In the Islamic culture, women experience abuse daily. This abuse is the direct result of Islamic teaching. Certain Muslim advocates claim that Islam is a religion that elevates the status of women and gives them equality with men. These same advocates also argue that cultural factors alone are the reason women in Islam are so miserable, especially in the Middle East. Furthermore, they maintain that women in Islam are treated accordingly because a majority of Muslims, including preachers, misunderstand the true teachings of Islam regarding how to treat Muslim women. They say if reformation occurs and Muslims are taught correctly how to treat women, then women in Islam will enjoy a better way of life. Statements from the Qur’an and the Hadith show that Islam does not elevate the status of women even when taught properly. In fact, instead of elevating women, it enslaves them. The following teachings reveal how Islam has greatly contributed to the inferiority of women in Islamic cultures:
The deficiency of women in intelligence and religion
Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o ‘Id-al-Adha or AlFitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, 116.)
This hadith is so popular among Muslims that even simple, uneducated people are familiar with it. Muslim scholars have confirmed that this hadith is accurate and trustworthy. In this statement, Mohamed is clearly teaching that women are inferior to men in intelligence and religion. Muslim apologists would reply with a creative argument that this hadith was used in a certain context to a certain group of women and is not a general principle.
However, Muslim preachers have applied this hadith for 14 centuries. Therefore, it was not intended for a restricted context and people. This is a clear teaching of Mohamed that reflects his view of women, and it is how Muslims have looked at women wherever Islam is strictly taught.
Additionally, in every legal court in the Middle East where the Islamic law is being practiced, the rest of the verse (the testimony of a woman is ½ of a man!) is also being applied strictly. This shows that the hadith was not intended for a certain context and certain women.
Third, Mohamed was clearly saying that Hell is predominantly inhabited by women. A neutral reading to this hadith proves that Muhammad was referring to all women in general and not just a specific group of women. Therefore, women are deficient in intelligence and religion according to Islamic teaching; thus, they are not able to lead and to make right choices. Women will end up in eternal damnation because they are deficient in religion as well. One writer comments, “In essence, he’s saying that in his religion, women will end up in hell simply for being born female.”
The inferiority of women to men in legal courts
According to the same hadith, the testimony of two women is equal to the testimony of one man. The Qur’an also confirms this truth in Sura 2:282 when it says,
O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing, let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear his Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If the party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable himself to dictate, let his guardian dictate faithfully. And get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence).
According to this verse and the previous hadith, the testimony of TWO women is equal to that of ONE man. This proves that men and women are not equal in Islam.
Muslim writers have failed to give a compelling explanation to prove why the testimony of a woman is equal to half of a man’s testimony. Some say that women are more emotional and less intellectual (since they are deficient!); therefore, the testimony of two women is equal to the testimony of one man. The verse in Sura 2:282 is a good evidence of inferiority of women in Islam. To deny it, Muslims need to abandon the Islamic teaching (both the Qur’an and the Hadith) and cancel all the legal implications of it.
The dishonor of women in Islam
In the hadith (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, 192), women are mentioned alongside of dogs and donkeys.
The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people).” I said, “You have made us (i.e. women) dogs.
In this context, Aesha, Mohamed’s wife, is giving her sarcastic answer to Mohamed’s teaching. In the Middle East, animals have much lower status than in the Western world. To equate women with dogs and donkeys would be a great insult, and this is exactly how Aesha understood the statement. Although this statement is not famous, it is still accepted among Muslim scholars and used when necessary. I don’t see a great deal of discussion and response from Muslim scholars to this hadith although it is an offense.
The permission of wife beating
In Islam, men are commanded to subdue women and even to hit them when women are being disobedient. In Sura 4:34 (entitled the women Sura), the Qur’an says:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).
Here’s a formula of treating disobedient women. First, admonish them; second, refuse to sleep with them; and third, beat them! The word beat in Arabic means “to hit and to strike.” It is used first in the Qur’an on Moses who was commanded to hit the rock (Sura 2:60). The original text in Arabic does not have the word lightly next to beat. So the accurate translation would be, beat them. This is a foundational passage for wife beating in Islam. Therefore, the Qur’an clearly teaches that men can beat their women when they are disobedient to the strict leadership of men. For this reason, many women are being abused physically where Islam is taught and practiced strictly.
