Women in Islam

Part 1 [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

Sam Shamoun

It is obvious that many Muslim apologists are really not interested in seriously considering what the Holy Bible teaches about the issue of gender equality, but simply throw out passages that are wrenched out of both their immediate and greater contexts. This may score cheap debate points with Muslims readers who, for the most part, may never even pick up the Holy Bible to examine what it actually teaches about this subject. Many Muslim readers will never read the Holy Bible, and they may not even have access to one, to determine for themselves whether the Muslim authors have quoted the passages accurately, whether enough context has been presented to determine if the conclusions these polemicists have arrived at are actually correct.

In light of this observation, we have decided to provide an in depth analysis on what the Holy Bible and Islam teach regarding gender equality. This series of articles will examine what these two religions say about men and women and their relationship. Do they teach that men and women are genuinely equal in essence and dignity, although different in design and function, or is there oppressive discrimination between the sexes? Are women honored and dignified or degraded and discriminated against? It will be our specific purpose in these series of writings to answer these crucial questions.

We start off our examination by looking at the Islamic view of women and begin by addressing some of the passages often used by Apologists to try to convince people that the authentic teachings of Islam dignify and honor women.

For instance, the following two verses deal with the rewards of believers and are often used by Muslims to demonstrate gender equity:

And their Lord answers them: ‘I waste not the labour of any that labours among you, be you male or female -- the one of you is as the other. And those who emigrated, and were expelled from their habitations, those who suffered hurt in My way, and fought, and were slain -- them I shall surely acquit of their evil deeds, and I shall admit them to gardens underneath which rivers flow.’ A reward from God! And God with Him is the fairest reward. S. 3:195 Arberry

And whoso doeth good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone. S. 4:124 Pickthall; cf. 16:97

Muslims often appeal to these texts to show that Allah treats men and women fairly since he equally rewards them both for their righteous deeds. The problem with the above claim is that women do not receive the same kinds of rewards which men do, nor are they treated as equal partners when it comes to other matters such as inheritance, intelligence, witness etc.

The above verses promise male and female believers that they will both be admitted into the garden, but that is where it ends. What will they get once they are inside the garden? For instance, men will be wedded to young virgin women with swelling breasts:

Surely those who guard (against evil) are in a secure place, In gardens and springs; They shall wear of fine and thick silk, (sitting) face to face; Thus (shall it be), and We will wed them with Houris pure, beautiful ones. They shall call therein for every fruit in security; They shall not taste therein death except the first death, and He will save them from the punishment of the hell, A grace from your Lord; this is the great achievement. S. 44:51-57 Shakir

Therein are maids of modest glances whom no man nor ginn has deflowered before. Then which of your Lord's bounties will ye twain deny? As though they were rubies and pearls. S. 55:56-58 Palmer

In them maidens best and fairest!… Bright and large-eyed maids kept in their tents… Whom no man nor ginn has deflowered before them. S. 55:70, 72, 74 Palmer

Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age, and a cup overflowing. Therein they shall hear no idle talk, no cry of lies, for a recompense from thy Lord, a gift, a reckoning, S. 78:31-36 Arberry

These passages are obviously male-centered, focusing on the rewards that the men receive without any reference to rewards for the believing women. The texts speak of men, and even jinn, being wedded to beautiful maidens, or houris. These verses specifically address the men. The problem is that there are no matching verses for the women. There are many verses that make exclusive promises to men, but none that make specific, let alone exclusive, promises of eternal rewards for women.

Unless one wants to assume that even women will be wedded to these maidens (i.e. Allah promises women lesbian relations in paradise), women obviously do not receive equal or the same rewards as the men do.

There are a couple of references that mention young, fresh boys who serve believers in heaven in Paradise:

Round about them will serve, (devoted) to them, Youths (handsome) as Pearls well-guarded. S. 52:24 Y. Ali

There wait on them immortal youths With bowls and ewers and a cup from a pure spring. S. 56:17-18 Pickthall

There wait on them immortal youths, whom, when thou seest, thou wouldst take for scattered pearls. S. 76:19 Pickthall

A Muslim may want to posit the view that believing women will be wedded to immortal boys much like the men will be wedded to firm breasted maidens. There are a couple of problems with this. First, the text does not say they are there for the women. Although their beauty is mentioned, it does not use clearly sexual or erotic words (wed, deflower, firm breasted, etc.) as in the earlier verses regarding the houris for the men. The classical Muslim commentators never understood these youths to be intended as sexual partners for women, so this claim would be contrary to the established meaning. In fact, it appears that these youths are for the men as well. Second, it is clearly established principle in Islam that men may enjoy sexual relationships with multiple females (wives and concubines) but women can never have more than one husband. See for instance Sura 4:3. There is no indication that this will be different in paradise.

The fact is that Allah is not just to women when it comes to eternal rewards. He does discriminate between the sexes, allowing men to continue their degradation and abuse of women in heaven by wedding them to specially created maidens so as to have perpetual sex. As New York Times Columnist Judith Miller stated in relation to the assassination of Egyptian writer Farag Foda:

"About two weeks before his murder, he mocked what passed for intellectual discourse among Islamists by citing a recent sermon by Egypt's most popular preacher, Abdel Hamid Kishk, a blind sheikh who constantly attacked both the government and its official religious establishment. Kishk had been telling his audience that Muslims who entered paradise would enjoy ETERNAL ERECTIONS and the company of young boys draped in earrings and necklaces. Some of the ulema, the religious scholars at al-Azhar, the government's seat of Islamic learning had disagreed. Yes, they said, men in paradise would have erections, BUT MERELY PROTRACTED, NOT PERPETUAL. Other experts disputed the possibility of pederasty in paradise. ‘Is this what concerns Muslims at the end of the 20th century?’ Foda asked in a column in October magazine. ‘The world around us is busy with the conquest of space, genetic engineering and the wonders of the computer,’ while Muslim scholars, he wrote ‘in sadness and pain,’ were worried about sex in paradise. In a column published just before he was killed, Foda reported that the Tunisian government had videotaped militant Islamic leaders on their prayer rugs, unwilling to await paradise, making love to beautiful women here on earth. Meanwhile, Egyptian militants in Assyut were ordering believers not to eat eggplants and squash because of their resemblance to sexual organs. ‘The Group of Darkness are obsessed with sex,’ he wrote." (Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names [A Touchstone Book, published by Simon & Schuster, 1997], pp. 26-27; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Here is the other passage used by Muslims:

O believers, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will; neither debar them, that you may go off with part of what you have given them, except when they commit a flagrant indecency. Consort with them honourably; or if you are averse to them, it is possible you may be averse to a thing, and God set in it much good. S. 4:19 Arberry

Muslims say that this text exhorts men to deal honorably with women and not to inherit them against their will. Yet it is strange that the Quran only adds "against their will" instead of abolishing the whole concept of inheriting a woman/person as if she was a thing. Although realizing that there is something wrong the author of the Quran does not lead the issue to its logical conclusion. On the contrary, the Quran still treats women as the possession of their husbands, and commands women to stay at home. This is a form of house arrest, as we will see shortly.

