Women in Islam 

Equality Testimony
Dwellers of Hell-Fire Mental Deficiency
Four Wives Wife-Beating
Head-Scarf Temporary Marriage
Right Hands Possess

Rudolf Lehnert, The Promenade of the Harem


While the Christian scriptures assign a leadership role to men in the family, this division of labor is not understood as offering an evaluation of worth. Woman are not second-class citizens in the body of Christ:

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:27-29).

In the Koran, however, we find that men are a "step above" women:


  • “The divorced shall wait the result, until they have had their courses thrice, nor ought they to conceal what God hath created in their wombs, if they believe in God and the last day; and it will be more just in their husbands to bring them back when in this state, if they desire what is right. 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. God is Mighty, Wise.”

  • (Koran Sura 2:228).



According to the Hadith, the worth of a woman's testimony is one-half that of a man:

"Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind."
(Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826, Sahih al-Bukhari).

This rule is also stated in the Koran:

"But if he who oweth the debt be foolish or weak, or be not able to dictate himself, let his friend dictate for him with fairness; and call to witness two witnesses of your people: but if there be not two men, let there be a man, and two women of those whom ye shall judge fit for witnesses: if the one of them should mistake, the other may cause her to recollect." (Koran Sura 2:282).

This disparity plays a role in those legal tangles which keep occurring in the Muslim world when a woman reports a rape. . .and she ends up being prosecuted for indecency. Since her testimony is never worth as much as is his, in a 'He says/She says' situation, his side of the story is inevitably the one taken up by the judicial system, whatever the actual truth may be. The situation becomes even worse if Sura 24:4 comes into play: "They who defame virtuous women, and bring not four witnesses, scourge them with fourscore stripes, and receive ye not their testimony forever, for these are perverse persons. . ." (Koran, Sura 24:4).

Modern societies that base their law on Islam often continue taking this approach: "In the United Arab Emirates, a woman's testimony in court is half as significant as a man's testimony." (Inside the Middle East, Avi Melamed, p. 202).

Where did Mohammed get his skepticism about women's testimony? One possible source, and it is a prolific source for the stories in the Koran, might be his Jewish preceptors. Though no such provision is found in the Bible, the Jewish leadership, on their own authority, had instituted an even harsher provision by the time of Jesus: "But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex." (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 8, Section 15). The disadvantage this imposes upon women is obvious. It's in the Mishnah:

"In the Mishnah, the testimony of near relatives, women, slaves, or people with a bad reputation is not admitted." (David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen, Kingdom Ethics, Kindle location 5823).

Logo Muslim authors sometimes point to the difficulty of securing a conviction for Koranic crimes as if it were a virtue: "The hudud are a particular set of laws that were explicitly set out in the Qur'an. They include, for instance, the punishment for fornication and theft. Although the hudud laws include harsh criminal penalties, they are mitigated by the fact that the evidentiary requirements for the enforcement of these penalties are very technical and demanding. This makes the application of the penalties difficult and even rare." (The Great Theft, Khaled Abou El Fadl, p. 194). Is it a good thing that rapists can only rarely be punished under Islamic law? This severe crime might as well have been decriminalized. This confusion arose because of the ad hoc nature of this law code: Mohammed became incensed when he came to believe his favorite wife, his child-bride Aisha, had been falsely accused, and so the four witnesses, almost never available, were added. Later generations must find a way to live under this impossible regime.


LogoDwellers of Hell-Fire

One might expect, other things being equal, that the one-half of the human race who are female will pull equal weight in the fires of Hell. No, explains the unlettered Arabian prophet, they make up the majority in those precincts:


  • “Narrated 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." Then he left.”

  • (Volume 2, Book 24, Number 541, Sahih al-Bukhari).

LogoMental Deficiency

Mohammed explains the cause for women's low social standing in the Islamic community. Alas, Ladies, there is nothing we can do about it, because the reason is low IQ:

  • “Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

    “Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion.”
  • (Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301, Sahih al-Bukhari).

Logo Mohammed perceives women as lacking gravity. Mocking the Meccans for their belief that God had daughters, he says: "What! make they a being to be the offspring of God who is brought up among trinkets, and is ever contentious without reason?" (Koran Sura 43:17).


