Published in 2002 by BSM Press PO Box 43415 Tucson, AZ 85730-3415 U.S.A. Copyright ÂŠ 2002 by Lisa Spray Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, this book may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without written permission from the copyright owner. ISBN 0-9714813-3-4 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Cover photo by Gaia Creations
The Khalifa family has generously given permission to use extended quotations from Quran: The Final Testament, translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, copyrights 1989, 1992.
Cataloging-in-Publication Data Spray, Lisa. Women's rights : the Quran and Islam / Lisa Spray. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-9714813-3-4 (pbk.) 1. Muslim women. 2. Women's rights--Religious aspects--Islam. 3. Muslim women--Conduct of life. I. Title. HQ1170 .S675 2002 305.48'6971--dc21
This book is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, to those who strove to help them, to all who suffer terrorism, oppression and tyrany, and to the One who gets us through it all.
“…Conjecture is no substitute for the truth.” [The Quran 53:28] The religion of Islam today continues to be one of the most misunderstood religions in the West. But who is to blame, the Western media? Not particularly. Perhaps the major reason for this misunderstanding is the fact that for centuries this beautiful religion has been presented to the world by people, scholars and countries that do not actually follow the Islam taught in the Quran. Terrible acts of terrorism done in the name of religion are prime examples. The attacks with hijacked planes on New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 killing thousands of innocent people were deplorable. No God-fearing people can ever condone this kind of activity. As in many other attacks in the past, the terrorists are linked to groups that abuse the name of Islam to commit crimes that are abhorred and strongly condemned by God in the Quran, the Muslims’ holy book. The religion of Islam should not be confused with what these so-called Muslims have done. They actually, by the definition of the Quran, are not Muslims any more than members of the Ku Klux Klan are Christians. The religion of Islam condemns the killing or even the persecution of people merely because they embrace a different faith. The Quran mandates absolute freedom of religion in a society. It does not allow Muslims to fight except for self-defense and to enforce peace. It does not allow restrictions on those who disagree on religious matters. It urges Muslims to treat such people kindly and equitably. Unfortunately, terrorists are not the only ones that give Islam a bad name. It is a fact that there are numerous man-made rules which have crept into mainstream Islam that have nothing to do with the religion of Islam as laid out in the Quran. One of the major principles that has been corrupted over the years is
x | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam the equality of women in Islam. God tells us clearly in the Quran that we are equal in His eyes, whether we are male or female. Even though we each have obvious physical differences, the only difference that God considers is righteousness. Furthermore, the Quran is full of commands and laws to protect the rights of women, as well as the rights of the weak, such as orphans. That is why Ms. Lisa Spray’s work in this book is such an important undertaking. She brings forth all the issues confronting today’s women who follow or want to follow the religion of Islam. She gives examples from her experience and tells us how she dealt with each issue she confronted, one step at a time. Ms. Spray is particularly well qualified for this task as she has first hand knowledge of several faiths, including traditional Islam. Being a traditional Muslim was quite an experience for her, as it would be for any Western woman, until she came across Quranic Islam, by God’s leave, and found that what she had been taught as the religion of Islam was very different from what God revealed in the Quran. Besides her own experiences, she includes in her book many real life stories of friends who went through similar experiences on their own. They too saw the light at the end of the tunnel when they were introduced to Quranic Islam. Furthermore, she has brought into focus the importance of a good translation of the Quran. The Quran, the Final Testament to humanity, is not only beautiful, complete and fully detailed, but also comes with a divine mathematical proof which Ms. Spray discusses and then summarizes in an appendix of her book. I hope her book will be a stepping-stone and inspiration for readers to go and get a Quran, and read God’s guidance from cover to cover. Abdullah Arik Imam and Director, International Community of Submitters
Acknowledgements “It takes a village to raise a child.” African proverb
In many, many ways it has taken a community to write this book. I wish to acknowledge and thank all of those who have helped “raise this book.” First I wish to acknowledge and thank the contributors for their personal stories that add so much both in content and in heart to the book. In the order in which they appear I thank Shari, Irandokht, Patty, MeauVell, Jamileh, Lory, Evah, Ihsan Ramadan, Lydia Kelley, Lourdes, Parsa, Naima, Khaula and others who did not wish to be listed. Your stories inspire, and your editorial suggestions have been invaluable. Lydia also has additional heartfelt thanks for her proof reading and all her support. Others have added wonderful editorial input, and I thank them all: Rev. Raven Gaston, Beth Harris, Azar Khan, Margaret Sierras, Donna Udell, Carol Vinson, Sara Sexton, and many others. I especially thank my husband Ralph not only for his wonderful editing, but also for his tireless support and the beautiful photograph that is on the cover of this book. Finally, I wish to thank Abdullah Arik for his excellent Foreword, his editorial comments and all of his assistance. In truth, this book is as much or more yours than it is mine. May it be acceptable to God, to Whom all thanks and acknowledgement is due. Lisa Spray
Introduction On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America was attacked on its own soil. Thousands of innocent people were killed in a carefully planned series of airliner hijackings with the intent of using these planes full of passengers as bombs. This plan was successful in all but one of the hijackings and the planes were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was an audacious and terrifying scheme, carried out in the name of so-called Islam. However, the Quran, Islamâ€™s holy book, condemns aggression, except in self-defense, and killing, except the killing of those who have personally committed murder or truly horrendous crimes. Fortunately the general public has come to recognize that these acts of terrorism are not Islamic. And an interest in understanding what Islam really is has burgeoned. I had just finished writing a book on womenâ€™s rights in Islam for fellow Muslims and those especially interested in the faith. This is an expansion of that book for a wider audience. I have tried to include more personal stories, and to give comparisons on specific issues with the Bible. In the current world situation it is critical to realize that Islam does not have just one point of view. There is as wide an understanding of the correct way to practice Islam as there is of Christianity or Judaism. It is also critical to recognize that Christians, Jews and Muslims have much more in common than not. Indeed, I personally believe that to be true of all people who are sincerely trying to follow a spiritual path. Our vocabulary may be different, but the essential meanings are the same. I believe that there is enough new material to make this revision useful to those who have already read Heartâ€™s Surprise. For those who are new readers of this material, I believe that you will find here enough background from the personal experiences of my contributors and myself to truly give you a good understanding of what it can be like to be a woman in Islam... not the Islam of the terrorists, but the Islam of the Quran.
xiv | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam IH One of the most wonderful things that ever happened to me was getting a Quran from a friend who didn’t want her dog to chew on it again…. Of course, I was certain that I could never become Muslim. Clearly it was insane for an enlightened Western woman to even consider such a self-destructive act. Little did I know, on that fateful day in the mid 1970’s, that the Quran’s view of women is very different from what we know as the “Islamic view.” In fact, of all of the scriptures, the Quran is definitely the torchbearer for women. Not what you would expect, is it? But neither is Quranic Islam what you would expect. Most of what we know as Islamic is culturally Islamic, rather than scripturally Islamic. It is based on Arab traditions and culture, not on the Quran. Like other religious traditions, the Arabs inter-mixed their culture with divine revelation, and taught that as Islam. How could they do otherwise? Our understanding of everything is heavily influenced by our culture, even when we believe we are being unbiased. So the manner in which we translate divine commandments into our daily lives is based on our culture. This is as true for the Western world as it is for any other part of the world. All human beings see the world through the distorting lenses of their own culture. However it is my belief that we are coming into a new era of understanding. Global communications allow us to view our “neighborhood” on a much-enlarged scale. We can exchange e-mail with new friends all over the world and join chat rooms with people as geographically distant as China, Norway and Australia. Now we really begin to glimpse the truth of the phrase “the global village.” In fact, now, more than ever, we are aware how much of a global village we do live in. The events in a country as distant as Afghanistan have direct impact on us today. I have heard a
Introduction | xv number of concerned women asking how it is that women’s rights were allowed to be so totally eroded in Afghanistan under the Taliban. If they had been an ethnic group, like the Jews, would the world have just stood by and watched? I do not know the answer to that question, but I do believe that it is critical for us in the West to understand that much of what we have been given to believe are true Muslim religious attitudes towards women are NOT ISLAMIC! They go against clear teachings in the Quran. It is critical for us to make this distinction at this juncture in history, for we are seeing a resurgence of “Islamic fundamentalism” in much of the Muslim world. I personally believe that repressive and terrorist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda are driving much of this resurgence. The values of this movement are based in cultural tradition, not on the Quran. It is these values that allow the terrorist fringe of so called Islam to exist, and indeed prosper. Perhaps this fundamentalist movement is driven by a fear of the current breaking down of barriers among cultures and societies. Actually, this process has been underway for a long time, starting with written language, accelerating with the invention of printing, and much later with movies, radio and television. Now this process is sped even faster by the Internet and globalization. With new understanding comes the means of seeing our own culture with a bit more objectivity. It seems to me that this is happening all over the world, and nowhere more dramatically than in the Muslim world. Within the span of one generation, enormous changes have begun to take place for most Muslim women. In some places, there have been backlashes and increasing suppression of women in an attempt to maintain the old order. Afghanistan under the Taliban is a prime example. Still, the overall trend has been positive, though the resurgence of fundamentalism might eventually come to counteract this progress. Perhaps a major factor in this progress is what seems to be a growing movement to look again at the Quran as Islam’s
xvi | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam source, rather than the recorded oral traditions of Hadith and Sunna. (Hadith is what has been understood to be the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Sunna is what has been understood to be the practices. Neither was written down until generations after Muhammadâ€™s death.) I will not pretend to be an unbiased source. To me there is no question that the Quran is the revealed word of God, first put into writing 1400 years ago. Even those readers who do not hold my view will find some thought-provoking concepts in the Quran. For Muslim and non-Muslim alike, the Quranic view of women is well worth investigating. This is the purpose of what I lay before you now. I hope you enjoy it, God willing!
J1K How It Started For Me Ever since I can remember I have believed in God. My family was not religious, though both of my parents were quite spiritual. As a result, I was free to explore the vast world of religious thought my own way. Explore I did. As a child I read quantities of mythology from all over the world. The American Indian mythologies touched me the most deeply. Perhaps that was because of my family’s excursions to watch the Easter ceremonies of the Yaqui Indian tribe. These ceremonies are a marvelous blend of Catholicism and the native belief system from before European contact. The dance/drama depicts the struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good, all staged within the story of the Easter passion. Yaqui society is in large part organized around the year-round preparation and final performance of these ceremonies. Most traditional men become members of one of the dance societies, which then perform this impressive and deeply religious ceremony for its own sake. This is not a staged production; it is an expression of faith, which we were most privileged to be allowed to watch. Seeing such deep reverence and total dedication to a religious path touched my very soul and awakened my own need for a spiritual path. In my early teens I began reading the scriptures. I read the Bible and bits and pieces from other traditions. I read stories of the saints, and wept for them and their suffering. I remember thinking to myself, “I could never be that good, but I am so glad that someone was.” I also read stories of the European “settlers” of various nationalities. The slaughter and brutal enslavement of the Native American peoples by these Europeans horrified me. The great-
2 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam est horror was that so much of this terrible activity was carried out in the name of religion. (As I have grown older I have learned that this has been the way of conquerors and for all of the major organized religions at one time or another.) My longing for God and a spiritual path on one hand, and my horror of organized religion and its activities on the other, staged a constant drama in my young life. As a young adult I found a spiritual home for a while in a Quaker meeting, and later with the Sufi Order in the West. Traditionally the Sufis are Islamic mystics, however the Sufi Order in the West had been started by a spiritual student from India whose teacher had given him the task of introducing Islam to the West in a manner that would make it accessible. The group I became associated with was definitely New Age, with very few of its members involved in traditional Islam. In the introduction I mention that a friend gave me my first Quran. That friend was a Sufi. Below is the story of how this Quran eventually brought me to Islam. The story is reprinted from THE HOOPOE, an Islamic literary magazine that is no longer published.
Into The Light By Lisa Spray © 1988 IN THE NAME OF GOD, MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL. Well, she really didn’t have any choice. She had made up her mind that incredible night, the like of which she hoped she would never see again! The seas had been wild and the winds even wilder. The schooner, with sails reduced to the bare minimum that would act as stabilizers, bobbed around like a toy between the too playful paws of a kitten.
How It Started | 3 In the troughs, looking up at mountains of water as high as the masts (or so it seemed in the long-prayed-for dawn grey) she realized how the Children of Israel must have felt scuttling through the Red Sea, with cliffs of water poised to topple down on them at any minute. It was just as miraculous that she had come through that night. She, a desert rat who didn’t even like to swim (except to snorkel), had survived the most excruciating night of water torture that she could imagine. They had all survived, no one had washed overboard, and nothing had punctured the ferro-cement hull…and only God could have brought them through. She knew that more surely than she knew that the blood flowing through her was red. It was only hours, though it seemed like years, earlier that she had decided. For a long time she had been reading at the Koran [Quran] a friend had given her. It was so obviously truthful, in spite of the King James English of the Urdu speaker who had translated it. She almost chuckled remembering when Sayida gave it to her: “I haven’t been reading this, and when my dog wanted to chew on it I figured I’d better give it to someone who might.” Some of her best friends had been dogs. Sayida’s sure was! Anyway, it was clear. She could no longer procrastinate. She had to become a Muslim, in spite of what she knew about them. The book was true. Maybe the rest would make sense later. IH She talked to an old Sufi friend. He was the only practicing Muslim she knew. What did she have to do? Well, it was very simple. All she had to do was go through this ceremony and say these words in Arabic, and learn these prayers, and wear these clothes, read these books, and clean herself this way, and deal with men in this way, and…and…and by the way she might want to start doing these prayers for the prophet. Laden down with books, and even more burdened with instructions, she trundled home to the little travel trailer she shared with her now land-locked sailor husband. “What if I can’t do all this stuff?” “You’ll never know unless you try.”
4 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Patiently he stood by watching as she transformed herself into a fourteenth century woman. He even helped drill her as she struggled through the strange little Pakistani book on the prayers. “Gay reel mag dooby…” “Wait, I think it’s more like ‘Guy real,’ but this ink blot makes it kind’a unclear.” IH Now she was an “official” Muslim. People looked at her as they passed her on the street, wondering what kind of nun she was. Old friends didn’t recognize her. And she couldn’t pronounce the names of her new friends. Her family was scared. They had lauded her involvement with the [Vietnam] war resistance. The Sufis were harder for them, but they were nice and New Age and seemed harmless enough. Sailing was dangerous, but only to life and limb. But Muslims…. Muslims were terrorists, and treated women like cattle, and rejected the basis for modern life! IH Her Sufi Muslim friend was staying where someone was starting a new mosque. The painting was almost done and carpets were in. He asked her if she would like to come by and help a bit. She wasn’t very excited. The last mosque she had been in had been quite a scary experience. The only other woman there didn’t speak English, and all of the men treated them as if they were contagious. Actually, that probably was a good thing, because the room they were in must have once been a walk-in closet. Any more people, male or female, would have made it a sardine can! She had fled as soon as the juma prayer [the Friday congregational prayer] was over. No, another mosque experience was not her idea of a great way to spend the afternoon. But after awhile she worked up enough courage to get her to the front door. But she stood on the front porch of the renovated house for quite awhile before bringing herself to go in.
How It Started | 5 IH Right now she is sitting in front of a computer terminal, wondering how long she could have lasted as a “muslim” if she hadn’t walked through that door, hadn’t met that gently smiling man working just inside the sunny room which felt more like home than even the house she grew up in...if she hadn’t heard about his discovery of the mathematical code in the Qur’an...the intricate code which is God’s own tamper proof seal on His message to each one of us. How long could she have lasted in the cloth chains of hijab [garments worn by many Muslim women in public] before she would have dumped them—and everything connected with them? Of course it hadn’t ended there. There was a lot of growth, a lot of stumbling, a lot of tying of one’s shoelaces together, a lot of repenting. But by God’s great mercy she was there, and she was able. And only by His great mercy will she continue to be, Inshallah! And of course there is still a lot of growing. But that’s OK, ‘cause as Elliot Paul put it, “Whatever isn’t growing, wears out!” (From THE HOOPOE, Summer/Fall issue, 1988, page 20.)
Though it was difficult to make myself ring the doorbell as I stood there on the front porch, walking through that door into the mosque proved to be like grabbing a lifeline. God had guided me to a group of people who were following the Quran alone, and that is what I needed. I don’t think that I would have lasted very much longer trying to follow all the rules and regulations that the various forms of traditional Islam impose on their women. Nor would I have survived the issues of apparent inequality for women in Islam that I was struggling with. In fact, I had already begun to drown.
6 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J2K Women’s Position I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of culture and the way it affects us humans. After stumbling around in my first two years as an undergraduate, I finally decided I’d study something that I really enjoyed. I chose anthropology—which includes the study of culture. It was not a great choice for a career that will support you, but one that has given me a bit more understanding of myself and the many friends I have from different cultures. Though I was interested in different cultures, I never guessed that I would come to have friends from all over the world. It happened in a most unexpected manner. Before I sailed with friends in their schooner from southern California through the Panama Canal to the Virgin Islands, I had been reading the Quran for a year or two. During that trip we sailed about 500 miles off the coast of Mexico because we had heard horror stories about pirates taking over boats and appropriating them for their drug trafficking. Sailing so far off shore we encountered some pretty heavy weather, and it was in one of those storms that I became Muslim! (This is the storm described in the last chapter.) That night while I shared the second watch, I made the commitment to do more than just read the Quran. I had to try and become a Muslim, in spite of all the scary things I thought I knew about Islam. The Quran certainly felt right, maybe the rest would follow. That was in December 1976, and I have never regretted my decision. I’ve been a practicing Muslim ever since—or rather ever since I learned the practices. It has changed my life more wonderfully than I could ever have imagined.
8 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam As described in Chapter 1, when I got back to the States, several months later, I contacted the only Muslim I knew who was actively involved in the religion. Soon I was caught up in a new world, making friends with people from very diverse cultures and coming to use far more of my anthropology than I had ever dreamed of doing. My interest in culture was certainly paying off. I am not a scholar of Islam, or an anthropologist. I do believe, however, that my many years as a Muslim, and my contacts with many diverse cultures give me some interesting insights to share. I have found that often when the practice of some Muslims does not mesh with my understanding of the Quran, the issue is one of culture. What is culture? Good question. Many volumes have attempted to define it. Stated in a simplistic way, I see it as all of the things that make a group of people similar to each other, and distinct from other groups. It encompasses the manner in which we speak, the words we use, the foods we eat, the stories we were told and will tell our children. It affects the way we see ourselves and others, the way we view life and death, even the colors we paint our houses! It comprises a million things that we unthinkingly accept as part of who we are. The personal distance we surround ourselves with is yet another result of our culture. Have you ever found yourself backing away as someone you are talking to keeps pushing your space? Or perhaps you have been the space pusher. You have just come face to face with differences in culture. A few years ago, I spent some sadly sleepless nights with a wonderful friend from Egypt. She had grown up in a small village, comfortably surrounded by the sounds of people and animals. She could not sleep without such noise, so always had the television or radio playing. I, on the other hand, grew up in a culture where the ideal is to have your own quiet bedroom, away from all noise and commotion. We laughed when we talked about it later.
Women’s Position | 9 In spite of my experiences with other cultures, I still find myself having to take a deep breath and count to ten when someone playing really loud music drives up to my quiet picnic spot. Although I have some understanding, I am still bound by my own culture, where loud music in a peaceful place is upsetting. These cultural differences carry over into religion too. We often accept that people eat food that is very different from what we enjoy and listen to music that puts our nerves on edge but then still expect them to have the same spiritual reality we do. This is very human, but very unrealistic. In many ways our spiritual reality is at the core of our culture, and thus at the core of ourselves. How can we expect it to be the same for everyone? Before I first started reading the Quran, I thought I knew all about Islam—and it was very demeaning to women. Naturally, I assumed that the Quran would bear this out. I was in for quite a surprise! According to the Quran, men and women are equal. However, I couldn’t see that clearly at first. In the introduction I mentioned that a friend gave me a Quran that she did not want her dog to chew anymore. It was Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, the 1968 edition. I had read the Christian Bible, the Torah and some of the Bhagavad-Gita. I decided that I really should read the Quran, though I was quite convinced that it was not for me. Like most Westerners I saw Islam as one belief system, with all Muslims following the same understanding. Little did I know that there is as much variety of understanding among Muslims as there is among Christians, Jews or any other major religion. What I had always assumed to be the only form of Islam really did not attract me at all. It was a footnote in that Yusuf Ali translation that first piqued my interest, and started the learning process that culminated on that stormy night with my decision to become Muslim. When I first read his translation of verse
10 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam 3:195, nothing jumped out at me. The verse refers to believers in God who are praying to Him for His forgiveness and mercy. He has promised: And their Lord hath accepted Of them, and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost The work of any of you, Be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another.... Verily, I will blot out From them their iniquities, And admit them into Gardens.... (The Holy Quran III:195 [3:195]) However, his footnote for this passage astonished me: In Islam the equal status of the sexes is not only recognised but insisted on. If sex distinction, which is a distinction in nature, does not count in spiritual matters, still less of course would count artificial distinctions, such as rank, wealth, position, race, colour, birth, etc.
How could Yusuf Ali be saying that Islam insists on the equal status of men and women? This was totally unexpected. Women are subservient in Islam, right? Of course I was right! Every report in the media, every book I had ever read, told me so. Perhaps he was incorrect. Maybe his translation was biased. Looking at other translations for Chapter 3 Verse 195, I did not see any other indication of this equal status. It wasn’t until years later that I read Rashad Khalifa’s translation. I quote here from the 1992 edition: Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female— you are equal to one another....“ (Quran: The Final Testament 3:195) There it was at last, in black and white. Men and women are equal in Islam.
Women’s Position | 11 But why didn’t the other translations say so? Looking again at other translations, the wording is not straight forward, but the same meaning is implied. All of the others I have seen are similar to Yusuf Ali’s “Ye are members, one of another.” What does that mean but that you are essentially the same, equal? However, if you are coming from a cultural background where the equality of the sexes is not accepted, you may not catch that meaning. I was coming from a background that accepts equality between the sexes, and still had not caught it! Perhaps there is a clue here. I was already sure that Islam was unfair to women. There is plenty of evidence to show that we tend to see what we expect to be there. This is probably the biggest blind spot for all of us. I had set myself up not to see the equality of men and women in the Quran. Perhaps most translators of the Quran have also. Rashad Khalifa’s translation of the remainder of the verse strengthened my understanding: ...Thus, those who immigrate, and get evicted from their homes, and are persecuted because of Me, and fight and get killed, I will surely remit their sins and admit them into gardens with flowing streams....” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:195) Not only are women absolutely equal to men, but they too can work in the cause of God. Women can immigrate, be persecuted, fight and die for God. I would like to highlight that these verses not only indicate that men and women are equal, but also that they can equally strive in God’s cause. To me it follows that they must have the means to do so. The picture from these verses is not of women hidden away in the women’s quarters (or harem) separated from the society of men and concerned only with the “matters of women.” These are women actively involved in the society. They are women who are fighting, immigrating, and being persecuted.
12 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Those are things that can only happen to women who are out on the front lines, so to speak. These verses are not the only place where God tells us that righteous believers are equal, regardless of their sex. Reading further in the Quran, this equality is stated again: If any do deeds Of righteousness,— Be they male or female— And have faith, They will enter Heaven.... (The Holy Quran IV:124 [4:124]) Thus, the reward for believers who lead a righteous life is Paradise, no matter whether they are male or female. Before we go any further, let me say just a quick word about the Quran translations I am using. I often use A. Yusuf Ali’s 1968 edition (the edition I was first given by my Sufi friend). Yusuf Ali is one of the most widely used translations, and when I became Muslim was generally thought to be the best. You can tell when I have used that translation because the reference at the end of the verse reads “The Holy Quran,” which is the title Yusuf Ali gave his translation. Then it gives the verse reference, first with the Roman numerals he used, followed by the reference translated to Arabic numerals in brackets. The other translation I use is Dr. Rashad Khalifa’s 1992 edition. Though this is not as well known, I find it to be especially clear and easy for native English readers. For my personal reading, this is the version that I use. Rashad Khalifa chose to use “Quran: The Final Testament” as the title for his translation. So where I am quoting his translation, you will see that title and the verse reference. If you do not have a Quran handy and you wish to look at one of the references that is given, you can find it in Appendix 1. This has all verses referenced, taken from Rashad Khalifa’s translation, Quran: The Final Testament. The Bible verses are probably more familiar to most readers. The editions used for those
Women’s Position | 13 quotes are referenced with their dates the first time the reference is used, and with just the title thereafter. Now, back to the issue of the equality of men and women. This equality is again declared in the Quran in verse 16:97: Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world, and we will surely pay them their full recompense (on the Day of Judgment) for their righteous works. (Quran: The Final Testament 16:97) For the righteous believers there is happiness in this world as well as in the hereafter. It does not matter whether these believers are male or female. In my view, we can be truly happy only if we are not oppressed, nor oppressing others. Oppression hurts both the oppressed and the oppressors. Verse 40 of Chapter 40 again tells us the same thing, men and women are equally rewarded for their good works and lets us know that if we sin, we are “requited for just that.” This equality between men and women was not just a theoretical philosophy in the early days of Islam. Here is an interesting example of the way in which the Prophet Muhammad, through whom the Quran was revealed, dealt with women as equals. In Chapter 58, entitled “The Debate” we find that a woman debated with him: God has heard the woman who debated with you about her husband, and complained to God. God heard everything the two of you discussed. God is Hearer, Seer. (Quran: The Final Testament 58:1) One does not debate with someone who is inferior. Clearly women had a much higher standing in the society of the Prophet Muhammad than they have now in many societies claiming to follow him. Can you imagine a woman debating with a leader of the Taliban? The New Testament gives us similar examples of Jesus debating with women. Probably the best known of these is his debate with the Samaratan woman at the well in John 4:7-42.
14 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Here is another shorter example of Jesus debating with a woman: Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon…. He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28 - New Revised Standard Version Bible, 1952) God makes it clear many times in the Quran, that men and women are equal and their rewards for belief and leading a righteous life are also equal. This equality of the sexes is not stated quite as clearly in the Bible. Jesus certainly dealt equitably with all, regardless of their gender. This equality may not have always carried over into the early church. From several of his writings, including the following passage, many have come to the conclusion that Paul did not believe women to be equal: Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.… Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. (1 Corinthians 11:8-12 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) On the other hand, in the following letter to the Galatians, Paul clearly declares the equality of all Christians: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female;
Women’s Position | 15 for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.. (Galatians 3:28 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) This may seem confusing, but we must remember that Paul’s letters were written to address specific issues in the early Christian communities. We do not have all of the background for these letters, and in a sense are listening to only one side of the conversation. Also, remember that Paul was speaking to an audience that was accustomed to thinking of women essentially as property of their husbands. A similar conflicting message shows up in Paul’s writings on women teaching. In the following passage he clearly accepts and honors Priscilla and her husband Aquila. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. (Romans 16:3-4 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) This is very significant because in Acts, it is clear that both Aquila and Pricilla taught: Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures…. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) Keeping these verses in mind, let’s look at this next passage from Paul’s letters to Timothy, which seems to indicate that women may not teach. It also may explain what seems to many to be a negative attitude toward women: A woman must learn in silence and be completely submissive. I do not permit a woman to act as teacher, or in any way to have authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was created First, Eve afterward;
16 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam moreover, it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman. It was she who was led astray and fell into sin. (1 Timothy 2:11-14 - The New American Bible, 1970) As Paul indicates, one Biblical understanding is that Eve caused the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden. Thus woman is blamed. On the other hand, while Eve was deceived, Paul indicates in Romans 5:19 that Adam was not deceived, but disobedient: For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) In this way Paul makes it clear that both Adam and Eve were guilty. The Quran also says that both Adam and Eve were guilty and both were duped by Satan. (Please see the Quran 2:34-36, 7:19-22 and 7:27.) Moreover there is one Quranic passage where it seems that Adam is actually the one whom Satan tempted: We then said, “O Adam, this is an enemy of you and your wife. Do not let him evict you from Paradise.... But the devil whispered to him, saying, “O Adam, let me show you the tree of eternity and unending kingship.” They ate from it.... Adam thus disobeyed his Lord, and fell. (Quran: The Final Testament 20:117-121) In truth, it really does not matter whether it was Adam or Eve who was tempted. Both of them disobeyed God, and both were responsible for their sin. However, it is useful to realize that the Quran does not blame Eve over Adam. (If you look at the whole picture, I do not believe that the Bible does either.) This is just another example of the way in which the Quran deals with men and women as equals.
Women’s Position | 17 We have been looking at the way that righteous men and women are equal in the Quran. However, society is not made up of just righteous people. It follows that men and women are equal in unrighteousness also. Our personal experience shows this to be true. All of us have known unrighteous women, as well as unrighteous men. Here is the Quranic proof: The thief, male or female, you shall mark their hands as a punishment for their crime.... If one repents after committing this crime, and reforms, God redeems him.... (Quran: The Final Testament 5:38-39) This example not only shows a sadder equality between the sexes, but also shows again the way in which culture affects the way we look at God’s commandments. It has long been understood in much of the Muslim world that the thief’s hand should be cut off. This severe punishment comes from a cultural understanding that the word in verse 5:38 translated as “to mark” the hand (I am told it means “to cut”) means “to cut off.” However verse 39 shows that if the thief repents and reforms, God redeems him or her. If the hand is gone, where is the redemption? That person is forever crippled. Further support for this understanding comes from the Quran’s telling of the story of Joseph (known in the Bible as the owner of the coat of many colors). In the verses describing the women who “cut” their hands when they saw Joseph, the Arabic word is the same (see the Quran 12:31). Clearly the women could not have cut off their hands when startled by the beauty of this young man. It only makes sense that they cut or nicked their hands. Verses on adultery are another example both of women’s equality, and the affect of culture on the understanding of the scripture. When I was first learning about Islam, I was horrified to learn that the traditional punishment for adultery is stoning to death. I accepted that adultery is a serious offense, but to
18 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam put people to death seemed barbaric! What a relief it was to discover the following verses in the Quran: The adulteress and the adulterer you shall whip each of them a hundred lashes. Do not be swayed by pity from carrying out Godâ€™s law.... The adulterer will end up marrying an adulteress or an idol worshiper, and the adulteress will end up marrying an adulterer or an idol worshiper. This is prohibited for the believers. (Quran: The Final Testament 24:2-3) Though the traditional punishment for adultery is death, clearly from these verses even the lashing cannot be excessively severe, but rather must be non-maiming. This must be so if the offenders will end up marrying others guilty of adultery, or idol worshipers. You cannot marry if you are dead or badly maimed. Also, I believe that the next verse indicates that if the offending couple repents and changes their ways, they should be left alone: The couple who commits adultery shall be punished. If they repent and reform, you shall leave them alone.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:16) It is interesting to contrast these verses with the penalties given in books of the Torah or Old Testament. In Leviticus 20:10-12 the punishment for committing adultery with a married woman is death for both parties. If the woman is a virgin and not betrothed Exodus 22:15-16 says the man must pay the marriage price to her father. If the father will allow it, he must marry her. Thus if the woman is married, the Biblical punishment is much greater than the Quranic one, while if she is not married it might be considered less. Jesusâ€™s teaching when the Pharisees brought the adulteress before him and questioned him reminds me of the Quranic verse quoted just above:
Women’s Position | 19 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) When all of her condemners had left without casting stones, Jesus told her to go on her way and not to sin again. In all editions of the Bible that I am familiar with, adultery is committed by married people, and fornication by the unmarried. The Quran does not make that distinction. Any sexual relations outside of your own marriage are called adultery, period. Thus it does not matter if you are a swinging single sowing your wild oats, or an unfaithful spouse, by the Quran’s definition you are committing adultery. However, I’ve heard a traditional argument that Quranic verses (24:2-3) only apply to single men and women who have sexual relations without being married. This traditional belief is that adultery committed by married people is punishable by death, as it is in the Torah and Old Testament, though this punishment is never mentioned in the Quran. I can perhaps see that 24:2-3 might refer only to the unmarried if I look just at those verses. However, verse 4:25 describes marrying a slave woman, and proves that death can never be the punishment for adultery: If any of you have not The means wherewith To wed free believing women, They may wed believing Girls from among those Whom your right hands possess:... Wed them with the leave Of their owners... If they fall into shame, Their punishment is half That for free women…. (The Holy Quran IV:25 [4:25] - emphasis added)
20 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam It is not possible to half kill someone. But you can give them half the number of lashes you would give an adulterer or adulteress who has always been free. This verse brings up another issue that always confused me about Islam: slavery. Let me digress just a moment and discuss this issue, because it is so important. After careful reading of the Quran, I realize the Quran gives reason after reason to free slaves. In addition, the Quran makes it clear that in God’s eyes it is a person’s righteousness, not their status in society that gives them value. At the time of the Quran’s revelation, slavery was an integral part of the way of life. Rather than outlawing it directly, and causing great upheaval in the society, the Quran sets out a model for a society where slavery gradually dies out. As, thankfully, it has in most of the world. Back to the topic of women’s position. We have now seen verses showing the negative ways in which men and women are equal. These negative aspects of the equality again highlight the fact that in the Quran women are not hidden away. They are actively engaged in the society. How else can a woman become a thief or an adulteress? There is one more critically important point for us to look at. That is the fact that the Arabic language, like Spanish and many other languages, gives each noun a gender. However, as Rashad Khalifa indicates in his Appendix 4, this does not necessarily imply the male or female sex: Another possible reason for choosing Arabic [for the revelation of the Quran] is that ”He” and “She” do not necessarily imply natural gender. Thus, when God is referred to as “He,” this does not imply gender at all. God be glorified; He is neither male, nor female. The usage of “He” to refer to God in the English language, for example, has contributed to a false image of God.... (Quran: The Final Testament, p.4178.)
