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Young, Muslim, Female...and Not a Stereotype

Skimming through my Advanced Placement world history textbook, I came to a section titled “Gender Relations in Islam.”

The words that followed jumped out at me. “According to the Quran, women are to satisfy men's sexual desires and to bear children ...women are considered sexually seductive …”

Confusion. Shock. Anger.  Although this was just a small section in a whole, more balanced chapter on Islam, this translation and its implications hit a nerve. This is the source of information about Muslims for four full classes, and yet, as a young Muslim woman, I know it is not true.

For me, reading those words in a textbook was more offensive than if someone had said them to my face, because I knew that my own classmates, my own friends, were reading them, too.

We go to school to learn. We are under the impression that stereotypes are fabricated without basis. But what happens when stereotypes appear in our sources of information? When books and media get their facts from people with limited views, it feeds the problem of stereotyping. We follow the words of authors and journalists that we don't even know, sometimes without a second thought. In this case our textbook, revised in 2006, falsely described me and others of my religion.

I showed my parents and their opinion mirrored mine. I couldn't just let this pass. My history teacher is a very educated and well-rounded man, open to different thoughts and views. When I asked if I could present to my class what I know about gender relations in Islam, not only did he agree, he asked that I do it for all four history classes.

I am not the only Muslim in my school or class. Although Muslims have been in the Detroit area for more than 100 years and there are tens of thousands of us here, we are a minority. But on the day of my presentation, the other Muslim students and I felt like a team. Equally indignant, everyone contributed their experiences and knowledge. That day was pleasantly surprising. There was an air of confidence among the Muslim students, and one of interest from everyone else. The teacher and classes asked questions about things they had heard on TV or read in the book. And although “The World History: Third Edition” will likely be used to teach many more 11th and 12th graders at North Farmington High School, at least some students began to question it. We left with a sense of camaraderie, based on understanding and respect.

Is it possible that by changing how we learn, we can learn how to change?

Nour Soubani, a junior at North Farmington High School, is part of the "TIME 11", a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit.

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  • 1

    I can remember being in Morocco and being embarrassed on several occasions ~ when mistakenly asking the Muslim women there ~ what did for a living.

    Just asking 'So what do you do' was always met with ~ uncomfortable looks. It was almost like they were saying ~ we are not like you women in the west.

    When you did see women doing something outside of the home ~ like in one of the numerous pharmacies ~ they would look very proud. You knew they felt as though they were breaking new ground.

    But I can also remember getting the shock of my life ~ when asking the polite question about what this woman's very-bright-looking 16 year old daughter was going to do [with her life], and her mother looked at me and while rubbing her two forefingers together ~ and said marri'age!!

    I almost had to stop myself from doing some involuntary action like coughing. It was one of those moments. The girls was to attend classes to learn English ~ then be married.

    Whenever I would go over, they were often busy cleaning the house ~ and when her husband would come home ~ she seemed to snap out her more lively character ~ and almost turned robotic.

    For the most part the truth is quite obvious for women in the Islamic world. If there are Muslims who want to change things and to protest ~ but protesting reality is a denial.

    The brightest woman I met there was married to her first cousin ~ I was told it was voluntary ~ but before she married she was in university ~ and used to run a few kilometers a day. You do think surely a woman like this would find people who are attracted to her besides her cousin. And her sister who was illiterate was married to her husband's brother.

    This gives new meaning to respecting family!

    And also for the children out of the each family two looked like clones and one looked slightly addled.

    Then there was another sister who did finish college ~ held a management position in a top company ~ and although she was married she had more power in the relationship and she selected her partner from outside the family.

    But even if a woman is successful in the Islamic world ~ she has the added job of proving her virtue. Because traditionally ~ and still for the most part independent women are prostitutes. Here Muslim prostitutes dress like any other Muslim woman ~ with the headscarf and long garment ~ but they are not controlled as the other women are. You might see them out at night in strange places [almost biblical], or in the day they may be sitting at an outside restaurant ~ which is seen as unislamic and vulgar. However because western women are independent ~ they are largely seen as prostitutes. So for the most part the denial of women's rights is linked to Muslim women not becoming prostitutes.

    If you are a young western woman it could be very hard to travel around the Muslims world ~ for the most part Muslim men have no idea how to relate to women normally outside of the family structure ~ and they think because they spoke to a woman ~ it is a total culture shock ~ they will expect to be with you ~ and many times they will approach the situation by asking you to marry them ~ within 5 min. of meeting them. The pick up line is will you marry me! If you are young in some Muslim countries expect 100's. Or they will speak to you ~ and you get this ownership feeling ~ it is almost like they will expect you to do as you are told.

    This was is a normal view in the Islamic world. Now reporters are coming back from Afghanistan saying the same thing. I have been a couple of times to the Islamic world.

    The only other women that have more freedom tend to be the very wealthy ~ and often these women can choose western style clothes ~ but there is a very distinct class difference ~ so no poor person would dare speak to them.

    That Muslim women are free and they have the same rights and freedoms as western women is absolutely not true. But what I did find is that it is Muslim women who play a big part in keeping other Muslim women down. And this is how western women succeeded ~ because they pushed their daughters so that the next generation has a better life and more choices than they did. Muslim women think they are apart from this ~ saying things like ~ they have had rights longer than all other women ~ but in Queen of Sheba's time ~ well before Islam ~ women used to be able to take more than one man to live in their house. Then there was Cleopatra ~ who made her own rules. I think Muslim women need to cut the fantasy ~ women's rights in countries under the Shari'a are very different from the US were women are equal under the law. A part of this is to acknowledge the reality of the majority of women in the Muslim world ~ and I don't think this young lady has done this here.

    Perhaps she has come to believe that the way it is in the US is the way it is in the Islamic world. Which is simply untrue!

    • 1.1

      you were embarrassed on several occasions? good grief. did it not occur to you that your question was rude and without meaning in that culture? to assume that their response was due to a problem in their culture seems unbelievable to me.
      it's a small planet we share. we need to assume innocence more often and practice the core beliefs of all religions: the golden rule.

    • 1.2

      Hi cole55
      I am here to help you and the young girl in the article.

      Muslim women in the west sometimes want to work and do the whole independent thing, but how many of them actually get jobs. I am talking about the non married ones out of high school and college. I know Muslim women that have gone to dozens of interviews and were turned down because they wanted a female that looked more "professional" ie. showed more skin and more social ie. flirts with anyone.

      Yeah Muslim women have a lot to learn if they are ever going to learn to live in the western freedom of women exploitation environment.

      As for the Married Muslim don't be shocked when they tell you that taking care of their kids comes above that 100k salary. You will get that shocked look too from German mothers and many conservative American mothers. Some women choose the easy way because they hate school and just go for minor education and keep their aim on a rich man that will take care of them for the rest of their lives. When they are Muslim we call them oppressed, but when they are non-Muslim we call them lazy gold diggers that hate school. It would be interesting to find out how many gold diggers are Muslim.

      A Muslim women friend of mine fresh of the boat/plane once asked me why women here tolerate all this nudity in advertising and exploitation of women on TV and all over the internet. Every time they want to sell something they have to put a half naked female next to it. Look at beer and cigarettes. Why they don't protest?

      Another Muslim female says she has been working for this company for 20 years and says she never saw a female district manager. One of her friends in human resources told her that the salary and pensions and over time of the female staff are much lower than that of the male staff. I told her to be quiet and thank Allah that they even hired a Muslim female.
      I guess 20 years ago they did not have as much mis-education about Islam as mentioned in this article.

      To the young Muslim female I say may Allah and God be with you will need a lot of help considering how much hate is out there against Islam it is not easy to go through wars without demonizing the people you are attacking.
      With this economy in such bad shape we might need another war to distract the western public.
      Islam is not the one that started world war one or two which hold the record for the amount of atrocity and genocide.
      Muslims did not make and use nuclear weapons.

      Young girl if you want to survive in the west, it seems you should either take off that hijab, flirt, and make sure you show some skin or find a rich man to take care of you. Stop reading all these advanced books they just wrinkle your skin with stress.

  • 2

    I would think that second generation Muslim women living in the metro Detroit area would move away from the traditional social values of their parents to adopt the more liberal social values of their peers. Many Muslim countries allow polygamy (up to four wives). Polygamy is not necessarily disadvantageous to women (1/2 of a wealth husband may be better than all of a poor one), but it does disadvantage younger and poorer men without the resources to take a wife. So it is not surprising to often find widespread unrest among their less educated, poorer and more desperate young men. It may be a partial explanation for why the regimes of these countries are nearly all authoritarian. Men have always used their authority in the political arena to control women's reproductive autonomy, in both democratic and authoritarian countries, but this effort has been particularly successful in Muslim countries. My guess is that this will change as women in Muslim countries acquire greater levels of education and demand greater rights in the public sphere.

  • 3

    Excellent article; thank you for sharing this perspective.

    But I would like to respond to the first commenter, cole55: I believe she or he is presenting too much of an overlap between the culture of the Middle East, the belief set of Islam, and the experience of Muslims in America. These three forces influence each other, of course, in ways that are generally fairly obvious. But they also all work independently.

    It may be a good thing to work from the outside for better opportunities for women in the Muslim world. I personally think there is much room for improvement there – but I am also cautious of well-intentioned people being perceived as culturally insensitive American interlopers. It's a very delicate thing trying to "improve" things in another culture. And in even considering what we have to teach them, we must also keep our minds open about what they have to teach us.

  • 4

    Wonderful Article.
    We need more of these young Muslim students that are eager to spread the true meanings of thier religion.
    It is sad to see that these textbooks have these kinds of sterotypes in them. They should be sources of true information since students all over are studying this material. It is extremely important to let people know what this religion truly is about.
    It also is great to have young students talk to others. It will make a stronger impact if students hear this information from their peers.
    As for the previous comment, I think it is extremely important to distinguish between religion and culture. Many times these two aspects conflict with each other. We have to be careful in condsidering what elements are from the religion and what is from the culture. Many times aspects of the culture put into the religon and do not apply correctly.
    I thank Nour for taking the time and sharing up for her beliefs, we need many more Muslim students standing up for thier beliefs and correcting the sterotypes that are all over the media, and textbooks. It is important to have these kinds of articles to let the other side be viewed. We are charged at with negative sterotypes of Muslims, and we need these types of articles to help fight these incorrect statements. It is such a beautiful religion that is just misunderstood by many.
    Thank you for sharing your work, it is greatly appreciated.