We agree that the Quran gives certain exhortations how to treat women, certain rules, and gives them some rights, but it is still clear that the men are in charge. The fact of the matter is that the Quran nowhere gives women equal rights and equal honor as men, it does not command men to treat women equally as themselves. The concept of honor is vastly different in various societies. What did "honorably" mean in the context of 7th century Arabia? The word is not self-explanatory, but needs to be filled with meaning. Its original meaning may not at all include of what we consider essential today.

Furthermore, it is this very same Sura which says that (a) a man’s inheritance equals that of two women, (b) that men can beat their wives whom they fear are being rebellious, and (c) is even discriminating in the rights of divorce:

And if a woman fears ill usage or desertion on the part of her husband, there is no blame on them, if they effect a reconciliation between them, and reconciliation is better, and avarice has been made to be present in the (people's) minds; and if you do good (to others) and guard (against evil), then surely Allah is aware of what you do. S. 4:128

In the above text, instead of warning the men from mistreating their spouses, women who fear mistreatment or desertion are told that they can seek a means of reconciliation. What many don’t realize is that this text refers to Muhammad’s mistreatment of his wife Sauda bint Zamah because she had gotten old:

Making peace is better than separation. An example of such peace can be felt in the story of Sawdah bint Zam'ah who WHEN SHE BECAME AGED, THE PROPHET WANTED TO DIVORCE HER, but she made peace with him by offering the night he used to spend with her to A'isha so that he would keep her. The Prophet accepted such terms and kept her.

Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas said, "Sawdah feared that the Messenger of Allah might divorce her and she said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Do not divorce me; give my day to 'A'ishah.’ And he did ...

In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that 'A'ishah said that when Sawdah bint Zam'ah BECAME OLD, she forfeited her day to 'A'ishah and the Prophet used to spend Sawdah's night with 'A'ishah ...

<And making peace is better>. IT REFERS TO THE WIFE RELINQUISHING SOME OF HER MARITAL RIGHTS and his acceptance of the offer. Such compromise is better than total divorce, as the Prophet did when retained Sawdah bint Zam'ah. By doing so, the Prophet set an example for his Ummah to follow as it is a lawful act ... (the preceding citation taken and adapted from Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5, Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, Verse 147 [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; first edition March 2000], pp. 599-601, and Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 5, Sura An-Nisa, ayat 24-147, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000 first edition], pp. 193-194; bold and capital emphasis ours)

One recent Muslim author says in a caption that:

Muhammad's personal and family life were not always smooth. His wives sometimes bickered amongst themselves and even once engaged in a petty plot against him. A'ishah, for example, disliked her Jewish co-wife, Safiyah, and insulted her periodically. Muhammad had to defend her status and honor a number of times and scold the youthful A'ishah. Hafsah became jealous of her co-wife, Maria, when she found her and Muhammad resting[sic] in her apartment one day. Sawdah gave up her allotted day with the Prophet WHEN SHE REALIZED HE WAS NOT REALLY ATTRACTED TO HER. As for the conspiracy, A'ishah agreed with two other co-wives to convince the Prophet that eating honey made him unpleasant to be around. When Muhammad vowed to never eat honey again, she privately repented to her co-conspirators. Though these incidents were not the norm, they demonstrate that the women in Muhammad's life were as human as the rest of us. (Yahiya Emerick, Critical Lives: Muhammad [Alpha Books, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2002], p. 263; capital and underline emphasis ours) {2}

Commentator Al-Tabari stated that:

Umra bin Ali & Zaid bin Ahram said: second by Abu Dawud, said: second by Sulaiman bin Mu'ath, from Simak bin Harb, from Ikrimah, from Ibn Abbas, said: Saudah feared divorce by the messenger of Allah, so she said: Do not divorce me, and do not share with me! And he did, and this verse was revealed: And if a woman fears ill usage or desertion on the part of her husband.

Muhammad bin Husain said: He claimed that this verse came down in reference to the messenger of Allah, and Saudah bint Zama'h who became old, then the messenger of Allah wanted to divorce her, but they agreed that he will keep her but give her day to Ai'sha. (Arabic source; translated by Mutee’a Al-Fadi)

Al-Qurtubi wrote:

In this verse there are four issues: the first, Al-Tirmidhi told that Ibn Abbas said: Saudah feared that the messenger of Allah will divorce her so she said, "Do not divorce me and keep me, and give my day with you to Ai'sha." He did and this verse came down: "there is no blame on them, if they effect a reconciliation between them, and reconciliation is better." He said: this is a good and strange hadith. (Arabic source; translated by Mutee’a Al-Fadi)

The Sahihayn, or the two Sahih collections, confirm that Sauda gave up her conjugal rights in order to please Muhammad:

Narrated Aisha:
Whenever Allah's Apostle wanted to go on a journey, he would draw lots as to which of his wives would accompany him. He would take her whose name came out. He used to fix for each of them a day and a night. But Sauda bint Zam'a gave up her (turn) day and night to 'Aisha, the wife of the Prophet in order to seek the pleasure of Allah's Apostle (by that action). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 766)

‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Never did I find any woman more loving to me than Sauda bint Zam'a. I wished I could be exactly like her who was passionate. As she became old, she had made over her day (which she had to spend) with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to ‘A’isha. She said: I have made over my day with you to ‘A’isha. So Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) allotted two days to ‘A’isha, her own day (when it was her turn) and that of Sauda. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3451)

The hadiths also mention that Sauda was a fat woman:

Narrated Aisha:
Sauda (the wife of the Prophet) went out to answer the call of nature after it was made obligatory (for all the Muslims ladies) to observe the veil. She was a fat huge lady, and everybody who knew her before could recognize her. So ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her and said, "O Sauda! By Allah, you cannot hide yourself from us, so think of a way by which you should not be recognized on going out. Sauda returned while Allah's Apostle was in my house taking his supper and a bone covered with meat was in his hand. She entered and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! I went out to answer the call of nature and 'Umar said to me so-and-so." Then Allah inspired him (the Prophet) and when the state of inspiration was over and the bone was still in his hand as he had not put in down, he said (to Sauda), "You (women) have been allowed to go out for your needs." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 318)

What this basically implies is that Muhammad no longer felt attracted to Sauda and wanted to abandon her because she was fat and old. Hence, Sura 4:128 gives men the right to simply ignore wives whom they are no longer attracted to, denying them the pleasure of love and intimacy!

More importantly, dealing honorably with women no more proves that the Quran views the genders as being equals than Muslims dealing honorably or kindly with animals mean that they are equal as well. After all, Muslims boast that Islam exhorts the kind treatment of animals, even citing narrations such as the following:

Abu Huraira reported God’s messenger as saying, "Forgiveness was granted to an unchaste woman who coming upon a dog panting and almost dead with thirst at the mouth of a well, took off her shoe, tied it with her head-covering and drew some water for it. On that account she was forgiven." He was asked whether people received a reward for what they did to animals, and replied, "A reward is given in connection with every living creature." (Bukhari and Muslim) (Mishkat Al Masabih, English translation with explanatory notes by Dr. James Robson [SH. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore PK, reprinted 1990], Volume I, Book VI- Zakat, Chapter VII- The Excellence of Sadaqa, p. 404)

Ibn ‘Umar and Abu Huraira reported God’s messenger as saying, "A woman was punished on account of a cat which she kept shut up till it died of hunger. She did not feed it or let it out so that it might eat things creeping on the earth." (Bukhari and Muslim) (Ibid.)

