Women in Islam - From Islam's Sources

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To hear groups like the Council of American-Islamic Relations or the Islamic Society of North America, one might be given the impression that Islam holds women in high regard. Indeed, Souad Saleh, a female professor at Al-Ahzar University in Cairo and a vocal proponent of women's rights in Egypt, recently stated, "Islam is pure and simple, and it holds women in high esteem."[1] For example, she says, "Muslim women were the first to be granted the right to inherit property and conduct their own private business affairs. This was so at an age when the women of Europe and Asia were not allowed to own property, inherit wealth and in some instances were treated as chattel."[1] When addressing the issue of women being mistreated by their husbands, she states, "guardianship over women … does not give male members of the family license to oppress their female counterparts. Islam enjoins men to protect, love and care for their women folk."[1]

Another scholar has noted that Islam abolished the horrible practice of female infanticide prevalent among the pagan Arabs. Muhammad gave clear directions leading to the restriction of polygamy, restrained the unlimited rights by men over their wives, and gave woman both spiritual and material equality with man.[2]

A recent Gallup survey polled a significant percentage of Muslims worldwide. The findings are highlighted in the book Who Speaks for Islam, edited by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The findings of the poll paint a picture of women in Islam that is in stark contrast to the oppression many in the West believe exists. For example, the authors note, "Majorities of women in virtually every country we surveyed say that women deserve the same legal rights as men, to vote without influence from family members, to work at any job they are qualified for, and even to serve in the highest levels of government."[3] Concerning the ability of Muslim women to obtain an education, the poll demonstrated that Muslim women were often able to pursue post-secondary educations, particularly in Iran (52%), Egypt (34%), Saudi Arabia (32%), and Lebanon (37%).

Pro-Islamic websites love to proclaim how Islam elevates the status of women. For example, at the website of the Muslim Student Association at the University of Southern California, one can find the following regarding Women in Islam:

  • Islam declared women and men equal.
  • Islam condemned pre-Islamic practices degrading and oppressing women.
  • The same injunctions and prohibitions of Islam equally apply to both sexes.
  • Islam gave woman the right of inheritance and the right of individual independent ownership unhampered by father, husband, brother, son or anyone else.
  • Islam gave women the right to accept or 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 misses that option she has the right to seek court divorce if she deems the marriage to have failed beyond repair).
  • Islam does not require woman to change her name at marriage.
  • Islam protects the family and condemns the betrayal of marital fidelity. It recognizes only one type of family: husband and wife united by authentic marriage contract.
  • "Heaven is at the feet of mothers", is a basic Islamic teaching.
  • "The best of you are the kindest to their wives and I am your best to mine", is a teaching by prophet Mohammad.
  • Islam enjoins sounds morality in thinking, behavior and appearance. Dress fashions and social patterns that reduce woman to a sex object and exploit her as such are not acceptable to Islam.
  • The observance of chastity and moral standards is equally demanded by Islam from both men and women. "Women are the siblings of men", is a saying of prophet Mohammad.

However, as with any area of study within Islam, one must separate out the current reality from the ideological underpinnings. If women are treated equally in Islam, is there justification for it in the sacred writings of Islam, or is this 'equal treatment' in conflict with sacred directives? What does the Qur'an say about women? What does Muhammad say about women as recorded in the hadith, and what kind of example did he set in the way he treated the women in his life? Do the reports we hear of women being oppressed accord with sacred scripture, or are they rather anomalies having no foundation in Islam? What have women from an Islamic background actually experienced – what are their stories? These are some of the issues we will be addressing.

Does Islam protect women?

A couple of verses of the Qur'an would seem to suggest that Islam holds a high view of women.

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness…except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.
Lodge them where you lodge according to your means, and do not injure them in order that you may straiten them…

So at least on the surface, Islam suggests women are to be treated as equals with men and be provided for economically by their husbands. But what does the rest of the Qur'an say, and what can we learn about women from the traditions?

Husband can beat a wife he suspects of disobedience

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).

Muslim apologists will assert that the term "and beat them" speaks only metaphorically. Others insist it means only a simple strike, as with hitting them with a feather or toothpick. Yusuf Ali adds the word 'lightly,' which never appears in the Arabic. Yet, a simple observation of the text shows any of the above to be erroneous.

The text presents a series of progressive disciplinary measures if a man suspects disobedience from his wife:

  1. Admonish her. Give her a verbal warning regarding her behavior.
  2. sleep in separate beds from her. This humiliates the woman, for in Islam a woman's worth is measured, in part, by her ability to reproduce offspring, particularly male offspring. Sleeping in a separate bed from the wife dishonors her by limiting her ability to reproduce a male child.
  3. Beat them. This is the third, most significant step of the progressive discipline process and is expected to be the one that produces the desired result if the first two failed.