  • 5

    Of course, I have no idea what the Quran says about women, but, if “According to the Quran, women are to satisfy men's sexual desires and to bear children ...women are considered sexually seductive …” is not true, what does the Quran say about women and gender relations?

    It seems that the author, Nour Soubani, has an opinion about gender relations as she knows them among Muslim people in Detroit, but she doesn't touch on the question of what the Quran says on the matter.

    I could be all wet, of course, but the way I've seen young Muslim men in France treat European French women on the street, I would suspect that something in the Muslim culture, Quran or otherwise, is different regarding gender relations than what I grew up understanding in the American Mid-West.

  • 6

    What the Quran says (go to the verses if you don't like the paraphrases, though they're accurate:

    » Have sex with your women whenever and as often as you like. 2:223
    » A woman is worth one-half a man. 2:282
    » “Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four.” 4:3
    » Males are to inherit twice that of females. 4:11
    » Instructions for exchanging wives 4:20
    » You can have sex with married women if they are slaves obtained in war (whom you may rape or do whatever you like to). 4:24
    » Men are in charge of women, because Allah made men to be better than women. Refuse to have sex with women from whom you fear rebellion, and scourge them. 4:34
    » Women are feeble and are unable to devise a plan. 4:98
    » A man cannot treat his wives fairly. 4:129
    » “The guile of you women … is very great.” 12:28
    » Allah says it is lawful for Muhammad to marry any women he wants. 33:50-51
    » Allah made virgins to be lovers and friends to those on his right hand. 56:36-37
    » Instructions for divorcing your wives. 65:1-6
    » Allah's rules for divorcing wives that have not yet reached puberty. 65:4
    » Muhammad's wives need to be careful. If they criticize their husband, Allah will replace them with better ones. 66:5
    » You don't have to be chaste around your wives or your slave girls. 70:29-30

    • 6.1

      These “paraphrases” are NOT accurate. For everyone interested in accuracy and truth, you can find translations of the Qur'an by 3 different translators at and you will see the paraphrasing of the saintlysecret is inaccurate.

      More importantly, a translation of the Qur'an is NOT the Qur'an. Much is lost in the translation and one cannot pick up a translation of the Qur'an and know what it means or how it is to be implemented in one's life. In order to properly understand the Qur'an one needs to read the scholarly tafsir (interpretation/commentary) of the Qu'ran. The tafsir is based on the hadith (reports of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions). Also, the language, diction, grammar, etc of the Qur'an (i.e. Arabic, not translation) is important to understanding the Qur'an.

      Lastly, as other posters have indicated, it is important to distinguish culture from religion when viewing how women are treated in Islamic countries.

      I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on all of the verses “paraphrased.” Therefore my lack of discussing a “paraphrased” verse DOES NOT mean that saintlysecret's “paraphrasing” is accurate. Please do some research on your own and you will see all of the inaccuracies in saintlysecret's post.

      saintlysecret » Have sex with your women whenever and as often as you like. 2:223

      YUSUFALI translation: Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe.

      This verse does not stand for the proposition that one can have sex with his wife whenever and however he chooses. Read the tafsir at and you will see that this verse is a prohibition against sodomy.

      saintlysecret » “Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four.” 4:3

      Yes, you are able to marry up to 4 wives, BUT only if you can treat all 4 equally.

      saintlysecret » Instructions for exchanging wives 4:20

      YUSUFALI translation: But if ye decide to take one wife in place of another, even if ye had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, Take not the least bit of it back: Would ye take it by slander and manifest wrong?

      This verse is about divorce and not taking back the dowry the husband gave to the first wife…. Not “exchanging wives”

      saintlysecret » You can have sex with married women if they are slaves obtained in war (whom you may rape or do whatever you like to). 4:24

      YUSUFALI translation: Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess.

      Saintlysecret's “paraphrasing” is a COMPLETE LIE. I do not know where the poster got this from. “whom your right hands possess” means captives obtained in war. Verse 4:23 starts of saying “Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:” and lists those people you cannot marry. 4:24 continues this by saying you cannot marry married women BUT you can marry your captive slaves. There is NOTHING that says you can have sex with married women if they are slaves obtained in wars OR that you can rape or do whatever you life to.

      saintlysecret» Men are in charge of women, because Allah made men to be better than women. Refuse to have sex with women from whom you fear rebellion, and scourge them. 4:34


      YUSUFALI: 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).

      Saintlysecret» Women are feeble and are unable to devise a plan. 4:98


      YUSUFALI: Except those who are (really) weak and oppressed - men, women, and children - who have no means in their power, nor (a guide-post) to their way.

    • 6.2

      Please do not give half facts!!

      I guess you forgot to mention what is in the bible..... Here is a reminder!!

      Women were considered inferior to men:
      bullet Genesis 1:27 to 3:24:
      bullet In the first creation story (Genesis 1:27) God is described as creating man, both male and female at the same time: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." 2 This might be interpreted as implying equality between the two genders.
      bullet But in the second creation story, (Genesis 2:7) God formed only a man: "...the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Realizing that he needed a helper (Genesis 2:18), God marched all of the animals past Adam (Genesis 2:19-20) looking for a suitable animal. Finding none suitable, God created Eve out of one of Adam's ribs. The term "helper" has historically been interpreted as implying an inferior role for Eve, although some modern interpreters believe that the word can mean a companion of equal status. "...the Hebrew word translated "helper" is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament: twenty of these cases refer to help from a superior." (3) In Genesis 2:27, Adam later asserts his authority over Eve by naming her: "...she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." In ancient times, one was believed to have authority over a person or thing by naming it.
      bullet Genesis 3:16: Adam's role is to be Eve's master. The King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), and Revised Standard Version (RSV) use the term "rule" to describe Adam's role over Eve: "...thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." The Living Bible uses the term "master". The Modern Language Bible uses "dominate". By implication, all of their descendents are would have the same power imbalance between spouses.
      bullet A man could marry (literally "become the master of the woman") as often as he desired. In Genesis 4:19, Lamech became the first known polygamist when he took two wives. Subsequent men who took multiple wives included: Esau with 3 wives; Jacob: 2; Ashur: 2; Gideon: many; Elkanah: 2; David: many; Solomon: 700 wives of royal birth; Rehaboam: 3; Abijah: 14. Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives.
      bullet Genesis 16:2 : Sarah gave permission to her husband Abraham to engage in sexual intercourse with her maid, Hagar: "Sarai said unto Abram...I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her." Presumably this was done without the consent of Hagar, who had such a low status in the society of the day that she was required to submit to multiple rapes at her owner's command.
      bullet Genesis 19:8: The men of Sodom gathered around Lot's house, and asked that he bring his two guests out so that the men can "know" them. This is frequently interpreted as a desire to gang rape the visitors, although other interpretations are possible. Lot offers his two virgin daughters to be raped instead: He is recorded as saying: "I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes." Yet, even after this despicable act, Lot is still regarded as an honorable man, worth saving from the destruction of the city. Allowing one's daughters to be sexually assaulted by multiple rapists appears to be treated as a minor transgression, because of the low status of the young women. More details on Genesis 19.
      bullet Genesis 21:10: A man could simultaneously keep numerous concubines. These were sexual partners of an even lower status than a wife was. As implied in this verse she could be dismissed when no longer needed: Sarah is recorded as saying: "...Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." Abraham had two concubines; Gideon: at least 1; David: many; Nahor: 1; Jacob: 1; Eliphaz: 1; Gideon: 1; Caleb: 2; Manassah: 1; Saul: 1; David: at least 10; Rehoboam: 60; Solomon: 300; an unidentified Levite: 1; Belshazzar: more than 1.
      bullet In Exodus 1:15-16, the Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill all Jewish boys at birth, because of the threat that they might pose to the kingdom. "And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live." The girls, being considered less important, were not seen as a threat; they were allowed to live.
      bullet Exodus 20 & 21: This is perhaps the most misogynistic pair of chapters in the Bible. A number of verses describe a woman as the property of her father. At marriage, her ownership was transferred to her new husband:
      bullet Exodus 20:17 lists the last of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." It is important to realize that a manservent and a maidservant were male and female slaves. They were not a hired butler and maid. The tenth commandment forbids coveting your neighbor's house, wife, male slave female slave, animals or anything else that the neighbor owns. The wife is clearly regarded as equivalent to a piece of property.
      bullet Exodus 21:2-4: "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing....If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself." A slaveowner was permitted to give a woman to his male slave as a wife. There is no indication that women were consulted during this type of transaction. After serving six years, he would leave, but his wife and children would remain slaves of the slaveowner. Again, there is no indication that the woman was consulted on this arrangement,
      bullet Exodus 21:7: "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do." A father could sell his daughter as a slave. Even though a male slave is automatically given his freedom after 6 years, a female slave remained a slave forever.
      bullet Exodus 22:16-17: The first seventeen verses of Exodus 22 deal with restitution in case of stealing, or damage to, a person's property. Verses 16 and 17 deal with the case of a man who seduces a virgin. This was viewed as a property offense against the woman's father. The woman was expected to marry the seducer. If her father refused to transfer ownership of his daughter to the seducer, the latter was required to required to pay money to her father. The money would be in compensation for the damage to the father's property - his daughter. It would be difficult for a non-virgin to marry.
      bullet Exodus 21:22-25 describes a situation in which two men are fighting and one hits a pregnant woman. If the woman has a miscarriage because of the blow, the man is punished as the husband decides and must pay a fine for their act - not to the woman, but to her husband, presumably because he has been deprived of a child. The woman had no involvement. Exodus 21:22: "...he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine."
      bullet Exodus 23:17 states that only men are required to take part in the feasts of unleavened bread, of harvest and of ingathering: "Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD."

