Islam and Women’s Rights

By Azam Kamguian

Religion in general and Islam in particular are women's enemy. Women's inequality is god's commandment, in Islam enshrined in immutable law by Mohammad and eventually recorded in  scripture. In most countries under Islamic states or under the influence of Islam, Koran's directives are incorporated into contemporary law. 

Family law in these countries generally follows the prescriptions of Koran. Veiling (hijab), divorce laws, a very young legal age of marriage, custody of children, polygamy, women's rightlessness in matters of employment, travelling, choosing the place of residence, honour killing are all aspects of Islamic Shari'a based on the Koran and Islam's doctrine. Together with these, in countries under the Islamic states, women are stoned to death for engaging in voluntary sexual relations and are stripped of their basic human rights.

 As many Western and Eastern apologists for Islam repeatedly tell us that what is happening to women in the so -called Islamic  countries is not according to real Islam, and that real Islam is egalitarian, I mainly refer to the Koran. Laws about women are the  most cruel, inhumane and cunning aspects of the Koran and Islamic Shari'a. 

Women are the Inferior Sex 

The rigid laws of Islam have deprived half of the population of their basic human rights. The male is in charge of the female: Koran 4:34, and the subjugated half is led to believe, through Islamic teachings, that the supremacy of the man is the will of Allah, and it has been predestined for women to live as submissive, obedient wives. They are forced to accept that women are inferior to men, that their testimony is equal to only half that of the man, that they should inherit one - half of the male share, that  Allah doesn't want to see any women unveiled, that she may not conserve with men except her father, or her brother. The proper job and position for women is taking care of home, children and to be a housewife. The majority of Muslim women are brought up with theconviction that it is Allah's command for them to be under male dominance and their fates are interwoven with that of men.

 In the Koran there are four so called neutral verses where women are considered equal to men (at least not demeaning towards women); to  which apologists for Islam refer us repeatedly. Here are those: 

3: 195  "Their Lord responded to the: "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one  another¦." 

4: 124 "As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female. While believing, they enter paradise; without the slightest injustice"

 16: 97 "Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world, and we will surely pay them their full recompense for their righteous works." 

40: 40 "Whoever commits a sin is required for just that, and whoever works righteousness - male or female - while believing, these will enter paradise wherein they receive provision without any limits." 

In opposition to above four so-called neutral verses, there are hundreds of versed that deliberately defame and dehumanise women:

An-Nisa 4: 34 "As to those women On whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill -conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share beds, (and Last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For God is Most High, Great (above you all)" 

Al - Baqara 2: 223 "Your women are a tilt for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilt as ye will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and know that ye will (one day) meet Him. Give glad tidings to believers, (o Mohammad)" 

Al - Baqara 2:  222 "They questioned thee (O Mohammad) concerning menstruation, Say it is an illness, so let women alone at such times and go not unto them  till they are cleansed." 

Al - Baqara 2: 228 "Men, your wives are your tillage. Go into your tillage any way you want." 

"Women have such  honourable rights as obligations, but men have a (single) degree above  them." 

"Men are managers of the affairs of women because Allah has preferred men over women and women were expended of their rights." 

4:6 ¦ "And if ye are sick on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have contact with a woman & ye find not water, then go to clean high ground & rub your faces & your hands with some of it¦"

 33: 32-33 "O ye wives of the prophet! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire to you, but utter customary speech And stay in your houses. Bedizen not yourselves with the bedizenment of the time of ignorance. Be regular in prayer, & pay the poor due, 7 obey Allah & His messenger 

Hadith, Mohammad's Tradition 

"If a man and woman are alone in one place, the third person present is the  devil." 

"I was shown the hell- fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful" 

"If it had been given me to order someone to prostrate themselves in front of someone other than God, I would surely have ordered women to prostrate themselves in front of their husbands¦" 

"A woman cannot fulfil her duties towards god without first having accomplished those that she owes her husband." 

"The woman who dies & with whom the husband is satisfied will go to paradise." 

"A wife should never refuse herself to her husband even if it is on the saddle of a camel." 

"Hellfire appeared to me in a dream & I noticed that it was above all people with women who had been ungrateful. "Was it towards god that they were ungrateful?" They had not shown any gratitude towards their husbands for all they had received from them ¦ Even when all your life you have showered a woman with your largesse she will still find something petty to reproach you with one day, saying, "You have never done anything for me." 

"If anything presages a bad omen it is a house, a woman, and a horse." 

"Never will a people know success if they confide their affairs to a woman." 

Veiling (hijab) 

One of the most misogynist Islamic laws with respect to women is the requirement for complete veiling (hijab) in accordance with koranic tenets. The wearing of the veil was instituted by Mohammad in the early days of Islam. Within about one hundred years of his death, the institution of veiling and seclusion had been spread all over the Middle East. One and a half centuries after his death, the system was fully established. 

The effect of all kinds of veils is the same, the woman is rendered anonymous, a non -person, unapproachable, just a silent being skulking along. She is taboo. The Islamic head- cover mentioned in Koran 33: 59, and the curtain referred to in Koran 33: 53, which was meant to separate the man from the woman. Why is Islam so obsessed with keeping men and women part? Why have Islam gone to such great lengths to maintain control over women? 