To those of you for whom the reference to God as “He” is disturbing, I apologize. I want to stress that God is neither male
Women’s Position | 21 nor female. However, I find it very awkward to avoid a pronoun for God. Changing the pronoun to “She” does not solve the problem for me. I have used the convention of referring to God as “He,” and ask the reader to recognize it simply as a convention.
IH In spite of what I thought I knew about Islam and Muslim society, it became clear that I was wrong in many ways. There are areas where Islam, as traditionally practiced, is unfair to women. But it is crystal clear that those practices are not from the Quran. As in all religions, the practice does not always match the revelation from God. In fact, we will see that the practices often go against the principles of the Quran. The Quran was (and still is) an emancipating document for women! I am eternally thankful that my friend’s dog had chewed a copy of Yusuf Ali, and not another translation that missed the equality issue. I might never have gone any further with the Quran.
IHIH I want to give you input from other sources on the issues discussed in the book. At the end of each chapter you will find writings from other people. It has been helpful to me to come to know other women who had difficulties with the cultural understandings of traditional Islam. Here are the reactions of a sister from India:
A Muslim Experience All my life I grew up with a multitude of traditions that controlled and dictated my every action. The “Muslim culture,” doctrines and traditions, are followed by the community, unquestioningly. Being on the “inside” you accept them first as a child
22 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam and then as an adult. You question occasionally, but by and large you accept since you see everybody else around you taking it as normal. It never occurred to me to question some of the traditions. For example, the fasting, the purdah system (veiling), that a woman cannot pray while having a period, segregation of the females from males. But I deeply resented several other customs like polygamy, male superiority, inequality of the sexes, inhuman treatment of people whose offenses were minor. Because I “belonged” to it, I defended it while I was young, but as I grew older, I distanced myself from the culture. My father was very broad-minded and took it in the right perspective, giving me permission to pursue a medical profession. As time went by, I stopped practicing “Islam” completely, as I felt ashamed of being “Muslim” and having no answers to the plethora of questions that I had. Time and time again throughout my youth and adulthood, I would question, and be unhappy and dissatisfied. The “mullah’s” [religious leaders] made the situation worse. They made me feel that for me to even question was wrong. It showed me as a disobedient rebel in their eyes and they would blame it on my parents, attributed to an insufficient, deficient upbringing. This would increase the turmoil in my mind and I would dislike myself, becoming fearful of God and Hell, and pray feverishly for several days. The fear would then subside, the questions would return, and I would revert to my old status of not practicing anything at all. I repeated this cycle many times over. —Shari, India
J3K Polygamy Now I had a problem. If men and women are equal, what about all of the things that are unequal? What about polygamy, and veiling, and men being in charge of the women and on and on? Well, there was only one thing to do: take each bull by the horns. One by one I have wrangled with them all. Some it has taken me years to resolve, and with some, I still have occasional little question marks swimming in my head. So now let’s bring out the first and worst: polygamy. POLYGAMY… the very word sent chills down my spine. Among my friends and sisters this is the scariest aspect of Islam. The thought of having to share your husband with another woman terrifies the married and unmarried alike. Even those who say they NEVER want to marry find the very thought of polygamy disgusting. Before we go any further, let me reassure you that the Quran does not advocate whole scale polygamy. As we will see, it is mentioned within a social context, and given very rigid boundaries. However, we must also recognize that our attitudes are deeply affected by… that’s right, our old friend culture. Strange as it may seem to us, there are societies where polygamy is readily accepted, and sometimes even requested by the women. You might find it interesting to read some of the stories of Mormon polygamous marriages. I was quite astonished by the obvious affection multiple wives can have for each other, and the strength with which they support this aspect of their faith. Of course, not all polygamous marriages are good, no matter
24 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam what society we are talking about. Then, neither are all monogamous ones. In cases where polygamous marriages are good, the women can be loving support for one another. In a hostile environment, such support might mean the difference between survival and death. For early Mormon settlers it often meant the difference between isolated loneliness and caring female companionship. Serious objection to Mormon polygamy did not come mainly from Mormon women, but from outside the community. In fact, it seems to have been one of the major causes, if not the major cause, for the terrible persecution of this group. However, some of the Old Testament prophets—for example Jacob, David, and Solomon—had more than one wife. Thus to the Mormons, polygamy is clearly allowed by God. Polygamy was an accepted way of life in the era of the Old Testament. I am not aware of anything in the New Testament that forbids it, but in his letters Paul seems to indicate that marrying only once is preferred. One of the requirements he gives for becoming either a bishop or a presbyter is that the candidate be married only one time. This would include polygamous situations as well as re-marriage after divorce. (Please see 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6.) Now what about polygamy in Islam? We are all familiar with the typical stereotype of the Arab sheik with his harem. In many parts of the Muslim world this stereotype is quite valid, and polygamy is an expected way of life. In these areas, multiple wives indicate a man’s wealth and social position. There is a general understanding among Muslims that a man may have up to four wives at one time. Although in some situations the older wives may lose some of their status when new wives come into the family, the first wife traditionally retains a special position. It is not only Mormon women who have positive experiences in polygamous marriages. When I was first being introduced to Islam I had a friend from Turkey who shared her childhood experience with polygamy. She had grown up next door to a
Polygamy | 25 polygamous family where the husband had two wives. The two wives were like sisters to each other, clearly loving each other dearly. For the children it was wonderful because they essentially had two mothers. Such a situation could be very good. However, I think that it would take a special mix of people to make it work, and a great deal of work on everyone’s part to keep things fair and loving. Clearly such fairness and consideration are not always the case. I’m sure you have heard the same kind of horror stories I have. You may also have friends who have been approached by foreign Muslims looking for American wives, though they have families at home. Sometimes lust even controls the religion, and not the other way around. A dear friend from India recently mentioned that men there often convert to Islam simply because then they can legally marry more than one woman! These are some of the tamer forms of “acceptable” polygamy. They are culturally acceptable, not necessarily Quranically acceptable, however. As I reassured you earlier, the Quran mentions polygamy within a social context: If you deem it best for the orphans, you may marry their mothers— you may marry two, three, or four. If you fear lest you become unfair, then you shall be content with only one, or with what you already have. Additionally, you are thus more likely to avoid financial hardship. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:3) Clearly, when you have a society that is physically under attack and there are large numbers of widows with children, a means must be provided to care for them. Polygamy offers a refuge and emotional support within a family setting, and a father figure for otherwise fatherless children. Looked at from this angle, maybe polygamy is not such a bad idea... at least for the widows and orphans. But what about
26 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam the poor original wife and her children? The Quran says that the husband must be perfectly fair in dealing with his wives. If he is afraid he cannot be, he should not get into the situation. This next verse makes it clear that being fair is really impossible: You can never be equitable in dealing with more than one wife, no matter how hard you try.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:129) The two verses together really discourage polygamy. One tells men that they must be fair in dealing with their wives, and the other tells them than they cannot ever really do that. It seems to me that this leaves very few circumstances where polygamy can be practiced within the guidelines of the Quran. It certainly does not mean that a man can put aside his old wife and marry a pretty young woman to boost his ego! Almost all of the translations of these Quranic verses that I have read indicate that monogamy is preferable under most circumstances. I would certainly agree. Clearly, the circumstances need to be unusual to warrant polygamy. Whatever those circumstances, if the husband is not certain that he can be perfectly fair to all parties, he should not take the chance of going against the Quran, thus harming his soul and bringing pain to his family.
IH I have reproduced here one of the most rational approaches I have found to the issue of polygamy. It comes from Appendix 30 entitled POLYGAMY, of Rashad Khalifaâ€™s 1992 translation of the Quran. I found it very helpful to read this viewpoint from a man who grew up in a Muslim culture:
Polygamy | 27 POLYGAMY Polygamy was a way of life until the Quran was revealed 1400 years ago. When the earth was young and under-populated, polygamy was one way of populating it and bringing in the human beings needed to carry out God’s plan. By the time the Quran was revealed, the world had been sufficiently populated, and the Quran put down the first limitations against polygamy. Polygamy is permitted in the Quran, but under strictly observed circumstances. Any abuse of this divine permission incurs severe retribution. Thus, although polygamy is permitted by God, it behooves us to examine our circumstances carefully before saying that a particular polygamous relationship is permissible. Our perfect example here is the prophet Muhammad. He was married to one wife, Khadijah, until she died. He had all his children, except one, from Khadijah. Thus, she and her children enjoyed the Prophet’s full attention for as long as she was married to him; twenty-five years. For all practical purposes, Muhammad had one wife—from the age of 25 to 50. During the remaining 13 years of his life, he married the aged widows of his friends who left many children. The children needed a complete home, with a fatherly figure, and the Prophet provided that. Providing a fatherly figure for orphans is the only specific circumstance in support of polygamy mentioned in the Quran (4:3). Other than marrying widowed mothers of orphans, there were three political marriages in the Prophet’s life. His close friends Abu Bakr and Omar insisted that he marry their daughters, Aisha and Hafsah, to establish traditional family ties among them. The third marriage was to Maria the Egyptian; she was given to him as a political gesture of friendship from the ruler of Egypt. This perfect example tells us that a man must give his full attention and loyalty in marriage to his wife and children in order to raise a happy and wholesome family. The Quran emphasizes the limitations against polygamy in very strong words: “If you fear lest you may not be per-
28 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam fectly equitable in treating more than one wife, then you shall be content with one.” (4:3) “You cannot be equitable in a polygamous relationship, no matter how hard you try.” (4:129) The Quranic limitations against polygamy point out the possibility of abusing God’s law. Therefore, unless we are absolutely sure that God’s law will not be abused, we had better resist our lust and stay away from polygamy. If the circumstances do not dictate polygamy, we had better give our full attention to one wife and one set of children. The children’s psychological and social well-being, especially in countries where polygamy is prohibited, almost invariably dictate monogamy. A few basic criteria must be observed in contemplating polygamy: 1. It must alleviate pain and suffering and not cause any pain or suffering. 2. If you have a young family, it is almost certain that polygamy is an abuse. 3. Polygamy to substitute a younger wife is an abuse of God’s law (4:19). [Reproduced with kind permission from the Khalifa family from Quran: The Final Testament, Rashad Khalifa, 1992]
These are the thoughts of Rashad Khalifa. Again, most of the other translations of the Quran that I have read agree that polygamy should be practiced only in unusual circumstances.
IHIH One of the things that is most shocking about Islam for many Americans is the concept of polygamy. This was true for the writer of the following story.
Invitation to Polygamy Have you ever found your actions to be totally misunderstood? When I was a young woman, I knew nothing about tra-
Polygamy | 29 ditional Muslim society, where men and women generally do not interact unless they are from the same family, or married. There, women who are very open with men are generally considered to be loose. The first Muslim I ever met was a Palestinian doctoral student studying at the university in my hometown. A family friend in another state had asked my parents to make him feel welcome in our small community. He had come to dinner a couple of times while I was still in high school. When I graduated and went to the university I would run into him once in a while. I was always very friendly, not realizing that my friendliness was being misread. One day he caught up with me in a deserted hallway, and “popped the question,” asking me to marry him. I was not at all ready to consider getting married, especially to someone I really hardly knew. Not only that, but I knew that he had a wife and family back home and I was terribly shocked. “But you have a wife and children already!” I finally stammered. “Yes, but they are far away and you are here,” he replied grabbing my wrist. Had I been in anything but a public place, I would have been terrified. As it was, I felt quite threatened. I twisted myself loose and pulled away from him shaking my head. I don’t remember what sparked the tirade that followed. He began to insult me, my parents, the United States…. At the time I was stunned and just wanted to bolt. Now I realize that he probably felt humiliated and was simply venting. Since then I have met a number of women who have been approached by Muslim men to become second or third wives in polygamous marriages. Not all have had the benefit I had of knowing that the man was already married. —Anonymous, U.S.A.
30 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J4K Why Keep Going? Given all of the “bulls of inequity” I was facing, you might be wondering what it was that kept me reading the Quran. I’ve just been asking myself that very question, and I guess that is why I am writing this chapter. I have realized that there were a number of things that just “felt right” about the Quran. Things that made it impossible for me to just put down the book and walk away. Probably the first thing that struck a chord for me was the clear recognition that there are many paths to God. Unlike other religious writings I had encountered, the Quran does not say that there is only one right organized religion. Rather, it makes it clear that anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and works righteousness will be rewarded. This concept was clear right away, in the first several pages I read. (For the next verse Yusuf Ali has a footnote giving several possibilities for who the Sabians are. Rashad Khalifa, on the other hand, translates the word as “converts”): Those who believe (in the Qur-an), And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), And the Christians and the Sabians,— Any who believe in God And the Last Day, And work righteousness, Shall have their reward With their Lord: on them Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (The Holy Quran II:62 [2:62]) What a difference from the teachings I had been getting from other sources that there was only one correct religion,
32 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam and of course they were it. Suddenly I had validation for the feeling I had always had that what you call yourself is not important, it is what’s in your heart that counts. This verse is repeated almost word for word in Chapter 5, Verse 69. (Note that there are a few places where Yusuf Ali breaks his verses differently from the original Arabic. Because of this, his verse number for this repeating verse is 5:72, though in other translations it is 5:69.) I still wondered what the Quran means by “righteousness.” In the West, this word has taken on a negative connotation for some, who have come to see it as “self-righteousness.” Fortunately, the Quran specifically defines it: Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in God, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:177) The only other references in the Quran to turning one’s face in a specific direction are talking about the qiblah, or the direction that Muslims face when they pray. In telling us that righteousness is not turning to the east or west, I believe that God is telling us that righteousness does not depend on ritual. It depends on the belief in one’s heart. It also has to do with the way one treats others. And it has to do with obeying God’s commands to pray and give charity.
Why Keep Going? | 33 We have already seen from Verses 2:62 and 5:69 that righteousness is not confined to the followers of one religion. This next verse tells us that God has given different rites and revelations to different congregations. He tests us through these differences and tells us to “compete in righteousness”: ...For each of you [congregations], we have decreed laws and different rites. Had God willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness.... (Quran: The Final Testament 5:48) So, God has given different congregations different rites and revelations, and we should be competing, not in the worldly sense, but in righteousness. We could have all been one congregation, if that were God’s will, but He chose to test us with each other. To me that says we should not be attacking other faiths, and blaming one another. Rather we should be striving to be righteous and urging each other on to greater righteousness! Sadly, some Muslims do not have that understanding. Rather they believe that only the organized religion called Islam is correct. Perhaps some of this is because of two very interesting verses that I believe are totally misunderstood by these Muslims. If read incorrectly, they can be understood to mean exactly the opposite of what we have just seen in the previously quoted verses. Here is the pertinent sentence from the first verse: The only religion approved by God is “Submission....” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:19) If one does not translate the word “Submission” from the Arabic, and rather leaves it as “Islam,” you get the understanding that Islam is the only religion acceptable to God. This implies that the organized religion known as Islam is the only correct religion, and totally masks the actual teaching. This teaching, as I understand it, is that your religion is only approved if you are truly submitting to God. As 2:62 (quoted above) and 5:69 say,
34 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and works righteousness, thus submitting to God, is acceptable to Him. They will reap their reward. On the other hand, if one does not submit to God, it is not acceptable to Him: If anyone desires A religion other than Islam (submission to God), Never will it be accepted Of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks Of those who have lost (All spiritual good). (The Holy Quran III:85 [3:85]) Again, if you choose not to fully translate this verse (in the quoted translation you would have to ignore Yusuf Ali’s explanation in parenthesis), you get the erroneous meaning that the organized religion known as Islam is the only religion acceptable to God. This goes totally against the rest of the Quran! The Quran makes it very clear that anyone can be a Submitter (“Muslim” in Arabic), no matter what they call themselves or their religion. Jesus and his followers are called Muslims, as are Moses and his followers (see verses 3:52 and 10:84 for examples). Not only that, the previous scriptures are honored in the Quran: We have sent down the Torah, containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests.... (Quran: The Final Testament 5:44) We see here that the Torah contains “guidance and light.” Clearly, one can gain guidance and light from reading and following
Why Keep Going? | 35 it. The same phrase is used to describe the Gospels in the following verse: And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming The Law that had come Before him: We sent him The Gospel: therein Was guidance and light, And confirmation of the Law That had come before him.... (The Holy Quran V:49 [normally 5:46]) (Note that Yusuf Ali has changed the numbering of his verses. This is normally numbered 5:46, but he has changed the numbering in that section, so it is 5:49 in his translation.) So the Gospels also contain “guidance and light.” Thus, the Quran is not the only scripture that Muslims accept. Of course, there are some areas where human distortion has entered into the earlier scriptures. This is evident to anyone who has done even a cursory study of their history. Given that they were oral documents for many, many years before being written down, this distortion is expected. However, the truth still shines clearly in both documents. Not only are the previous scriptures honored in the Quran, Muslims are commanded by God to believe in the revelations given to earlier prophets: Say ye: “We believe In God, and the revelation Given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, And the Tribes, and that given To Moses and Jesus, and that given To (all) Prophets from their Lord: We make no difference Between one and another of them:
36 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam And we bow to God (in Islam).â€? (The Holy Quran II:136 [2:136]) Thus, the previous scriptures contain guidance and light, and Muslims are commanded to accept them (excepting, of course, the few places where human distortions contradict what is revealed in the Quran).
IH The next things that drew me to the Quran were the beautiful verses on nature. When I read these verses, tears came to my eyes and emotion swelled my heart. Though I have read them again and again, I still find they touch me to the core. I could quote verse after verse. Here are a few of my favorites: God is the One who causes the grains and the seeds to crack and germinate. He produces the living from the dead, and the dead from the living. Such is God; how could you deviate! At the crack of dawn, He causes the morning to emerge. He made the night still, and He rendered the sun and the moon to serve as calculation devices. Such is the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. And He is the One who made the stars to guide you during the darkness, on land and on sea. We thus clarify the revelations for people who know. He initiated you from one person, and decided your path, as well as your final destiny. We thus clarify the revelations for people who understand. He is the One who sends down from the sky water,
Why Keep Going? | 37 whereby we produce all kinds of plants. We produce from the green material multitudes of complex grains, palm trees with hanging clusters, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranate; fruits that are similar, yet dissimilar. Note their fruits as they grow and ripen. These are signs for people who believe. (Quran: The Final Testament 6:95-99) I love these verses. The thought of the morning emerging â€œat the crack of dawnâ€? and all the beautiful fruits and the heavenly bodies makes me so aware of all of the great blessings God has bestowed upon us. It is He Who doth show you The lightning, by way Both of fear and of hope: It is He Who doth raise up The clouds, heavy With (fertilising) rain! Nay, thunder repeateth His praises, And so do the angels, with awe: He flingeth the loud-voiced Thunder-bolts, and therewith He striketh whomsoever He willâ€Ś (The Holy Quran XIII:12-13 [13:12-13]) How beautiful it is to remember the lightning and think of it as something that gives both fear and hope. And the thunder praising God, as do the angels in awe! The thought makes me shiver. One sign for them is the dead land: we revive it and produce from it grains for their food. We grow in it gardens of date palms, and grapes, and we cause springs to gush out therein. This is to provide them with fruits, and to let them manufacture with their own hands
38 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam whatever they need. Would they be thankful? Glory be to the One who created all kinds of plants from the earth, as well as themselves, and other creations that they do not even know. Another sign for them is the night: we remove the daylight therefrom, whereupon they are in darkness. The sun sets into a specific location, according to the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. The moon we designed to appear in stages, until it becomes like an old curved sheath. The sun is never to catch up with the moon— the night and the day never deviate— each of them is floating in its own orbit. (Quran: The Final Testament 36:33-40) This is another wonderful description of the great blessings with which God showers us. I especially love the thought of the moon “like an old curved sheath” and the sun never catching up with the moon, but each “floating in its own orbit.” Nature has always provided a refuge for me. As a child I only felt close to God when I was outside with the birds and the wildflowers, feeling the breeze in my hair and the warmth of the sun. I still find that there is nothing more centering for me than a walk in God’s beautiful creation. While nature was a refuge for me, I was perhaps an overly sensitive child. Seeing a dead animal caused me great grief. If I had known the animal, it was almost unbearable. Just thinking about my departed dogs and cats brought gushing tears for years and years after their deaths. It was the greatest relief to find the following verse: There is not an animal (That lives) on the earth, Nor a being that flies On its wings, but (forms Part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted
Why Keep Going? | 39 From the Book, and they (all) Shall be gathered to their Lord In the end. (The Holy Quran VI:38 [6:38]) This verse makes it clear that all creatures will return to God. The animals are not left out of heaven. Not only that, the animals worship God and He is fully aware of all their actions, just as His is of ours. That is what this next verse tells us: Seest thou not that it is God Whose praises all beings In the heavens and on earth Do celebrate, and the birds (Of the air) with wings Outspread? Each one knows Its own (mode of) prayer And praise. And God Knows well all that they do. (The Holy Quran XXIV:41 [24:41]) Moreover, it is not just animals that worship and return to God. Even plants and what we think of as inanimate objects prostrate to God: Do you not realize that to God prostrates everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the animals, and many people?... (Quran: The Final Testament 22:18) Not only do they prostrate, the Quran seems to indicate that things we consider inanimate have a sentience, and knowingly submit to their Creator: Moreover He comprehended In His design the sky,
40 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam And it had been (as) smoke: He said to it And to the earth: “Come ye together, Willingly or unwillingly.” They said: “We do come (Together), in willing obedience.” (The Holy Quran XLI:11 [41:11]) This verse describes how the heavens and the earth willingly submitted to God. Normally we think of these as being lifeless things, but this verse makes them sound as if they have a consciousness and the ability to decide whether to submit or not. This knowledge gave me a totally different view of the world. Now the lovely creatures around me were as much in God’s care as I was, and when they died they went back to Him. Their deaths were no longer a greater sorrow than that of people. Indeed my understanding now is that since they are unquestioning submitters, they are in a much better position with God than I am.
IH The next thing that drew me to the Quran was the clarification of God’s power I found there. I had grown up hearing that God was Omnipotent, but He seemed unable to do things like stop wars and feed hungry children. This had always confused me. The following verse began to explain: Fighting may be imposed on you, even though you dislike it. But you may dislike something which is good for you, and you may like something which is bad for you. God knows while you do not know. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:216)
Why Keep Going? | 41 So, sometimes things that look bad are actually good. I still did not understand completely, but this was much better than thinking that God could not stop the bad things happening. Quite a bit later I read the story of Moses’ teacher in Chapter 18 of the Quran. That story tells of how Moses asks to follow his teacher. The teacher says that he will not be able to stand being with him, but Moses promises not to question anything, and they go along. His teacher then proceeds to do some outrageous things: he drills a hole in a ship, kills a young boy, and repairs a fence for people who have refused to help them. After each incident Moses breaks his promise not to ask questions, and finally has questioned enough. The teacher then tells him: He said, “Now we have to part company. But I will explain to you everything you could not stand. “As for the ship, it belonged to poor fishermen, and I wanted to render it defective. There was a king coming after them, who was confiscating every ship, forcibly. “As for the boy, his parents were good believers, and we saw that he was going to burden them with his transgression and disbelief. “We willed that your Lord substitute in his place another son; one who is better in righteousness and kindness. “As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city. Under it, there was a treasure that belonged to them. Because their father was a righteous man, your Lord wanted them to grow up and attain full strength, then extract their treasure. Such is mercy from your Lord. I did none of that of my own volition. This is the explanation of the things you could not stand.” (Quran: The Final Testament 18:78-82) This story made it clear to me that we often do not have all the information we need to judge if something is good or bad. God may be doing something very good in something that looks very bad.
42 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam To explain the things going on in my own life I found the following verse: Whatever good, (O man!) Happens to thee, is from God; But whatever evil happens To thee, is from thy (own) soul…. (The Holy Quran IV:79 [4:79]) As time went on I began to realize that the bad things that happened in my life happened mostly when I had broken one of God’s commandments or was beginning to stray from His guidance. The bad things were like pinches warning me that I was doing the wrong thing. Finally, I began to realize that indeed, God is Omnipotent. He is in control of everything that happens. Humans just think that they are controlling their lives. God gives us free will, so it appears that we are doing what we want, but in truth: Whatever you will is in accordance with God’s will. God is Omniscient, Wise. (Quran: The Final Testament 76:30) To me this means that even our decisions are in God’s control. However, we do consciously decide that we want to accept God’s will for us or not. This is, I believe, the essence of Submission. In turning our will over to God, we are recognizing that He truly is the One in charge of everything, not us. I found that following the commandment in this next passage was extremely helpful to remind myself of this important fact: You shall not say that you will do anything in the future, without saying, “God willing....” (Quran: The Final Testament 18:23-24)
Why Keep Going? | 43 IH There is another area that really touched a chord for me. The Quran tells us very clearly how we should treat each other, and it is always in the best possible manner: Tell My servants to treat each other in the best possible manner, for the devil will always try to drive a wedge among them.... (Quran: The Final Testament 17:53) We are to treat each other well. It does not matter what our relationship is to each other, or our station in society. We must treat all people well, as this next verse makes clear: ...You shall regard the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, the related neighbor, the unrelated neighbor, the close associate, the traveling alien, and your servants. God does not like the arrogant show-offs. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:36) Here God tells us to treat everyone well, those who are related and those who are strangers, the free and the slave. He also makes it clear that we should not be too proud of ourselves. And we should not make fun of others, either as individuals or as groups: O you who believe, no people shall ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you mock one another, or make fun of your names.... (Quran: The Final Testament 49:11) Ridicule and mockery are equated here to wickedness, and if you find yourself caught in this behavior and do not change, then you are transgressing.
44 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam We must respect other peoples and recognize that it is righteousness that gives anyone worth in God’s eyes: O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous.... (Quran: The Final Testament 49:13) Thus, it is not one’s tribe or nationality or race or religion that is important. Only one’s righteousness is important. There is true equality for all people in the Quran. Tyranny and oppression are condemned throughout the Quran. Here is one of the strongest condemnations: ...Oppression is worse than murder….” (Quran: The Final Testament 2:217) To describe oppression as “worse than murder” is a very strong statement. Clearly, the oppression that so often manifests in Muslim nations is not at all Quranic. Aggression is also forbidden: You may fight in the cause of God against those who attack you, but do not aggress. God does not love the aggressors. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:190 - emphasis added)) So often in the West we associate Islam with aggression. Sadly, Muslims often are very aggressive, but the truth of the religion is not. In fact, one of God’s names is the Peace: He is the One God; there is no other god beside Him. The King, the Most Sacred, the Peace.... (Quran: The Final Testament 59:23 - emphasis added) Aggression is forbidden and we are to treat each other well. If we all lived according to these principles, what an amazing difference it would make for every person on this planet.
Why Keep Going? | 45 IH There was one final thing that really drew me to the Quran. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, as a young person I was torn between my desire for a spiritual path and my dislike of organized religion. In the Quran it is clear that our connection with God is direct, with no intermediaries. Thus if you are following just the Quran, Islam is not an organized religion in the normal sense. The following verse shows that our connection with God is direct: Say, “All intercession belongs to God.” To Him belongs all sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you will be returned. (Quran: The Final Testament 39:44) Not only is there no intercession by anyone with God, the only one we need to please is God alone. He is the only one we will answer to, and no one can help us but God: Say, “My Contact Prayers (Salat), my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted absolutely to God alone.... Say, “Shall I seek other than God as a lord, when He is the Lord of all things? No soul benefits except from its own works, and none bears the burden of another.... (Quran: The Final Testament 6:162-4) Thus, our relationship with God is very direct, and very immediate. In fact He tells us that He is closer to us than our jugular vein (Quran 50:16). What a gift that knowledge was to me! There were many other things in the Quran that bound me to it from the very beginning. Yes, there were lots of things I did not understand, and much inequity I needed to resolve. But there was so much in the Quran that touched my soul that I could not just walk away from it, no matter what I thought I knew about Islam.
46 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam
IHIH There is a belief among many traditional Muslims that on the Day of Judgment, Muhammad will intercede for them and save them from Hell. However, the Quran tells us that the messengers of God will be worried about their own fates (21:28). The following little story deals with this belief. On the Day of Judgment, there was a man who was worried for his own neck, walking here and there, waiting for his Lord’s judgment. There was another man there who believed that the Prophet would come and intercede on his behalf. He went to the first man, saying, “What’s the matter? “Didn’t you accept God and His messengers during your life time on the earth?” “Yes,” he replied. “Then, don’t worry! Just take a seat and wait! The Prophet will soon come and intercede in our behalf; there is nothing to be worried about!” The first man looked at him strangely and replied, “I am the Prophet.” (As told by Irandokht, from Iran)
J5K Veiling After polygamy, probably the thing that most Westerners “know” about Muslim women is that they are never really seen in public—only their faces are ever seen. Otherwise they are completely hidden in folds of cloth. A friend of mine used to call these coverings “personal mini-tents.” Traditional Muslims often use the term hijab. A more generic term is “veiling.” A veil, or hijab, always covers the hair, and in some cases part or all of the face. When I made Hajj (the Muslim pilgrimage), I traveled in a group with a young woman whose veil covered her from head to toe. I only once caught a glimpse of the woman beneath. The light hit her veil at the perfect angle, and I was astonished to see a real person there. I have often wondered if looking out through such a veil adds that same sense of unreality to the world. When I was first exploring Islam, veiling was a stumbling block for me. I read my Quran for quite awhile before “taking the plunge” to formally become a Muslim. One of the main reasons for this delay was my distaste for veiling. Even before I really became Muslim, I tried covering all but my face and hands. I felt so conspicuous that I was most uncomfortable in public places. I remember walking down the street, hoping that I would not meet anyone who recognized me. Fortunately I was spared the agony of trying to explain to an old friend why I was dressed that way. However, I never wanted to be seen in public like that again. Maybe that is the origin of the harem? The poor women were embarrassed into seclusion!!! Not only that, but I was having enough trouble going through the bowing and prostrating movements of the Muslim Contact
48 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Prayer which I was trying to learn, without having to worry about tripping over yards of billowing cloth. Had I only known, the Quran makes dressing in a normal fashion quite easy. The following verse covers almost all of the elements of Quranic dress: And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers.... They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies.... (Quran: The Final Testament 24:31) The byword here is modesty. Muslim women should not dress to be seductive and sexually alluring. (Nor should Muslim men. See the Quran 24:30.) Let me stop for a moment and clarify the translation of the above verses. Most translators have translated the Arabic word “khomoorehenna,” which comes from the root word “khimar,” as “veil.” Thus they understand the verse to mean that a woman should cover her chest with the veil she wears over her hair. This is a cultural interpretation. “Khimar” simply means a cover —a bed cover, a tablecloth, etc. In reference to clothing it can apply equally to a dress, a blouse or a veil. Because of the cultural norm of veiling, people assume that the chest should be covered with the head veil. The Quranic verses leave a great deal of leeway for a woman to find her own comfort zone. If she is more comfortable with a scarf, or a veil, it certainly is not forbidden. However, it is not required either. The only thing that is required in the above verse is modesty, that she not reveal more than is necessary, and that her chest be covered.
