Women and Islam



Proper veiling and Islamic dress code that upholds women’s chastity and modesty is a public issue. Indubitably this is an absolute legal and Sharia matter that is a religious imperative. Being un-Islamically dressed is a crime. — Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejehei, Iran’s public prosecutor

When Islam became imperial, a lot of cultural baggage infiltrated Islamic society. — Haifaa Jawad, senior lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Birmingham in England

I had an interesting conversation with three Muslim girls who I met at the New Mosque in Istanbul. I asked why they were dressed as they were, why they wore head scarves, as this was not required by the Koran.

This surpised them, they disagreed, and one whipped out her iPhone on which she had stored the Koran. You are wrong she said, I can find no mention in the Koran. To me, it seemed to make my point.

I suggested they read Reconciliation by Benazir Bhutto which dicusses the role of women in Islam, also the relationship between Islam, the West and democracy.

The West does not have a dislike of Islam because of prejudice, it is because of killing of innocent people, terrorism, the appalling treatment of women.

The Koran was way ahead of its time. Women in the Arabian Peninsular had no rights, they were worthless, little more than slaves, female babies were burried alive.

The Koran explicitly gave women rights, they were to be treated as equals, they were equal in the eye of God, they were made and man in his image. Women could keep the money they earned. The wife of the Prophet was a successful businesswoman. If they bore and fed and looked after children, it was the role of the men to compensate them for the work they did in child rearing.

O people! be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same (kind) and spread from these two, many men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you.

We see the same in Genesis, where God created man and woman in His image. If in His image, then God must be male and female.

If men and women arise from the same being, then they must be equal!

The Koran says: And surely we have honoured the children of Adam.

If both are honoured equally, then they must be equal in the eyes of God, and in Islamic practice.

There is a requirement of women to dress modestly, an explicit requirement on dress for the family of the Prophet when they received visitors at Medina, but not a requirement on others.

O Prophet! say to your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they lay down upon them their overgarments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

There is a reference to a veil and that is in a saying of the Prophet: the best veil is in the eyes. In other words men should treat women with respect.

The abuse and mistreatment of women in much of the Muslim world has nothing to do with the Koran.

Maulana Azad, an Asian Islamic scholar, argues that men and women are equal in the Koran: They have rights [in regard to their husbands] similar to those against them in a just manner.

In contrast there are those bigots to who women are a commodity, for example Sheikh Taj al-Dian al-Hilali in a Friday sermon in Australia in 2006 in which he compared woman with meat left out for the cat! [see Australia fury at cleric comments]

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside… and the cats come and eat it… whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat?

Al-Hilali argued that women who are not veiled and who are sexually assaulted are themselves to blame for the assault. It is the same bigots who deny woman an education, who keep them locked in the family home as domestic slaves. Who justify terrorism and killing of innocent civilians and at the same decry human rights and democracy as something alien imposed on Muslim society by the West.

The same cleric a year later mocked Jewish people as pigs!

Another Muslim cleric in Australia, Samir Abu Hamza, said it was ok for husbands to rape and beat their wives! [see Cleric ‘must deny’ views on rape]

“You beat them… but this is the last resort, after you have advised them for a long, long time, then you smack them, you beat them.
“You are not allowed to bruise them, you are not allowed to make them bleed, this is just to shape them up – ‘shape up woman’ – that’s about it.
“You don’t go and get a broomstick.”
“Even if her husband was to ask her for a sexual relationship and she is preparing him the bread on the stove, she must leave it and come and respond to her husband”.
“In this country if the husband wants to sleep with his wife and she does not want to and… there’s nothing wrong with her, she just does not want to, and he ends up sleeping with her by force, it is… known to be as a rape.
“Amazing. How can a person rape his wife?”

The Koran encouraged learning. It ushered in the Golden Age of Islam in what is now Iraq. Devout scholars, clerics, were also men of learning, doctors, poets, artists, scientists.

Islam encouraged tolerance and respect for other religions.

But the interests of men rode roughshod over the teachings of the Koran. Bigotry replaced tolerance. Ignorance replaced learning. Dogma replaced compassion.

That I was able to hold the conversation with the three girls, would not have been possible in most Islamic countries. I was though amused by their dress. They were very elegant in black, wore fine silk scarves.

Synchronicity: Whilst I was writing this I was sent two examples of the abuse and mistreatment of women. In Iran a woman subjected to 74 lashes for being ‘un-Islamically’ dressed and in Egypt women being subjected to tests of virginity and being treated as prostitutes if they failed the test.

Seeing Clearly
The Bookseller of Kabul
By the River Piedra I sat Down and Wept
The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations
The Saudi women taking small steps for change
Australia fury at cleric comments
Australia Muslim cleric suspended
Cleric ‘must deny’ views on rape
Fury at Australia cleric comments
Egyptian women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’
74 lashes for women who are “un-Islamically” dressed
Official Laws against Women in Iran

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One Response to “Women and Islam”

  1. Skip Conover Says:

    We hope you will consider publishing this and other of your pieces at the Archetype in Action Organization. We have an ongoing dialogue on Roles of Women in Society, particularly in Islam. We attract a lot of readers. My piece on The Role of Women in Islam has been read over 1100 times in a couple of weeks. You can register on the site, and then ask me for author privileges @skip_conover This piece is certainly a useful part of the dialogue.

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