The main reason for hijab is the need for controlling women's sexuality. Veiling internalises the Islamic notion in women that they belong to an inferior sex, and that they are sex objects. It teaches them to limit their physical movements and their free behaviour. Veiling is a powerful tool to institutionalise women's segregation and to implement a system of sexual apartheid. It signifies the subjugation and servitude of women based on Islamic doctrine and Koranic teachings. Much more than a way of clothing, hijab is the manifestation of an outright Islamic misogynism and an antiquated view on women's status. It is designed to control women's sexuality much more effectively than any other religion or ideological system. 

The following quote is attributed to Mohammad by a number of Hadith collectors: "A woman is a pudendum (awrat) which is proper to hide and cover; therefor when a woman goes out Satan looks at her and desire to carry her from the road." In the eyes of Mohammad, according to this quote, all male believers are potential "Satans" who might try to take unconcealed women for themselves. 

Mohammad himself was one of the men who were unable to control their lust upon looking at women. Once he visited the home of Zayd, his adopted son, and there saw Zaynab, Zayd's wife, half-naked. Mohammad's obvious desire for the woman eventually led to the divorce of Zayd from his wife and shortly thereafter Mohammad married her himself. 

The law of veiling is not only humiliating to women, but it is an insult to men. It is a clear indication that, in the eyes of Mohammad; all Muslim males were sex-crazed. The obvious Implication is that seeing a woman without a veil would cause the typical Muslim male to lose control and that unveiled women would constantly be subjected to unwanted sexual advances. 

Veil (hijab) is imposed on women in many countries under the influence of Islam, either legally or under cultural and social pressure. During the last thirty years, hijab has been and continues to be the political and ideological symbol of political Islam, Islamic states and the Islamic movement in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Women have been the first - hand victims of this reactionary movement, and imposing the veil on women by Islamic movement and Islamic governments has been their fist bloody action to suppress the whole society. In other countries, Saudi women typically don a billowy black cloak called an Abaya, along with a black scarf and veil over the face. Morality police enforce the dress code by striking errant women with sticks. The women of Iran and the Sudan can expose the face, but should cover the hair and the neck. Otherwise they face arrest, imprisonment, flagging, cash fines; and if they refuse it, they face knife and acid attack. Under Taliban, women of Afghanistan had to wear burqa. Political Islamic groups vigorously campaign to block reforms in women's civil rights in the Middle East and North Africa. As long as Islam secludes women from the public life, no real socio-economic progress is possible. 

 The Wild and Naked Misogyny in the Koran

The most despicable expression one can ever come across is that according to Hadith, women of heaven will be created in such a way that after each sexual intercourse, they will become virgin again. What a wild and naked misogyny! What an insult to women and to humans! Here, I quote Koranic verses about Huris, virgins and the sexist nature of Islam. These are few among many in the Koran: 

52: 17-20 "They will recline (with ease) on thrones arranged in ranks. And We shall marry them to Huris with wide lovely eye. There they shall pass from hand to hand a cup of wine." 

37:40-48 "They will sit with bashful, dark - eyed virgins, as chaste as the sheltered eggs of ostriches." 44:52-55 "Yes and we shall wed them to dark- eyed beautiful virgins." 

55:56-57 "In them will be bashful virgins neither man nor Jinn will have touched before. Then which of favourites of your Lord will you deny?" 

78: 31 "As for the righteous, they surely triumph. Their gardens and vineyards and high - breast virgins for
 companions, truly overflowing cup of wine." 

78: 33-34 "And young full - breasted (mature) maidens of equal age, and a full cup of wine." "Then which of the blessings of your Lord will you both (Jinn and men) deny? (In beauty) they are like rubies and corals." 

56: 7-40 "Owe created the Huris and made them virgins, loving companions for those on the right hands." 

55: 70-77 "In each there shall be virgins chaste and fair, dark eyed virgins sheltered in their tents whom neither man
 nor Jinn have touched before." 

56: 22 "And there will be Huris with wide, lovely eyes as wives for the pious." 56: 35-36 "Verily, We have created them (maidens) of special creation. And made them virgins."

 40: 45 "Surely for the God - fearing awaits a place of security gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts." The tidings: 30 

"The Huris are ever - young women who have wide eyes, flexing glances and swelling breasts." 

Divorce 

According to the Koran and Islamic law, a man has the right to terminate his marriage whenever and wherever he pleases. It is the absolute power of a Muslim male to repudiate his wife unilaterally at his discretion. He needs no reason for a divorce; a family quarrel or bad temper is sufficient. Divorce does not require any court, judge, lawyer, or counsellor. One phrase from a husband is enough to break the marriage bond: "you are divorced." 

