the booty] and . . . Ali had taken a bath
[after a sexual act with a slave—girl from the Khumus].
What was Muhammad’s response to the person who hated Ali for this sexual act? Do you hate Ali for this? . . . Don’t hate him, for he deserves more than that from [the] Khumus. (Bukhari)
This hadith shows that Muhammad was intimate with his slave—girls.
Moreover, jihadists may not practice coitus interruptus with the women they capture, but not for the reason that the reader may expect. While on a military campaign and away from their wives,
Muslim jihadists ‘received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus.’ They asked the Prophet about
this, and it is important to note what he did not say. He did not scold them or prohibit any kind of sex whatsoever. Rather, he invoked the murky, quirky doctrine of fate:
It is better for you not to do so [practice coitus interruptus]. There is no person that is destined to exist but will come to existence, till the Day of Resurrection. (Bukhari)
That is, these enquiring Muslims should stop doing coitus interruptus, but instead go all the way with the enslaved sex objects. Fate controls who should be born. It is one thing for some soldiers in any army to strike out on their own and rape women. All armies have criminal soldiers who commit this wrong act. But it is quite another to codify rape in a sacred text.
- A wife may remarry her ex-husband if and only if she marries another man, they have sex, and then this second man divorces her.
The Quran in Sura 2:230 says: And if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain his lawful wife
after this (absolute) divorce unless she marries another husband and the second husband divorces her. [In that case] there is no harm if they [the first couple] remarry . . . . (Maududi, vol.
1, p. 165) The finally and absolutely divorced couple is not permitted to remarry each other unless she marries another man, they have sex, and he divorces her. Sura 2:230 engenders a divorce on the
road to a possible reconciliation. Why have the intervening step of a second marriage and divorce before the first couple can work out their differences and get back together?
To see this tragedy in real life, go to this question and answer feature at a traditional Muslim fatwa website. Apparently, a Muslim husband pronounced divorce three times, the divorce is final, and now he regrets his decision made in haste and anger. The cleric or scholar says that they are allowed to reconcile only if she follows the Quranic steps of her marrying someone else,
consummating that marriage, and then his divorcing her. As for divorce generally, This article analyzes the ethics behind Quranic divorce procedures and contrasts them with the
New Testament. This very short article at a Muslim website shows concern for the divorce rate in Islam. This short page at a Muslim website explains divorce. This short article at a Muslim
website also gives an overview on divorce, under the larger section on women. This news report says that problems emerge in the modern world during the Islamic divorce proceedings. This news report says that Malaysia permits ‘text messaging’ divorce. At this
Muslim website an Islamic scholar answers the question of a Muslim who wrote about divorce. Here is a fatwa (legal decree) on divorce from a Muslim website.
- A woman’s testimony counts half of a man’s testimony.
The Quran in Sura 2:282 says: And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without
interest]. But if two men are not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her. (Maududi, vol.
1, p. 205). The foundational reason for having two women witnesses is that one of the women may ‘forget’ something. This verse goes to the nature of womankind and implies that a woman’s mind is
This hadith removes any ambiguity about women’s abilities in Sura 2:282: The Prophet said, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.’ (Bukhari, emphasis
- A male gets a double share of the inheritance over that of a female.
The Quran in Sura 4:11 says: The share of the male shall be twice that of a female . . . . (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 311)
Malik (d. 795) is a founder of a major school of law. He composed a law book that is also considered a collection of reliable hadith: Al—Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas: The First Formation of Islamic Law (rev. trans. Aisha Bewley, Inverness, Scotland: Madina Press, 1989,
2001). Malik writes The generally agreed-upon way of doing things among us . . . about fixed shares of inheritance
(fara’id) of children from the mother or father when one or the other dies is that if they leave male and female children, the male takes the portion of two females.
This Islamic law is regressive. In the US, for example, inheritance is divided equally among all siblings, regardless of gender. No religious law prohibits this from happening. So American
secular law fits into a modern context better, where women have more economic opportunities and freedom.
- Husbands are a degree above their wives.
The Quran in Sura 2:228 says: . . . Wives have the same rights as the husbands have on them in accordance with the generally
known principles. Of course, men are a degree above them in status . . . (Sayyid Abul A’La
Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, vol. 1, p. 165) Gender inequality shows up in a theological context. This hadith shows that the majority of the inhabitants of hell are women.
The Prophet said, ‘I looked at Paradise and found poor people forming the majority of its inhabitants, and I looked at Hell and saw that the majority of its inhabitants were women.’ (Bukhari)
This parallel hadith explains that the majority of the inhabitants of hell are women because they are ungrateful and harsh towards their husbands. There is no word about the husbands’ ingratitude and harshness.
- A husband has sex with his wife, as a plow goes into a field.
The Quran in Sura (Chapter) 2:223 says: Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like . . . . (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an, Oxford UP, 2004)
We should make no mistake about this verse. It includes sexual positions. In a footnote to this verse, Haleem says that Muslims in Medina heard from the Jews that ‘a child born from a woman
approached from behind would have a squint.’
The hadith are the reports of Muhammad’s words and actions outside of the Quran. Two reliable hadith collectors and editors are Bukhari (d. 870), Muslim (d. 875). The hadith comes only second in importance and sacredness among the vast majority of Muslims around the world. Since the hadith is explicit, the readers are invited to click here and read for themselves, at their own
discretion: Muslim nos. 3363—3365.
We should have no doubt that the husband controlled their sex life. If a woman does not want to have sex, then angels curse her.
. . . ‘If a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning.’ (Bukhari)
The nightmare must end for women in Islamic countries. But the political and legal hierarchies in the Islamic world do not seem ready to reform on women’s rights.
Thank you for reading!