Did Women's Status
Improve With Islam?
to common belief of the Muslims, Islam did not improve not even
“a little” the status of women in Arabia. It actually
denigrated them instead of elevating them. There are many proofs
to that and one of the evidences can be found in this hadith.
3, Book 43, Number 648:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas:
I had been eager to ask 'Umar about the two ladies from among
the wives of the Prophet regarding whom Allah said (in the
Qur'an saying): If you two (wives of the Prophet namely Aisha
and Hafsa) turn in repentance to Allah your hearts are indeed so
inclined (to oppose what the Prophet likes) (66.4), till
performed the Hajj along with 'Umar (and on our way back from
Hajj) he went aside (to answer the call of nature) and I also
went aside along with him carrying a tumbler of water. When he
had answered the call of nature and returned. I poured water on
his hands from the tumbler and he performed ablution. I said,
"O Chief of the believers! ' Who were the two ladies from
among the wives of the Prophet to whom Allah said:
you two return in repentance (66.4)? He said, "I am
astonished at your question, O Ibn 'Abbas. They were Aisha and
'Umar went on relating the narration and said. "I and an
Ansari neighbor of mine from Bani Umaiya bin Zaid who used to
live in 'Awali Al-Medina, used to visit the Prophet in turns. He
used to go one day, and I another day. When I went I would bring
him the news of what had happened that day regarding the
instructions and orders and when he went, he used to do the same
for me. We, the people
of quraish, used to have authority over women, but when we came
to live with the ansar, we noticed that the ansari women had the
upper hand over their men, so our women started acquiring the
habits of the ansari women. Once i shouted at my wife and she
paid me back in my coin and i disliked that she should answer me
back.She said, 'Why do you take it ill that I retort upon
you? By Allah, the wives of the Prophet retort upon him, and
some of them may not speak with him for the whole day till
night.' What she said scared me and I said to her, 'Whoever
amongst them does so, will be a great loser.' …
a long Hadith; please read all of it in my article Maryiah
the Coptic Maid.)
see here Umar is complaining that while the people of Quraish,
used to have “authority” over their women, since they came
to Medina they noticed that the Ansari women had the upper hand
over their men.
was a religious hub. In all religious centers, often fanaticism
overrides commonsense and wherever religion has a stronger grip,
women are discriminated. Mecca was no exception. It was natural
that women in Mecca had a lower status than their Jews and
Ansari counterparts and when they encountered the liberty that
the women of Medina enjoyed, they wanted it too. This of course
did not sit well with Umar and Muhammad, the two misogynist men
of Mecca. The above conversation between these two central
figures of Islam clearly shows that they were not pleased to see
their wives getting used and enjoying the taste of freedom.
were not used to write their history. Very little is left of
their pre Islamic culture and way of life. What the Muslim
historian wrote of that time is all derogatory calling it the
days of ignorance "jahiliya" and claiming that until
the advent of Islam they were barbarians, who buried their
daughters alive and were constantly in war. They say that women
prior to Islam were worth less than camels and it was the
Prophet who gave them the status of human being. The above
hadith however tell us a different story. We can see that Arab
women everywhere, except in Mecca, had more rights that Islam
took them away. And it shows that the dismal treatment of women
in Islam is not a Divine mandate but is how the Qurash used to
treat their women. The Prophet being from Quraish himself was
used to that kind of women abuse and to him that was the right
way. Naturally he projected his is bias against women in his
religion and his book.
But there is also another factor that played a great role in the
destiny of Muslim women; and that is the impact that the wives
of the Prophet had on the Quran and its laws about women.
that the Prophet needed to say the ultimate word and make others
shut up, he would make his Allah reveal a verse. He was an old
man, having a harem of almost 20 wives and concubines. All of
his wives were young and beautiful (Except the first two,
Kadijah and Saudah, whom he married when he was a poor man). In
his old age he became the chieftain and very powerful. So he
could afford to marry anyone and some even came and offered
themselves to him. He would choose only the pretty ones. But
political power is not a substitute to physical stamina. The
Prophet was fully aware of the age gap between his young wives
and himself. He was jealous of other young men looking at them
and would warn his wives to not betray him.
O Consorts of the Prophet! If any of you were guilty of
evident unseemly conduct, the Punishment would be doubled to
her, and that is easy for Allah.
any of you that is devout in the service of Allah and His
Messenger, and works righteousness,- to her shall We grant her
reward twice: and We have prepared for her a generous
often remind them to behave in a way as not to attract the
attention of other men and cover themselves as not to make
themselves desired by strangers.