Veiling | 49 The definition of exactly what modesty means is different in each culture. To me, walking down most Western streets in full hijab is not actually modest because you are drawing attention to yourself. Likewise, dressing as you would in the United States would not be covered enough in most of the Muslim world. Once again, we are face to face with our old friend culture. I believe that the fact that we should be dressing modestly, not necessarily veiled, is highlighted by this recommendation to elderly women: The elderly women who do not expect to get married commit nothing wrong by relaxing their dress code, provided they do not reveal too much of their bodies. To maintain modesty is better for them.... (Quran: The Final Testament 24:60) Surely if God required women to cover their hair, that would have been at least mentioned here. Instead, God just tells these women not to “reveal too much of their bodies.” It is interesting to note that the Arabic word hijab, basically translated as “barrier,” does occur in the Quran several times. Not once does it refer to women’s veiling. If the Quran does not require veiling, where did it come from? I’ve read a number of differing theories on its origin. In the New Testament Paul argues that women should wear a veil during worship: ...Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered brings shame upon her head.... Indeed, if a woman will not wear a veil, she ought to cut off her hair. If it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, it is clear that she ought to wear a veil. (1 Corinthians 11:5-6 - The New American Bible, 1970) Whether the requirement to veil originated with this Christian requirement, or came from some other source is questionable. It does seem fairly certain that it did not originate with
50 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam the Arabs. We know that Muhammad was born into the Quraish tribe, one of the nomadic tribes of the Bedouin Arabs. Bedouin women did not then, and do not now, always veil themselves. This fact is demonstrated by the next Quranic verse, which shows that women were not veiled nor shut away at the time of the Prophet Muhammad: It is not lawful for thee (To marry more) women After this, nor to change Them for (other) wives, Even though their beauty Attract theeâ€Ś. (The Holy Quran XXXIII:52 [33:52]) How could Muhammad admire the beauty of a woman he had never seen? Please do not misunderstand me, I have no objection to others veiling, if that is their desire. However, since the Quran does not require that I veil, I prefer to dress in Western society in an Islamic manner that is more acceptable for that society. If I lived in Saudi Arabia, the situation would be very different, because the culture is different, therefore what is modest is different. There is one other important commandment in the Quran on the way women should dress in Chapter 33, Verse 59. Here women are told to lengthen their garments. How much do you have to lengthen? I believe that is determined by what you see around you, and your own comfort level. Each one of us is individually responsible to God, and each must decide for ourselves what He is indicating in the following verse: O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted.... (Quran: The Final Testament 33:59)
Veiling | 51 Yusuf Ali translates this verse a bit differently: O Prophet! Tell Thy wives and daughters, And the believing women, That they should cast Their outer garments over Their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, That they should be known (As such) and not molested.... (The Holy Quran XXXIII:59 [33:59]) Using either translation, I believe that Quranic dress has the same function as all modest dress: helping to keep us out of uncomfortable or even compromising situations. I might add here that the Muslim men I know who are following the Quran alone also dress modestly. It only makes sense; the best way for all of us to stay out of trouble is not to invite it! There are certain circumstances where long clothing is not appropriate. Trying to swim in long flowing clothes is not only difficult, it is dangerous. It also seems unfair to keep young women from participating in physical education classes and sports because they may be required to wear gym suits. In this case, the intention seems important; no one is wearing those suits in order to be alluring. Dressing modestly does not require us to be dowdy. Some of the Muslim sisters I have met from India, Egypt, and Iran, etc. are the most beautifully dressed women I have ever seen. Their dress is totally modest, but they have class and grace that far outshines most fashion models.
IHIH It is difficult for me to relate to the zeal with which veiling is enforced in some Muslim societies. Men who never pray or fast become apoplectic on seeing a woman who is not veiled. It has become
52 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam a symbol to them, but a symbol of what? For such people, the Quran is not a source of guidance; it is veiled in culture and tradition. The result is oppression in the name of religion. The following story shares a bone chilling reality for those of us who have always lived in freedom.
The Quran Veiled I was born and raised in a Muslim family in Iran. My father always encouraged me to have a higher education, but he never imposed religion on me. I learned how to read the Quran in Arabic in grade school, but we didnâ€™t actually know the Arabic language because our native language in Iran is Farsi. The teachers in the schools told us that reading the Quran in Arabic would give us more credit with God. The Quran played a very dominant role in Iranian culture during my upbringing in Iran. I would hear the Quran recited in Arabic during different occasions. The Quran was usually recited at funerals or after the death of an individual. The Quran would also be recited throughout the month of Ramadan. The Persian New Year was an event at which the Quran would be placed on a table along with other ceremonial items representing the New Year to bless the upcoming year. I had witnessed and participated in the custom by which when someone is leaving to go on a trip a Quran would be held above their heads and the traveler would walk under it to be blessed for a safe trip. This tradition was so important that the main archway to the city of Siraz has a giant Quran on top of it so that as the cars pass underneath it the passengers will be blessed. About 25 years ago, my husband and I moved to the United States of America. A couple of years after we moved to the USA, the revolution in Iran broke out and then the Islamic Government took control of the country. At first it seemed that the people of Iran were very happy under the new Islamic Government. But within a few months our friends and family
Veiling | 53 in Iran were telling us about awful events that were happening under the new government. Some of the ignorant religious governmental leaders were doing unspeakable crimes in the name of Islam like stoning women for adultery. In one tragic case, a government soldier killed a young 17 year old in front of her mother in the streets of Tehran. The two were going shopping when they decided that they wanted to change their head covers to match their long dresses. So they both went into a telephone booth so nobody could see them switching their covers. This is because during that time, Islamic clergy were enforcing a law which forbade women to show their hair in public. Unfortunately, as they were changing their head covers, a young soldier saw them, became very angry, and began yelling at them. The daughter, being fed up with the oppression, came out of the telephone booth without her cover on her head and said to the soldier, “So what if my hair shows?” The young man became so furious that he brought his gun out and pointed it at the daughter’s head. The mother jumped in front of her daughter and asked for him to have mercy on her young daughter. But he didn’t care and he pushed aside the mother and killed the daughter. With so many negative and tragic incidents happening in the name of Islam, I started to question many things. I asked myself, “Are these the laws of God? Are they actually in the Quran?” This question was actually echoed by many Muslims in Iran who said, “If this is Islam, we don’t want to be Muslim.” —Patty, Iran [Editor’s note: This is not the end of Patty’s story. Please see the end of Chapter 14 for the conclusion.]
54 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J6K Men in Charge? OK, now we come to an issue (or bull, as it were) that has more meat: the understanding that men are in charge of women, and have sway over them. This concept floored me! I come from a family of dyed in the wool individualists. My parents left their homes and struck out on their own, far from either familyâ€™s influence. My mother always worked and was an integral part of the family fortunes. She wanted us, her three daughters, to be able to take care of ourselves, to have a means of making our own living and building our own lives. The idea of a man being in charge of me just because he was a man was very foreign. It made no sense to me for my husband to be in charge, again just because he was a man. However, this is very much in line with the teachings of the Bible. In Genesis 3:16 God tells Eve that her husband shall be her master: And to the woman He said, I will make most severe Your pangs in childbearing; In pain shall you bear children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.â€? (Genesis 3:16 - The Torah: The Five Books of Moses, 1992) At the same time, Genesis also contains a passage that makes it clear that men and women are equal: And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; males and female He created them. God blessed them
56 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.” (Genesis 1:26-27 - The Torah: The Five Books of Moses ) In the New Testament, throughout Paul’s epistles he makes it clear that women should be submissive to their husbands and their husbands should love and care for their wives. For example: Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be submissive to their husbands as if to the Lord because the husband is head of his wife.... Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (1 Ephesians 5:21-23, 28 - New American Bible) For me, coming from a non-religious background, this concept was almost offensive. As much as I wanted to skirt this issue, I could not. This is not just a cultural issue that has crept into the religion. This understanding in Islam comes from a solid Quranic source. Here is the first part of the “offending” verse as translated by Rashad Khalifa: The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is God’s commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:34 – first portion) This doesn’t seem too bad. After all, men have traditionally been the protectors of their families, and the bread earners. In those circumstances it makes sense that the protector should have the ultimate say. How else can he be the protector? If there is a danger and those you are trying to protect do not listen to you, you cannot protect them.
Men in Charge? | 57 And Khalifa’s footnote for men being responsible for the women makes sense to me: This expression simply means that God is appointing the husband as “captain of the ship.” Marriage is like a ship, and the captain runs it after due consultation with his officers. A believing wife readily accepts God’s appointment, without mutiny.
When I honestly examine this concept, I have to say that it does not indicate inequality. In the United States we elect public officials, but no one would consider himself unequal to those officials. It is simply a matter of organizing the society in a manner that works. I’m not certain exactly what happens in a situation where the woman is working outside of the home. Personally, it seems that in such a situation, she is no longer in a protected position. She also is facing the dangers and stresses of the working world. However, the need for an organizational leader still exists, and for whatever reasons, God has specified that to be the husband. Actually, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that there are some basic biological differences between the sexes that better adapt them to different roles. For more information on this see, for instance, BRAIN SEX: The real difference between men and women, Anne Moir, Ph.D. and David Jessel, 1992. Also, Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women, Deborah Blum, 1998. Certainly no one can argue that women are the bearers of children. As such, their role is critical for the society and very much honored in the Quran (as we will see later). And who would know better about these matters than God? So far, I was satisfied that there is not a difference of equality in the Quran. Rather it is only an issue of the family’s organization. The rest of this verse was a bombshell for me though! Here it is from Yusuf Ali’s translation: As to those women On whose part ye fear
58 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Disloyalty and ill-conduct, Admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); But if they return to obedience, Seek not against them Means (of annoyance).... (The Holy Quran IV:34 [4:34] – last portion) Okay, I accept that if you have a captain of the ship, he may sometimes need the means of keeping order, so to speak. But BEATING??? Fortunately, Rashad Khalifa’s footnote calmed me considerably. (Please note that a sura is a chapter of the Quran.) God prohibits wife-beating by using the best psychological approach. For example, if I don’t want you to shop at Market X, I will ask you to shop at Market Y, then at Market Z, then, as a last resort, at Market X. This will effectively stop you from shopping at Market X, without insulting you. Similarly, God provides alternatives to wife-beating; reasoning with her first, then employing certain negative incentives. Remember that the theme of this sura is defending the women’s rights and countering the prevalent oppression of women. Any interpretation of the verses of this sura must be in favor of the women. This sura’s theme is “protection of women.”
This approach seems rational. If a righteous husband goes through all of these steps he will not end up beating his wife. Enough time will have passed to defuse the situation and both parties will have had the chance to rethink the problem. I will never forget the horror of years ago hearing my Muslim neighbor through a thin apartment wall. He often shouted a lot, clearly verbally abusing his American wife and her daughter by a previous marriage. One night was much worse than usual. I believe that he finally got physical with his wife; she ended the marriage. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Believe me, when I remarried I made certain that my husband is someone I can trust to talk things out!
Men in Charge? | 59 Perhaps that is a clue. Knowing that a husband can have that power, a believing woman needs to be especially careful about who she chooses to marry. If all women are careful to marry only men who will treat them with dignity, eventually abuse will die out. There is never any excuse for spouse abuse; however women can take an active part in protecting themselves by carefully choosing their spouses. This requires that we take an active and reasoned role in our selection of a mate. No more quick courtships! You need to know someone for a good while, and in as many possible righteous circumstances as you can before you can really judge their suitability as a husband. The criteria for a good mate also change when one looks at it from this perspective. A man’s spiritual, moral and emotional character becomes much more important than his looks or profession or standing in the community. In fact, they become the only really important things. In truth, shouldn’t that be the case? After all, we are choosing someone to be our lifetime companion, someone with whom to form a family. We are choosing someone who will be a big factor in our own spiritual growth, just as we will be a factor in their spiritual growth. It’s our own necks. Only we can take care of them.
IHIH Two beautiful sisters share their stories here. The first speaks of how God has provided a safety net for women. Thus, men may be in charge, but women are protected. The second speaks out at the glaring inequity she often sees in the way men are “in charge.”
Amazing Grace The grace of God as shown for me throughout my life has taught me directly His amazing grace for the female of the human species. The Quran in 36:6-10 speaks of people whose parents were never warned, and are therefore totally unaware.
60 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Well, my biological parents seemed to be among those. As a result of their not knowing, or simply not following the guidance of God in the Quran, eleven children and at least one adult, my mother, endured hardships that could have been different. God knows best however, and had those things not happened, I would not have this experience to share with you. The Quran instructs the male on the proper way to have more than one wife. When the criteria are followed, then women like my mother and her children can be properly cared for, and accepted in the society with dignity rather than dishonor. When the plans for marriage fail, the woman is still provided for, says the Quran. My mother as another wife could have been protected had she followed the Quran. She would not have had to literally give away her children to others who could and would provide for them. It cost her and the children. I was one of the six that were sent to be raised by someone else. Again, God knows best for each of us. I finally did meet my mother and my ten other siblings just before attaining adulthood. God is amazing, the criteria of keeping the name of the child, as described in the Quran, did provide the link to my lineage when the time came. My name was my ID. I was raised by the people that adopted me, at age two, as a Baptist. I began to study Islam shortly after marrying. I joined what was then the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammed. It was here that I came in direct contact with the idea of women being special, and therefore to be protected by the men of the family and the community. My husband who was â€œverballyâ€? Muslim, was taught to be the bread-earner, and I stayed home to raise our children and manage our home. That was my job. Modesty was the dress code, but still even if I went to the park with the children, I was escorted for our protection. I soon learned that I was studying about the Quran, rather than studying the Quran itself. I changed my mode of practice; I left the Nation, and joined what was the Sunnah of Islam.
Men in Charge? | 61 [Editor’s note: Traditional Muslims often refer to the practice of their faith as the Sunnah.] It was awhile before I recognized again that I was studying something other than the Quran. We studied the Hadith for an hour and then discussed those sayings as they related to our lives. Well, we would find no real answers for the problems we shared. I began to study the Quran finally, and to my surprise I found there were answers to women having rights, property, making judgments, and being witnesses, etc. Unfortunately, these were not answers the community was ready for. My own spouse of thirty-two years was not ready for them, and slowly began to leave the guidance of God. The result was a legal divorce initiated by me. When it became clear to me that he and I could not agree on following the guidance of the Quran only, I followed the Guidance and ended the marriage. I waited the four months as instructed in the Quran, and found that it corresponded with the waiting period of the courts. The children and I stayed in our home and were not mistreated. My former spouse was unable to provide for us, but God is quite sufficient. I kept my possessions as stated in the Quran, thus I have assets. The rules set in place by God became the “safety net” for me and my children. Well, as time continued, my brothers and the believers assisted the children and me, again through the criteria of the Quran. The charity extended to us over those months allowed my children to never be deprived of the needs of everyday living. God is so amazing to me. To date there have been no offers of marriage from believing men that I felt were sanctioned by the Almighty. Surely God would compensate the male that could and would take on that responsibility. In spite of my circumstances, I reside safely within God’s Amazing Grace and attempt to patiently wait on Him. I enhance the waiting by studying the Quran. Mainly I study alone, but when the opportunity arrives, I study with others. I relate to the concept of worshipping God alone in all of its contexts. I feel so very blessed to be allowed the knowledge of the Quran. God be ever praised, highly glorified is He. It has been my supreme pleas-
62 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam ure to be given an opportunity to communicate to you, and share what is probably many people’s story. Perhaps some day I’ll be allowed to share so those who have the same or a similar story can know that they are not alone, and we are blessed to have submitted to the design God ordained for our lives so that we would know Him with certainty. God’s Grace is Amazing. —MeauVell, U.S.A.
IHIH In Charge Or In Control? My feelings about the way the concept of men being in charge in our world is summed up by a card sent to me by a friend. The picture shows six people sitting around a board table, only one of them a woman. The director is saying, “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” I’ve always been told by the wise old women in my community that in order to get your way with a man, you must learn how to make what you want look like it is his idea. Many times I have not shared my opinion because I didn’t want to be perceived as a troublemaker. So I formed the habit of denying my truth because I thought that was required to be a good Muslim woman. I have witnessed that it is generally worse even than that in several Muslim societies. Not only are the opinions and wisdom of women ignored and denied, we know that in many Muslim countries (within your very religious communities) you very seldom see women out in public. Women must wear
Men in Charge? | 63 the shidowa, and are covered completely from head to toe; even to see women’s eyes is forbidden. Back in the day of our Urban-based Muslim communities, we were apartment dwellers. It was always interesting to me how, when we had functions at various homes, though there were always more women and children than men, the men always had the nicest facilities and accommodations. The women were made to endure with the children behind the scenes somewhere in small cramped quarters. Even many of the masjids [mosques] require the women to occupy only the smallest rooms in the smallest areas. As I traveled through the Middle East, it struck me that despite the blazing heat of many of these countries, it is a culturally accepted norm that women wear black and the men wear white. Now we all know how black attracts heat and I was wondering, “Why are the women having to wear this black. It’s so hot!” I know that they have physicist and chemists in their society that can tell them that this is not comfortable. Could men survive in black, in such a hot terrain? Despite God’s elucidation in the Quran on the value and parity of women, I constantly struggle with the fact that Muslims have been acculturated to hate and deny the female. Instead of believing that God is neither male nor female, we act like we believe that God is only masculine and does not like anything female. —JC, U.S.A.
64 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J7K Marriage Marriage, as it was practiced in Muslim societies even recently, was fraught with â€œbulls of inequity.â€? Young women were often forced to marry whomever their families decided. This practice is dying out, and more and more young women are participating in the selection of their husbands, or making the selection by themselves. In the West, as in the Muslim world, marriage is an important part of most womenâ€™s lives. For young girls of my generation, marriage was the natural order of things. We just assumed we would, of course, get married and raise a family of our own, as our parents had done. We spent hours staging play weddings, and setting up pretend households. Our favorite dolls were brides, all decked out in their pearls and white lace. None of us ever considered that we might be just as happy never marrying. Marriage was the accepted norm and often the stated goal. While things have changed some in the West since I was a child, from my discussions with friends from other cultures, this still seems to be typical in most countries. It certainly is in Muslim countries. Indeed, God encourages marriage in the Quran: You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor.... Those among your servants who wish to be freed in order to marry, you shall grant them their wish, once you realize that they are honest.
66 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam And give them from God’s money that He has bestowed upon you…. (Quran: The Final Testament 24:32-33) God not only encourages marriage, but we see here that He does so to the extent of commanding that slaves be freed to marry. Thus, He encourages marriage and discourages slavery in the same verse. The Bible also speaks of marriage. Genesis speaks as if it were the natural course of things. God brought Eve to Adam: Then the man [Adam] said, “This one at last Is bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman, For from man was she taken.” Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24 - The Torah: The Five Books of Moses) Jesus reminds us of the equality of men and women stated in Genesis 1:26-27 (quoted in Chapter 2): ...“Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) Paul made it clear that that marriage is sacred: Let marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. (Hebrews 13:4 - New American Bible, 1970)
Marriage | 67 Why is marriage so divinely supported? From these verses, and our common sense, we know that marriage discourages immorality and encourages morality. Thus, God validates the concept of the family, the core unit of all societies. I believe that there is something even more important though. I think that marriage is a spiritual exercise, of the highest form. One of the first spiritual concepts presented in the Quran is that of killing the ego, that part of us that keeps us from redemption: Recall that Moses said to his people, “O my people, you have wronged your souls by worshiping the calf. You must repent to your Creator. You shall kill your egos. This is better for you in the sight of your Creator....” (Quran: The Final Testament 2:54) Rashad Khalifa’s footnote further clarifies: It is the ego that led to Satan’s fall. It is the ego that caused our exile to this world, and it is the ego that is keeping most of us from redemption to God’s Kingdom.
In this discussion I am not using “ego” with the psychological definition of our sense of self. Rather it is the more popular usage of the word as our arrogant self, or that part of our self that is prideful and self-important. It is that part of our self that makes us think we are better than other people. It is that part of our self that keeps us from God. If our egos are getting in our way spiritually, what better way to work on them than within a marriage? In marriage we cannot just walk away from our disagreements like we can in other situations. In reference to problems in a marriage, God tells us that “Selfishness is a human trait,” and that working out our differences is best for us (Quran 4:128). Furthermore, our spouse is often a very good mirror for us, showing us our strengths as well as our weaknesses.
68 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam All spiritual traditions recognize the concept of the male and female principles and the balance they create. To me, one of the most beautiful expressions of this balance is in the Quran. First, God tells us men and women are not the same, they have different qualities: You shall not covet the qualities bestowed upon each other by God; the men enjoy certain qualities, and the women enjoy certain qualities.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:32) Then He tells us the result of pooling those qualities in a marriage. Thus, He tells us the purpose of marriage. That purpose is not mainly reproductive, nor economic, nor social: And among His Signs Is this, that He created For you mates from among Yourselves, that ye may Dwell in tranquillity with them, And He has put love And mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are Signs For those who reflect. (The Holy Quran XXX:21 [30:21]) Thus, the purpose of marriage is emotional and spiritual: that we may “dwell in tranquility,” and to be among God’s signs. The intimacy that develops in a good marriage can act as one of the strongest catalysts to the healing of old emotional wounds. This healing alone fosters spiritual growth. Plus, when you are with someone who is also striving spiritually and supports your spiritual growth, the potential is astonishing. This changes the whole focus of marriage. As we discussed in the last chapter, someone’s looks, or earning ability or social standing are not the main factors to be considered in finding a good spouse. Rather, spiritual and emotional compatibility matter the most.
Marriage | 69 How then does one find this spiritual and emotional wonder? How does one find a suitable spouse? As I was looking (and I finally came to the point of actively looking), I had to keep reminding myself that God is running the show. If I were to marry, He would provide a good mate… and when I was truly ready, He certainly did. It is interesting to note that one of the qualities of Paradise is that those who make it there will be matched with wonderful spouses (Quran 52:20 and 56:37, among other verses). Perhaps if we let God match us in this life too, making the spiritual considerations first on our “want list” and asking for His guidance, that paradise can begin here. Actually finding one to whom we are matched spiritually is not always easy. In the Muslim world marriages are often arranged. This concept was quite horrifying to me, until I met some couples with arranged marriages and realized what good matches they were. My friends were fortunate that their families worked to find mates who were especially compatible. Their marriages are among the best I know. But not all arranged marriages are so fortunate. I also know of a very sad case where the results were quite disastrous, leaving a very sensitive man terribly wounded. In the West most of us must find our own mates. Unfortunately, this is often quite difficult, especially for a Muslim who is not going to be “into the singles scene.” If you are part of a large Muslim community, your chances may be much better. However, if you have decided to follow just the Quran, rather than the traditions of Islam, in most cases you might as well be living on a semi-deserted island!!! If these problems sound familiar, be reassured. God tells us that followers of the Quran may marry chaste believers among the followers of previous scriptures (Quran 5:5). Of course, you must be certain to discuss spiritual and religious matters very carefully. Actually, this is true no matter who you are marrying.
70 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Personally, I believe any woman, whatever her faith, should only marry a man who agrees categorically to support her in her striving to obey Godâ€™s laws in all matters, according to her own understanding. Otherwise, she may find herself in the situation of having to go against her husbandâ€™s understanding, or of him trying to make her follow his understanding. This will almost certainly cause strife in the marriage, and may eventually bring divorce. Even if your spiritual understandings match when you marry, sometimes one or the other changes as time goes on. Unless you agree from the start that each has the right to their own understanding, you may encounter problems. Once you have found someone you are convinced is compatible, what next? The Quran speaks of engagement, though does not require it (Quran 2:235-236). However, from my personal experience, I think it is a good idea. It gives you both the opportunity to see what you are like together when you have made a commitment. It is not yet the commitment of marriage, but the commitment that you plan to be married. The perspective for some people changes with a commitment. They no longer feel they need to make such an effort. Actually, making a commitment means you need to make a greater effort in order to live up to that commitment. If commitment is going to mean one or both of you is going to start taking the relationship for granted, it is best to find that out before you are actually married. Remember, you are planning to make a lifetime commitment. Though I touched on this issue of choosing a husband in the previous chapter, let me expand on it. Forgive me if I sound like a mother hen here. When I originally wrote this material, it was for other Muslim women, but so many people told me to leave it in, that I have decided to do so. If you are not Muslim yourself, I hope you will still find value in this sharing from my personal experience. If you are thinking of getting married, it is a critical decision you are making. Do whatever you can to make sure you are
Marriage | 71 making the right one. Remember that this man will be the one who has the final say in the marriage. Will you be able to live with his decisions? Are you certain that those decisions will be made with your consultation, and with your needs and best interests in mind? Indeed you are selecting a captain for life. Pick a winner! In a society where marriages are arranged, the families usually try to make certain that the two people are well matched. For those of us who choose our own mates, making this determination is sometimes difficult. However, since you are intending to live with this man for the rest of your life, it is important to be sure that you are compatible. The following are common sense suggestions, which you probably would think of yourself. Try to spend as much normal time with your beloved as you can, in as many different types of situationsâ€”grocery shopping, doing laundry, visiting elderly relatives, pulling weeds, cleaning, etc. Make sure that you live and work well together, not just that you play well together. If it is possible, meet each otherâ€™s families, and watch the interactions there. How the family members treat each other may tell you a great deal about the person you are planning to live the rest of your life with. If things come up that you are uncomfortable with, talk about them. Allow this discovery time together to be long enough that some of the blush of new love fades. You need to be sure you are choosing someone for the right reasons, and that you are not being fooled by sexual attraction, or your own daydreams. Remember, divorce is allowed in Islam, but it is strongly discouraged. The person you marry must be someone with whom you fully intend to live out the rest of your life. Of course, during this time you need to be extremely careful not to put yourself into any situations where you end up doing something that is not righteous. Remember that until you have made the commitment of marriage, any sexual relations will be a very serious issue in Godâ€™s eyes. These next verses show just how serious. God is describing the believers:
72 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Those who invoke not, With God, any other god, Nor slay such life as God Has made sacred, except For just cause, nor commit Fornication; —and any that does This (not only) meets punishment (But) the Penalty on the Day Of Judgment will be doubled.... Unless he repents, believes, And works righteous deeds, For God will change The evil of such persons Into good.... (The Holy Quran XXV:68-70 [25:68-70]) These verses class having sexual relations outside of marriage with idol worship and murder! It is not classed with lying or cheating; it is classed with the most serious of offenses. And while God allows repentance for this, no one can intentionally work evil and then just repent without major consequences. One cannot trick God!!! Now, let us say you have found that perfect person and all has gone well as you have come to know each other. What does the Quran say about the process of getting married? The only requirements stated in the Quran for marriage are a mutually acceptable dowry and mutual attraction (Quran 4:24). There is no requirement even for a ceremony, though it is a very special event and good to share with loved ones. From what I can tell from the Quran, marriage is an issue between the two people and God. However, that does not make it a light matter. God calls it a solemn pledge (Quran 4:21). In fact, it is such a solemn pledge that forbidden marriages already in existence at the time of the revelation, were not to be broken. I believe this also goes for marriages entered into before you first read the Quran: Prohibited to you (For marriage) are: —
Marriage | 73 Your mothers, daughters, Sisters; father’s sisters, Mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, Sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; Your wives’ mothers; Your step-daughters under your Guardianship, born of your wives To whom ye have gone in,— No prohibition if ye have not gone in;— (Those who have been) Wives of your sons proceeding From your loins; And two sisters in wedlock At one and the same time, Except for what is past; For God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (The Holy Quran IV:23 [4:23] - emphasis added) Note the “Except for what is past.” Rashad Khalifa translates this as “do not break up existing marriages” (see Quran: The Final Testament 4:23). This is even when the man has married his sister, or another forbidden relative. That is how sacred marriage is! In the West we have diminished the importance and sacredness of marriage. However, God has not, and we must do whatever we can to make sure the marriage will last. Before this last verse, I had not yet mentioned marriage prohibitions. The above verse deals with all of the relationship categories, except women to whom your father had been married, which is covered in the previous verse (Quran 4:22). The Quran also prohibits women who are already married, unless they are fleeing disbelieving husbands who are at war with you (Quran 4:24). Of course, in the woman’s case the roles are reversed, and we do not marry our sons, our fathers, etc. The only other category prohibited is idol worshipers: Do not marry Unbelieving women (idolaters),
74 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Until they believe: A slave woman who believes Is better than an unbelieving woman, Even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) To unbelievers until They believe: A man slave who believes Is better than an unbeliever.... (The Holy Quran II:221 [2:221]) We have already discussed how important it is that there be a spiritual compatibility. Certainly having to deal with someone who turns to other than God for help and guidance would be difficult for a Muslim. And raising children in such an environment would be a real problem. It is hard enough to agree on what values to teach your children without basic spiritual values being in dispute. This brings up the fact that in all healthy marriages there are inevitable times of disagreement. You may know each other very well, communicate wonderfully, love each other dearly, and you will still have times when you do not see eye to eye. Or you may suddenly discover things about this wonderful person that you really do not like, or your own needs and values may change as you continue to grow. These issues exist in all human interactions, be they marriages, friendships, business associations, families, whatever. However, as I mentioned earlier in this chapter, in a marriage you cannot just walk away from these difficulties. You must work them out. This takes time, patience, work and commitment. Again, all of this allows us to work on our egos, and thus makes marriage a spiritual exercise and a great gift. IH
Another issue that we have only touched on is the dowry. In many cultures, including traditional cultures of the West, the brideâ€™s family pays the dowry. Interestingly, in Exodus 22:17
Marriage | 75 and Genesis 35:12 the dowry is paid to the bride’s family, which is the opposite. The Quran makes it clear that the groom pays the dowry to the bride herself. It is an amount that is set by mutual consultation, with both parties agreeing. There are no limits set on it, except that it should be acceptable to both parties: You shall give the women their due dowries, equitably. If they willingly forfeit anything, then you may accept it; it is rightfully yours. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:4) In the traditional Muslim world the dowry can be very complex and expensive. In most areas, for instance Egypt, the dowry for an educated young woman from a good family may be quite a bit more than the normal annual salary for a young man of the same class. I have friends who had to postpone their marriage for years while the husband saved up the dowry. In some areas like urban Iran, couples often have an arrangement where the man signs an agreement to pay a dowry of a substantial sum only if he decides to divorce the woman. Some women are also including a clause in such contracts that forbids their future husbands from taking a second wife. Some of my friends feel that this arrangement for the dowry does not meet God’s commandment to “give the women their due dowries.” They feel that the commandment is to physically give the dowry at the time of the marriage. I understand their point, but I am not certain that I fully agree. If the bride has no objection to this method, how does that differ from “If they willingly forfeit anything, then you may accept it?” In this case the woman is forfeiting a tangible dowry right now and gaining the promise of a substantial settlement should there be a divorce. That promise might be seen as the dowry. This practice may actually act as a deterrent to divorce. In either case, there is no question that the dowry must be agreed upon by both parties. For Indian and Pakistani families the situation with the dowry is more complex. While the groom gives the bride what
76 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam is often a token dowry, both families provide the household furnishings, clothing, etc.; everything which the couple will need to set up a new household. In some rural areas of India, the practice is more heavily influenced by the Hindu tradition. There the bride actually pays the groom the dowry. The expense is so great that many young women from poorer backgrounds are doomed to remain single. Unlike the young men who scrimp to save for the dowry, a young woman who must save for her own marriage, with or without having to pay the dowry, may well be too old once the money is finally gathered to make much of a match. This is especially true since most Indian and Pakistani women marry quite young. In many parts of the Muslim world, the dowry goes to the bride’s family and she may or may not see any benefit from it. I want to stress again that the Quran specifies that the dowry goes to the bride, not to the groom or to the bride’s family. For most of us in the West, the dowry is not as big an issue because women are more easily able to make their own living. Here many of my friends have accepted their wedding rings as their dowry. I asked for and received a beautiful piece of stained glass that my husband had made. It is one of my greatest treasures.
