Women’s Status and Roles in Early Islam

The Quran has some positive verses about womankind, in the abstract. But it also has some negative things to say on a practical and legal level–down here on earth.

This is Part 8 in the sharia series.

This series of articles about Islamic sharia law is intended for educators, judges, lawyers, city council members, legislators, government bureaucrats, journalists, think tank fellows, TV and radio talk show hosts, and anyone else who occupies the “check points” in society. They initiate the national dialogue and shape the flow of the conversation. They are the policy and decision makers.

They have heard the critics of sharia and conclude that the critics exaggerate. Islam is a world religion that deserves respect. Its critics may be “Islamophobes.”

Yet these same intellectual elites may have a private, gnawing feeling that the critics may be partly right. After all, reports come out of the Islamic world that people get stoned to death and women are mistreated. But the elites recover from their private doubts, concluding that Islam is being hijacked by extremists.

The Quran has a few verses that seem positive about women’s status and place in society (3:195, 4:19, and 4:124). Quoting those verses, Muslim expositors and traditionalists tell the world that sharia elevates women.

For example, Dr. Jamal A. Badawi, a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, in an article first printed in 1971, but reprinted many times since then by popular demand, asserts that Islam and the Quran rose high above seventh-century Arab culture and lifted women’s status. He proclaims that the Quran says that even though men are a degree above women in status (2:228), men’s status “implies no superiority or advantage before the law.”[1]

Further, this part of Badawi’s conclusion says that the elevation of women reflects Islam’s intrinsic truthfulness:

In the case of Islam such compassionate and dignified status was decreed, not because it reflects the environment of the seventh century, nor under the threat or pressure of women and their organizations, but rather because of its intrinsic truthfulness.

This article balances out those purely positive claims.

Table of Contents:

THE QURAN

Women’s Status

Women’s Inheritance

Women’s Testimony

Women as Fields to Plow

THE HADITH

Women’s Status

Women’s Inheritance

Women’s Testimony

Women as Fields

A Severe Practice

CLASSICAL SHARIA LAW

Women’s Status

Women’s Inheritance

Women’s Testimony

Women as Fields to Plow

A Severe Ruling

MODERN ISLAM

Traditional Views

A Severe Practice

Reformist Views

CONCLUSION

THE QURAN

This section is divided into four parts: Women’s Status, Women’s Inheritance, Women’s Testimony, and Women as Fields to Plow.

Women’s Status

Husbands are a degree above their wives in the legal context of divorce. Quran 2:228 says:

228 … [Divorced] women have [rights] similar to their obligations, according to what is fair, and [ex-]husbands have a degree [of right] over them: [both should remember that] God is almighty and wise.[2] (Quran 2:228)

Another translation says:

228 …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.[3]… (Quran 2:228)

 At first, this verse appears positive: “Wives have the same rights as the husbands” or “similar obligations.” However, the verse goes on: “men are a degree above them in status” or “a degree of rights] over them.” The word “degree” means in Arabic “rank, dignity, stage, step in rank, honor, authority . . . place above, degree of superiority.”[4] As noted, the context of this verse is the divorce court. How does womankind’s inferior status play out there?

In the domestic sphere, men are again superior to women. Quran 4:34 says:

34 Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money.[5] (Quran 4:34)

Another translation says:

34 …Men are the managers of the affairs of women because Allah has made the one superior to the other.[6]… (Quran 4:34)

In Arabic the verb form of the word “make superior” or “more” means “to exceed, excel, remain over and above; to contend for superiority… to excel another in merit, prefer… grant favor to one in preference to another.”[7] The verse says that Allah made them this way.

But these verses appear in the context of daily life and the divorce court. Traditionalists tell us that the verses do not go to the essence of womankind; Allah has made them equal to mankind theologically. But practically, in seventh-century culture, men were the heads of household, so of course the Quran would reflect its culture.

Fair enough. We should interpret the Quran in its historical and cultural context. But in the same breath traditionalists tell us that the Quran is timeless. They imply or state openly that it should be applied to women in the modern era (see Modern Islam, below).

However, it is this cultural reading of the Quran that Muslim feminists use to reinterpret it. Every aspect does not apply to the modern era (see Modern Islam, below).

But before we get the section on Modern Islam, we have to see how womankind’s inferior status and roles play out in other Quranic laws.

Women’s Inheritance

In dividing the inheritance, a female gets half of a male’s share. Quran 4:11 says:

11 …The share of the male shall be twice that of a female.[8]… (Quran 4:11)

Another translation reads:

11 … God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters.[9] (Quran 4:11)

It could be argued that in the seventh century women got married and their husbands took care of them, so the women did not need the same amount of inheritance. However, that only shows that the Quran should be interpreted in its historical context and not be applied today.

Women’s Testimony

Next, a woman’s testimony often counts half of a man’s testimony. Quran 2:282, an extremely long verse that has here been shortened, says:

 282 … And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. … But if two men be 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.[10]… (Quran 2:282)

Another translation:

282 … You who believe, when you contract a debt for a stated term … If two men are not there [to witness it], then call one man and two women out of those you approve as witnesses, so that if one of the two women should forget” the other can remind her.[11]

Regardless of the business context where women of the seventh century may not have had expertise, the foundational reason for having two women witnesses is that one of them may “forget” something. The hadith, below, clarifies that women have “deficient” minds.

Women as Fields to Plow

This brief section speaks to women’s sexual status in marriage. A husband has sex with his wife, as a plow goes into a field.

Quran 2:223 says:

223 Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like.[12]… (Quran 2:223)

Another translation says:

223 Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth, when or how you will.[13] … (Quran 2:223)

The hadith reveals that “whichever way you like” is about sexual positions and a certain preference (see below). It also shows a husband’s control over his wife’s body.

THE HADITH

The hadith are the traditions or narrations about the words and deeds of Muhammad and his companions, outside of the Quran. Sunni Muslims take them seriously. For more discussion of the hadith, see the article in this series, titled What Is Sharia?