    • 6.3

      Re: thinkaboutit2t…

      Please tell me why you must instantly start behaving like a kindergärtner, yelling, "I know you are, but what am I?"

      You automatically bring up quotes from the Bible to the above commentator who pointed out some passages from the Qua-ran as if this person specifically implied that the Qua-ran and ONLY the Qua-ran contains controversial and/or offensive passages. No one here is arguing that the Bible is not offensive to women, so why do you feel the need to bring up a subject that was not even being discussed.

      Let me put it in simpler terms for you....if someone was discussing wolves, their behaviour, how they stalk prey, take care of their young and how aggressive they are to each other within a pack, how absurd would it be if someone interjected with a quote saying but bears are just as violent and vicious!

      Errr....sure bears are violent and vicious (and so are lions and tigers) but it has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. We were talking about the Qua-ran, NOT the Bible. And it's not as if anyone here brought up the Bible as an example of pro-feminist literature. No one is denying that the Bible is discriminatory towards women, but that's NOT what we were talking about.

      So please, think about what you're saying and why you're saying it, BEFORE you post nonsensical comments.

  • 7

    In the Islamic world, religion is not separated from politics, culture, and education. This young Muslim American girl is heavily influenced by her American culture and doesn't accurately represent true Islamic culture in the Islamic world. Islam originated from the Arabian Peninsula which is now Saudi Arabia. A non-believer must go there to find the purest form of this all encompassing "religion". And the fact is, the writer would not have even been given the opportunity to voice her opinion about her role in Islamic society if she was living in SA and not the US.

  • 8

    Gender Equity in Islam
    Jamal A. Badawi, Ph.D. World Assembly of Muslim Youth

    I. Introduction & Methodology

    When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them. The focus of this paper is the normative teachings of Islam as the criteria to judge Muslim practices and evaluate their compliance with Islam. In identifying what is "Islamic" it is necessary to make a distinction between the primary sources of Islam (the Qur'an and the Sunnah) and legal opinions of scholars on specific issues, which may vary and be influenced by their times, circumstances, and cultures. Such opinions and verdicts do not enjoy the infallibility accorded to the primary and revelatory sources. Furthermore, interpretation of the primary sources should consider, among other things:

    (a) The context of any text in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This includes the general context of Islam, its teachings, its world view, and the context of the surah and section thereof.

    (b) The occasion of the revelation, which may shed light on its meanings.

    (c) The role of the Sunnah in explaining and defining the meaning of the Qur'anic text.

    This paper is a brief review of the position and role of woman in society from an Islamic perspective. The topic is divided into spiritual, economic, social, and political aspects.

    II. The Spiritual Aspect

    1. According to the Qur'an, men and women have the same spiritual human nature:

    O mankind: Reverence your Guardian Lord Who created you from a single person created of like nature his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (Qur'an 4:1)

    It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): "If You give us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful." (Qur'an 7:189)

    (He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things.) (Qur'an 42:11)

    2. Both genders are recipients of the "divine breath" since they are created with the same human and spiritual nature (nafsin-waahidah):

    But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks to you give (Qur'an 15:29)

    3. Both genders are dignified and are trustees of Allah on earth.

    We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (Qur'an 17:70)

    Behold your Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you do not." (Qur'an 2:30)

    4. According to the Qur'an, woman is not blamed for the "fall of man." Pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as punishments for "eating from the for bidden tree." On the contrary, the Qur'an considers them to be grounds for love and respect due to mothers.

    In narrating the story of Adam and Eve, the Qur'an frequently refers to both of them, never singling out Eve for the blame:

    O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you [both] wish: but approach not this tree or you [both] run into harm and transgression. Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said "Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you [both] should become angels or such beings as live for ever." And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?" They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy we shall certainly be lost." (Allah) said: "Get you [both] down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time." He said: "Therein shall you [both] live and therein shall you [both] die; and from it shall you [both] be taken out (at last)." O you children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you but the raiment of righteousness that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah that they may receive admonition! O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith. (Qur'an 7:19 27)

    On the question of pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur'an states:

    And We have enjoined on the person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear his/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal. (Qur'an 31:14)

    We have enjoined on the person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in paid did she give him/her birth. The carrying of the (child) to his/her weaning is ( a period of) thirty months. At length when he/she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years he/she says "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue.Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam [submission]." (Qur'an 46:15)

    5. Men and women have the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities. They both face the consequences of their deeds:

    And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be los the work of any of you be it male or female: you are members of one another ..." (Qur'an 3:195)

    If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them. (Qur'an 4:124)

    For Muslim men and women and for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Qur'an 33:35)

    One Day shall you see the believing men and the believing women how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): "Good news for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for ever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!" (Qur'an 57:12)

    6. Nowhere dow the Qur'an state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate "qiwamah" or responsibility for the family as superiority. The Qur'an makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness not gender, color, or nationality:

    O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Qur'an 49:13)

    7. The absence of women as prophets or "Messengers of Allah" in prophetic history is due to the demands and physical suffering associated with the role of messengers and prophets and not because of any spiritual inferiority.

    III. The Economic Aspect

    1. The Islamic Shariiah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. A married woman may keep her maiden name.

    2. Greater financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive marital gifts, to keep present and future properties and income for their own security. No married woman is required to spend a penny from her property and income on the household. She is entitled to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period ('iddah) in case of divorce. She is also entitled to child support. Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in all stages of her life, as a daughter, wife, mother, or sister. These additional advantages of women over men are somewhat balanced by the provisions of the inheritance which allow the male, in most cases, to inherit twice as much as the female. This means that the male inherits more but is responsible financially for other females: daughters, wives, mother, and sister, while the female (i.e., a wife) inherits less but can keep it all for investment and financial security without any legal obligation so spend any part of it even for her own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, etc.).

    IV. The Social Aspect

    First: As a Daughter

    1. The Qur'an effectively ended the cruel pre Islamic practice of female infanticide (wa'd):

    When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed. (Qur'an 81 89)

    2. The Qur'an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitudes among some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:

    When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! (Qur'an 16:58 59)

    3. Parents are duty bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad said:

    "Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise." [Ahmad]

    "Whosoever supports two daughters til they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together)." [Ahmad]

    4. Education is not only a right but also a responsibility of all males and females. Prophet Muhammad said:

    "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim ("Muslim" is used here in the generic meaning which includes both males and females).

    Second: As a Wife

    1. Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion, not just the satisfaction of man's needs:

    And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may well in tranquillity with them and He has put live and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Qur'an 30:21)

    (He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur'an 42:11)

    2. The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract according to the Prophet's teaching. It follows that if by "arranged marriage" is meant marrying the girl without her consent, then such a marriage is nullifiable is she so wished.

    "Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice ... (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it)." (Ahmad, Hadeeth no. 2469). In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them." [Ibn Majah] 3. The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection, and overall headship of the family (qiwamah) within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutual dependency and complementary of the roles of males and females does not mean "subservience" by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped in household chores in spite of his busy schedule.

    The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child nor father on account of his child. An heir shall be chargeable in the same way if they both decide on weaning by mutual consent and after due consultation there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster mother for your offspring there is no blame on you provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Qur'an 2:233)

    The Qur'an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to heir wives even if they do not like them.

    O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about though it a great deal of good. (Qur'an 4:19)

    Prophet Muhammad taught:

    " I command you to be kind to women ..."

    "The best of you is the best to his family (wife) ..."

    Marital disputes are to be handled privately between the parties whenever possible, in steps (without excesses or cruelty). If disputes are not resolved then family mediation can be resorted to.

    Divorce is seen as the last resort, which is permissible but not encouraged. Under no circumstances does the Qur'an encourage, allow or condone family violence or physical abuse and cruelty. The maximum allowed in extreme cases is a gentle tap that does not even leave a mark on the body while saving the marriage from collapsing.

    5. Forms of marriage dissolution include mutual agreement, the husband's initiative, the wife's initiative (if part of her marital contract, court decision on the wife's initiative (for a cause), and the wife's initiative without a "cause" provided that she returns the marital gift to her husband (khul' [divestiture]).

    6. Priority for custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later chooses between his mother and father (for custody purposes). Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and well being of the child

    Question of Polygyny (Polygamy)

    1. One of the common myths is to associate polygyny with Islam as if it were introduced by Islam or is the norm according to its teachings. While no text in the Qur'an or Sunnah states that either monogamy or polygyny is the norm, demographic data indicates that monogamy is the norm and polygyny is the exception. In almost all countries and on the global level the numbers of men and women are almost even, with women's numbers slightly more than men.

    As such, it is a practical impossibility to regard polygyny as the norm since it assumes a demographic structure of at least two thirds females, and one third males (or 80 percent females and 20 percent males if four wives per male is the norm!). No Islamic "norm" is based on an impossible assumption.

    2. Like many peoples and religions, however, Islam did not out law polygyny but regulated it and restricted it. It is neither required nor encouraged, but simply permitted and not outlawed. Edward Westermarck gives numerous examples of the sanctioning of polygyny among Jews, Christians, and others.

    3. The only passage in the Qur'an (4:3) which explicitly mentioned polygyny and restricted its practice in terms of the number of wives permitted and the requirement of justice between them was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which dozens of Muslims were martyred leaving behind widows and orphans. This seems to indicate that the intent of its continued permissibility is to deal with individual and collective contingencies that may arise from time to time (i.e., imbalances between the number of males and females created by wars). This provides a moral, practical, and humane solution to the problems of widows and orphans who are likely to be more vulnerable in the absence of a husband/father figure to look after their needs: financial, companions, proper rearing, and other needs.

    If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans marry women of your choice two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one ... (Qur'an 4:3)

    4. All parties involved have options: to reject marriage proposals as in the case of a proposed second wife or to seek divorce or khul' (divestiture) as in the case of a present wife who cannot accept to live with a polygynous husband.

    While the Qur'an allowed polygyny, it did not allow polyandry (multiple husbands of the same woman). Anthropologically speaking, polyandry is quite rare. Its practice raises thorny problems related to the lineal identity of children, and incompatibility of polyandry with feminine nature.

