Women and the Koran
An Androcentric Universe
A Prophet and a Prude
A Western reader of the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad is struck by the male-centric universe that Allah and His Messenger expound and praise, and the low esteem in which both hold females, especially God's Messenger.
The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)…
Aisha said [to Muhammad]: "You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses."
Sahih Muslim 4:1039
Treat women well, for they are like domestic animals (awan) with you and do not possess anything for themselves.
Tabari vol.9 p.113
Narrated abu Said al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, "Isn’t the witness of a woman equal half that of a man?"
The women said, "Yes."
He said: "This is because of the deficiency of the woman’s mind."
Considering that the Prophet was officially married to fourteen women, kept a number of concubines for company and an unknown number of slave-girls, his extraordinary prudishness is surprising, to say the least.
Prudish men are known to be both attracted and repelled by the sex act, a trait often shared with misogynous males. For both stereotypes, a woman is both an object of desire and of contempt. The kind of contempt clearly evident in the following hadiths where God's Messenger fixes the distance, if there is no physical barrier, that women, Jews, dogs, pigs and donkeys must maintain from a praying Muslim male.
Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas, saying: "I think the Apostle of Allah said: 'When one of you prays without a sutrah (a barrier), a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone's throw.'”
Abu Dawud 2.704
Could this prudish middle-aged man’s struggle between contempt and desire for the dozens of mostly young females he secluded within his household be responsible for the double standard in Islamic law and the disdain for females evident in many of Allah's revelations concerning the fair sex.
Did contempt win out, which is why believing women are in a class by themselves, the lowest class.
Allah does not engage in sex. If sex is beneath Him (no pun intended) the Prophet’s prudishness may also have something to do with protecting his God from being exposed to the sex act or the end-result of sexual activity, even of the unintentional kind i.e. nocturnal emissions (no quotation marks were in the original translation and I have chosen not to add any).
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about a person who found moisture (on his body or clothes) but did not remember the sexual dream.
He replied: He should take a bath.
He was asked about a person who remembered that he had a sexual dream but did not find moisture.
He replied: Bath is not necessary for him.
Umm Salamah then asked: Is washing necessary for a woman if she sees that (in her dream)?
He replied: Yes. Woman are counterpart of men.
Abu Dawud 2.704
And then, there is his demand that the entrance to houses not face the mosque because the mosque is not lawful “for a menstruating woman and for a person who is sexually defiled”.
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) came and saw that the doors of the houses of his Companions were facing the mosque.
He said: Turn the direction of the houses from the mosque.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then entered (the houses or the mosque), and the people did [not] take any step in this regard hoping that some concession might be revealed.
He the Prophet) again came upon them and said: Turn the direction of these (doors) from the mosque I do not make the mosque lawful for a menstruating woman and for a person who is sexually defiled.
Abu Dawud, Book #1, Hadith #0236
The Cult of Masculinity
Misogyny (hatred of or hostility towards women) is perhaps too strong a term, yet a prejudicial view of women is perhaps not strong enough when describing Allah’s attitude towards women, an attitude largely shared by His Messenger.
The vehemence that Allah demonstrates towards females may just be an extreme manifestation of the cult of masculinity. The ultimate expression of this male adoration cult was everywhere evident in pagan Arabia where sons were cherished and daughters barely tolerated until a male heir was produced.
The whole Arab patronymic naming nomenclature (a part of a personal name is based on the name of one's father) rests on a father being able to trace his ancestry through his father’s name (it is expressly forbidden to use a mother or daughter’s name to trace your lineage). That is why today, as it was then, Arab names often contain the conjunctions ibn/ben meaning son of, or Abu meaning father of.
Allah’s extreme reaction to being associated with females may also have had something to do with His Messenger not fathering any sons that survived beyond infancy. For this failure, the Prophet was often taunted and ridiculed by his enemies who would openly wonder why God had not favoured His greatest Messenger with sons.
Both the Prophet and his Benefactor may have seen this inability to father healthy sons as just another of women’s many failings and both may not have wished to associate themselves too closely with so obviously flawed creatures.
In the surah Abundance Allah makes an indirect reference to His Messenger’s son who died in infancy.
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
108:1 We have surely given you abundance;
108: 2 So pray to your Lord and offer in sacrifice.
108:3 Indeed, your chief hater is the real childless (the reference is to Al-‘Aas Ibn Wa’il who chided Muhammad upon the death of his son).