This section is divided into the same four parts: Women’s Status, Women’s Inheritance, Women’s Testimony, and Women as Fields.

Women’s Status

This long hadith contains a lot of information, saying that women make up the majority in hell; their testimony counts half of men’s; and their intelligence and religion are deficient. To compensate for these shortfalls, they have to give alms.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) on ‘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 hell fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. 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. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.”[14]

This next hadith says that women are an evil omen.

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: I heard the Prophet saying, “Evil omen is in three things: The horse, the woman and the house.”[15]

This hadith says that a wife cannot observe optional fasts without her husband’s permission:

“Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said, ‘A woman should not observe Saum (fast) (optional ones) except with her husband’s permission if he is at home (staying with her).’”[16]

Women need their husband’s permission to leave to house and go to the mosque:

“Narrated Salim’s father: The Prophet said, ‘If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to go to the mosque, he should not forbid her.’”[17]

In the following hadith, if a wife does not go to her husband’s bed whenever he wants, angels curse her until morning:

“Narrated Abu Hurairah: 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.’”[18]

Next, this hadith says that the majority of humans in hell are 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 people destined for 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.”[19]

It is sometimes claimed that since the majority of people on the earth are women, the majority of people in hell would be women. However, this parallel hadith says the women are in hell because of their ingratitude, not because of their population surplus:

…Then I saw the (Hell) Fire, and I have never before, seen such a horrible sight as that, and I saw that the majority of its dwellers were women.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the reason for that?” He replied, “Because of their ungratefulness.”[20]

The following hadith, narrated by Aisha, says that a woman is not allowed to wear a wig or hair lengtheners, even when her hair is falling out. If she does, Allah curses her:

Narrated Aisha: An Ansari [Medinan helpers who aided Muslims coming to Medina] woman gave her daughter in marriage and the hair of the latter started falling out. The Ansari women came to the Prophet and mentioned that to him and said, “Her (my daughter’s) husband suggested that I should let her wear false hair.” The Prophet said, “No, (don’t do that) for Allah sends His curses upon such ladies who lengthen their hair artificially (by wearing false hair).”[21]

In the next hadith women are crooked like ribs. Does that mean her character is crooked? Does it mean she is naturally out of place or not quite acceptable in society? Is she naturally delicate? Whatever it means, men are to take care of them, and they must not try to straighten women out, or they will break.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said …”And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women.”[22]

Then, women are equated with dogs when women walk in front of men who are praying. Aisha objected to the comparison:

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. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away, for I disliked to face him.”[23]

Finally, this hadith says that women are an affliction and harmful to men.

Narrated Usama bin Zaid: The Prophet said, “After me I have not left any affliction more harmful to men than women.”[24]

Women’s Inheritance

This hadith, narrated by Muhammad’s cousin Ibn Abbas, an authoritative transmitter, reiterates the Quran’s command about a woman getting half a man’s share.

Narrated Ibn Abbas: (During the early days of Islam), the inheritance used to be given to one’s offspring and legacy used to be bequeathed to the parents; then Allah cancelled what He wished from that order and decreed that the male should be given the equivalent of the portion of two females.[25]

Women’s Testimony

This hadith removes any ambiguity about women’s testimony and her deficient mind implied in Quran 2:282:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: 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.”[26]

Women as Fields to Plow

These hadith clarify what Quran 2:23 means. The second hadith says that a husband may approach his wife when and how he wills, indicating the authority he has over her. The parenthetical comments are added by the translator and are not original to the text. If one reads these hadith without them, then ambiguities emerge.

Ibn Umar then resumed his recitation. Nafi added regarding the Verse: … “So go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner, as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus) when or how you will”…  Ibn Umar said, “It means one should approach his wife in”[27]….

Narrated Jabir: Jews used to say, “If one has sexual intercourse with his wife from the back, then she will deliver a squint-eyed child.” So this verse was revealed: “Your wives are a tilth for you; so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus) when or how you will”[28] . . . .

A Severe Practice

The hadith collector and editor Abu Dawud records this tradition about female circumcision:

Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet… said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.[29]

The Quran says nothing about this kind of circumcision.

CLASSICAL SHARIA LAW

Classical law is based on the Quran and the hadith. Jurists scoured both of them to come up with rulings on various issues. For more discussion, see the article titled, What Is Sharia? in this series.

We divide this section into the same four parts as the previous section: Women’s Status, Women’s Inheritance, Women’s Testimony, and Women as Fields. But we end the section with a severe ruling in the Shafi’i school about female circumcision.

Women’s Status

Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (d. 795), a student and colleague of Abu Hanifah, a founder of a school of law, approvingly quotes Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), who is yet another founder of a school of law, in a section titled “the Husband’s Right over His Wife.” This opinion says that the husband has responsibility of heaven or hell for his wife.

… [A] paternal aunt of his came to the Messenger of Allah and that she claimed that he asked her, “Do you have a husband?” She answered, “Yes.” Then she claimed that he asked her, “How are you towards him?” and that she said, “I only fall short in what I am incapable of doing.” He said, “Then look to how you are in relation to him, because he is either your heaven or your hell.”

We can interpret the last clause theologically or domestically. If it is theological, then the husband has control of his wife’s fate in the afterlife – heaven or hell. If it is domestic, then he can make her life blissful (heaven) or miserable (hell). Both interpretations may be true at the same time. The key principle is that a husband has authority over his wife in religious matters.

Malik was not only a founder of a school of law, but was also a hadith collector and editor. In his law book, womankind, next to a horse and a house, are an ill omen or bad luck, just as we saw in the hadith section, above.

Malik related to me… that the Messenger of Allah… said, “If it exists, it is in a horse, a woman, and a house” meaning ill luck. Malik related to me… that the Messenger of Allah… said, “Ill luck is in a house, a woman and a horse.”[30]

It is not clear how Malik would use this principle of womanly bad luck in his rulings, but the courtroom results cannot be good for women.

