I have noticed a fair number of people – some Muslims and Progressives – trying to argue that Islam is a feminist religion. These attempts seem to be recent views on Islam and the Quran aimed at trying to make Islamic doctrines appear to match modern western liberal moral ideals to those who are almost completely unfamiliar with Islamic texts or who are willfully gullible for ideological reasons.
In this article I will provide clear evidence from the Quran that demonstrates how Islamic ideology directly conflicts with Feminist ideals.
In this article:
By Islam, I mean the doctrines espoused in the Quran, as this is really the origin of Islam in that it was dictated by Muhammad, who created the concept of “Islam” to begin with, for the purpose of being the doctrine’s guiding text.
By Feminism, I mean respect, freedom, and equal rights for women, and accepting that women are as intelligent as men. There are many other views common in feminist movements that extend beyond that definition, but those are not within the range of ideas I am speaking about in this article.
“O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.”
This sends the message that human value is not all equivalent. The moral value of a slave is less than that of a free person and a woman’s value is also distinguished from that of a man’s.
Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
According to the doctrines of the Quran, men have an edge or advantage over women’s rights. I see no way that such a statement could be interpreted as true equality. And I certainly cannot imagine that if such a statement were made by a secular source, that the people who defend Islamic ideology would excuse that secular statement and insist that it promotes equality between genders.
If the borrower is deficient of mind or infirm, or unable to explain, let the guardian explain judiciously; and have two of your men to act as witnesses; but if two men are not available, then a man and two women you approve, so that in case one of them is confused the other may prompt her.
This verse expresses the bizarre idea that one man is essentially equal to two women intellectually, and assumes that women are so commonly dumb that two female witnesses are required in place of one man in case one of the women cannot understand the situation. This would be a fine precaution if it were applied to men as well, since obviously men can be stupid or become confused just like anyone else. But since the precaution is mandated only in the case of women, and it only speaks of the potential for a woman to be confused, the verse is in fact sexist.
A hadith verse related to this can be found in Sahih Bukari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, “Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?” The women said, “Yes.” He said, “This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.”
That could not be further from a feminist view.
Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children’s (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half.
Quite plainly, the Quran dictates that male children should receive double the inheritance of female children, and even if a person has only one child and she happens to be a female, then she is to receive only half the inheritance anyway. This rule is quite as plain as sexism can be, as it is the severity of the injustice is literally expressed in a fraction.
Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.
It is at least good that this verse implies that you should “do justice” to your wives, But this verse allows men to marry up to four wives, but it does not say anything about a woman being permitted multiple husbands. That is not equality.
My understanding from researching this verse’s purpose and historical context is that multiple wives were allowed due to so many men being killed in war resulting in a shortage of potential husbands. But this does not change the point about equality. If the Quran were a book that consistently espoused equality then it would have simply said that men and women could have as many spouses as they desired based upon the current needs and preferences of individuals regardless of gender. But instead, the Quran just makes the strict rule, limiting the right the men only.
Experience suggests to me that in response to what I said here, someone may then claim that the Quran did not mention it being the other way around since Muhammad lived at a time when women were largely unable to support themselves, so it would never be the case that multiple men wanted to simultaneously be married to the same woman. But the Quran’s author (or authors) did not think to include language that would account for the notion that women should – and in the future, would – be able to work as equals and support themselves. If they were indeed espousing a feminist doctrine under the definition I am using in this article, then the verse would not grant this right only to men and ignore the possibility of female equality.
(Also note the reference to slaves and forced marriage in this verse)
And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.
And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls.
Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allah has forbidden). And those who pay the Zakat. And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts) Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame;
Verily! The torment of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure, And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts from illegal sexual acts). Except with their wives and the (women slaves and captives) whom their right hands possess, for (then) they are not to be blamed, But whosoever seeks beyond that, then it is those who are trespassers.