So the idea of hitting the woman "lightly" with a toothpick as the most severe disciplinary measure loses the argument based simply on the text alone.

In the most authoritative biography of Muhammad, written by ibn Ishaq, we find the following words of the prophet of Islam:

You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness.[4]

Ibn Kathir records a hadith that states:

"The best woman is she who when you look at her she obeys you, and when you are absent, she protects her honor and your property."[5]

Ibn Kathir further elaborates what constitutes ill conduct:

[It is] the woman from whom you see ill conduct with her husband, such as when she acts as if she is above her husband, disobeys him, ignores him, dislikes him, and so forth. When these signs appear in a woman, her husband should advise her and remind her of Allah's torment if she disobeys him. Indeed, Allah ordered the wife to obey her husband and prohibited her from disobeying him, because of the enormity of his rights and all that he does for her.[6]

Scholar Abdul-latif Mushtahiri:

If admonishing and sexual desertion fail to bring forth results and the woman is of a cold and stubborn type, the Qur'an bestows on man the right to straighten her out by way of punishment and beating provided he does not break her bones nor shed blood. Many a wife belongs to this querulous type and requires this sort of punishment to bring her to her senses!"[7]

Muhammad himself struck Aisha, condones flogging wives

...He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. ... he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Zam'a: The Prophet said, "None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day."

The reality: According to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, over 90% of married women report being kicked, slapped, beaten or sexually abused when husbands were dissatisfied by their cooking or cleaning, or when the women had 'failed' to bear a child or had given birth to a girl instead of a boy. Another organization stated that one woman is murdered and one woman is kidnapped in Pakistan every day.[8]

Women – social status

Women are mere possessions

In the following hadith, note that Sad bin Ar-Rabi used his wives as a mere possession to be traded in a purely commercial transaction:

Narrated Ibrahim bin Sad from his father from his grand-father: Abdur Rahman bin Auf said, "When we came to Medina as emigrants, Allah's Apostle established a bond of brotherhood between me and Sad bin Ar-Rabi'. Sad bin Ar-Rabi' said (to me), 'I am the richest among the Ansar, so I will give you half of my wealth and you may look at my two wives and whichever of the two you may choose I will divorce her, and when she has completed the prescribed period (before marriage) you may marry her.'

The prophet of Islam stated the following, recorded in the earliest biography:

"Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons. You have taken them only as a trust from God, and you have the enjoyment of their persons by the words of God, so understand (T. and listen to) my words, O men, for I have told you.[9]

Also note the high status given women in the following two quotes:

When one is given a woman, servant, or cattle, one should seize its forehead and pray to Allah.
Ibn-i-Majah vol.3 no.1918 p.157
Treat women well, for they are like domestic animals (awan) with you and do not possess anything for themselves.
al-Tabari vol.9 p.113

Women are controlled by their husbands

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded…

Saudi feminist Wajeha Al-Huwaider describes the lives of many Arab women as similar to a prisoner. However, the Arab woman is a prisoner in her own home, has committed no crime, was not captured in battle, does not belong to any terrorist group.

In the book The Ideal Muslimah, Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi notes:

The true Muslim woman devotes herself to taking care of her house and husband. She knows her husband's rights over her, and how great they are, as was confirmed by the Prophet's words:

"No human being is permitted to prostrate to another, but if this were permitted I would have ordered wives to prostrate to their husbands, because of the greatness of the rights they have over them."

A woman came to ask the Prophet (PBUH) about some matter, and when he had dealt with it, he asked her, "Do you have a husband?" She said, "Yes." He asked her, "How are you with him?" She said, "I never fall short in my duties, except for that which is beyond me." He said, "Pay attention to how you treat him, for he is your Paradise and your Hell."

How can the Muslim woman complain about taking care of her house and husband when she hears these words of Prophetic guidance? She should fulfil her household duties and take care of her husband in a spirit of joy, because she is not carrying a tiresome burden, she is doing work in her home that she knows will bring reward from Allah.

One of the most important ways in which the Muslim woman obeys her husband is by respecting his wishes with regard to the permissible pleasures of daily life, such as social visits, food, dress, speech, etc. The more she responds to his wishes in such matters, the happier and more enjoyable the couple's life becomes, and the closer it is to the spirit and teachings of Islam.

"It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allah (SWT) to allow anyone into her husband's house whom he dislikes; or to go out when he does not want her to; or to obey anyone else against him; or to forsake his bed; or to hit him. If he is wrong, then let her come to him until he is pleased with her, and if he accepts her then all is well, Allah (SWT) will accept her deeds and make her position stronger, and there will be no sin on her."

