Challenging Islam: Is Islam Sexist?
13 Mar, 2007
you might remember that way back you sent me an email, about shriah law and how its discriminative towards woman! You asked me to, and I quote you;
“If you can prove conclusively what is contained below to be false and lies, I shall apologise to all Muslims (especially women) and take a rest from my writing.
I shall also request you to forward this e-mail (especially the bottom message) to any Islamic scholar, Imam or Islamic judge and let them say that what I have written is wrong. “
I sent the info you have enclosed, and yes, you have been proven wrong.
I hope you stay true to your words (apologising to all woman).
Look forward to hearing from you
Note: Please read my challenges below. My short answer is attached at the end of this message.
Question asked by hannah from United States of America on 9-Mar-2007.
Title: Is Islam Sexist?
Question: I have sent you some stuff written by someone-since you're an Islamic site I would like you to, if you can verify it. Is it really true? Is this really Islam?
This is what the person wrote:
If you can prove conclusively what is contained below to be false and lies, I shall apologise to all Muslims (especially women) and take a rest from my writing. I shall also request you to forward this e-mail (especially the bottom message) to any Islamic scholar, Imam or Islamic judge and let them say that what I have written is wrong.
Of countless articles in support of Sharia I hardly found any quoting the real laws. Big lectures of justice are given, thick smokescreens are created with truck-loads of historical connotations, most of which are incorrect and fabricated, but quoting real laws is carefully bypassed. Here are some laws from most authentic sources, let us talk about these. These are the reasons that I strongly maintain that no nation can progress with such humiliation to its own women. See bellow, read and reflect.
1) A Muslim man is allowed to beat his wife or wives.
a) Shafi'i Law# m.10.12 Page-541 & o.17.4 Page 619.
b) Many references and books written by Maolanas showing how to beat a wife without leaving mark on her body. Ref supported by Bangla Qura'anic Tafsir by Muhiuddin Khan-page 246.
2) A Muslim man is allowed to have four wives at one time.
a) Hanafi Law- Page 31
b) Sharia the Islamic Law - Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi - page 147
c) Many other references.
3) Women inherit half of men do
a) Sharia the Islamic Law - Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi - page 299.
b) Too many References
Other examples: -
4) Instant Final Divorce by is allowed for husband even under torture, compulsion, alcohol, narcotics and jokes. (Then he can marry a new set of 4 wives and continue the cycle).
a) Hanafi Law -Page 81 and 523.
b) Shafi'i Law - Page 560 Law# N.3.5 (Instant but not under compulsion)
c) Deen Ki Bnate - Maolana Ashraf Ali Thanvi- page 254 Law 1537, 1538, 1546 and 2555. (Includes under compulsion)
d) Website - Sunnipath.com
5) The only way for a wife to get divorce is to convince the Sharia Court and also to pay money her husband.
a) Hanafi Law -Page 112
b) Shafi'i Law - Page 562, 565 & 981-Law# n.5.0, n7-7&w-52-1-253-255.
c) Sharia the Islamic Law- Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi - page 192.
d) Court Documents of Egypt and Istanbul, 17th century- Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History - Amira Azhary.
6) To get united with the previous husband a divorced wife must marry another person, have complete sex with him and get divorced by him voluntarily.
a) Islamic Laws - Ayatollah Seestani - page 469 Law# 2536
b) Hanafi Law -Page 15
c) Shafi'i Law - Page 673 Law# P.29.1
d) Moksudul Mumeneen - page 231
e) Deen Ki Bnate - Maolana Ashraf Ali Thanvi page 252 Law# 1543 -(2).
7) Evidence of a female singer and slave (male or female) is not admissible.
a) Hanafi Law -Page 361
8) Women's testimony is not accepted in Hudood cases.
a) Hanafi Law-Page 353.
b) Shafi'i Law- 638 Law#o.24.9
c) Penal Law of Islam - page 44, 45.
d) Criminal Law in Islam and the Muslim World -page 251
9) Women's testimony in Business transactions is half of men's.
a) Shafi'i Law- Page 637 Law#o.24.7
b) Hanafi Law-Page 352.
10) Custody goes to mother for boys 9 years and girls 7 years provided she prays and does not marry a stranger. After 9 and 7 years boys and girls go to the father.
a) Shafi'i Law- Page 550 Law#m.13.0
b) Hanafi Law-Page 138-139
11) Husbands are not obliged to provide doctor's fees, medicines and cosmetics to wives. They must provide only food, cloths and house.