Obviously, no Muslim takes this to mean that humans and animals are equals.

We now turn to one final text used to support the claim of Islam’s honorific view of women:

And of His signs is that He created for you, of yourselves, spouses, that you might repose in them, and He has set between you love and mercy. Surely in that are signs for a people who consider. S. 30:21 Arberry

They say: Wives are from men, implying their equality, and Allah has demanded the two sexes to show love and mercy towards one another.

Far from proving the equity between men and women this passage actually shows that women are created for the pleasure of man. Note the wording of the reference very carefully:

And of His signs is that He created FOR YOU, of yourselves, spouses, that YOU might repose in them

The text is addressing the men and telling them that the women were created for them so that they can repose in their wives. What this verse is basically saying is that women exist for the pleasure of men much like the other things that Allah created. Compare the following texts to what is being said here:

He it is Who created FOR YOU all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. And He is knower of all things. S. 2:29 Pickthall

And cattle He has created FOR YOU (men): from them ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat. S. 16:5 Y. Ali

Who has made FOR YOU the earth like a bed, and has made FOR YOU roads therein, in order that you may find your way, … And Who has created all the pairs and has appointed for you ships and cattle on which you ride, S. 43:10, 12 Hilali-Khan

Muslims will have no problem admitting that these texts show that man, as well as woman, is above and superior to all the things that God has made for him since they are all made subject to him. As the following verses say:

It is God who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down out of heaven water wherewith He brought forth fruits to be your sustenance. And He subjected to you the ships to run upon the sea at His commandment; and He subjected to you the rivers and He subjected to you the sun and moon constant upon their courses, and He subjected to you the night and day, and gave you of all you asked Him. If you count God's blessing, you will never number it; surely man is sinful, unthankful! S. 14:32-34 Arberry

Likewise, Sura 30:21 uses a similar expression regarding Allah making the mate FOR THE MAN, implying that men are above and superior to their women. Putting it simply, the expression "created for you" means that women, cattle and a host of other things are created for man’s pleasure and utilization. If anyone doubts that this is what the Quran teaches then all one has to do is to read Sura 3:14:

Beautified FOR MEN is the love of things THEY COVET; WOMEN, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world's life; but Allah has the excellent return (Paradise with flowing rivers, etc.) with Him. Hilali-Khan

We will have more to say about this verse shortly. And lest we be accused of distorting what Sura 30:21 is actually saying note what one renowned Muslim commentator wrote:

"His saying 'created for you' is a proof that women were created like animals and plants and other useful things, just as the Most High has said ‘He created for you what is on earth’ and that necessitates the woman not to be created for worship and carrying the Divine commands. We say creating the women is one of the graces bestowed upon us and charging them with Divine commands to complete the graces bestowed upon us, not that they are charged as we men are charged. For women are not charged with many commands as we are charged, because the woman is weak, silly, in one sense she is like a child, and no commands are laid upon a child, but for the grace of Allah upon us to be complete, women had to be charged so that they may fear the torment of punishment and so follow her husband, and keep away from what is forbidden, otherwise corruption would be rampant." (Ar-Razi, At-tafsir al-kabir, commentary surah 30:21; bold emphasis ours)

Another Muslim myth that needs to be addressed is the assertion that Islam elevated women to a higher level and gave them much better treatment from what they were receiving in the pre-Islamic period. One Muslim source actually says that there was one Arab tribe which treated their women better than the Muslims did, and that women had the upper hand:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas:
…Then ‘Umar went on relating the narration and said. "I and an Ansari neighbor of mine from Bani Umaiya bin Zaid who used to live in 'Awali Al-Medina, used to visit the Prophet in turns. He used to go one day, and I another day. When I went I would bring him the news of what had happened that day regarding the instructions and orders and when he went, he used to do the same for me. We, the people of Quraish, used to have authority over women, but when we came to live with the Ansar, we noticed that the Ansari women had the upper hand over their men, so our women started acquiring the habits of the Ansari women. Once I shouted at my wife and she paid me back in my coin and I disliked that she should answer me back. She said, ‘Why do you take it ill that I retort upon you? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet retort upon him, and some of them may not speak with him for the whole day till night.’ What she said scared me and I said to her, ‘Whoever amongst them does so, will be a great loser.’ … So, I entered upon the Prophet and saw him lying on a mat without bedding on it, and the mat had left its mark on the body of the Prophet, and he was leaning on a leather pillow stuffed with palm fibres. I greeted him and while still standing, I said: "Have you divorced your wives?" He raised his eyes to me and replied in the negative. And then while still standing, I said chatting: "Will you heed what I say, O Allah’s Apostle! We, the people of Quraish used to have the upper hand over our women (wives), and when we came to the people whose women had the upper hand over them…" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648)

In another narration, Muhammad’s child bride even admitted that Muslim women were treated far worse than any other women she knew:

Narrated ‘Ikrima:
Rifa’a divorced his wife whereupon ‘AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. 'Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (‘Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s Apostle came, ‘Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!" When ‘AbdurRahman heard that his wife had gone to the Prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, "By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this," holding and showing the fringe of her garment, ‘Abdur-Rahman said, "By Allah, O Allah’s Apostle! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifa’a." Allah’s Apostle said to her, "If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifa’a unless ‘Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you." Then the Prophet saw two boys with ‘Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), "Are these your sons?" On that ‘AbdurRahman said, "Yes." The Prophet said, "You claim what you claim (i.e. that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow," (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 715)

So much for Islam’s elevation of women!

Putting this all behind us we now proceed to an examination of Islam’s degradation of women.

Women are Inferior to Men

The following prove that women are second rate and not at all comparable to men:

O believers, when you contract a debt one upon another for a stated term, write it down, and let a writer write it down between you justly, and let not any writer refuse to write it down, as God has taught him; so let him write, and let the debtor dictate, and let him fear God his Lord and not diminish aught of it. And if the debtor be a fool, or weak, or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate justly. And call in to witness two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man AND TWO WOMEN, such witnesses as you approve of, THAT IF ONE OF THE TWO WOMEN ERRS THE OTHER WILL REMIND HER; and let the witnesses not refuse, whenever they are summoned. And be not loth to write it down, whether it be small or great, with its term; that is more equitable in God's sight, more upright for testimony, and likelier that you will not be in doubt. Unless it be merchandise present that you give and take between you; then it shall be no fault in you if you do not write it down. And take witnesses when you are trafficking one with another. And let not either writer or witness be pressed; or if you do, that is ungodliness in you. And fear God; God teaches you, and God has knowledge of everything. S. 2:282 Arberry

Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal TO THAT OF TWO FEMALES; if (there are) only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is half. For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers or (sisters), the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit, (these fixed shares) are ordained by Allah. And Allah is Ever AllKnower, AllWise, S. 4:11 Hilali-Khan

These passages presuppose that women are inferior in worth and intellect in comparison to men, something that Muhammad is reported to have believed:

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." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301; see also Volume 2, Book 24, Number 541)


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." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826)

Muhammad indirectly makes reference to Sura 2:282 regarding the testimony of two women being equivalent to one man as a basis to show why women are intellectually inferior. Thus, Muhammad’s own interpretation of Sura 2:282 establishes the case that the reason why two women are required to testify is because they are inferior intellectual beings! Sunni Quran exegete ar-Razi made these comments on Sura 4:11:

"(The males share is that of two females). Man is more perfect than the woman IN CREATION, AND INTELLIGENCE, and in the religious sphere, such as the suitability to be a judge, and a leader in worship. Also, the testimony of the man is twice that of the woman. So that whoever is given great responsibilities must be given correspondingly great privileges. As the woman is deficient in intelligence and of great lust, if she is given much money, much corruption will be the result."