It is a great honour for a woman to take care of her husband every morning and evening, and wherever he goes, treating him with gentleness and good manners which will fill his life with joy, tranquility and stability.

`Aisha urged women to take good care of their husbands and to recognize the rights that their husbands had over them. She saw these rights as being so great and so important that a woman was barely qualified to wipe the dust from her husband's feet with her face, as she stated: "O womenfolk, if you knew the rights that your husbands have over you, every one of you would wipe the dust from her husband's feet with her face."[10]
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "It is not lawful for a lady to fast (Nawafil) without the permission of her husband when he is at home; and she should not allow anyone to enter his house except with his permission; and if she spends of his wealth (on charitable purposes) without being ordered by him, he will get half of the reward."

Women must never be alone in the presence of another man not a relative

According to Amnesty International, women who walk unaccompanied or in the company of a man who is neither their husband nor a close relative are at the risk of arrest on suspicion of prostitution or other "moral offences."

In February 2008, an American businesswoman of Jordanian descent was arrested in Saudi Arabia after being found by the religious police sitting in the family area of a Starbucks with a male business associate. They had been working together at their nearby office when power was lost, and they decided to go to Starbucks to use the wireless internet. She was released from jail a day later, bruised and crying after being detained and beaten for being in the presence of another man not a relative.[11]

Women are deficient in intellect

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: On 'Id ul Fitr or 'Id ul Adha Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) went out to the Musalla. After finishing the prayer, he delivered the sermon and ordered the people to give alms. He said, "O people! Give alms." Then he went towards the women and said. "O women! Give alms, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were you (women)." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for it?" He replied, "O women! You curse frequently, and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. O women, some of you can lead a cautious wise man astray." Then he left.

Women's testimony equal to half of man's

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of 'Id-al- Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms... I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence.

Women are the inhabitants of hell

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet said: "I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful." It was asked, "Do they disbelieve in Allah?" (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, "They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them.
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al- Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hellfire were you (women)..."
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Abbas: The people say, "O Allah's Apostle! We saw you taking something from your place and then we saw you retreating." The Prophet replied, "I saw Paradise and stretched my hands towards a bunch (of its fruits) and had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains. I also saw the Hell-fire and I had never seen such a horrible sight. I saw that most of the inhabitants were women." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! Why is it so?" The Prophet replied, "Because of their ungratefulness."
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: On 'Id ul Fitr or 'Id ul Adha Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) went out to the Musalla. After finishing the prayer, he delivered the sermon and ordered the people to give alms. He said, "O people! Give alms." Then he went towards the women and said. "O women! Give alms, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were you (women)."
Narrated Usama: The Prophet said, "I stood at the gate of Paradise and saw that the majority of the people who entered it were the poor, while the wealthy were stopped at the gate (for the accounts). But the companions of the Fire were ordered to be taken to the Fire. Then I stood at the gate of the Fire and saw that the majority of those who entered it were women."
Narrated Imran: The Prophet said, "I looked at Paradise and saw that the majority of its residents were the poor; and I looked at the (Hell) Fire and saw that the majority of its residents were women."

Women compared to dogs

Islam considers dogs to be haram - forbidden and najis - unclean. What then are we to think of the following Sahih (authentic) ahadith:

Narrated 'Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, "Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)." I said, "You have made us (i.e. women) dogs."
Narrated 'Aisha: It is not good that you people have made us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys.
Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of 'Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When any one of you stands for prayer … his prayer would be cut off by (passing of an) ass, woman, and black Dog.
...Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: A woman, an ass and a dog disrupt the prayer.
...Masruq reported: It was mentioned before 'A'isha that prayer is invalidated (in case of passing) of a dog, an ass and a woman (before the worshipper, when he is not screened). Upon this 'A'isha said: You likened us to the asses and the dogs.

Women compared to devil

Jabir reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) saw a woman, and so he came to his wife, zainab, as she was tanning a leather and had sexual intercourse with her. He then went to his Companions and told them: The woman advances and retires in the shape of a devil, so when one of you sees a woman, he should come to his wife, for that will repel what he feels in his heart.

Women, marriage and divorce

Men can marry up to four wives

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four;


Muslims believe Muhammad was given permission to marry as many wives as he desired

O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess, in order that there should be no difficulty for thee.

But Muhammad permitted only one wife for his son-in-law Ali

Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama: 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."

Men can divorce wife for any reason

Narrated Aisha: The following Verse: If a woman fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part (i.e. the husband notices something unpleasant about his wife, such as old age or the like, and wants to divorce her, but she asks him to keep her and provide for her as he wishes). Quran 4:128 "There is no blame on them if they reconcile on such basis."
The divorce is twice, after that either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness..