A woman is not allowed to be a caliph. Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1368) wrote Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. It summarizes rulings in the Shafi’i School of law. He says:

[M]ale (K: to be able to devote himself fulltime to the task, and to mix with men, the leadership of a woman being invalid because of the rigorously authenticated… hadith, “A people that leaves its leadership to a woman will never succeed”).[31]

However, the next discussion says that a few jurists allowed women to become judges. Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), known in the West as Averroës, is the most thorough compiler and editor of legal opinions. His two-volume work took over twenty years to write. They provide a foundation in Islamic law for judges and legal scholars throughout the Islamic world, where it is still used today. Those who did not allow her to become a judge did so on the basis of her deficient legal status, comparing her to a slave.

They [jurists] differed about the condition of being a male. The majority said that it is a condition for the validity of the judgment. Abu Hanifa said that it is permitted for a woman to be a qadi [judge] in cases involving financial claims. Al Tabari said that it is permitted to a woman to be a judge in all things without any restrictions…. Those who denied the right of a woman to be a judge compared it (the office of the qadi) to the office of the head of state, and also compared a woman to the slave due the deficiency in her legal capacity. Those who permitted her judgment in cases of financial claims did so comparing it to the permissibility of her testimony in such claims. Those who considered her judgment as executed in each thing said that the principle is that any person who is able to render judgment among people his decision is valid, except in matters restricted by consensus, like the office of head of state.[31]

Though the purpose of this series of articles is, unfortunately, to expose the negatives in Islam, the above passage does show some improvement for a woman’s life and liberty.

Next, according to Misri, a wife may reprove her husband: “If it be wondered whether a child is entitled to reprove his father, or a wife her husband, or for private citizens to reprove their ruler, the answer is that all are fundamentally entitled to.”[32]

Yet Misri says that a woman must not contend with her husband because he has authority over her.

It is offensive to contend against the words of anyone with authority over one… or talk back, oppose, rebut, or disobey such a person … the prohibition applying to such people as a follower with his leader, son with his parents, student with his teacher, wife with her husband, or unlearned person with a scholar. All of this is very ugly behavior and deserves disciplinary action… since each of these is obliged to obey the one over them.[34]

And another scholar commenting on the manual done by Misri says that a woman’s mobility is severely limited:

(A: A husband may permit his wife to leave the house for a lesson in Sacred Law, for invocation of Allah… to see her female friends, or to go to any place in the town. A woman may not leave the city without her husband or a member of her unmarriageable kin… accompanying her, unless the journey is obligatory, like the hajj [pilgrimage]. It is unlawful for her to travel otherwise, and unlawful for her husband to allow her to.) (n: In the Hanafi school, it is not unlawful for her to travel beyond city limits without a husband or member of her unmarriageable kin unless the distance to her intended destination exceeds ca. 77 km. / 48 mi.).[35]

According to Misri and a later commentator, a woman is entitled to support from her husband, unless she disqualifies herself from it by these actions, like refusing to have sex with him at any time day or night or not instantly obeying him.

The husband is only obliged to support his wife when she gives herself to him or offers to, meaning she allows him full enjoyment of her person and does not refuse him sex at any time of the night or day. She is not entitled to support from her husband when: (1) she is rebellious… (O: meaning when she does not obey him) even if for a moment; (2) she travels without his permission, or with his permission but for one of her own needs; (3) she assumes ihram [state of pilgrim sanctity] for hajj [pilgrimage] or umra [lesser pilgrimage or visit to Mecca that may be performed any time of the year]… (4) or when she performs a voluntary fast without her husband’s permission (O: though if he allows her to fast and does not ask her to break it, he must provide her support).[36]

Misri says that men should not obey women:

The Prophet … said: … “Men are already destroyed when they obey women.”[37]

Women’s Inheritance

Quran 4:11 says that a woman inherits half of what a man does. Malik would not dare misinterpret such a clear verse, so he 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.[38]

Ibn Rushd states that Muslim jurists agree on the clear teaching of the Quran about women inheriting half of what men inherit.

Muslims [jurists] agreed that the inheritance of the child from his father or mother, if they are both males and females, is that the share of the male is equal to the shares of two females[39]….

Since there is strong agreement or consensus among the schools about women’s inheritance being half that of a man, we do not need to go further on the subject.

Women’s Testimony

Quran 2:282 says that two women may testify compared with one man. In swearing testimony about a freeman freeing a slave and a dispute arising over it, Malik says another “man and two women testify” in behalf of the disputant; then the disputant wins and the sale is cancelled.[40] In the context of cases about freemen and freewomen and slaves, and in the specific contexts of marriage, crimes, and childbirth, two women testifying count as one man.

Malik said, “There are people who say that an oath is not acceptable with only one witness and they argue by the word of Allah… [Quran 2:282 is quoted] Such people argue that if he does not bring one man and two women, he has no claim and he is not allowed to swear an oath with one witness.”[41]

Malik goes on to offer his opinion that one man is allowed to testify. But the main point in all these rulings is that two women count as one man in a court of law.

As for legal opinions from other schools of law, Ibn Rushd again guides us. Quran 2:282 appears in a contractual business context, but legal scholars differ on whether woman may serve as witnesses in other contexts, like criminal cases.

For the “crime” of sexual immorality (zina), which in Islam is punishable by death for adultery and whipping for fornication, four males must prove the crime. Females are excluded.[42]  So this means that if a wife suspects adultery from her husband, she cannot get four women to catch him in the act. She has to get four men.