    Third: As a Mother

    1. Kindness to parents (especially mothers) is next to worship of Allah:

    Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in you life say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor. (Qur'an 17:23)

    And We have enjoined on the human (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her waning: (hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) destiny." (Qur'an 31:14)

    2. Mothers are accorded a special place of honor in Hadeeth too:

    A man came to the Prophet Muhammad asking: O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said, your mother. The man said then who is next: the Prophet said, Your mother. The man further asked, Then who is next? Only then did the Prophet say, Your father. (al Bukhari)

    Fourth: As a Sister in Faith (Generally)

    1. According to the Prophet Muhammad's saying:

    "Women are but sisters (or the other half) of men (shaqa'iq).

    2. Prophet Muhammad taught kindness, care, and respect of women in general:

    "I commend you to be kind to women"

    Fifth: Issue of Modesty and Social Interaction

    1. There exists, among Muslims a big gap between the ideal of the real. Cultural practices on both extremes do exist. Some Muslims emulate non Islamic cultures and adopt the modes of dress, unrestricted mixing and behavior resulting in corrupting influences of Muslims and endangering the family's integrity and strength. On the other hand, in some Muslim cultural undue and excessive restrictions is not seclusion are believed to be the ideal. Both extremes seem to contradict the normative teachings of Islam and are not consistent with the virtuous yet participative nature of the society at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

    2. Parameters of proper modesty for males and females (dress and behavior) are based on revelatory sources (the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah) and as such are seen by believing men and women as divinely based guidelines with legitimate aims, and divine wisdom behind them. They are not male imposed or socially imposed restrictions.

    3. The notion of near total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period. Interpretation problems in justifying seclusion reflect, in part, cultural influences and circumstances in different Muslim countries.

    V. The Legal/Political Aspect

    1. Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless.

    Most references to testimony (witness) in the Qur'an do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and female.

    And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a life. But it would avert the punishment from the wife is she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself is (her accuser) is telling the truth. (Qur'an 24:69)

    One reference in the Qur'an distinguishes between the witness of a male and a female. It is useful to quote this reference and explain it in its own context and in the context of other references to testimony in the Qur'an.

    O you who believe! When you 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 you 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). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period whether it be small or big: it is just in the sight of Allah more suitable as evidence and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves; but if it be a transaction which you carry out on the spot among yourselves there is no blame on you if you reduce it not to writing. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If you do (such harm) it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. (Qur'an 2:282)

    A few comments on this text are essential in order to prevent common misinterpretations:

    a) It cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur'an that the worth of a female's witness is only half the male's. This presumed "rule" is voided by the earlier reference (24:69) which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders in the issue at hand.

    b) The context of this passage (ayah) relates to the testimony on financial transactions which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization which would otherwise contradict 24:69 cited earlier.

    c) The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference was made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender's witness or the other's. The only reason given is to corroborate the female's witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage (tadhilla) means literally "loses the way," "gets confused or errs." But are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony. Definitely not, and this is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses even if they are both males. This leaves us with only one reasonable interpretation that in an ideal Islamic society as envisioned by Islamic teachings the female members will give priority to their feminine functions as wives, mothers, and pioneers of charitable works. This emphasis, while making them more experienced in the inner function of the family

    and social life, may not give them enough exposure and experience to business transactions and terminology, as such a typical Muslim woman in a truly Islamic society will not normally be present when business dealings are negotiated and if may present may not fully understand the dealings. In such a case, corroboration by two women witnesses helps them remind one another and as such give an accurate account of what happened.

    d) It is useful to remember that it is the duty of a fair judge, in a particular case, to evaluate the credibility, knowledge and experience of any witness and the specific circumstances of the case at hand.

    2. The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and female in public affairs:

    The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur'an 9:71)

    3. Now there is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was done without losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue.

    4. There is no text in the Qur'an or the Sunnah that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer due to the format of prayer as explained earlier and the headship of state (based on the common and reasonable interpretation of Hadeeth).

    The head of state in Islam is not a ceremonial head. He leads public prayers in some occasions, constantly travels and negotiates with officials of other states (who are mostly males). He may be involved in confidential meetings with them. Such heavy involvement and its necessary format may not be consistent with Islamic guidelines related to the interaction between the genders and the priority of feminine functions and their value to society. Furthermore, the conceptual and philosophical background of the critics of this limited exclusion is that of individualism, ego satisfaction, and the rejection of the validity of divine guidance in favor of other man-made philosophies, values, or "ism." The ultimate objective of a Muslim man or woman is to selflessly serve Allah and the ummah in whatever appropriate capacity.


    1. Textual injunctions on gender equity and the prophetic model are sometimes disregarded by some if not most Muslims individually and collectively. Revision of practices (not divine injunctions) is needed. It is not the revelatory Qur'an and the Sunnah that need any editing or revision. What needs to be reexamined are fallible human interpretations and practices.

    2. Diverse practice in Muslim countries often reflect cultural influences (local or foreign), more so than the letter or spirit of the Shariiah.

    3. Fortunately, there is an emerging trend for the betterment of our understanding of gender equity, based on the Qur'an and Hadeeth, not on alien and imported un-Islamic or non-Islamic values and not on the basis of the existing oppressive and unjust status quo in many parts of the Muslim world.

    • 8.1

      All this enlightening scholarship about the Quran and Bible is fascinating, but trivial in comparison with the contrast between a religion of works and a religion of grace. Each religion has a different path to temporal and eternal status, and denies the validity of the other. One path is the pride in being able by one's efforts to achieve favor with God, and the other path accepts in humility the futility of achieving favor by one's own efforts.

  • 9

    Status of Women in Islam

    The status of women in Islam, is an issue that is pertinent in present times; both due to the divergence of cultural practices in the Muslim world from the Islamic perspective and the erroneous perception in the West, that Islam subjugates womenfolk.

    A dispassionate study of the primary sources of Islam, along with an analysis of the position of women in societies where

    Islam was implemented, actually proves that for women Islam is a special blessing.

    “Prior to Islam," write the authors of The Cultural Atlas of Islam, "a woman was regarded by her parents as a threat to family honor and hence worthy of burial alive at infancy. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought, sold and inherited. From this position of inferiority and legal incapacity, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in family and society."

    The rights and responsibilities of women are equal to those of men but they are not necessarily identical. This difference is understandable because men and women are different, in their physiological and psychological make-up. With this distinction in mind, there is no room for a Muslim to imagine that women are inferior to men. Thus it is perhaps more apt to refer to the Islamic approach on gender relations, as one of "equity" rather than the commonly used word "equality", which could be misunderstood to mean equality in every minute aspect of life, rather than overall equality.

    The Spiritual Aspect

    The sacred text of the Glorious Qur'an and the history of early Muslims bear witness to the fact that women are considered as vital to life as men.

    Islam refuted the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God, and thus caused his downfall. The Qur'an says that they both disobeyed, and negates the idea that women are a source of evil.

    In a world where women were no more than objects of sexual gratification for men, and at a time when the religious circles argued over whether women were human or not, possessing souls, Islam proclaimed:

    "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female."
    [Al-Qur'an 49:13]

    "O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you."
    [Al-Qur'an 4:1]

    Men and women are of the same family, and as such have similar rights and duties, and their Lord promises them in the Glorious Qur'an:

    "Never will I waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other."
    [Al-Qur'an 3:195]

    Thus, in the Islamic tradition, a woman has an independent identity. She is a responsible being in her own right and carries the burden of her moral and spiritual obligations.

    The Social Aspect

    Women have as much right to education as men do. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (p)1 declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female. This declaration was very clear and was largely implemented by Muslims throughout history.

    Islam elevated the position of women in society and treated them on an equal footing with men, and in some cases, as a mother for instance, clearly gave them precedence over men. Thus when a man asked Prophet Muhammad (p): "Who is most entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" the Prophet (p) replied, "Your mother." The man asked, "Who is next?" The Prophet (p) said, "Your mother." Again the man asked, "Who is next?" The Prophet (p) repeated, "Your mother." The man asked for a fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet (p) then replied, "Your father."2

    On another occasion, when a man came to the Prophet (p), and expressed the desire to join a military expedition, the Prophet (p) asked him if he had a mother. When he replied that he had, the Prophet (p) advised him, "Stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet."3

    As daughters, women have a right to just and equitable treatment from their parents. The Prophet(p) gave glad tidings to those who did not insult their daughters or favored sons over daughters.4

    A woman has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals, and her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the marriage contract. A marriage is based on mutual peace, love and compassion. Dr. Jamal Badawi, a Canadian Islamic scholar, states in his book Gender Equity in Islam:

    "The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutuality and complementarity of husband and wife does not mean 'subservience' by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad (p) helped with household chores, although the responsibilities he bore and the issues he faced in the community were immense."

    The responsibility of maintaining social and moral values lies on both men and women. Both must refrain from all deeds and gestures that might stir the passions of people other than their legitimate spouses or cause evil suspicion of their morality.

    Women are entitled to freedom of expression just as men are. Among the early Muslims, women participated in public life, especially in times of emergencies. It is reported in the Qur'an and in history that women not only expressed their opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet (p) himself as well as with other Muslim leaders. They were not shut behind iron bars or considered worthless.

    The Economic Aspect

    Islam grants women equal rights to contract, to enterprise, to earn and possess independently. A woman's life, her property and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is no less or more than of a man's in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in her position would get.5

    Islam has given women a share of inheritance. Before Islam, women were not only deprived of that share, but were themselves considered as property to be inherited by men. Out of that transferable property Islam made an heir, acknowledging the inherent individuality of women. Whether the woman is a wife or mother, a sister or daughter, she receives a certain share of the deceased kin's property, a share that depends on her degree of relationship to the deceased and the number of heirs. This share is hers, and no one can take it away or disinherit her. Even if the deceased wishes to deprive her by making a will to other relations or in favor of any other cause, the Law will not allow him to do so.

    Women are exempt from all financial liabilities. As a wife, a woman is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to complete provision and total maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister she is entitled to security and provision by the father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is quite free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded.