12) Rebellious wife doesn't get anything.
a) Hanafi Law-Page 140.
b) Shafi'i Law- Page 544 Law#m.11.4
c) Qura'anic Tafseer- (Bangla) Muhiuddin Khan -page 867.
13) Men can marry Jews/Christians but women must marry Muslims. But if a Muslim woman becomes Jews/Christian, Muslims must not marry her.
14) Women cannot be Bride's guardians
a) Hanafi Law-Page 138-139
15) A divorced wife gets maintenance only for maximum 3 months.
a) Hanafi Law-Page 145.
b) Shafi'i Law- Page 546 Law#m.11.10.3
16) Adoption is not allowed in Sharia.
a) Sharia the Islamic Law - Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi - page 463.
b) Other references.
17) Women's Blood-Money is half of men's. (Only sons, not daughters can claim Blood-Money)
a) Shafi'i Law- Page 590 Law# o4.9.
b) WALL STREET JOURNAL: - The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2002). In Saudi Arabia, the concept of blood money as per Islamic Shariat (If a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the latter has to pay blood money or compensation, as follows:
100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
50,000 riyals if a Christian man
25,000 riyals if a Christian woman
6,666 riyals if a Hindu man
3,333 riyals if a Hindu woman
That is, a Muslim man's life is worth 33 times that of a Hindu woman
c) Sharia the Islamic Law - Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi - page 235
Penal Law of Islam - page 149.
Regard Is Also To Be Had To A Difference Of Riligion, So That A Muslim Shall Not Be Put To Death For The Murder Of An Unbeliever- Unquote
"Text of Pakistan's hudud ordinances (law 7 of 1979 amended by 20 of 1980)" from "criminal law in Islam and the muslim world" published by institute of objective studies, New Delhi.
page - 448 - the presiding officer of the court by which a case is tried, or an appeal is heard under this ordinance shall be a Muslim. provided that, if the accused is a non‑Muslim, the presiding officer may be a non‑Muslim.
page 445: - proof of zina (adultery) or zina bi'l jabr (rape) liable to hadd (god's punishment) shall be in one of the following forms, namely: -
(1.either confession of the accused), or, 2. at least four muslim-adult male witnesses......... give evidence as eyewitnesses. (also in Bangla Qura'an of Muhiuddin khan - page 928).
pages- 251: -there is a total agreement amongst the jurists on the number of witnesses and their sex. omen’s testimony is not accepted in cases of adultery or in any capital offence."
1. Testimony of a non-Muslim that has been punished for false accusation is inadmissible. If s/he later becomes a Muslim, her/his evidence is then
3. The Judge of the Court shall be a Muslim. The Judge may be a non-Muslim only if the accused is a non-Muslim.
4. Adoption is not allowed in Sharia.
5. Apostates (Muslims who leave Islam) automatically get death penalty. If not available for killing, their marriage is dissolved and they cannot inherit from Muslim parents or children.
6. A Muslim virgin cannot marry without permission of her male guardian.
7. A man can marry a woman for a fixed time, from few hours to several years (Mu'ta Marriage, - Sharia of Shia sect.). Rich men from the Middle East travel to Southern India to take advantage of this law on financially poor women, so do rich Iranian men on their women. The misery of those women and children born out of this practice are beyond comprehension.
As you will see, almost all of the points raised in your post have been discussed in detail in this website. I have looked at each one of them separately and have referred you to the given answers, while, where appropriate, making some comments.
In a nutshell, you have raised and criticised 24 rulings that are attributed to Islam. According to our understanding, only 4 of them are partially or wholly directed by Islam and the rest are either totally irrelevant to Islam, or are merely the opinion of individuals or groups.
Before reading this however, I think it is helpful to consider a few general points about typical questions like ones you have posted:
There is a difference between 'analysing a belief' and 'criticising for the sake of criticism'. It is possible to write tens of criticisms on absolutely any belief.
It is interesting to know that many of the criticisms of this sort about Islam, equally and sometimes even more, apply to some of the other systems of belief. Putting the point of criticism on Islam only, sometimes, gives a false indication that other systems of belief are immune from that criticism.
In your question you ask: "Is this really Islam?" I hope you don't mind me making your question a bit more accurate. I think you are asking: "are these rules given by Islam?" I hope you appreciate the huge difference between these two questions and what they might imply.