In crimes like theft and their punishments (hudud): “The opinion that is adopted by the majority is that the testimony of women is not admissible in hudud, with men or independently.”[43] But one legal school says it is admissible, when accompanied by the testimony of a man.[44]

In personal law, such as divorce, retraction of divorce, marriage, and emancipation of slaves, Abu Hanifah’s school of law says a woman’s testimony is accepted.[45]

In personal law affecting women only, like birth, consummation, and “the defects of women,” Ibn Rushd reports: “the independent testimony of women, that is, women unaccompanied by male witness, is acceptable according to the majority.”[46] One school of law puts things indelicately: “Abu Hanifa permitted the testimony of women (about women) for the area that is between the navel and the knees.”[47]

Women as Fields to Plow

Misri and a later commentator intend to ensure that anal sex is not permitted, even though there were ambiguities in early Islam. Misri and the later commentator rule:

A husband possesses full right to enjoy his wife’s person (A: from the top of her head to the bottoms of her feet, though anal intercourse… is absolutely unlawful) in what does not physically harm her.[48]

A Severe Ruling

Misri, two later commentators, and the translator of Misri’s manual write about women’s circumcision:

Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce… of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (A: Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna [tradition or example of Muhammad], while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.) [49]

CAN MODERN ISLAM BE REFORMED?

A reformist calls for the reform of Islam, while a traditionalist believes Islam, revealed in the Quran and presented in the authentic hadith, is fine the way it and defends it. Usually, religious leaders are selected in this section, but sometimes a Muslim who is in the public eye, like a journalist or medical doctor, is included too.

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the traditionalists and reformists, when the reformists do not reinterpret the Quran, yet argue for women’s rights from it, as written.

Traditional Views

Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi and Sayyid Qutb are traditionalists.

Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi (d. 1979) was an Indo- Pakistani scholar who tried to impose sharia on his home country through his political party called Jamaat-i-Islami. We used his translation mostly used in this article.

Recall that Quran 4:34 says that men are the “managers” of women’s affairs. He explains that the Arabic word for “manager” stands for anyone who is: “[R]esponsible for the right conduct, safeguard and maintenance of the affairs of an individual, an institution, or an organization. Thus, man is governor, director, protector, and manager of the affairs of women.”[50]

Then he informs us that men are not superior to women in a moral way, that is, in honor and excellence, but men “have been endowed with certain natural qualities and powers that have not been given to women or have been given in a less [sic] degree.”[51]

Quran 4:11 says that women inherit half of what a man does. Maududi explains the rationale behind the verse:

The first guiding principle about the division of inheritance is that the share of the male shall be double that of the female, and this is very sound and just. As the Muslim law lays the major burden of the economic responsibility of the family on the male and keeps the female almost free from it, justice demands that her share of inheritance should be less than that of the male.[52]

The problem with Maududi’s explanation is that it is too culture-bound; paradoxically, however, it is intended to be universal. It may be true that in seventh-century Arabia a male had most or all of the responsibilities over the household. This may be true even today in traditional Muslim countries or regions. However, this law of inheritance should in no way be applied to the western world or in other regions that value life and liberty and intend to grow economically.

Quran 2:282 says that two women are needed to testify because one may forget, and the other may need to remind her. Despite this collaboration between witnesses, which in normal circumstances would disqualify their testimony, the main point we learned from the hadith is that a woman’s mind is deficient.

Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), an early leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, comments on this mental deficiency:

Such a mistake [of forgetting] may occur for a number of reasons, such as lack of experience or knowledge, or failure to understand the subject matter or the ramifications of the’ contract. A woman’s impulsive nature tends to make her impressionable and more easily influenced or swayed. This emotional, sympathetic nature is necessary and, indeed, advantageous for women in their role as mothers. Human nature being indivisible, it would be present whenever women are called upon to witness or judge anything requiring deliberation, reflection and strict impartiality. Having two women rather than one, provides a greater assurance that they will balance each other and provide an objective testimony.[53]

As just noted, Quran 4:34 says that men are the managers of women. Verse 32 says about the same. And 4:11 says that women inherit half of what a man takes. Qutb, commenting on these verses in one section, spends a lot of time telling us why the Quran is just and promotes equality among the sexes.

In its distribution of the functions and shares of inheritance between men and women, Islam observes human nature, which has made man different from woman and given each of them his or her distinctive characteristics. This is to enable them to discharge their respective duties, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of human life, which can only achieve proper fulfillment and its ultimate objectives through the multiplicity of characteristics, functions and duties between the two different sexes. Because the characteristics and functions of man and woman are different, their positions and shares vary. The ultimate beneficiary is that great institution which we call human life.

When we consider the Islamic system as a whole and then consider that particular aspect which organizes relationships between the two parts of the single soul from which both men and women have been created, we find no room for such ancient arguments of the type mentioned in the reports quoted above. Nor can we find any room for modern arguments advanced by shallow-minded people of both sexes.

It is useless and futile to try to depict matters as if a raging battle is going on between the two sexes in which points and victories are scored. The attempt by some serious writers to discredit women and to attribute all sorts of vices to them is equally futile, whether it is made in the name of Islam or under the guise of scholarly analysis. There is no question of a battle whatsoever. There are simply differences of characteristics and potentials. Differences in the proper distribution of tasks and specialities which achieves both complementarity and absolute justice, as can only be expected from the Divine method.[54]

Islam says women have deficient minds. Women get half of men’s inheritance. And Quran 4:34 goes on to give permission to the husband to hit his wife if he fears rebellion or highhandedness from her. It is difficult to see how any of those divine commands promote “complementarity and absolute justice, as can only be expected from the Divine method.”

Quran 2:223 says that “your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like.” Maududi tries to smooth over the metaphor by extending it to a farmer at work in his field.

Allah has not created women merely for the enjoyment and entertainment of men. The relation between the two is as serious an affair as that of a farmer and his field. The farmer does not go into his field merely for recreation and enjoyment but for cultivations to get produce from it. In the same way, a man should go to his wife to produce children. Allah’s law, however, is not concerned with the method of cultivation but with the demand that man should go to the field and not elsewhere and to his own field and for production.[55]

Thus the farmer may “cultivate” his “field” in any way he likes. Says Maududi: “Allah’s law, however, is not concerned with the method of cultivation”… (emphasis added). This means a farmer / husband may choose his sexual method. But the metaphor breaks down because surely a farmer did not have that many methods to plow a field and plant his seeds in seventh-century Arabia, did he? Also, why doesn’t the field get to choose? To carry on the passive field metaphor, we should remember that early Islam assumes that a man controls his wife’s body. Recall that a hadith says she must have sex when he wants, or angels will curse her.