    It is thus clear that the status of women in Islam is very high. Islam has granted them rights that match beautifully with their duties. What Islam has established for women is that which suits their nature, gives them full security and protects them against disgraceful circumstances and uncertain channels of life.

    There does exist a gap between the rights of women outlined in the Qur'an, and the prevalent reality in the Muslim world. However, images of Muslim women as ignorant, oppressed and submissive are stereotypical and do no justice to the large number of Muslim women whose firm conviction in the Islamic concepts of family cohesiveness and happiness, and their own individuality, ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.

    1 (p) here stands for “peace be upon him”
    2 Reported by Bukhari
    3 Reported by Ahmad, Basa'i and Al-Baihaqi
    4 Reported by Ahmad
    5 Al-Qur'an, 2:178; 4:45, 92-93

  • 10

    As a Muslim student in the United States, with parents born and raised in a Muslim country, I would like to say that a few comments here are not entirely accurate. One of them, made my saintlysecret is entirely preposterous. Comments like this is the reason Islam is so misunderstood.

    I looked up some of the versus in a Quran (which can be easily done by googling "Quran" or going to (some of the versus seem to be off by one)) and, though some of the "paraphrases" may have been misinterpretations, the majority were outright lies.

    The comment later by peacebeonyou appears to provide correct translations of the versus exploited by saintlysecret. Please read this post in order the gain a better understanding of Islam.

    • 10.1


      Prove these paraphrased verses are "outright lies" by providing accurate quotes of those same verses and comparing them to what I've provided.

      Simple denial is worth nothing.

    • 10.2

      First off, let me say I am in no way an expert on the Quran.

      Saintlysecret, you asked me to provide accurate quotations for the versus you have provided. I mentioned in my last post that peacebeonyou's post, Gender Equity in Islam, has the correct translations of many of your "paraphrases".

      I will mention a verse which he does not. Verse 4:20, which you paraphrased as "instructions for exchanging wives" says (verse 4:21 in the Quran I am quoting from): "And if you desire to take one wife in place of another and you have given one of them a treasure, take not aught therefrom. Will you take it by false accusation and manifest sinfulness?" This is not "exchanging wives", it is talking about divorce. Surely you can agree this happens in many nations, developed and developing. If not directly divorcing, men will commit adultery, which is one of the 10 deadly sins. Women, on the other hand, tend to stay more faithful in all religions and races.

      Furthermore, the next verse says "And how can you take it when you have consorted with the other, and they (the women) have taken from you a strong covenant?" (4:22). Under the commentary (, it says "Women are not slaves of the whims or caprices of men. Both are bound by a sacred contract and men owe their wives obligations which they must respect because, as regards to their social rights, both are on much the same level. Men are warned here not to treat lightheartedly the covenant-the tie of marraige-they have made with their wives." This supports the idea the Quran promotes equality between men and women. Am I wrong?

    • 10.3

      This supports the idea the Quran promotes equality between men and women. Am I wrong?

      Najee, najee, najee.
      I have heard Imams speak of "equality" meaning, women have their roles, and men have theirs, which is nonsensical.
      Now if the Quran promotes equal rights and responsibilities for men and women, then we might have to conclude that the horrific abuses we witness are cultural or social, not religious.
      Well, of course, no Holy Book can be used as an excuse for abuse, but these Holy Books surely have been used as such by weak minds.
      So perhaps it is just coincidental that the burkas and chadors we see, even in New York, walk several steps behind their spouses, much less that these imprisoned women are subjected to unfair treatment in countries hostage to muslim laws.

  • 11

    Saintlysecret is right. Nour may see a distinction between "truth" and facts, but we can see that the Qur'an, by recognizing slavery (cohabiting with female slaves is officially sanctioned by sura 4.3) and diminishing a woman's testimony in court to half that of a man's (sura 2.282), is not the proper soap box for making stands on behalf of women's rights. It reflects the social realities of the Abbasid Caliphate, and is not at all compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Few Muslims seem to understand the significance of the Qur'an's verse because they recite it from rote without contemplation. Your AP History textbook is actually quite charitable to the 8-9th century theopolitical treatise you believe is the divine word of God (even in spite of its errors, such as claiming that Moses was Jesus' uncle, Alexander the Great lived in Abraham's era, etc.). How fortunate for you and your prospects in life as a woman that Detroit is not yet Yemen, or another country where secular governance has succumbed to shari'a law. Since you are not a stereotype, put your faith to the test, by actually reading the Qur'an, and allow it to run the gauntlet presented by Ibn Warraq's "Why I Am Not a Muslim," just as many Christians and Jews have challenged themselves in the past few centuries to maintain a modern religious identity.

    • 11.1

      Wise and scholarly words Aufder! What a shame that we all tend to seek only evidence to support our biases, and generally are not open to opposing views.

  • 12

    Part of the difficulty with understanding the Qur'an's pronouncements lies in the Islamic doctrine of abrogation: "Whatever verses we cancel or cause you to forget, we bring a better or its like." In other words, the Qur'an allows verses written earlier to be replaced by ones written later. A Muslim apologist can thus claim that the Qur'an welcomes alcoholic drinks via sura 16.67, "And among fruits you have the palm and the vine, from which you get wine and healthful nutriment: in this, truly, are signs for those who reflect," even though drinking wine is expressly forbidden by sura 2.219. This is a useful method for making the Qur'an seem more compatible with 21st century concepts of human rights and the sanctity of life, when in fact the verses that apologists tend to cite in defense of the Qur'an are often defunct, and not applied in shari'a law. The Qur'an thus requires that Muslims accept the mystery of why an all-knowing God would create verses allowing one thing in Muhammad's Meccan period, then create verses prohibiting the same thing in his Medinan period. Commentators like al-Suyuti estimate that at least two hundred verses contradict other parts of the Qur'an. Since this flip-flopping is confusing to Muslims and outsiders alike, Nour is encouraged to study the sunni shari'a tenets of Islamic Jurisprudence set by Al-Azhar University to understand which 'divinely inspired' verses have been selected by Islam's hereditary caste of clerics for her to follow. For the rest of us, we have to take the word of Islamic apologists with a grain of salt, as even Muslims scholars like al-Suyuti concede that some 2% of the Qur'an is, legally speaking, falsehood.

  • 13

    Nour may also be "shocked" to discover that Shi'a Islam permits prostitution. The shi'a mutah certificate creates a legal fiction of an extremely short-term marriage, and is the reason why most prostitutes in Pakistan are shi'a women. This is the same strain of legal fiction used in "Islamic finance," where a Muslim pretends that the de facto interest he receives on a loan is a "gift." Thank goodness that in the US, I can point out this hypocrisy without losing my life.

  • 14

    As an American Muslim "convert," I actually think Islam is practiced better in the United States than elsewhere. But maybe if I had grown up in another country, I would think my country was the place where things were right, and the U.S. was where things are backwards. There is no way for anyone to say that any one nation or group of people practices Islam in a "right" or "wrong" way, unless they have knowledge of what the Qur'an and the sunnah state.

    Some of the commenters react to Ms. Nour Soubani by telling her that her personal knowledge of her faith group is wrong, and proceed to insult her religion and to tell her that since they oppress women somewhere else, she's all wrong. I suspect that her knowledge of her religion, as it is practiced in the United States and around the world, is greater than the commenters' knowledge of Islam and its practice.

    The Qur'an says: to you your religion, and to me my religion. It also says to discuss religion with other people in the best way possible, which means politely.

    I have seen the Bible misquoted out of context to prove that Christianity is a hate-filled religion, just as a commenter did for the Qur'an. Proselytizing atheists are pushing their religion by misquoting holy books, every bit as much as Christian televangelists bend the truth as they spew hatred. The meaning of holy books, such as the Bible and the Qur'an, is not assimilated by a casual reading, much less by selective quotes, but by study and life of years in a faith community. People live their faith, be it Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or atheist. The best people of every faith are honest, decent, kind people, who are kind to people from all backgrounds, without prejudice or discrimination.

    There are people of every nationality and religion who see the speck in their brother's eye, but ignore the plank of wood in their own eye.

    May we live in peace with our fellow human beings. God created us all, and we will all return to him. He will tell us what the truth is, that we differed about. In the meantime, the Qur'an tells us to compete in doing good deeds, such as being kind to each other, rather than in making other people and faith communities angry by insulting them.

  • 15

    First, I would like to congratulate Nour for the great article, and for being so positive and proactive in her approach. Not only she decided to discuss the topic with her teacher and classmates to clarify the misconceptions and stereotypes presented to them by the textbook, she also wrote this article to convey her message to a bigger circle of people.
    As for the comments, it is really interesting to notice how difficult it is to let go of our stereotypes. It's not surprising giving the fact that the topic is really sensitive, “Muslim women”. From a psychological perspective, people tend to see what they want to see, or what we call the self-fulfilling prophecy, and it's much easier to cling to our schemas than to examine them and correct them.
    As a Muslim woman who grew up in the Middle East, I would have to say that I never felt oppressed or limited because of my gender. And since I moved to the US in my early twenties, attended college pursuing my Master degree, I know how difficult it's to challenge the stereotypes that are associated with being a (Muslim woman).
    I really advice the readers to read the post of Dr. Jamal Badawi's article about gender equity in Islam, because it really helps the readers to understand the true Islamic perspective of women.

  • 16

    Thank you so much, loubnaalk, for your observations. The perceptions of people inside a particular community are infinitely more valuable than the perceptions of people on the outside.

    And let me be clear, I say that as a person on the outside. I am not a Muslim, but I have been lucky enough to have several neighbors and one close friend who are.

    I am disappointed, but not surprised, by many of the anti-Muslim comments above. As for myself, I struggle to challenge any form of intolerance I find, both in my own perceptions and in the world around me. To that end, I reject discrimination toward women, and discrimination toward Muslims. And the Muslim people in my life have confirmed for me that this does not require any compromises in my ethics.

    I feel certain that the intolerant viewpoints above reflect a lack of exposure to the Muslim community in America.

    • 16.1

      Great to reject intolerence and discrimination Joe. Would love to project into a future when your muslim neighbors and friend became the community leaders (as in Sudan); until then, I think you're safe. Well, I guess same could be said for Scientologists or Mormons, except these groups are more likely to just leave you alone if you reject them.