Ibn Kathir, the most respected of Qur'an commentators:

Divorce is thrice. This honorable ayah abrogated the previous practice in the beginning of Islam, when the man had the right to take back his divorced wife even if he had divorced her a hundred times. This situation was harmful for the wife, and this is why Allah made the divorce thrice, where the husband is allowed to take back his wife after the first and the second divorce… The divorce becomes irrevocable after the third divorce.[12]

Woman cannot divorce man

Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs…. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.

Ibn Kathir quotes Sahih Muslim:

Fear Allah regarding your women, for you have taken them by Allah's covenant and were allowed to enjoy them sexually by Allah's words. You have the right on them that they do not allow anyone you dislike to sit on your mat. If they do that, then discipline them leniently. They have the right to be spent on and to be bought clothes in what is reasonable.[13]
If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed.
The apparent wording of the Ayah [Quran 4:128] refers to the settlement where the wife forfeits some of the rights she has over her husband, with the husband agreeing to this concession, and that this settlement is better than divorce. For instance, the Prophet kept Sawdah bint Zam'ah as his wife after she offered to forfeit her day for A'isha. By keeping her among his wives, his Ummah may follow this kind of settlement."[14]
Narrated Aisha: Regarding the explanation of the following verse:-- "If a wife fears Cruelty or desertion On her husband's part." (4.128) A man may dislike his wife and intend to divorce her, so she says to him, "I give up my rights, so do not divorce me." The above verse was revealed concerning such a case.

Muhallil marriage: Woman can remarry ex-husband only if she marries another man first and has sex with him

So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably), He cannot, after that, re-marry her until after she has married another husband and He has divorced her.
Narrated Aisha: The wife of Rifa'a Al-Qurazi came to the Prophet and said, "I was Rifa'a's wife, but he divorced me and it was a final irrevocable divorce. Then I married AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair but he is impotent." The Prophet asked her 'Do you want to remarry Rifa'a? You cannot unless you had a complete sexual relation with your present husband."
Yahya related to me from Malik … that Rifa'a ibn Simwal divorced his wife, Tamima bint Wahb, in the time of the messenger of Allah three times. She then married 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr and he turned from her and could not consummate the marriage and so he parted from her. Rifa'a wanted to marry her again and it was mentioned to the Messenger of Allah, and he forbade him to marry her. He said, 'She is not halal for you until she has tasted the sweetness of intercourse.'

Marriage to pre-pubescent girls

[speaking of the prescribed waiting period for a divorce] And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise.

Marriage to virgins

Virgins must give consent for marriage, but… "Malik related to me from Abdullah ibn al-Fadl … 'A woman who has been previously married is more entitled to her person than her guardian and a virgin must be asked for her consent and her silence is her consent.'"

Mut'ah marriages

Mut'ah is a temporary arrangement whereby a man and a woman enter into a contractual arrangement to marry each other for a specified period of time. The time can be as little as one hour or as long as several years, though most Mutah contracts are for hours or a few days. The man gives the woman something of value, and in exchange he is allowed to enter into sexual relations with her, legally, without committing fornication, since they are "married." At the end of the period specified in the contract, each party walks separate ways and neither is indebted to the other. For all intents and purposes, Mutah is nothing more than religiously endorsed prostitution.

Mutah is practiced mainly by Shi'ites today, although at one time Muhammad permitted it for all Muslims. This is one of many areas of disagreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites: Sunnis believe Muhammad abrogated Mutah, while Shi'ites disagree and still practice Mutah as allowed by Muhammad.

The following quotations regarding Mut'ah marriages are from a Shi'ite Muslim website.[15]