Harun Yahya writes for the Muslim Women’s League, USA. Normally, he would be considered a moderate, but he takes the traditional view that the Quran expresses full rights for women, and it is universally compatible with human nature and valid for all stages of history.

God’s commandments about the status of women and the relations between men and women, which have been revealed to us through the Qur’an, consist of full justice. In this regard, Islam suggests equality of rights, responsibilities and duties between the two genders. Islam is based on sympathy, tolerance and respect for human beings, and does not discriminate against women in this matter.

The examples of good morals communicated to us in the Qur’an are universally compatible with human nature, and are valid for all stages of history.[56]

Though he argues for women’s rights, his view of the Quran’s universality and validity today means that he does not acknowledge that the Quran has difficult verses.

Saudi Arabia moved a small step in the right direction from a feminist point of view, when the Supreme Judiciary Council ruled as follows:

King Abdullah was making his inaugural speech at the third year of the Shoura Council’s fifth session.

On arrival at the council headquarters, the king was received by acting Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam and Shoura Council President Abdullah Al-Asheikh.

Grand Mufti of the Kingdom Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh, President of the Supreme Judiciary Council Saleh bin Homaid and a number of religious scholars and sheikhs were also present to greet the monarch.

“All people know the role of women in the annals of Islam and their position cannot be marginalized. There were great women who contributed a great deal toward the progress of the religion of Islam from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” said King Abdullah.

“Since we reject any marginalization of women in Saudi society in every domain, in accordance with Sharia (Islamic) guidelines and following consultations with many of our scholars, especially those in the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars, we have decided the following:

“First, women will be allowed to participate in the Shoura Council as members from the next session onwards.

“Secondly, as of the next session, women will have the right to nominate themselves for membership of municipal councils and also have the right to participate in the electoral process.”

However, in the same report the king said his country would stay within sharia laws:

My brothers and sisters, you have your own rights according to Islamic law to achieve your goals with pride and dignity. It is our right to seek your opinion and advice according to Sharia guidelines and the fundamentals of religion, and those who stay away from these guidelines are arrogant people and they have to bear responsibility for their actions.[57]

It should be noted that on December 12, 2015, elections were held in Saudi Arabia and some women ran for municipal seats.

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) is a made up of team of religious scholars, most of whom have their doctorates in Islamic law or other Islamic subjects. They are qualified to write fatwas (religious rulings or opinions). The site uses the write-in Question and Answer format.

An emailer writes a long question about inheritance. No matter what the scenario is, the scholar says women get one share, while the men get two.

The AMJA scholar replies:

Assuming the accuracy of the information you provided in your question, and that your father did not leave any legal heirs other than those whom you mentioned (Meaning: no parents were alive when he died);

The property your father left behind is to be inherited by five family members; 1/8 of its value for his wife and the remaining 7/8 must be divided into 6 shares; 2 for each son, and 1 for each daughter.

After dividing the property according to the above formula; the legal heirs of your mother should inherit her estate accordingly. In this case: her share should be divided into 6 shares; 2 per male and 1 per female.[58]

Next, the hadith says a woman’s mind is deficient. An email asks about this in the context of women giving testimony.

The AMJA scholar replies:

The Arabic language is a rich and deep language. Sometimes the same word has different meanings based on the context and the way it is used. The best way to understand the hadith in question is to read it in its original language with someone who is quite familiar with the Arabic language.

Deficiency here is a description of the human nature that Allah (swt) created females with. It is not a criticism or underestimation of women’s rank in Islam, since Allah (swt) will hold us to account based on our abilities, both physical and intellectual.

Refraining from praying and fasting during menses is not a literal deficiency; rather, it is a comparison of the overall performance of these two rituals (praying and fasting) between men and women. Even if it were to be taken literally as a deficiency, women are not to be blamed for that because it is the way they were created by Allah (swt).

For instance, for a man to miss the Juma’a [Friday] prayer when he is traveling or sick is a deficiency, but it is not a sin, while missing the Juma’a without excuse is a deficiency and a sin, as well.

The same rule holds for bearing witness; women are not blamed for that because the level of accuracy in remembering events and the ability to describe these events is something beyond their control.

An interesting aspect of the same hadith is that the woman who asked the Prophet … about the meaning of deficiency was . . . [Arabic word is given] according to the narrator of the hadith, and this word in Arabic means smart, prudent, and intelligent![59]

So, the AMJA scholar says in the next-to-last paragraph, above, that women are not to be blamed for not remembering events and not being able to describe them; it is out of their control. It seems odd that men do not fit in this inability in the courtroom, as well. They can forget things too. One woman’s testimony in a business court of law should always be equal to one man’s testimony. This belief about women’s deficiency in such matters comes from the seventh century, despite the scholar’s clever turn of phrase in the last paragraph. Can traditionalists acknowledge that this outlook on women has an expiration date – back then?

Quran 2:223 says women are tilth or fields. An emailer asks about it.

The AMJA Permanent Fatwa Committee replies:

Allah … means that: your wives are the farm in which your children are bred, so approach your tilth how you will and where you will. In this verse Allah means by Harth fertile ground. Moreover, Harth, in general, means cultivation/planting. But whereas wives are the cause of cultivations (children), so they become tilth if the meaning is understood.

The patent meaning is: Approach your tilth from where you wish of the different approaches. “Approaching” in this topic indicates sexual intercourse.