  • 17

    Umm... women aren't to satisfy men's sexual desires? Good luck keeping a husband. Women aren't to bear children? Good luck perpetuating the species. Women aren't considered sexually seductive? Someone should tell advertisers. :)

  • 18

    All the discussion to PUT DOWN muslims and Islam by defamation and disinformation are peripheral to the central operation of theirs in which FBI incompetence is CENTRAL and must be our focus.

    Anyone who wants to learn more about the INCOMPETENCE of these FBI - INCOMPETENT at the TAX PAYER KOSHER money - should look at three sources :

    1/ Dubai police videos - of MUDEROUS and DEVIOUS MOSSAD operatives in Dubai

    2/ Iranian Riggi videos - Catching the AMERICAN FINANCED TERRORIST of JUNDULLAH

    3/ Very HONORABLE Dr Webster TARPLEY - interviews to RUSSIA TV

    I summarize them beloe:

    The FBI bustards are now very DESPERATE and reaching out to the bottom of barrel of their PATSY POOL to ENTRAP innocent people. The Fat PER-DIEM FBI bustards never investigated 911, ANTHRAX or BUILDING-7 properly. Two planes hit and 3 buildings fell in demolition manner. If one building was wired for demolition, all of them were wired for demolition. The ODIOUS FBI bustards - are incompetent as compared to the DUBAI POLICE which put the MOSSAD MURDERERs immediately on the internet. Or the IRANIAN brave nation which put their terrorist RIGGI on the internet next day WITHOUT any TORTURE. These bustards atrociously TORTURED an innocent mother of an infant, Dr Aafiya Siddiqui. They murdered an AFRICAN AMERICAN saint on false charges by sending an attack dog on him.

    The ODIOUS FBI FAT bustard did a drama in the court that poor little DR MS Afiya tried to kill that FAT BUSTARD with an M-16 rifle.

    American courts are now KANGAROO COURTS.

    The ZIONIST BANKSTERS, Roman Polankys, and Bernard Madoffs are destroying it like they did to the extremely spiritual GERMANY of Kaiser.

    • 18.1

      We come here to reason not to randomly cast aspersions on “Kosher” Jewish people. If you get a flat tire, will you blame this on the Zionists? Seriously sir, this kind of reflexive striking out makes little of all of us; and it has nothing to do with the Almighty

  • 19

    All muslim women, esp those of pakistan and turkey should watch these videos of IRAN

  • 20

    The world does NOT have to be the way you see it. There are other ways of living. The moslems have their way of life, the christians have their way, etc. So, nobody cares that you are confused, shocked or angered; as the Democrats say to America, sit down, shut up and be happy, we say to you, sit down, shut up and be happy. Vote Democrat, (now THAT should get you confused, shocked and angered).

    • 20.1

      Yes gennier, we should vote Democratic to counter those of the "Tea Party" conspiracy, who seek to impose their warped world views on the rest of us, not unlike the muslim extremists. A bit naive though to think these types will ever "live and let live."

  • 21

    This is a poorly written article. How does quoting Qur'an equate to stereotyping?! The textbook could be lying if it were quoting what is not there, but as far as I know, those words are indeed in Qur'an. It is possible that the quotes are taken out of context, and if so, Ms. Soubani needed to effectively address the issue and provide alternative explanations to her readers. Even just writing more about what exactly she had presented in her class would have helped the article. However, as it is written, someone angry at the textbook quoting Qur'an is all there is. And I'd say that it is great that at least such abominable verses are brought to light and be subjected to discussion somewhere in the world -- although unfortunate that it can't happen exactly where it needs to happen.

    And I do agree with some people that Ms. Soubani wouldn't have been able to express her opinions as she did in front of her class if she were in other Muslim countries. If anything, she should be outraged by that reality and consider how she could contribute to bring gender equality, human rights, and respect for women in general in those countries that share her heritage and culture.

    • 21.1

      >> How does quoting Qur'an equate to stereotyping?! The textbook could be lying if it were quoting what is not there, but as far as I know, those words are indeed in Qur'an.

      Please tell us where those words are in the Qur'an, if they are in the Qur'an.

  • 22

    Narrated Abe said Al-khodary: the prophet went to the mosque, he passed by some women and said:" O women, give charity, as I see you the most abundant among dwellers of hell, as you curse a lot and abandon the lover, I haven't seen deficient in mind and religion and destructive to the mind of the wise man more than you, they asked: why we are deficient in mind and religion, he said: isn't your testimony is half of that of a man? They replied yes, he said that's why you are deficient in mind, they asked and why we are deficient in religion? He said isn't if any one of you has her menses, she couldn't pray of fast? They said, yes, he said that's why you are deficient in religion "(1)

    Al-Askalany said: when they complained of being deficient, he answered them gently without any blame or rebuking, but he spoke to them in a way they could understand (2)

    The pessimism in woman:

    Narrated Ibn Omer: they mentioned the pessimism in front of the prophet, he said: if there is pessimism in something, it will be in the horse and house and women (3)

    Al-Askalany said in his exegesis " Fath Al-Bary ": it was mentioned in Sahih Al-Bokhary that the prophet said: I didn't leave after me, turbulence more harmful for men than women

    The Family of Imran chapter (Surat Aal-'Imran) 14:"Beautified for men is the love of things they covet as women"

    Women nullify the prayer

    When people asked Aeisha about things that nullify the prayer, she said: the prophet said: the dog, donkey and woman nullify the prayer (4)

    Then Aeisha commented saying: you made us similar to dogs and donkeys

    Al-Askalany said in another converse it was mentioned that the black dog is the one nullifying the prayer, and when the companions asked the prophet, why specially the black dog, he replied: as the black dog is a devil

    When man sees a woman, what he will do?

    Narrated Jabber that the prophet saw a woman, then he left them and rushed into his house seeking his wife zainab, she was busy at house, and he slept with her to satisfy his desire

    The prophet came out to them saying, the woman comes as devil and leaves as devil, so if anyone of you sees a woman, he has to go to his wife to satisfy his desire (5)

    Al-Nawawy said about that: what was meant here is the lust and sexual desire, as woman is like a devil in provocation of lust and inciting man to fall into sin

    All of these converses telling about the evilness of woman, we are wondering didn't Muhammad meet with any good woman in his life?

    Al-Tabry said: the woman resembles a goat because of her calmness and weakness, she can be resembled by a cow or camel, as all of those things man can ride!!! (6)

    - In Woman chapter (Surah An-Nisa') 34": Men are dominators over women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other… As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them first, then refuse to share their beds, and beat them"

    - In Woman chapter (Surah An-Nisa') 3": Then marry women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one or "ma-malakat aymanokom"any woman that your right hands possess"

    - Concerning the husband's obligations towards his wife, Hakim Ibn Mou'weya said: a man asked the prophet: what are the husband's obligations towards his wife? He replied:" to feed her when he eats, to cloth her when he gets clothes, and not to slap her on face (in face only it is forbidden, but not in other parts), and not to abandon her except in home" (7)

    The pleasure marriage (temporary marriage)

    - Abdullah narrated: we were with the prophet (during one of the incursions), we asked him shall we refrain from women here, he said: No, and he allowed us to wedlock women for a period of time by giving them just cloths

    - Abdullah then recited the quran verse:" The Table (Surat Al-Ma'idah') 87." O you who believe! Make not unlawful the Taiyibât (all that is good) which Allah has made lawful to you" (8)

    - Jabber Ibn Abdullah said:" an announcer came to us saying the messenger of God allowed you to enjoy women "(9)

    - Omran Ibn Faisel said:" the verse of enjoyment came in the book of God , so we did have enjoyment with the messenger of God ,and no other verse came to us to ban it or forbid us from enjoyment (10)

    - Jabber Ibn Abdullah mentioned that they had that women enjoyment during the time of the prophet, Abe-Baker and Omer (11)

    - Narrated Abe- Hurairah: "the prophet said if a man asked his wife to bed and she refused, and he slept upset of her, the angels will curse her till morning" (12)

    - Al-Askalany said in his exegesis "Fath Al-Bary ": God didn't leave any thing of man's needs unsatisfied; he assigned some one to satisfy that need, so he assigned the angels to curse the woman who refused to satisfy the lusts of the man

    Could man return back his wife after divorce?

    If he divorced her once or twice, he can get her back, but if he divorced her for the third time , she needs first to marry another man called the Mohalel" facilitator" before she can return back to her husband

    Narrated Aeisha: a woman came to the prophet, peace upon him, she said: O messenger of God , my husband divorced me, I married another man, he had relation with me, but he couldn't get anything with me( the man was incompetent) , can I go back to my first husband? The messenger of God, peace upon him said to her:" you are not lawful to your first husband, unless the other one taste your "Othilatek" (your sweetness) and you taste his "Othilatoh " (his sweetness) , Abe–baker was there at that time waiting to get in , and said : shame on that women ,wouldn't she finish that saying , so the audients were embarrassed to hear such repugnant words, as that saying shouldn't be said by anyone , so how a prophet of God is saying that (13)

    Had the prophet any special privileges as regards women?

