Copyright 1996 by M. Rafiqul-Haqq and P. Newton. All rights reserved.

The Place of Women in Pure Islam

by M. Rafiqul-Haqq and P. Newton

    Contents -
    Men's Superiority
    Women's Deficiencies
    What is a Woman?
    Husband's Rights
    Woman's Rights
    Man's Prerogatives
    The Significance of the Marriage Contract
    The Significance of the Dowry
    Spiritual Standing of Women

The purpose of this booklet is to consider the place of women in the pure teaching of Islam. It must be recognised that not every Muslim, nor every Muslim nation follows all of these teachings. These teachings come from both the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Hadith is 'The Tradition of Mohammad', that is, the stories of Mohammad's deeds and sayings. This Hadith is of

"paramount importance side by side with the Qur'an in the formation of the religious life of a human being and for the attainment of perfection. Indeed a Qur'an minus Hadith remains unintelligible in many cases in the work- a-day life of a man."[1]

The commentator Jalal-ud-Din as-Suyouti said that the Hadith "is the commentary on the Qur'an and its explanation"[2] This is why almost all commentaries rely in the first place on the Hadith to explain the Qur'an. The authentic Hadith is believed to be

"nothing short of revelation, [for the Qur'an says of Mohammad] "he does not speak out of low desires. It is not but inspiration which is inspired (Q. 53:3-4)." The only difference between the Qur'an and the Hadith is that whereas the former was revealed directly through Gabriel with the very letters that are embodied from Allah, the latter was revealed without letters and words."[3]

"Thus, next to the Holy Qur'an, the Hadith is the second source of the Islamic Law of social and personal behaviour, because the commandments of the Holy Prophet are as binding on the believers as the commandments of Allah. 'Whenever Allah and the Apostle have decided a matter, it is not for a faithful man or woman to follow a course of their own choice (Q. 33:36).'"[4]

The Hadith is to be followed exactly "for that which differs from the Hadith to the extent of a hair shall be given up."[5]

"A Muslim therefore stands in absolute need of a copy of the Qur'an and a copy of the Hadith for the guidance of his life"[6]


The Qur'an expresses the equality of the works of the sexes and the oneness of origin of the sexes in the following verses.

"And their Lord answereth them, 'I will not suffer the work of him among you that worketh, whether of male or female, to be lost. The one of you is the issue of the other." (Q. 3:195) Rodwell.

"Mankind fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate." (Q. 4:1) Arberry

So while the Qur'an holds the works of men and women in equal regard and acknowledges that they are completely interdependent as to their very existence, they are not regarded as having equal worth as people. The men are a step above the women and superior to them as is clear from the following two verses.

"And it is for the women to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness; but the men are a step above them."[7] (Q. 2:228) Rodwell "Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other."(Q. 4:34) Dawood.

The famous commentator Ibn Kathir commented on (Q. 4:34) saying:

"Men are superior to women, and a man is better than a woman."[8]

Other commentators such as Razi, Baidawi, Zamakhshari, and Tabari are of the same opinion.

Razi, commenting on Q. 4:11, said:

"(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. "[9]

He also added:

"The male is mentioned first in Q. 4:11 because the male is better than the female."[10]

This superiority according to Razi is due to mens natural superiority in "knowlege and power, and because the man gives his wife the dowry and spends on her."[11]

A modern writer said about the previous verse:

"God established the superiority of men over women by the above verse (the Qur'an 4:34) which prevents the equating of men and women. For here man is above the woman due to his intellectual superiority and his ability to administer and spend on the woman."[12]



The intellectual and religious deficiencies of women are stated in the following Hadith found in Sahih al-Bukhari which is considered by Muslim scholars to be "The most authentic book after the Book of Allah (ie. the Qur'an)":[13]

"Allah's Apostle once said to a group of women : 'I have not seen any one 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 of your 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 your religion.'"[14]

The authenticity of the above Hadith is undisputed. It is reported by the two most reliable collections of Hadith; Bukhari and Muslim. The agreement of Bukhari and Muslim on its authenticity makes it (mutafaqun 'alayhi) 'agreed upon', which is the highest degree of authenticity. The above Hadith has been accepted and used by eminent scholars, such as Ghazali, Ibn al-'Arabi, Razi, Suyouti, Qortobi, Nawawi, and Ibn Kathir, in their writings.

The above Hadith does not describe women only in early Islam, but it is a description for all times, so long as 'women can neither pray nor fast during their menses' and so long as 'the evidence of two women is equal to the witness of one man.' This reasoning is not a temporary one, but is rooted in and derived from the Qur'an for all time until the day of resurrection.

Commenting on the Qur'anic verse Q. 30:21 which states "And of His signs is that He created for you, of yourselves, spouses, that you may repose in them" Razi said:

"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."[15]

Another eminent Muslim thinker, Hadi Sabzevari, in his commentary on Sadr al-Mote'alihin wrote:

That Sadr ad-Deen Shirazi classifies women as animals is a delicate allusion to the fact that women, due to the deficiency in their intelligence and understanding of intricacies, and due to their fondness of the adornments of the world, are truly and justly among the mute animals [al-haywanti al-sa^mita]. They have the nature of beasts [ad-dawwa^b], but they have been given the disguise of human beings so that men would not be loath to talk to them and be compelled to have sexual intercourse with them. That is why our immaculate Law [shar'ina al-mutahhar] takes men's side and gives them superiority in most matters, including divorce, "nushuz," etc. (Quoted in Soroush, Abdolkarim, _Farbehtar az ideoloji_, Sera^t, Tehran, 1373 A.H.S.). [A.H.S. = After the Hegira, in Solar years].

The above is consistent with the authentic Hadith that says women are deficient in intelligence and religion. This belief has been accepted by Muslim scholars and writers for the past thirteen hundred years.

One modern writer said: "The woman's share of intellect does not reach man's level."[16]

He then went on to say that "al-'Aqad, one of the most eminent Arabic writers, in his book al-Mar'ah wal-Qur'an,

"has a valuable chapter in which 'Aqad demolished the intellectual equality of women and men."[17]

As a matter of fact the expression "naqisatan 'aqlan wa dinan" (deficient in intelligence and religion) is one of the bywords and axioms of life on the lips of the masses in Arabic countries.


Women are not only deficient in intelligence, but they also lack gratitude. Women's lack of gratitude is expressed in another Hadith from Bukhari:

"Women are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favours and the good (charitable) deeds done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, 'I have never received any good from you."[18]

So according to this Hadith, women are not only intellectually and spiritually deficient but also deficient in gratitude.


The testimony of the woman is not equal to that of the man. Her testimony is half the testimony of the man with regard to financial matters. The Qur'an states,

"And call in to witness two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witness as you approve of, that if one woman errs the other will remind her."[19]

An educated Muslim woman in trying to explain why the testimony of the woman is half that of the man said,

'Woman was made to bear and feed children. Therefore she is very emotional. And she is forgetful, because if she did not forget how it is to give birth she would not have another child. That is why she will not be as reliable a witness as a man."[20]

Therefore in Islam, the woman is perceived as being deficient in three important areas: to others due to her denial of man's kindness; to herself, due to her inadequate intelligence; and in relation to God, due to her inadequacy in religion.



The previously mentioned deficiencies show the woman's inadequacy as a companion for man. Her deficiency in intelligence and religion prevent her from exchanging secular or sacred ideas or participating in religious or related spheres. To what level do these deficiencies reduce the woman?

"'Omar [one of the Khalifs] was once talking when his wife interjected, so he said to her: 'You are a toy, if you are needed we will call you.'"[21]

And 'Amru Bin al-'Aas, also a Khalif, said: "Women are toys, so choose."[22]

This was not just 'Amru Bin al-'Aas and 'Omar's opinions. Mohammad himself said:

'The woman is a toy, whoever takes her let him care for her (or do not lose her)."[23]

The belief that a woman is a toy is of vital importance for the spiritual well being of a man. For according to the great philosopher Ghazali

"In the company of women, looking at them, and playing with them, the soul is refreshed, the heart is rested, and the man is strengthened to the worship of God...this is why God said: 'That he might rest in her.' (Q. 7:189)"[24]


Apart from the deficiencies of the woman, she is also has ten 'awrat. The Encyclopedia of Islam defines 'awrah as pudendum, that is "the external genitals, especially of the female. [Latin pudendum (literally) a thing to be ashamed of]"[25]

"Ali reported the Prophet saying: 'Women have ten ('awrat). When she gets married, the husband covers one, and when she dies the grave covers the ten."[26]

And according to the following Hadith, women not only have ten 'awrat, but the woman herself is perceived as 'awrah :

"The woman is 'awrah. When she goes outside (the house), the devil welcomes her."[27]

(This Hadith is classed as 'Sahih' that is sound or faultless.) So going outside the house is a form of exposure of the 'awrah; a thing that delights the devil.