"The male is mentioned first in Q. 4:11 because the male is better than the female." (At-tafsir al-kabir, commentary on 4:11; bold and capital emphasis ours)

One Muslim source states that women were made stupid because of the sin of Eve:

According to Yunus- Ibn Wahb- Ibn Zayd (commenting on God's word: "And he whispered"): Satan whispered to Eve about the tree and succeeded in taking her to it; then he made it seem good to Adam. He continued. When Adam felt a need for her and called her, she said: No! unless you go there. When he went, she said again: No! unless you eat from this tree. He continued. They both ate from it, and their secret parts became apparent to them. He continued. Adam then went about in Paradise in flight. His Lord called out to him: Adam, is it from Me that you are fleeing? Adam replied: No, my Lord, but I feel shame before You. When God asked what had caused his trouble, he replied: Eve, my Lord. Whereupon God said: Now it is My obligation to make her bleed once every month, as she made this tree bleed. I ALSO MAKE HER STUPID, although I had created her intelligent (halimah), and must make her suffer pregnancy and birth with difficulty, although I made it easy for her to be pregnant and give birth. Ibn Zayd said: Were it not for the affliction that affected Eve, the women of this world would not menstruate, AND THEY WOULD BE INTELLIGENT and, when pregnant, give birth easily. (The History of Al-Tabari: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, translated by Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press, Albany], Volume 1, pp. 280-281; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Also notice that Muhammad, in the first narration, claims that the majority of those in hell are women! This teaching of Muhammad is found in virtually all of the major hadith collections such as that of Al-Tirmidhi:

Narrated Zaynab, the wife of Abdullah
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) addressed them saying, "You women should give alms even if it consists of your jewellery, for you will be THE MAJORITY of the inhabitants of Jahannam on the Day of Resurrection." Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 573; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

In fact, Sahih Muslim has a whole section on this very topic{1}:


Usama b. Zaid reported that Allah's Messenger (way peace be upon him) said: I stood at the door of Paradise and I found that the overwhelming majority of those who entered therein was that of poor persons and the wealthy persons were detained to get into that. The denizens of Hell were commanded to get into Hell, and I stood upon the door of Fire and the majority amongst them who entered there was that of women. (Sahih Muslim, Book 036, Number 6596)

Ibn Abbas reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: I had a chance to look into the Paradise and I found that majority of the people was poor and I looked into the Fire and there I found the majority constituted by women. (Sahih Muslim, Book 036, Number 6597)

Imran b. Husain reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Amongst the inmates of Paradise the women would form a minority. (Sahih Muslim, Book 036, Number 6600)

There are other Quranic passages which make the point of men being above and superior to women even more explicit:

And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation; and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are A DEGREE ABOVE THEM, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. S. 2:228 Shakir

The Tafsir of Ibn Abbas asserts:

(Women who are divorced) through one or two pronouncements of divorce (shall wait) shall wait a certain time called the waiting period, (keeping themselves apart, three (monthly) courses) for three menstruation periods. (And it is not lawful for them that they should conceal) their pregnancy (that which Allah hath created in their wombs) of offspring (if they are believers in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands would do better to take them back) to take them back as their wives (in that case) during the waiting period or if they are pregnant (if they desire reconciliation.) This is because in the early period of Islam, when a man divorced his wife via one or two pronouncements of divorce, he had a better right to take her back after the lapse of the waiting period, before her marrying again. Later, the right to take one's wife back was abrogated by the saying of Allah: (Divorce must be pronounced twice). Similarly, a man had a better right to take his wife back if she were pregnant, even if he had pronounced her divorce a thousand times. This was however abrogated by Allah's saying: (divorce them for their (legal) period) [65:1]. (And they) have rights) and inviolability with their husbands (similar to those) of their husbands (over them in kindness) in kind companionship and intercourse, (and men are a degree above them) in relation to the REASONING FACULTY, inheritance, blood money, as witnesses in court and also that which they owe them in terms of expenditure and service. (Allah is Mighty) in that He is vengeful vis--vis whoever leaves that which is between a husband and wife of rights and inviolability, (Wise) regarding that which He has ruled between them. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn 'Abbs; online source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This next one even grants men the right to beat their women!

Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them TO EXCEL THE OTHER, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, AND SCOURGE THEM. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great. S. 4:34 Pickthall

The two Jalals write:

Men are in charge of, they have authority over, women, DISCIPLINING THEM and keeping them in check, because of that with which God has preferred the one over the other, that is, because God has given them the advantage over women, in KNOWLEDGE, REASON, authority and otherwise, and because of what they expend, on them [the women], of their property. Therefore righteous women, among them, are obedient, to their husbands, guarding in the unseen, that is, [guarding] their private parts and otherwise during their spouses' absence, because of what God has guarded, for them, when He enjoined their male spouses to look after them well. And those you fear may be rebellious, disobedient to you, when such signs appear, admonish them, make them fear God, and share not beds with them, retire to other beds if they manifest such disobedience, and strike them, but not violently, if they refuse to desist [from their rebellion] after leaving them [in separate beds]. If they then obey you, in what is desired from them, do not seek a way against them, a reason to strike them unjustly. God is ever High, Great, so beware of Him, lest He punish you for treating them unjustly. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; online source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Since men excel over women they have the right to beat them if they fear any rebelliousness on their part. The hadiths unashamedly confirm this point:

Narrated ‘Ikrima:
Rifa'a divorced his wife whereupon 'AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband AND SHOWED HER A GREEN SPOT ON HER SKIN CAUSED BY BEATING). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah's Apostle came, ‘Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering AS MUCH AS THE BELIEVING WOMEN. Look! Her skin IS GREENER THAN HER CLOTHES!" When ‘AbdurRahman heard that his wife had gone to the Prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, "By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this," holding and showing the fringe of her garment, ‘Abdur-Rahman said, "By Allah, O Allah's Apostle! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifa'a." Allah's Apostle said, to her, "If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifa'a unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you." Then the Prophet saw two boys with 'Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), "Are these your sons?" On that ‘AbdurRahman said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet said, ‘You claim what you claim (i.e.. that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow,’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 715)

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2142)

Narrated Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab:
Iyas ibn Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) as saying: Do not beat Allah's handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad's family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2141)

The translator, professor Ahmad Hasan, says in a footnote to the above hadith that:

This shows that wives should obey their husbands. In case they do not obey or become emboldened towards their husband, they should try to amend them by preaching and education. Beating is the last resort. But it is better to avoid beating as far as possible. (Sunan Abu Dawud, English translation and Explanatory notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Volume II, p. 575, fn. 1467)

In this next hadith a man beats his wife for praying too much and Muhammad says nothing to rebuke him!

Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri:

A woman came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) while we were with him.

She said: Apostle of Allah, my husband, Safwan ibn al-Mu'attal, BEATS ME
when I pray
, and makes me break my fast when I keep a fast, and he does
not offer the dawn prayer until the sun rises.

He asked Safwan, who was present, about what she had said. He replied:
Apostle of Allah, as for her statement "he beats me when I pray", she
recites two surahs (during prayer) and I have prohibited her (to do so).

He (the Prophet) said: If one surah is recited (during prayer), that is
sufficient for the people.

(Safwan continued:) As regards her saying "he makes me break my fast," she
dotes on fasting; I am a young man, I cannot restrain myself.

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said on that day: A woman should
not fast except with the permission of her husband.

(Safwan said:) As for her statement that I do not pray until the sun rises,
we are a people belonging to a class, and that (our profession of supplying
water) is already known about us. We do not awake until the sun rises. He
said: When you awake, offer your prayer. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 13, Number 2453)

Muhammad reportedly gave these instructions during his farewell address:

Narrated Amr ibn al-Ahwas al-Jushami
Amr heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say in his farewell address on the eve of his Last Pilgrimage, after he had glorified and praised Allah, he cautioned his followers: 'Listen! Treat women kindly; THEY ARE LIKE PRISONERS IN YOUR HANDS. Beyond this you do not owe anything from them. Should they be guilty of flagrant misbehaviour, you may remove them from your beds, and BEAT THEM but do not inflict upon them any severe punishment. Then if they obey you, do not have recourse to anything else against them. Listen! You have your rights upon your wives and they have their rights upon you. Your right is that they shall not allow anyone you dislike, to trample your bed and do not permit those whom you dislike to enter your home. Their right is that you should treat them well in the matter of food and clothing. Transmitted by Tirmidhi. (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 104 ALIM CD-ROM Version)

In the earliest Muslim biography, the Sirat Rasul Allah, Ibn Ishaq also reports the same:

You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms AND BEAT THEM but not with severity. If they refrain from these things they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, FOR THEY ARE PRISONERS WITH YOU HAVING NO CONTROL OF THEIR PERSONS. You have taken them as a trust from God, and you have the enjoyment of their persons by the words of God, so understand… (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995], p. 651; capital emphasis ours)

The above narrations shamefully state that women are not only to be beaten if they rebel but that they are the prisoners of their husbands! We shall discuss Islam’s placing women under imprisonment later on.

Suffice it to say that the foregoing explains Muhammad's statement that the best women are those who obey their husband's commands:

Narrated AbuHurayrah
When Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was asked which woman was best he replied, "The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives a command, and does not go against his wishes regarding her person or property by doing anything of which he disapproves." Nasa'i and Bayhaqi, in Shu'ab al-Iman transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, 964; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

After all, good prisoners and inmates are those who obey everything that their wardens and owners demand!

Muhammad himself hit his child bride Aisha at least one time because she was trying to conceal something from him:

Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? … (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 2127)

Even Muhammad’s son-in-law and first cousin, Ali ibn Abu Thalib, didn’t hesitate to beat up women such as Aisha’s slave girl:

"As for ‘Ali he said: "Women are plentiful, and you can EASILY change one for another. Ask the slave girl; she will tell you the truth.’ So the apostle called Burayra to ask her, and ‘Ali got up and gave her A VIOLENT BEATING, saying, ‘Tell the apostle the truth’, to which she replied, ‘I only know good of her…’" (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 496; bold, underline and capital emphasis ours)

Not only did Ali beat women he also believed they were quite expendable, easily replaceable!

There was even one Muslim who was known for being a great woman beater!

Fatima bint Qais (Allah be pleased with her) reported that her husband divorced her with three, pronouncements and Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) made no provision for her lodging and maintenance allowance. She (further said): Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to me: When your period of 'Idda is over, inform me. So I informed him. (By that time) Mu'awiya, Abu Jahm and Usama b. Zaid had given her the proposal of marriage. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: So far as Mu'awiya is concerned, he is a poor man without any property. So far as Abu Jahm is concerned, he is A GREAT BEATER OF WOMEN, but Usama b. Zaid… She pointed with her hand (that she did not approve of the idea of marrying) Usama. But Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Obedience to Allah and obedience to His Messenger is better for thee. She said: So I married him, and I became an object of envy. (Sahih Muslim, Book 009, Number 3526)

Fatima bint Qais (Allah be pleased with her) reported: My husband Abu 'Amr b. Hafs b. al-Mughira sent 'Ayyish b. Abu Rabi'a to me with a divorce, and he also sent through him five si's of dates and five si's of barley… Thereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: Mu'awiya is destitute and in poor condition and Abu'l-Jahm is very harsh with women (or he beats women, or like that), you should take Usama b. Zaid (as your husband). (Sahih Muslim, Book 009, Number 3527)

Instead of reprimanding Abu Jahm for beating women and for being harsh with them, Muhammad simply mentions these negative qualities in order to discourage Fatima from marrying him.

The late Iranian Islamic scholar, Ali Dashti, provides more examples of Muslim wife abuse in his explanation of Sura 4:43:

According to Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, the superiority of men lies in their greater intelligence, knowledge and administrative ability. Zamakhshari, Baydawi, and several other commentators go into more detail and construct metaphysical theories; they liken men's auuthority over women to that of rulers over subjects, and maintain that prophethood, prayer-leadership, and rulership are reserved for men because men are stronger, MORE INTELLIGENT, and more prudent

There is one passage, however, which apparently endorses a pre-Islamic Arab custom. This is the sentence at the end of the verse 38[34] permitting a husband to beat his wife: "And those women whose insubordination you fear, admonish them, then leave them alone in the beds, then beat them!" Men with their greater bodily strength have certainly resorted to this unjust and unchivalrous expedient since the earliest times, and they still do so in the twentieth century. Nevertheless its authorization by the law of Islam provides ammunition for critics.

Every community's laws reflect it life-style, customs, and morals. In addition to the testimony of verse 38[34] of sura 4, there is historical evidence that the Ancient Arabs considered the husband to be the owner of his wife and fully entitled to inflict pain on her. Abu Bakr's daughter Asma, who was the fourth wife of Zobayr b. ol-'Awwam (one of the Prophet's first ten converts and principle companions), is reported to have said, "Whenever Zobayr was angry with one of us, he used to beat her UNTIL THE STICK BROKE."