IH There is one more issue that I feel compelled to mention here, that of so called temporary marriages. Unfortunately, the growing Western idea of “living together” has its parallel among many traditional Muslims, particularly among the Shia community. (The Shias are one of the main Muslim sects. Most Muslims in Iran are Shia, as well as other smaller groups throughout the Muslim world.) In Iran this concept of temporary marriages even has official sanction. However, we saw above that God calls marriage a “solemn pledge” (Quran 4:21). As we will see in Chapter 9, ending a marriage requires extensive counseling, a cooling off period and the witnessing of a divorce agreement.
Marriage | 77 Marriage cannot be entered into lightly with the idea of it being temporary. That is not marriage!
IHIH The following are the stories of two different women. The first tells of the beginning of one of the best marriages I know. The second tells of a convert in a traditional community, and her many dilemmas, especially around marriage.
An Arranged Marriage Being born in an Indian “Muslim” family, arranged marriages were the norm. My elder sister had an arranged marriage and by GOD’s grace was happily settled. My uncle (Dad’s younger brother) had come from the US to get married and was planning to “meet girls” in Bombay—since I had vacations, he requested me to accompany him and my aunt from Calcutta. My parents did not accompany us on this trip. We met quite a few girls, but he could not make up his mind. It was usually the elders of the family who planned these “meetings,” generally after considering suitable family and other background. As GOD willed it (and I got to know later on) my grand aunt (Dad’s aunt) happened to be a neighbor and cousin of an eligible young man’s sister. We were often at this grand aunt’s place, as my uncle was staying there. So I was not surprised when I was told that we were going to visit her on a particular evening. However what intrigued me was that my aunt was paying extra attention to what I was to wear. I was 21 but in those days, one was not brought up to question “why?” We reached this grand aunt’s house and there were some visitors there—her neighbors. There was some general conversation, but I found myself the center of a lot of polite questions—particularly about my religious beliefs, also my likes and dislikes, whether I was fond
78 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam of reading, cooking and so on. Most of these questions were from the young man’s sister and family members, while he was apparently shy and hardly spoke anything. The meeting was followed by tea—by which time I was quite self-conscious and I was very relieved when it was all over. Afterwards I was asked how I had liked “the young man.” All I could say was that he was a pleasant person and there was nothing I disliked about him. What could I judge in a short meeting with not much interaction! A few days later we returned to Calcutta and my uncle returned to the US without any tie-ups. About a year later he married a girl with whom he had an arranged meeting for a few hours at an airport in a neighboring country on his way in to India. After getting together a number of other times, they were married. (Their marriage ceremony was performed over the telephone with the bride and groom on two different continents.) In the community we were brought up in, it is the boy’s family that proposes the engagement and then the girl’s family makes independent check-outs about the suitability of the boy and the family, considering any specific aspects observed. Well one day, after I had been back home for awhile, there was a phone call from Bombay requesting my parents for further meetings. Since we were not planning to visit Bombay, the young man visited our hometown. We met on two days. We went out for meals along with my parents, and my parents left us to chat for awhile. We spoke about our personal interests, etc. I do remember that one of our common interests was that we both enjoyed reading the Readers Digest!!!! Well he left for Bombay after a couple of days and a short while later his family proposed our engagement. I told my parents that I had liked what I had seen of the young man but left the final decision to my parents. After that my parents made appropriate inquiries over many weeks and after receiving very positive feedback we were engaged for several months, during which we wrote and spoke to each other and met when I went to Bombay with my family.
Marriage | 79 When I look back over 29 years of our marriage and try to appreciate all the awesome blessings from GOD, I realize that in fact it was only GOD in His infinite grace and mercy who had arranged, nurtured and guided everything so perfectly. He has blessed us and our two grown up “children” so awesomely with a great common faith and bond of being submitters to GOD Alone. —N., India
IH New Muslim in Traditional Islam God Most Gracious, Most Merciful, blessed me to officially become Muslim in December, 1978. After the ceremony, I was given the name of a sister to contact who lived in Berkeley and hosted a women’s Quranic study group. I did so, and thus began my strange odyssey into the world of Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and Sunna (practices of the Prophet). For though the study was called Quranic, it really wasn’t. We did spend some time each week reading the Quran, but the greater part of the study was given over to my instruction in the proper attire and conduct of a Muslim woman. Most of the women in the group were either foreign students or the wives of foreign students attending the University of California at Berkeley. They hailed from all over the Muslim world. And each woman found a different Hadith or Sunna to corroborate her opinion on attire, conduct, etc. Whenever I summoned the courage to ask why these varied opinions were not based on anything I had read in the Quran, I was politely but firmly told not to question. The inference was that I was an American convert and they being “born” Muslim had superior knowledge. The idea of not questioning is, of course, a direct contradiction of Chapter 17, Verse 36, which commands us not to accept any information without verifying it for ourselves.
80 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam The matter of dress having finally been got through, the real “fun” began. I was informed that as a Muslim woman I should begin seeking a spouse as soon as possible. These women found it even stranger than the brothers had that I had converted to Islam without prompting by a man. I was dismayed by their seemingly casual attitude regarding the selection of a mate. It seemed to be put on a par with shopping for a new dress or a pair of shoes. The concept of arranged marriages was both foreign and frightening to me. The prospect of marrying an unknown man just because he happened to be Muslim without necessarily having any other redeeming qualities was downright terrifying! And while I knew the Quran encourages single believers to marry, I couldn’t believe that this was what God intended. One of the single sisters held interviews with prospective husbands and had a list of requirements they were expected to meet. This wouldn’t have been so bad had these men not been complete strangers. Many of the men were just passing through town and read her advertisement in one of the Muslim journals. It seemed every woman in the group knew of some Muslim man in need of a wife. I felt gently pressured to accept someone’s recommendation. They were sincerely trying to be helpful and couldn’t understand my reluctance. I was, in turn, gentle in my refusals. But one night things took a turn for the worse. I received a middle-of-the-night phone call from one of the sisters who was assisting a traveling brother in finding a wife. Being awakened from a deep sleep, I was disoriented and muddled. I thought she was telling me that there was a brother on the rack who was looking for a wife immediately. I couldn’t understand why a brother would be on a rack in the first place, and secondly, why he would need a wife in the middle of the night. I wondered if his being on a rack made his need for a wife more urgent. The conversation became more ludicrous until finally I was awake enough to understand that she was trying to get me married to a brother from Iraq. Well, my first question was answered, but I still could not understand the urgency. At last I realized that he wanted a temporary marriage. He was in town for the night and wanted a sexual encounter in the guise of marriage.
Marriage | 81 I was really shocked! I didn’t know about the practice of temporary marriage in so-called Islam. In my opinion, this sister was acting as a panderer for this brother. To this day I shudder when I think what could have happened if God Most Merciful had not protected me. What if I had agreed to this temporary liaison, conceived, and then never heard from this man again? Would this same sister have been equally willing to track this man down for me if I later needed to find him? And what would my dowry have been? Would he have given me money for the encounter? God forbid! What an experience for a new submitter. I don’t know if this practice of temporary “marriage” is still as prevalent today. Thank God, I now am far removed from those who follow Hadith and Sunna. God willing, my experience may serve as a deterrent example for a sister who may find herself in a similar situation and not know what to do. —Lory, U.S.A.
IH Though the Quran does not require a public ceremony, getting married is a very special event. It is something that most of us want to share with those who are dear to us. Each couple is unique and special. I believe the ceremony with which they bind their lives should reflect that unique specialness. Here are two lovely examples of ceremonies, reproduced with permission from www.submission.org: First Ceremony Person doing the marriage service: I seek refuge in GOD, from Satan the rejected. In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Peace be upon you. We are gathered here to witness the marriage of Mr. (Groom) and Ms. (Bride).
82 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Marriage, like all of God’s provisions is a sign and a gift for us: “Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. “ (30:21) This gift is thankfully accepted, for God tells us: “...The more you thank Me, the more I give you....” (14:7) Bride : God, I thankfully and joyfully accept this gift from God of (Groom) as my husband. Groom : God, I thankfully and joyfully accept this gift from God of (Bride) as my wife. Person doing marriage service, as he lights candle: “GOD is the light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory of His light is that of a concave mirror behind a lamp that is placed inside a glass container. The glass container is like a bright, pearl-like star. The fuel thereof is supplied from a blessed oil-producing tree, that is neither eastern, nor western. Its oil is almost self-radiating; needs no fire to ignite it. Light upon light. GOD guides to His light whoever wills (to be guided). GOD thus cites the parables for the people. GOD is fully aware of all things.“ (24:35) Husband and wife together: God, take our will and our life. Guide our marriage. Show us how to live.
Second Ceremony Person doing the marriage service (Officiant): In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe. Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help. Guide us in the right path, the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers. (1:1-7) Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. (30:21) Love has given you wings, and your journey begins today, (Bride) and (Groom), wherever the wind may carry you, you will stay side by side, day after day. Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will
Marriage | 83 be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May God’s blessings surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion, on this earth and in the Hereafter, and your days together be good, righteous and long upon the earth. I ask you now in the presence of God and this congregation to declare your intent. Will you, (Bride), have this man to be your husband, to live together in a holy marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live? Bride: I will Officiant: Will you, (Groom), have this woman to be your wife, to live together in a holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live? Groom: I will Officiant -The Blessing of the Rings: The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two loyal hearts in endless love. It is a seal of the vows (Groom) and (Bride) have made to one another. Bless O God these rings, that (Bride) and (Groom), who give them, and who wear them, may ever abide in thy peace. Living together in unity, love and happiness for the rest of their lives The Exchange of rings: Groom: (Bride’s name), I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. With this ring, I thee wed. Bride: (Groom’s name), I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. With this ring, I thee wed. Officiant - Declaration of Marriage: In as much as you have each pledged to the other your lifelong commitment, love and devotion, I now pronounce you husband and wife, In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.
84 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam “Our Lord, direct us to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon us and upon our parents, and to work righteousness that pleases You. Let our children be righteous as well“ (46:15), “...and admit us an honorable admittance and let us depart an honorable departure. Grant us from You a powerful support“ (17:80). “...and shower our parents with Your mercy for they have raised us from infancy” (17:24). “Our Lord, let our spouses and our children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous” (25:74). “Grant us what you promised us through Your messengers and do not forsake us on the Day of Resurrection. You never break a promise“ (3:194). God bless you and Congratulations.
J8K Staying Single One of the things that is clear from Lory’s story, at the end of the last chapter, is that people from traditional Muslim societies expect women to marry. For most women deciding to live as a single woman is not even something to be considered. In these cultures, a woman’s identity is strongly tied to her husband. This “bull of inequity” is shared with the West, though in the West there has been a great deal of progress in this area. In current Western society, the requirement to be married is no longer very strong. In fact I have known many successful and happy women who have decided not to marry, or who have been married and divorced and have consciously decided not to remarry. Though the Quran encourages marriage, it certainly does not require it. God deals with us as individuals, as well as couples: Say, “I ask you to do one thing: Devote yourselves to God, in pairs or as individuals…. (Quran: The Final Testament 34:46) Ultimately we are totally responsible for our own souls. We will stand before God alone: All...will come before Him on the Day of Resurrection as individuals. (Quran: The Final Testament 19:95) Each of us is responsible for our own decisions, our own guidance. God has given us what we need to make our own choices:
86 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them. (Quran: The Final Testament 17:36) Knowing this, it makes no difference whether we are married or single. We are the ones who make the decision whether or not to be guided. Besides, being married, even to a messenger of God, does not guarantee either one’s guidance or any help against punishment: God cites as examples of those who disbelieved the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were married to two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them and, consequently, they could not help them at all against God.... (Quran: The Final Testament 66:10) On the other hand, Pharaoh’s wife was married to one of the greatest tyrants of all time and was such a good believer that God uses her as an example of the believers: And God cites as an example of those who believed the wife of Pharaoh…. (Quran: The Final Testament 66:11) Immediately after citing Pharaoh’s wife as an example of the believers, He cites Mary as a second example: Also Mary, the Amramite. She maintained her chastity, then we blew into her from our spirit. She believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures; she was obedient. (Quran: The Final Testament 66:12) The Quran tells of Mary’s obedience and submission to God, even as a child:
Staying Single | 87 Her Lord accepted her a gracious acceptance, and brought her up a gracious upbringing, under the guardianship of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered her sanctuary he found provisions with her. He would ask, “Mary, where did you get this from?” She would say, “It is from God. God provides for whomever He chooses, without limits.” That is when Zachariah implored his Lord: “My Lord, grant me such a good child; You are the Hearer of the prayers.” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:37-38) Thus, even as a child Mary was a good example of a believer, and inspired her guardian, Zachariah, to pray for a child who would be as good as she was. As she grew into womanhood that goodness did not diminish: The angels said, “O Mary, God has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you from all the women.” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:42) God chose her from all the women and also uses her, this single woman, as an example to us of a believer. From this example, He clearly does not require us to be married to be acceptable to Him. The Quran gives us quite a bit more information about Mary. In fact, it gives us much more information about Mary than it does about most of the messengers and prophets. Not only that, the Quran has a whole chapter named for her, Chapter 19. Please see Appendix 2 for the rest of Mary’s story, including the virgin birth, in the Quran. In the New Testament, it is not just the example of Mary that makes it clear that we need not be married to be acceptable to God. In fact Paul seems to indicate that it may be better to remain single: ...And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the
88 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam world, how to please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34 —New Revised Standard Version Bible) From all of this it is clear that we are not required to marry. Staying single and being a submitter to God (Muslim) are perfectly compatible.
IHIH There are many reasons that people decide to remain single. I have many single Muslim friends, some of whom would like to be married, and some of whom like being single and would not consider getting married. All of them are good Muslims. None are more courageous and loving than the sister who shares her story here.
Muslim and Homosexual There is conflicting evidence as to whether there is a human gene which predisposes a person to homosexuality. I believe there is, because of my own personal experience. I believe the gene is the same as genes that predispose people to certain addictions. Two people may drink the same amount of alcohol, yet one will become alcoholic and the other will simply be a heavy drinker. The heavy drinker, as things change in his life and he becomes older and more settled, will likely slow down his consumption, and may even stop altogether. The alcoholic will consume more and more, until the alcohol becomes the most important thing in his life. With help from an organization like AA, he may be able to stop drinking and turn his life around, but he will always be an alcoholic; the addiction will always be part of him. I think the same thing exists with “sexual preference.” Most of my fellow Muslims would probably disagree, but I say this because I believe that I have that predisposition. So, does that mean I am a lesbian? Yes and no. I think that, had God not saved me, that’s where I would be now—in a
Staying Single | 89 destructive, difficult, unhealthy lifestyle. But God did save me. He taught me right from wrong, weakness from strength. God condemns homosexuality. Not mildly, but strongly. He calls it an abomination [Editor’s note: see Quran 7:80, 29:28, etc.]. So why would God incline certain people toward a lifestyle that’s destructive and goes against His commands? It’s a test. The same as the alcoholic or the drug addict or the compulsive gambler. All of those addictions are against God’s commands, yet it’s recognized that those addictions are part of a person’s genetic makeup. The alcoholic can choose not to drink; the drug addict can choose not to snort cocaine; the gambler can choose not to bet. I can choose not to participate in the lesbian lifestyle. And I do choose that, because of God’s mercy in showing me the right way. I thank Him every day that He showed me the Truth and gave me the strength to say, “Yes, I’m a homosexual, but I choose not to practice something that will hurt my soul.” God doesn’t condemn homosexuals, anymore than He condemns alcoholics. He condemns the actions, and rewards those who fight and pass the test. It’s turned out to be an easy test for me. I don’t need sexual acts of any kind to make me a whole woman. I just need God. And I know that He is there for me. —Evah, U.S.A.
90 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J9K Divorce Divorce as it is practiced in many traditional Muslim communities (particularly in the Arab world) is one of the worst “bulls of inequity” imaginable. When I was first learning about Islam it was a great blessing that I did not know about these practices! I had never heard that only the husband can initiate a divorce. Nor had I heard that all he has to do is pronounce the divorce three times and it is permanent. Nor did I know that the husband always takes the children. Though, thank God, these practices are not universal, just the fact that much of the Muslim world justifies them by saying they are God’s laws, would have discouraged me from ever reading the Quran. And I know I would never have considered becoming a Muslim. Fortunately, all of these practices are cultural rather than Quranic. The Quran strictly regulates divorce. It is not a simple matter of the husband “repudiating” his wife by declaring three times that he divorces her. Rather, a long process is involved, with great emphasis placed on conciliation from the very beginning. The following verse shows this: If a woman senses oppression or desertion from her husband, the couple shall try to reconcile their differences, for conciliation is best for them. Selfishness is a human trait.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:128) From this verse several things become clear. First, a husband should not oppress nor desert his wife. Then, if the wife feels that she is being mistreated, she should speak up, for how else can the couple come to the point of reconciling their differences? This means that she must take responsibility for her own feel-
92 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam ings and her own life. She cannot expect her husband to know what she is thinking and feeling. This has always been one of my failings. I expect my husband to know what I need, without my telling him. When I look at this realistically I can see how self centered and selfish this is. He has his own life, his own set of concerns and old emotional wounds to heal. Those are his responsibility. If I need emotional support or different treatment from him, it is my responsibility to let him know in a non-blaming, loving way. I also must make sure that what I need is clear, first of all to myself, and then to him. And I have to realize that he may or may not be able to meet my need at that very moment. The Hollywood and fairy tale notion of love gives us very unhealthy expectations. It depicts a world where all one has to do is find the perfect mate, and all other problems disappear. In reality, no one else is going to magically meet our every need and make us queen of the universe. Sadly, this cultural fantasy of love is commonly accepted throughout our society. I believe it is one of the main reasons for the frighteningly high rate of divorce. Once that state of unrealistic magic called “being in love” settles down to a more normal state of real love, people often think that something is wrong with the relationship. If they fell in love with someone incompatible in the first place, they are probably right. But sometimes even if the relationship is quite good, people end it because they are no longer “in love,” as they understand it. Actually, being in love often has very little to do with love at all. Think about that sensation. It is a very selfish one. “I can’t live without him,” is its typical refrain. There is little or no consideration of what is good for him, or yourself for that matter. It is an obsessive state. Finally reality sets in and you see the object of your affection as a normal human being, with all his defects as well as his strengths. He is no longer the knight in shining armor who was going to save you from the drabness of everyday life. In short, most of us tend to have an unrealistic and selfish view of love and marriage. As we saw in the earlier verse it is
Divorce | 93 clear that God understands this aspect of our nature very well. When there are problems, He tells us to try to reconcile. He tells us that we are selfish by nature, and that overcoming that selfishness is best for us. If things in the marriage actually come to the point where separation seems likely, the following verse brings in the family, and arbitration is required: If ye fear a breach Between them twain, Appoint (two) arbiters, One from his family, And the other from hers; If they wish for peace, God will cause Their reconciliation.... (The Holy Quran IV:35 [4:35]) With the family involved, arbitration and counseling will naturally take place. I had always thought of marriage counseling and arbitration as very modern and enlightened psychological approaches to the problems of a troubled marriage. Actually I still think that is accurateâ€”the Quran is very modern and enlightened, though it was revealed 1400 years ago. If the conciliation and arbitration do not work, there is a cooling off period before the divorce takes effect. This is another â€œnewâ€? concept in modern divorce law: For those who take An oath for abstention From their wives, A waiting for four months Is ordained; If then they return, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. But if their intention Is firm for divorce,
94 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam God heareth And knoweth all things. (The Holy Quran II:226-27 [2:226-27]) If the couple decides to go through with the divorce, the woman must wait three menstrual cycles before she can marry someone else. The divorce is not final until after that interim. So, even after the four months of cooling off, there is another period of about three months before the divorce is final. That leaves plenty of time for the couple to reconsider, plenty of time for them to be sure that they really want to divorce. Unlike the traditions of Islam, the Quran does not say that only the man can initiate the divorce. In fact, in the following verse it is clear that the woman can cause the divorce: If you divorce them before touching them, but after you had set the dowry for them, the compensation shall be half the dowry, unless they voluntarily forfeit their rights, or the party responsible for causing the divorce chooses to forfeit the dowry. To forfeit is closer to righteousness.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:237) Thus, “the party responsible for causing the divorce” can be either the woman or the man. And either side can choose to forfeit the dowry. Also, Chapter 4 Verse 128, quoted above, commands the couple to try to reconcile when a woman “senses oppression or desertion.” This is then followed by verse 130: If the couple must decide to part, God will provide for each of them from His bounties. God is Bounteous, Most Wise. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:130)
Divorce | 95 In this verse the first phrase, “If the couple must decide to part,” makes it clear that both the man and the woman are involved in the decision of whether or not to divorce. Marriage is basically an agreement between the husband and the wife with God’s sanction. It only makes sense that either party can end it. There is just one situation where the husband’s wishes do hold sway over those of the wife. That is the situation where a woman is pregnant. If the husband wishes to resume the marriage under these circumstances, his wishes shall take precedence over those of the wife, not for his own sake, but for that of the unborn child: The divorced woman shall wait three menstruations (before marrying another man). It is not lawful for them to conceal what God creates in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. (In the case of pregnancy), the husband’s wishes shall supercede the wife’s wishes, if he wants to remarry her. The women have rights, as well as obligations, equitably. Thus, the man’s wishes prevail (in case of pregnancy). God is Almighty, Most Wise. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:228) Given the major hormonal changes a pregnant woman goes through, this provision seems reasonable. There is nothing to say that the woman cannot initiate a divorce later if she still feels she must. However, this provides a stabilizing period for her where her emotional and spiritual being can come back to its normal state after the great demands of pregnancy and giving birth. It also gives a chance to the whole family to go back to normal before a decision to divorce is made. When divorce does take place, the divorced woman has certain rights. For example, she may stay in the home, or leave it if she wishes:
96 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam If you divorce the women, once they fulfill their interim (three menstruations), you shall allow them to live in the same home amicably, or let them leave amicably. Do not force them to stay against their will, as a revenge. Anyone who does this wrongs his own soul.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:231) The father may request the mother to continue to nurse a child if the child is under two years old. If she is nursing her divorced husband’s child, he shall provide for her equitably: Divorced mothers shall nurse their infants two full years, if the father so wishes. The father shall provide the mother’s food and clothing equitably. No one shall be burdened beyond his ability. No mother shall be harmed on account of her infant, nor shall the father be harmed because of his infant.... If the infant’s parents mutually agree to part, after due consultation, they commit no error by doing so. You commit no error by hiring nursing mothers, so long as you pay them equitably.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:233) This verse is a very important one. It spells out the right of the father to request the mother to nurse their child. It makes it clear that neither party shall be harmed in the divorce. It also makes it clear that the decision to part is mutually agreed upon “after due consultation.” And it specifies that the father shall provide for the mother. Even when there are not nursing children involved, the wife receives a fair alimony. The Quran refers first to the provision for a widow (also termed alimony), and then immediately after addresses the situation of a divorcee: The divorcees also shall be provided for, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:241)
Divorce | 97 This shows that alimony is due the wife, whether or not she is nursing her former husbandâ€™s child. Furthermore, if a man has given his wife a great deal, and then wishes to divorce her, he cannot take back anything he gave to her, as these next verses demonstrate: But if ye decide to take One wife in place of another, Even if ye had given the latter A whole treasure for dower, Take not the least bit of it back: Would ye take it by slander And a manifest wrong? And how could ye take it When ye have gone in Unto each other, and they have Taken from you a solemn covenant? (The Holy Quran IV:20-21 [4:20-21]) Please note that Yusuf Ali understood this to refer to the dowry given to the first wife. However, other translations, including Rashad Khalifaâ€™s, do not specify that it need be the dowry. Nothing that was given to the first wife can be taken back. Probably the most painful area of divorce is that of assigning custody for the children. Among many Muslims it is a foregone conclusion that the child will go to the father. But the Quran does not specify this. While the father has the right to request the mother to nurse their baby, the Quran does not specify which party gets the children. This tells us that each situation should be decided on its particular circumstances, with the principle in mind that no one should be harmed on account of the children (Quran 2:233 quoted above). The only situation that the Quran discusses in this regard is the case where a woman going through a divorce discovers she is pregnant. As quoted above, the Quran indicates that the husband can choose for the marriage to continue (Quran 2:228
98 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam quoted above). However, if the marriage does end in divorce, the Quran does not specify which parent gets the children. Whatever the circumstances of the divorce, God stresses that: “…You shall maintain the amicable relations among you.” (Quran: The Final Testament 2:237 and 65:6) It seems to me that the Bible shows a progression in attitude toward divorce. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 a man may give his wife a writ of divorce if ”he finds something obnoxious about her” (according to The Torah: The Five Books of Moses). In the later book of Malachi divorce is clearly discouraged: For I detest divorce—said the Lord, the God of Israel.... (Malachi 2:16 - Tanakh: A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, 1985) In Matthew, Jesus explains that Moses allowed divorce because of man’s stubbornness, and says that it was not that way in the beginning. Then he says: I now say to you, whoever divorces his wife (lewd conduct is a separate case) and marries another commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9 - New American Bible) Jesus also states this teaching earlier in Matthew: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32 - New Revised Standard Version Bible) Personally, I have a great aversion to divorce, though it is allowed in the Quran. I believe it is one of the most painful things anyone can go through. This pain is not restricted to the husband and wife. Children suffer terribly in most divorces.
Divorce | 99 And members of the extended family also suffer. After all, the parents of the wife are losing a “son” and the parents of the husband are losing a “daughter.” Moreover, grandparents often lose easy contact with their grandchildren as the result of divorce. If divorce must take place, I can think of no more merciful way than that specified in the Quran. In summary, marriage is a sacred bond and God strongly encourages its preservation. Divorce is allowed, but only after attempts to reconcile and cooling off periods have failed. If divorce does take place, both parties are protected and their rights safeguarded. Finally, as difficult as it is, divorce should be amicable.
IHIH I know of no more poignant or inspiring story relating to divorce than the following. It clearly demonstrates some of the most painful aspects of the traditional understanding of divorce, and the strength of the submitting soul to rise above such pain.
“Talaaq, talaaq, talaaq” My family was a victim of the traditional understanding of divorce. What happened was out of ignorance. My parents were both good people. Had they known what the Quran really means by divorcing three times, none of the following drama would have happened. My parents were married young. My father, like all men of his generation, was raised with the idea that men are superior to women, and that they, as men, could do whatever they wanted. Women were not educated, and could read only the Quran. But the practice was to read it only for blessing, not for under-
100 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam standing. To question and examine was not allowed. We are so fortunate to be able to examine the verses and study the Quran to understand it. It is such a blessing. You have no idea what a blessing! My mother went to visit her brother with me, her new twomonth old baby. She had just returned. Every morning my father ate foul (Egyptian beans) with boiled eggs. This morning, she was rushed and she gave my father his foul without the eggs. It made him furious. He was so angry that he said she should go back to her brother. And he shouted out the terrible words “Talaaq, talaaq, talaaq” (meaning “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you”). So, my mother had to leave and go back to her brother holding me. [Editor’s note: The Quran says you can only divorce twice and still remarry the same woman. The only exception is if she marries someone else and her new husband divorces her (Quran 2:229). The traditional understanding is that the husband just has to pronounce the word three times and the divorce is final, and remarriage impossible.] When she told her family what had happened, they said that the divorce was final, so she had to stay there. My uncle did not want to deal with me. When my mother was asleep he took me from her and gave me to his son and told him to take me back to my father. He was to tell my father that my mother had said “Throw her to him.” When my father heard this lie, he was very angry and did not want to have anything to do with her. He hired a nursing mother for me. When that woman did not have enough milk for me, they would take me to other women who could nurse me or give me goat’s milk. Sometimes these women would sneak me to my mother, who was almost beside herself. She had ten years of marriage before I was born, so you can imagine how dear I was to her. When she remarried I kept hoping my stepfather would divorce her so she could marry my father again. But my father had remarried too. My stepmother was very, very mean to me.
Divorce | 101 Sometimes she would cook and then hide the food from me. So my father divorced her. I was ten years old when he married a very good woman, who gave me a wonderful half brother, Mã Shã Allah! [Editor’s note: “Mã Shã Allah” can be translated “This is what God has given me.”] I was very upset that I could not be with my mother. There she was alive, but I could not be with her. I never got enough of her, and I think it affected my whole life. But Praise God that He gave me my dear brother. And I think the pain I suffered made me ask questions. Because of that God guided me to the truth of following the Quran alone. If I had to do it again I would go through it all, every step without hesitation, to get to where I am now. Praise God! —I. R., Egypt
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J10K Inheritance Inheritance is another “bull of inequity” with some real meat. Time and again I have heard that a Muslim woman gets half the inheritance that the man gets. Now if that is not inequality, I don’t know what is! Yes, the men are supposed to be the bread earners, as we saw in a previous chapter. And in the culture of most Muslim countries, a single woman will generally become part of the household of her brother, once her parents have died. But what about a single woman in our society? How about a woman who has sacrificed her own life to provide care for her elderly parents, while her brother had gone off and made a life of his own? Where is the fairness there? I was told this division of the inheritance was a requirement in the Quran. Sadly, at last I had found proof that the Quran is unfair to women. Or so I thought. Again, I was tricked by my old friend culture. I had just assumed that the way other people understand the verses on inheritance is the only way they can be read. Actually, when I read the verses in Rashad Khalifa’s translation, I found that the Quran takes care of all of these unfair situations in the following verse: God decrees a will for the benefit of your children; the male gets twice the share of the female. If the inheritors are only women, more than two, they get two-thirds of what is bequeathed. If only one daughter is left, she gets one-half. The parents of the deceased get one-sixth of the inheritance each, if the deceased has left any children.
104 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam If he left no children, and his parents are the only inheritors, the mother gets one-third. If he has siblings, then the mother gets one-sixth. All this, after fulfilling any will the deceased has left, and after paying off all debts.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:11-emphasis added) Please note the section of the above verse that I have highlighted in bold. This section shows that the portions assigned are only for the remainder of the estate after a customized will has been applied and all debts paid. Yusuf Ali translates the same phrase as “after the payment of legacies” which means basically the same thing, but it was not clear to me. It was not until I read Rashad Khalifa’s translation that I realized that the portions assigned are only for anything left over after the distributions specified in the will or where someone dies intestate (without leaving a will). This fact is emphasized by the verses that describe the testimony of the witnesses of a will. If the first set of witnesses is found to be biased others should be found (Quran 5:106-108). If the will were simply a reiteration of 4:11, there would never be any question about the witnesses being biased. Perhaps my perceptions about this issue were affected by what I had always heard about the Torah. I always understood that only men inherited according to the law of Moses. I was incorrect though. According to Numbers 27:8, if a man died without leaving any sons, his daughters inherited from him. In the society of the time, this probably made sense, since if there were brothers and sisters, the sisters were cared for by the brothers until they married. However, by the time of the revelation of the Quran human society had evolved enough that women needed their own share of any inheritance, and individual situations were taken care of by the personal will left by the deceased.