This is why women are discouraged from going outside the house, even to pray in the mosque, as the following Hadith indicates.

"A woman is closest to God's face, if she is found in the core of her house. And the prayer of the woman in the house is better than her prayer in the mosque."[28]

(This Hadith is classed as 'Hassan', that is approved.)

Dr. Buti a modern scholar said, "Muslim teachers unanimously agreed in every generation that the woman should cover all her body except her hands and face, that is without any make up, from strangers."[29] While the followers of Hanbal and some followers of Shafi'i consider even the hand and the face to be 'awrah, and therefore should be covered.[30]

"And those who allow the woman to show her hand and face -the Malikiyah and Hanafiyah- do so with the provision that make up will not be used, but if the woman's face is naturally beautiful, then she must cover her face for fear of being a temptation to men."[31]

Dr. Buti gives the reason behind the wearing of the Hijab.

"Allah, the most high, decreed that the woman should be veiled. He did so in protecting the chastity of the men who might see her, and not in protection of the chastity of the woman from the eyes of those who look at her."[32]


The character of women is likened to a rib, crooked. Bukhari reported the following Hadith:

"The woman is like a rib; if you try to straighten her, she will break. So if you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some crookedness."[33] This Hadith is classed as agreed upon.

Another Hadith attributes this crookedness to the act of creation because the woman was created from man's rib.[34] This crookedness then is inherent and incurable, the man has to live with it and make the most out of it. This belief is accepted not only by the masses but by celebrated scholars such as Imam Shafi'i who said :

'three [persons] if you esteem them they will dishonour you and if you dishonour them they will esteem you : the woman, the servant and the Nabatea.'[35]

and Ghazali who said:

"If you relax the woman's bridle a tiny bit, she will take you and bolt wildly. And if you lower her cheek-piece a hand span, she will pull you an arm's length ... Their deception is awesome and their wickedness is contagious; bad character and feeble mind are their predominant traits ... Mohammad said[36] : 'The likeness of a virtuous woman amongst women is like a red beaked crow among a hundred crows."[37]

Thus it is believed that virtuous women are rare and their crookedness is as natural as the crooked rib.

In spite of all these deficiencies Ghazali found some redeeming features in women: "[A man's wife] fears him, while he fears her not, a kind word from him satisfies her, where nothing of hers has importance in his eyes, it is she who must tolerate the presence of concubines, and it is she who worries when he is ill whereas even her death would leave him indifferent."[37a]



Man's sexual needs are considered so urgent that it is better for food to burn in the oven than a man to burn in waiting for his wife to satisfy his desire. If she refuses, the angels of heaven will turn against her.

"The prophet of Allah said: When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire, let her come to him though she is occupied at the oven."[38]

(The above Hadith is agreed upon, that is, no scholar doubts its authenticity.)

"The messenger of Allah said: Whenever a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and then he passes the night in an angry mood, the angels curse her till she gets up at dawn."[39]

The understanding that man's sexual needs are more important than the woman's was not only believed by the early Muslims, but is also believed by modern-day Muslims. A contemporary scholar wrote:

"Allah the most high has fashioned the woman's psychological and physiological make up in such a way that man's pleasures are satisfied in her more than her pleasures satisfied in him. Not only that but she also finds her happiness in feeling so."[40]

Another contemporary scholar wrote:

"Sexual intercourse is an action, and the woman does not act."[41]

The famous commentator Qortobi said:

"The woman was created so that man can rest in her ... for by her he gets rid of his sexual storm. The female sexual organ was created for men. For when Allah the most high said '(You) leave what your Lord has created for you of your wives?'[42] Allah made it known that that place of the woman was created from man for man's sake. So the woman must yield it whenever the husband calls her. If she refuses then she is an oppressor and in a grave position. Sufficient proof of this was reported from Sahih Muslim in the Hadith that says 'When a man calls his wife to his bed, and she refuses, the One Who is in the heaven will be angry with her until he [her husband] is pleased with her"[43]


All the woman's piety is considered useless if she disobeys her husband. Her disobedience to her husband represents an unlawful and irrational act. But obedience to her husband is the key to Paradise as is clear from the following Hadith:

"There are three (persons) whose prayer will not be accepted, nor their virtues be taken above: The runaway slave until he returns back to his master, the woman with whom her husband is dissatisfied, and the drunk until he becomes sober."[44]

"Whosoever female dies while her husband is pleased with her, will enter Paradise."[45]

"The prophet once said to a woman: 'Watch how you treat your husband for he is your Paradise and your Hell."[46]


The obedience of the woman to her husband is an important prerequisite that shows her piety and guarantees her eternal destiny. He is her Paradise or her hell. Man is thus so elevated that by comparison with the woman, he is placed on a divine level. Her response to him approaches worship. That however, is impossible, as worship belongs to God alone.

Mohammad said:

"Had I ordered anybody to prostrate before any one, I would have ordered women to prostrate before their husbands on account of men's rights over the women ordained by Allah."[47]


Man's status is so much higher than woman's that no sacrifice on the woman's part will ever gain her her full right in relation to a man. Even in our own time (1985) a Muslim writer, Ahmad Zaky Tuffaha, seriously and reverently quotes the following Hadith :

"If a woman offered one of her breasts to be cooked and the other to be roasted, she still will fall short of fulfilling her obligations to her husband. And besides that if she disobeys her husband even for a twinkling of an eye, she would be thrown in the lowest part of Hell, except she repents and turns back."[48]

Although this Hadith is not mentioned in Bukhari, it is consistent with the other Ahadith quoted by Bukhari.

It is a noble sacrifice for a man to share his life with the woman as described in Bukhari's sound Ahadith; she being deficient in mind, religion, and gratitude. It is condescension on the part of the man to spend his life with her. She can not repay this favour, no matter what sacrifice she makes.

Indeed, the rights of the husband are so vast that

"If blood, suppuration, and pus, were to pour from the husband's nose and the wife licked it with her tongue, she would still never be able to fulfil his rights over her."[49]

This Hadith is repeated, also with great reverence, five times by commentator Imam Suyuti who is regarded as one of the greatest of all Muslim scholars.


While the Hadith enumerates the husband's rights, the woman's rights are simple, as the following Hadith shows:

"'O Messenger of Allah ! What right has the wife of one among us got over him?' He said: 'It is that you shall give her food when you have taken your food, that you shall clothe her when you have clothed yourself, that you shall not slap her on the face, nor revile her, nor desert her except within the house.'"[50]



The Qur'an describes the natural relationship between the husband and the wife as one of love and mercy: "He has set between you love (mawaddah) and mercy." Q. 30:21. A contemporary scholar, Sayyed Qotb sees that the love and the mercy spoken of in this verse as the natural feelings the man has for the opposite sex that was planted by the creator. Earlier scholars saw that "love" between the husband and the wife in the above verse refers to the sexual act, while "mercy" refers to the offspring of the man and his wife.[51] The important thing to note is that this love and mercy is not found in the man apart from the woman, but it is a mutual thing found in both. And the Qur'an commands men to "Consort with them (women) in kindness (ma'ruf)." Q. 4:19 According to the Dictionary of Qur'anic terms and concepts the word "ma'ruf" means "customary law; enjoining good and forbidding evil."[52]

Elsewhere the word is translated many times as equitable as in Yusuf Ali's English translation of the Qur'an.[53] In other words when women behave properly they are to be treated kindly, the treatment must be equitable according to the customary laws.

There is also a Hadith that describes the good husband; "The best of you are those who are the best to their wives."[54] (that Hadith is mentioned only by Tirmizi). But how far this goodness will go in difficult times, when the wife does not behave properly?

The man according to the Qur'an has the responsibility to admonish his wife, and the right to desert her sexually, and to beat her to correct any rebelliousness in her behaviour.

The Qur'an states:

"Righteous women are therefore obedient, ... And those you fear may be rebellious (nushuz) admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them."[55]

Some translators add the word lightly after 'beat them'[56] in Q. 4:34. Others like Mohammed Pickthall and Rodwell translate the word 'edrebouhon - beat them' as 'scourge them'.

