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Women and the Koran

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Marriage

Allah turned women into a commodity that could be bartered and bargained for, befitting a god that selected a merchant as His Messenger. He also encouraged the accumulation of wealth in the pursuit of that commodity, making women beholden to men who invested in their acquisition and provided for their basic necessities of life.

Women As Fields to Be Ploughed

How were women expected to repay the generous men who put food on their table, a roof over their heads and protected them from other men? Sex comes to mind. Beholden women will not necessarily consider sex an appropriate repayment for room and board. Anyone who has ever paid a restaurant bill expecting sex to follow will understand this, but for Allah, such an ungrateful attitude was unacceptable. Not only that, but if a man decided to take what he felt was his due, what he thought he had bought and paid for, he could be punished for rape under pre-Islamic laws and traditions. To perhaps avoid accusations of rape if a wife declined her husband’s request for intimacy, Muhammad announced a revelation from God informing him that women had no right to refuse sex.

2:223 Your women are a tillage for you. So get to your tillage whenever you like. Do good for yourselves, fear Allah and know that you shall meet Him. And give good news to the believers[8].

It was good for you but was it good for her? Women as a field to be ploughed?! What if the field is busy making dinner?

Ali reported God's messenger as saying, "When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven."

Tirmidhi

What if the field doesn’t want to be ploughed? What if the field has a headache? For the answer to this question we must return to an already quoted verse, paying particular attention to when a wife is deserving of a beating.

4:34 … And those of them that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them. Should they obey you, do not seek a way of harming them; for Allah is Sublime and Great!

Islamic scholars and learned clerics have long struggled with how much of a beating wives should be forced to endure, and whether the Koran allows for the use of implements in the beating of one’s beloved. According to Muhammad, the beating should avoid the face, and yes, implements are allowed but should not be bigger than a toothbrush. (The Prophet was said to be brushing his teeth when he answered this question.) The toothbrush in question was probably some kind of reed, therefore a small whip would probably be allowed, but don't flog the one you intend to have sex with in the way you would a slave or a camel.

Narrated Abdullah bin Zam'a:

The Prophet said, "None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day."

Bukhari 62.132

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Zam'a:

The Prophet forbade laughing at a person who passes wind, and said, "How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?"

Bukhari 73.68

If a beating doesn’t get a wife to change her mind and consent to sexual intercourse, God’s angels will curse her “till morning.” Being cursed by not one, but a chorus of angels is no trivial matter. Allah will be displeased, with all that entails.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "If a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning."

Bukhari 62.121

The Koran grants a husband the right to beat his wife, but it is a saying of Muhammad’s that pretty much guarantees a wife-beater immunity from prosecution unless he beats her about the face.

Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife. Abu Dawud 11.2142 Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "If somebody fights (or beats somebody) then he should avoid the face."

Bukhari 46.734

A solid punch to the chest would probably not be out of the question based on the legal precedent that is the example of the Prophet (see appendix What Aisha Saw).

A Contractual Affair

The marriage contract formally recognizes a husband’s God-given right to rape his wives, for they cannot refuse his demand for intimacy. In a marriage contract, the bride guarantees unrestricted access to her "private parts." As Muhammad makes clear in the following hadith, there is no derogation from this written undertaking allowing a husband to have his way with a wife whenever and wherever he pleases.

Narrated Uqba:

The Prophet said: "The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women's) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract)."

Bukhari 62.81

The silence of those too young to understand what is being asked of them is assumed to be their consent.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission."

The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! How can we know her permission?"

He said, "Her silence (indicates her permission)."

Bukhari 62.67

Aisha, who was nine when Muhammad had his way with her, knew from experience that this was a specious justification, and said so to her husband who simply repeated his claim.

Narrated Aisha:

I said, "O Allah's Apostle! A virgin feels shy."

He said, "Her consent is (expressed by) her silence."

Bukhari 62.68

Believers do not usually marry for love[9]. Like any property, men acquire wives and, during the Prophet’s time and the subsequent wars to expand God's Dominion, sex-slaves, what Allah refers to as “what your right hand possess.” Marriage is usually contracted between members of the same clan, meaning most newlyweds are relatives, offspring of the same father a few generations removed[10].

Marriage is usually an arranged affair and, not unlike arranged marriages of the Middle and Dark Ages, the primary consideration is what benefits in wealth and influence will accrue to the contracting parties, i.e., the families of the bride and groom.