    In the Confederates chapter (Surat Al-Ahzab) 50:" a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her; a privilege for you only, not for the rest of the believers"

    Ibn Kathir mentioned that the women who gave themselves to the prophet were so many

    Aeisha was jealous of that and said: I was jealous of those women giving themselves to the prophet, and saying wouldn't a woman be ashamed to give herself to the prophet? And she told him: I can see that your God is rushing to satisfy your desires

    Narrated Anas Ibn malek: while he and his daughter were sitting with the prophet a woman came to the prophet telling him do you need me? , then his daughter said: what unchaste woman is this? How could she offer herself to the prophet? , her father said to her: she is better than you, as she offered herself to the prophet, while you didn't "(14)

    Among those women offered themselves to the prophet was Khowla Bent Hakim, that women was the prophet's aunt (sister of his mother) how could she offer herself to him while she was his aunt??(15)

    (1) Sahih Al-Bokhary, the menses book, converse number 304

    (2) Al-Askalany said in his exegesis "Fath Al-Bary" for the exegesis of Sahih Al-Bokhary. Part 1, page 432

    (3) Sahih Al-Bokhary, the wedlock book, converse number 5094

    (4) Sahih Al-Bokhary, the prayer book, converse number 504

    (5) Sahih Al-Bokhary, the wedlock book, converse number 1403

    (6) Al-Quortoby exegesis for the Saad chapter(Surat Saad) 23

    (7) Sonan Ibn Majah, the wedlock book, converse number 2456

    (8) Mosnad Ahmed, converse number 4195

    (9) Sahih Muslim, the wedlock book, converse number 3479,
    And Sahih Al-Bokhary, converse number 5173

    (10) Sahih Al-Bokhary, converse number 4599

    11 Sahih Muslim, converse number 3481

    12 Sahih Al-Bokhary, converse number 3237

    13 Sahih Al-Bokhary, converse number, 5792

    14 Sahih Al-Bokhary, converse number, 5175

    15 Mosnad Ahmed, converse number 26050

  • 23

    I am amused at people who portray Islam as a benign and peaceful religion in the comments section. Does that explain centuries of violence on the "kaffirs" of the world (Read:Jizya and Dhimmitude)? I read one comment which even suggested that the paraphrasing of Quran is a lie. In that case, is it just a Middle Eastern "culltural" practice to enslave and subjugate women? As the poster "saintlysecret" implies, we can all debate on the actual meaning of the Surahs, the fact remains, for the last millenia or so, the amount of evil perpetuated on non-believers. I know that the Bible has almost verbatim passages, yet ultimately Christian European and American renaissance in culture did give equal rights to men and women in our lifetime. There would be people who claim that the above may not be the case, and I would offer rebuttal on comparisons with women in Islamic societies.

    Coming back to the Nour Sourbhani article, it is naive to the point of laughable and attempting at false revisionist history. Just because your limited social circle of "American Islam" has become progressive does not imply a global change. Do you think your views would be appreciated by the rest of your brothers and sisters? I am still trying to see a negative stereotype as she claims, as her faith pretty much has dictated peoples' and history's course over the last millenia.

  • 24

    Great post.

    Re. the first commenter: It seems that you are extrapolating a few personal experiences in a specific country and culture to an opinion on an entire religion. Too often the negative aspects of the culture and society of many Arabic nations, particularly with respect to the treatment of women, are assumed to be consistent with the principles of Islam. This is patently not so. Perhaps taking another Muslim nation as an example will expand your perspective on Islam. Take Turkey, which has had a woman president, has more female professionals per capita than the US and had 18 female Members of Parliament in 1935 (earlier than many other nations even gave women the right to vote!)

  • 25

    I admire Nour for her courage, idealism and temerity. The views that she, her family and friends publicly state here are interesting but they are made in a safe and reasonably tolerant country with a small minority of Muslim followers. Had she lived in an Islamic or Sharia ruled country, she would not have dared take this position, let alone announce it publicly. She is very fortunate that she lives here where such opinions will not make her a target for physical, and even life threatening, retribution.

  • 26

    Don't try to fool the American public. Most of the people here have not lived very close to Muslims so they don't know the reality.

    As an Indian, I have lived very closely to Muslims. Islam has no respect for women or for that matter any life or any non-muslim.

    All that they believe is in how to make this world a worst place.

    In muslim nations there is no place for non-muslims.

    • 26.1

      Please don't judge Islam by clique of deprived Indian muslims whom you claim to be seen closely through your previllaged hindu eyes.

      Here what Quran says:

      Qur'an 103: 01-03

      1-By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Most surely man is in loss Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
      Quran Surah 5, verse 32

      2-On that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`il that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)

    • 26.2

      The thing I like most about Indian Hindus is they have no trouble with the incarnation of the Divine; but their claim that it is not a unique occurrence is troubling to some Christians.

      Indianhindu may be right to the extent that even "secular" muslims live in fear, quite in contrast to followers of other religions who live in joy, peace, love, and hope.

    • 26.3

      Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).

      Is this what VEDAS teach about women sir?

      "Almighty God, you have created this womb. Women may be born somewhere else but sons should be born from this womb" - Atharva Ved 6/11/3

      "O Husband protect the son to be born. Do not make him a women" - Atharva Ved 2/3/23

      In 'Shatpath Puran (shatpath Brahman)' a sonless women has been termed as unfortunate.

      'Rig Veda' censures women by saying:
      "Lord Indra himself has said that women has very little intelligence. She cannot be taught" - Rig Ved 8/33/17

      "There cannot be any friendship with a women. Her heart is more cruel than heyna" - Rig Ved 10/95/15.

      'Yajur Ved (Taitriya Sanhita)'m- "Women code says that the women are without energy. They should not get a share in property. Even to the wicked they speak in feeble manner" - Yajur Ved 6/5/8/2

      Shatpath Puran, preachings of the 'Yajur Veda' clubs women, 'shudras'(untouchables), doga, crows together and says falsehood, sin and gloom remain integrated in them. (14/1/1/31)

      In 'Aiterey Puran', preaching of the 'Rig Veda' in harsih chandra -Narad dialogue, Narad says: "The daughter causes pain"
      Any one who believe in this would not make world a better place either.

      It is The Indian Constitution that guarantees equal rights to both the sexes and does not discriminate on the basis of caste, color and creed, not Hinduism.

    • 26.4

      Jaihindi compares the holy books concerning characterizations of women's roles. The larger issue perhaps is how are these negative views reflected today in the attitudes and practices of adherents to one religion or the other. Many Christian women accept obedience to husband and silence in the church, yet still sing in the choir. Compare this subservience with that of the Hindu or Muslim women of today, in traditional communities and in the cities, East and West.

  • 27

    It is interesting how many people read the Holy Book (Insert yours here) and find interpretations that are completely contradictory. It appears that you can find or justify any random opinion or act. As a result, all these interpretations are interesting but meaningless. What is meaningful is what the local, national and international leadership says it says. And by that measure, Noor would still be in very serious trouble in the vast majority of the Islamic world. She is very fortunate to be living, and only doing her interpreting, here.

    • 27.1

      Right about Noor Jaguar, so pray for her wellbeing.

      And I pray that you find inspiration in the Holy Book of your choice too, discerning whatever wisdom may be found there, rejecting the literal distortions.

  • 28

    In countries under Sharia law, a woman that is found to have committed adultry, whether it is true or not, receives the penalty of being stoned to death. The video, The Stoning Of Soraya M. shows this in detail, when a cleric and her husband conspire to charge her with adultry and have her stoned to death so he can marry a 14 year old child. This was a documented true story. Muslim countries reflect the true Muslim belief, because there are no laws of freedom or boundaries to prevent the free exercise of Sharia law, When ever muslims become a majority, Sharia law is sure to follow. Women are treated like cheap private property or even about the same as livestock by the men of the muslim faith, when given the freedom to do so by muslim based governments. It is a primitive, cruel, brainless religion that follows the teachings of a man that took a nine year old child as one of his brides. The women living in America that promote or protect the muslim religion do so from a safe harbor in a country that is free enough to give even an evil religion such as Islam an open door. In my oipinion we should not allow a single true muslim to immigrate to the USA. It is akin to allowing rattlesnakes into your bed.

    • 28.1

      A bit exteme Montani.
      Suffice it to say that a "liberated" muslim woman and her Western suitor should not presume to be exempt from the deadly wrath of fundamentalists.

  • 29

    Texts like the Quaran and the Bible are broad enough to spawn many religions. The mistake many make is assuming that because they can find some instance of an idea in a religious text they can discern the "true" nature of that religion. For example, finding a passage in the Bible that hints at the subservience of women, then using that passage to declare the true intent of Judaism or Christianity. Unfortunately, religion isn't that simple.

    Religion is based as much on current philosophy and interpretation as original text. The word "Christianity" in our modern era really refers to a number of groups that base their beliefs on radically different segments of the bible while excluding other portions. The net effects is that these groups aren't just reinterpreting, they are using fundamentally different basic texts, making them in a very real sense different religions. This has led to two major branches of the religion, both of whom consider themselves "Christian." "Liberal" denominations use almost exclusively new testament writings, while "conservative" denominations preach a strongly old testament message. These are the groups that matter, because these are the groups that wield real power in our world.

    Islam enjoys divides similar to those in Christianity, and in all fairness Islam is progressing in much the same way Christianity did. But currently, Islam is almost totally dominated by conservative elements (to varying degrees). There has yet to be a strong push by "liberal" elements in the religion, represented by this young girl in the article. Thus, when a source of information talks about Islam, it is correct to reference the views of the conservative element, as that is the portion of the religion currently holding power.

    It doesn't help that the area of the world considered the home of Islam adheres to cultural norms that are far less tolerant than those in the west. Though no society enjoys a monopoly on discrimination, the Middle East (and North Africa) are particularly culturally hostile to women and non-Muslims. Part of the reason it is so difficult to interact with that portion of the world is this fundamental cultural difference, as Secretary of State Clinton is discovering.

  • 30

    A lot of you commenters are showing your ignorance. "Muslim" is not the same thing as "Middle Eastern" or "Arab", but you're entirely targeting the gender inequality in the *Arab* world.

    Indonesia has the third largest Muslim population in the world, and post-Suharto has blossomed into probably the most functional democracy in SE Asia right now. In SE Asia there are significant Muslim populations, existing in cultures where women's economic participation has long been a normal and valued part of everyday life. Google "Women's Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap". They look at metrics around economic and political empowerment as well as health. Bangledesh (39) and Malaysia (40), with large Muslim populations, manage to do better than Thailand (44), which is mostly Buddhist. Indonesia ranks 46, well ahead of Pakistan, Jordan or Egypt. Only 58 are listed -- no reliable data from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc. (and lack of data is rarely good news).

    You can throw Quran and Bible verses at each other till you're blue in the face. The Buddha had some pretty choice sexist quotes as well. Guess what? EVERY organized religion has some sexism embedded into it, but not every practitioner of those religions lives by that sexism. You can see it in the geographic differences in Islamic practice -- Indonesia's and Malaysia's gender equality rankings are closer to those of other SE Asian nations than to other majority-Muslim states in the Middle East. Gosh, could there *possibly* be some non-Islamic cultural factors at play here?