The occasion in which Q. 4:34 was revealed sheds more light on the meaning of that verse. Most commentators mention that

"the above verse was revealed in connection with a woman who complained to Mohammad that her husband slapped her on the face (which was still marked by the slap). At first the Prophet said to her: 'Get even with him', but then added: 'Wait until I think about it.' Later on the above verse was revealed, after which the Prophet said: 'We wanted one thing but Allah wanted another, and what Allah wanted is best.'"[57]

The beating in the previous incident can hardly be described as light, unless that is what is meant by light beating. This beating comes as the last corrective measure when sexual desertion fails. Light beating after sexual desertion is an anticlimax that serves no purpose. But firm beating is the logical progression from admonishing, then sexually deserting, finally beating her. This beating must be stronger than sexual desertion to have any effect.

This beating however is not like the whipping of a slave,[58] but "a beating without causing injury"[59] (agreed upon).

So the man has the right to beat his rebellious wife as long as that beating is not like the whipping of the slave and will not result in injury.

The translator of Mishkat Al-Masabih wrote in a footnote of Fatwa by Qazi Khan that said beating the wife mildly is

"allowed in four cases (1) When she does not wear fineries though wanted by the husband, (2) When she is called for sexual intercourse and she refuses without any lawful excuse, (3) When she is ordered to take a bath [to clean herself] from impurities for prayer and she refuses and (4) When she goes abroad without permission of her husband."[60]

In another footnote the translator of Mishkat Al-Masabih said,

"No wife shall refuse her husband what he wants from her except on religious grounds ie. at the time of menstrual flow or fasting. Some theologians regard this refusal as unlawful as the husband may get enjoyment from his wife in other ways, by embracing, kissing etc. The duty of the wife is to give him comforts in his bed whenever he wants her."[61] (emphasis added)

This beating is the husband's unquestionable right.

Ibn Kathir in his commentary mentioned a Hadith on the authority of zal Ash'ath Ibn al-Qays who was visiting 'Omar and at that time. 'Omar took his wife and beat her, then said to Ash'ath:

'Memorise three things from me, which I memorised from the prophet who said: "The man is not to be asked why he beat his wife ..."'[62]

Man's right to 'beat his wife' does not belong to the distant past. The Guardian Weekly reported,

"In 1987 an Egyptian court, following an interpretation of the Koran proposed by the Syndicate of Arab Lawyers, ruled that a husband had the duty to educate his wife and therefore the right to punish her as he wished."[63]

Sayyed Qotb a modern scholar and commentator tries to justify the provision for a man to beat his wife, found in the above Qur'anic verse:

"The facts of life, and the psychological observations of certain forms of deviations indicate that this approach (beating the wife) is the most appropriate one to satisfy a particular form of deviation, reforming the behaviour of the person ... and gratifying her ... at the same time!

Even without the existence of this form of psychological deviation, perhaps some women will not recognise the power of the man whom they love to have as their guardian and husband, except when the man conquers them physically! This is not the nature of every woman. But this kind does exist. And it is this kind that needs this last treatment to be set straight, and remain within the serious organisation [marriage] in peace and tranquillity."[64]

Some intellectuals, referring to the above quotation, said:

"Women's rebelliousness (nushuz) is a medical condition. It is of two kinds: The first is the condition when the woman delights to be the submissive partner who finds pleasure in being beaten and tortured. This is what is called Masochism. The second is when the woman loves to hurt and master and dominate the other partner. This is what is called Sadism. Such woman has no remedy except removing her spikes and destroying her weapon by which she dominates. This weapon of the woman is her femininity. But the other woman who delights in submission and being beaten, then beating is her remedy. So the Qur'anic command: 'banish them to their couches, and beat them' agrees with the latest psychological findings in understanding the rebellious woman. This is one of the scientific miracles of the Qur'an because it sums up volumes of the science of psychology about rebellious women."[65]

The above two quotations state that the Qur'anic injunction to beat the perverted masochist woman will cure her from her disorder. But will it rather increase her perversion by giving her the pleasure she sought? Will giving alcohol to the alcoholic be his remedy too? And why beat the sadist wife? Why not let her have her own way too, like the masochistic one? Why not let her beat and torture others?

Even if this treatment is of benefit to the minority of women who are perverted, does this justify the command to beat the wife who rebels for any and every reason?

Whether or not the beating of wives is justified, this is the man's right, and his alone.

The man who fears rebelliousness in his wife must admonish her first. If that does not work, the husband has the right to desert her sexually. If that does not work either, he has the right to beat her.

Sayyed Qotb explains the dynamics of deserting the wife sexually if admonishing her does not work:

"Here comes the second phase ... the man has to make a superior psychological move against all her attraction and beauty, by banishing her to her couch, for the couch (the bed) is the place of temptation and enticement, where the rebellious woman reaches the summit of her power. If the man can conquer his disposition against her temptation, then he has disarmed her from her sharpest and most treasured weapon."[66]

Another scholar reiterating the above said:

"This sexual desertion is a remedy that curbs the rebelliousness of the woman, and humiliates her pride, in that which she treasures most, her femininity ... thus inflicting the most humiliating defeat on the woman. "[67]

The man then has the right to desert his wife sexually and beat her, if he fears rebelliousness in her.

The woman, however, can not resort to such measures, if she fears rebelliousness in her husband, as is clear from the following verse:

"If a woman fears rebelliousness or aversion in her husband, there is no fault in them if the couple set things right between them; right settlement is better."[68]

It is clear from Q. 4:128 & Q. 4:34 that the Qur'an commands diplomacy when a woman fears rebelliousness in her husband. But when the man fears rebelliousness in his wife, the Qur'an commands the use of force and sexual desertion.

Bukhari gives an example of the wife's options if she fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part in the following Hadith:

"... narrated 'Aisha (regarding the verse:- 'If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part...) It concerns the woman whose husband does not want to keep her with him any longer, but wants to divorce her and marry some other lady, so she says to him: 'Keep me and do not divorce me, and then marry another woman, and you may neither spend on me, nor sleep with me.' This is indicated by the statement of Allah:- 'There is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable set tlement between them both, and such settlement is better.'"[69] (emphasis added)

So according to Bukhari's sound Hadith, the recommended amicable settlement for the woman who fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, is to submit to her husband's will to marry another woman, and to forego her financial and sexual rights.

Beating the rebellious wife is the last resort before divorcing her. She must be admonished first. If that does not work, the husband has the right to desert her sexually. The Qur'anic injunction to consort with women kindly is not inconsistent with beating the rebellious wife and sexually deserting her, this beating is included and part of the scope of the kind treatment. The prophet himself, who was the kindest of all Muslims to his wives, deserted them all sexually for one month.[70] Imam Ghazali puts it this way: "There is wickedness and weakness in women. Diplomacy and harshness is the remedy of wickedness, kindness and gentleness is the remedy of weakness."[71]

In contrast to the way a husband can treat his wife, in Islam children are required to treat their mothers with utmost respect according to the following two Hadiths:

Abu Hurairah reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and asked: "O Messenger of Allah, who is the person who has the greatest right on me with regards to kindness and attention?" He replied, "Your mother." "Then who?" He replied, "Your mother." "Then who?" He replied, "Your mother." "Then who?" He replied, "Your father."


"Paradise is under the feet of mothers."

Dr. Suhaib Hasan comments on the latter:

The [above] hadith with this wording is da'if, but its meaning is contained in the hadith of Ibn Majah and al-Nasa'i that a man came to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said, "O Messenger of Allah! I intend to go on a (military) expedition, but I have come to ask your advice." He said, "Is your mother alive?" He said, "Yes." He said, "Then stay with her, for the Garden is under her feet."[71a]

It is a fact that some mothers deserve the lowest place in hell. It is logical then that Paradise is not under the feet of every mother. The statement "the Garden is under her feet" was said in regard to a particular woman, who probably was known to Mohammad for her uprightness.

Furthermore, the fact that Muhammad did not command every one of his fighting men to stay at home if their mothers were still alive makes it clear that this was not a general principle but refered to a specific woman who possibly was old and in need of the care of her (only?) son.

Even if that Hadith is sahih, it must be noted that both hadiths do focus on mothers in particular, not women in general. Both Hadiths exclude wives who have no children and of course single women.

It must be noted also that both Hadith regulate the specific relationship between children and mothers, not the relationship between husband and wife. So while a son is required to give his mother the utmost respect, the husband of this mother still has the right to desert her, and beat her if he "fears rebelliousness" on her part.