LogoFour Wives

Men in Islam are entitled to up to four wives. Mohammed ibn Abdallah himself had more wives, evidently under a special dispensation for favored prophets. These wives included Ayesha, whom he married when she was nine years old, and Zaynab, who had been his daughter-in-law before she was his wife:


  • “And if ye are apprehensive that ye shall not deal fairly with orphans, then, of other women who seem good in your eyes, marry but two, or three, or four; and if ye still fear that ye shall not act equitably, then one only; or the slaves whom ye have acquired: this will make justice on your part easier.”
  • (Koran Sura 4:3).


The Koran instructs husbands regarding under what circumstances they should resort to wife-beating. If the woman is refractory, then they are to scourge her as appropriate:

  • “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband’s absence, because God hath of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness ye have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them: but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great!”

  • (Koran Sura 4:38)

LogoThis distinctly unimpressive record is not suggestive of divine inspiration, but is more reminiscent of social conditions as they existed in seventh-century Arabia, not a time or a place to be emulated. Before his death he told the faithful,

"You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons." (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 651).


The requirement for all women to wear head-scarves, the hijab, or a veil, is suggested by Sura 33:59:

"O Prophet! speak to thy wives and to thy daughters, and to the wives of the Faithful, that they let their veils fall low. Thus will they more easily be known, and they will not be affronted. God is Indulgent, Merciful!" (Sura 33:59).

In the Hadith, caliph Omar seems to claim credit for this development:

"Volume 1, Book 8, Number 395:

"Narrated 'Umar (bin Al-Khattab):

"My Lord agreed with me in three things:. . .And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, 'O Allah's Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.' So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, 395).

This affords interesting insight into the authorial process: if indeed there is a heavenly exemplar of the Koran, is there also a heavenly exemplar of Omar, making helpful suggestions for improvements? It is unclear whether the 'veil' of Sura 33:53 is worn, or pertains to the furnishings, as in a veiled alcove. Veils are mentioned also in Sura 24:31:

"And speak to the believing women that they refrain their eyes, and observe continence; and that they display not their ornaments, except those which are external; and that they throw their veils over their bosoms, and display not their ornaments, except to their husbands or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male domestics who have no natural force, or to children who note not women’s nakedness." (Sura 24:31).

It would appear that, whatever form of the veil was introduced by Mohammed, it was sufficiently robust to prevent identification of the wearer. Aisha is the speaker: "'He saw my form and came and stood over me. He used to see me before the veil was prescribed for us, so when he saw me he exclaimed in astonishment 'The apostle's wife' while I was wrapped in my garments.'" (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 494). Aisha's words suggest that if this individual had joined the believing community only after the veil was prescribed, he would not have had any basis for recognizing her as the prophet's wife. Evidently some Arab women were veiled, from the time of the Talmud, which is pre-Islamic: "Arabians may go out in their long veils and Medians in their mantillas; so may even all women go out, but the sages spoke of existing customs." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume I, Tract Sabbath, Chapter VI, Mishna VI, Kindle location 3367).

If head-veiling was not native to Mecca, from whom might it have been borrowed? Several of the neighboring peoples practiced some form of it, for instance the Parthians: "Tiridates arrived at Neapolis with his wife, who all through their journey had worn a golden helmet with a visor that covered her face in place of a veil, 'so as not to defy the traditions of her country by letting her face be seen,' said Dio." (The Great Fire of Rome, Stephen Dando-Collins, p. 178). The concept of head-veiling goes far back in the Near East, back to the pagan Assyrians at a minimum: "The earliest known requirement for women to wear what is now called the hijab is found here: 'Neither wives nor widows nor women who go out on the street may have their heads uncovered. . .A harlot must not veil herself; her head must be uncovered." (Middle Assyrian Laws, quoted p. 225, Babylon, Paul Kriwaczek). Perhaps there is even some Byzantine influence, because a similar expectation appears in 1 Corinthians 11, though it is unclear if there is any legacy. Since the major influence on Mohammed seems to have been the Jewish tribes of Medina, any influence from neighboring civilizations may have been mediated through this channel.