If a man is unhappy with any of his matrimonial choices, getting out of a marriage agreement under Islamic law is probably easier than any other type of contractual arrangement. This is because a marriage contract, unlike other contractual arrangements, is a one-sided affair that can be terminated at the discretion of the male signatory. The soon-to-be-divorced wife cannot object to the unilateral breaking of the marriage contract by her husband.

Women of the Faith

For reasons unknown, you should not marry a woman who was previously married to your father.

4:22 And do not marry women that your fathers had married, unless it has already happened. Surely it is indecent and hateful, and is an evil course!

In Revelation 4:23, Allah enumerates the types of relatives a man may not marry, a list that includes “the wives of your sons” and “two sisters together.”

4:23 Unlawful to you are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your paternal and maternal aunts, your brother’s daughters and sister’s daughters, your foster-mothers who gave you suck, your foster-sisters, your wives’ mothers, your step-daughters who are in your custody, born to your wives whom you have lain with. But if you have not lain with them then, then you are not at fault. [It is also not lawful to marry] the wives of your sons who are of your loins, or to take in two sisters together, unless this has already happened. Allah is truly All-Forgiving and Merciful!

In addition to encouraging men to use their wealth to purchase wives not on God’s prohibited list, Verse 4:24 makes it legal to marry the wives of another man if they have been taken as captives.

4:24 Or married women except those your right hands possess (slave-girls). This is Allah’s decree for you. Beyond these it is lawful for you to seek, by means of your wealth, any women to marry and not to debauch. Those of them you have enjoyed, you should give them their dowry as a matter of obligation; but you are not liable to reproach for whatever you mutually agree upon, apart from the obligatory payment (the dowry). Allah is indeed All-Knowing, Wise.

In a saying of the Prophet, Revelation 4:24 was sent to reduce the resistance of believers to raping their married female captives, i.e., “those your right hands possess,” in front of their husbands.

The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (4:24) "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess."

Abu Dawud 2.2150

Women of the Book and Slave-Girls

Muslim women are not allowed to marry outside the faith but Muslim men are permitted so long as they marry Women of the Book: Jews, Christians and members of a religious sect called Sabians[11].

5:5 This day the good things have been made lawful to you; the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them; and so are the believing women who are chaste, and the chaste women of those who were given the Book before you, provided you give them their dowries and take them in marriage, not in fornication or as mistresses. If any one denies the faith, his work shall be of no avail to him, and in the Hereafter he will rank with the losers.

As you can appreciate, this last revelation greatly expanded the available stock of virgins that a believing man could choose from. If this still was not enough to satisfy your sexual appetite, or you could not afford a believing woman, you could always take wives from among your believing slave-girls.

4:25 Whoever of you cannot afford to marry a free, believing woman, let him choose from whatever your right hands possess (captives of war or slave-girls) of believing girls. Allah knows best your faith; you come one from the other. So marry them with their parents’ leave and give them their dowry honourably, as chaste women, neither committing adultery nor taking lovers…

The pain a former slave-girl can expect, should she cheat on her husband with another man, must take into account her previous status as a man’s right hand possession.

4:25 … If they are legally married and commit adultery, their punishment shall be half that of a free women. Such is the law for those of you who fear committing sin; but to abstain is better for you. Allah is All-Forgiving and Merciful!

Why all the rules about the women and girls a man can marry? It’s a question of lust and God’s Mercy.

4:26 Allah wants to explain to you [His laws] and to guide you along the paths of those who preceded you, and to be Merciful to you. Allah is All-Knowing, and Wise!

4:27 Allah also wants to be Merciful to you, but those who follow their lust want you to deviate greatly from the right course.

Some must have found Revelation 4:27 amusing coming from a man with a penchant for girls and young women, with fourteen official wives—one of whom was previously married to his adopted son Zayd but he just had to have after seeing her almost naked—and an undisclosed number of concubines and slaves-girls.

Widows

Widows must wait four months and ten days before seeking a replacement for a deceased spouse. During this time they must not be seen in the company of men and must refrain from anything that might attract the attention of eligible suitors.

2:234 As for those of you who die leaving wives behind, their wives should observe a waiting period (during this period they should stay away from men) of four months and ten days. When they have completed that period you incur no offence on account of what they may do to themselves (such as adorning themselves or looking out for suitors) in a lawful manner. Allah has knowledge of what you do.