Some other Hadiths that are often quoted in order to counterbalance the many Hadiths that enumerate men's rights are the following:

The best of you is he who is best to his wife.[71b]

The best of you are those who are best to their ahl, meaning spouses and children. And I am the best of you to my family.[71c]

These Hadiths must be viewed in the light of the facts of history. It is a fact that "Mohammad deserted his wives for a whole month."[71d] At one occasion he also called both Aisha and Hafsa "the Companions of Joseph" which is a very derogatory term.[71e] He also intended to divorce Sawda for no reason except that she became old (Ibn Kathir commenting on Q. 4:128). Mohammad's superiority as a husband did not prevent him from exercising his rights as a Muslim man.


A provision is made for men to marry more than one woman as follows:

"If you fear you can not treat orphans (girls) with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three or four of them. But if you fear that you can not maintain equality among them, marry only one or any slave girls you may own. This will make it easier for you to avoid injustice."[72]

Some however have argued that since maintaining equality is impossible, then marrying more than one wife is not permissible using the following verse:

"Try as you may, you cannot treat all your wives impartially. Do not set yourself altogether against any of them."[73]

But the majority of the commentators agreed that

The equality in Q. 4:3 is concerned with apportioning time and money, while the equality mentioned in Q. 4:129 is concerned with the affection and love of the man towards his wives.[74]

They further argued that Mohammad himself was not impartial in his affections towards his wives, for he loved 'A'isha more than any of his wives.[75] So as long as the husband can be fair in apportioning his time and money he can marry up to four.

Others believe the number is limited to nine wives, as two and three and four make nine, and Mohammad himself when he passed away had nine wives, and to follow his tradition is the commended way of living.[76]

Others believe that the above verse is the proof for an unlimited number of wives, because the verse does not say two or three or four but literally says two and three and four, meaning two and three and four etc.[77] The majority believe the number of wives the man may marry to be limited to four, because of the reported Hadith about a man who had ten wives. When he became a Muslim, Mohammad said to him : 'Keep four, and leave the rest.'[78]

The reason for marrying more than one woman is given by Ghazali the great Muslim scholar:

"Some men have such a compelling sexual desire that one woman is not sufficient to protect them [from adultery]. Such men therefore preferably marry more than one woman and may have up to four wives."[79]

Besides the above provision men have the right to have sex with their slave girls.

"For if a man purchases a slave girl, the purchase contract includes his right to have sex with her."[80] "This contract is primarily to own her and secondarily to enjoy her sexually."[81]

And the reason for having sex with the slave girls beside one's wives is also given by Ghazali:

"Since among Arabs passion is an overpowering aspect of their nature, the need of their pious men to have sex has been found to be the more intense. And for the purpose of emptying the heart to the worship of God they have been allowed to have sex with women slaves if at some time they should fear that this passion will lead them to commit adultery. Though it is true that such action could lead to the birth of a child that will be a slave, which is a form of destruction,...yet enslaving a child is a lighter offence than the destruction of religious belief. For enslaving the new born is a temporary thing but by committing adultery eternity is lost."[82]

Ghazali gives us an example of this overpowering sexual desire.

"The son of 'Omar who was an ascetic, and a scholar, used to break his fast by having sex before having food. And he might have had sex with three of his slave girls before the last meal."[83]

And Bukhari reported,

"The Prophet used to pass (have sexual relation with) all his wives in one night, and at that time he had nine wives."[84]


"He once said of himself that he had been given the power of forty men in sex."[85]


"Ali who was the most ascetic of all the companions had four wives, and seventeen slave girls as concubines."[86]


"some of the other companions had three and four wives and those who had two wives were countless in number."[87]

Concerning the provision for having sex with slave girls, found in the last part of the above Qur'anic verse, Razi said:

"God made the provision of having sex with many slave girls as easy as marrying one free woman. Besides, the responsibilities and provisions of the slave girls are lighter than those of the dowers, no matter (never mind) if you have a few of them or many, no matter if you were fair in apportioning your nights amongst them or not, no matter whether you completed the sexual act or not."[88]

The commentator Qortobi sees in that verse (Q. 4:3) that slave girls used as such by the free Muslim man

"have neither sexual rights, nor financial rights. For God made the 'one free woman' and the 'slave girls you may own' of the same category. The man however owes the slave girls the appropriate rights of ownership, and the kindness that befits slaves."[89]

So because "the need of the pious men to have sex was found to be the more intense, and for the purpose of emptying the heart for the worship of God" they have been allowed to marry up to four women and have sex with an unlimited number of slave girls even if this provision may lead to "the birth of a child that will be a slave, which is a form of destruction."


Divorce is recognised by most societies as a horrible thing. It is viewed as such in Islam except that it is viewed as a lawful course of action. The Hadith states, "The most detestable of lawful things near Allah is divorce."[90]

The power to divorce usually resides in the hand of the man. Bukhari reported a Hadith that shows how easy the detestable and lawful act can be.

A "man may say to his brother (in Islam), 'Have a look at either of my wives (and if you wish), I will divorce her for you.'"[91]

It can even happen against the will, and the love of the husband and the wife concerned.

"The son of 'Omar reported: I had a wife under me whom I loved but whom 'Omar disliked. He told me: 'Divorce her'. But I refused. Then 'Omar came to the Messenger of Allah and notified it to him. The messenger of Allah told me: 'Divorce her'."[92] (Quoted by Tirmizi and Abu Daud)


Man is the privileged party in cases of custody of the children. Gaziri a modern scholar in Islamic Law wrote:

The Hanafites, who form the largest Muslim group, said "The conditions of the custody of the children is as follows. First the wife should not reject Islam. If she rejects Islam, she has no right to the custody of the children. Second, she must be of good character for if it was proven that she is corrupted by illicit sex, or theft, or has a low trade such as a professional mourner, or a dancer, she loses her right to custody. Third, she is not allowed to marry anyone except the father of the child. If she remarries, she has no right to custody, unless her new husband is related to the child as a paternal uncle. But if she marries a foreigner she has no right to custody. Fourthly, she must not leave the child without supervision. Especially if the child is a female, because females need protection. So if the mother had to go outside for a long period and so neglect her child, she has no right to the custody of the child. Fifthly, if the father is poor, and the mother refused the custody of the child except for payment, and his aunty said 'I will look after him for free', then the aunt will have the right to the custody of the child. To follow the religion of Islam is not a condition to the right to custody, for if the husband is married to one of the people of the Book, she has the right to custody as long as he is safe from apostasy, or corruption. But if that is not so, such as he saw her taking the child to a church, or feeding him pigs meat, or giving him wine, then the father has the right to take the child from her, and sanity is a pre-requisite that is agreed upon by all."[93]

As to the period of custody, Gazirir added

"the Hanafites said, the mother has the rights to the custody of the boy until he is seven years old. Others said "Until he is nine". But the first opinion is the one that is legally accepted. For the girl there are two opinions. The first until she menstruates. The second until she reaches the age of puberty which was set to be nine years old. This is what is accepted legally."[94]

The mother can have the child for the most difficult years where she wakes up at night to feed and change nappies and toilet train etc. then the father can take over when the child is capable of being a help instead of needing help.


Muslim men are entitled to several wives in this life. In Paradise, they are further rewarded with additional women - perfect in beauty.

Mu'az reported from the messenger of Allah who said:

"A woman does not give trouble to her husband in this world but his wife of the pure-eyed virgin ones [huris] does not say to her: 'Do not give him trouble. May Allah destroy you, He is only a passing guest with you and it is very near that he will soon leave you to come to us'."[95]

The editor of Mishkat wrote in a footnote to that tradition:

"No woman should give trouble and anxiety to her husband. She is to give him ease and comfort in the household. If she acts otherwise, she will not be able to be his mate in Paradise. There the pure-eyed virgin girls will be his consorts."

For the Qur'an promises godfearing men, beautiful women in Paradise. The following are their descriptions:

"Lo! those [men] who kept their duty will be in a place secure amid gardens and water springs, attired in silk and silk embroidery, facing one another. Even so (it will be). And We shall wed them unto [huris] fair ones with wide, lovely eyes."[96]

"Therein maidens restraining their glances, untouched before them by any man or jinn .....lovely as rubies, beautiful as coral"[97]

"The fair, the beautiful ones [huris]... With large dark eyeballs, kept close in their pavilions"[98]

"Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards, and maidens of swelling breasts (Kawa'eb)[99], like of age, and a cup overflowing."[100]

From this, it can be seen that the godfearing shall be 'wedded' to women in Paradise. Those women will not look at any one else, except their husbands. They will be restrained in their pavilions. Those women in Paradise will be fair; not like the dark skinned ones of Arabia. Their beauty will be perfect. Their eyes are wide and large, and their breasts are

"Kawa'eb" -"swelling and firm, not sagging."[101]

The Hadith also tells us-

"In Paradise ... every person would have two wives (so beautiful) that the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise."[102]

Another Hadith makes the number of wives seventy two. Seventy females are specially created, and two are human females.[103] His earthly wife may be included among his "huris", but in Paradise there will be additional women for him, even up to seventy-two.