The Islamic law on this subject has at least the merit of gradation. First admonition, next cessation of intercourse, and only in the last resort violence should be used to make the wife obey. In the opinion of several commentators and lawyers, the beating should not be severe as to break a bone, because in that case the legal right to retaliation in kind and degree might be invoked. Zamakhshari, however, writes in his comment on the verse that "some authorities do no accept gradation of the punishment of the insubordinate wife but consider infliction of any of the three penalties to be permissible." This was of course the interpretation given to the words by fanatical Arab theologians such as Ebn Hanbal and Ebn Taymiya. Nevertheless, the meaning of the words is clear and moreover confirmed by what follows in verse 39[35]: "And if you fear a breach between the two, send an arbiter from his kinsfolk and an arbiter from her kinsfolk in case they desire reconciliation." (Dashti, Twenty-Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, translated from Persian by F.R.C. Bagley [Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, CA 1994], pp. 114, 115-116; underline emphasis and comments within brackets ours)

Muslim translator Muhammad Asad, in footnote # 45 regarding Sura 4:34 found in his English Quranic translation of Sura 4:34, stated:

It is evident from many authentic Traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one's wife, and said on more than one occasion, "Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari and Muslim). According to another Tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with the words, "Never beat God's handmaidens" (Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban and Hakim, on the authority of Iyas ibn ‘Abd Allah; Ibn Hibban, on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas; and Bayhaqi, on the authority of Umm Kulthum). When the above Qur'an-verse authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said: "I wanted one thing, but God has willed another thing - and what God has willed must be best" (see Manar V, 74). With all this, he stipulated in his sermon on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death, that beating should be resorted to only if the wife "has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct", and that it should be done "in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayr mubarrih)"; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud, Nasa'i and Ibn Majah. On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this "beating", if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic – "with a toothbrush, or some such thing" (Tabari, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even "with a folded handkerchief" (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Another late scholar and commentator narrates something similar:

The present verse relates to one such event, which can be termed as the background of its revelation. Sayyidna Zayd ibn Zuhayr had married his daughter, Sayyidah Habibah to Sayyidna Sa'd ibn Rabi'. During a dispute over something, the husband slapped her. Sayyida Habibah complained to her father. He took her to the Holy Prophet. He declared that Habibah has the right to hit Sa'd as hard as he did. Hearing this decision of their master, they started back home to take their revenge upon Sa'd. Thereupon, this verse was revealed in which the beating of women as the very last option has been permitted, and no retaliation or revenge against men was allowed. So, soon after the revelation of this verse, the Holy Prophet called both of them back and asked them to abide by the injunction from Allah Almighty, and abrogated his first directive permitting the seeking of revenge. (Uthmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 2, p. 424; source)

The following Muslim exegete narrates several versions of this story:

(Men are in charge of women...) [4:34].
Said Muqatil: “This verse (Men are in charge of women...) was revealed about Sa‘d ibn al-Rabi‘, who was one of the leaders of the Helpers (nuqaba’), and his wife Habibah bint Zayd ibn Abi Zuhayr, both of whom from the Helpers. It happened Sa‘d hit his wife on the face because she rebelled against him. Then her father went with her to see the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. He said to him: ‘I gave him my daughter in marriage and he slapped her’. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Let her have retaliation against her husband’. As she was leaving with her father to execute retaliation, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, called them and said: ‘Come back; Gabriel has come to me’, and Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘We wanted something while Allah wanted something else, and that which Allah wants is good’. Retaliation was then suspended”.
Sa‘id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Zahid informed us> Zahir ibn Ahmad> Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn Junayd> Ziyad ibn Ayyub> Hushaym> Yunus ibn al-Hasan who reported that a man slapped his wife and she complained about him to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Her family who went with her said: “O Messenger of Allah! So-and-so has slapped our girl”. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, kept saying: “Retaliation! Retaliation! And there is no other judgement to be held”. But then this verse (Men are in charge of women...) was revealed and the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “We wanted something and Allah wanted something else”.
Abu Bakr al-Harithi informed us> Abu’l-Shaykh al-Hafiz> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl al-‘Askari> ‘Ali ibn Hashim> Isma‘il> al-Hasan who said: “Around the time when the verse on retaliation was revealed amongst the Muslims, a man had slapped his wife. She went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace and said: ‘My husband has slapped me and I want retaliation’. So he said: ‘Let there be retaliation’. As he was still dealing with her, Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other...). Upon which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘We wanted something and my Lord wanted something different. O man, take your wife by the hand’ ”. ('Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Azbab ul-Nuzul; source)

How interesting that Muhammad showed more mercy and refrain than Allah himself, since the former didn't want men to beat women whereas the latter did!

At this point we need to mention the fact that the Quran NOWHERE demands that the beating of women should not be harsh, that a man must not severely hit his wife. The text simply says that men may beat or hit their rebellious spouses without any qualification:

… If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teachings of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then HIT them. (The Qur’an: A New Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2004)

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall rendered it as scourge:

… As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and SCOURGE them.

It is rather obvious that the hadith literature is trying to do some damage control. The compilers of the hadith literature obviously saw the need to improve on the Quran’s blanket statement by adding a specific qualification to the nature and extent of the beating since the Quranic injunction clearly gives men the complete license to batter women they fear are rebellious.

Sura 2:228, and other verses like it, granted men the power of divorce and therefore gave them the upper hand:

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that Ali ibn Abi Talib used to say that if a man said to his wife, "You are haram for me," it counted as three pronouncements of divorce.

Malik said, "That is the best of what I have heard on the subject." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 29, Number 29.1.6)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Abdullah ibn Umar said that statements like "I cut myself off from you", or "You are abandoned", were considered as three pronouncements of divorce.

Malik said that any strong statements such as these or others were considered as three pronouncements of divorce for a woman whose marriage had been consummated. In the case of a woman whose marriage had not been consummated, the man was asked to make an oath on his deen, as to whether he had intended one or three pronouncements of divorce. If he had intended one pronouncement, he was asked to make an oath by Allah to confirm it, and he became a suitor among other suitors, because a woman whose marriage had been consummated, required three pronouncements of divorce to make her inaccessible for the husband, whilst only one pronouncement was needed to make a woman whose marriage had not been consummated inaccessible.

Malik added, "That is the best of what I have heard about the matter." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 29, Number 29.1.7)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said and from Yazid ibn Abdullah ibn Qusayt al-Laythi that Said ibn al-Musayyab said, "'Umar ibn al-Khattab said, ‘If a woman is divorced and has one or two periods and then stops menstruating, she must wait nine months. If it is clear that she is pregnant, that is that. If not, she must do an idda of three months after the nine, and then she is free to marry.’"