It was related on the authority of Ibn-Abbas: “fa`atu harthakom ana she`atom”, {so approach your tilth when or how you will}, he said men have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is not in the anus or during the menstruation period. Also it was related of Ibn-Abbas “fa`atu harthakom ana she`atom”, Harth “tilth” means Vagina, and you may approach it from the front or from the back or in any way you want as long as you do not exceed/approach other than the vagina, as Allah says the Holy Qur`an “fa`atohonna men haythu amarakomu Allah”{then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you}.[60]

Finally, an emailer writes about female circumcision, and the AMJA scholar replies after long introductory remarks on a specific kind of circumcision’s science and benefits:

… Now, the Islamic position: In the hadeeth [hadith] the Prophet advised removing a very slight portion of flesh, which is that clitoral hood. He forbade excising much and explained that it would be better for the husband that only a very small piece of flesh gets removed. This means that female circumcision in Islam is not even partial clitoridectomy, but it is simply the removal of the clitoral hood.

The Prophet said to Oum-Atteyah (the female circumciser): [Arabic is quoted]

“Cut but not excessively for this would be more conducive to brightness of the face and better for the husband.”[Narrated by Aldahhak ibn Qays and recorded by al-Hakim Saheeh al-Jame’ 336]

As for the ruling, it is controversial; the majority of the scholars regard it as mustahab (preferable sunnah), some regard it allowable and some consider it wajib (obligatory) because of the previous hadeeth.

The question is not to ban female circumcision because of the position of certain nations, but how do we regulate this as Muslims? Most of the problem and the bad publicity stem from the fact that, not infrequently, unqualified people perform the procedure and they may do more harm than good. If it was left to the specialists, it wouldn’t have been misused and wouldn’t have gotten such bad publicity. So, it is essential that the medical doctors are the only ones to be permitted to do it. The surgeon will then judiciously remove what needs to be removed (which may be nothing in certain cases and women as indicated by our scholars.)

What should we Western Muslims do?

For Muslims who live in the West, since it is not mandatory and it is at the same time illegal in the West, and would bring about harm to the people who practice it, I wouldn’t advise having it done, as long as you are a resident/citizen of the West.

However, we should never doubt anything in our religion because of the bad publicity the media creates about it. Would it have been sensible for Muslims fifty years ago to doubt male circumcision because it was not yet shown by science to be of benefit?[59]

A Severe Practice

This study is from the U.S. Department of State:

According to the study, of 100 mothers in the Kemayoran community in Jakarta, 97 percent of their female children had been circumcised. Trained midwives or physicians circumcised the baby girls using a blood lancet or sewing needle to prick the clitoris until bleeding occurred. However, some midwives merely wiped the clitoris with alcohol and bethadine. This procedure took place when the girl was 40 days to five years old.

The 100 mothers surveyed from the rural West Java community of Cijeruk said 100 percent of their female children had been circumcised. Traditional birth attendants (TBAs) performed the procedure using small scissors, a razor blade or even a small piece of sharpened bamboo. The TBAs cut a small piece of the prepuce (clitoral hood) or the clitoris itself until bleeding occurred. This procedure was performed when the baby was about 40 days old.[62]

Reformist Views

Here in this section, we do not keep track of the main areas, like women as fields or women’s testimony, but of reform generally. This approach to a general reform is best, because if reformers can convince their more traditional fellow Muslims that the Quran’s patriarchy should be left back in the seventh century, then all of the specific verses fall by the wayside.

A few women are members of the Iranian parliament, a country that can be objectively classified as oppressive of women’s rights.

[Q&A] with Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of Iran’s parliament (2000-2004). She is currently a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

What role have women played in Iran’s parliament since the 1979 revolution?

Women in parliament can be divided into two groups: those who have a feminist conscientiousness or awareness, and those who do not.

Once we, the reformists, won the election in 2000, we began having meetings and seminars with women’s rights activists. Our promise during the sixth parliament (between 2000 and 2004) was to change discriminatory laws against women.

There were women and men who defended women’s rights. On one bill related to women’s issues, one of our male colleagues told us, “It is important that as a member of the clergy, I defend this bill, rather than you women having to defend it.” So the sixth parliament had a very different atmosphere than subsequent parliaments.[63]

These women are heroes in their own way, so the above excerpt has been placed in the reformist section.

Dr. Zainab Alwani is the vice-chairman of the executive council at Fiqh Council of North America. After quoting verses in the Quran that speak of humankind forming alliances and taking care of the earth, she concludes that complementary roles between men and women best expresses the Quran’s ideal for them:

Therefore, men are responsible for maintaining the family financially, and providing for a broad range of needs, including spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs. Without this divine injunction, some men may not fulfill their financial responsibility towards their family… While men are obligated to work in order to support the family, women may choose to work outside the home or may choose not to work, depending on the individual circumstance of the family.

Muslim women did not restrict the meaning of work only to the financial support of their families. They came to realize that each individual has special qualities that better enable them to perform a certain societal role; and society as a whole functions more effectively when that role is fulfilled. As the Qur’an says, “And in nowise covet those things in which God has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn. But ask God of His bounty. For God has full knowledge of all things.” (4:32).

Muslim women work diligently on promoting social justice in all levels. They were actively engaged in the process of socioeconomic development of their societies. They became pioneers in establishing many social, educational and even political programs and institutions including schools, orphanages, hospitals, libraries, and other critical institutions. With this understanding, women became the conscience of society, to pinpoint what plagues the community and help in providing valuable solutions.

In conclusion, cooperation and complementary gender relationships leads to the fulfillment of humankind’s mission on earth: the healthy partnership wilayyah [mutual partnerships] between men and women as khalifs… vicegerents, stewards or God-agents on this earth. This mission should be maintained and enforced to help cleanse society from corruption and drive it towards peacefulness and purity.[64]

Though these words are positive, she does not explain the negative verses in the Quran, but at least she reinterprets the positive ones to show the complementarity between men and women.

Dr. Margot Badran is senior fellow at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, specializing in women and gender in Muslim societies. She delivered a talk at the American Research Center in Egypt, outlining a feminist hermeneutics (interpretation) of the Quran.