The above descriptions are literal, and the relationship between men and their "huris" are physical, and not only spiritual as the following Hadith which is chosen by the compiler of Mishkat al- Masabih shows.

"The Holy Prophet said: 'The believer will be given such and such strength in Paradise for sexual intercourse. It was questioned: O prophet of Allah! can he do that? He said: "He will be given the strength of one hundred persons.'"[104]

(This Hadith is Quoted from Tirmizi and classed by Tirmizi as Sahih - sound and faultless."[105]

Ibn Kathir in his commentary emphasises the literal nature of sexual intercourse in Paradise by another Hadith:

"The Prophet was asked : 'Do we have sex in Paradise?' He answered: 'Yes, by him who holds my soul in his hand, and it will be done dahman, dahman (that is intercourse done with such shove and disturbance[106]). And when it is finished she will return pure and virgin again.'"[107]

In Islam, the perpetual taking of the virginity of women is traditionally associated with Paradise. The famous commentary Al-Jalalayn sees that the rejoicing mentioned in the Qur'anic verse "The inhabitants of Paradise today are busy in their rejoicing (fakehoun)"[108]

"includes the taking of the virginity of women in Paradise."[109]

The great scholar Ghazali quotes al-'Ouaza'i, one of the early scholars who commented on the above verse saying: "'Busy in their rejoicing' means busy taking the virginity of the virgins."[110]

And the great commentator Ibn 'Abbas said of the above verse: (fakehoun) means enjoying taking the virginity of the virgins."[111]

Not only on earth, but also in Paradise, the man has considerable sexual enjoyments. He may marry several women on earth, and even when his earthly life is over, he may look forward to having beautiful women in Paradise. He will be able to have up to seventy-two "huris"; he will be given the strength of one hundred men in sex; he will be able to perform sex with great shoving and disturbance, on the other hand, nothing is promised to the woman. She has no assurance of even one man.

Once again, the man has all the advantages and pleasures, while the woman must be perpetually used for his purposes. His is the pleasure - hers the disturbance, in this world and the next.


Why do men in Islam have such privileges over women? The following material, taken mostly from a contemporary work on Islamic Law by a modern scholar named Gaziri, may explain the reason why.


"The marriage contract is designed by the legislator so that the husband may benefit from the sexual organ of the woman and the rest of her body for the purpose of pleasure. As such the husband owns by the marriage contract, this exclusive benefit."[112]

"The accepted understanding in the different schools of jurisprudence, is that what has been contracted in marriage is for the benefit of the man from the woman, not the opposite. The followers of Imam Malik declared the marriage contract is a contract of ownership of benefit of the sexual organ of the woman and the rest of her body.

The followers of Imam Shafi'i said, "The most accepted view is that what is been contracted upon is the woman, that is the benefit derived from her sexual organ." Others said, "What has been contracted is both the man and the woman. So according to the first opinion the wife can not demand sex from her husband because it is his right [not hers], and according to the second opinion she can demand to have sex with him."

The followers of Imam Abu Hanifa said, "The right of the sexual pleasure belongs to the man, not the woman, by that it is meant that the man has the right to force the woman to gratify himself sexually. She on the other hand does not have the right to force him to have sex with her except once [in a lifetime]. But he must, from a religious point of view, have sex with her to protect her from being morally corrupt."[113]


"The dowry (Mahr) is a technical term denoting the money which must be given to the woman in the marriage contract in exchange for enjoying her."[114]

"The most worthy condition you fulfil is one with which you were given the right to enjoy the (woman's) private parts."[115]

The Encyclopaedia of Islam commented on the above Hadith saying,

"According to a tradition in Bukhari the mahr is an essential condition for the legality of the marriage 'Every marriage without mahr is null and void'."[116]

The giving of the dowry is fundamental to the securing of man's sexual rights, so "Who so gives two handfuls of flour or dates as dowry of his wife has rendered [her] (private parts) lawful."[117] The Hadith recorded that a pair of shoes[118], and an iron ring[119] were given as a dowry. For "The best dowry is the easiest to pay."[120]

The connection between the dowry and sexual enjoyment can even be seen outside of marriage:

"If a man has sex with a married woman, by mistake, thinking her to be his wife, he must give her a dowry equal to the dowry given to a woman of her social worth. This dowry becomes the property of the wife and not her husband."[121]

This significance of the dowry as a guarantee of the man's sexual enjoyment is rooted in the Qur'an, as we shall see from the following statements made by some of the most eminent scholars:

"(Such wives as you enjoy thereby, give them their wages apportionate. Q. 4:24) The enjoyment [mentioned in this Qur'anic verse] is the sexual pleasure. And the wages is the dowry. And the dowry was called a wage because it is a wage of enjoyment...and that proves that the wage is an exchange of the woman's sexual organ (or the sexual intercourse), for what is given in exchange for an enjoyment is called a wage. The scholars disagreed as to what is the thing that is being contracted in the marriage contract. Is it the body of the woman , or the enjoyment that comes from the use of the woman's sexual organ? Or both? What is obvious is 'both' because the contract stipulates all of that."[122] (Qurtubi)

This significance of the dowry is also attested to by the Hadith:

"A man married a woman thinking her to be a virgin. He discovering she was pregnant from adultery went and reported it to the Prophet. The Prophet judged that the woman was entitled to the dowry. He separated the two, commanded that the woman be flogged, and said to the man, 'The baby will be your slave [In Islam both recognition and adoption of illegitimate children is impossible][123]. So the dowry is given in exchange for the sexual intercourse."[124] (Ibn Kathir)

"The dowry is given in exchange for the woman's sexual organs."[125] (Ibn Kathir)

"By analogy the dowry is to be given in exchange for the use or the benefit of the woman's sexual organ."[126] (Razi)

"(Such wives as you enjoy thereby, give them their wages apportionate. Q. 4:24) There are two interpretations concerning that verse. The first, which is the opinion of the majority of the scholars, in His saying (Lawful for you that you may seek using your wealth in wedlock). By this is meant seeking the woman by wealth through marriage. The other interpretation is that this verse speaks of temporary marriage."[127] (Razi)

"Abu Bakr ar-Razi said: 'This verse [Q. 4:24] is a proof that the freeing of the slave girl cannot be her dowry'. Because this verse proves that the woman's sexual organ is something which has a monetary value."[128]

"Malik said: The dowry shouldn't be less than a quarter of a dinar, or three dirhams. Some of our followers said in justification of his finding: This resembles most, the cutting of the hand because the woman's sexual organ is a member of the body and the hand is a member whose amputation becomes lawful for stealing a minimum amount of money. And that is a quarter of a dinar, or three dirhams. So Malik considered the woman's sexual organ as being of the same worth as the hand. Abu 'Omar said: "Abu Hanifah had come to a similar conclusion before him. For he compared the dowry with the cutting of the hand. In his system, the hand cannot be cut, except in a dinar or twelve dirhams and according to him there is no dowry below that."[129] (Qurtubi)

"Allah's saying (you may seek using your wealth in wedlock) This means: through marriage or purchase. So Allah the Wise made lawful the woman's sexual organ by wealth. That necessitates the giving of dowry in marriage. The most high made unlawful the use of the woman's sexual organ except by paying something in return."[130] (Ibn al- 'Araby)

"give them their wages apportionate. (Q. 4:24) This verse proves that the dowry is called 'wages'. The evidence for that is that the dowry is given in exchange for the benefit of the sexual enjoyment. For the benefit is the opposite to what is called 'wages'."[131] (Ibn al- 'Araby)

"Our scholars have said: "Allah the most exalted, He made the dowry to be a substitute. He treated it like other things that require a substitute. Because of his saying: "(Such wives as you enjoy thereby, give them their wages apportionate. Q. 4:24) So He called it a wage. He took it outside the law of gifts to the law of replacements. The argument that both partners enjoy each other in marriage and that the dowry is an additional payment for the wife, is not so. But the husband is obliged to pay the dowry, so that he may own the right of rulership over the woman, and stand as the "master to his slave" in the relationship because of what he gave as a substitute. So that her benefit becomes his. So she cannot fast except by his permission. She cannot go to pilgrimage, except by his permission. She does not leave the house, except by his permission. And he will have the right over her property except up to a third will belong to her. It goes without saying, that he will have the right over her body. "[132] (Ibn al-'Araby)

Ibn al-'Araby saw that the man's sexual rights by virtue of the paying of the dowry is grounded in the Qur'an. He even went as far as saying that the payment of the dowry provided a master-servant relationship between the husband and the wife.