Consorts of the Prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other)
women: if ye do fear (Allah), be not too complacent of speech,
lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with
desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just.
stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display,
like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish
regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and
His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination
from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and
above clearly shows the worries of an aging man concerned of
numerous young and attractive wives. He needed to control them
and that is why he ordered them to cover themselves. ironically
what was originally meant for the wives of the Prophet became
part of the Sharia and was imposed for 1400 years in all Islamic
Prophet (pbuh) repeatedly emphasized to women the importance of
obeying their husbands. Did this too have something to do with
the fact that most of his wives were teenagers that he needed to
They perhaps would not listen to him but they sure would have no
choice but to submit to what Allah said. So when he had some
domestic problems his Allah would rush to his rescue and reveal
verses the the following to put all his wives in their place.
"It may be if he divorced you (all) that his Lord will
give him instead of you, wives better than you, Muslims (who
submit to Allâh), believers, obedient to Allâh, turning to
Allâh in repentance, worshipping Allâh sincerely, fasting or
emigrants (for Allâh's sake), previously married and virgins.
truth that women in Arabia had more liberty and authority before
Islam than after it can also be evinced from the fact that
Khadijah, the Prophet’s first wife had a business of her own
and had many men at her service. Muhammad, in fact was but one
of her employees. Do we have any tale of women after Islam,
running their own business and hiring men to work for them?
Muhammad (pbuh) women were nothing more than sex objects. It is
reported that he refused to shake hands with them. And when they
came to give their allegiance he delegated Umar for a such task.
What is so sexual about a simple shake hand? Perhaps the Prophet
was torn between his sexual impulses and his religious ideals.
Something must have happened in his mind that made him feel
guilty when he touched women.
Prophet also thought that women are deficient in intelligence
and the majority of them will go to hell because they are
ungrateful, not to Allah, but to their husbands. Here is what he
Volume 2, Book 24, Number 541:
Abu Said Al-Khudri
On 'Id ul Fitr or 'Id ul Adha Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) went out
to the Musalla. After finishing the prayer, he delivered the
sermon and ordered the people to give alms. He said, "O
people! Give alms." Then he went towards the women and
said. "O women!
Give alms, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of
Hell-Fire were you (women)." The women asked,
"O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for it?" He
replied, "O women! You curse frequently, and are ungrateful
to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in
intelligence and religion than you. O women, some of you can
lead a cautious wise man astray."
hard to believe that a man who thought women are responsible for
leading men astray, that the majority of them go to hell because
they are ungrateful to their husbands and that they are
deficient in intelligence, really respected women at all.
Various versions of this Hadith are repeated in several places.
In another version the Prophet explains the reason for which he
believes women are deficient in intelligence in this way:
Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301:
Abu Said Al-Khudri:
Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the
prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the
women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that
the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you
(women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle
?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are
ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more
deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious
sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women
asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our
intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the
evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?"
They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the
deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can
neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied
in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her
according to the holy Prophet’s great reasoning, women are
deficient in intelligence because the witness of two of them
equal to the witness of one man. And they are also deficient in
religion because during their menses they cannot pray or fast.
It is not clear what the holy Prophet meant by "deficient
in religion". Perhaps he meant that women are spiritually
less evolved than men. By using these excuses to prove his case
It seems that these unjust laws have been already prevalent
among the Arabs. The Prophet, however made them universal by
inserting them in the Quran. But isn’t it absurd to prove an
absurdity by the authority of another absurdity? Who said a
woman’s witness should be worth half of that of a man? Whether
it was the Prophet who devised such an unfair ordinance or he
echoed what was customary among his people, this law is
unreasonable and cannot be used as a proof to call women
deficient in intelligence.
Prophet always used fear as a means to drive home his point. His
Allah would send women to hell for the most trivial things like
displeasing their husbands.
Volume 2, Book 18, Number 161:
'Abdullah bin Abbas:
I also saw the Hell-fire and I had never seen such a horrible
sight. I saw that most of the inhabitants were women." The
people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! Why is it so?" The
Prophet replied, "Because of their ungratefulness." It
was asked whether they are ungrateful to Allah. The Prophet
said, "They are ungrateful to their companions of life
(husbands) and ungrateful to good deeds. If you are benevolent
to one of them throughout the life and if she sees anything
(undesirable) in you, she will say, 'I have never had any good
from you.' "
there is no mention of men going to suffer any consequence for
their mistreating of their wives. As a matter of fact, men are
instructed to abuse their wives verbally, emotionally and
physically. Yes, that is precisely what Allah has ordained.