A man may, however, communicate to a widow, during this waiting period, his interest in making her his wife.

2:235 You incur no offence by disclosing your marriage proposals to women or by concealing them; Allah knows that you will remember them. And do not arrange anything secretly with them unless you speak what is recognized as true; and do not resolve on contracting the marriage until the prescribed period (the waiting period) ends. And know that Allah knows what you have in mind, and that Allah is Forgiving, Clement.

Can a man obtain a widow as an inheritance?

4:19 O believers, it is not lawful for you to inherit the women [of deceased kinsmen] against their will; nor restrain them in order to take away part of what you had given them, unless they commit flagrant adultery. Associate with them kindly; and if you feel aversion towards them, it may well be that you will be averse to something, from which Allah brings out a lot of good.

What about trading one wife for another? Yes, but don’t ask for your money back.

4:20 If you wish to have one wife in the place of another and you have given either of them a heap of gold, do not take any of it back. Would you take it by recourse to injustice and manifest sin?

4:21 For how can you take it back, when you have been intimate one with the other, and they had taken from you a solemn pledge?

Daughters-in-Law

Daughters-in-law whom your “adopted son” has divorced are eligible to an adoptive father. The precedent was set by none other than God’s Messenger. Muhammad walked in on his daughter-in-law Zaynab when she was almost naked and he just had to have her. His adopted son divorced her so that the man he considered his father could marry her. A revelation concerning the righteousness of the whole thing was followed by others affirming that the Prophet was in no way at fault.

33:37 And [remember] when you said to him whom Allah favoured and you favoured: (this is addressed to Zayd regarding his wife Zaynab) “Hold on to your wife and fear Allah”, while you concealed within yourself what Allah would reveal and feared other men, whereas Allah had a better right to be feared by you. Then, when Zayd had satisfied his desire for her, We gave her to you in marriage; so that the believers should not be at fault, regarding the wives of their adopted sons, once they have satisfied their desire for them. For Allah’s Command must be accomplished.

33:38 The Prophet was not at fault regarding what Allah prescribed for him as was His Way with those who were gone before. And Allah’s Command is a pre-ordained decree.

33:39 Those who were delivering Allah’s Message and feared Him, fearing none other than Allah. Allah suffices as a Reckoner.

Orphaned boys were almost unknown in the Arab world until Allah changed their status so that His Messenger could marry his adopted son's wife. Marrying your son’s former wife was taboo. It did not matter if he was adopted; the same ethical and moral restrictions applied as to a natural born son. Before God changed the status of adopted sons from sons to “brothers in religion,” Revelation 33:5, Arab fathers made no distinction between adopted sons and those they had fathered.

33:4 Allah did not create two hearts within the breast of any man; and He did not make your wives, whom you compare to your mothers’ backs; and He did not make your [adopted] sons your sons in fact. That is your own claim, by your words of mouth. Allah speaks the truth and He guides to the Right Path.

33:5 Assign them to their own fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah; but if you do not know their real fathers, then they are your brothers in religion, your adopted fellow Muslims. You are not at fault if you err therein; but only in what your hearts intend. Allah is ever All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.

Demoting adopted sons to “brothers in religion” made their wives, upon divorce, eligible to be taken in marriage by their adoptive father. The revelation changing the relationship between adopted sons and their surrogate parent—so that Muhammad could add to his collection of wives, concubines and slave-girls his former daughter-in-law—have been interpreted to mean that Islam is against Western style adoption, resulting in an untold number of children in the Islamic world who have no one to call father.

Orphaned Girls

In Islam, if a problem, real or imagined, involves a female and has nothing to do with sex outside marriage, then marriage is most often the solution. Marriage is also Allah’s recommended course of action in dealing with female orphans. The male guardian of female orphans could, at his discretion, “marry such of the women as appeal to” him once they reach the age of nine (the age at which females can legally be married off under Islamic law, i.e., the Sharia). By doing so, he maintains effective control of whatever property the female orphan might possess, to use and dispose of at his discretion.

4:2 Render unto the orphans their property and do not exchange worthless things for good ones, and do not devour their property together with your property. That indeed is a great sin!

