Since the dawn of the Abrahamic faith, the woman had been seen as the evil temptress, the vile seducer of men, the sobbing myth driving men to their follies and demise. Her menstruation made her unclean and impure, the juices flowing from her vagina (as one Golden Islamic age Shayk put it) are the lures of the devil. She is blamed for the fall of man and the trials of humanity. Her crime: she followed Lucifer’s advice on gaining the knowledge of good and evil and thus become an intelligent being.
I wrote a few blogs with fatwas from Islam Q and A about marriage and women testimony in an Islamic court of law. Naturally I received some criticism by Muslim apologists trying to defend such dehumanizing teachings, but one argument that consistently came up (although in no way defended women’s supposed inferiority) was that Islam gave women rights in such a primitive society. So I thought, what the hell? Let’s examine!
Islam stopped female children from being buried alive
An apologetic argument used by Muslims to prove that Muhammad stopped female infanticide. While I applaud Muhammad for this ‘divine revelation’ it is of hardly any significance. Why? Because the Arabs were not in the practice of burying their daughters. It simply was not a common practice; it wasn’t endorsed and was shunned most of the time. Modern Islamists have exaggerated the issue to make it seem like it was the Arab’s Saturday hobby-that and chasing camels. It simply was not a prominent or encouraged Arab practice in any sense of the word. So while it was admirable that Muhammad forbade it, it was no miracle.
Islam gave women the right in inherit
While I agree Islam made it mandatory that women inherit portions lesser than a man, in pre-Islamic Arabia women did inherit regardless and could pass on such inheritance to their children. Khadija was successful merchant and trader and had she kept her wealth, would have passed it along to her own offspring. Apologists like to say a woman’s inheritance and money is her own and that men cannot touch it, but clearly despite women getting less inheritance, if she dies, the inheritance goes to her male counterparts. However, to say Islam gave women the right to inherit is not a miracle of Islam’s divinity or Allah’s favour upon women. Women in various other societies held prominent positions and could inherit, hold voice in politics and could even vote. Especially within the Greek society. The most prominent and woman friendly society was Sparta. Women inherited equal to that of a man! For references on Greek society, especially the Spartans I recommend you read the works of Plutarch and Aristotle. In fact Aristotle loathed Sparta because they gave their women too much freedom, liberty and inheritance.
Islam respects a woman’s chastity and modesty
This is more on terms with the subject of morality. But even then I scoff at this. The whole concept of the Muslim woman’s chastity has become a fitna in itself. Hijab has become the perfect social tool for men to control women and disrespect women who do not adhere to this item of clothing. This obsession with female virginity and modesty has bred a lot of prejudices regarding women in the Islamic world, misogyny and slut shaming. Women are classed into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ based on virginity and clothing, completely ignoring the fact that clothes and sexual activity has no bearing on society. It is a person’s good conduct, honesty and generosity to others that count. In retrospect, ‘respect’ isn’t the right term I would use. Islam enforces chastity and modesty upon women and does not equally judge a man in the same way both religiously and culturally.
Islam gives women the right to divorce
Like all other misogynistic laws and religions at the time, yes divorce was granted to women, but not on equal terms to men. I recommend you read the opinions of the Islamic clergy on this matter. The limitations imposed upon women seeking a divorce are stressful indeed and there have to be certain conditions and reasons for it. Even then divorce is hard to achieve. However a man is at complete liberty to divorce his wife. This is hardly a progress or a right for women in any sense of the world. Other societies like the Greeks and religions like Christianity did, like Islam, grant women the ‘opportunity’ to seek divorce, but they were almost impossible to obtain and the ramifications for the woman whether it succeeded or failed ended up in torturous mutilations, beatings, death perhaps and them being ostracized from society. Rather Islam gives women a slim opportunity to seek divorce with a lot to lose and little to gain.
Islam gave women the right to choose their spouse
Like divorce this was very limited. You will find many ahadith where women can simply ‘deny’ a spouse candidate but they cannot literally go out and choose their future partner. The women are under the control of their guardians or parents and thus the choice goes to them. Muhammad even once said that a virgin’s silence is her consent to marriage (it definitely is not). Again their marriage must be accepted by the state or an Imam and thus women, who choose a spouse at the displeasure of their guardian or parents will more often than not, not have their marriages sanctified by the state or religious clergy. In Western countries, this attitude has changed for moderates, but the religion still goes against them. Denying a chosen spouse by the parents and guardian, like divorce, would also have some serious consequences. Islamic clerics always stress duty and obedience towards parents so a woman refusing the wishes of her family could literally be seen as guilty of a grievous sin. Cases of honour killings in many countries and acid attacks are proof of some of the ramifications of women who defy their family’s wishes. While apologists would say this is not taught in Islam, it could easily be justified due to the woman’s disobedience. So while Islam gave women the right to deny a candidate, it didn’t give her the right to choose and even then her option to deny the candidate would often be at the expense of her own happiness and even her life.
What about the wonderful things Muhammad said about women?
True, Muhammad did say good things about women imploring men to be kind to their wives, telling his followers their duty was to their mother before their father (sadly not many Muslims actually adhere to this) , that heaven lies at the feet of the mother and in his ‘example’ should help the wives at home. But at the same time he said a lot of things that spoke plainly of misogyny, chauvinism, violence and subjugation. Kindness to a wife was really only for those wives who were unquestionably obedient. Wife beating is sanctioned in the Quran Surah 4:34. There are a few ahadith of Muhammad ordering mass wife beatings because the women had become disobedient. Women who had been beaten by their husbands came to Muhammad and they were beaten green and still Muhammad did not help them. The Prophet of Islam said women are an evil omen, that the devil dwells within them and that they are an affliction towards men. Aisha remarked in several ahadith that Muhammad compared the women to donkeys, dogs and pigs. Let’s not forget how Muhammad even let his companions indulge in raping captives in war even in front of their own husbands. Just because a few nice things are said about women, does not mean Islam is women friendly in any sense of the word.
Western women are shameless whores
A tactic commonly used when the flaws in Islamic reasoning for women rights is pointed out. Most western women are not in the profession of prostitution and are in fact hard working women, independent, respected mothers and wives with careers. I think the problem is that Muslims do not like the idea of de facto relationships in the West or prom. But that doesn’t mean a person is immoral or bad or evil. You do not judge people by such sexual activity unless it hurts people (like rape and pedophilia). I also am repulsed by the fact that the blame on sex is placed only on the women and no one says anything about the men these women are supposedly having sex with. The fact of the matter is, if the West was a cesspool of wild orgies and women and men having sex at every chance they got, we’d be in a bit of a pickle. As it stands that is not the case.
So in the end, I would say Islamic Women’s Rights is an Oxymoron.