Men are the maintainers of women
because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because
they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore
obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to)
those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave
them alone in the sleeping-places and
beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way
against them; surely Allah is High, Great.
anyone has any doubt about the position of women in Islam, the
above ayah will dissipate it. It clearly says that men are
“maintainers” of women, thus taking away their independence
and autonomy, making them subservient to men. It suggests that
men are the masters and the owners of the house because they are
the breadwinners. It implies that women are incapable or should
not be allowed to work and become independent and providers. It
assumes that women’s work at home, taking care of the children
and the house is worth nothing and she must be grateful for the
piece of bread that her husband graciously provide her. Up to
here women are nothing but slaves. Yet the holy Prophet (peace
be upon him) did not stop there. He instructs men to punish
their wives, verbally, sexually and even physically, thus
downgrading them to the level of animals. In a world that you
could pay a fine for cruelty to animals, these “divine’
teachings are very difficult to swallow. It is unthinkable that
a compassionate and just God could ever say such a horrendous
things about women. The superiority of men over women is also
ratified in another verse of Quran where it says: “and
men are a degree above them (women)”. Q.2:228
are also other versions of the above hadith in Sahih Muslim.
Muslim Book 004, Number 1926:
b. 'Abdullah reported: I observed prayer with the Messenger of
Allah (may peace be upon him) on the 'Id day. He commenced with
prayer before the sermon without Adhan and Iqama. He then stood
up leaning on Bilal, and he commanded (them) to be on guard
(against evil for the sake of) Allah, and he exhorted (them) on
obedience to Him, and he preached to the people and admonished
them. He then walked on till he came to the women and preached
to them and admonished them, and
asked them to give alms, for most of them are the fuel for Hell.
A woman having a dark spot on the cheek stood up and said: Why
is it so, Messenger of Allah? He said: For
you grumble often and show ingratitude to your spouse. And then
they began to give alms out of their ornaments such as their
earrings and rings which they threw on to the cloth of Bilal.
the holly Prophet (pbuh) used these scare mongering tactics to
collect money from his foolhardy audience who gathered around
him and listened to his nonsense stories.
another place the Prophet of Allah compares women to devil.
Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301:
reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) saw a
woman, and so he came to his wife, Zainab, as she was tanning a
leather and had sexual intercourse with her. He then went to his
Companions and told them: THE
WOMAN ADVANCES AND RETIRES IN THE SHAPE OF A DEVIL, so
when one of you sees a woman, he should come to his wife, for
that will repel what he feels in his heart.
the Prophet thought it is so holy to go to one of his wives
after desiring another woman. I wonder how a wife would feel
when her husband actually is fancying another woman but is using
her just to relieve himself?
are numerous verses in Quran and hadithes that are outrageous.
The following Hadith however, in my opinion, takes the cake.
Volume 4, Book 54, Number 460:
Allah's Apostle said, "If a husband calls his wife to his
bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes
him to sleep in anger, the
angels will curse her till morning."
above makes one wonder, whether Allah has nothing else to do
than worrying about the sexual pleasures of his male servants?
It seems quiet absurd that God would employ so many angels to do
nothing but sit around and curse the women who do not want want
to please their husbands sexually. Hadithes like this are
repeated so many times that one start to suspect whether Allah
is a dirty old pervert voyeur who gets pleasure, watching people
Muslim Book 008, Number 3367:
Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger
(may peace be upon him) as saying: By Him in Whose Hand is my
life, when a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not
respond, the One Who is in the heaven is displeased with her
until he (her husband) is pleased with her.
Volume 7, Book 62, Number 122:
The Prophet said, "If a woman spends the night deserting
her husband's bed (does not sleep with him), then the angels
send their curses on her till she comes back (to her
hard to determine why the holy Prophet (peace be upon his
immaculate soul) was so concerned about this issue. But again we
should remember that he was an old man. Perhaps his teeth were
decaying and his mouth had a foul smell. On the other hand his
wives were very young ladies. They must have enjoyed their
status as the wives of the Prophet and the first ladies of
Arabia, but probably they were not that much desirous to share
the bed with and old man like him. Perhaps these warnings of
angels’ curses and the Allah’s displeasure were to coerce
his own wives to sleep with him.
I am not
a woman but still I am offended at so much insult hurled at my
my own sister and my sisters in humanity. The following is the
most obscene and offensive statement of the holy Prophet. I find
it extremely derogatory to women.
