Women in Islam

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

Appendix: Supplementary Material

Sam Shamoun

The purpose of this short article is to provide some additional Islamic narrations regarding Muhammad’s and the first Muslims’ views of women to supplement our series on Women in Islam. The following quotations are taken from an English online version of Riyad as-Salihin, chapters 34 and 35. We include in this article only those narrations which reflect poorly on Islam’s view of women. To get the full picture, readers should also look up the rest of the statements which do encourage men to treat women kindly. Yet as we stated in our initial series, this no more proves that Islam views women as holding equal dignity with men than the exhortation to treat animals kindly implies that Islam views them as being equal with humans. All bold, underline and capital emphasis will be ours:

273. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Treat women well. Woman was created from a rib. The most crooked part of the rib is the top part. If you try to straighten it, you will break it. If you leave it, it remains crooked. So treat women well." [Agreed upon]

In a variant in the two Sahih collections, "A woman is like a rib. If you straighten it, you break it. If you wish to benefit from her, you can benefit from her in spite of her crookedness."

In a variant in Muslim, "Woman was created from a rib, and you will never find any means to straighten her. If you wish to benefit from her, you can benefit from her in spite of her crookedness. If you try to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her means divorcing her."

Just like a rib is crooked, so is a woman. And just as it is useless to try to straighten out a rib since it will break, it is equally useless to attempt to straighten out a woman since she is crooked by design, by her very nature! Basically, Muhammad is saying that women are deficient by nature, since to be crooked isn’t a good thing!

In fact, this is precisely the same conclusion that the Salafi version of the Riyad come to:

Commentary: The words (Istawso bi' nisa') mean, take care of your wives. Whatever is the formation of the words of the Hadith, it stresses the importance of kind treatment to wives because woman is not only weaker than man by nature, BUT ALSO LESS INTELLIGENT. On account of HIS BEING MORE INTELLIGENT and having greater patience, man should be more forgiving in his dealing with her. The secret of a pleasant family life lies in this advice of the Prophet (PBUH) with its emphasis on kind treatment to wives. (Riyad-us-Saliheen, compiled by Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi, commentary by Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf, revised by M.R. Murad [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore, First Edition: June 1999], Volume I, p. 268; online edition; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Hence, this Muslim version has no hesitation in admitting that the meaning of these narrations is that women by nature are intellectually inferior to men!

274. 'Abdullah ibn Zam'a reported that he heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, giving a speech in which mentioned the She-camel and the one who hamstrung her. The Messenger of Allah said, "'The worst of them rushed ahead,' (91:12) means that a mighty, malicious, powerful man in his party leapt to do it." Then he mentioned women and gave an admonishment regarding them, saying, "Some of you go and flog their wives as a slave is flogged and then sleep with them at the end of the day." Then he admonished them about their laughing at people breaking wind and said, "Why does one of you laugh at something he himself does?" [Agreed upon]

Muhammad’s statements presuppose that Muslim men were beating both their wives and their slaves! As we will see next, Muhammad’s admonishment didn’t mean that men should not beat their wives, but that they shouldn’t flog them as they do a slave. He also warned Muslims from abusing their slaves.

276. 'Amr ibn al-Ahwas al-Jushami reported that he heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say during the Farewell Hajj after praising and glorifying Allah, and reminding and admonishing, "Treat your women well. THEY ARE CAPTIVES IN YOUR POSSESSION. You have no rights over them except that [i.e. physical enjoyment and that they protect their husband's interest in respect of themselves and his property]. If they act licentiously in an open way, then leave them alone in their beds AND BEAT THEM but not severely. If they obey you, you have no way against them. You have rights over your women and your women have rights over you. Your right over them is that they do not allow into your bed those you dislike and do not permit those you dislike to enter your house. Their right over you is that you are good to them in respect of their clothes and food." [at-Tirmidhi]

277. Mu'awiya ibn Hayda said, "I asked, 'Messenger of Allah, what is the right of someone's wife over him?' He said, 'That you feed her when you eat and clothe her when you clothe yourself and do not strike her face. Do not malign her and do not keep apart from her, except in the house.'" [Abu Dawud]

Muhammad didn’t say not to strike a woman at all, but simply said not to strike her face! As the hadith prior to this shows, Muhammad not only granted men the right to beat their wives but expressly stated that women are the captives and prisoners of their husbands!