The implications of the sexual rights secured by the payment of this dowry extend to affect children of a previous marriage:

"The husband has the right to prevent his wife from looking after and breast feeding her baby, from her previous husband, (if she was living in the husband's house), because that will make her too busy to attend to the husband, and it will affect her beauty and cleanliness, all these are the rights of the husband alone."[133] (Hanafites)


In Islam "marriage does not produce any community of property between husband and wife."[134] Hence the wife must rely on the support of her husband daily. However, there are numerous grounds on which the husband can refuse supporting his wife as the following indicates:

The Hanafites said :

'The support of the woman (nafaqa) is obligatory on the man in return for the woman being locked up in the man's house, and for being exclusively his.[135]

"The Hanafites said : 'There is no support for the woman if she is -
(1) Rebellious (Nashiz) that is the woman who goes outside the house of the husband without his permission and without a justifiable reason, or refuses surrendering herself to him so she does not enter his house. But if she refuses to have sex with him (even though that is unlawful) that refusal is not a reason for stopping her support because the qualifying reason for the support does exist and that is her being locked up in his house.
(2) The renegade woman.
(3) The woman who obeys the husband's son or his father or kiss either with lust or any thing that might put her relation with her husband on a prohibited degree.
(4) The woman whose marriage contract is imperfect, and the woman who had sex with someone by mistake, the man thinking she was his wife.
(5) The wife who is too young to have sex. ["The Islamic law knows no minimum age for a legal marriage.[136]]
(6) The wife who is imprisoned, even if she is innocent, if he can not have access to her (as a wife).
(7) The sick wife who, due to severe illness, did not move after the ceremony to the husband's house, because she did not surrender herself to the husband.
(8) The wife who was raped by another man.
(9) The wife who goes to perform pilgrimage ... there is no support for her because she is not locked up."[137]

The followers of Imam Shafi'i said: "The conditions of the man's maintenance for the woman are as follows:
First, she must avail herself to him by offering herself to him, such as saying to him 'I am surrendering myself to you'. The important thing is that she must notify him in advance that she is ready for his meeting with her, and of his entrance upon her as he wishes. If she does not notify him that she is ready, she has no right of maintenance, even if she does not refuse his request to meet with her. So maintenance is conditional upon the woman's notification to her husband that she is ready for his meeting any time he wishes, and that she must avail him of herself anytime he wishes. So if she works during the day time, and he cannot meet with her, her maintenance would be denied.
Secondly, she must be capable of having sexual intercourse. If she was a small girl, that cannot cope with intercourse, she is not entitled to the maintenance.
Thirdly, she must not be rebellious, that is, disobeying her husband, which can take the form of preventing him from enjoying her by refusing his touch and his kisses and refusing to have sex. If she denies him any of the above, her maintenance will be cancelled for that day, because maintenance is due day by day. ... and the rebelliousness of one day cancels his provision for clothing her for a whole season."[138]

The followers of Imam Malik said: "The condition for the man's maintenance to the woman is that she should avail herself to the man for sexual intercourse, so that if he requested it from her she would not refuse. Otherwise she would have no right to the maintenance."[139]

"The followers of Imam Ibn Hanbal said, ' The wife's daily maintenance is due upon the husband if the wife surrenders herself to her husband completely ... for the daily maintenance is given to the woman in return for the husband's sexual enjoyment, so when the wife surrenders herself her daily maintenance is obligatory as long as she had reached nine years old ... so if she was well physically and surrendered herself for the enjoyment of the husband but without sexual intercourse, she has no right for the daily maintenance. So if the wife refuses to surrender herself so that the husband might have sex with her, her daily maintenance is denied, so if she then has a problem that prevents her from having sex with her husband, but surrenders herself to her husband after that, her daily maintenance is not given to her as long as she is sick, as a punishment for her because she refused to surrender to her husband when she was well."[140]

The above rulings are sincerely believed to be the will of Allah. Gaziri who summarised the opinions of the different schools of Islamic law, in the introduction of his work, al-Fiqh, wrote:

"My intention was to produce for the people a book explaining to them their responsibilities & privileges within the family. that the muslim masses, recognising their duties might perform them with perfection to please the Almighty God."[141]


The Hadith describes the good wife as follows:

"The virtuous wife, if her husband bids her, she obeys him; if he looks at her, she pleases him; if he gives her an oath; she fulfils it, and if he is absent from her, she guards herself and his property."[142] (Ibn Magah)

"The best women are those who have the prettiest faces and the cheapest dowry."[143]

"The good wife is out of this world because she helps free you to concentrate on the life to come. She does that by doing her house duties (instead of the husband having to do them), and by satisfying the husband sexually so protecting him from sexual temptation."[144]

Although women protect man's eternal destiny, by guarding them against committing adultery, they themselves are perceived as being very dangerous to men. Ghazali reported the following Hadith:

"When a woman comes she comes in the form of a devil."[145]

And it is believed that the majority of them will end up in Hell.

"The Prophet said: 'I have not left any calamity [fitnah] after me more detrimental to men than women.'"[146] (Bukhari, Agreed upon)

Dr. M. al-Buti addresses Muslim Girls saying, "Know that this temptation which afflicts the man is due to you."[147] Commenting on the Qur'an 3:13 (Decked out fair to men is the love of lusts- Women, children, heaped up heaps of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle and tillage.) Dr. Buti said:

"God regarded woman as the first ranking lusts which He placed in the way of mankind... The woman then is absolutely the greatest affliction in a man's life."[148]

"The prophet of Allah said to Fatima, his daughter, 'What is best for a woman?' She replied, 'That she does not see a man and not be seen by a man'. He being pleased with her answer hugged her and said, 'An offspring resembling its origin.' The companions used to block the windows and the holes in the walls of their houses, so that the women do not look to men. ... 'Omar said, 'Do not dress the women (nicely) and they will remain inside the house' for they will not go outside in tattered clothes. He also said, 'Get your women used to the word 'No'."[149]

Bukhari recorded the following Hadith:

'O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)."[150]

And Muslim recorded:

"Amongst the inmates of Paradise the women would form the minority."[151]

Dr. Mohammad al-Buti, a modern writer sees that the reason the majority of women will end up in Hell is because they fail in their most important task thus causing men to stumble.[152]

Thus women represent the greatest stumbling block to men's worship and their eternal destiny as the following Hadith state:

"Had it not been for women, God would have truly, truly been worshipped."[153]

"There is no calamity I fear on my nation more than women and wine."[154]

"Men perished, the day they obeyed the women."[155]


It is no surprise that some thinking women from Islamic background rebel against such teachings. One such woman Dr. Sa'dawi wrote:

"The institution of marriage remained very different for men to what it was for women, and the rights accorded to husbands were distinct from those accorded to wives. In fact it is probably not accurate to use the term 'rights of the woman' since a woman under the Islamic system of marriage has no human rights unless we consider that a slave has rights under a slave system. Marriage, in so far as women are concerned, is just like slavery to the slave, or the chains of serfdom to the serf."[156]

If Dr. Nawal Sa'dawi is a Muslim rebel and a liberal thinker, let us hear it from the great Muslim scholar and philosopher Ghazali who stated the above position, some seven hundred years ago, when he summed up the situation, as follows:

"The most satisfying and final word on the matter is that marriage is a form of slavery (riq). The woman is man's slave and her duty therefore is absolute obedience to the husband in all that he asks of her person. As Mohammad himself said: 'A woman, who at the moment of death enjoys the full approval of her husband, will find her place in Paradise'."[157]

Ihy'a 'Ulum ed-Din in which Ghazali made this statement has been highly praised by many scholars. The famous Imam Nawawi said of it "The Ihy'a approaches being a qur'an."[158] The belief that the wife is the slave of the man is also shared by great scholars such as Razi159, and Ibn al-'Araby as we have seen earlier by virtue of the payment of the dowry.[160]

Modern writers are not as straightforward as Ghazali in admitting that the woman is man's slave. But they do admit women's inferiority to men.