Feminist hermeneutics distinguishes between the universal or timeless basic principles and the particular and contingent, or ephemeral. In the case of the latter, certain practices were allowed in a limited and controlled manner as a way of curtailing behaviours prevalent in the society into which the revelation came while encouraging believers or placing them on the path to fuller justice and equality in their human interactions. Feminist hermeneutics has taken three approaches:

1) revisiting ayaat [verses] of the Qur’an to correct false stories in common circulation, such as the accounts of creation and of events in the Garden of Eden that have shored up claims of male superiority;

2) citing ayaat that unequivocally enunciate the equality of women and men;

3) deconstructing ayaat attentive to male and female difference that have been commonly interpreted in ways that justify male domination.[65]

Three forward-thinking claims stand out in Badran’s excerpt: One is that she acknowledges the Quran has problematic verses about women. Two is that the Quran must be set in its historical context (“particular, contingent, ephemeral”), which justifies “male domination.” Then the verses that justify this domination can be set aside or deconstructed in some way. She is on the right track, coming up with innovative ways to interpret the Quran. I suggest, however, that she stays with an historical-grammatical approach.

Also, she delivered this lecture in English in Egypt. Was it translated in Arabic and discussed by religious leaders there?

To sum up this section on modern Islam, these examples will appear outdated in a few years. But regardless of the particulars, they still reveal that Muslims are going through a struggle or reinterpretation of the Quran and Islam itself. However, the traditionalists outnumber and outweigh the reformists, because the traditionalists have 1,400 years of the Quran, the hadith, classical law, and history on their side. The Quran and original Islam are extremely conservative and loath to reform.

But the few reformers who interpret the Quran in its historical context must be applauded. They are on the right track. Those old laws and verses were intended only for the seventh century. They have expiration dates, for they reflect the original culture from which they emerged.

CONCLUSION

Despite the proclamations by traditionalists that Islam is universal (cross-cultural) and timeless in all its rulings and divine Quranic verses, it is very much rooted in seventh-century patriarchal culture.

Islam says that “Men are a degree above [women] in status”; and “Allah has made the one [mankind] superior to the other [womankind].” Allah himself made men superior to women. Muhammad also says in the hadith: “This [diminishment of a woman’s testimony] is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.” That statement insults the one quality in humans that exalts them and gives them dignity: their rational, thinking mind.

If Islam elevated womankind above the plight of women before Islam arrived on the scene, it did not go far enough by today’s standards. The Quran, traditions, and classical sharia law are too time-bound and culture-bound.

Islam, classically interpreted, as we have just observed in the previous four sections, does not elevate women’s status. Islam’s view of women is in fact deeply influenced by its seventh century culture; indeed, everyone and every worldview are influenced by their culture to one degree or another.

In defense of progress, in the USA the inheritance can be divided equally among all siblings, regardless of their gender, if the testator so chooses. No religious law prohibits this from happening. One woman may testify, and her testimony is weighted equally with that of one man in a court of law. No legal ruling from a judge today says that womankind’s mind is deficient. Women are not regarded as a field that men may plow, so to speak. That image is demeaning.

So, American laws and outlook fit into a modern context better. Everyone is equal before the law. There is no built-in prejudice against women today.

If traditional Muslims believe that they can never learn anything from the “arrogant” West, then this refusal to learn is also arrogant.

By the false accusation of “Islamophobia,” defenders of Islam would shame us into never speaking out against obviously bad and defective customs and outlooks in sharia. However, it is not culturally insensitive to point them out; in fact we would be derelict in our duty to our own society if we were to neglect to speak out. We would be too deferential to bad practices in Islam if we remain silent. Silence is complicity.

Islamic law as it pertains to women should never be allowed to spread throughout modern societies that value life and liberty, which will lead, eventually, to happiness, especially for women, as they define happiness.

The religious aspects of sharia, like fasting and praying and washing, do not harm society monetarily or physically, so Muslims can practice them in private or at the mosque. But the laws laid out above are not benign, so they must be set aside and rejected.[66]

This article first appeared at Jihad Watch on August 15, 2012., but has been updated here.

Articles in the Series

More Punishments (offsite):

[1] Jamal Badawi, “The Status of Women in Islam,” Institute al Islam, 1971.

[2] Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, The Quran, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford, 2010). The words in brackets are his. If readers would like to see various translations of the Quran, they may go to the website quranbrowser.com and type in the references.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, in this article we use the translation of Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi, the Meaning of the Qur’an, 4th ed., vol. 1, trans. Ch. Muhammad Akbar, ed. A. A. Kamal, (Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications, 2003), 165, Chapter 2. His translation and commentary are available online at englishtafsir.com. If the readers would like to see other translations of the Quran, they may go to the website quranbrowser.com and type in the references.

[4] Abdul Mannan Omar, Dictionary of the Holy Quran, Hockessin, Noor Foundation, 2004), 175-76. The root is d-r-j. The translator Maududi adds “status” in the verse, but others say “responsibility” (Hilali and Khan), “advantage” (Yusuf Ali), “right” (Abdel Haleem).

[5] Abdel Haleem’s translation, with his bracketed insertion.

[6] Maududi, Meaning, vol. 1, 329, Chapter 4.

[7] Omar, Dictionary, 429. The root is f-d-l. For the verb form, see 2:47, 122, 253; 4:32, 95; 6:86; 7:140; 13:4; 16:71; 17:21, 55, 70; 27:15; 45:16.

[8] Maududi, Meaning, vol. 1, 311, Chapter 4. See Quran 4:176.

[9] Abdel Haqleem’s translation

[10] Ibid, vol. 1, 205, Chapter 2.

[11] Abdel Haleem’s translation, my bracketed insertion.

[12] Abdel Haleem’s translation.

[13] Hilali and Khan, The Noble Qur’an, (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2002).

[14] Bukhari, Menses, 001.006.301, with minor mechanical adjustment; see also Obligatory Charity Tax, 002.024.541. Is it true that since women make up the majority of the world, it only stands to reason that they would be the majority in hell? This misses the point – and misses the possibility that women may be more spiritual than men. The reason that women make up the majority in hell is their harshness and ingratitude. So it has nothing to do with a numerical majority. The hadith are searchable online at the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, under the aegis of the University of Southern California.