Inheritance | 105 In fact, the Quran makes it clear that a believer should write a will to fit the circumstances of his or her individual family. So, if circumstances warrant more of the money going to the daughter(s) than the son(s), there is no reason for that not to be the case. Again, a will would not be necessary if we were just to follow the divisions given in verse 4:11. However, the Quran tells us specifically to write a will in the following verse: It is decreed that when death approaches, you shall write a will for the benefit of the parents and relatives, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:180) God thus tells us that it is a â€œduty upon the righteousâ€? to write an equitable will. To me this is a clear commandment to take care of any special circumstances in your situation. There may not be a great deal of money involved in an estate. However, there will be personal belongings. For those who loved the deceased, such simple things as clothing, books and other personal belongings can be a great comfort as they grieve for their loved one. For example, though it has been many years since my mother died, when I am especially missing her, I still wrap her shawl around my shoulders and feel her closer. I know that it is an illusion; my mother is not closer to me. But the ties of love go beyond the separation of death, and simple physical reminders of that love are very comforting. For that reason alone, everyone close to the deceased should get some of the inheritance, no matter how small it is. This is exactly what I understand the following verse to say: The men get a share.... The women too shall get a share of what the parents and relatives leave behind. Whether it is a small or a large inheritance, (the women must get) a definite share. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:7)
106 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam It makes no difference what our sex. We should all get part of the inheritance when our parents and relatives die. I believe that should be taken into consideration as we write our own wills. Finally, there is one more aspect of inheritance that I would like to discuss. That is the way that the Quranic laws of inheritance highlight the mother’s important role. (Please note that the details of how mathematically the division of the estate works out are beyond the scope of this discussion.) Because the men are responsible for the women of the family, their share of the inheritance is usually twice that of the women, unless a will is left that specifies otherwise. However, that is not the case with one’s parents. The mother gets the same share that the father gets if the deceased left children. Let’s look at that part of the verse again: …The parents of the deceased get one-sixth of the inheritance each, if the deceased has left any children. If he left no children, and his parents are the only inheritors, the mother gets one-third. If he has siblings, then the mother gets one-sixth. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:11) Thus we see that the understanding that the man always gets twice the inheritance that the woman gets is incorrect. First, this division applies only to what is left after the distribution of a customized personal will. Second, under certain circumstances, the mother gets the same inheritance as the father. Still, this is one area where many people question whether men and women are equal.
IHIH Inheritance is not something that we tend to think much about as younger people. As we get older it becomes more real to us as we face the fact that our parents will not live forever, and neither will we. The
Inheritance | 107 following story shares some of the issues Muslims often face when making their wills.
Inheritance When I was first reading the Quran I was confused by the verses in Chapter 4 concerning inheritance. I was single and feeling pressure to write a will that would benefit my brother and sister and niece and nephew. I read about the male getting twice the share of the female, one-sixth going to the parents, children getting one-fourth, two siblings getting one-sixth…. It made my head spin! I heard others talking about trying to figure out all the percentages and that it never worked out to one hundred percent. Did that mean God made a mistake, that His math was faulty? That certainly didn’t seem logical. Somehow I missed the important phrase tucked into all the verses on inheritance: “All this, after fulfilling any will the deceased has left.” This was the critical phrase. It didn’t mean I had to write a will leaving one-sixth to my parents, or onesixth to my mother since I had siblings, and one-sixth to my brother and sister with my brother getting twice the share of my sister, etc, etc. I could write any will I wanted to, leave whatever I chose to whomever I chose. God not only gives me that right; He insists on it: It is decreed that when death approaches, you shall write a will for the benefit of the parents and relatives, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:180) He tells me it’s my duty to write a will. If I don’t leave a will, or if I don’t designate all of my estate in the will, then it falls on someone else to distribute my worldly goods, and God gives a guideline formula to follow in that event. What a relief. Like everything else in Islam, I discovered that if something is difficult it’s because we’ve made it so. God makes everything easy, and fair. In my case, my parents didn’t need or want anything from me; they would have been irritated to have been mentioned in my will. My niece was starting a
108 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam family and a farm and had more needs than my nephew. It would have been unfair to leave him twice what I left to her just because he was the male. I thank God for the straightforward, understandable translation of the Quran by Rashad Khalifa which clarifies so many things, including what should happen to our goods when we’ve gone back to God. —Lydia, U. S. A.
J11K Witnessing The next issue of inequality, or “bull of inequity” so to speak, has to do with the witnessing of financial transactions. This issue, like that of men being in charge, has a solid Quranic basis, so it was not something I could just chalk up to cultural interpretation. However, after the input of a number of people, I personally feel comfortable that the issue is not one of discrimination against women, but rather one of protection in a potentially difficult situation. The verse that deals with handling financial transactions is the longest verse in the Quran. I will not quote the entire verse, just enough to give you the sense of its meaning, and the portions we are concerned with: O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down..... Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all. Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so…. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:282) There is no question here. In this case, the testimony of one man is equivalent to that of two women. The reason for this unequal treatment is explained in the verse: “Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her.” I have taken part in a number of discussions about exactly what this may mean. Why is the possibility of bias on the part of women such a concern? Some have suggested that in cultures where women are more secluded than in the West, they may be inexperienced in worldly matters. Thus, they might be more prone to bias. Others
110 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam have suggested that one of the men involved in the transaction might try to influence one woman, but it would be more difficult to influence two. The issue of education also has come up. In most of the Muslim world, men are more likely to be formally educated than women and therefore their testimony more acceptable. Rashad Khalifa alludes to what I think is the most important reason in his footnote for this verse. This has to do with the nature of the relationship between the two sexes: Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. It is a recognized fact that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men.
Though some may dispute that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men, if a male and female witness marry the woman would be in a very vulnerable position should the husband knowingly give untruthful testimony. In the United States, a woman is protected from having to testify against her husband. That is not true if one is following the Quran. In the verse below, withholding testimony is described as sinful: ...Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:283) Thus, if a woman were asked to testify, she would have no choice but to do so. The Quran also requires the testimony to be totally truthful: O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe God, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives.... If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then God is fully Cognizant of everything you do. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:135)
Witnessing | 111 The husband, after consulting with his wife, is captain of the ship in a marriage, as we discussed in Chapter 6. A man who will knowingly give untruthful testimony will expect his wife to back him up, and will probably pressure her to do so. However, if there is another woman he also has to coerce into supporting his lie, the whole situation is unlikely to arise in the first place. In the situation where the man is not married to one of the women, he would need to be quite a Don Juan to win the hearts of both of them to the point that they would lie for him, or he would need to apply a great deal of some other kind of pressure. To be fair, the same situation could arise with one of the women deciding to give untruthful testimony. In this situation, the same principle applies, it is much more difficult to coerce two others into supporting a lie. A woman might use her feminine wiles on a man, but they would not work on another woman. Rashad Khalifaâ€™s footnote points out another important fact: this is the only situation where two women substitute for one man. In all other situations requiring witnesses, the sex of the witnesses is immaterial. For example, the witnesses to the punishment of adultery can be male or female (as we saw in Chapter 2). Likewise, the witnesses for a divorce agreement or a will can be either sex, as we saw in Chapters 9 and 10. It is interesting to note that in these cases it is much less likely that an unscrupulous witness could benefit from an untruthful testimony. Given these other examples where men and women are treated equally as witnesses, the problem cannot be that women are considered unreliable witnesses. If two women substituted for one man in all witnessing situations, then we certainly could say that we were dealing with another â€œbull of inequity.â€? Fortunately, that is not the case. I personally have found peace with this verse about witnessing, however it remains an issue for many women.
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IHIH This next story illustrates why the Quran tells us to write down loans. Here, having two women witnesses was not a problem.
Making A Loan Transaction I had personal experience with the longest verse in the whole Quran. That's 2:282. In many Qurans, this single verse takes up the whole page, both in Arabic and in English. It contains many details, including the statement: “Do not tire of writing the details, no matter how long.” I had occasion to loan a friend $125. I knew we should write down the transaction. I was aware of the verse, but I thought we would get around to it. He promised to pay me back by the end of the month so I wasn’t worried about it. Months went by. We would smile and speak when we saw each other, but he never mentioned the money. And I was embarrassed to. I kept thinking I should get him to write the loan agreement and follow the Quran, but I never did. He moved away about a year later and I decided to just write off the loan and chalk it up to experience. Meanwhile I made another loan. This time I made certain that the debtor wrote out the details of the transaction. I told her she could come up whatever terms she wished but we had to write them down and get them witnessed. We have more women than men in our community so we simply followed the part of the verse that says “…if not two men, then a man and two women.” We got the three witnesses to sign. I felt so much better about this transaction. I was following the Quran. And she paid me the agreed upon amount monthly until the loan was paid off. It was so much easier. Everything was clear cut and straightforward. And God is so Merciful. About two years later, my friend sent a check for $125. —Anonymous, U. S. A.
J12K Religious Practices Now you have a good background in women’s issues and the Quran. I hope that you realize no matter how things are traditionally understood, God is not unfair to women in the Quran. I have kept what is probably the most important “bull of inequity” until this point in our discussion. When I was first learning about Islam, I almost did not survive this one. I was told categorically that I could not pray during my menstrual period. Also, I should not fast for Ramadan during my period (a practice we shall discuss in detail later). In fact, I was told I could not even touch the Quran during my period, much less read it!!!! For most women of childbearing years, these terrible restrictions on performing the critical practices of Islam mean that they cannot really practice their religion for about one quarter of the time. And it is much worse for the older women going through menopause who are spotting much of the time. The ironic thing is that most women are more emotional and need the calming influence of the religious practices even more during their periods and menopause. Where do these restrictions come from? I was told that the basis was the following verse, as translated by A. Yusuf Ali: They ask thee Concerning women’s courses [menstrual period]. Say: They are A hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women In their courses, and do not Approach them until
114 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam They are clean. But when they have Purified themselves, Ye may approach them In any manner, time, or place Ordained for you by God. For God loves those Who turn to Him constantly And He loves those Who keep themselves pure and clean. (The Holy Quran II:222 [2:222]) I was told that I could not pray, fast, or read the Quran during my period, because this verse prohibited it. What do those practices have to do with this verse? As we will see, this verse is dealing with the intimate relations between a man and his wife. Yes, a woman’s period is an inconvenience, and it is messy and must have been a royal pain in the neck before modern “feminine needs” products. However, God was and is fully aware of all of these factors, and He never said “Do not practice your religion during your periods.” If you say that this verse refers to more than the intimacy between spouses, then you must also say that God does not love any woman who can bear children. This is because He loves only “those who keep themselves pure and clean,” and by this definition, no woman who menstruates can keep herself in that state. The verse that follows makes it even clearer that the issue is the intimate relations between spouses, not a woman’s ability to perform her religious practices. Your wives are As a tilth unto you; So approach your tilth When or how ye will; But do some good act For your souls beforehand;
Religious Practices | 115 And fear God.... (The Holy Quran II:223 [2:223]) Reading the two verses together makes it very clear that God is restricting sexual activity during the wife’s menstrual period. To generalize from that and restrict her religious practices is to restrict her spiritual growth, for isn’t that what the practices are all about? Rashad Khalifa translated these two verses somewhat differently: They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by God. God loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean. Your women are the bearers of your seed. Thus, you may enjoy this privilege however you like, so long as you maintain righteousness. You shall observe God.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:222-223) To me this translation makes it even clearer that the verses have to do with sexual intimacy during the wife’s menstrual period, not with her ability to perform the religious practices of Islam. Because this is such an important issue, I will deal with each of the practices in its own chapter. Perhaps once again the Torah has influenced the understanding of these verses. In Leviticus 15:19-23 it is clear that a woman who is menstruating is considered unclean, and the things she touches are considered unclean. However, I would like to point out that in Matthew 9:20-22 when a woman with a flow of blood for twelve years touched his hem, Jesus in no way rebuked her for her uncleanliness, but rather praised her faith, and said that her faith had healed her.
116 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam I am certain that God never intended women to be forbidden from doing the crucial practices of Islam for a major portion of their lives. I believe that this is one of the main roots for the oppression of and prejudice against women that has come to be almost synonymous with Islam in Western understanding. When women are not allowed to perform the most essential rites of the religion for a large part of their lives, it is no wonder that there are reputed sayings of the Prophet Muhammad indicating that women are deficient in their religion! Traditional Muslims call these reputed sayings the Hadith This Arabic word is usually translated as “narration,” but these sayings are universally referred to using the Arabic word “Hadith.” The Hadith is the basis of much of the religious practice for traditional Muslims. Most Muslims have been taught that the Quran is too difficult to understand, and that the Hadith clarifies it. My experience has been very different, however. The Quran is very clear and unambiguous. The Hadith I have tried to read have been most confusing, unclear and inconsistent. (Please note that the word ‘Hadith’ can refer to either a collection of narrations, or an individual narration.) Many individual Hadith contradict others, which is not surprising given that they were not collected and made available until generations after Prophet Muhammad’s death. Until that point they were transmitted orally. The first book of Hadith was not available until more than 150 to 250 years after Muhammad died. Even the experts are uncertain when it was available. The most respected collector of Hadith, Al-Bukhari, was not even born until 194 or 198 AH in the Islamic calendar, ca. 810 AD. Thus, Bukhari could not have even begun his collection until 150 to 200 years after Muhammad’s death. When I was a child we used to play a game. We would sit in a circle and one person would whisper something into the ear of the person next to him or her. They in turn would whisper it into the ear of their other neighbor. The whispered message would go all the way around the circle and the last person would say it out loud. Then the originator of the message would tell everyone what the original message had been. Usually this
Religious Practices | 117 original message was greeted with gales of laughter, as almost always the final message bore little resemblance to the original one. This game can show how impossibly difficult it is to transmit information orally without introducing changes. In just a few minutes the message changed dramatically. The Hadith went through generations of oral transmission. In spite of the inherent dangers of oral transmission, advocates of the Hadith even go to the extent of saying that the Hadith abrogates the Quran. That means that if a given Hadith contradicts the Quran, then the Quran is incorrect. They take the Hadith over the word of God!!! This demonstrates how critically important these sayings have come to be in the religion of most Muslims. There are an appalling number of the Hadith that denigrate women. Since traditional Muslims rely so heavily on the Hadith as a source of their religion, is it any wonder that women are considered unequal in many Muslim cultures? As an example, here are a few choice Hadith dealing with women: Women are naturally, morally and religiously defective. (Bukhari from Iman, 2 as per A. J. Wensinck, A Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradition, 1960.) Ibn Abbas reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: I had a chance to look into the Paradise and I found that [the] majority of the people was poor and I looked into the Fire and there I found the majority constituted by women. (Sahih Muslim - 6597 from KITAB AL-RIQAQ (THE BOOK OF HEART-MELTING TRADITIONS) as translated by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui [www.iiu.edu.my/deed/ hadith]. September, 2001.) Abu Said a-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger as saying, “the world is sweet and verdant, and Allah having put you in it in your turn watches how you act; so fear the world and fear women, for the trial of the Bani Israel had to do with woman.” (Muslim - from Ideal Woman in Islam. by Imran Muhammad [wings.buffalo.edu/sa/muslim/isl/ hadith1.html]. September, 2001.)
Please note that the first name in the references in parenthesis after each Hadith is to the collector of that Hadith. So, not
118 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam only were the Hadith collected generations after the Prophet, they were collected by several people. I believe that the followers of Hadith are very sincere in their beliefs. They take the Quranic verses that tell us to follow the Prophet to mean that we should follow what those who recorded his sayings (Hadith) and actions (called Sunna) believed him to have said and done. However, they could not have any first hand knowledge of this, since none of it was written until generations later. Indeed the Quran does tell us to follow the Prophet: Say: “If ye do love God, Follow me: God will love you And forgive you your sins.... Say: “Obey God And His Apostle”:... (The Holy Quran III:31-2 [3:31-2]) There are other verses that also tell us to follow the Prophet. And there are many places that God tells us to follow the Quran. Here is one of the most important places: And this is a Book Which We have revealed As a blessing: so follow it And be righteous, that ye May receive mercy: ....In good time Shall We requite those Who turn away from Our Signs, With a dreadful penalty, For their turning away. (The Holy Quran VI:155-7 [6:155-7]) From these verses, it seems that it is dangerous not to follow the Quran and disregard it. How can you reconcile this with following the Prophet, as God also commands? Especially if what the Prophet said abrogates, or replaces, the Quran?
Religious Practices | 119 Don’t worry, the following verses tell us that the Prophet could not have given us any other religious teachings beside the Quran: This is the utterance of an honorable messenger. Not the utterance of a poet; rarely do you believe.... A revelation from the Lord of the universe. Had he uttered any other teachings. We would have punished him. We would have stopped the revelations to him. None of you could have helped him. (Quran: The Final Testament 69:40-47) These verses make it very clear to me that to follow the Prophet we must follow the Quran. The Quran is the only teaching he brought; following anything else is dangerous. The next verse reinforces this thought: Verily, this is My Way, Leading straight: follow it: Follow not (other) paths: They will scatter you about From His (great) Path: Thus doth He command you, That ye may be righteous. (The Holy Quran VI:153 [6:153]) Rashad Khalifa’s translation of this verse makes this principle clearer: This is My path—a straight one. You shall follow it, and do not follow any other paths, lest they divert you from His path. These are His commandments to you, that you may be saved. (Quran: The Final Testament 6:153) To summarize: Chapter 6 Verses 155 to 157 tell us it is important to follow the Quran. Chapter 69 Verses 40 to 47 tell us that Prophet Muhammad did not bring anything outside of the Qur-
120 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam an that we need to follow. And Chapter 6 verse 153 tells us not to follow any other paths besides the path of the Quran. From all of these verses it is clear to me that we should be following only the Quran, not the Hadith. I know that for many Muslims this is a shocking concept. They have been raised with the thought that Hadith is a critical source for Islam. However, there is absolutely no way of certifying any given Hadith as being valid. On the other hand, the Quran tells us that it is the word of God (please see 4:82 and 17:85 for example). Would you rather take a chance following what the Prophet might have said, or following what you know God does say? For me, there is no contest. I’ll stick to the Quran!!! There are several verses that support this point. Here is the one that struck me the most forcefully. These are God’s revelations that we recite to you truthfully. In which Hadith other than God and His revelations do they believe? (Quran: The Final Testament 45:6 – emphasis added) Please note that for emphasis, Rashad Khalifa chose not to translate the Arabic word “Hadith,” which is usually translated as “narration” or “exposition.” To me this verse says very clearly that we should be following only the Quran, and no other “Hadith.” There is one more critical point that needs to be made here. Muhammad was not the founder of Islam. He was a follower of Abraham as the following verse shows. Then we inspired you (Muhammad) to follow the religion of Abraham.... (Quran: The Final Testament 16:123) This shows that Muhammad followed Abraham’s religion. The following verse shows that the religious practices originally came through Abraham, and Muhammad continued them. In the Quran, Abraham prayed:
Religious Practices | 121 “Our Lord, make us submitters to You, and from our descendants let there be a community of submitters to You. Teach us the rites of our religion, and redeem us.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:128) Thus God gave us the practices of our religion through Abraham. And the following verse again shows us that we follow Abraham’s religion. And who turns away From the religion of Abraham But such as debase their souls With folly?... (The Holy Quran II:130 [2:130]) Thus, God makes it very clear that Islam is the religion of Abraham. Abraham was important in the founding of all three major monotheistic religions. Judaism and Christianity also claim him. And in both religions we see forms of the original practices given to Abraham. For example, the motions shown in the Jewish prayer book match those of Salat (the Muslim Contact Prayer) almost exactly. So do those of a priest giving Mass. Before doing the Contact Prayer, the worshiper performs a symbolic ablution. Ablution is also a common practice among the three religions, and may have been the original basis for the Christian baptism. Charity is another common practice among the three religions, as is fasting in some form, and also the concept of pilgrimage. To me the fact that Muslims are following the religion of Abraham makes it even clearer that we should be following only the Quran as a source of our religion. We do not have any Hadith to follow from Abraham, the founder of our religion. So what does the Quran tell us as women about our religious practices? Our next chapters discuss each practice and the women’s issues related to it.
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IHIH This story is that of a beautiful Muslim from Sweden. When I first met her I was amazed that she was Muslim, because I had not thought of Sweden as being a country with Muslims. Then I realized that she had an equal right to be amazed at my being Muslim. The beauty and power of Islam is not restricted to those whom we expect to be Muslims. God guides those who are destined to be Muslims, no matter where they are from.
A Journey to Faith Although I was curious about the Quran since I was a teenager, and had told myself that I would read it someday, the idea that I would one day refer to myself as Muslim didn’t once cross my mind. I simply figured that reading it should be part of every person’s basic education, as so many people in this world regarded it as their book of law. My father was a man of travel. His job would take us to different parts of the world. Visiting him during one of his assignments in Asia, I met the man I would marry years later. Little did I know that marrying this man, and eventually divorcing him, would be a crucial part of a long journey of me finding my way to God. I fell in love with him instantly, and was much too young and inexperienced to be cautious. I had not yet tasted the grueling consequences of seriously bad choices to fear life. So when he asked me to marry him after six years of seeing each other briefly once or twice a year, dreaming, and exchanging young promises, I held my breath for a few seconds, then said yes. Hopeful I immigrated to start a new life with him. I was told I had to convert to Islam before we could get married. I agreed, knowing very little to nothing about the religion. He practiced the Shahadah with me, the phrase I had to repeat to declare my new faith, and he groomed me into answering piously and cor-
Religious Practices | 123 rectly to questions I might have to answer. I was also told that I had to take on a Muslim name. He chose two for me. I was amused and excited at the same time, but didn’t take any of it really seriously. After all, we both knew it was all done so that we could get married. Gathered in the room for the conversion was my father who had flown in for our engagement, several witnesses, and an Australian lady convert, who was assigned the job of guiding me through the conversion process. There was also my husbandto-be, watching anxiously from a corner of the room. I was not in any way prepared for the emotional storm I was about to experience that day. As I started uttering the words we’d been practicing together, “Ashadu An La Elaaha Ella Allah…“ something unexpectedly happened. A powerful feeling completely overwhelmed me, and my eyes were flooded with tears. Afterwards I tried to make sense of what had happened. Was it because converting was such a profound expression of love for my husband? Something told me that this was not the case. After this experience I found myself occasionally chanting the only ‘local’ Godly words I knew—the call for prayers. I would sing, cry, and talk to God during private moments. Although I’d always believed in a higher intelligence and a purpose for all that is, I was still surprised at my new activities. Eventually, preparations for the official marriage ceremony were under way. Everything was arranged, guests were invited, and gifts arrived. One gift was a videotape. I was told “a stranger in the street” had given it to us. It was only a couple of months later however, when my brother in law decided to hand it over, that I finally watched it. On the tape was an eloquent man called Ahmed Deedat talking to people about the Quran. He spoke some about Jesus, which kind of surprised me since I did not know that Jesus was mentioned in the Quran. Wasn’t the Quran all about Muhammad? He also mentioned a new mathematical finding in the Quran, based on the number 19. I started asking people around me for more information about this, but to my great surprise, nobody could tell me anything.
124 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam I was sent to take lessons on how to pray and read Arabic. The Australian lady, my tutor, helped me buy my first Quran, in English. I never got down to reading it, however, as I was told that I couldn’t open it if I hadn’t washed in a certain way, uttering certain Arabic words. As I opened it and turned the pages, it had to be with my right hand, saying some more Arabic words. Finally I was told that I could not open it during some other specific circumstances, during menstruation being one of them. Reading the Quran was hard (I thought then). Covered from head to toe I tried to follow her instructions on how to position myself for the prayer. It felt like a very solemn moment, and I was enjoying the effort. But sitting in that peculiar position, with my toes bent in a certain way touching the floor, was much too painful, physically, to go through with it. Praying was really hard (I thought then). Soon my tutor and I were becoming friends, and much more informal with each other. When realizing how non-religious the family I lived with really was, she said that she could not see me staying with them for very long. I was surprised at her candor, and didn’t quite know what to make of her statement, as I didn’t see myself as a religious person. She seemed to see something else however, long before I would. The marriage did not last long. Mercifully, God allowed me to return to my homeland with my newborn son. The first apartment we rented upon our return, turned out to be sitting right on top of a small mosque. After settling in I decided to knock on their door to ask for information about number 19 in the Quran. They all looked puzzled, and I was starting to think that I would never find more information about it. Two years later however, as I was starting to forget all about the Quran and its code, my mother called to invite me to meet a new neighbor claiming to be Muslim. She made a point of telling me that she didn’t cover her hair. After being briefly introduced I was quite taken aback when one of the first questions she asked me was: “Have you heard about the number 19?” She gave me a translation of the Quran containing information about the code 19 the same day. That day my life changed.
Religious Practices | 125 That day I realized that the Quran was the word of God, and I decided to become a Muslim, in my heart. Years after that brief first encounter when uttering those words to convert, I was again feeling my soul. Giving in to its needs, it was now crying of joy, shivering with life, and in need of care. During the months that followed I remember not wanting to sleep, spending most nights reading this wonderful scripture— the Quran. It was truly an awakening and healing experience. I found answers to questions I’d always had, and answers to questions I didn’t even know I had, and I was feeling whole for the first time in my life. Although it was all new and somewhat strange, it was the most natural thing in the world for me. Everything looked different in my eyes, still everything was the same. Almost twelve years have passed since the day I decided to submit to God, the Lord of the Universe, and it still feels like my journey has just begun. It has turned out to be quite a lonely path, filled with lovely company. Lonely in the sense that, as we are born into this world and as we leave, is how we travel in our spiritual journeys, as individuals. —Swedish Muslim
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J13K Shahada — Bearing Witness Traditionally, to become a Muslim you go through a ceremony where you bear witness that there is only the One God. This bearing witness is known in Arabic as “Shahada,” and the ceremony is often called declaring or taking your Shahada. Every book I have ever read about Islam talks about this as the first of five Pillars of Islam. Where this concept of pillars comes from, I am not certain. However, for me this experience was more of a “bull of inequity” than a pillar. When I was supposed to take my Shahada, of course I started my period. And because my periods were irregular, I was spotting on and off a great deal. Trying to find a time that I could “become a Muslim” was almost impossible. At last, my hormones cooperated and I “officially” became a Muslim. The ceremony was simple, but the preparations were horrendous. My friend who was guiding me through the process had given me book after book of Islamic materials to study. Most of them had been printed in Pakistan. They were clearly written by people whose first language was not English and they were printed on paper that often bled from one side of the page to the other. Needless to say, they were very difficult for me to make out, so I did not really get too much from them. However, now I think that was a blessing. I’m afraid that if I had really read and understood them, I probably would have been frightened away from becoming Muslim. The Islam they taught was full of complex rules and regulations, especially for women. I don’t know that there was much, if anything, from the Quran in a single one of them. As I said, the ceremony was simple. My friend said the required words in Arabic, and I struggled to repeat them. Afterwards we had a wonderful dinner that he and some of his
128 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Afghani friends had prepared. Everyone was very kind and complimentary. My friend had gone to a great deal of trouble to try to educate me properly about Islam, and to make my becoming a Muslim a special occasion. It was very kind of him, and I am grateful. However, my understanding has changed. As I have read the Quran and come to realize that God is the only one who guides us, I have come to the conclusion that being a Muslim is a matter between you and Him alone. Becoming a Muslim requires no ceremony; it is something that happens in your heart. We had to keep postponing my taking of the Shahada because I was spotting. However, having God guide your heart does not require your body to be in any particular state. What if you wanted to become Muslim and were always spotting? Would God refuse you because your body was doing what He had designed it to do? If you had an oozing wound, that would be no impediment from going through the Shahada ceremony, though that is certainly as “impure” as a woman’s period. If a true physical impurity does not make you unacceptable as a new Muslim, why should a completely natural bodily process? Most Muslims believe that as part of the Shahada, they must also declare that Muhammad was God’s messenger. Clearly, all Muslims believe that Muhammad was God’s messenger. However, there is a growing recognition that the Quran forbids making any distinction among the prophets and messengers. This is demonstrated in the following verse (and several other verses). Adding just Muhammad’s name in the Shahada, and not the names of all those sent by God, is making such a distinction: ...Each one (of them) believeth In God, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) Between one and another
Shahada - Bearing Witness | 129 Of His apostles.”... (The Holy Quran II:285 [2:285]) Yusuf Ali uses the word “apostles” in his translation of this verse. Rashad Khalifa translates it with the word “messengers.” In either case, it is clear that we should not be making a distinction among those whom God sent. In fact, not only should we not be making a distinction, God tells us that He decreed the same religion for all of the messengers and prophets: He decreed for you the same religion decreed for Noah, and what we inspired to you, and what we decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: “You shall uphold this one religion, and do not divide it.”... He guides to Himself only those who totally submit. (Quran: The Final Testament 42:13) Thus, God decreed just one religion, submission to Him alone. I believe that all of those who do submit to God alone form one congregation, no matter what they call themselves. If there is just one congregation among those of different religions, then surely there should be just one congregation among those who follow the Quran. The verse immediately following the one above condemns breaking up into sects. However, there is a verse that is more straightforward and so I quote it here: Those who divide themselves into sects do not belong with you.... (Quran: The Final Testament 6:159) Muslims should not be dividing themselves into Sunni or Shia or any other sects. We should be one congregation with all other Submitters to God alone. In that ceremony long ago, I was told I was becoming a Sunni Muslim. I did not know enough to object. I also added Muhammad’s name as I repeated the Shahada, but I would not do so now. I would not want to take the chance that God would be dis-
130 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam pleased with me for making a distinction among His messengers. In fact, there is nothing in the Quran indicating that such a ceremony should be performed. The Quran does speak of a Shahada in the following verse. God bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise. (Quran: The Final Testament 3:18) Thus the Shahada of God, the angels and those who possess knowledge is to bear witness that there is no god except God. There is no mention of any other being. God alone suffices. Surely if this is God’s own Shahada, it is the only one we should be using! This Shahada is the same as the Jewish Shema, the first portion of which is: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 — The Torah: The Five Books of Moses) This is what Jesus called, “the greatest and first commandment” (New American Bible, Matthew 22:36-38).
IHIH We have already heard part of Lory’s story at the end of Chapter 7. Here is the story of how she became a Muslim.
Becoming Muslim in Traditional Islam God Most Gracious, Most Merciful, blessed me to read the Quran in December, 1978. I had been raised as a Roman Catholic
Shahada - Bearing Witness | 131 and knew almost nothing about Islam. By God’s mercy, I recognized the Quran and His divine truth. I realized I had been a Muslim (submitter) much of my life without knowing it. I was eager to begin the worship practices God had decreed in the Quran. I had been given an instruction booklet on the Muslim contact prayers from an acquaintance and had learned how to pray, but I didn’t know where to go for the Friday Prayer. I looked in the San Francisco telephone directory under “Islam.” After a humorous conversation with a kindly secretary from the Shriners organization, I made contact with a gentleman from the San Francisco Islamic Center. When he recovered from his shock that an American woman had accepted Islam because she had read the Quran and not because a husband or fiancé had required her to do so, he explained that I must take the Shahada (a ceremonial witnessing that only God is God). Within a few days I met him at the Islamic Center and proceeded to take the Shahada. When I asked about attending the Friday Prayer, he and the other brother who had witnessed my Shahada began to discourage me. They told me that attending the Friday Prayer was not mandatory for women. This confused me because I had just read Chapter 62 [62:9] in the Quran enjoining those who believe to attend the Friday Prayer. It did not say only believing men were to attend. I was told that there was a Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) which said that because women’s work was holy she was exempt from leaving her home to go to the mosque. I had never heard the word “Hadith” before. It was the first time, but unfortunately, it was not to be the last. —Lory, U.S.A.