Whenever man sets foot on the earth the need to travel always emerges. Sometimes traveling can involve man going thousands of miles away from home, sometimes for moths, even years. Do one's sexual desires just evaporate when an individual is traveling? Sexual desire isn't like some light switch that turns off when a man leaves his wife to set off on his travels, and turns back home when he gets back! Sexual desire is something that remains permanently with a human, when it accompanies him at all times then how can he curtail such sexual feelings? When someone is traveling and accessing his wife is impossible, and he is incapable of summing her to join him, then what will a young red-blooded male do? Miles away from home, feeling sexually aroused his situation is not one wherein he can get permanently married, so what is he to do? He will feel the only way that he can relieve himself is by amalgamating himself into the society around him. Islam does not permit a person to sexually relieve himself through masturbation nor is he permitted to adopt the ways of the kufr and indulge himself in fornication, it offers him a legitimate mechanism with which to relieve himself and that is temporary marriage.
It is not just traveling, that might necessitate Mutah, there are many in society who just does not have the financial ability / standing to get permanent married, yet they still have sexual desires, again Mutah is there to ensure that they practice sex within the boundaries set by Allah (swt).
Islam is a religion that is suited for all nations and ages. Mut'ah is a good example of that. It is only the Deen of Islam that caters for sexual desire by permitting a legitimate method of control. For others societies the only mechanism that they see as the solution to relieving sexual feelings is through the practice of fornication. In the western world adultery and fornication are common and openly performed. Mut'ah is a way of protecting a person from committing these serious sins and vices.
Narrated Abdullah: We used to participate in the holy wars carried on by the Prophet and we had no women (wives) with us. So we said (to the Prophet ). "Shall we castrate ourselves?" But the Prophet forbade us to do that and thenceforth he allowed us to marry a woman (temporarily) by giving her even a garment, and then he recited: "O you who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you." Qur'an 5:87
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah and Salama bin Al-Akwa': While we were in an army, Allah's Apostle came to us and said, "You have been allowed to do the Mut'a (marriage), so do it." Salama bin Al-Akwa' said: Allah's Apostle's said, "If a man and a woman agree (to marry temporarily), their marriage should last for three nights, and if they like to continue, they can do so; and if they want to separate, they can do so." I do not know whether that was only for us or for all the people in general. Abu Abdullah (Al-Bukhari) said: 'Ali made it clear that the Prophet said, "The Mut'a marriage has been cancelled (made unlawful)."
Sabra Juhanni reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) permitted temporary marriage for us. So I and another person went out and saw a woman of Bana 'Amir, who was like a young long-necked she-camel. We presented ourselves to her (for contracting temporary marriage), whereupon she said: What dower would you give me? I said: My cloak. And my companion also said: My cloak. And the cloak of-my companion was superior to my cloak, but I was younger than he. So when she looked at the cloak of my companion she liked it, and when she cast a glance at me I looked more attractive to her. She then said: Well, you and your cloak are sufficient for me. I remained with her for three nights, and then Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He who has any such woman with whom he had contracted temporary marriage, he should let her off.

Imam al-Baydawi, in his famous book, The Interpretation of the Baydawi, says, "The purpose of the contractual marriage is the mere pleasure of intercourse with a woman, and her own enjoyment in what she has given" (p. 108).

Sexual relations with women in Islam; rape

Men can have sex with wife as he desires

They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah.
Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will

Wife must not withhold from her husband

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "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."
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: When a woman spends the night away from the bed of her husband, the angels curse her until morning.
alq b. `Ali reported God's messenger as saying, "When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven." Tirmidhi transmitted it.
Mishkat Al-Masabih: volume 2, p. 691
Marriage in Islam is intended to protect the chastity of men and women alike, therefore it is the woman's duty to respond to her husband's requests for conjugal relations. She should not give silly excuses and try to avoid it. For this reason, several hadith urge a wife to respond to her husband's needs as much as she is able, no matter how busy she may be or whatever obstacles there may be, so long as there is no urgent or unavoidable reason not to do so. The issue of protecting a man's chastity and keeping him away from temptation is more important than anything else that a woman can do, because Islam wants men and women alike to live in an environment which is entirely pure and free from any motive of fitnah or haram pleasures. The flames of sexual desire and thoughts of pursuing them through haram means can only be extinguished by means of discharging that natural energy in natural and lawful ways.

Women are treated as sexual objects

Narrated Abdullah bin Qais: Allah's Apostle said, "In Paradise there is a pavilion made of a single hollow pearl sixty miles wide, in each corner of which there are wives who will not see those in the other corners; and the believers will visit and enjoy them.

Men can have unlimited sex with female slaves

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess.
Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you.
Those who humble themselves in their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds of charity; Who abstain from sex, Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame.
O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee;


...Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hanain Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that:" And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (iv. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end).
...Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): 0 Abu Sa'id, did you hear Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-'azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi'l- Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

In case of doubt concerning the meaning of the phrase what the right hand possesses, in Ibn Timiyya, we read in volume 32, p.7 the following:

"It is lawful for a Muslim to (have sex) with as many as he wishes of those whom his right hand possesses, … Muslims are not prohibited from having more than four concubines provided that no two sisters are among them."

In the same volume (page 89), Ibn Timiyya says boastfully:

"Islam has made it lawful to its followers to have sex through marriage as well as with what the right hand possesses, while (for Jews and Christians) they may have sex through marriage only. They are not (allowed to have sex with) what their hand possesses.

Hadith suggests marrying young women so they can be fondled

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: I was accompanying the Prophet on a journey and was riding a slow camel that was lagging behind the others. ... When we approached Medina, I started going (towards my house). The Prophet said, "Where are you going?" I said, "I have married a widow." He said, "Why have you not married a virgin to fondle with each other?"
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.