Even beyond head-veiling, some of the practices which prevent women in Islamic societies from leading full and fulfilled lives have a heritage in neighboring civilizations. Pagan historian Cornelius Nepos mentions sequestration of women as a Greek, versus a Roman, custom:

"On the other hand, many things in our habits are decorous, which are by them considered unbecoming; for what Roman is ashamed to bring his wife to a feast, or whose consort does not occupy the best room in the house, and live in the midst of company? But in Greece the case is far otherwise; for a wife is neither admitted to a feast, except among relations, nor does she sit anywhere but in the innermost apartment of the house, which is called the gynaeconitis, and into which nobody goes who is not connected with her by near relationship." (Nepos, Cornelius. Delphi Complete Works of Cornelius Nepos (Illustrated) (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 76) (Kindle Locations 93-97).)

What Mohammed added to this existing cultural inheritance was the purported voice of God, commanding it for all time. Any correction of borrowed cultural norms which had the unintended consequence of constraining and limiting the lives of one half of humanity became thenceforth impossible.

Nowadays in the West some women are 'liberated' from the requirement of wearing a head-scarf. . .by being compelled not to wear head-scarves, even if they wish to do so! For example, the violently secular socialist government of Turkey sought to stamp out the veil for women, alongside the fez for men:

  • “Mustafa Kemal was the first leader to establish a radically modernized and secularized paradigm in an Islamic country. . .He did not study the Qur'an and Sunnah but Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire and especially the positivist Auguste Comte. . .His work recalls the French Revolution — and it shocked the Islamic world. In 1922, in the new capital Ankara, a 'national assembly' dared to abolish the sultanate and in 1924 the caliphate, the religious and political institution which had lasted for a millennium. . .Soon the Qur'an schools (the madrasahs) were also closed, Sufi orders and monasteries abolished and compulsory state schools and co-education for all children and young people were introduced. . .
  • “Without delay, Swiss family and divorce law was extended to women, most of whom still wore the veil; monogamy was introduced, the professional world was opened up to women and (far more progressively than even Switzerland at that time) they were granted the vote. The 'lifting of the veil' followed as a matter of course. . .In the course of the reforms, Islamic forms of dress were abolished and the fez — mocked as an Ottoman 'carnival piece' — replaced by the European hat; this measure was enforced by the military even in the mosques.”

  • (Hans Kung, Islam, Past, Present & Future, pp. 434-437).

LogoNo doubt the derby hats European men were wearing in those days were far more elegant and dignified than the fez. (Not!) At least they did not require them to wear hair-cuts to conform to Kim Jong Un's, or matching Mao suits; Turkey's 'wear what we tell you' tyranny is not the record-beater for socialist states. Wearing a head-scarf cannot rationally be construed as a menace to public safety or indeed as any legitimate concern of government. Coercive governments, like that of France, cannot bear the thought that women might be left free to live according to their own lights:

LogoJust as Jesus encountered legalists capable of taking a good and benign institution, the Sabbath, and turning it into a monstrous burden, so the religious police of Saudi Arabia have proven capable of valuing the veil above the life of its wearer:

"Around the middle of March 2002, Saudi newspapers reported an incident that took place in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad's birthplace. According to the official count, at least fourteen young girls burned to death or were asphyxiated by smoke when an accidental fire engulfed their public school. Parents who arrived at the scene described a horrific situation in which the doors of the school were locked from the outside, and the Saudi religious police, known as the mutawwa'un, forcibly prevented girls from escaping the burning school and also barred firemen from entering the school to save the girls by beating some of the girls and several of the civil defense personnel. . .Several girls did obey the mutawwa'un and returned to the school to retrieve their veils, only to be found dead later." ('The Great Theft,' Khaled Abou El Fadl, pp. 250-251).

Whatever the merits, or lack thereof, of the veil, such inhuman ferocity in enforcing its involuntary use sears the conscience.