Related to the above point, let me illustrate an example. I am climbing a mountain with a guide and the guide advises me to take a certain route. I want to make sure if his advice is really a professional one. What do you think I should do? Would you suggest that I evaluate his advice based on my judgement about that route or would you suggest that I investigate whether he really is a qualified guide (no matter what is my unqualified opinion about the route he advises me to take)? If I am qualified enough to judge about which route to take then why did I go to a guide in the first place? Bringing this to the context of this question and answer: The best way of testing a religion is to see if it is really from a divine source (and if there is a divine source at all). It is not a logical approach to test a religion by seeing whether we like its rules or not. If we establish that a religion is divine, then we need to follow it, no matter if we like all its rules or not. Likewise, if we establish that a religion is false, then we should not follow it as a divine religion, even if we love all its rules. All of the questions you mentioned are based on the approach of "judging about the advised route", rather than "investigating the qualification of the guide" (yet, as mentioned above, of the 24 'routes' that are referred to, only 4 are really advised by the 'guide').
One either criticises a belief by looking at the main sources of understanding of that belief, or criticises a believer by looking at the opinion of that believer. It is not logical to criticise a belief by looking at the opinion of its believer.
To be more specific about the above point, all of the points raised in your post are based on the opinions of individuals or groups who (while being well educated and respected in their own right) are only fallible human beings who have expressed their own understanding of the religion of Islam and its rules. While we get huge benefits from the works and thoughts of many of these individuals (some of whom are great scholars of Islam) we do not consider any of them to be the ultimate source of understanding our religion. Therefore the rather long list of references that are provided for some of the points does not have any significance (for this purpose). The only source of understanding Islam is the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). The answers that follow here are based on our honest and analytically derived understanding of these divine sources.
With the above in mind, I now proceed to address the points mentioned in your post one by one:
A Muslim man is allowed to beat his wife or wives.
The above statement is phrased very cleverly. It seems like it suggests:
"men of other religions and nations are forbidden from beating their wives"
"it is a Muslim man who is allowed to do so"
I think any one with some knowledge of other cultures and religions will be able to appreciate that the first part of the above statement is not totally true.
As for the second part, this has been discussed in detail through extensive discussions in this website. You can find a summary here:
Some Objections of Dr. Labib
If you like more elaboration you can read the following answer and the related discussions and the author's note:
A Muslim man is allowed to have four wives at one time.
What may allow a man (including Muslim men) having more than one wife can only be social norms within which a man is living. Islam has not instructed or recommended Muslims to have more than one wife. In a society where it was a norm for people to have more than one wife, Islam has only restricted the number of allowable wives to four. Even in such cases, the Qur'an stresses that if the person cannot make sure that he will treat all his wives fairly, then having one wife is better.
Please read the following question and answer for more details:
Regarding Muslim Social Norms
Women inherit half of men do.
This is generally correct. Moiz Amjad writes in one of his answers in this website:
Even though the Qur'an recognizes men and women to be 'equals', as human beings, yet it considers them to be different from each other in their natural physical, emotional and psychological qualities. In view of these differences, their social roles are also, generally, different from the other. It is because of this reason that Islam does not give them their respective rights and responsibilities on the principle of 'equality', but on the principle of 'Justice'. The principle of 'equality' may have required that men and women be given an equal share of inheritance. However, in view of the differences between the roles and responsibilities of the two, the Qur'an has prescribed different shares of inheritance for them, based upon the principle of 'justice'." - From Analyzing Islam
Also read this question and answer:
Are Inheritance Allocations Absolutely Fixed?
Instant Final Divorce by is allowed for husband even under torture, compulsion, alcohol, narcotics and jokes. (Then he can marry a new set of 4 wives and continue the cycle).
I wasn't sure what the above really means. Perhaps the following question and answer covers the issue under question:
The Permitted Situations for Divorce in Islam
The only way for a wife to get divorce is to convince the Sharia Court and also to pay money her husband.
"Paying money" is irrelevant. Originating from the same source, like in Judaism, in Islam the right of divorce is primarily given to husbands. Please read the question and answer in the above link to see how wife can initiate divorce according to the rules of Islam.
To get united with the previous husband a divorced wife must marry another person, have complete sex with him and get divorced by him voluntarily.
This is a very inaccurate and forged explanation of the real law of Islam with regard to divorce. To see the correct law, please refer to this question and answer:
Pronouncing Triple Talaaq at the Same Time
Reading the above, one appreciates that having complete sex is irrelevant here.