Volume 7, Book 62, Number 33:
Usama bin Zaid:
The Prophet said, "After
me I have not left any affliction more harmful to men than
did not stop there. In every occasion he found an excuse to show
his despise of women and poison the minds of his followers with
ridiculous talks like the following.
Muslim Book 008, Number 3466:
(Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (may
peace be upon him) as saying: Woman
is like a rib. When you attempt to straighten it, you would
break it. And if you leave her alone you would benefit by
her, and crookedness will remain in her. A hadith like this is
reported by another chain of narrators.
a society (ummah) truly respect their women when their prophet
was so scornful of them? When he was so contemptuous of
their faith, so derisive of their intelligence, so disrespectful
of their rights and so disdainful of their status, can we expect
more from his followers?
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 623:
Allah's Apostle said, "Many amongst men reached (the level
of) perfection but none amongst the women reached this level
except Asia, Pharaoh's wife, and Mary, the daughter of 'Imran.
And no doubt, the superiority of 'Aisha to other women is like
the superiority of Tharid (i.e. a meat and bread dish) to other
Mohammad is confusing the Miriam (in Arabic Maryam) the daughter
of Imran and the sister of Moses and Aaron with Mary (alos
Maryam in Arabic) the mother of Jesus. He made the same mistake
in Quran. Miriam, the daughter of Imran is not an important
religious figure. In fact she even disobeyed God once. We also
don't know who is this Asia the Pharaoh's wife it must have part
of a legend that Muhammad had heard, which is now forgotten.
moral standard and ethical values of the holy Prophet (peace be
upon his immaculate soul) can be revealed by his examples and
stories of his life. Like this one:
Volume 7, Book 63, Number 182:
We went out with the Prophet to a garden called Ash-Shaut till
d two walls between which we sat down. The Prophet said,
"Sit here," and went in (the garden). The Jauniyya (a
lady from Bani Jaun) had been brought and lodged in a house in a
date-palm garden in the home of Umaima bint An-Nu'man bin
Sharahil, and her wet nurse was with her. When
the Prophet entered upon her, he said to her, "Give me
yourself (for sex) as a gift." She said, "Can a
princess give herself to an ordinary man?" The Prophet
raised his hand to pat her so that she might become tranquil.
She said, "I seek refuge with Allah from you." He
said, "You have sought refuge with One Who gives refuge.
Then the Prophet came out to us and said, "O Abu Usaid!
Give her two white linen dresses to wear and let her go back to
the Prophet have enough women already? Did he have to mount
every beautiful woman whom he met? Look at his temper. In one
moment he is overtaken by lust asking his hostess to "give
herself to him as a gift", when he is rejected he becomes
violent and raises his hand to beat the poor woman, then when
she seeks refuge with Allah the Prophet (peace be upon his
immaculate soul) comes to his senses and feels guilty for his
despicable behavior and to alleviate his conscience decides to
compensate his victim by bribing her. Is this the profile of a
mentally stable man?
Prophet had no regard for women. To him women represented
everything that was evil. Even at a subconscious level the holy
messenger of God, saw women as the mark of disease and
affliction. When he dreamt a black woman in his dream, his
disparage of women and the blacks made him interpret it as
the sign of epidemic.
Volume 9, Book 87, Number 163:
The Prophet said, "I saw (in a dream) a black woman with
unkempt hair going out of Medina and settling in Mahai'a. I
interpreted that as (a symbol of) epidemic of Medina being
transferred to Mahai'a, namely, Al-Juhfa."
in religious matters he asserted the symbolical inferiority of
Sahl bin Sa'd:
The people used to pray with the Prophet tying their Izars
around their necks because of their small sizes and the women
were directed that they should not raise their heads from the
prostrations till the men had sat straight. (Sahih
as recorded in the following hadith he sealed the eternal
enslavement of them.
The Prophet said, "It is not permissible for a woman who
believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for one day and
night except with a Mahram." (Sahih
us end our review of the status of woman in Islam with these
inspiring words of wisdom uttered by the messenger of Allah
(peace be upon his immaculate soul) found in hadithes:
"To find a good woman among
women is similar to finding a white crow among a hundred
"The marriage commitment is a kind of slavery for
"If anybody has been required to prostrate before
others beside God, the woman should prostrate before her
"If the body of the husband is covered with pus and
his wife licks it with her tongue, she still will not be able to
pay her debt to him."