Girls should have their first sex before their first period

The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl "a divine blessing," and advised the faithful: "Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house."

Allowed by the Qur'an: Qur'an 65:4: speaking about the waiting period for divorce, states, "And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise,

Female responsible and punished for rape

In March 2007, a 19-year-old Saudi woman received a sentence of 90 lashes. Her crime? A man threatened to tell her father that they were having an affair unless she met him alone. When she did, she was kidnapped and repeatedly raped, after which her brother beat her because the rapes brought shame to the family. Rather than giving her justice, a Saudi court sentenced her to be lashed ninety times because she had met a man alone who was not related to her. Fuziyah Al Ouni, a feminist activist, said she was outraged by the case. 'By sentencing her to 90 lashes they are sending a message that she is guilty.'[16]

"In 2004, a sixteen-year old girl, Atefeh Rajabi, was hanged in a public square in Iran. Her crime? Rajabi was charged with adultery -- which probably means she was raped. Her rapist was not executed. Rajabi told the mullah-judge, Haji Rezaii, the he ought to punish men who rape, not their victims." The judge both sentenced and personally hanged Rajabi because, in addition to her crime, he said that she had "a sharp tongue."[17]

On November 1, 2008 a 13-year-old girl in Somalia was stoned to death after being raped by three men. She was unable to produce the required four witnesses to the rape and was therefore accused of adultery as required by Shari'a law. It was reported that the girl begged for mercy before being buried waist high in the ground and pummeled to death by a mob of 1,000.[18][19]

Islamic law restricts the validity of a woman's testimony, particularly in cases involving sexual immorality. And Islamic legal theorists have limited it even farther, in the words of one Muslim legal manual, to "cases involving property, or transactions dealing with property, such as sales." In other judicial areas only men can testify. It is virtually impossible, therefore, to prove rape in lands that follow these Sharia provisions. If the required male witnesses can't be found to exonerate her (four men who testify to seeing the actual crime, according to the Qur'an), the victim's charge of rape can become an admission of adultery. That accounts for the grim fact that as many as seventy-five percent of the women in prison in Pakistan are, in fact, behind bars for the crime of having been raped.[20]

Muhammad married Aisha at 6, had sex at 9 years of age

Narrated Hisham's father: Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old.
Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.

Women – dress requirements, modesty

Women must cover to control the sexual desires of men

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 (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.

Modesty valued more than life

In the Muslim holy city of Mecca in March 2002, fifteen teenage girls perished in a fire at their school when the Saudi religious police, the muttawa, wouldn't let them out of the building. Why? Because in the female-only school environment, they had shed the all-concealing outer garments that Saudi women must wear in the presence of men. They had not put these garments back on before trying to flee from the fire. The muttawa preferred that they die rather than transgress Islamic law, and actually battled police and firemen who were trying to open the school's doors and to save the girls. [21]

Shame and honor

Honor killings by family members

Domestic violence is an issue that transcends cultures and is not limited solely to the Islamic world. This is the argument generally made by Muslim sympathizers to deflect focus on the Islamic practice of honor killing. While honor killing indeed occurs in other cultures, Islam is the only culture and religion where honor killing is sanctioned by religious tenets. Shari'a law allows a father or mother to murder family members without penalty:

Retaliation is obligatory .... against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right ... The following are not subject to retaliation ... (4) a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring.
'Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller), section o1.1-2

In other words, according to the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, a father or mother may murder their offspring for any reason, without fear of penalty or punishment. Most often, this sort of religiously sanctioned murder is done to preserve family "honor" and usually the female gender takes the brunt of this sort of barbaric discipline.

The United Nations Population Fund estimated in September 2000 that as many as 5,000 women and girls fall victim to such killings each year. Here are but a few that have captured media attention recently.

Aqsa Parvez

Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death by her father, Muhammad Parvez, on December 10, 2007 in Ontario, Canada. Aqsa shamed her father because she refused to wear the hijab and wanted to dress in Western clothing.

Amina and Sarah Said

Amina and Sarah, two sisters, were gunned down by their Egyptian father Yaser Said on New Year's Day 2008 in Dallas, Texas. Their crime: wanting to be like other teenagers in high school and dress in western clothing. Yaser was assisted by his wife and has fled the country. A reward for his arrest is still active, though speculation suggests Said is back in Egypt and in full protection there.

Sandeela Kanwal

On July 6, 2008 Chaudhry Rashid, a Pakistani man, strangled his daughter with a bungee cord for refusing an arranged marriage. During his arraignment, Rashid told the judge, "I have done nothing wrong." According to Shari'a law, he is correct.