Evidence of a female singer and slave (male or female) is not admissible. Women's testimony is not accepted in Hudood cases. Women's testimony in Business transactions is half of men's.
Evidence of anyone who can be considered reliable and trustworthy can be accepted by the court of law in Islam. With regard to the first point above, there may have been times when slaves and female singers were deemed as unreliable, but this is not a general rule. With regard to the second point, it is possible that a state of a Muslim country considers this as a rule, however there is nothing in the Shariah (laws) of Islam that could rule out women's testimony for Hudood cases.
Moiz Amjad writes:
In my opinion, Islam has, rightly, not bound a court of law to accept or reject any witness. Accepting or rejecting a witness is actually to pass a subjective or a value judgment regarding the reliability of a person's statement. Thus, no objective principles can or should be framed regarding this acceptance or rejection of witnesses - especially any principles that distinguish between witnesses on the basis of their age, sex, beliefs or creed. A court may not be satisfied with ten male witnesses, due to their contradictory statements, while the statement of a single female witness may be so clear and convincing that the court may base its judgment upon this one witness alone. I really do not think that Islam, in anyway, hinders any court from doing so." - From Regarding 'Women's Witness'
It is not correct that Islam considers women's testimony half of men's testimony. Please read the following question and answer:
Custody goes to mother for boys 9 years and girls 7 years provided she prays and does not marry a stranger. After 9 and 7 years boys and girls go to the father.
Not true. Please read the following question and answer:
Custody of Children in case of Divorce...
Husbands are not obliged to provide doctor's fees, medicines and cosmetics to wives. They must provide only food, cloths and house. Rebellious wife doesn't get anything.
In Islam the concept of family is a very important concept and many measures have been put in place to ensure (as much as possible) that the family relations remain healthy and strong. As such, it is the duty of husband to provide his wife with what is considered to be necessary for her living and comfort (this also applies to a rebellious wife). If wife demands things that are beyond her necessary requirements, then I think it is only fair to leave it to the husband to decide whether he wants to satisfy that demand or not. I think this is a very sensible common rule that applies in every civilised society. I am not aware of any rules in the West that oblige husbands to provide fees for cosmetics of their wife for instance. In fact, by the rules of our western societies, even doctor's fee and medicine is not obligatory for husband because man and woman are considered equal in terms of their role and responsibility and it is expected that both of them work and make money for their personal requirements.
Men can marry Jews/Christians but women must marry Muslims. But if a Muslim woman becomes Jews/Christian, Muslims must not marry her.
As for interfaith marriage please refer to the following questions and answer:
The case is not different for a Jew/Christian woman who was a Muslim. The only thing is that in this case it is quite natural that the converted ex-Muslim woman has some strong opinions against the religion that she has left (Islam). It is very understandable if a practicing Muslim man does not like to marry such woman.
Women cannot be Bride's guardians.
The main purpose of guardian is to make sure the rights and benefits of an innocent girl are protected. Traditionally and generally, usually parents and in particular father (because of his role in the family) are considered as guardians of girls who want to marry. This in no way is limited to Islam, I think in any healthy society this is the case. In the absence of father or parents any person who can be considered as an elder and protector for the girl may be naturally considered as her guardian. Islam has not given any rules about this.
A divorced wife gets maintenance only for maximum 3 months.
There is a bit of confusion here. A wife, whose husband has announced divorce to her, should stay in her husband's house till she goes through three menstrual periods or three months if she does not menstruate. During this time her living costs should be provided by the husband as usual. After the end of this, unless the husband reconsiders his decision for divorce, the man and woman will separate and the divorce actually takes effect. According to the Qur'an (2:241) a divorced woman (that is a woman who has gone through the prescribed waiting period after announcement of divorce and is now actually divorced and separated from her husband) should get an appropriate provision from her husband. The nature and the value of this depend on the norms of society and the financial condition of the husband. Besides this, the divorced woman shall keep all the gifts and the Mahr - i.e. a particular gift that she received upon marrying the man. In an Islamic society, ties between family members are very strong and healthy. It is therefore expected that a divorced woman will immediately go under financial support and protection of her original family. Given this, there will be no need for the husband to keep providing his wife's maintenance.
Adoption is not allowed in Sharia.
There is a misunderstanding about the application of the word 'adoption' here. Please read the following question and answer:
Is Adoption Prohibited in Islam?
