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How Does the Qur’an View Women?
Individual Muslim men might be very loving towards their wives. My friend Nabeel’s parents had a beautiful relationship, and so do many other Muslim couples. But there’s definitely a problem in the Muslim world.
In 2009, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a report on Gender Equality and Social Institutions. They rated countries around the world based on the opportunities women have for education and employment, laws to protect women from physical violence, the percentage of women who are married and/or divorced by age 16, and so on. And they found that eleven of the twelve countries with the highest levels of discrimination against women were Muslim-majority countries.
A similar study in 2014, conducted by the World Economic Forum, using their own criteria, concluded that 19 of the 20 worst countries in the world, in terms of the gender gap between men and women, were Muslim-majority countries.
When you have a problem like this, you have to ask, “Why do so many Muslim countries have the same problem—namely, high levels of discrimination against women?” And what these countries have in common is their belief in the Qur’an.
Let’s look at three verses so we can see the source of the problem.
Surah 2, verse 282 of the Qur’an is a long verse dealing with contracts. But there’s an interesting part in the middle of the verse that says:
And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (one of the two women) errs, the other can remind her.The Qur’an says that, if two men aren’t available as witnesses, then get a man and two women. Here we find the Islamic principle that the testimony of a woman is worth half the testimony of a man. Why is this? Muhammad explains in Sahih al-Bukhari, where he says that the testimony of a woman is only half as reliable as a man’s testimony because women are intellectually deficient. They’re stupid.
This view of the reliability of a woman’s testimony has made it enormously difficult for Muslim women to testify against men in court. According to the New York Times, human rights workers have noted that as many as half of the women who report being raped in Pakistan are charged with adultery.
Another disturbing verses is Surah 2, verse 223, where Allah tells Muslim men:
Your wives are a tilth for you; so go to your tilth when or how you will . . .We don’t use the word “tilth” much nowadays. A “tilth” is a patch of ground that you plow so you can sow your seed. The Qur’an says that women are a tilth that you approach whenever and however you want.
The historical background of this verse, according to Sunan Abu Dawud, is that when Muslims moved to Medina, they began marrying women from Medina, and the women of Medina didn’t want to have sex in certain positions. One woman told her husband not to come near her if he wanted sex in these positions. She said, “Stay away from me if you want me to do that.” The issue was brought to Muhammad, and Allah’s response was Surah 2, verse 223: “She’s your tilth, your field for sowing your seed; plow her however you want.” Notice, the wife has no right to refuse her husband’s sexual desires.
Let’s consider one more verse. Some women aren’t as quick to obey their husbands as Allah and Muhammad demand, so what are Muslim men supposed to do about rebellious wives? Allah answers in Surah 4, verse 34:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.If your wife doesn’t obey you, you warn her, banish her to a separate bed, and beat her until she does what you say.
A study by Human Rights Watch reports that more than 85% of Afghan women are victims of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, and that more than 60 percent are victims of multiple forms of violence? Why? Because of the Qur’an.
According to Allah and Muhammad, women are stupid; they’re the property of men and have to submit themselves fully to their husbands’ sexual whims; those who don’t are to be beaten into submission. Numerous studies show the real-world impact of these teachings. And yet we’re told, by politicians, reporters, and Muslim groups that the discrimination against women in Muslim countries has nothing to do with Islam. But as long as people refuse to confront the actual problem, women in Muslim countries will continue to suffer.