Ergun and Emir Caner wrote a book called 'Unveiling Islam' which made women's issues central to its polemic against Islam. This is a solid complaint, although Muslims might point out in response that Turkey, ancestral home of the Caner brothers' father, has had a female Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, while the U.S. has never had a female President; likewise Pakistan has been governed by Benazir Bhutto. But while this book contains some legitimate information, it cannot be recommended, because of its authors, who are not legitimate. Ergun Caner, the infamous phony jihadi of 'Jihad to Jesus' testimony, closed his remarks at Veritas Seminary with the line, "Thanks for listening to a towel-head." (Ergun Caner, 'The Secret of Islam,' Mt. Airy Bible Church, Veritas Seminary). What's wrong with this picture? Among other things, if anyone is a 'towel-head,' the Turks, bare-headed by statute since the days of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, aren't it! But then, his 'Turkey' is a sand desert:

A Repentant Jihadi
Danger Warning
The Bible on Lying
Damage Assessment
Those Hyper-Calvinists
Turkish TV
Ergun 'Mehmet' Caner


Logo Muslims may object that this polemical approach, which is not restricted to these questionable authors, is hypocritical, because Christians have undeniably put out their own anti-women rhetoric in the past:

"In Scotland, Calvin's ideas were aggressively propagated by John Knox, who had fled to Geneva during the reign of Mary Tudor. . .Knox is perhaps most famous for his 1558 work First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which is by far his best-known work. (The word regiment here means 'government.') In this work, he appeals to the Bible and the church fathers to argue that 'to promote a Woman to beare rule, superioritie, dominion, or empire above any Realme, Nation or Citie is repugnant to nature, contumelie to God, a thing most contrarious to his reveled will and approved ordinance.'" (Alister McGrath, Christianity's Dangerous Idea, p. 99).

It may be objected, is it fair for Christian apologists to take credit for advances achieved under secular auspices? After all many Christian authorities do not endorse feminism, either in whole or in part: "Feminism began in the garden when Eve, who we could call the first feminist, listened to Satan's lies, stepped out from under Adam's authority, acted independently, and led the human race into sin." (John MacArthur: Divine Design: God's Complementary Roles for Men and Women. p. 19). However prior states of society disadvantageous to women's rights were not necessarily Bible-based. As with so much else that is objectionable in Christian history, the people who were promoting these ideas were acting on their own authority, not the Lord's. Nor were women's civil rights secured only under secular auspices. The gratuitous insults against women found in the Koran and the Hadith are not found in scripture. While it is accurate to say that women pastors are ruled out by scripture, Deborah's status as judge is not. By contrast, the very real problems that result from Islamic jurisprudence, done according to instructions, for instance that women who report being raped are likely to end up being themselves prosecuted, were written into the system by its founder. It is striking that, as opposed to the author of Koran's impugning women's testimony, the Bible allows women to be the first to testify of the resurrection. "And, more than that, in those days when he walked this world, women were his trustiest, kindest friends. Whoever betrayed, denied, deserted him — they never did. The nearest to his cross, and earliest at his sepulcher, they were faithful when others were faithless. . ." (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Kindle location 2462).


The Muslim suppression of women's rights goes far beyond the head-scarf. Looked at the abstract, the Muslim custom of confining one half of humanity to effectual house arrest, for life, falls glaringly short of the standard of basic justice and equity. The Muslim cultural practice of 'purdah' means, basically, that women just don't get to have much of a life because they cannot leave their home unescorted. Men would never consent to a permanent life sentence of incarceration within their own homes in order to cut down on the incidence of adultery. It's possible Mohammed was spurred to take this measure by his Jewish preceptors, as in so much else; speaking of the Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, Philo Judaeus says, ". . .but indignant. . .secondly, because their wives, who were shut up, and who did not actually come forth out of their inner chambers, and their virgins, who were kept in the strictest privacy, shunning the eyes of men, even of those who were their nearest relations, out of modesty, were now alarmed by being displayed to the public gaze, not only of persons who were no relations to them, but even of common soldiers." (Philo Judaeus of Alexandria. Delphi Complete Works of Philo of Alexandria (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 77) (Kindle Locations 28679-28681). Against Flaccus, Chapter XI). This is in keeping with the Rabbinic policy of setting a hedge about the law; scripture by no means requires, or recommends, the sequestration of one half of humanity.