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that Said ibn al-Musayyab said, "Divorce belongs to men, and women have the idda." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 29, Number 29.24.70)

Even when a woman sought for a divorce it was the man who had to grant and pronounce it:

Narrated ‘Ikrima:
The sister of ‘Abdullah bin Ubai narrated (the above narration, 197) with the addition that the Prophet said to Thabit’s wife, "Will you return his garden?" She said, "Yes," and returned it, and (then) the Prophet ordered Thabit to divorce her. Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The wife of Thabit bin Qais came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for any defects in his character or his religion, but I cannot endure to live with him." On that Allah’s Apostle said, "Will you return his garden to him?" She said, "Yes." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 198)

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
The wife of Thabit bin Qais bin Shammas came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for any defects in his character or his religion, but I am afraid that I (being a Muslim) may become unthankful for Allah’s Blessings." On that, Allah’s Apostle said (to her), "Will you return his garden to him?" She said, "Yes." So she returned his garden to him and the Prophet told him to divorce her. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 199)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Abdu Yazid, the father of Rukanah and his brothers, divorced Umm Rukanah and married a woman of the tribe of Muzaynah. She went to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: He is of no use to me except that he is as useful to me as a hair; and she took a hair from her head. So separate me from him. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) became furious. He called on Rukanah and his brothers. He then said to those who were sitting beside him. Do you see so-and-so who resembles Abdu Yazid in respect of so-and-so; and so-and-so who resembles him in respect of so-and-so? They replied: Yes. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said to Abdu Yazid: Divorce her. Then he did so. He said: Take your wife, the mother of Rukanah and his brothers, back in marriage. He said: I have divorced her by three pronouncements, Apostle of Allah. He said: I know: take her back. He then recited the verse: "O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them at their appointed periods." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2191)

Narrated Rukanah ibn Abdu Yazid:
(Rukanah) divorced his wife absolutely; so he came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him). He asked (him): What did you intend? He said: A single utterance of divorce. He said: Do you swear by Allah? He replied: I swear by Allah. He said: It stands as you intended. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2202)

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
Habibah daughter of Sahl was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays Shimmas. He beat her and broke some of her part. So she came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) after morning, and complained to him against her husband. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) called on Thabit ibn Qays and said (to him): Take a part of her property and separate yourself from her. He asked: Is that right, Apostle of Allah? He said: Yes. He said: I have given her two gardens of mine as a dower, and they are already in her possession. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Take them and separate yourself from her. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2220)

Imam Malik records traditions where men CAN give women the right to pronounce a divorce, but didn’t have to, and in some occasions this right was restricted to only one pronouncement and not to an irrevocable one which would entail three pronouncements of divorce:

(1128) It reached Malik that a man came to ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar and said: O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman, I gave the right of divorce to my wife. She has divorced herself. What is your opinion now? Ibn ‘Umar replied, As she said, so is my opinion. The man then said, Oh, do not do so. Ibn ‘Umar replied: Did I do it? YOU DID IT YOURSELF.

(1129) Nafi’ reported that ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar used to say: If a man should authorize his wife in the matter of divorce, she could declare herself divorced any time she liked; but if the husband should object and say: I gave you option of only divorce and swears to it, he would have the right over her until the period of ‘iddah probation.

(1130) Kharija b. Zaid b. Thabit reported that he was sitting with Zaid ibn Thabit when Muhammad b. Abi Atiq came and tears were flowing from his eyes. Zaid said: What is the matter with you? He said: I had given my wife the option of divorce and she has left me. Zaid asked: Why did you give her the authority? He replied: It was my fate. Zaid said: If you wish, you can get her back, for only one divorce has become effective. YOU ARE STILL HER MASTER.

(1131) Qasim b. Muhammad reported: A man of Thaqif gave his wife the option of divorce. She gave herself one divorce. He kept quiet. She then gave herself another divorce. He said: Stones be in your mouth. She then gave herself the third divorce. He said: Stones be in your mouth, and they went quarreling to Marwan b. Hakam. Marwan took an oath from the man to the effect that he had given option only for one divorce and handed her back to him. (Muwatta’ Imam Malik, English translation with exhaustive notes by Professor Muhammad Rahimuddin [Sh. Muhammad Ahsraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore (Pakistan), reprinted July 2000], pp. 246-247; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Again, notice that the power of divorce lies solely with the men who weren’t required to grant this right to their spouses. In fact, when the women did want to divorce their husbands the men were told that it was their own fault for giving their wives this privilege in the first place!


Narrated Thawban:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If any woman ASKS her husband for divorce without some strong reason, the odour of Paradise will be forbidden to her. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2218)

Note two important things from this narration. First, the woman needs to ask for a divorce, which means she can’t simply pronounce one even though the man can do so and doesn’t need to ask. Second, she must have a strong reason to want a divorce, which is another way of saying that it is either up to her husband or the Muslim authority to decide whether her request is valid or not!

So the women only have such a right if the husband gave it to them, otherwise, and that is the implication, they do not have a right to divorce in general. Quite interesting.

Shortly, we will post additional commentaries of some more renowned scholars regarding Suras 2:228 and 4:34.

Not only do women not have power to initiate a divorce unless granted to them by their husbands, Muhammad wouldn't even allow a woman to give either herself or another woman away in marriage:

Narrated AbuHurayrah
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "A woman may not give a woman in marriage, nor may she give herself in marriage, for the immoral woman is the one who gives herself in marriage."
Ibn Majah transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 935; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Yet it was ok for women to give themselves to Muhammad!

Narrated Aisha:
I used to LOOK DOWN upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah's Apostle and I used to say, "Can a lady give herself (to a man)?" But when Allah revealed: "You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily)." (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311)

The following texts provide indirect evidence for the Quran’s low view of women

One can, therefore, legitimately argue that Paul used this same word in the same sense in reference to Phoebe. What! has He taken daughters to Himself of what He Himself creates and chosen you to have sons? And when one of them is given news of that of which he sets up as a likeness for the Beneficent God, his face becomes black and he is full of rage. What! that which is made in ornaments and which in contention is unable to make plain speech! S. 43:16-18 Shakir

Women are categorized as those who are clothed with ornaments and are unable to speak in their defense or speak plainly, implying that they are intellectually deficient! Sunni Muslim scholar and commentator Ibn Kathir wrote regarding the above:

Similarly, out of the two kinds of offspring, sons and daughters, they assigned to Him THE WORST AND LEAST VALUABLE (in their eyes), i.e., daughters, as Allah says…

<A creature who is brought up in adornments, and who in dispute cannot make itself clear> means, women are regarded as lacking something, which they make up for with jewelry and adornments from the time of childhood onwards, and when there is a dispute, they cannot speak up and defend themselves clearly, so how can this be attributed to Allah. (Source)

The words in parentheses are not part of Ibn Kathir’s comments, but are the additions of the translators in order to do some damage control. They were obviously embarrassed by Ibn Kathir’s degrading views of women and so decided to distort what he actually said.

The two Jalals commented:

What! (a-wa contains both the hamza of denial and the conjunctive waw, 'and', in other words, 'do they ascribe to God ...') one that is brought up amid trinkets, ornaments, and is incoherent in a dispute?, [unable] to argue clearly because of an [inherent] inability [in this respect] as a result of [that person belonging to] the female sex. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Upon the birth of her daughter, Mary’s mother supposedly made the following comments:

And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast. S. 3:36 Pickthall

The point here is that women are not as good as the men, but despite that Allah can still use Mary!

The inferiority of women is such that only a few have ever attained perfection according to Muhammad!

Narrated Abu Musa:
Allah’s Apostle said, "Many amongst men reached (the level of) perfection but none amongst the women reached this level except Asia, Pharaoh’s wife, and Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran. And no doubt, the superiority of ‘Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (i.e. a meat and bread dish) to other meals." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 623)

In fact, men are so dominant over women that Muhammad would have made the latter bow to the former if he could!