279. Iyas ibn 'Abdullah ibn Abi Dhubab reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Do not beat the female slaves of Allah." Then 'Umar came to the Prophet and said, "The women have become bold towards their husbands," AND SO HE MADE AN ALLOWANCE TO BEAT THEM. Then many women surrounded the family of the Messenger of Allah to complain about their husbands. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The people of the household of Muhammad have surrounded by many women who are complaining about their husbands. Those men are not among the best of you." (34. Chapter: Treating women well; online source)

After Umar complained that women were becoming emboldened Muhammad gave the men the right to beat them, but then complains at the men for doing the very thing which he himself permitted! The right thing for Muhammad to have done was to prohibit the men altogether from laying a hand on their wives, since there is no justification for wife beating no matter how "light" it may be.

281. Abu Hurayra said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'When a man calls his wife to bed and she does not come and he spends the night angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.'"

In a variant they both have, "When a woman spends the night spurning her husband's bed, the angels curse her until morning." [Agreed upon]

In one variant, the Messenger of Allah said, "By the One in whose hand my soul is, there is no man who calls his wife to his bed and she refuses to come without the One in the heaven being angry with her until her husband is pleased with her again."

We wonder whether Allah and his angels have nothing better to do than to watch and see whether a wife has slept with her husband or not. Moreover, do Allah and the angels get equally angry when a polygynous husband is unable to satisfy the sexual desires of one of his wives because he is busy sleeping with another one? Or do Allah and his angels start cursing the man who refuses to sleep with his wife on the day he happens to be with her but is too tired to perform?

The Quran answers these questions in its own way:

If a woman fear rebelliousness or aversion in her husband, there is no fault in them if the couple set things right between them; right settlement is better; and souls are very prone to avarice. If you do good and are godfearing, surely God is aware of the things you do. You will not be able to be equitable between your wives, be you ever so eager; yet do not be altogether partial so that you leave her as it were suspended. If you set things right, and are godfearing, God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. S. 4:128-129

Allah basically gives man a free pass here. This text is essentially condoning a man’s unfair treatment of his multiple wives on the grounds that it is not possible for him to be fair with all of them. So instead of telling Muslims that they shouldn't marry multiple wives on account of this inability to be just with all of them, Allah simply says to the men to not allow this lack to cause them to be completely partial!

In fact, Sura 4:128 was given to justify Muhammad’s unfair and unkind treatment to his wife Saudah bint Zamah who had gotten old and was described as a heavy set woman. For the details please see these articles: [1], [2].

284. Abu 'Ali Talq ibn 'Ali reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "When a man calls his wife to attend to his need, she should come to him, even if she is at the oven." [at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa'i]

See our comments above.

285. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone else, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands." [at-Tirmidhi]

Muhammad’s statement makes perfect sense in light of his claim that women are the prisoners of men and that women are crooked. Muhammad clearly viewed men as being superior creatures to women intellectually, mentally, emotionally and physically.

286. Umm Salama reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Any woman who dies at a time when her husband is pleased with her will enter the Garden."

287. Mu'adh ibn Jabal reported is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "A woman does not injure her husband in this world without his wife among the houris saying, 'Do not injure him, may Allah fight you! He is a guest with you who is about to leave you for us." [at-Tirmidhi]

Again, what happens if a wife dies unhappy with her husband? Will the husband suffer hellfire because his wife died unsatisfied? Will the young boys of paradise rebuke the man and invoke Allah’s curse upon him for failing to please his wife or wives?

288. Usama ibn Zayd reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I have not left after me any temptation more harmful to men than women." [Agreed upon] (35. Chapter: "On the rights of a husband from his wife"; online source)

Muhammad’s statement leaves us wondering what the most harmful temptation for women would be, whether men, animals, children, jewelry etc.? We don’t know since Muhammad obviously didn’t care enough about the women to tell us.

Let us summarize what we have discovered thus far:

  1. Women are crooked like a rib and should not be straightened out. Basically, since they are beyond repair a man should not waste his time or expend any effort in trying to correct their condition.
  2. Women are captives and prisoners of their husbands.
  3. Women can be beaten, but not in the face.
  4. Women who fail in pleasing their husbands will be cursed by Allah, his angels, the houris (the maidens of Paradise), and will not enter the Garden.
  5. Muhammad would have commanded women to prostrate and bow before the men.
  6. Women are the most harmful temptation to men.

The foregoing should conclusively prove that Muhammad’s instructions and commands do not honor women. The authentic teachings of Islam degrade and humiliate women.

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