4:3 If you fear that you cannot deal justly with the orphans, then marry such of the women as appeal to you, two, three or four; but if you fear that you cannot be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own (captives of war or slave-girls). That is more likely to enable you to avoid unfairness.

Spinsters and Prostitutes

God, in the following revelations, makes his views on spinsterhood, pre-marital sex, the emancipation of slaves, and abstinence crystal clear. He is less forthcoming as to whether a man forcing a slave-girl into prostitution, or one who profits from his slaves prostituting themselves, will face any sanctions.

24:32 Encourage the unmarried among you and the righteous among your servants and maids to marry. If they are poor, Allah will enrich them from His Bounty. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.

24:33 Let those who do not find the means to marry be abstinent, till Allah enriches them from his Bounty. Those whom your right hands own and who wish to pay for their emancipation, conclude a contract with them, if you know that there is some good in them, and give them of Allah’s wealth which He gave you. Do not force your slave-girls into prostitution, if they wish to be chaste, in order to seek the fleeting goods of this life. Whoever forces them, surely Allah, after their being forced, is Forgiving, Merciful.

24:34 And We have sent down to you signs making everything clear, and an example of those who have gone before you, and an exhortation to the God-fearing.

While prostitution per se is forbidden, the Prophet did allow for temporary marriages so that men at war with no female captives to rape could still have sex. Sunnis consider temporary marriages haram[12] while Shiites have made it part of their legal code and accessible to just about everyone[13]. Two hadiths on the subject of temporary marriages:

Narrated Abdullah: We used to participate in the holy wars carried on by the Prophet and we had no women (wives) with us. So we said (to the Prophet). "Shall we castrate ourselves?"

But the Prophet forbade us to do that and thenceforth he allowed us to marry a woman (temporarily) by giving her even a garment, and then he recited: "O you who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you." (Qur'an 5:87)

Bukhari 60.139

Sabra Juhanni reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) permitted temporary marriage for us. So I and another person went out and saw a woman of Bana 'Amir, who was like a young long-necked she-camel.

We presented ourselves to her (for contracting temporary marriage), whereupon she said: What dower would you give me?

I said: My cloak.

And my companion also said: My cloak. And the cloak of-my companion was superior to my cloak, but I was younger than he. So when she looked at the cloak of my companion she liked it, and when she cast a glance at me I looked more attractive to her.

She then said: Well, you and your cloak are sufficient for me.

I remained with her for three nights, and then Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He who has any such woman with whom he had contracted temporary marriage, he should let her off.

Sahih Muslim 8.3252

The Suckling Imperative

According to Ya'qubi, an Arab historian and geographer, Muhammad once said that his first wet nurse was the nastiest of women and that she would burn for all eternity in the fires of Hell. To quench her thirst she would only have the small amount of milk she allowed him to suckle in the days following his birth. The Prophet also reported having a vision of Hell where women who had not suckled their children had snakes biting at their breast.

The revelations on how long a mother or wet-nurse must suckle a child, and what the parents must do if they choose to shorten the weaning period decreed by Allah, may have had something to do with God’s awareness that His Messenger had not been adequately breastfed as a baby.

2:233 Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years; [that is] for those who wish to complete the suckling. Those to whom the children are born (the fathers) shall maintain and clothe them kindly. No soul is charged beyond its capacity. No mother should suffer on account of her child and he to whom a child is born should not suffer on account of his child. The same [duties (the maintenance and clothing of divorced women)] devolve upon the [father’s] heir (if the heir is a child and has a guardian the latter would be charged with those duties). But they commit no offence if by mutual agreement and following consultation they choose to wean the child. You also commit no offence if you engage wet-nurses, provided that you give them what you promised to give kindly. Fear Allah and know that Allah has knowledge of what you do.

If the decreed suckling period is 24 months then Allah, in the following verse where He reveals a gestation and weaning period totaling 30 months, has underestimated the gestation period of the human fetus by three months (30 - 24 = 6 months in the womb).

46:15 We have commanded man to be kind to his parents; his mother bore him painfully and delivered him painfully, his gestation and weaning totalling thirty months. When he is fully grown and turns forty, he will say: “Lord, inspire me to be thankful for the favour, with which You have favoured me and favoured my parents; and to do a righteous deed, well-pleasing to You. Grant me righteousness in my progeny; I have truly repented to You and one of those who submit.”