One wonders, how could such a practice ever catch on? Declining the use of half of society's human resources in energizing the economy, making the Proverbs 31 woman cease and desist her economic activities, accomplishes what, other than general impoverishment? If the reader will pardon a lapse into wild speculation, recall the crucial moment when the Arabs burst out of Arabia, which was in fact nearly the same moment when other barbarians, the Huns, Vandals, Goths, etc., were also bursting their bounds. The Byzantine empire had clawed back much of its former territory under Justinian. But then disaster struck: the plague eliminated, at one stroke, one third to one half of the population. No one had seen anything like it; people would be talking to their friends on the street, and tumble down dead: "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down." The disease organism responsible was yersinia pestis, more familiar for its role in the medieval black death. Once naturalized, it hung around. The population of al-Andalus had been cut down by half when the Muslims swept through. The fact that they practiced permanent quarantine of half their population, for other reasons, probably also served as a prophylactic against the plague and enhanced their group survival rates in a plague environment, and at just that moment, that's what counted. They are lucky barbarians; it wasn't the stirrup, it was slowing down the speed at which a disease organism could traverse the population. The desert-dwelling Arabs were fortunate to inherit a dessicating empire inclining toward desertification, because if they knew anything, they knew how to live in a desert; and they were also fortunate that their signature roll-back in civilization, reducing women's social role, gave them a relative advantage in disease resistance over the civilized Christians at that moment in time. Though the Spaniards would later reclaim their freedom, most of the people they then conquered would not; what was done then, was done for all time.


LogoTemporary Marriage

One faction of the Muslims, the Shi'ites, allow temporary marriage, though similar customs are not entirely unknown among Sunnis: "In Muslim culture there are contracts for 'limited duration marriages' or 'temporary marriages,' which are legal according to the shari'ah, the Islamic religious code. In Shiite Islam, these marriages are known as zawaj al-mut'ah (a marriage of pleasure). Sunni Islam forbids this kind of marriage, yet a similar phenomenon they call zawaj al-misyar, a 'travel (tourist) marriage,' is legal." (Inside the Middle East, Avi Melamed, p. 8). Puritanical Islam is not. Westerners listening to Shi'ites declaiming against the sexual immorality of the West should realize their own criterion of morality is wide enough in latitude to include, not only polygamy, but old-fashioned immorality, namely shacking up! This seems to have been a pre-Islamic custom amongst the Arabs. Pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, writing about the people to whom Mohammed preached but before he preached to them, says "Their life is one continued wandering; their wives are hired, on special covenant, for a fixed time. . ." (Ammianus Marcellinus, History of Rome, Book XIV, Chapter IV Section 4, Complete Works, Delphi, Kindle location 312). The Sunnis do not acknowledge this institution as explicitly and unashamedly as do the Shi'ites, but evidently Mohammed, if he saw anything wrong with it, did not so teach with sufficient clarity to stamp it out.


LogoRight Hands Possess

Mohammed allows the male faithful to enjoy the sexual favor of captured females:

"Forbidden to you also are married women, except those who are in your hands as slaves: This is the law of God for you." (Sura 4:28).
"Happy now the believers, Who humble them in their prayers. . .And who retrain their appetites, (Save with their wives, or the slaves whom their right hands possess: for in that case they shall be free from blame: But they whose desires reach further than this are transgressors:) . . .These shall be the heritors, Who shall inherit the paradise. . ." (Sura 23:1-11).
"Not so the prayerful, Who are ever constant at their prayers;. . .And who control their desires, (Save with their wives or the slaves whom their right hands have won, for there they shall be blameless; But whoever indulge beyond this are transgressors);. . .These shall dwell, laden with honors, amid gardens." (Sura 70:22-35).

Unfortunately, he neglects to say anything about soliciting or obtaining consent. From Alaric the Goth sacking Rome to the Red Army progressing through German towns like Demmin, mass rape has always gone hand-in-hand with war. The Koran is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Of these two founders, Mohammed ibn Abdallah and Jesus of Nazareth, one did not own slaves:

  Mary the Copt

  Kidnapping Raids

  The Kingdom

  Thy Right Hand

  The Good Side

  Black Slaves

  Naught But a Sinner

  Islamic History

  The Future of Slavery


LogoChristianity too, has been criticized for being unfair to women. There is a difference here, though, that makes this criticism not entirely fair in this case. Muslims are misogynists because their founding documents require them so to be. Those Christians who are misogynists, such as the TheoBros, are misogynists in spite of the monitions of scripture. They follow their own heart in these areas, not the Bible. They are as venemous in their opposition to women's civil rights as any Taliban, but operate solely on their own authority:


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