The Koran states: "If ye wish to exchange one wife for another¦." (4:20), giving the absolute power to the man to repudiate his wife and marry another without any formalities. In fact more than two dozens verses in Allah's scripture explain the modes of divorce (Koran 2: 226, 227, 228, 230 -37, 241, 242; 4: 19-21, 130; 33: 49; 58: 3, 4; 63: 1-7; 4: 35). According to Islamic law, when a man wishes to divorce his wife, all he has to do is to say: "you are divorced," or "you are dismissed." In the second half of the 20th century, based on some legal changes in some of the Middle Eastern countries, men are required to be present in family courts and repudiated their wives before a judge. A man may divorce a wife and call her back up to three times. After the third repudiation, he cannot take her back again unless she marries and is separated from someone else first. 

Fear of poverty keeps many women locked in bad marriages, as does the prospect of losing their children. Typically, fathers win custody of boys over the age of six and girls after the onset of puberty. 

A woman can sue for divorce in the Islamic court on the specific grounds, such as the impotency of her husband, non-payment of maintenance, or his insanity. Cruelty is not sufficient grounds for divorce because wife beating is enjoined in the Koran. When a woman applies to the court for an injunction of divorce, and the husband is not willing to repudiate her, the procedure can be very lengthy and in most cases is futile.

The offering of financial consideration of some sort is commonly the repayment of the bride- price. When the marriage is contracted, a sum of money is stipulated to be paid by the husband to the wife or her male kinsmen before or after the wedding. This is called mahr (bride- price), which means marriage settlement or dowry. A man who divorces his wife must pay the full amount of the bride- price. When the wife agrees to buy her freedom, it is called khula in Arabic, which means something belonging to the wife is taken away from her. "There is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself." (Koran 2:229) The text of the scripture makes clear that the wife is actually paying money to her husband to get her freedom. This is ransom money, reminiscent of the ancient Arabian nomad's rite, which allowed the release of the booty or captive of the raids after receiving a ransom or head - price. Thus, in Islam a man actually buys his wife when he bargains over the bride - price (mahr) and sells his wife's freedom back to her when a financial settlement is paid for by her for a divorce. 

The legal Age of Marriage 

At the age of 9, based on lunar year (when a girl is actually 8 years and 8 months) she is considered an adult and has to pray, fast and cover herself by hijab and eligible to be married. Mohammad's favourite wife, Aisha; according to evidence, was 6 when Mohammad met her, and nine when the marriage consummated. 

Custody of Children 

According to Islamic law, woman cannot get custody of her children, even if their father dies. In the case of divorce or death, she surrenders her children to their father
 and /or his family. 

Women's other Civil Rights 

Women living under Islamic Law cannot travel, work, study, and leave their houses without their fathers or husbands' permission. They do not have the right to choose the place of their residence. Under the terms of Koranic law, any judge fulfilling the seven requirements (that he have reached puberty, be a believer, know the Koranic laws perfectly, be just, and not be affected by amnesia, or not born illegitimate, or be of the female sex), is qualified to dispense justice in any type of cases. According to Islamic Law, woman cannot choose her mate and is not permitted to divorce him. Her husband can divorce without her knowledge, and according to Shari'a, he is required to support her for only 100 days. 

Polygamy 

According to the Koran a man can have four permanent wives and as many temporary wives as he wants: 

2: 3 And of ye are apprehensive that ye shall not deal fairly with orphans, then, of other women who seem good in your eyes marry but two, or three or four, and if ye still fear that ye shall not act equitably, then one only; or the slaves whom ye have acquired. 

Al -Nisa 4: 24 "And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hand possess. ¦" 

"Also (prohibited are) women already married except those whom your right hands possess: 

¦" 33: 52 "It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens): and Allah doth watch over all things." 

Al - Nisa 4: 34 "Marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own; so it is likelier you will not be partial." 

23: 1,5,6 "Happy now the believers, humble is their prayers, shunning vain conversation, paying the poor -due, and who restrain their appetites except with their wives or the slaves whom their right hands possess: for in that case they shall be free from blame." 

33: 49-51 "O prophet! We allow thee they wives whom thou hast dowered, and the slaves whom thy right hand possesseth out of the booty which God hath granted thee, and the daughters of thy uncles, thy paternal and maternal aunts who fled with thee to Medina, and any believing woman who hath given herself up to the Prophet, if the prophet desired to wed her - a privilege for thee above the rest of the Faithful. We well know what we have settled for them, in regard to their wives and to the slaves¦; that there may be no fault on thy part ¦ Thou mayest decline for the present whom thou wilt of them, and thou mayest take to thy bed her whom thou wilt, and whomsoever thou shalt long for those thou shalt have before neglected, and this shall not be a crime in thee." 

Honour Killing 

Honour killings are an example of a practice that is commonly associated with Islam. It has broader root and has been incorporated into Islamic rules and Islamic law; Shari'a. It is based in medireview tribal culture, in which a family's authority and ultimately its survival is tightly linked to its honour. Muslim perpetrators repeatedly justify their crime by referring to the Koran that states harsh punishments for adultery.

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Civilised humanity has slowly moved towards the equal treatment of women and the recognition of women's equal rights. Religions are one of the oldest and the most persistent obstacles on the way of women's equality and freedom. Indeed, religion is women's enemy and it is the nature of all religions particularly Islam to look backwards to past ancient times and antiquated values. Women will be universally equal someday, when that day comes, it will arrive in spite of all religions and as a result of a just and powerful fight against Islam.