The heritage of women
In Islamic law, if a woman receives an inheritance after the death of her father, then she would get half of her brother’s portion. In other words, the man will always get more than what the woman would get. This is clearly taught in the Qur’an and practiced in every Arab country where Sharia law is the source of rules and regulations. The heritage verse is mentioned in the Women’s Sura 4: 11, where Allah says, “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children’s (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females. . . .” Unfortunately, Muslim preachers engage in the use of a variety of apologetic fallacies to avoid providing a good answer to explain this apparent injustice on behalf of women in Islam. Some would say in the Arab Peninsula culture (modern Saudi Arabia) that it was uncommon for Arabs (before Islam) to give anything from the heritage to women, since women were slaves. But when Islam came, the new teachings of Mohamed liberated women and gave them more freedom and an inheritance. It was hard for those Arabs to accept this teaching due to the harshness of their culture toward women. However, this explanation means that the teachings of Islam cannot fit every culture and every time. It still fails to provide adequate explanation for the injustice women experience when it comes to inheritance. Others would say that it is not always the case where women receive half of what men receive because it depends on their closeness to the deceased. My reply is that in all the Middle Eastern countries, Muslims have understood this verse to teach that men would inherit more than women (even if they are Christians living in Muslim countries)!
The veil (Al Hijab)
Most Arab women wear the veil due to the teaching of Mohamed. Some modern preachers would say that the veil does not have a spiritual dimension; instead, it is preferred in order to reflect the high morals of Islamic teachings. Others would argue that the veil is commanded in Islam. The issue is debated but there is a huge cultural pressure on women to wear it; otherwise, they are being rebellious to the teaching of Mohamed and are considered ungodly. Sura 33:53 says, “O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses—until leave is given you—for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen.”
Marriage and divorce
In Islam, man is always put first and woman is the means to satisfy his physical needs. The Qur’an clearly teaches that a Muslim man has the right to marry four women at a time, while a Muslim woman has the right to be married to only one man. In Sura 4:3, Allah says, “lf ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.” There are several conclusions from this teaching on marriage and divorce that I can draw out. First, polygamy is the obvious teaching and practice in Islam, and it is a great evidence of the lack of equality between man and women.
Second, this text gives permission for men to have more freedom than women. Moreover, note the rest of the verse: “or (a captive) that your right hands possess.” Muslim preachers publicly teach that a Muslim soldier can marry as many captive women as he pleases, especially in the context of holy wars (Jihad), since the solider is away from his wife and his sexual needs must be met! Captive women (like female salves) have no rights in Islam, while the soldier can have four women alongside of the captive women! Regarding divorce, the Qur’an teaches, in Sura 33:48, “O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them.” Muslims believe that only men can divorce their wives. If a woman needs to divorce her husband, then certain conditions must be met, which makes it almost impossible for a Muslim woman to divorce her husband. The teaching on divorce and marriage is another strong evidence of lack of equality between men and women.
Muslims should not shift the blame entirely to Middle Eastern culture in order to justify the mistreatment of women in Islam. The teachings of Mohamed and the Qur’an are essential factors for the abuse of women there. Islam has not elevated the status of women; rather, it has brought it down. Instead of attacking the culture, Muslims need to look for another solution. The solution is found in a person, the person of Jesus Christ. Only sound Biblical teaching can change men’s hearts and improve the way in which women are treated in the Middle East as a result of Islamic teachings.
Waad Haddad has served as a missionary with BEN ministries (Baptists Equipping Nationals) in the Middle East since 2012. He was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, in a Chaldean Catholic family. While in Iraq, he came to know the Lord and respond to the call to the ministry; then he immigrated to the U.S.
Waad speaks Chaldean and Arabic fluently. He is a graduate of Maranatha Baptist University and Detroit Theological Seminary.