(Note: Verses 4:3 and 24:31 also contain references to slaves. They are not included in this section because they are already referenced in this article in other sections)
These verses all speak of keeping slaves. The very concept of slavery is inherently contrary to feminism (the ideas of certain radicals like Julie Bindel excluded), but these verses even go beyond that to condoning sex and forced marriage with slave girls – which is to say, rape.
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah 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 Allah 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, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
*Also translated as “rebellion”,”rebellious”, “disloyalty and ill-conduct”, “Admonish women who disobey (God’s laws)”.
The Quran declares that men are “in charge” of women, that good women are “obedient”, and that a husband is justified in hitting his wife if she disobeys – all ideas severely opposed to the notion of equality and freedom for women.
Those who accuse chaste, honorable women (of illicit sexual relations) but do not produce four male witnesses (who will witness that they personally saw the act being committed): flog them with eighty stripes, and do not accept from them any testimony ever after. They are indeed transgressors.
While it is good that the Quran provides some measure against false accusations against women (or at least those deemed “chaste” and “honorable”), it is truly strange that the verse specifically requires that an accuser present male witnesses. But why does the gender of the witnesses matter? There is no reason given, other than that it seems implied that women are untrustworthy or unreliable, such as was also implied by verse 2:228.
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.
This tells women how they should dress and who they should allow to see what parts of their bodies, and also conveys that her conformity to these standards determines whether she can be considered to be guarding her “modesty”.
This notion of contrary to women’s freedom and ability to be respected for harmless personal choices, and these rules are beyond the rules of modesty required for men which makes it an unequal double standard as well.
(Also note again the reference to slaves, as discussed earlier in this article)
…And with them maidens of modest look and large lustrous eyes…
…maidens with averted glances, undeflowered by man or by jinn before them…
…good and comely maidens…
…And maidens incomparable. We have formed them in a distinctive fashion, and made them virginal…
…And graceful maidens of the same age…
These verses all explain that God will provide women to Muslims in Paradise. This promise is implied to only apply to straight men since homosexuality is condemned in the Quran. And there is no equivalent promise to Muslim women.
55:70 also promises that the maidens will be ‘comely’, thus conveying that their value to the man is derived from her appearance. There is no mention of mental characteristics such as wit or personality.
Furthermore, verses 55:56 and 56:36 promise that the women awaiting in Paradise will be virgins, thus promoting the notion that virginity makes a woman “pure” and more valuable. This glorification of female virginity is heavily criticized by feminists observing it in Christian beliefs.
While beyond the scope initially laid out under the Definitions section of this article, many self-identified feminists and activists have long considered the feminist movement to also encompass the struggle for gay rights. And if we share this view of feminism as well, then we find even more verses in the Quran which blatantly oppose feminist moral beliefs, because these verses clearly and harshly condemn homosexual acts as immoral and forbidden:
And We sent Lot, who said to his people: “Why do you commit this lecherous act which none in the world has committed before? In preference to women you satisfy your lust with men. Indeed you are a people who are guilty of excess.”
I ask no recompense of you for this. My reward is due from none but the
Lord of all the worlds.
Why do you go for males unlike all other creatures
Leaving the consorts your Lord has made for you? But you are a people
who exceed the bounds.”
They said: “If you do not desist, O Lot, you will be expelled (from the
(Lot) said: “I am disgusted with your actions,”
(And prayed:) “O Lord, save me and my family from what they do.”
So We saved him and his whole family
Except one old woman who remained behind.
Then We destroyed the rest of them,
And rained on them a shower (of Stones). How terrible was the rain (that
fell) on those who had been warned!
Verily in this was a sign, but most of them do not believe.
(Remember) Lot, when he said to his people: “Why do you indulge in obscenities when you know (it is evil)? 55. You lust after men in place of women. You are indeed a stolid people.”
And (remember) Lot when he said to his people: “You indulge in lecherous acts which none of the creatures had done before you. You commit unnatural acts with men and cut off the way (of procreation), and commit obscenities in your gatherings.” The only answer his people made was: “Bring the punishment of God, if you are truthful.”