04.10.2013 :: On Women in Islam ::
The following is a one-page quote in translation from the sharia chapter of the German book "Understanding Islam. A Practical Handbook" (2013). A third of the book is so far translated into English. This is the closing thought of a longer discussion of women's rights in Islam, it might attract a liberal publisher:
Maybe There Are No Women Anymore
Considering what the concept of "woman" had been during the first millenium of our calendar, and comparing it to what it is today, one could come to the conclusion that this category "woman", which is used in Quran and Sunna, no longer exists. When we look at verse 4:34, for example:
„Men are in charge of women by [right of] what God has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what God would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, God is ever Exalted and Grand.“
Or here: „And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe.“ (2:221)
In the society of Arabia during the 7th century it was common practise for fathers to order their daughters to marry. The previous Quranic verse says that it is principally in order to marry daughters to men. And yet, verses that restrict personal liberties of individuals cannot legally be practised anymore. Otherwise we could just as well re-introduce slavery.
As a matter of fact, slavery and slaves seemed to have been the most natural thing in Islam. The prophet himself had slaves, people who were in his possession. Granted, the overall situation of slaves had improved with the arrival of the sharia, and some were ransomed by Muslims. Many caliphs were sons of female slaves. Only that slavery today is no longer legal, not in Islam, either. The category "slave“ does not exist anymore.
Similarly, girls are not given into wedlock anymore, and especially not at the age of Aisha, when Muhammad married her. She is said to have been six or nine years old. Some customs do change in the course of time.
Does the Quran support this view? Does it say that things change? The Quran does not say it, but it clearly shows it. Its themes and styles alter, and some verses were later replaced by others, or supplemented. This is how the Quran lives the notion of change and development of temporary situations and assessments as a basic principle.
By the way, the most poetic Quranic verse about men and women is this, addressing the men:
„They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.“ (2:187)
Back to "Islam verstehen" index page