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J14K Salat — Contact Prayer The Contact Prayer, or Salat, is known as the second pillar of Islam. It is a beautiful gift to us from God. It is the best means in my experience of keeping God foremost in your thoughts and your life. Ever since I can remember prayer has been special for me. Probably my first truly spiritual experience was when I was praying at about the age of eight. I grew up next to a wash. It was called a river, but only had water in it after a heavy summer storm or when the snows on the nearby mountains were melting. Most of the time it was like a huge sand box for the neighborhood children to play in. When I was out of school I practically lived in this wash. It was my special refuge when I was upset. The day I am remembering was one of those upset times. I do not remember what had happened, but I do remember sitting in the warm sand sobbing my heart out, praying to God, and wishing that I could be like the little lizard a few feet away who was the only other breathing creature in sight. Suddenly a deep peace descended upon me and I felt God’s healing presence engulf me. I recognized that feeling immediately when I began to do the Contact Prayers. It was as if my soul were being watered again after a long drought. But the traditional understanding of a woman’s ability to perform this most important practice was a major “bull of inequity” for me. The Contact prayer is an obligatory practice, which every Muslim should perform within five specific periods of the day. Even in times of war, when attack could be imminent, Muslims are commanded to pray (Quran 4:103-4). God provides for situations when the prayer cannot be done in its normal manner, then it can be done while walking or riding (Quran 2:239). He
134 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam makes the religion easy for us, and wishes for us convenience, not difficulty (Quran 5:6). But I was told I could not perform the Contact Prayer when I was menstruating, because I was not clean. Unhappily I accepted this indignity, not knowing what else to do. However, this edict kept a friend of mine from becoming Muslim. She simply would not accept that she could not pray during the time of the month when she needed it the most. Like the situation discussed in Chapter 12, the problem here seems to lie with a misinterpretation of the Quranic verse forbidding intimate relations between spouses during the wife’s menstrual period. In vain I looked for verses in the Quran that told me not to pray. Instead I found verse after verse telling me just the opposite, and making it very clear that I must pray regularly. Here is one such verse. ...Establish Regular Prayer: for Prayer Restrains from shameful And unjust deeds; And remembrance of God Is the greatest (thing in life).... (The Holy Quran XXIX:45 [29:45]) Here I am commanded to establish regular prayer. And I’m told that the prayer restrains me from doing wrong. Am I not as much in need of this restraint when I am menstruating? And more importantly, how regular would my prayer be if I did not pray for one week out of four? The believers are described as praying regularly: And they observe their Contact Prayers (Salat) regularly. (Quran: The Final Testament 23:9)
Salat - Contact Prayer | 135 Perhaps one might argue that this just applies to men. However, the following verse makes it clear that this argument is incorrect. The Believers, men And women, are protectors, One of another: they enjoin What is just, and forbid What is evil: they observe Regular prayers.... (The Holy Quran IX:71 [9:71]) Both men and women must pray regularly. This makes sense not only on an individual level, for each womanâ€™s soul, but also in the society. Since the mother almost always takes care of the children while they are very young and the most impressionable, her regular prayer is a critical modeling for future generations. It would be most confusing for young ones if sometimes she prayed and sometimes she did not. Then I found the following series of verses. To me they make it clear I should not follow the wishes of someone telling me not to pray. Have you seen the one who enjoins. Others from praying? Is it not better for him to follow the guidance? Or advocate righteousness?... You shall not obey him; you shall fall prostrate and draw nearer. (Quran: The Final Testament 96:9-19)
IH For those of you who are not familiar with the Contact Prayers, or Salat in Arabic, let me try to describe them. They are a practice that was originally given to the prophet Abraham. I have already noted the similarity of their motions with those in the Jewish prayer and with the motions of a priest performing the mass. The Contact Prayers consist of five
136 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam prayers said within specific time frames. The first is said during the dawn before the sun rises, the second a little after noon, the third later in the afternoon, the fourth after sunset before it is dark and the fifth after it is dark. Sometimes Muslims combine prayers, but it is my understanding from the following verse that they should always be said within these specific ranges of time. ...When ye are free From danger, set up Regular Prayers: For such prayers Are enjoined on Believers At stated times. (The Holy Quran IV:103 [4:103]) Thus, the prayers should be done “at stated times,” and not combined. Each prayer consists of a set number of units: the dawn has two, the noon has four, the afternoon has four, the sunset has three and the night has four. Each unit begins in the standing position with the recitation in Arabic of the very short first chapter of the Quran (quoted below). Then you bow and repeat an Arabic phrase or one in your own language glorifying God. Then you go into prostration, and again repeat another phrase glorifying God. If this is an odd numbered unit, you will stand up again. If it is even numbered, you will repeat the Shahada, bearing witness that only God is God and that He has no partners. As you move from position to position you say “Allahu Akbar ” or “God is great.” Many have asked why the Contact Prayer must be said in Arabic. My honest answer is that I believe it is better to do it in English, or your native tongue, rather than not do it at all. However, from my own experience I believe that at least the short first chapter should eventually be done in Arabic. I have tried both. There were a number of months that I did it all in English. When I went back to my pitiful Arabic, there was a differ-
Salat - Contact Prayer | 137 ence somehow. Perhaps it is that, especially in the case of the first chapter of the Quran, you are speaking God’s words as they were revealed. It is not a translation, or an interpretation, but God’s actual words. I’ve also heard it said that the actual sounds of Arabic act as a combination to open the contact with God, like the combination of a safe. Whatever the reason, as I mentioned above, there was a distinct difference for me, a deepening in the prayer of sorts. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Perhaps you have felt it yourself. Here is the English translation of that first chapter of the Quran, known variously as the Opener or the Key, or Al-Fatehah in Arabic. In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Praise be to God, Lord of the universe. Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help. Guide us in the right path; the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers. (Quran: The Final Testament 1:1-7) Most Muslims recite other portions of the Quran besides the first chapter in some of their units. I am not comfortable doing so because to me the Contact Prayer is direct contact with my Creator. I feel like I am addressing Him directly, and most of the Quran is addressed to us, not to Him. It doesn’t feel right to address God and then recite something totally disconnected, like a verse about Moses and Pharaoh. Also, recitation of any verses that address anyone other than God breaks the commandment in the following verse. “And the places of worship Are for God (alone):
138 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam So invoke not any one Along with God; (The Holy Quran LXXII:18 [72:18]) So you certainly do not want to recite any verses that address anyone other than your Creator in the Contact Prayer. In the sitting position many Muslims pray for the families of Muhammad and Abraham. However, this practice is like adding the name of Muhammad to the Shahada, as mentioned in the last chapter. It makes a distinction among God’s messengers, and I am not comfortable doing so. Besides, we know from the following that our prayers will not help them. ...Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none But itself: no bearer Of burdens can bear The burden of another…. (The Holy Quran VI:164 [6:164]) Not only will our prayer not help them, but praying for the families of Muhammad and Abraham means that you are praying for Abraham’s father who threatened to kill him and Muhammad’s uncle Abee Lahab who was the leader of the opposition against the early Muslims. For Muslims this is an issue because we are told not to pray at the grave of those who would not fight in God’s cause (see Quran 9:83-4). Thus it only makes sense not to pray for the dead who fought against His cause. Before the contact prayer is begun, you perform a symbolic ablution, washing your face, arms to the elbows, wiping your head and washing your feet to the ankles. (See Quran 5:6.) If there is no water available, or you are ill, you can perform the dry ablution as described in the following. O you who believe, do not observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) while intoxicated, so that you know what you are saying. Nor after sexual orgasm without bathing, unless you are on the road, traveling; if you are ill or traveling,
Salat - Contact Prayer | 139 or you had urinary or fecal-related excretion (such as gas), or contacted the women (sexually) and you cannot find water, you shall observe Tayammum (dry ablution) by touching clean dry soil, then wiping your faces and hands therewith.... (Quran: The Final Testament 4:43) Note that the first part of this verse is the only place where God gives us conditions for not praying. That is only if we are intoxicated, which we never should be if we are following the Quranic injunctions against intoxicants (see Quran 2:219 and 5:90). Please also notice that this verse describes what things nullify the ritual purity needed for prayer. It also indicates that if you are ill you should still pray but you can do the dry ablution rather than washing. This verse thus answers the final argument I was given for why I could not pray during my period. I was told that at this time it was like I was ill, and God was making it easy for me by allowing me to skip my prayer. This verse indicates that I should be praying even if I am ill. To me there is nothing in the whole Quran that indicates I should not be praying during my period. On the contrary, there are many verses that indicate I must pray regularly. Also, the above verses have shown that we should pray when we are ill, if we are afraid we will be attacked during times of war, even if we must do it while walking or riding. It seems to me that there is never any reason not to do our Contact Prayers.
IH There is one other issue for women related to the Contact Prayers, and that has to do with the congregational prayer on Fridays, known as the Salat Al-Jumuâ€™ah, or just Jumuâ€™ah, or the Friday Prayer. In many parts of the Muslim world women are not welcome in the mosque and do not attend the Friday con-
140 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam gregational prayer. A large portion of my friends had never gone to the Friday Prayer, even though they were born and raised to be Muslim women. However, the following verse tells all believers to participate in this weekly event. O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed To prayer on Friday (The Day of Assembly), Hasten earnestly to the Remembrance Of God,... (The Holy Quran LXII:9 [62:9]) All believers, not just men, should follow this commandment to “Hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of God.” In our community the Friday Prayer is a wonderful time. It is the one time in the week that the entire community is together. The services are kept short so that those who are coming from work do not have to take much, if any, extra time for their lunch break. But those who can, stay after the prayer to visit a bit. A different brother leads the prayer each week, giving two short talks, known as khutbahs. These talks are given on Quranic topics or topics of community concern with examples from the Quran. They substitute for two of the units of the noon Salat (Contact Prayer). Between the talks, we turn to God in silent repentance. After the second talk the brother leads two units of Salat. If you are Muslim and find yourself alone or in a community where you are not welcome in the mosque for the Jumu’ah prayer, please consider starting one yourself. All you need is one other person to follow this important commandment of God. You can rotate giving the khutbahs, just reading from the Quran to each other, if nothing else. Who knows, you may find a community growing. Many of my friends have found just that.
Salat - Contact Prayer | 141 In our community we get together again on Friday evenings for a Quran study lead by one of the sisters. (Of course anyone can lead a Quran study. We have just chosen to give the sisters a chance on Friday nights to lead the study in rotation, like the brothers who do the khutbahs in rotation at noon.) Most people come for both the Friday Prayer and the Quran study. So Friday is a wonderful community day for us, and my favorite day of the week. [Editorial note: For additional information on the Contact Prayers and their origin, please see Direct Contact by Ihsan Ramadan with Lisa Spray, BSM Press, 2002.]
IHIH The following story tells of the birth of a community. Though Patty and her husband began the Friday Prayers with just the two of them and a few others, it was not that long before I was able to attend a Friday Prayer in their home where there was barely room for us all to do the prayer!
Once You Start About 12 years ago, my brother introduced to us the mathematical miracle of the Quran. When my husband and I examined the mathematical miracle of the Quran, it was so awesome and showed us without a doubt that the Quran must be the word of God. [Editorial note: Please see Chapter 18 and Appendix 3 for more information on the mathematical encoding of the Quran.] We began to read the Quranâ€™s translation to see what was really written in this book. Certainly we didnâ€™t find any of the cruel and inhumane rules that some governments were enforcing as Islamic Law in the Quran. What we found instead was guidance, light, encouragement and a religion and philosophy that promoted only peace and love. I also found
142 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam the answer to a question that I had for a long time, “If there is only one God then why are there so many religions?” I realized that all of the monotheist religions are the same and God commanded the Prophet Mohammed to follow the religion of Abraham. I also learned that God commands us not to accept any information unless we as individuals verify it. This is so crucial to our daily lives. Many crimes, punishments and killings in the name of religion could have been stopped if people would have verified the information they were hearing. My husband and I were completely overwhelmed by what we read in the Quran. We realized for ourselves that what was being practiced in many Muslim countries and communities is not even similar to the teachings that are given in the Quran. When we first really learned about the Quran, we had the Quran with us everywhere we went. When one of us was driving, the other was reading the Quran out loud. We were so excited that we wanted to do our religious obligations as soon as possible. We started praying 5 times a day and giving our Zakat [obligatory charity]. We also learned from the Quran that we had to do our Friday group prayers at noon. We would try to go to the mosque in another town to do our group prayers whenever we could. However, some Fridays we could not make it and we were very sad. Fortunately we found out that as long as there are as few as two people, one giving the Khotbeh [khutbah], and one listening, the Friday Prayer can be observed. Locally, my husband and I started doing the Friday Prayers with two friends and a co-worker instead of driving all the way to the other town. Soon, our group grew and we had the Friday Prayers in our house. Even at night we would have Quranic studies, where anyone interested in learning about the Quran could gather, read, and discuss verses from the Quran with others. Today, I always look forward to Fridays so I can learn more and more about God’s commandments and how to apply them to my daily life. —Patty, Iran
J15K Zakat — Obligatory Charity Fortunately, there are no “bulls of inequity” involved with the Zakat, or obligatory charity. However, this third pillar of Islam is so critical, that it is worth a short discussion. The following verse contains God’s response to the prayer of Moses when he took seventy men to the place he met with Him, and they “were seized with violent quaking.” ...He said: “With My Punishment I visit whom I will; But My Mercy extendeth To all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those Who do right, and practise Regular charity.... (The Holy Quran VII:156 [7:156]) From this verse it is clear that giving the obligatory charity is critical, for it is one of the requirements for God’s mercy! Since it is so important, what else does God tell us in the Quran about the obligatory charity? He tells us that it must be given on the “day that the harvest is gathered.” ...Eat of their fruit In their season, but render The dues that are proper On the day that the harvest Is gathered.... (The Holy Quran VI:141 [6:141]) Thus, we must “render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered.” That means that the obligatory charity
144 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam (dues that are proper) must be given on the day of harvest. Rashad Khalifa translates this a bit more clearly as “give the due alms on the day of harvest” (Quran: The Final Testament 6:141). For those of us who do not farm that would be when the money comes in… or when we “harvest” our paychecks. Yet, when I first was becoming a Muslim, I was told that I needed to give the obligatory charity only once a year, and then just on my savings. God’s command is to give it “on the day that the harvest is gathered.” Since God made giving the obligatory charity a requirement for receiving His mercy, I want to give it every time I receive income!!! How much do we give? From the time of Abraham, the amount has been set at two and a half percent of our net (income after taxes). This is a very small amount, but when it is given regularly, it can make a great deal of difference to both the individuals who receive it and to society as a whole. Who receives it? God makes it very clear that it should go to needy family members first, then the other categories listed in this next verse: They ask you about giving: say, “The charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the traveling alien.”... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:215) In Deuteronomy 26:11-12 the Torah describes a form of tithing which is very similar to the Quran’s obligatory charity, though it was required only every third year. And after describing the poor behavior of many when fasting, Isaiah gives us the following: No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness.... To let the oppressed go free... It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him,
Zakat - Obligatory Charity | 145 And not to ignore your own kin. (Isaiah 58:6-7 - Tanakh: A New Translation...) Charity is encouraged in both the Torah and the Gospels, and many Jews and Christians are very, very charitable. God requires Muslims to give so little, and He rewards us so much. He also encourages us to give other charity besides the obligatory charity, and He encourages anonymous charity, as stated in these next verses: ...If ye disclose (acts Of) charity, even so It is well, But if ye conceal them, And make them reach Those (really) in need, That is best for you: It will remove from you Some of your (stains Of) evil.... (The Holy Quran II:270-1 [2:270-1]) So it is best to give anonymously. Thus the charity remits your sins. Like the Quran, Jesus taught that charity is best when done secretly (see Matthew 6:1-4). However, though it is good to give to charity, the Quran teaches that it is dangerous to be excessive, as these next verses tell us: And render to the kindred Their due rights, as (also) To those in want, And to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) In the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers Of the Evil Ones; And the Evil One
146 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Is to his Lord (Himself) Ungrateful. (The Holy Quran XVII:26-7 [17:26-7]) Moderate charity, both obligatory and voluntary, is an important part of our religion, for women as well as men. And it is a requirement for us to attain God’s mercy.
IHIH The following story is that of a very charitable sister who wishes to remain anonymous.
Charity: Who Benefits? You cannot attain righteousness until you give to charity from the possessions you love. Whatever you give to charity, God is fully aware thereof. (Quran: The Final Testament 3:92) My personal experience has been that when I give charity, I receive much more than I give. There are immediate and very strong positive feelings. It always makes me feel good. I grew up with a sense that people who need charity are deadbeats, lazy and undeserving. God has caused me to see how untrue and unfair that attitude is. He makes it clear that charity is the right of those who receive it; they are entitled to it. When I give charity, I am simply the instrument through which the money passes to its rightful owner. I try to give anonymously as much as possible; it’s better for me and easier for the recipient. But sometimes you get to see the results, how it has helped someone. A few years ago, a sister slipped a ten-dollar bill into the purse of another sister who was pregnant and the mother of two. She found the money and exclaimed, “This is perfect! I can get the sweater I really wanted.” It made everyone smile.
Zakat - Obligatory Charity | 147 I have also found that God often compensates me in a real sense as well. Frequently right after I’ve given zakat, a check will come in the mail, something I wasn’t expecting. It reminds me that God is in charge, and if I think I don’t have enough to spare, it reminds me that God has more than enough. —A submitter who knows: Any charity you give is for your own good. Any charity you give shall be for the sake of God. Any charity you give will be repaid to you, without the least injustice. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:272)
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J16K Ramadan — The Month of Fasting Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan is known as the fourth pillar of Islam. I fasted during Ramadan even before I became Muslim. I loved the way that my stomach growling and realizing that I was thirsty made me think of God. I was quite upset when I was told that I could not fast on the days that I had my period…. Yes, it was another “bull of inequity.” They tried to placate me by telling me that it was like I was sick, and God was making it easier for me. But my male friends were fasting even when they had colds. There was no equality there. Eventually I found out that the Quran does not restrict women from fasting at any time during Ramadan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice, Ramadan is one of the lunar months of the Islamic calendar. During this lunar month, Muslims do not eat or drink from the earliest light of dawn until sunset. As you can imagine, the evening meal is usually quite festive. Here is the major Quranic passage on fasting. O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation. Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted. Those who can fast, but with great difficulty, may substitute feeding one poor person for each day of breaking the fast. If one volunteers (more righteous works), it is better. But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people,
150 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. God wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify God for guiding you, and to express your appreciation. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:183-5) Though it may sound strange, God makes it easy to fast. There is something that happens during Ramadan that is inexplicable except to say that God makes it possible. We see in these verses that if you are ill or traveling, or if it really is a hardship to fast, you may feed the poor instead. “But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew.” Thus, even if you say that a woman who is menstruating is “ill,” it is still better for her to fast. There are situations where fasting is not a good idea, so God gives a way to substitute righteous work for fasting. However, for most natural situations, like menstruation and even pregnancy, fasting is not a problem if you are careful to eat and drink enough during the night. Many of my friends have fasted during their pregnancies, and none with adverse effects. Of course they were in consultation with their obstetricians. In situations deemed unsafe, they have not fasted. Fasting during Ramadan is a Muslim practice that should never be denied to women just because their bodies are doing what God has designed them to do. Fasting is another religious practice that Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common. The Day of Atonement is a day of fasting for Jews, and many Christians have practices of fasting. Lent may well be derived from the original fasting practice given to Abraham. In both the Jewish scripture and the Gospels we are given directions on the proper attitude for fasting. Isaiah shows us how not to fast: ...on your fast day You see to your business
Ramadan - The Month of Fasting | 151 And oppress all your laborers! ...you fast in strife and contention, And you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting today is not such As to make your voice heard on high. (Isaiah 58:3-4 - Tanakh: A New Translation...) Jesus taught that we should not make a public display of our fasting: “When you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do. They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting. I assure you, they are already repaid.” (Matthew 6:16 - New American Bible) In Muslim communities Ramadan is often a very social time. Because it is assumed that everyone is fasting, restaurants, tea houses, etc. are closed during the day. Most businesses shut down for part of the day. When evening comes and it is time to break the fast, the community comes alive again. Guests are often invited to break the fast and for many Muslims, evenings are spent socializing. It is often known as the time of “fasting and feasting.”
IHIH As we just mentioned, Ramadan is often a very social time. People often visit one another. Here is the tale of one such visit. The story that follows it is the personal sharing of one who can teach us all about Ramadan and trusting in God. Muslims fast during Ramadan; they usually wake up before dawn to eat something, so that they can fast during the day. Knowing this, here is the story of a Muslim born man who visited during Ramadan with a family that practiced the religion. The host asked his guest, “Will you study the Quran with us?”
152 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam “I don’t have time!” he replied. They asked, “Would you like to observe the contact prayer with us?” “I am not used to observing it,” he said. They asked, “Do you give to charity?“ “I can’t afford it!” They said, “Do you fast?” “I can’t stand it,” he replied. The host said, “So, we shall not wake you up for the meal before dawn.” “But I am a Muslim, I am a Muslim!” (As told by Irandokht, Iran)
IH Ramadan “You’re Muslim—that means you don’t eat pork, right?” “Isn’t Allah the one you pray to?” “Are you married to an Arab or something?” These are all questions that I am asked when it is “revealed” that I am a Muslim. “Aren’t you supposed to wrap your head up and wear a veil?” Well-meaning, but misinformed people ask these questions routinely. As a modern, American career woman and believer and worshiper of God alone, most people do a “double take” when it is unavoidable and I must share with them that I won’t be eating. All I do is smile, perhaps giggle a bit, and tell them more.... Ramadan is the most special time of the year for me. It is a time when I am keenly aware that God is omnipresent in my life. It is actually the time when it is easiest for me to be the best believer in God that I can be. God commanded that for a month
Ramadan - The Month of Fasting | 153 we not eat or drink from dawn until sunset. For everybody around me this is the most difficult thing that anyone can imagine. For me it is the one and only time of the year that I can actually resist the urge to put food into my mouth. I believe God makes this time special and especially easy just for me! I am hypoglycemic and have been so for about 12 years. Every day I suffer from having to eat on a schedule to avoid having low blood sugar. Having hypoglycemia means constantly having to think about food and having to have food near me. Not just any food, but the right amount of protein and carbohydrates so as to avoid a miserable headache, grouchiness, blurred vision, impaired judgment and other side effects. It also means craving sugar and sweets! I must eat breakfast and I must eat again before noon or I get quite ill. In a perfect world, this would be easy, but daily I seek out sweets like some sort of sugar addict and fight my pancreas for control of the situation! Ramadan is truly a miracle for me. Each and every day during this special time I eat only at night. I have found that if I eat also in the morning before the sun rises that it is actually more difficult to keep my blood sugar high enough to avoid those inevitable lows that are so common during the year. I have a nice meal and dessert(!) in the evening; as well as lots of water and I have no symptoms of hypoglycemia the following day and every day during Ramadan. The day before Ramadan starts and the day after Ramadan ends I must eat, eat, eat and again the cycle starts. I’m sure there is a physiological reason why during this month and this month alone my blood sugar is adequately controlled, but I prefer to give all of the credit to God for making this a wonderful time. I even fasted for Ramadan during both of my pregnancies and my children (praise God) were both born big, beautiful and healthy. People who know me well just marvel at how I don’t even act hungry during Ramadan. This is simply because I’m not! God makes this month so easy for me that I can hardly believe it. I know we should always be grateful when putting food into our mouths. Ramadan is God’s reminder that food should
154 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam never be taken for granted. There are people all over the world less fortunate than ourselves; people who don’t have enough to eat. I believe that this is God’s way of reminding us of just this fact. Having enough to eat is a blessing from God. He has created so many beautiful foods to eat and pure water for us to drink. Let us rejoice and be glad! —Lourdes, U.S.A.
J17K Hajj Pilgrimage The fifth Pillar of Islam is the Hajj pilgrimage. Each Muslim should make this pilgrimage to Mecca and its environs, when and if they can afford it. This is not an easy practice, even now when transportation and modern lodgings are readily available. During the Hajj, literally millions of people from all over the world come together in one small area of Saudi Arabia to worship God and fulfill their religious obligations. To make Hajj one must obtain a special Hajj visa from the Saudi government. If you are an unmarried woman from the West (or anywhere else, for that matter) you must travel with an authorized Hajj group. If you are married to a Muslim, the two of you may be able to make your own arrangements. However, you must stay with your husband at all times, since as a woman you must always be accompanied by your husband or a male relative when in Saudi. Of course, this trip is expensive. Most Americans spend more than two thousand dollars to make Hajj, and some spend a great deal more. Performing Hajj is quite strenuous. In a very few days, thousands of people pour into Mecca for the Hajj. They come from all corners of the world, and many Saudi’s regularly join them. Almost every year people are killed in the crush of the crowd. It is recommended that you make Hajj while you are still physically strong. Sadly, although this is a once in a lifetime experience for most Muslims and the culmination of a great deal of preparation, the “bulls of inequity” plague Hajj.
156 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam When I made Hajj, I went with a group from New York. There were several young women in the group, and at least two of them ended up getting their menstrual periods while in Mecca. It was their understanding that they could not visit the Sacred Mosque that surrounds the Kaaba in their condition because they were impure. (The Kaaba is the shrine Abraham built.) Indeed, the publications I was given when I made Hajj said that the required circling of the Kaaba seven times, called circumambulation, was forbidden for women who began menstruating after starting the Hajj. However, there certainly is nothing in the Quran that places this restriction on women. There these young women sat in their hotel rooms, just minutes away from the Kaaba. They had come half way around the world to visit that ancient shrine built by Abraham. (To do so is part of the Hajj ritual.) They had spent a great deal of money, and expended enormous effort, and were finally at the focal point of their religion, the place all Muslims turn towards during their Contact Prayers. But they were unable to even approach it!!! And why? Again, because of that same misunderstood verse! Because they had been told that Chapter 2 Verse 222 of the Quran meant they were impure, and therefore forbidden from doing their religious practices, while on their periods. As a result, they may have lost their only chance to completely fulfill this last obligation of the religion. To me this situation is criminal. If the Saudis allowed Hajj to be done as the Quran indicates, it would not be quite as bad, because the Hajj would then not need to be limited to the few days in the year when the Saudis allow it to be done. The Quran indicates that Hajj can be done any time during the four Arabic months known as the Sacred Months. Hajj shall be observed in the specified months. Whoever sets out to observe Hajj shall refrain from sexual intercourse, misconduct, and arguments throughout Hajj.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:197)
Hajj Pilgrimage | 157 So, if the Quranic timing were followed, it would not be such a hardship on women. If they got their period and felt they were impure, they could simply wait until it was over, then go on to complete the rites of Hajj. But when it all must be squeezed into a short period of time, and one has booked tickets, taken time from work, etc., it often becomes impossible. Since part of the Hajj requires circling the Kaaba, if you cannot do this circumambulation, then you cannot truly complete your Hajj. Nowadays, women will often go to their doctors and get medications to stop their periods for the Hajj. However, this medication does not work for everyone, as one of the young women I came to know fairly well on the Hajj can attest. She was a young Middle Eastern student studying in the United States. I am sure that Hajj was not an easy thing for her to do. Her periods were unusually long, and in spite of the medication, she began bleeding after going into the ritual state of purity for Hajj, called Ihram. (It is at that time that the pilgrim bathes, puts on special clothes and repeats the intention to make Hajj.) According to the Saudi understanding, a woman in Ihram who begins her period must wait until the bleeding has stopped before she can do the circumambulation of the Kaaba. Fortunately for my friend, her body finally cooperated and she was able to complete her practices. However, I am sure she spent all of that time in an agony of uncertainty, not knowing if she would be able to complete her Hajj before she had to leave. To me it makes no sense that God would make things so difficult for women. Especially since He says that He does not wish to make the religion difficult in the following verse on the ritual ablution. O you who believe, when you observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), you shall: (1) wash your faces, (2) wash your arms to the elbows, (3) wipe your heads, and (4) wash your feet to the ankles....God does not wish to make the religion difficult for you; He wishes to cleanse you
158 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam and to perfect His blessing upon you, that you may be appreciative. (Quran: The Final Testament 5:6, emphasis added) Though this verse does not apply directly to Hajj, it makes it clear that ritual ablution is just that, a ritual cleansing. In truth, we are never totally physically clean, at any time. This is true for all human beings, male or female, for our bodies are constantly processing food and creating waste as a by-product. Whether or not we excrete that waste, it is within us. And other waste is constantly excreted, whenever we perspire or even breathe. So whether we are male or female, we are only ritually pure after any ablution, including a total bath. Why then should a woman have such difficulty around her menstrual cycle? This is especially true for Hajj where a woman may only have one chance in her lifetime to perform this religious duty. Performing Hajj is not an easy or inexpensive matter. It requires preparation and a certain maturity of faith. I will not try to describe the details of the practices here. There are many places you can read about them. (Just search on “Hajj” on any of the .com booksellers, and you will come up with hundreds of references.) Rather, I think the following impressions will be more valuable to you in really understanding what Hajj is all about.
IHIH Each person’s experience of Hajj is as unique as they themselves are. Here is that of a wonderful fellow American whose narration I find especially valuable.
Hajj “Oh, you’ve been on Hajj! Tell me all about it!!” Everyone wanted to hear details, but as I spoke of my experience, I noticed
Hajj Pilgrimage | 159 that people seemed disappointed. I think they were looking for a miracle, some mystical transformation, some cosmic revelation. And while in a way all of that happened, it’s an intensely personal experience and it doesn’t lend itself to the telling. That said, I will tell of the things on my Hajj that were important to me. As a white American female, I was in for quite a culture shock. I knew a little of what to expect but I wasn’t prepared for the level of disregard for women and the subtle oppression. I steeled myself to covering my head, but it was an ordeal and I disliked it. I endured it because Hajj is a commandment and in order to perform it, I had to abide by the cultural requirements of Saudi Arabia. One day while shopping, an old woman covered from head to toe in black pointed a gnarled finger at me and said in an ugly voice, “Haram! Haram! Haram!” With my very limited Arabic I knew the word meant “forbidden” and I realized several hairs in my bangs were showing under my head covering. How awful! What a disgrace! After that, I was always self-conscious about my scarf. But I didn’t let the silly restrictions of humans interfere with the spiritual experience I had come to find. I asked God for His help and clearly He gave it to me. Otherwise I could never have put up with the huge and pushy crowds, the cumbersome garb or the attitude of suspicion and repression. Because God gave me strength, I was able to tolerate all those things. I turned myself totally over to God, which is what we should do every day of our lives; I recognized and accepted the fact that God is in full control of everything; I spent all my waking moments remembering Him, commemorating Him and worshiping Him. And in my opinion that’s what Hajj should be about. It’s not the practices of walking around the Kaaba or jogging between the knolls of Safa and Marwah or tossing pebbles at stone columns. All of those things are symbolic gestures meant to put God foremost in our minds, and that’s the importance of Hajj. For me the most spiritual and moving time was the day spent at Arafaat. Arafaat is a desert area just outside of Mecca.
160 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam During Hajj, thousands upon thousands of tents dot the barren landscape, and the pilgrims spend the entire day—sunrise to sunset—in quiet contemplation and reflection. I used the time well to celebrate God and thank Him for the many blessings in my life. The Quranic verses 2:198-9 tell you to commemorate Him for guiding you and to ask Him for forgiveness. At sunset, everyone leaves Arafaat at the same time. It’s a huge traffic jam of people and cars, and ours was one of the last buses to leave the parking lot. As we came over a hill I was struck by a most amazing sight. Literally millions of people were walking all together—a sea of humanity, as far as the eye could see. Almost all of them were wearing white and all of them were there for one purpose—to worship God. Differences, such as skin color, national identity, wealth and poverty, were no longer visible. All that was left was the underlying desire to please God, to complete the pilgrimage that He had decreed, and in doing so, God willing, to grow closer to the ideal of a righteous person. It was not an earth-shattering moment, but for me it was very deep and personal. Perhaps no one else even noticed. That’s why Hajj is an individual experience. You can learn all about how to perform the various rituals and talk to dozens of people who have been on Hajj, but the moment in time will be yours alone; between you and God.