The Prophet ruled that a woman who suckled an adult male who was not a close relation rendered marriage to him not only impossible but undesirable; he became the equivalent of a close relation and therefore could spend time with her alone without temptation.

The Ulema'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hadhaifa, lived with him and his family in their house.

She (i. e. the daughter of Suhail) came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and said: Salim has attained (puberty) as men attain, and he understands what they understand, and he enters our house freely, I, however, perceive that something (rankles) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa, whereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to her: Suckle him and you would become unlawful for him, and (the rankling) which Abu Hudhaifa feels in his heart will disappear.

She returned and said: So I suckled him, and what (was there) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa disappeared.

Sahih Muslim 8.3425

The Coitus Imperative

8:68 But for a prior ordinance of Allah, you would have been afflicted on account of what you have taken (an ordinance which made it lawful for Muslims to take spoils and captives) by a terrible punishment.

Booty, which includes wives and daughters of the unbelievers killed or enslaved—a reward that Allah rendered legal for believers and believers only—played a significant role in attracting men to Islam. In making war on the unbelievers, God reminded the believers not to let ‘the booty’ distract them from their immediate goal: shedding the blood of the enemy.

8:67 It is not up to any Prophet to take captives except after too much blood is shed (after the enemy is hard hit and subdued) in the land. You desire the fleeting goods of this world, but Allah desires the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, and Wise.

It was a given that sex was permitted with female captives. However, until Muhammad ruled on the matter, some holy warriors were unsure about whether coitus interruptus was halal.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: that while he was sitting with Allah's Apostle he said, "O Allah's Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?"

The Prophet said, "Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence."

Bukhari 34.432

Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah be pleased with him): O Abu Sa'id, did you hear Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-'azl?

He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi'l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them.

So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception).

But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?

So we asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

Imam Muslim 8:3371

Polygamy – For or Against?

In Verse 4:3, Allah grants men the right to marry up to four wives if he can treat them all equally.

4:3 If you fear that you cannot deal justly with the orphans, then marry such of the women as appeal to you, two, three or four; but if you fear that you cannot be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own (captives of war or slave-girls). This is more likely to enable you to avoid unfairness.

In a later verse, God states that it is impossible for a man who has more than one wife to treat them equally.

4:129 You will never be able to treat wives equally, even if you are bent on doing that. So do not turn away altogether [from any of them] leaving her, like one in suspense; and if you do justice [to her] and guard against evil. He (Allah) is surely All-Forgiving, Merciful.

Muhammad Abduh, (1849-1905), “Egyptian jurist, religious scholar and liberal reformer, regarded as the founder of Islamic Modernism” (Wiki), argued that these two verses taken together mean the Koran is against polygamy. The Prophet would not allow his son-in-law Ali to take another wife after Fatima. This also suggest that polygamy is not a hard and fast rule in Islam.

Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama:

I heard Allah's Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, "Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don't give permission, and will not give permission unless Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me."

Bukhari 62.157


[8] A companion of the Prophet said that what Allah meant was that a woman must submit to whatever sexual position demanded by her husband to avoid having a child with a birth defect.

Narrated Jabir:

Jews used to say: "If one has sexual intercourse with his wife from the back, then she will deliver a squint-eyed child." So this Verse was revealed: "Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will" (2.223).

Bukhari 60.51

[9] Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers."

Bukhari 62.27

[10] The knowledge of the risk of reduced mental acuity and increased physical abnormalities due to inbreeding has not stopped marriages between close relations in traditional Muslim societies. “In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent according to the Saudi government. Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia has produced several genetic disorders, Saudi public health officials said…” (New York Times, Saudi Arabia Awakes to the Perils of Inbreeding, May 1, 2003)

[11] “The Sabians were a Middle Eastern monotheistic religious group who worshipped in the names of stellar angels. Most of what is known of them comes from the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides [1135:1204] and classical Arabic sources.” (Wiki)

[12] Nonetheless, you will find the largest brothel in the world in a Sunni country. It’s an entire village, that of Daulatdia in Bangladesh, one of twenty government sanctioned brothels (2019).

[13]The greatest number of temporary marriages are performed in Shia Iran, held in unofficial brothels where you will find an imam who is prepared, for a price, to proffer a temporary marriage certificate. The payment for sex is deemed to be her dowry, so believers can avoid going to hell for having sex with a woman outside of actual marriage.