When I share my testimony about how I was a cultural Muslim for 35 years before Christ found me, I am inevitably asked about women in Islam. I knew no different than what many say on the internet. I was taught from an early age that Mohammad did indeed exalt women, that “paradise is found beneath a mother’s feet,” and that his wives held prominent roles in his life. I was told that he saved women from the brutal Arabian culture that demeaned women and that I should be so thankful that I was born a Muslim woman.
When you Google the topic of Women in the Koran (also called Quran), you will get all kinds of different results. Many are justifications from Muslim scholars that tell you that Islam is indeed means peace (no, it means “to submit to the will of Allah”), that the verses in the Quran have been hijacked by the media to explain different things and I also found several articles that said something along the lines of “…if you only would read the Quran, you would know the truth about how much Prophet Mohammad exalted women.”
It never occurred to me to question any of this. I happily accepted these statements, I am inevitably asked about women in Islam. I knew no different than what many say on the internet. I was taught from an early age that Mohammad did indeed exalt women, that “paradise is found beneath a mother’s feet” as fact and often repeated them to others who dared to think that I was oppressed. I laughed at them! What utter nonsense! I never wore a hijab or a burqa, never saw my mom do that either. Now, granted, we spent most of our lives traveling from country to country and lived in Pakistan. Pakistan is lenient on women covering their faces. In big cities, no women I knew ever wore the veil.
As a Muslim who moved to the US, I held on to these opinions that now became facts in my mind. I never read the Quran, never thought to look up the statements to test their validity… until I became a Christian. When I accepted Christ, I truly felt like the scales fell off my eyes. The Bible says in Romans 3:10-12 ” As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” I was not seeking God. I was perfectly comfortable in my own opinions. The thirst for truth and knowledge drove me to check the validity of claims made in my previous life. What I found deeply disturbed me…
Most cultural Muslims know that they ought to read the Quran. Every Muslim’s home will have a copy of the Quran (I was given one when I got married). It is to be placed on the highest shelf in the home and is to be regarded with great care. Many Muslims (especially women) are ignorant of the fact that there is another book that Muslims use to understand the revelations given to Mohammad in the Quran. When Mohammad was given his revelations (or recitations = Quran = to recite), they were jotted down on random things – a piece of animal bone or skin, leaves, parchment (if they were lucky enough to have some on hand). They were later compiled as the Quran.
The other book is also a collection and is called the Hadith. The Hadith contains the traditions that Muslims use around the world. The best known is Sahih-Al-Bukhari, but there are two others in use as well. The Hadith was not mentioned in our home, nor did we have a copy of it. Women are pretty much kept ignorant of the fact that it exists as it is used primarily by men (although I have met Muslim men who don’t know anything about the Hadith either) and the Muslim leaders.
So… where to find the Hadith? That’s the beauty of technology today! You can easily get the Hadith online. So, I started with the chapter that gave me the most issues when I was a grown Muslim adult, who started reading the Quran after the events of 9/11… Surah Al/An-Nisa (“The Women”). The chapter has some disturbing things in it, such as you can beat your wife if she gets out of hand (Surah An-Nisa 4:34) as well as how many women you can marry (Surah An-Nisa 4:24-25). When I started to read the chapter, I thought I would get instructions on how to be a better Muslim woman. Instead, I found a “how to” manual written for men. The information got even worse and more explicit as I delved into the Hadith.
There is instruction in the Hadith that says how old a woman should be before you can consummate the marriage (tradition = 9 years old & menstruating, for this was the age of Aisha the favorite wife of Mohammad). In addition, there is explicit sexual direction for men who want to use slave women for their own pleasure.
It’s disgusting and it gets deeper the more you look.
For me, it’s difficult to not have hard feelings about the treatment of women and how Muslims want to portray the religion as wonderful, emancipating, etc. There are half-truths buried deep in there, such as Mohammad did allow women to own property (the Arabian rules did not allow for that before) but that decree never made it to the Quran. The Quran does speak (Surah 81:8-9) against the common practice of female infanticide (women would bury their girl babies in the sand so they didn’t have to provide for them). There are a few things that help to ease the pain, but the evidence from the Quran and the Hadith point towards women not having an equal voice, an equal footing, nor an equality in the sight of God. Here’s an excellent article titled “Top 10 rules in the Quran that Oppress Women.” Another site with some disturbing videos (warning!) is Free Thought Nation.
With all this bad news. I want to share the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel. The Bible starts out with Genesis and showing equality in the way God created both male and female in His image (Genesis 5:1-2)Genesis 5:1-2). Jesus addresses women throughout the Gospels. He spoke directly to the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4), healing the bleeding woman in the Gospel of Matthew and calling her “daughter” – not half of a man, not unclean, not worth her testimony, but “daughter.”
May we remember that God created us equal, that we were made in His divine image and that we are created to love one another as He has loved us. Amen.