Aasiya Hassan

Aasiya Hassan was beheaded by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, in February 2009. Muzzammil was said to be an influential member of the Muslim community of Buffalo, New York where the couple lived and where they operated Bridges TV, a media outlet designed to help remove the stereotype of Islam as a violent religion.

The Shafii Family: Three sisters and a wife

A man, his second wife, and his oldest son were charged with the drowning murder of the man's first wife and his three daughters in July 2009. Muhammad Shafii, a Canadian man of Afghani descent, his son Hamid Muhammad Shafi, and his second wife Tooba Muhammad Yahya, were charged with first degree murder after authorities learned they had been planning the murder for months.

For more media coverage on honor killing among Muslims, see Fox News video special on honor killing in America.[22]

Female circumcision (FGM)

In some Islamic countries women face the certainty of female circumcision, otherwise known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Somali women's rights activist and ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali notes that in her own homeland virtually every girl has her clitoris excised, sometimes when as young as five years old, and that the practice is always justified in the name of Islam.

Uncircumcised girls are told they will become prostitutes but that circumcised girls will be pure and will retain their honor and dignity. Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes her own genital mutilation in her book Infidel:

Grandma caught hold of me and gripped my upper body… Two other women held my legs apart. The man, who was probably an itinerant traditional circumciser from the blacksmith clan, picked up a pair of scissors. With the other hand, he caught hold of the place between my legs and started tweaking it, like Grandma milking a goat... Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable, and I howled. Then came the sewing: the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia, my loud and anguished protests, Grandma's words of comfort and encouragement… When the sewing was finished, the man cut the thread off with his teeth. That is all I can recall of it.[23]

Among Muslims FGM is prevalent mainly in Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia, and in other African countries. Muslims who practice it invest genital mutilation with religious significance. One Islamic legal manual states that circumcision is required "for both men and women."

Reliance of the Traveller

This manual of Islamic law prescribes female circumcision, but with an interesting twist. In English versions, the law forbids removal of the female clitoris, while in the original Arabic no such restriction exists.

English translation:

e4.3 Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men is consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert).

Original Arabic:

Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called khufaad).

To Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Cairo's al-Azhar, the oldest and most prestigious university in the lands of Islam, female circumcision is "a laudable practice that does honor to women." Tantawi is no fringe figure: he is, in the words of a BBC report, "the highest spiritual authority for nearly a billion Sunni Muslims."

In endorsing female circumcision he uses this considerable spiritual authority to perpetuate a practice that gives women lifelong pain and blocks their access to sexual fulfillment. But perhaps in the eyes of Sheikh Tantawi the pain is worth the result: most authorities agree that female circumcision is designed to diminish a woman's sexual response, so that she will be less likely to commit adultery.

Testimonies of ex-Muslim women

Parvin Darabi

Parvin Darabi recounts the last moments of her sister's life. Homa Darabi committed suicide rather than continue to live the repressive life of a woman in post-1979 Iran. [24]

During her professional life my sister was under pressure from some parents of her younger patients to give the label of "mentally incapacitated" to many perfectly intelligent young girls so that they could be saved from the tortures of the zealots (150 strokes of a whip for things such as wearing makeup or lipstick). Having to label these young women truly broke my sister's heart. When a sixteen-year-old girl was shot to death in northern Tehran for wearing lipstick, my sister could no longer handle the guilt she felt about her former involvement in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. She finally decided to protest the oppression of women by setting herself on fire in a crowded square in northern Tehran on February 21, 1994. Her last cries were, 'Death to tyranny! Long live liberty! Long live Iran.'
Each time my family members visited a girl as a potential wife for my uncle or cousins, their evaluation of the poor young girl would make me sick. It was as if they were buying a piece of furniture. The only thing important was her physical features.
The way the Muslims in my family and neighborhood acted, it was clear that a woman's treasure was her virginity before marriage and her vagina after marriage.
In 1991, the Prosecutor-General of Iran declared that "anyone who rejects the principle of hijab is an apostate and the punishment for an apostate under Islamic law is death." Girls condemned to death may not undergo the sentence as long as they are virgin. Thus they are systematically raped before the sentence is executed.
The only thing the Islamic Republic has brought to the Iranian people is poverty and misery. At the time of the revolution Khomeini told people that God was on their side. If this is what we will get by having God on our side, I am so pleased to not have Khomeini's so-called "God" on mine.