[15] Bukhari, Marriage, 007.062.030-32; and Jihad, 004.052.110.

[16] Ibid. 007.062.120; the parenthetical comments are inserted by the translator. Cf. 007.062.123.

[17] Ibid. 007.062.165.

[18] Ibid. 007.062.121; cf. 007.062.122; Beginning of Creation, 004.054.469.

[19] Ibid. 007.062.124 and 007.062.126; cf. Beginning of Creation, 004.054.464; Making Hearts Tender, 008.076.456.

[20] Idem, Marriage, 007.62.125.

[21] Ibid. 007.062.133.

[22] Ibid. 007.062.113; 007.062.114.

[23] Bukhari, Prayer (Salat), 001.009.490, the parenthetical comments are added by the translator. I made small mechanical adjustments.

[24] Idem, Marriage, 007.062.033.

[25] Ibid. Laws of Inheritance, 008.080.731; the parenthetical comments were inserted by the translator.

[26] Bukhari Witnesses, 003.048.826.

[27] Bukhari, Commentary on the Quran, 6.4527, with small mechanical adjustments (the online link is presently dead). The parenthetical comments are by the translator. He notes that Bukhari himself left the ending of the hadith blank, the translator commenting that Bukhari did not know what Umar had meant. However, early Muslim commentators say that Ibn Umar permitted anal sex. See Sam Shamoun, “Women in Islam, Part 2,” answering-islam.org.

[28] Ibid. 6.4528, with small mechanical adjustments (the online link is presently dead).

[29] Abu Dawud, General Behavior, 41.5251.

[30] Malik ibn Anas, Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas: The First Formation of Islamic Law, rev. ed., trans. Aisha Bewley, Inverness, Scotland: Madina Press, 1989, 2001), 54.8.21-22. This law book is also available at the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement.

[31] Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, rev. ed., trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, (Beltsville, Maryland: Amana, 1994), 641. The notes labeled “K” were done by Muhammad Shirbini Khatib (d. 1570), who taught and died in Cairo, Egypt.

[32] Ibn Rushd, The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, vol. 2, trans. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, (Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, Reading, UK: Garnet, 1994-1996), 553-54.

[33] Misri, Reliance, 717.

[34] Ibid. 765-66. Disciplinary action may involve hitting (see the article on wife-beating).

[35] Ibid. 538. The comments by “A” are those of Sheikh Abd al-Wakil Durubi (b. 1914) who was from Syria, and studied in Cairo and was then appointed imam in Damascus. The parenthetical notes labeled “n” are by the translator.

[36] Ibid. The comments label “O” are done by Sheikh Umar Barakat (d. post-1890), who worked in Mecca.

[37] Ibid. 672. That ruling is found in the section “Enormity,” meaning “immoderate, monstrous, outrageous … great wickedness … a grave offense against order, right, or decency” (Webster’s Dictionary).

[38] Malik, Muwatta, 27.1.

[39] Ibn Rushd, Distinguished, 2.413.

[40] Malik, Muwatta, 36.4.7.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibn Rushd, Distinguished, 2.559.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid. 2.560.

[48] Misri, Reliance, 526. The parenthetical comments labeled “A” are those of Sheikh Abd al-Wakil Durubi.

[49] Ibid. 59. The parenthetical comments labeled “O” are those of Sheikh Umar Barakat (d. post-1890). The parenthetical comments labeled “A” are those of Sheikh Abd al-Wakil Durubi. The parenthetical notes labeled “n” are by the translator. The translator mitigates the harshness of this ruling. Though this series of articles does not compare religions, one verse in the New Testament lifts the discussion about circumcision: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). No woman should have to be circumcised for any reason and in any way, to show her love for God.

[50] Maududi, Meaning, vol. 1, 333, note 56.

[51] Ibid, vol 1, 333, note 57.

[52] Ibid. vol. 1, 312, note 15.

[53Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Quran, rev. ed., vol. 1, trans. Adil Salahi and Ashur Shamis,  (Markfield: Islamic Foundation, 2003), 473.

[54] Ibid. vol. 3, trans. and ed. Adil Salahi and Ashur Shamus (Markfield: Islamic Foundation, 2001), 121.

[55] Maududi, Meaning, vol. 1, 162, note 241.

[56] Harun Yahya, “The Eminence Islam Attaches to Women,” Muslim Women’s League USA.

[57] M. D. Rasooldeen and Walaa Hawari, “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Announced Sunday that Saudi Women Would Be Allowed to Stand and Vote in Municipal Elections and Also Become Members of the Shoura Council,” Arab News, September 26, 2011.

[58] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “Inheritance,” amjaonline.com, March 4, 2011, Question ID or fatwa no. 83895. The parenthetical comment is original.

[59] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “Are Women Deficient?” amjaonline.com, December 23, 2008, Question ID or fatwa no. 77217.

[60] Permanent AMJA Fatwa Committee, “Interpretation of the Honorable Verse,” amjaonline.com, July 14, 2004, Question ID or fatwa no. 251.

[61] Hatem al-Haj, “Female Circumcision,” amjaonline.com, May 25, 2012, Question ID or fatwa no. 81556. The first bracketed insertion is mine; the other one is his. All of the parenthetical comments are his.

[62] United States Department of State, Indonesia: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC), June 1, 2001.

[63] Semira M. Nikou, “Women Struggle in Parliament,” Part 7, Septermber 22, 2011, Frontline, pbs.org, with slight mechanical adjustments.

[64] Zainab Alwani, “The Quranic Concepts of Gender Relations,” Fiqh Council of North America.

[65] Margot Badran, “Islamic Feminism: What’s in a Name,” Al-Ahram weekly online, January 2002.

[66] This series of articles does not contrast Christianity and Islam on the topic of women. However, readers may be curious about it. If so, they may click on these articles here and here.

 

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