Narrated Qays ibn Sa'd:
I went to al-Hirah and saw them (the people) prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, so I said: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) has most right to have prostration made before him. When I came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), I said: I went to al-Hirah and saw them prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, but you have most right, Apostle of Allah, to have (people) prostrating themselves before you. He said: Tell me, if you were to pass my grave, would you prostrate yourself before it? I said: No. He then said: Do not do so. If I were to command anyone to make prostration before another I WOULD COMMAND WOMEN TO PROSTRATE THEMSELVES BEFORE THEIR HUSBANDS, because of the special right over them given to husbands by Allah. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2135)

Prof. Hasan claims that:

This shows the superiority of man over women. The wives have been commanded to obey their husbands in respect of lawful things. (Hasan, Sunan Abu Dawud, p. 574, fn. 1461)

Al-Tirmidhi recorded a similar narration:

Narrated Aisha
Once when Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was with a number of the Emigrants and Helpers a camel came and prostrated itself before him. Thereupon his companions said, "Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) beasts and trees prostrate themselves before you, but we have the greatest right to do so." He replied, "Worship your Lord and honour your brother. If I were to order anyone to prostrate himself before another, I SHOULD ORDER A WOMAN TO PROSTRATE HERSELF BEFORE HER HUSBAND. If he were to order her to convey stones from a yellow mountain to a black one, or from a black mountain to a white one, IT WOULD BE INCUMBENT ON HER TO DO SO."
Ahmad transmitted it. (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 963- ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Ibn Ishaq quotes Muhammad as telling women that even licking the blood and pus of their husbands’ nostrils wouldn’t be enough to discharge their duties:

‘Abdullah b. Abu Bakr told me that he was told that when the apostle sent Mua'dh he gave him instructions and orders and then said: Deal gently and not harshly; announce good news and do not repel people. You are going to one of the people with scripture who will ask you about the key of heaven. Say to them it is the witness that there is no God but Allah, Who has no partner. Mua'dh went off to Yaman and did as he was ordered and a woman came to him and said, 'O companion of God's apostle, what rights has a husband over his wife?' He said, 'Woe to you, a woman can NEVER fulfil her husband's rights, so do your utmost to fulfil his claims as best as you can.' She said, 'By God, if you are the companion of God's apostle you must know what rights a husband has over his wife!' He said, 'If you were to go back and find him with his nostrils running with pus and blood and sucked until you got rid of them you would not have fulfilled your obligation.' (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 644; capital and underline emphasis ours)

This concludes the first part of our analysis. Continue with Part Two.


{1} As a sheer act of desperation, one Muslim claims that the reason why there are more women in hell is because the ratio of women is greater than that of men:

If the ratio of women to men here on planet earth is larger, then it is only logical that the ratio of women to men in hell would also be larger.



Go to this site and check out the ratio of women to men in every country. You will see that most of them are larger. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/


Besides this being a rather gross distortion of the facts (cf. this article) the author completely and conveniently ignores the very reasons given by Muhammad why there are more women in hell than men. Muhammad didn’t say that the reason why the majority of those in hell are women is because they outnumber the men on earth. Instead, he said that it was because of their lack of intelligence, religiosity and gratefulness that landed them in the majority spot of those burning eternally:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of 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." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301)

… "I also saw the Hell-fire and I had never seen such a horrible sight. I saw that most of the inhabitants were women." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! Why is it so?" The Prophet replied, "Because of their ungratefulness." It was asked whether they are ungrateful to Allah. The Prophet said, "They are ungrateful to their companions of life (husbands) and ungrateful to good deeds. If you are benevolent to one of them throughout the life and if she sees anything (undesirable) in you, she will say, ‘I have never had any good from you.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 18, Number 161)

… "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." It was said. "Do they disbelieve in Allah (are they ungrateful to Allah)?" He replied, "They are not thankful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors done to them. Even if you do good to one of them all your life, when she seems some harshness from you, she will say, ‘I have never seen any good from you.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 125)

This same author further distorts the facts when he makes the following claim:

This hadith shows that there are more women in Paradise

Sahih Bukhari

Book 040, Hadith Number 6793.
Chapter : The first group that would be admitted to Paradise would be like the face of the full moon and the description of their qualities and their spouses.

Muhammad reported that some (persons) stated with a sense of pride and some discussed whether there would be more men in Paradise or more women. It was upon this that Abu Huraira reported that Abu'l Qasim (the Holy Prophet) (may peace be upon him) said: The (members) of the first group to get into Paradise would have their faces as bright as full moon during the night, and the next to this group would have their faces as bright as the shining stars in the sky, and every person would have two wives and the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise.

Apart from the fact that this hadith is taken from Sahih Muslim, not Sahih Bukhari, it does not in any way support the claim it is supposed to prove. The author presumably thinks that the statement "every person (i.e. every man) would have two wives" refers to women who had previously lived as female Muslim believers on earth, implying that more "earthly women" will enter Paradise than "earthly men", actually at least double the number of men since every man will have (at least) two wives.

Two major observations are important here. First, this hadith, something we have seen so many times before, only makes promises to the male believers and what they will get, i.e. women. It is not a promise for women, they are not addressed. The first and the second group will be men who have different merits.

If anything, looking at this narration from the viewpoint of a woman, it is more a threat of punishment than a promise of reward, since it means that even those pious Muslim women who lived in a monogamous marriage on earth will in the future have to share their husband with at least one more woman, and that for eternity. The women among our readers will surely be thrilled.

Second, the wives who will be the rewards for the believers in Paradise are not necessarily related to the female believers on earth, but may primarily be those houris who are especially created for the pleasure of Muslim men as the following narrations show:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "The first batch (of people) who will enter Paradise will be (glittering) like the full moon, and the batch next to them will be (glittering) like the most brilliant star in the sky. Their hearts will be as if the heart of a single man, for they will have neither enmity nor jealousy amongst themselves; everyone will have two wives FROM THE HOURIS, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that) the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 476)

Notice here that the two wives are said to be from the houris, not from earthly women.

Continuing our observation from above, this means that if a Muslim woman makes it into Paradise at all, she will have to share her husband with at least two houris whose beauty is beyond comparison to their own.

Far from solving the problem of the number of believing women who make it into Paradise, this hadith adds the painful aspect that those who may make it there will have very little to look forward to.

The topic of our discussion is whether Islam treats men and women equally, whether women are honored, respected, and valued equally in comparison to men. Within this wider topic, the question here was the number of Muslim women and Muslim men who will make it to Paradise or end up in Hell.

For this aspect of the discussion, the number of those speculative beings of the afterlife (houris) is not relevant. Again, the question is not what kind of beings Allah will create only for Paradise, but among those who are believers on earth, how many of the men and how many of the women will enter Paradise? On this issue, the Islamic narrations are clear: the majority of earthly women will go to hell, and only a minority of them will make it to Paradise just as this next hadith states:

Imran b. Husain reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Amongst the inmates of Paradise THE WOMEN WOULD FORM A MINORITY. (Sahih Muslim, Book 036, Number 6600)

{2} The Council of American Islamic Relationships (CAIR) actually distributes this book free of charge for the asking (here). We encourage our readers to request their free copy of this book.

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