Yagmur Darsun

I was born in rural Turkey. Generally, Turkish women enjoy many freedoms that our Arab sisters can't even think of. Rural Turkey is a different story. Honor killings take place every day, women don't have much say (if any) in household matters, and female employment is out of the question. However, much hard work is done by women because men don't want to strain themselves. If a husband tells you to do something, you have to obey.
I was a disciplined and obedient girl, unlike my sister who was somewhat uppity. When she was eighteen, she fell in love with a young man. They both loved each other, but he was meant for another girl, thus his parents had decided. Dating is utterly forbidden in Islam; marriages are arranged and often young people meet on their wedding day.
My sister was rebellious. She "dated" that young man. Every night she would go to see him. They even kissed and then their relationship went too far: she got pregnant.
I remember their young faces. I could see they were happy. Their happiness made me happy, too, and I wanted to smile.
Instead of eloping, they decided to speak to my father. Pregnancy is a very good reason to get permission for marriage, or so they thought.
Alas, my sister had miscalculated my father's love for her and his obsession with his religion. He became furious. Instead of letting the two young lovers marry and build their nest of love, he took her to the religious elders and they ruled that she had committed adultery. She was sentenced to death by stoning. They showed no mercy even for her unborn child. She had stained the "honor" of the family and the only to remove that stain was to nip her life in the bud. Her unborn baby was a stain, too, and that little creature had to be destroyed as well so my family could live honorably.
I still remember her black eyes; she stared into the sky while she was dug into the ground. She was wrapped in white sheets and her hands were tied to her body. She was buried up to her waist. The rabid mob circled her with stones in their hands and started throwing them at her while the roars of Allah-u-Akbar!, Allah-u-Akbar! added to their frenzy. She twitched with pain as the stones hit her tender body and smashed her head. Blood gushed out from her face, cheeks, mouth, nose, and eyes. All she could do was to bend to the left and to the right. Gradually the movements slowed down and finally she stopped moving even thought the shower of the stones did not stop. Her head fell to her chest. Her bloodied face remained serene. All the pain had gone. The hysterical mob relented and the chant of Allah-u-Akbar stopped. Her bright black eyes that beamed with life were shut. Her jovial laughter that filled the world around her was silenced. Her heart that beat with such a heavenly love for only a short time had stopped. Her unborn baby was not given a chance to breathe one breath of air.
The saddest part is that, according to Islam, my sister deserved that death. The elders were sure she would be burning in hell for eternity.
I do hate Islam. Islam preserved the worst in our culture, reducing women into slavery and keeping them ignorant. When I look at my daughters, I pray that they may live in a free world, free from Islam and this slavery.[25]
This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Women which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gamal Nkrumah - "Soaud Saleh: Time to tear down the divides" - Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 October - 2 November 2005, Issue No. 766
  2. Pierre Crabites, cited in Allama Sir Abdullah Al-Mamun Al-Suhrawardy, The Wisdom of Muhammad (New York: Citade Press, 2001), p. 20.
  3. John L. Esposito & Dalia Mogahed - Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think (P. 101) - New York: Gallup Press, 2007, ISBN 9781595620170
  4. Sirat Rasul Allah, ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume, translator. Oxford University Press, 1955, page 651.
  5. Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Qualities of the Righteous Wife - Tafsir.com
  6. Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Dealing with the Wife's Ill-Conduct - Tafsir.com
  7. Quoted in: The Veil of Equality and Justice: Section 2 - Answering Islam
  8. Pakistan: Violence against women: Media briefing - Amnesty International
  9. ibn Ishaq, p. 651
  10. Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi - The Ideal Muslimah (chapter 4) - MSA West.net
  11. Sonia Verma - American Woman Boasted of Saudi Freedoms To Bush Brother Before Arrest at Starbucks - Fox News, February 7, 2008
  12. Tafsir Ibn Kathir (abridged), Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri et al, translators (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2000), vol 1, p. 635.
  13. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol 1, page 633
  14. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol 2, page 601
  15. The Marriage of Mut'ah: Introduction: Preface - Answering Ansar
  16. Saudi gang-rape victim faces 90 lashes - Khaleej Times Online, March 5, 2007
  17. Alasdair Palmer - Death and the maiden in Iran - The Telegraph, August 29, 2004
  18. Raped girl, 13, stoned to death news24.com,2008-11-01
  19. David Williams - Somali girl 'pleaded for mercy' before Islamists stoned her to death for being raped - Daily Mail, November 5, 2008
  20. Rape, Zina and Incest Press Statement - Violence Against Women - SistersInIslam, April 6, 2000
  21. Christopher Dickey and Rod Nordland - The Fire That Won't Die Out - Islamawareness, 2002
  22. LinkTVWatch - Murder in the Family: Honor Killing in America (Part 1) youtube.com
  23. Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Infidel (p. 32) - NY: Free Press, 2007, ISBN 9781416526247
  24. Why We Left Islam, Susan Crimp, Joel Richardson, editors (Los Angeles: WND Books, 2008), pages 3, 11, 14, 17, 18.
  25. Yagmur Dursun - An Untold Love Story - FaithFreedom International, March 13, 2005