J18K Studying the Quran When I first started reading the Quran, I was very blessed that I had not been told that I could not read it when I had my menstrual period. Otherwise, it is quite likely that I would never have bothered to try and read it at all. To be forbidden from reading the scripture for about one quarter of the time because my body was doing what it was designed to do would have made me furious. This “bull of inequity” would simply have been too much for me. Fortunately, by the time I heard that I was not supposed to touch the book when I was menstruating, I was already hooked on the Quran. Again this restriction is based on the same verse we have been discussing in the past several chapters (Quran 2:222), which restricts intimate relations between spouses during the wife’s period. However, in this case an additional verse is used. God tells us first that the Quran is in a well-guarded or protected book. Then comes the following verse, as translated by Yusuf Ali, is: Which none shall touch But those who are clean: (The Holy Quran LVI:79 [56:79]) This verse has usually been taken to mean that people who have not made ablution (the ritual wash described in Chapter 14 on the Contact Prayer) and those who are otherwise “impure” (like menstruating women) are not allowed to handle the Quran.
162 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam However, this makes no sense when one realizes that anyone who is not already Muslim would never be allowed to read the Quran. They would not know to wash first, and even if they did know, most would not bother. Believe me, if I had not read the Quran there is no way I would have ever become interested in Islam! What I “knew” about it was simply too scary. Surely God would not make the Quran so inaccessible to nonMuslims. Otherwise how would anyone learn enough to decide to be Muslim? Rashad Khalifa translates this verse in a way that makes a great deal more sense to me. Rather than saying that one cannot physically touch the book, he translates it as: None can grasp it except the sincere. (Quran: The Final Testament 56:79) Thus, if someone is not pure in his or her intentions, in other words they are insincere, they will not get anything out of the Quran. In that way they will not be able to touch it. This makes more sense to me, because clearly anyone who walks into a bookstore can physically pick up a Quran. Whether or not they get anything out of it depends on their sincerity. For Muslims, the Quran is the source of their religion. As such, it must be read, not just wrapped up and placed in the most honored place in the home, as many Muslims have traditionally done. The first revelation of the Quran begins “Read, in the name of your Lord, who created.” Although this was originally directed to Muhammad, I believe that God is addressing us all in this verse. Reading the Quran is a critical part of any Muslim’s spiritual practice. In fact, the entire first revelation focuses on studying the scripture: Read, in the name of your Lord, who created. He created man from an embryo.
Studying the Quran | 163 Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted. Teaches by means of the pen. He teaches man what he never knew. (Quran: The Final Testament 96:1-5) Here God tells us that He teaches us what we never knew. Yet, Muslims are often told that the Quran is too difficult to understand; that only the scholars can interpret it, and that the Hadith are required to explain it. Women are additionally handicapped because they are taught that they cannot even touch the book for a good part of their adult lives. These are the teachings of men, not of God. God describes Himself as the teacher of the Quran. If God is your teacher, you do not need scholars or Hadith to teach you: The Most Gracious. Teacher of the Quran. (Quran: The Final Testament 55:1-2) In this next section of verses, He also lets us know that if we are sincere, the meaning of the Quran will be made clear for us. To me the last verse of this passage indicates that Muhammad was not to explain the Quran, but to leave things to God. Move not thy tongue Concerning the (Qur-an) To make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it And to promulgate it: But when We have Promulgated it, follow thou its recital (as promulgated): Nay more, it is For us to explain it (And make it clear): (The Holy Quran LXXV:16-19 [75:16-19]) From the above two sets of verses it is clear that it was not for Muhammad to explain the Quran. God is the one who teach-
164 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam es us and explains what we don’t understand in the Quran. However, this does not just magically happen. We must do our part. In fact, God tells us all to read the Quran in the morning (“at dawn” is the exact Arabic, though Yusuf Ali translates it as “in the morning”): Establish regular prayers— At the sun’s decline Till the darkness of the night, And the morning prayer And reading: for the prayer And reading in the morning Carry their testimony. (The Holy Quran XVII:78 [17:78]) What a nice way to begin the day, reading the Quran at dawn. Indeed, that is a good quiet time to read without interruptions or distractions. One can read the Quran in several manners. It is nice to just open at random and read. However it is also important to read the entire Quran (73:4). To be able to accept the entire Quran, we must know what it says, so we must have read the whole book. Here is a passage that to me makes it clear that both men and women should read the Quran, and indicates that it is part of our righteous works. Satan will always try to discourage us from doing righteous works. I believe that is why the Quran tells us to take refuge from him before we read. Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world, and we will surely pay them their full recompense (on the Day of Judgment) for their righteous works. When you read the Quran, you shall seek refuge in God from Satan the rejected.
Studying the Quran | 165 He has no power over those who believe and trust in their Lord. (Quran: The Final Testament 16:97-99) These verses make it very clear that we all, male and female, should read the Quran, and we should seek refuge in God before doing so. In this next verse, God makes it very clear that we should not only read the Quran, but also study it carefully. Why do they not study the Quran carefully? Do they have locks on their minds? (Quran: The Final Testament 47:24) Note that this is for all Muslims, not just the men. Another verse (4:82) tells us that if we study the Quran carefully we will see that it has no contradictions. If it were not from God, that would not be the case, especially given the manner in which it was revealed over about twenty-three years. The following verse also is not addressed just to men, but to “the believers,” which includes men and women and indicates that studying the Quran can be one way of mobilizing for God. When the believers mobilize, not all of them shall do so. A few from each group shall mobilize by devoting their time to studying the religion.... (Quran: The Final Testament 9:122) Thus, studying the religion is a very important role in the society. And of course, from previous chapters we know that the source of our religion is the Quran. Studying the Quran is not only very important it can be extremely enjoyable. In an earlier chapter I mentioned that I love Fridays because that is the day for both the congregational prayer and our community’s Quran study. In our community, the brothers rotate giving the Friday Prayer (known as the Jumu’ah Prayer). Then on Friday nights the sisters rotate giving the Quranic study, as we read through
166 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam the Quran â€œfrom cover to coverâ€? (Quran 73:4). Thus we are blessed to hear the wisdom of everyone in the community. Even the older children often share their thoughts and questions during our study. This active participation by both men and women in the critical activities of the community strengthens the community and gives each individual the chance to grow spiritually. Preparing for and giving the Friday Prayer or the Quranic study are different from listening to others giving them. When my turn to lead the study comes, I find that preparing for it gives me the opportunity to really delve deeply into the verses that we are reading that week. I am always amazed at how much more there is in the section I am studying than I first noticed. That is one of the real joys of the Quran. You can read it over and over and always gain more from each reading. When you are studying with other congenial people, it is even better because they add insights from their different viewpoints and life experiences. The Quran is interesting in another way, it moves from subject to subject very much like our minds do. It is not like the Torah and the Bible, which have a more linear nature to them. The Quran is much more like our own stream of consciousness. Perhaps that is why I have found it to be so satisfying to read and study. I believe that it speaks to a deeper level than normal books. Maybe it reaches this deeper level because it is in tune with the way our minds work. There is one more thing that I would like to cover regarding reading the Quran. Often I have heard that the Quran cannot be translated, and must be read in Arabic. I do not accept this premise. Yes, the Quran was revealed in Arabic, and Arabic has many shades of meaning in one phrase. However, if you are not a native speaker of Arabic, I believe that God will teach you the Quran through a good translation.
Studying the Quran | 167 The Quran is the critical teaching of Islam. If it were true that the Quran could only be read in Arabic, how would any non-Arabic speaking person become a Muslim? Yes, someone can tell you what the Quran says, but nothing has the awesome splendor and power of God’s words themselves in your own language. In fact, the following verses indicate that translating the Quran is necessary: If we revealed this to people who do not know Arabic. And had him recite it (in Arabic), they could not possibly believe in it. We thus render it (like a foreign language) in the hearts of the guilty. (Quran: The Final Testament 26:198-200) From this it seems clear that the language you speak is not important. If you speak the most impeccable Arabic, but are not open to guidance, the Quran will be as if it were written in a foreign language. The next verse shows that whether or not the Quran was revealed in Arabic, it is a guide and a healing for the believers, and will mean nothing to the disbelievers. If we made it a non-Arabic Quran they would have said, “Why did it come down in that language?” Whether it is Arabic or non-Arabic, say, “For those who believe, it is a guide and healing. As for those who disbelieve, they will be deaf and blind to it, as if they are being addressed from faraway.” (Quran: The Final Testament 41:44) The Quran was revealed in Arabic. But no matter what language is your native tongue, if it is meant to be your scripture it will speak to your heart whatever translation you are reading. For those of you who have not read the Quran, or have not read all of it, let me encourage you to do so. I know several people who really were not particularly interested in it or Islam, but began reading it for one reason or another, and became fascinated. As a matter of fact, I’m one of those people!
168 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Even if it does not speak to you as it has to me, reading the Quran will give you a much better understanding of the Muslim world, and of yourself. Such an understanding is crucial in this time of great change. What translation should you read? As I said earlier in this chapter, I believe that God will teach you through any translation. However, if you are a native English speaker I do recommend that you try Rashad Khalifa’s translation. It has made a world of difference in my understanding. The English is modern and easy to read. Also, it was the first translation made by someone whose native tongue was Arabic. Many consider Yusuf Ali’s translation one of the best, but his native tongue was neither Arabic nor English but Urdu. I believe that the difference shows. There is one other thing I would like to mention about Rashad Khalifa’s translation. As he was translating, he discovered a very fascinating numerical code imbedded in the Arabic of the Quran. In truth, this code was the answer to my last doubt about Islam. I had studied the Bible, and its history. There was no question in my mind that in all of the years of oral transmission and then multiple translations of the Bible, some human error had been introduced into this document. How did I know that the same thing had not happened to the Quran? The numerical code that Rashad Khalifa discovered in the Quran was my answer. After careful study of this code, I believe that it is so intricate and all encompassing that the Arabic language had to be created around it in order for the Quran to make such wonderful sense and also conform to the mathematical code. Only God could do such a thing. The Quran has to have come to us intact. This numerical code is based on the number 19. It is quite amazing the way it permeates the fabric of the Quran. For example, the Quran begins with “In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” Each of the Arabic words in this
Studying the Quran | 169 phrase occurs in the Quran in multiples of 19, and the phrase itself occurs a multiple of 19 times. The total number of chapters (suras) is 114 or 19 times 6. The total number of verses is also a multiple of 19. The total occurrences of the word “Allah,” the Arabic word for “God”, is a multiple of 19. And if you add the verse and chapter numbers for those verses, the total is also a multiple of 19. If you take each unique number that occurs in the Quran and add them together, the total is also a multiple of 19. The list goes on and on. I have provided Appendix 3 explaining the very basic aspects of this code. Please review it and decide for yourself what this code means to you. At the end of that appendix I give references for further study if you are interested. I think you will find the numerical code worth further investigation. Indeed, God describes the believers as being those who do investigate everything: They are the ones who examine all words, then follow the best. These are the ones whom God has guided; these are the ones who possess intelligence. (Quran: The Final Testament 39:18) Being open to the truth, no matter where it comes from is one of the qualities of Islam that I treasure most. Islam is not an exclusive club, but an all-inclusive invitation. It is an invitation for every human being—regardless of gender, race, creed or nationality—to make God their true Lord and Master, their true priority. I believe that the Quran is one of our most powerful tools in making God our priority. Studying it is a reward in itself.
170 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam For many Muslims, Islam was very difficult until they began reading and understanding the Quran for themselves. For many, reading the Quran has been the key to finding their true selves, and discovering their own relationship with God. I know of no more beautiful example of this than the following story.
Quranic Reward In The Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful I was very young, maybe seven or eight years of age when I fell in love with God and had an immense yearning to observe God’s religion. For years I observed God’s commands, by God’s Grace, without even knowing that they had been corrupted. However, my heart was never completely content and I always felt somewhat of a void. I would study the Quran a lot, but they had scared us so much about asking any questions that unfortunately, the laws of “hadith” had become a substitute for the Quran and we had gotten used to it. I didn’t listen to music, although I loved it, for the books of “hadith” prohibited it. I even obeyed the so-called dress code for women (covering my hair) for twenty-two years, until one day, one of my relatives showed me the verse in the Quran regarding the dress code for women. It was then that I decided to stop covering my hair; yet, I was afraid that I might have been wrong. In school, I had many classmates of different religions, and I always wondered, since God is One, then why were there so many different religions. To make matters worse, when we learned of the many contradictions in Islamic laws, I became more surprised and confused—especially when the people would say that they were followers of the Quran and the prophet Mohammed and yet they each followed different laws and teachings (sectism)! Yet, asking questions was taboo and I would have been known as a sacrilegious person if I dared to ask them. I could feel a storm brewing inside me and I found refuge in writing poetry to express my feelings:
Studying the Quran | 171 I am bursting inside and I have no where to go but to God O God, have compassion on me and show me the way to You O God, forbid for me other than the path to You For I do not possess the wisdom, so please guide me to You So that I would be dedicated to You in Your path And I would dedicate my life to You as a friend would Shortly thereafter, God showered me with His mercy and with the key and the knowledge of the hidden secret of the Quran [numerical code of the Quran]—discovered by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D. All doors opened to me and all the questions that I had were finally answered through the Quran, not “hadith.” The more my questions were answered by the Quran, the more I trusted God, that maybe God had sent Dr. Khalifa in order to guide us out of the darkness into the light. Today, by God’s Grace, it has been sixteen years since I have wiped out all traces of doubt in my mind regarding the guidance in the Quran. How sweet my life has become and how easy it is to carry out God’s commands. One of my memories since this knowledge of the Quran has come to me, is when I went to see one of one of the greatest “Islamic scholars” in Iran, for whom I, among many other Muslims, had great respect. I had many conversations with him, but whenever I would ask him a question, he would answer me with baseless “hadith,” and it would greatly upset him whenever I would challenge that “hadith” with verses from the Quran. My very last conversation with him was the day he told me: “Sister, our conversations/arguments are a waste of time for me. No matter what I tell you, you read me verses from the Quran!” And I said to him: “Thank you, this has been the best compliment I’ve received all day!” Then I told him good-bye and I said: “I do not worship what you worship. To you is your religion, and to me is my religion.” Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe. —Parsa, Iran
172 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam
J19K In Society In most cultures of the world, the position of women is not quite equal to that of men. Thus, in almost all groups of people it is possible to find “bulls of inequity” that affect women. In many Muslim communities, there are lots of inequities and lots of contradictions. To be truthful, I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live as a woman in such a society. For me, the emotional conflict such circumstances would create would be terrible. One of the best areas to demonstrate both the inequities and the contradictions is that of politics. In some Muslim countries, like Turkey, women’s rights have been a major political issue for many years. In fact, women were given the right to vote in Turkey years before they had it in France. Yet the position of women in Turkey before the revolution of 1908 was as bad or worse than anywhere else in the Muslim world. In fact, the Ottoman Turks were probably the first to confine women in harems and initiate severe veiling. The history of the harems of Turkish sultans is hair-raising—it was the virtual enslavement of scores of “chosen” women for the personal pleasure of one man. Yet, modern Turkey is among the vanguard of Muslim nations in striving for women’s equal rights. On the other hand, in much of the Muslim world women are seen as possessing characteristics that make them unfit for rational, intellectual pursuits, like voting. Given this climate, one would not expect to find women elected to national leadership in Muslim countries. Yet from 1988 to 1990, and again from 1993 to 1996 Benazir Bhutto served as Pakistan’s prime minister. In the early 1990’s, Begum Khaleda Zia was elected as the first woman prime minister of Bangladesh.
174 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Then, in June of 1993, Turkey elected Tansu Ciller as the first woman to lead that country. All of this in an era where many Western countries, including the United States, have not yet elected a woman even to the vice-presidency, or its equivalent!!! It is noteworthy that one of the Muslim political “hot spots” of our own time, Indonesia, has a woman president. Megawati Sukarnoputri was initially elected to the vice-presidency, in spite of a resurgence of Muslim fundamentalism in that country. When the fundamentalist president was removed from office because he was not up to the job, she became president. It seems most ironic that women national leaders should be acceptable in societies I have always “known” to be unfair to women, and unacceptable in my own “fair” society. I believe that once again I am staring my old friend culture in the face. I am having to face my own cultural prejudice, my own tendency to assume that my culture is the best, the most fair in all ways. These Muslim women rulers certainly demonstrate the falsehood of the Hadiths that say any nation led by a woman will fail. More importantly, we know from the Quran that there is no problem with a woman leading a country. In fact, God gives us an example of a woman ruler in the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (or “Saba,” as Yusuf Ali writes it): But the Hoopoe tarried not Far: he (came up and) said: “I have compassed (territory) Which thou hast not compassed, And I have come to thee From Saba with tidings true. “I found (there) a woman Ruling over them and provided With every requisite; and she Has a magnificent throne. (The Holy Quran XXVII:22-23 [27:22-23])
In Society | 175 The people of Sheba were rich and prosperous and their queen was a wise leader. Her wisdom is demonstrated by her response to a letter sent by Solomon: (The Queen) said: “Ye chiefs! Here is—delivered to me— A letter worthy of respect. “It is from Solomon, and is (As follows): ‘In the name Of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: “ ‘Be ye not arrogant Against me, but come To me in submission (To the true Religion).’ “ She said: “Ye chiefs! Advise me in (this) My affair: no affair Have I decided Except in your presence.” They said: “We are endued With strength, and given To vehement war: But the command is With thee; so consider What thou wilt command.” She said, “Kings, when they Enter a country, despoil it, And make the noblest Of its people its meanest Thus do they behave. “But I am going to send Him a present, and (wait) To see with what (answer) Return (my) ambassadors.” (The Holy Quran XXVII:29-35 [27:29-35]) These verses show a leader who clearly valued her advisors, yet had the wisdom to take her own council. Rather than respond
176 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam aggressively and almost certainly provoke a military response, she decided to see how Solomon responded to her gift. In doing so, she not only avoided conflict but also opened the way to her own guidance. While the Queen of Sheba is the only woman leader mentioned in the Quran, she is an excellent example for any leader. The Quran thus makes it clear that women can lead. Does the Quran deal with the issue of women voting? Yes, I think so because one of the traits of the believers is that they decide their affairs after consultation among themselves. This verse is among a series that describe the believers: Those who hearken To their Lord, and establish Regular prayer; who (conduct) Their affairs by mutual Consultation.... (The Holy Quran XLII:38 [42:38]) Clearly the verse does not refer to just men—as we women are equally required to observe the prayer and charity. In today’s society conducting the group’s affairs “by mutual Consultation” can only be readily achieved in a democratic process where all mature members of the society have an equal input into the decision-making—an equal vote. Thus, all indications from the Quran are that women should have equal political rights, both in leadership and in selecting that leadership.
IH In some Muslim countries, notably Iran, even when women have the right to vote, they are not allowed to participate in the justice system. They cannot serve on juries, nor can they practice law or hold the position of judge. Given the traditional Muslim view that women are too emotional for rational pursuits, such a stance is at least comprehensible, though incorrect.
In Society | 177 Very often this position is defended by a verse from the Quran that we have already examined. Here are the salient parts again: O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down.... Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all. Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind herâ€Ś. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:282) We have already discussed this verse in reference to witnessing. It discusses financial transactions, the only situation where two women substitute for one man. As we saw at the end of Chapter 11, in all other situations of witnessing women and men are equal. With that in mind, I can only conclude that the Quran sees women as totally capable of the discerning thought required for witnessing, or any other legal activity. We may look to the Queen of Sheba again as the Quranic example. As the ruler of her people, she must have frequently been cast in the role of a judge. In the Old Testament we have another clear example. The Book of Judges speaks of Deborah who led Israel and judged for them: Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time. She used to sit under the Palm of Deborah... and the Israelites would come to her for decisions. (Judges 4:4-5 - Tanakh: A New Translation...)
IH There is one other area of inequity and contradiction that I would like to discuss: the area of employment. In some parts of the Muslim world women can seek employment in any field they choose (though some fields are still more acceptable than others, especially medicine and education). In other Muslim
178 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam countries, women cannot work outside of the home at all without the written consent of their husbands, and then only in situations where they will not encounter men to whom they are not related. Ironically, industrialization and increased wealth has made life more confining for many women. In earlier times women had important roles to play as shepherdesses, weavers, etc. Those roles are now diminished. In another ironic twist, women who have had to fight for their survival, like the women of Palestine, often have greater freedoms, and a wider range of employment opportunities. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes, the structure of the extended family has been so disrupted that there are no related men in the area to play the traditional roles. Women must then take them on. In other cases, everyone in the family recognizes that the only way for the society to survive is for everyone to get an education, including women. This attitude has opened many doors for women that had been historically shut. When I made the Hajj pilgrimage, I became acquainted with a number of extremely intelligent and capable Palestinian women. Actually, I met wonderful women from all over the world, but the resourcefulness and ability of the women from Palestine especially struck me. Most of these women had been forced to find their own way in the world, and had done a magnificent job of it. As a final irony, traditionalists use a Quranic verse to argue against women working. It is another verse that we have previously discussed. Here I quote only the first portion, since it is the portion dealing with our present subject: The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earnersâ€Ś. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:34) The traditionalist argument is that since the men are the bread earners, women should not work outside of the home. How-
In Society | 179 ever the Quran does not specify that, and in fact provides examples of women working outside of the home. These examples come from the story of Moses. The first is the example of his future wife and her sister shepherding their father’s sheep. They had to wait until all of the male shepherds had finished watering their flocks before they could water. This is how Moses met them and then eventually became part of the family. The second example is that of Moses’ mother. She was employed by Pharaoh’s household as a wet-nurse for her own son. I believe the above verse simply says that the man provides the living expenses for the family. There are other verses in the Quran that make it clear that any believer can work for gain: O ye who believe! Give of the good things Which ye have (honourably) earned, And of the fruits of the earth Which We have produced.... (The Holy Quran II:267 [2:267]) Note that this verse is addressed to the believers, not just the believing men. All believers must give to charity from the good things they earn. Here is just one more example of a verse that indicates women can be employed: Proclaim: “If your parents, your children, your siblings, your spouses, your family, the money you have earned, a business you worry about, and the homes your cherish are more beloved to you than God and His messenger, and the striving in His cause, then just wait until God brings His judgment.” God does not guide the wicked people. (Quran: The Final Testament 9:24) The last sentence of this verse makes it very clear that the whole verse is addressed to all people, both men and women.
180 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Thus, both may have money they have earned and businesses about which they worry. It only makes sense to me that there is no Quranic restriction on women working outside of the home. However, I also believe that it is important to recognize that homemakers are performing work that is at least as valuable as that of women who are employed outside of the home. Sadly, in the West this is often no longer recognized. I have known women who felt judged because they chose to focus their efforts on their families rather than working outside of the home. Friends and family saw them unwilling to help their husbands with the economic burden of a family. In this chapter we have seen that from a Quranic view women can rule, can vote, can participate fully in the judicial system and can be employed outside of the home. In all of these areas there is great confusion about women’s roles in Muslim society. It is indeed a blessing that there is no confusion about their roles in the Quran.
IHIH The following story beautifully demonstrates the way that following the Quran alone answers the issues of women’s rights in society. This wonderful sister comes from a very different background from my own, but for both of us the principle of God alone as found in the Quran was a lifeline.
The Quran – The Answer What was Islam for me growing up as a child? It was what I learned from my family and school. My parents were spiritual. They followed the basic tenets of Islam with perseverance. Their way of life reflected tolerance, appreciation, and love. Compassion and forgiveness were synonymous with their name. They were respectful with each other. Islamic religious study was a part of our school curriculum. From all these lessons, one was the strongest, the one about mandatory acts and commendable acts in Islam. The first specifies that there are oblig-
In Society | 181 atory and forbidden acts to obey because they are from the Quran. The second is about exemplary conducts of the prophet, in what he said and approved. I went for what were easy classes in school because I was afraid that the teaching about the prophet would add more burdens, and require much to memorize. Prayer, Zakat (charity), fasting, Hajj (Pilgrimage), and a belief in God and the hereafter are all that are mandatory. My decision was made. I would follow what was mandatory. I was outgoing and curious, with a free spirit. This presented me with a problem, as we reached the age of adolescence, because I began to realize that there existed a double standard for what was expected from boys and girls. My brothers and cousins refused to take us with them to the beach. We were close to each other. I loved outdoor games. This situation made us girls very sad. Our parents did not support the boysâ€™ attitude. They would promise us a day or two at the beach with them or with our uncles. My father started to take us to our sports activities and dance classes. The boys refused to be seen with us in the street and started to complain about our activities. The years that followed taught me more about the social problems for women in my country. The injustice towards women was done under the guise of divine law. My hunger for freedom made me decide against marriage unless I would have the right to divorce if I needed to. The family was supportive and girls had a life with respect in my family. I participated in organized trips inside and outside my country. By age 23, I met my husband. He agreed to raise our children to be Muslim if we had any. The decision was painful, leaving my family, but eventually I had the courage to follow my husband to his home. As soon as I arrived in the United States I started to inquire where there was a Mosque. I contacted a few families who gathered every Sunday in someoneâ€™s home. We studied the Quran and discussed various topics prepared by volunteers. Nine years later, a mosque was built in my community. The group started
182 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam to expand, and the organization started to change. Within the perimeter of the mosque a demand of unity was made. After many debates and conflicts, Saudi Arabia’s system was established by Arab students attending a local university. Every Sunday, the lecture was about women. After so many lectures I began to understand that it was intimidation. They were blaming us (women) for all the ills of society. Our voices should not be heard, our footsteps were to be unheard, we needed to cover ourselves completely. These lectures were challenged with my questions. I never got straight and reasonable answers. I needed answers for my kids, especially my daughter. I couldn’t concede to a life that conflicted with my husband’s values. Neither my parents nor my country imposed those strict rules! A campaign had started in the local Mosque, which was directed only towards women. Men, who came from time to time to the mosque by van, started to approach women and young women who did not have the right head cover. These same men constructed a physical barrier in the prayer room to physically separate the men from the women. Families who opposed the barrier conceded to the demands of the Saudi Arabian students in the name of unity for the Islamic community. An atmosphere of complete obedience replaced the days of open discussions. The youth became their next target. My daughter was 12 years old then. She would tell me about the lessons and the teachers. They were encouraging the youth to get married by sixteen for boys and younger for girls! Every lecture was to indoctrinate the people to listen and obey an invisible religious dictatorship. Some parents liked what they heard, because they were experiencing problems with their adolescent children. Others brushed it aside as a weak “hadith.” This mosque was the place to come and experience the police state they had left behind in their native country. They desired to isolate their children from the society they were blaming for their problems. They believed that America was teaching their children disrespect for the parents and their values. When I wrote an article saying that segregation of the sexes does not guarantee righteousness and that
In Society | 183 the consideration of feelings of all human beings is a matter of great respect and attention, we started to have lectures about the ills of the American society. They still had no answers to my questions. I withdrew my presence from the mosque because it wasn’t what I was searching for. My children needed to mature with their family values and not with double standards. A few months later I was told that a scholar in religion would be visiting our mosque. He was a great teacher from Syria. He talked about slavery. It was good, except when he said, “The captured women in war become the property of the conquering army. If they get pregnant they gain their freedom.” This was supposed to alleviate prostitution! I have heard crazy stories before, but this one is very ugly. My friend sitting next to me replied that she would never be free since she cannot have children. I truly was amazed at how the audience, with many educated people including doctors, was silent. At that time Iraq and Iran were at war. It is hard to believe that innocent women were subjected to aggression against their will. I objected to this teaching and said that it was against human dignity and an abuse of women. After the lecture the audience was to take advantage of this important gift and ask the scholar questions. A question came about the head cover. He was delighted to let us know that when he went the day before for a drive to see the town they saw a woman who had a car problem. They were able to help her. However, without her head cover they would not have been able to know if she was a Muslim! I discussed this issue with the scholar who was trying to stick to the importance of hiding the hair; that did not convince me. I would cover my hair if I had a bad hairdo. Finally I had the courage to ask the question that I feared myself. “If the women shaves her hair so she does not use a hair cover ….” Just at that moment the call for prayer started. As is the custom, the people stood up and walked silently to the prayer room. During the prayer I started to cry because I was so lost and perplexed. My heart could not believe this nonsense. At that moment I made my decision to stay at home and teach my children Islam.
184 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam My husband continued to go to the Mosque because he had a position with the Mosque Board. One day, on our way back from shopping he stopped at the post office to pick up the mosque mail. He handed it to me. The first paper on top was a newsletter with a headline NOT SUNNI NOT SHIA, JUST MUSLIM. Well that got my attention! I was so happy to read something that made sense to me. Six months later I decided to write to the editor of the newsletter. This is when I was introduced to the concept of following the Quran alone. I am still bathing in this blessing and pray that God keeps showering me with the understanding of the Quran. Yes, in the Quran I found the reason why I couldn’t relate to hadith. I needed to be free to worship God, as He should be worshiped, alone. I did not need to change my appearance. All I needed was the Quran. I don’t need to make a statement of my religion or my culture. My worry is to please God and to be a righteous person. Praise be to God who allowed me to pursue the path of enlightenment. He saved me from myself and the ignorant ones. God is the Greatest. The pieces of this puzzle do fit right. There is no contradiction. May God continue to shower me and my family with His grace. He made my children Submitters, what a gift. I feel free! —Naima, Morocco [Editor’s note: The newsletter that Naima read is the Submitter’s Perspective. It is published by Masjid Tucson, PO Box 43476, Tucson, AZ 85733-3476, USA.]
J20K True Power Muslim women are indeed beset by many “bulls of inequity,” but that does not really reflect their true power. Women may not be the visible movers and shakers of a society, but in truth they have tremendous power, no matter what the society’s perception, or their own perception for that matter. Women are the ones who raise the children. In this duty alone, they have the most important position in the entire society. It is they who mold the future generations. They ultimately pass on the core values of the society. In a very true sense, the society is what we learn in our mothers’ laps. It has been quite well documented that a person’s essential values are well established by the age of seven, and the earlier years are more critical than the later, especially in the time period before seven. For instance, by the age of three, a child’s brain has grown to ninety percent of its full size. The child has already established many of his or her most basic values, and while they may be somewhat modified throughout life, the core is set. I have a very dear friend who has struggled against the racial and class prejudices established in her family since she became aware that they existed… for over forty years. Though she can and does correct her attitude, it is still there to be corrected, and perhaps always will be. Our prejudices are among the values that are almost knitted into our bones as we stand clinging to our mother’s knee. And in almost all cases our mothers are the ones who give us these essential values. In all societies I am familiar with, it is the mother who cares for the very young. In some situations, a
186 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam nurse or nanny will substitute for the mother, but these substitutes are usually women also. Only in very recent years has the phenomena of “Mr. Mom” arisen in the West. As the Western economic system forces more and more mothers to work, there seems to be a growing involvement of fathers in the rearing of their children. Occasionally the father stays home with the children, becoming “Mr. Mom,” while the mother pursues her career. Even so, the number of infant and toddling children actually raised by men is minimal. It is much more common for the mother to stay home while the children are very young, or for the children to be cared for by other women. The Quran recognizes the special role of mothers in the following verse: And We have enjoined on man (To be good) to his parents: In travail upon travail Did his mother bear him, And in years twain Was his weaning: (hear The command), “Show gratitude To Me and to thy parents:... (The Holy Quran XXXI:14 [31:14]) Our mothers carry us in the womb for nine months, often with great discomfort for much of that time. They endure the pain of childbirth to bring us into the world. And then they care for our every need until we can begin to manage small bits of our own care. Our fathers also expend a great deal of effort and worry over us as we grow. For all of this, God commands us to treat our parents well. Thy Lord hath decreed That ye worship none but Him, And that ye be kind To parents. Whether one Or both of them attain
True Power | 187 Old age in thy life, Say not to them a word Of contempt, nor repel them, But address them In terms of honour. And, out of kindness, Lower to them the wing Of humility, and say: â€œMy Lord! Bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they Cherished me in childhood.â€? (The Holy Quran XVII:23-24 [17:23-24]) Our parents cared for us when we were totally helpless, and when we grew to be just capable enough to get ourselves into terrible trouble. We have a tremendous amount for which to repay them. But what of our children? What do we owe them, and future generations? I believe it is natural to want to give our children the best we can. We learned that modeling from our parents, and in turn, we teach it to our children. Providing for our children physically is one thing. It is important, but giving them the latest fashions or the most popular toys is nothing compared to the values we give them. These values will sustain them for the rest of their time on this earth, and give them the basis to make it a good and fulfilling life. Most important, the values they learn from us will help them prepare for the eternity of the hereafter. And the values we teach our children determine what they will teach their children. In teaching our children, we are essentially creating our culture, our society. Just as most of us will in some way care for our elderly parents, our children will someday care for us. Indeed, we will reap what we sow. There are innumerable types of values that our children learn. While we are not the only source of that learning, we do set the essential tone very early, and mostly by our modeling. There are a few basic areas that I would like to discuss.