A modern writer said:

"It is illogical and unfair to equate in any area between the woman who cares for dresses, fashion, hair styles etc. and the man who bears the responsibility on behalf of the woman and the children, and carries the misfortunes and the hardships for her sake and for the sake of the children."[161]

Later on he added:

"The woman is equal to the man in Islam before the law... but the woman is not equal to the man with regard to her so cial worth and her subjective rights, for how can the commanding and the commanded, the great and the small, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the sane and the mad, the unjust and the just, the honourable and the insignificant, the able and the unable, the working and the lazy, the strong and the weak be equal? We must not then mix between equality before the law and the social worth of the human being."[162]

If the woman, according to the above, has an unspecified lower social worth, Ghazali, who is called the 'rock of Islam' (huggat al-Islam) qualified what that lower social worth is, and called it by its true name: a slave. Mohammad however gave the real worth of the woman compared to the man when he said "Had I ordered anybody to prostrate before any one, I would have ordered women to prostrate before their husbands...". This is not a relationship of master and slave but approaches that of creator and creature!

It must be stressed at this point that not every Muslim follows the above teachings. The following two Hadith are very telling ones:

"Narrated Ibn 'Omar : During the lifetime of the prophet we used to avoid chatting leisurely and freely with our wives lest some Divine inspiration might be revealed concerning us. But when the Prophet had died, we started chatting leisurely and freely (with them)."[163]

"Narrated 'Urwa : The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said, 'but I am your brother.' The Prophet said, 'You are my brother in Allah's religion and His Book, But she ('Aisha) is lawful for me to marry.'"[164] (Mohammad was fifty years old, and 'Aisha was six or seven years old at that time, but the marriage was consummated when she turned nine years old).

The point is this: where there is strong religious leadership, the masses will surrender and follow the teachings. It is the leadership that passionately believes and teaches and demands the application of these teachings. Some Muslim leaders, even in the West, are calling for the practice of these teachings. For example in the country of Australia a Muslim scholar suggested that

"Polygamy should be legalised and rape in marriage abolished ... He argued that a woman should not be able to charge her husband with rape."[165]

Although not every Muslim follows these teachings, the teachings are there. So a nominal Muslim who does not follow these teachings now, can revert and become a committed believer, who would then not only observe them but call others to do likewise. The Iranian man in the film 'Not Without My Daughter' assured his little daughter once that he is as American as an apple pie, yet he could revert to be as strict a Muslim as Khomenie.

The above material, in the first place, is not the personal opinion of some individuals, but it represents the will of Allah as expressed in the teachings of Qur'an and the Hadith. What the Qur'an teaches in black and white, the Hadith teaches in colour. The Hadith quoted in this booklet is consistent with the spirit of Islam and the teachings of the Qur'an. If the Hadith was not so, it would have been rejected out of hand, as fabricated, from the early centuries of Islam, not thirteen centuries later. On the contrary they have been compiled by the most pious Muslims of their time, quoted in the mothers of all books in Islamic literature, which has been published year after year, for more than a thousand years. In the light of the Qur'an the above Hadith was not condemned and rejected. It is when it is exposed to a different light that it is called into question.

The above quotations are not a collection of isolated, eccentric, or uncommon examples, but they are a representation of the main stream of a coherent consistent point of view regarding the place of women in Islam.

We have kept our comments to a bare minimum so that the reader can come to his own conclusions, rather than be influenced unduly by our interpretation.

We can see that the Qur'an, the sound Hadith, the commentators of the Qur'an, Muslim scholars, ancient and modern are consistent in teaching the superiority of men over women. Yet there are those who claim the equality of men and women in Islam. Some make the claim of equality due to real ignorance of the above material. Others however make the claim of equality in spite of their knowledge of the above material, as is the case in the film "Mohammad, a messenger of God". The script of this film was prepared by Muslim scholars who knew very well the material brought to light in this booklet, and much more.

If you think this material is unbelievable, please check the references for yourself as a great number of them have been translated into English. And if you have read this booklet in haste, please read it again and draw your own conclusions.

A related article: Muhammmad and Sauda bin Zam'ah

Other languages: We are looking for Christian organisations to publish / distribute the above article in German, French, Russian, Mandarin etc. If you are interested please contact P. Newton via email, giving full details of your organisation and the reasons for your interest.

Correspondence: Mr. Newton and Mr. Rafiqul-Haqq also invite you to write them with any requests, further questions, clarifications, disagreements ... by sending an email.