Women's Blood-Money is half of men's. (Only sons, not daughters can claim Blood-Money). A Muslim man's life is worth 33 times that of a Hindu woman. Regard is also to be had to a difference of riligion, so that a Muslim shall not be put to death for the murder of an unbeliever.
No fixed amount is prescribed by Shariah as a blood-money. According to the Qur'an (2:178) this has been left to be decided based on the norms and traditions of the society (Ma'roof).
A translation of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi's writing on the law of blood money reads:
"... it becomes evident that Islam has not prescribed any specific amount for Diyat nor has it obligated us to discriminate in this matter between a man or a woman, a slave or a free man and a Muslim or a non-Muslim. ... its quantity, nature and other related affairs have been left by the Qur'an upon the customs and traditions of a society."
What is Diyat?
In Islam murder is murder and there is no difference whether a Muslim or a non-Muslim have been killed. When the Qur'an talks about punishment for unjustified murder, the Qur'an does not add any specifications or conditions in terms of the faith of the murdered. Any sayings attributed to the Prophet that suggest the opposite, if deemed reliable, is referring to the people who are subject to divine punishment for rejecting a messenger of God after being directly addressed by him and after being convinced about his message.
"TEXT OF PAKISTAN'S HUDUD ORDINANCES. the presiding officer of the court by which a case is tried, or an appeal is heard under this ordinance shall be a muslim. provided that, if the accused is a non-muslim, the preceding officer may be a non-muslim.
The purpose of this website is to understand Islam, not to understand the Pakistani Hudud Ordinance (which by the way is currently under critical review by a number of scholars in Pakistan). This is only a human made procedure. That said, I really cannot see what is wrong with this rule. Is the writer suggesting that it is fairer for a Muslim to be judged by a non-Muslim and for a non-Muslim to be judged by a Muslim? Does this not raise more severe criticism?
Apostates (Muslims who leave Islam) automatically get death penalty.
This is not correct in our understanding. Please read the following question and answer:
Punishment for Apostasy
If not available for killing, their (apostates) marriage is dissolved.
According to our understanding this is not true either, please read the following:
Status of an Existing Marriage after Conversion to Islam
and they (apostates) cannot inherit from Muslim parents or children.
Again according to our understanding this is not true. Please read the following question and answer and the discussion:
Eligibility of Share in Inheritance for non-Muslims... A Muslim virgin cannot marry without permission of her male guardian.
Whether the guardian should be male or not is a matter of debate. Getting the permission of a guardian is very important and as much as possible, this should be fulfilled. However, we cannot say that this is an absolute condition set by Shariah. Rather, we need to understand the concept and the intentions behind this. This is merely a measure to make sure the marriage has a firm and reliable basis. This is not only to make sure young girls are not making a mistake out of pure emotions in deciding about one of the most important matters in their life, but also to keep the sanctity of the institution of family (that is very important in Islam). However, there can always be exceptional cases. Where a girl's guardian disapproves her marriage and the girl thinks this is not due to valid reasons, she can take the case to the court so that the court (if deemed appropriate) acts as her guardian. Obviously, this only applies to the societies and under the rules where a guardian's consent is deemed necessary (which includes almost all Muslim countries). If this is not the case then naturally the court rule will be irrelevant, but still all possible measures should be in place to make sure the marriage is on a firm basis.
A man can marry a woman for a fixed time, from few hours to several years (Mu'ta Marriage, - Sharia of Shia sect.). Rich men from the Middle East travel to Southern India to take advantage of this law on financially poor women, so do rich Iranian men on their women. The misery of those women and children born out of this practice are beyond comprehension.
Temporary marriage is not allowed in Islam. Only the Shia sect of Islam (who are a small minority) practice this and the vast majority of Muslims do not approve it. We believe the Qur'an is very explicit about this.
If any of the above answers sound unclear or unreasonable please do not hesitate to let us know.
Thanks for writing after such a long delay.
This scholar has refuted nothing of what I have mentioned.
He is fumbling, defensive and looking for an escape route.
What he wrote is just his conjectures. He is no Islamic scholar, perhaps a Qur'an only Muslim (Rashad Khalifa's followers).
He did not say that those laws I quoted are not live laws.
He simply stated his differing views. This does not make those Islamic laws/rules invalid.
I shall ask him in which country can I find his brand of Islam?
I shall give no importance to this person's comments.