    To view Islam as fundamentally more misogynistic than any other religion pulls the rug out from under activists who want to improve the situation of women in predominantly Muslim regions. The religion itself is not going away, folks. Instead, it can be / has been reimagined as relatively female-friendly, just like every other religion in the world. Nour Soubani is one of many within Islam pushing in that direction. To claim that she's not a "real" Muslim because she's also American is horses**t, akin to claiming that an American cannot be a "real" Christian because they don't live in the Holy Roman Empire.

  • 31

    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan - a country where 96% of the population are muslims, whose constitution officially enshrines Islam as the state religion - elected a woman to the presidency, way back in 1988. Then again, in 1993.

    Twenty years later, Americans still haven't elected a woman to the presidency. We haven't even nominated a woman to run for the presidency, yet.

    Anyone claiming Islam is misogynistic, might want to reflect on that little simple fact.

    • 31.1

      Pakistan twice elected a woman president. In Pakistan alone, how many women were stoned to death for adultery or burned themselves up to escape a forced marriage with a cruel man and inlaws? How many women have been blown up by members of the Islamic religion while they were innocently shopping? Here is a 2007 news report from the country of Pakistan which you claim to be pro-woman:

      " A Pakistani minister and woman's activist was shot dead Tuesday by an Islamic extremist for refusing to wear the veil.

      Zilla Huma Usman, the minister for social welfare in Punjab province and an ally of President Pervez Musharraf, was killed as she was about to deliver a speech to dozens of party activists, by a “fanatic”, who believed that she was dressed inappropriately and that women should not be involved in politics, officials said.

      Usman, 35, was wearing the shalwar kameez worn by many professional women in Pakistan, but did not cover her head."
      This woman was killed because she didn't wear a scarf!!!! So much for the gentle muslim religion.

    • 31.2

      We see daily women with faces covered, walking behind their husbands, and lady friends who insist on keeping our friendships secret, all this on the streets of NYC, and you bring up the elections in Pakistan as evidence of respect for women???

  • 32

    Whatever their devotion to Islam, the Muslim women studying in the USA that I have known were not sexually inhibited, as long as the relation was kept private. However, non-Muslim suitors should be warned, when it comes to an open relation or proposal of marriage, life gets complicated and dangerous. And the thought of a big welcome in the home country is an illusion, anticipation of which resulted in the termination of engagement. Muslim men studying abroad, in contrast, could carry on their affairs with pride.

  • 33

    Girls and women in the USA who join the Islamic religion with some romantic notion of it being just exotic are betraying their freedom and their safety. I feel so sorry when I see a girl that is that foolish. You never see a Baptist, a Catholic, or a Jewish woman that has to fear for her safety when she merely speaks to a man unaccompanied by a male relative. Nor do you hear of any other religion that has the death penalty given over some simple cartoons. The fanatical ignorance shown by the leaders of the Islamic religion is reason alone for the people in this world to reject such a depraved primitive belief.

  • 34

    All these negative views of Islam are probably upsetting to some. But this exchange is possibly the only way to help the Muslim faith. Until moderate Muslims have the courage to become enraged at what their leaders are doing to their faith, nothing will change.

  • 35

    "Kudos" to Ms Soubani for starting a positive change in her small world. "Kudos" to her teacher who is clearly raising critical thinking learners and brilliant leaders such as Ms Soubani. Kudos to this great high school for embracing such brilliance. Those people are the ones who are going to make this world a better place.

    and yes it is possible that by changing how we learn, we can learn how to change?

  • 36


    Upon reading your comment, I was deeply offended. Although I am not a woman, I can sympathize with my female counterparts.
    "Young girl if you want to survive in the west, it seems you should either take off that hijab, flirt, and make sure you show some skin or find a rich man to take care of you. Stop reading all these advanced books they just wrinkle your skin with stress."
    How dare you say such a thing? This statement is truly characteristic of an ignorant oaf. You obviously need to open your eyes to the world around you. I personally know many Muslim women who are very successful in a wide spectrum of professional careers. And I can assure you that this success was not achieved by showing one's skin, flirting, etc.
    To all the women out there, disregard all the aforementioned ignorant comments. If you are a hardworking individual, you will acheive success. Guaranteed!

    • 36.1

      Hi quraishi29,

      Thank you for calling me an oaf. I don't think it is standard Muslim practice to personally call people names.

      I was just being sarcastic. I hope no one else takes that advice seriously.

      I am sure a determined woman might make it. It is just that the current environment does not give a woman the same chance as the man. Being a woman and a Muslim with all the negative package that is associated with Islam just makes it a lot more difficult.

      I still think that a Muslim woman should get an excellent education even if she decides to stay home to take care of her kids. If an opportunity is presented where a Muslim woman is hired for good PR or as a token to show diversity in the work force than that is fine.

    • 36.2

      Well Yemenreform, let us say you engaged in a bit of hyperbole, not sarcasm, and the "oaf" is not the best term to describe your indiscretion. I have done the same, and regret it now.
      The comments do reflect some experiences that reveal your negative perspective, as do those of quraishi. Perhaps the real prospects for any minority lie somewhere in between.
      This statement, among others, reveals rather negative views:
      "If an opportunity is presented where a Muslim woman is hired for good PR or as a token to show diversity in the work force than that is fine."
      This takes credit away from all those who have earned their professional status fairly. it is too commonly used to explain the achievement of minority groups.
      Yes, the prejudice is there, but take a look at the achievements of Indian and Asian women in the West.

      You are correct, for example, if a person does not show their face in an interview, it is unlikely they will be considered for employment.

      I am sorry for anything that I have written that offends anyone.

  • 37

    FYI Aufder, Mutah according to all Sunni scholars and a number of Shia scholars themselves is considered forbidden. Nothing in the Quran or anything the Prophet said justifies this. The bottom line is it's adultery and everyone who practices Mutah and kids themselves into thinking it's ok is wrong. Adultery is forbidden. Way to try to shoot down an article that proves an excellent point with invalid facts.

  • 38

    Asmaala; for verse 4:24 which stated, (Except the forbidden women) the rest are lawful unto you to seek them with gifts from your property (i.e., dowry), provided that you desire protection (from sin), not fornication. So for whatever you have had of pleasure (Istamta'tum) with them by the contract, give unto them their appointed wages as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what you both agree (in extending the contract) after fulfilling the (first) duty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise. (Quran 4:24),

    it is essential to go back and read the Sunni commentaries which agree that it is permissible not forbidden as you said

    such as# Tafsir al-Kabir, by al-Tha'labi, under commentary of verse 4:24 of Quran;

    # Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Razi, v3, p200, commentary of verse 4:24;

    # Tafsir al-Kabir, by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, under commentary of verse 4:24 with authentic chain of narrators, v8, p178, Tradition #9042;

    # Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthoor, by al-Suyuti, v2, p140, from several chain of transmitters;

    # Tafsir al-Qurtubi, v5, p130, under commentary of verse 4:24 of Quran;

    # Tafsir Ibn Hayyan, v3, p218, under commentary of verse 4:24 of Quran; to mention a few;

    Read the tafasir;

    For the comment regarding Islam is practiced better in the west; we should note that Muslims in the west practice the Quran of Mecca (Ayaat Meccia)

    In Mecca, where Mohammed started his new religion in the year 610 A.D, he was not
    yet strong. To be accepted by all people, he presented a peaceful and loving picture of
    Islam, avoiding any mention of violence for example;

    1. Mohammed was told to be patient with his opponents in Surah Al Muzzammil
    (73:10) ‘And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble
    2. Mohammed was told not to impose Islam by force in Surah Al baqarah (2: 256)
    ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion'
    3. Mohammed was told to speak pleasantly to ‘people of the Book' (Christians and
    Jews) in Surah Al Ankabut (29:45) ‘And dispute ye not with the people of the
    Book, except with means better (than mere disputation) … but say: we believe in
    the Revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you; Our
    God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)'

    After Mohammed moved to Medina in the year 622 AD and his followers grew in
    strength and number, he became a relentless warrior, intent on spreading his religion
    by the sword, and this is the message that now lives on.

    1. He claimed that God told him to kill his opponents in Surah Al baqarah (2:191)
    ‘And slay them wherever ye catch them …'

    2. He claimed that God told him to kill whoever rejects Islam in Surah Al Baqara
    (2:193) ‘And fight them on until there is no tumult or oppression, and there
    prevail justice and faith in Alla …'
    Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali, comments on this verse saying, “Islam will not
    acquiesce in wrong doing, and its men will hold their lives cheap in defence of
    honour,and the religion which they hold sacred. They believe in courage,
    obedience… and a constant striving by all means in their power… They will not
    flinch from war if their houner,demands it and a righteous Imam commands it”
    (The Meaning of the Holy Quran P77).

    3. He claimed that God told him to fight the ‘people of the Book' (Christians &
    Jews) in Surah Al Tawba (2:29) ‘Fight those who believe not in Alla and the Last
    Day … nor acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam) from among the People of
    the Book until they pay the Jizyah (tax) with willing submission, and feel
    Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali, comments on this verse saying, “A straight fight in the
    cause of right; go forth bravely to strive and struggle, and prove yourselves
    worthy of Alla”
    (The Meaning of the Holy Quran P.446).

    4- (Surah Al Tawbah 9: 12) “… Fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith [infidel] …”
    * Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali, comments on this verse saying,”The catalogue of
    their sins being set out, it is cleare that they were aggressors in the worst
    possible ways; and war became inevitable”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran

    5- (Surah Al Tawbah 9: 14) “Fight them and Alla will punish them by your hands,
    cover them with shame, help you to victory over them, Heal the breasts of

    6- Sura 47-35 "So be not weak and ask not for peace (from the enemies of Islam), while you are having the upper hand. Allah is with you, and will never decrease the reward of your good deeds.

    That is the difference between Islam of the west and the east

  • 39

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