Further books by M. Rafiqul-Haqq and P. Newton

1. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book 1, Introduction: Qur'an and Hadith, p.3.
2. Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, Vol.II, p.182.
3. Mishkat al-Masabih, the English translation, Book 1, the importance of the Qur'an and Hadith, p.2,3.
4. Sahih Muslim, Introduction to English translation, P. ii.
5. Mishkat al-Masabih, the English translation, Book 1, the importance of the Qur'an and Hadith, p.5, Quoted from Malabudda Minhu, p.8
6. Ibid, the importance of the Qur'an and Hadith, p.2,3.
7. The Qur'an, 2:228
8. Ibn-Kathir, commenting on Q. 4:34.
9. Razi commenting on the Q. 4:11.
10. Ibid.
11. Razi commenting on the Q. 4:34.
12. Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal- Islam, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p.36.
13. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. 1, Introduction, p. xiv.
14. Ibid., 1 Hadith No. 301. See also vol. 3, Hadith No. 826.
15. At-Tafsir al-Kabir, Razi, commenting on Q. 30:21.
16. Al-Islam wa-l-Mar'ah al-Mu'aserah, Al-Bahi al-Khuli, Dar al-Qalam, Quwait, 1984, p. 241.
17. Ibid.
18. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. 1 Hadith No. 28.
19. The Qur'an, 2:282.
20. The Age, Life behind a veil of Islam, 3/3/1992, p.11. This lady has an arts degree and post-graduate diploma in education.
21. Al-Musanaf by Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn 'Abd Allah Ibn Mousa Al-Kanadi who lived 557H., Vol. 1 Part 2, p. 263. See also Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 52.
22. Kanz-el-'Ummal, Vol. 21, Hadith No. 919.
23. Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal-Islam, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 180.
24. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 34.
25. The World Book Dictionary.
26. Kanz-el-'Ummal, Vol. 22, Hadith No. 858. See also Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 65.
27. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 65. Reported by Tirmizi as a true and good Ahadith.
28. Ibid., p. 65.
29. Dr. Mohammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Ela kul Fataten Tu'min be-Allah, Mu'asasat ar_Risalah, Beirut, 1987, Eighth edition, p. 41,42.
30. Ibid., p. 43.
31. Ibid., p. 47,48.
32. Ibid., p. 98.
33. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. VII Hadith No. 113.
34. Ibid., Hadith No. 114.
35. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 51.
36. The authority of that Hadith is classed as Sahih. It is quoted by Ahmad and al-Nisa'i
37. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 51.
37a. Al-Ghazali, Nasihat al-Muluk, as quoted in: Essid, Yassine, A critique of the origins of Islamic economic thought, E.J. Brill, Leiden, New York, Koln, 1995, p. 205.
38. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book I, Section 'Duties of husband and wife', Hadith No. 61.
39. Ibid., Hadith No. 54 (agreed upon). See also Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. VII, Hadith no. 121.
40. Dr. Mohammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Ela kul Fataten Tu'min be-Allah, Mu'asasat ar_Risalah, Beirut, 1987, Eighth edition, p. 55.
41. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al- 'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 7.
42. The Qur'an, 26:166, Maulvi Mohammad 'Ali's translation.
43. Qortobi, commenting on Q. 30:21.
44. Suyuti, commenting on Q. 4:34, see also Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book I, Hadith No. ii, 74.
45. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book I, Section 'Duties of husband and wife', Hadith No. ii, 60.
46. Suyuti, commenting on Q. 4:34 and Kanz-el-'Ummal, Vol. 22, Hadith No. 868.
47. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Section 'Duties of husband and wife', Hadith No. 70. Reported by Abu Dawood, Ahmad, Tirmizi, Ibn Magah and Ibn Haban.
48. Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal- Islam, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 176. It is also quoted in Al-Musanaf by Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn 'Abd Allah Ibn Mousa Al-Kanadi who lived 557H., vol. 1 part 2, p. 255.
49. Suyuti, commenting on Q. 4:34.
50. Sunan Ibn Magah, Kitab al-Nikah, Hadith No. 1850.
51. See Razi and Qortobi commenting on Q. 30:21.
52. Dictionary of Qur'anic terms and concepts, Mustansir Mir, Garland publishing inc. New York& London, 1987, p. 235.
53. See for example Q. 2:231, 232, 233.
54. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book 1, section 'duties of husband and wife', Hadith No. 68.
55. The Qur'an, 4:34. (Arberry's translation).
56. The Holy Qur'an, Yusuf Ali's Translation.
57. Razi, At-tafsir al-Kabir, on Q. 4:34.
58. Mishkat al-Masabih, English translation, Book 1, section 'duties of husband and wife', Hadith No.50.
59. Ibid., Hadith No.76.
60. Ibid., Footnote No 138.
61. Ibid, Footnote No 140.
62. Ibn Kathir, commenting on Q. 4:34, this Hadith is also reported by Abu Dawood and al-Nisa'i and Ibn Magah.
63. Guardian Weekly, 23/12/1990, Violence against Women Highlighted, p. 13.
64. Sayid Qotb, Fi Zilal al-Qur'an, commenting on the Qur'an 4:34.
65. The Australian Minaret, published by the Australian Federation of the Islamic Councils, November 1980, p.10.
66. Sayid Qotb, Fi Zilal al-Qur'an, commenting on the Qur'an 4:34.
67. Al-Bahi al-Khuli, Al-Islam wa-l-Mar'ah al-Mu'aserah, Dar al-Qalam, Kuwait, 1984, p. 105.
68. The Qur'an 4:128. (Arberry's translation).
69. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. 7, Hadith No. 134.
70. Ibid., Hadith No. 130&131
71. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 52.
71a. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCE OF HADITH, Al-Quran Society London, Author: Dr. Suhaib Hasan,
71b. E.g. No. 410 in "500 Ahadith",
71c. as quoted in "Family Values in Islam",
71d. Sahih Bukhari, English-Arabic, Book VII, Kitab an-Nikah, Hadith No. 130.
71e. Ihya' 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, pp. 50-51.
72. The Qur'an 4:3.
73. The Qur'an 4:129. (Dawood's translation).
74. Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal-Islam, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, first edition, 1985, p. 58. See also Razi and al-Jalalayn on the above verses. And Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 54. And Ibn al-'Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 1, p.504.
75. Razi, At-tafsir al-kabir, commenting on Q. 4:129.
76. Ibid., commenting on Q. 4:3.
77. Ibid., commenting on Q. 4:3.
78. Ibid., commenting on Q. 4:3.
79. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p.34.
80. Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al-'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 89.
81. Ibid.
82. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 33.
83. Ibid.
84. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. 7, Hadith No. 142. And vol. 1, Hadith No.268.
85. Mohammad Ibn Saad, al-Tabakat al-Kobra, Dar al-Tahrir, Cairo, 1970, Vol 8, p. 139.
86. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p.27.
87. Ibid., p.34.
88. Razi, At-tafsir al-kabir, commenting on Q. 4:3.
89. Qortobi, commenting on Q. 4:3.
90. Mishkat al-Masabih, Book II, Divorce, Hadith No. 137.
91. Sahih Bukhari, English translation by M. Muhsin Khan, Vol. VII, pp. 6&7, see Hadith No. 10.
92. Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 1, duties of parents, Hadith No. 15
93. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al- 'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 522.
94. Ibid., p. 523.
95. Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 1, duties of husband and wife, Hadith No.62
96 The Qur'an 44:51-54 (Pickthall's translation).
97. The Qur'an, 55:56-58 (Arberry's translation).
98.The Qur'an, 55:72 (Rodwells translation).
99. Pickthall in his translation of the Qur'an omits this description all together, although it is found in Dawood's, Rodwell's, and Arberry's translations.
100. The Qur'an, 78:33 (Arberry's translation).
101. Ibn Kathir, commenting on Q. 78:33.
102. Sahih Muslim, English translation, Hadith No. 6793, see also 6794, 6795 &6797.
103. Ibn-Kathir commenting on Q. 56:35-37.
104. Mishkat al-Masabih, English-Arabic translation, Book IV, Chapter XLII, Paradise and Hell, Hadith No.24.
105. Sunan at-Tirmizi, kitab sifat al-Ganah, Hadith No. 2536.
106. Ibn-Kathir, vol. 8, page 11, commentary on Q. 56:35-37, published by Dar Ash-sha'b, editorial footnote by the publisher explaining the meaning of 'dahman'.
107. Ibid., commenting on Q. 56:35-37. 108. The Qur'an 36:55.
109. Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Q. 36:55.
110. Ihy'a 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, Vol IV, p. 575.
111. Ibn 'Abbas, Tanweer al-Miqbas, commenting on Q. 36:55.
112. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al- 'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 7.
113. Ibid., p. 9.
114. 'Ibid., p. 8.
115. Sahih Bukhari, English translation by M. Muhsin Khan, Vol. VII, Hadith No. 81. See also Mishkat al-Masabih, Book II, under section dower, Hadith No. 53.
116. Encyclopaedia of Islam, under 'Mahr'.
117. Mishkat al-Masabih, Book II, under section dower, Hadith No. 57., reported from Abu Daud also reported by Ahmad.
118. Ibid., Hadith No. 58., reported by Tirmizi
119. Sahih Bukhari, English translation by M. Muhsin Khan, Vol. VII, Hadith No. 80.
120. Al-Islam wa-l-Mar'ah al-Mu'aserah, Al- Bahi al-Khuli, Dar al-Qalam, Kuwait, 1984, p. 57, reported in Musnad Ahmad.
121. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al- 'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 8.
122. Qurtubi.
123. Encyclopaedia of Islam, under 'Nikah'.
124. Ibn Kathir, commenting on the Q. 4:24.
125. Ibid.
126. Razi, commenting on Q. 4:25.
127. Ibid., commenting on Q. 4:24.
128. Ibid.
129. Qurtubi, commenting on Q. 4:24.
130. Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn 'Abd Allah known as Ibn al-'Araby, Ahkam al-Qur'an, Part 1, p.387.
131. Ibid., p.401.
132. Ibid., p.317.
133. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al-'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p. 488.
134. Encyclopaedia of Islam, under 'Nikah'.
135. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al-'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, p.495.
136. Encyclopaedia of Islam, under 'Nikah'
137. 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Gaziri, al-Fiqh 'ala al-Mazahib al-Arba'a, Dar al-Kutub al-'Elmeyah, 1990, vol. 4, pp. 495-497.
138. Ibid., p. 498.
139. Ibid., p. 497-498.
140. Ibid., p. 497-499.
141. Ibid., p. 5.
142. Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 1, duty towards children Hadith No. 43.
143. Ihya' 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, vol. II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 45.
144. Ibid., p. 35.
145. Ibid., P.33. Also quoted in Sahih Muslim, English translation, Hadith No. 3240.
146. Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. vii , Hadith No. 33.
147. Dr. Mohammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Ela kul Fataten Tu'min be-Allah, Mu'asasat ar_Risalah, Beirut, 1987, Eighth edition, p. 19.
148. Ibid., p. 16.
149. Ihya' 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, vol. II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 53.
150..Sahih Bukhari, Arabic-English translation, vol. 1, section 'A menstruating woman should not fast', Hadith No. 301.
151. Sahih Muslim, English translation, Kitab Al-Riqaq, chapter MCXL Hadith No. 6600.
152. Dr. Mohammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Ela kul Fataten Tu'min be-Allah, Mu'asasat ar_Risalah, Beirut, 1987, Eighth edition, p. 21.
153. Kanz-el-'Ummal, Vol. 21, Hadith No. 825.
154. Ibid., Hadith No. 829.
155. Ibid., Hadith No. 831.
156. Nawal El Sa'dawi, The Hidden Face of Eve, Zed Press, London, 1980, pp. 139, 140.
157. Ihya' 'Uloum ed-Din by Ghazali, Dar al-Kotob al-'Elmeyah, Beirut, vol. II, Kitab Adab al-Nikah, p. 64
158. Ibid., Vol V, p. 6.
159. Razi, commenting on the Qur'an 33:51.
160. Ibn al-'Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur'an, part one, p. 63.
161. Tuffaha, Ahmad Zaky, Al-Mar'ah wal-Islam, first edition, Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, Beirut, 1985, pp. 33.
162. Ibid., P.37.
163. Sahih Bukhari, English translation by M. Muhsin Khan, Vol. VII, Hadith No. 115.
164. Ibid., Hadith No. 18
165. The Sun-Herald, an Australian news paper, April 28, 1991, p. 21.

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