188 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Morality I believe that most of human learning is done through modeling. We see others doing something and we realize that we can also do it. If the person we are watching is someone we admire, then we believe that we should be doing what he or she is doing, so we can be like them. In the area of morality this is especially critical. One can expect a child to lie if he hears his parent lying (Quran 9:119). If a parent cheats in a game, the child learns that cheating is okay (83:1-4). A parent who has a little “innocent” wine with dinner teaches his or her children that wine is good, and drinking is acceptable (2:219). Parents who flirt outside of their marriage can expect a child to pick up both the habit and the implications (17:32). When a cashier returns too much money to a parent, the way the parent handles the situation teaches the child a profound lesson. Even something as simple as the movies we watch, the books we read or the songs we listen to impart moral lessons to our children. In today’s society, I believe it is particularly important to deliver the right message to the very young. As children get older, the parents can talk about what they are seeing or hearing, but a very young child just absorbs what is going on without any intellectual assessment. The old saying “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work with children, especially when they are very young. We learn to do what we see our parents doing, in spite of what they may say to us. My own family is a good example of the way in which the modeling affects children in this area. My parents were not religious, but were very moral in the way that they treated other people. They were honest and would never have even considered cheating others. They were charitable and both were very hard workers. I believe that it was from that basic modeling that I, their child, drew the values that have made me who I am.
True Power | 189 Righteousness Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in God, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous. (Quran: The Final Testament 2:177) This verse defines righteousness for us. Notice that righteousness is not a matter of following a lot of ritual, or being prominent in a religious community. It is a much more private thing, something of the heart. It requires belief in God, the hereafter, the angels, the scripture and the messengers. And it requires one to be charitable, to observe the prayers, to keep contracts and promises and to be steadfast. Again, all of these traits are best taught by modeling. A child who sees his parents praying and is encouraged to join them, one who is taught to be charitable by example and instruction, one who sees his parentsâ€™ steadfastness and trustworthiness has the best modeling possible to follow. I always feel a little thrill when a tiny person joins our prayer. There is something special and precious to me about the prayer of little children. Children are often drawn to the Contact Prayer (Salat), and many children have a tendency toward charity. Almost all children are naturally honest (often embarrassingly so!), until they learn to be otherwise. Of course, each child is an individual. And as they grow into maturity, each must find his or her own relationship with God. Many will go through a period of exploration and rebel-
190 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam lion. I believe that is part of human nature. However, the values that are instilled when they were tiny children will always be there for them to return to.
Gratitude Probably the most influential television program I have ever watched was one I caught by accident when I was home from work sick, depressed about my life, and generally feeling sorry for myself. I was bored and turned on the TV looking for just about anything to watch. Thankfully, I caught the last part of an Oprah Winfrey program where she talked about keeping a Gratitude Journal. She recommended writing at least one thing you are grateful for every day, even if all you can write is “I’m grateful I can write.” I realized how far I had fallen from my normal sense of gratitude, and how much that was affecting my mood and my health. Indeed, God tells us that gratitude is crucial. One of my favorite verses makes this very clear: Your Lord has decreed: “The more you thank Me, the more I give you.” But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe. (Quran: The Final Testament 14:7) You may be thinking, “Sure it is easy to be thankful when things are good, but things have been so bad lately….” However, this verse comes right after Moses is reminding his people of the terrible trial they went through when Pharaoh was “slaughtering your sons and sparing your daughters.” Fortunately, few of us must go through such terrible trials. Yet, how many of us are ever grateful enough for all of the blessings God bestows on us? In fact, there are many blessings that we probably don’t even notice. When was the last time we thanked God for keeping the energy from the sun from burning up the earth? Or when have we remembered that it was just a short time ago that all people
True Power | 191 grew up without electricity and running water, and a great many still do? Do we ever think to be thankful that polio is no longer the great crippler of children? There are millions of things that we never even think about, much less are grateful for. Gratitude, like almost everything else, is first taught by modeling. When we express our gratitude both in front of and to our children, that modeling is stronger than anything we can say to them about being grateful. I have a friend whose mother is one of the most negative people Iâ€™ve ever known. Her daughter has been Muslim for many, many years but constantly has to fight the negativity she learned from her mother, sometimes failing for long periods of time. Sadly, most people from similar situations do not even realize the toxic nature of such negativity, and they go through their entire life in a cloud of negative misery. I believe that Oprah Winfreyâ€™s show was so powerful for me because she was sharing with the general public the miraculous healing that gratitude can bring.
Education The Quran never speaks of educational institutions like schools or colleges. However, it often speaks of learning. In fact, the first revelation was: Read, in the name of your Lord, who created. He created man from an embryo. Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted. Teaches by means of the pen. He teaches man what he never knew. (Quran: The Final Testament 96:1-5) As we saw in Chapter 18, reading the Quran is an important aspect of being Muslim. Moreover, we must read for our own understanding, we must think about what we read. This is clear in the following verse:
192 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them. (Quran: The Final Testament 17:36) Thus, we cannot just take what the scholars or religious leaders tell us. We must verify it for ourselves. This commandment affects all aspects of our lives, not just our religion. In order to verify things for ourselves, we must have enough knowledge to be able to do so. In todayâ€™s modern world, I believe that for most of us acquiring that knowledge requires an education. Here also, what you model for your children is critical. When my older sister and I were young my mother had the time to read to us every day. She often took us to the library. We saw her reading for her own enjoyment. By the time my younger sister came along, my mother was working outside of the home and had little time to read to her or indulge in the literary luxuries my older sister and I enjoyed. To this day, my older sister and I are voracious readers, while my just as intelligent younger sister rarely reads except what she must.
Courtesy Courtesy is one of the things that make living in a group of people bearable. God tells us in several places to treat each other well. Here, He tells us to greet each other courteously: When a (courteous) greeting Is offered you, meet it With a greeting still more Courteous, or (at least) Of equal courtesy. God takes careful account Of all things. (The Holy Quran IV:86 [4:86]) If you have ever been in a situation where people did not return your greeting, you will understand just how important
True Power | 193 this commandment can be. It is most unsettling and can cause a great deal of hostility. From my personal experience I believe that children who learn basic courtesy have a great advantage over those who do not. Other people respond in kind when they are treated with courtesy. Though it seems like a small thing, courtesy can make life much more pleasurable. In this next verse, God tells us to treat each other “in the best possible manner:” Tell My servants to treat each other in the best possible manner, for the devil will always try to drive a wedge among them.... (Quran: The Final Testament 17:53) Treating people well is always a good policy, spiritually and even just from a selfish point of view. If you treat others well, they are much more apt to treat you well. This verse can refer to courtesy, and leads into the next topic, tolerance.
Tolerance My parents came from fairly diverse backgrounds, and met in cosmopolitan San Francisco. Their life experiences taught them respect for all cultures and peoples. They passed that respect on to their children. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, I think that it was the Quran’s principle of tolerance that first drew me to it. God tells us that it does not matter what you call your religion, if you are submitting to God alone and lead a righteous life you will be rewarded. Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in God and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear,
194 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam nor will they grieve. (Quran: The Final Testament 5:69 [and 2:62]) The Quran teaches not only religious tolerance, but tolerance of racial and ethnic differences. In fact, God says those differences are among His signs. Among His Signs. Is the creation of the heavens And the earth, and the variations In your languages And your colours: verily In that are Signs For those who know. (The Holy Quran XXX:22 [30:22]) Finally, in this next verse God tells us why He made us as different peoples. O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous.... (Quran: The Final Testament 49:13) We must recognize each other, and know that the differences we see are immaterial. They have nothing to do with who we really are. Only our righteousness gives us value, and sets us apart in Godâ€™s eyes.
Freedom One of the great gifts that God has bestowed on us in the West is freedom, especially freedom of religion. In fact the United States was founded on this critical freedom. This concept is very Quranic: Let there be no compulsion In religion: Truth stands out
True Power | 195 Clear from Error: whoever Rejects Evil and believes In God hath grasped The most trustworthy Hand-hold, that never breaks.... (The Holy Quran II:256 [2:256]) The word “Islam” simply means “submission,” submission to God. Religious freedom is critical for true Islam, true submission to God. God makes it very clear that He has decreed different laws and rites for different faiths. ....For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had God willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness.... (Quran: The Final Testament 5:48) God tests us through the differences in our faiths. It is our duty to research for ourselves, to study and investigate, then take the best. That is how God describes the believers: They are the ones who examine all words, then follow the best. These are the ones whom God has guided; these are the ones who possess intelligence. (Quran: The Final Testament 39:18) To really submit, one needs to be free in all ways. Otherwise, how can you tell whether you are submitting because you are convinced that it is right, or because that is all the society allows you to do? Oppression is a horrible thing!!!! You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder.... (Quran: The Final Testament 2:191—emphasis added)
196 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam I have placed emphasis on the statement “Oppression is worse than murder” because it is such an important concept. It is critical for all of us to know and teach this to our children. As soon as we allow oppression, we are killing the best of the society. This is true with the oppression of any group of people, whether based on gender, race, religion, etc.
Equality Throughout this book we have seen that men and women are equal in God’s eyes. In this chapter we have seen that, as Rashad Khalifa translates it: “The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous” (Quran: The Final Testament 49:13.) This equality in the sight of God applies to all people, no matter what their social status: Those among you who cannot afford to marry free believing women, may marry believing slave women. God knows best about your belief, and you are equal to one another, as far as belief is concerned…. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:25) Thus, it does not matter if we are male or female; white, black or brown; free or slave—we are all ultimately judged by our righteousness alone. We are all equal, though we may not be treated equally. That is where mothers come in. Teaching equality is one of the most powerful things a woman can do. She may not see equal treatment in her own life, but for her children and her grandchildren, she has left a priceless legacy. As the guardians and teachers of our own culture, women have an unequalled opportunity to create major social change. It may not be immediate, but it will be long lasting. We owe it to ourselves, and even more to our children, to teach them the basic Quranic principles of Morality, Righteousness, Gratitude, Education, Courtesy, Tolerance, Freedom and Equality.
True Power | 197 A couple of years ago all the employees of my organization saw an amazing video by Jane Elliott. It illustrated the old maxim “you get what you expect,” but with an unexpected twist. This video convinced me that it is critical to treat everyone in the society with equality and respect if you want to have a productive society. Here are my impressions from that video.
Blue-Eyes Brown-Eyes Jane Elliott was teaching fourth grade when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Dr. King had been one of the people they had studied as a “Hero of the Month” in their class. The kids were very confused by the assassination and in trying to answer their questions, Jane Elliott devised a demonstration for them of what prejudice is. Later she arranged to have the exercise filmed by an outside camera crew, and repeated it. We got to see this film of children actually going through the exercise in the late 1960’s. Jane Elliott divided the class into two groups, based on eye color. On the first day the children with brown eyes were “on top.” They got extra recess time, and the entire class was told how good and intelligent the children with brown eyes were. Their successes were praised. They got to boss around the blueeyed children, and they took full advantage of the privilege. To make identifying kids from a distance easier, the kids with blue eyes had to wear a special collar. The class was told that the blue-eyed kids were unintelligent, lazy, and not trustworthy. They could not drink directly from the drinking fountain, nor have a second helping at lunch. Surprisingly, the brown-eyed children really excelled, even where it seemed impossible. Dyslexic kids could suddenly spell words they had never been able to spell and read words they had never been able to read. Conversely, normally bright, selfconfident blue-eyed children became uncertain, timid underachievers. The results were profound.
198 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam The next day the roles were reversed. The blue-eyed children were “on top” and received the preferential treatment. They got to take off their collars and put them on the browneyed children. Now it was their turn to be the bosses, and their behavior toward their former oppressors was no different from what they had received. Again, the change in position reflected in the kid’s academic performance and sense of self worth. This exercise deeply affected the children involved. For many, it changed their attitudes for life. Just watching the video had an enormous effect on me. It made me realize how very critical it is to treat people well, to encourage and treat them with courtesy. In short, it made me realize that when you treat people in the best possible manner, as the Quran commands, you enable them to be their very best, and thus to contribute the most to society. From a purely selfish standpoint, it only makes sense to enable all people, regardless of their race, sex, age, religion, ethnic background, etc., to do their very best. A productive society is a benefit for all of its members.
IHIH It is one thing to watch a video like the one described above, it is quite another to have lived “the script.” In my years as a Muslim I have been blessed to meet some of the most beautiful sisters imaginable who have come through the smelter of racial prejudice, refined and purified to a degree that puts me to shame. Here is the story of one such sister.
Muslim Sister / African American It is a complex task to explain what happens with African Americans who embrace Islam as their religion. There are clearly cultural differences from those born in countries where Islam is in widespread practice but there are also understandings
True Power | 199 about race and this U.S. society that those who are not from this country have difficulty understanding. To live a double consciousness of who you are not only as a person but as a black person is a challenge. We speak as equal souls from Allah but also as marginalized, historically second class citizens in this society. African Americans who say â€œAllahâ€? to reference God are often the first in their family to be called Muslim. Increasingly we reflect second generation Muslims. There are hundreds of thousands of us. However, the growth in the numbers does not necessarily reflect a comfortable transition to Islam. In fact, for some it has been a difficult journey in many respects, one that reflects a great deal of struggle to hold onto the rope of Allahâ€™s mercy. The message of worshipping God alone and adhering to the teachings of the Quran was shared with me more than 13 years ago by a wonderful sister from Egypt. But I declared a belief in worshipping one God, was making salat, fasting and striving to be a Muslim more than 16 years before that. Washington D.C., my birthplace, was like many urban settings, home to thousands of African Americans who embraced Islam as practiced by Africans, Arabs, Persians and the Nation of Islam. In the early sixties and seventies more than a dozen small, community-based masjids (mosques) were established in Washington by African Americans. Houses, store fronts and even apartments were places of congregational worship right along with the larger masjids established by the Nation of Islam and those primarily servicing immigrant brothers and sisters. This period reflected a searching time in the African American community. Nationally and internationally, black people were interested in combating the lasting effects of a society based on white supremacy, racial inferiority, and wealth held in the hands of a few. The vast majority of blacks worked low-income jobs to barely escape the grip of poverty. In 1970, a friend from college asked me to come to one of these masjids in a big warehouse and there I saw a group of black men and women reciting, standing, bowing and pros-
200 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam trating on the floor. Their words were meaningless to me but there was clearly a sense of unity of movement and voice. My curiosity was stirred but when I asked one of the women what they were doing she said so many unfamiliar words that I merely nodded. (Months later I came to know those words as practices in my own worship: khalima, salat, fajr, dhur, asr, maghrib, isha, zakat, seyam and hajj.) She had shared what she knew of the familiar ‘pillars’ of Islam and had overwhelmed me. Nevertheless, I stayed around the group. A few months later my friend from college became my husband and we parented two sons. We were not introduced to hadith and sunnah [sunna] traditions and were told that our worship reflected verses from the Quran. It was, for me, in my early twenties, an affirmation of what I already had known as a child raised as a Baptist and then Jehovah’s Witness, God is! But so what? These earlier Christian teachings had not addressed race, class and gender oppression. These issues concerned me as a young black woman raised in the era of the civil rights struggle, the Pan Africanist movement and women’s fight for equal treatment under the law. I could now practice a religion wherein God cared about my belief but also my life as a black woman. As I studied the Quran I made connections between who we were as submitters and who we were as African Americans. The book spoke of oppression and injustice and God’s love for those who fight against injustice. I began linking belief in God to an understanding of what many African Americans experience on an everyday basis—racism in an historically unjust, classist society. Islam provided answers: How can we raise our families, how to conduct business, why there is so much violence, and how can we respond. Another sister and I started a school for our little community’s children. We understood the importance of educating our children with a different belief system. We wanted our children to learn about reading, mathematics, science and social studies but not from a traditional nonreligious curriculum. We wanted them to develop a love for Allah and the things created by God, to be comfortable stopping and praying in the day, to be reinforced by the day to day Muslim
True Power | 201 fellowship an educational setting can support. I began to understand the importance of studying the Quran and Allah’s system of creation. What I did not understand was marriage in Islam. My husband wanted to be married to someone else, pursued the relationship and I left the group of brothers and sisters. I went back to live in my mother’s home with my two small children. Confused, hurt and struggling, I started attending one of the largest masjids [mosques] in Washington, D.C., the Islamic Center. The Islamic Center, built on embassy row, had muslims attending prayers from all over the world, from Pakistan and Indonesia to the Sudan and Sweden. Over the next four years I went back to college, married again and got a bachelor’s degree in education. Working with a group of ‘sunni ’ muslims we established a school and summer camp at the Islamic center. It was one of the largest muslim operated schools in the city, educating primarily African American children but also a few Iranian children. We surmised that many of the ‘foreign’ born muslims were afraid to entrust their children’s education to black people. But the Iranians were not. They trusted us to care for their children, volunteered to work with us and saw supporting the school as their Islamic responsibility. My husband began working at the Iranian embassy and began to study Shiite Islam. Several other African American families began to contrast the practices of Shiite and Sunni Islam and left one practice for the other, finding the message of the Iranians a more politicized one that actively fought against the capitalist mindset of US culture. While my husband fully embraced the Shiite teachings and traveled to Iran’s holy city of Qum, I remained ambivalent and continued to practice Islam the way I thought the Africans and Arabs did—the sunnah. But several events came together to change all that. Through friends I was encouraged to read a new translation of the Quran by Rashad Khalifa. It altered my life. Along with several other muslim brothers and sisters we began a regular study Quranic group at the home of my friend from Egypt. The teaching of hadith and sunnah soon stood in conflict to what I
202 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam read in the Quran. A small contingency of African Americans from Pittsburgh, New York and Washington D.C. attended the first national conference of submitters in San Francisco. We were inspired by the camaraderie. Back home, my husband was furious. He was angry that I no longer wanted to practice Islam according to what we had learned at the Islamic Center, or with followers of the Iranian leader, Imam Khomeini. I stopped covering my head; I changed my salat, no longer saying the familiar words of blessing on prophet Muhammed in my prayers. Perhaps what was even greater than his anger about my worship was that he wanted to be involved with another woman. He had met someone and again I was not going to be in a polygamous relationship. Despite more than twelve years together and four sons, we divorced. He remarried immediately. My sons remained in our family home with their father and his new wife. Confused, hurt and struggling I went, once again, back to my mother’s house. But this time I was better prepared, I had the message of worshipping God alone. I had a degree in education and began teaching in the public schools. Allah blessed me so much. I was offered a fellowship to do my Master’s studies at Miami University in Ohio. It was with great difficulty that I accepted the offer because it would mean leaving my children in another city but Allah blessed me with support and encouragement from all my friends. I not only received my master’s but continued to study and got a doctorate as well. Every month I would drive back to Washington, D.C. to be with my children, fellow submitters, to attend Jumaa prayers and get revitalized in spirit. Allah has continued my blessings and I am now a tenured faculty member at a Midwest University. Four of my sons live with me, make Jumaa prayers in our home, and sometimes share the message of worshipping Allah alone with their friends. They too struggle with their identities and the images that the larger society has of African American males. As their mother I have many concerns that they may stray from the righteous path—the availability of drugs in our community, police bru-
True Power | 203 tality, promiscuity—but I maintain them in my prayers, knowing that Allah is the protector and guide. There isn’t much in the literature about African American Muslim women. By “not much” I mean in comparison to the thousands of books, articles, and personal memoirs written by, and about, white women and their religious convictions. Closing the gap is an important task because the folklore surrounding black women’s lives are filled with whore stories, bitch tales, and matriarch myths. The mediated textual imagery and the printed literature is grossly exaggerated because the real truth is that many African American women are deeply religious and have held onto their beliefs in God because it is the only way to survive and be successful. —Khaula, U.S.A.
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Conclusion Looking back at those first days and months and years when I read the Quran, certain that I could not become a Muslim because I knew Islam was unfair to women, I am reminded of my favorite Nasrudin story. Nasrudin is a folk hero known throughout the Muslim world. He is known by many names. He is called Mullah Nasrudin, Nasreddin Hodja or just Hodja, among others. The tales of his hilarious adventures brighten the days of countless people. This story is one of the Turkish versions, told by a wonderful Turkish brother in one of his khutbahs (or short talks given during the Friday congregational prayer). I hope my retelling will be as enjoyable as his was. One evening after dinner, Hodja told his wife, “Tomorrow I will work in the wheat field, unless it is raining. If it is raining, I will go gather firewood in the woods.” She replied, “Say ‘In Shã Allah’ (‘God willing’), as the Quran tells us to do.” “Look,” he answered, “it is not a question of whether or not God is willing. I have decided what I will do. Either it will rain or not. In either case I know what I will do.” She continued to argue with him for a short while, and then just gave up and went to bed. The next morning was bright and sunny. Hodja headed for the wheat field. He was in such a hurry that he did not even stop to eat any breakfast. On the road he met a group of soldiers. “Hey, old man, how do we get to the next village?” they asked him. He really did not have time for such things, so he lied, “I do not know.” “Maybe this will help you remember,” they said as they began to beat him with their sticks.
206 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam “Oh, now I remember,” he screamed, but it was too late. He had made them angry, and they forced him to lead them to the next village. It was a long way off, and the trail was rough and steep. On the way it began to rain. By the time they got to the next village Hodja was thoroughly soaked, muddy and very sore. Finally they let him turn around and head for home. He finally got home about midnight. He banged on the door, hoping to wake his wife. Sleepily she called out, “Who is it?” “It’s me, Hodja...In Shã Allah!” Like Hodja, I was certain of what I knew. I knew that Islam was unfair to women, and that I could never be a Muslim. I did not say “In Shã Allah,” And God mercifully proved me wrong, and guided me. I hope the previous chapters have demonstrated how wrong I was. Islam, as practiced from the Quran, is totally fair to women, and to everyone else. It is a religion of tolerance, justice and freedom. Now I say I am Muslim, “In Shã Allah.” As I have slowly and consciously handed my life more and more over to God, I have become more and more contented. It did not happen immediately, as God explains in this verse: We will certainly put you to the test, in order to distinguish those among you who strive, and steadfastly persevere. We must expose your true qualities. (Quran: The Final Testament 47:31) Yes, we will be tested, not to show God who we really are, but to show ourselves. God already knows. If we continue to “strive and steadfastly persevere,” truly trying to submit our will to God’s will, there comes a point where certainty of who He really is enters our heart. I believe that as that happens, heaven begins here:
Conclusion | 207 Those who proclaim: “Our Lord is God,” then lead a righteous life, the angels descend upon them: “You shall have no fear, nor shall you grieve. Rejoice in the good news that Paradise has been reserved for you. “We are your allies in this life, and in the Hereafter. You will have in it anything you wish for; you will have anything you want.” (Quran: The Final Testament 41:30-31) Rashad Khalifa puts the subtitle “Perfect Happiness: Now and Forever ” above these verses. I have seen the truth of these verses manifesting in the lives of others. I see it happening in my own life, praise God. I hope it is happening in yours, whether or not you call yourself Muslim.
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JAppendix 1K Quran Verse Translations These are the verses refered to or quoted in the text. You will find them here in their numerical order, not in the order that they are quoted. They have been taken from WinQT, a Quranic search program available at the following Web site: www.submission.org. This program uses the text from Rashad Khalifa’s translation, 1992 edition and includes his subtitles and footnotes. Please note that I am leaving the format for these verses as they come off of WinQT. You will find that the word “God” is in all caps. Rashad Khalifa used that to highlight the word, and showed the cumulative count and sum of chapter and verse numbers at the bottom of each of his pages. This demonstrates the fact that the number of occurrences and the totals of the chapter and verse numbers where the word ‘God’ appears are both multiples of 19, as mentioned in Appendix 3. [1:1] In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.* *1:1 The first verse in the Quran represents the foundation upon which a superhuman 19-based mathematical miracle is built. This important statement consists of 19 Arabic letters, and every word in it occurs in the whole Quran in multiples of 19 (see Appendices 1 & 29 for the details). *1:1-7 Sura 1 is God’s gift to us to establish contact with Him through the daily Contact Prayers. This fact is supported by an earth-shattering, simple-to-understand-but-impossible-to-imitate mathematical composition that challenges the greatest mathematicians on earth, and stumps them; it is far beyond human capabilities: (1) The sura number, followed by the numbers of verses, next to each other, give 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. This number is a multiple of 19. (2) If we substitute the number of letters per verse in place of the verse numbers, we get 1 19 17 12 11 19 18 43. This number is also a multiple of 19. (3) If we insert the total gematrical value of every verse, we get 1 19 786 17 581 12 618 11 241 19 836 18 1072 43 6009. This number is a multiple of 19.
210 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Verse No. No. of Letters
(4) The number shown above includes all parameters of Sura 1 and consists of 38 digits (19x2). (5) It is noteworthy that this 38-digit number is still divisible by 19 when we write its components backward, from right to left, as practiced by the Arabs. Thus, 6009 43 1072 18 836 19 241 11 618 12 581 17 786 19 1 is also a multiple of 19. (6) The mathematical representations mentioned above participate in numerous extraordinary mathematical phenomena to confirm all details of the five daily Contact Prayers (Appendix 15). (7) Many more astounding phenomena are given in Appendix One. Thus, the reader is handed, at the outset, tangible proof that this is Godâ€™s message to the world. [1:2] Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe. [1:3] Most Gracious, Most Merciful. [1:4] Master of the Day of Judgment. [1:5] You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help. [1:6] Guide us in the right path; [1:7] the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers. [2:34] When we said to the angels, "Fall prostrate before Adam," they fell prostrate, except Satan; he refused, was too arrogant, and a disbeliever. [2:35] We said, "O Adam, live with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom generously, as you please, but do not approach this tree, lest you sin." [2:36] But the devil duped them, and caused their eviction therefrom. We said, "Go down as enemies of one another. On Earth shall be your habitation and provision for awhile." Kill Your Ego* [2:54] Recall that Moses said to his people, "O my people, you have wronged your souls by worshiping the calf. You must repent to your Cre-
Appendix 1 | 211 ator. You shall kill your egos. This is better for you in the sight of your Creator." He did redeem you. He is the Redeemer, Most Merciful. *2:54 It is the ego that led to Satan's fall. It is the ego that caused our exile to this world, and it is the ego that is keeping most of us from redemption to God's Kingdom. Unity of All Submitters [2:62] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. All Believers Are Redeemed, / Regardless of the Name of Their Religion [2:111] Some have said, “No one will enter Paradise except Jews or Christians!” Such is their wishful thinking. Say, “Show us your proof, if you are right.” Submission: The Only Religion [2:112] Indeed, those who submit themselves absolutely to GOD alone, while leading a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord; they have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.* *2:111-112 See 2:62 and 5:69. [2:128] "Our Lord, make us submitters to You, and from our descendants let there be a community of submitters to You. Teach us the rites of our religion, and redeem us. You are the Redeemer, Most Merciful. [2:130] Who would forsake the religion of Abraham, except one who fools his own soul? We have chosen him in this world, and in the Hereafter he will be with the righteous. No Distinction Among God’s Messengers [2:136] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.” Righteousness Defined [2:177] Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.
212 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Write A Will [2:180] It is decreed that when death approaches, you shall write a will for the benefit of the parents and relatives, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous. Fasting Emphasized and Modified* [2:183] O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation. *2:183-187 Like all duties in Submission, fasting was decreed through Abraham (22:78, Appendices 9 & 15). Prior to revelation of the Quran, sexual intercourse was prohibited throughout the fasting period. This rule is modified in 2:187 to allow intercourse during the nights of Ramadan. [2:184] Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted. Those who can fast, but with great difficulty, may substitute feeding one poor person for each day of breaking the fast. If one volunteers (more righteous works), it is better. But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. [2:185] Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation. Rules of War* [2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors. *2:190 All fighting is regulated by the basic rule in 60:8-9. Fighting is allowed strictly in self-defense, while aggression and oppression are strongly condemned throughout the Quran. [2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers. The Four Months of Hajj / (Zul-Hijjah, Muharram, Safar, & Rabi I) [2:197] Hajj shall be observed in the specified months.* Whoever sets out to observe Hajj shall refrain from sexual intercourse, misconduct, and arguments throughout Hajj. Whatever good you do, GOD is fully aware thereof. As you prepare your provisions for the journey, the best provision is righteousness. You shall observe Me, O you who possess intelligence. *2:197 Hajj can be observed any time during the Sacred Months: Zul-Hijjah, Muharram, Safar, and Rabi I. Local governments restrict Hajj to a few days for their own convenience. See 9:37 [2:198] You commit no error by seeking provisions from your Lord
Appendix 1 | 213 (through commerce). When you file from `Arafaat, you shall commemorate GOD at the Sacred Location (of Muzdalifah). You shall commemorate Him for guiding you; before this, you had gone astray. [2:199] You shall file together, with the rest of the people who file, and ask GOD for forgiveness. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. Recipients of Charity [2:215] They ask you about giving: say, "The charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the traveling alien." Any good you do, GOD is fully aware thereof. Believers: The Ultimate Victors [2:216] Fighting may be imposed on you, even though you dislike it. But you may dislike something which is good for you, and you may like something which is bad for you. GOD knows while you do not know. Oppression Condemned [2:217] They ask you about the Sacred Months and fighting therein: say, "Fighting therein is a sacrilege. However, repelling from the path of GOD and disbelieving in Him and in the sanctity of the Sacred Masjid, and evicting its people, are greater sacrileges in the sight of GOD. Oppression is worse than murder." They will always fight you to revert you from your religion, if they can. Those among you who revert from their religion, and die as disbelievers, have nullified their works in this life and the Hereafter. These are the dwellers of Hell, wherein they abide forever. Intoxicants and Gambling Prohibited* [2:219] They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, “In them there is a gross sin, and some benefits for the people. But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.” They also ask you what to give to charity: say, “The excess.” GOD thus clarifies the revelations for you, that you may reflect, *2:219 The world now recognizes that the economic benefits from manufacturing alcoholic beverages and illicit drugs are not worth the traffic fatalities, brain damage to children of alcoholic mothers, family crises, and other disastrous consequences. Check with “Alcoholics Anonymous” and “Gamblers Anonymous” for more information. See also 5:90-91. [2:220] upon this life and the Hereafter. And they ask you about the orphans: say, “Bringing them up as righteous persons is the best you can do for them. If you mix their property with yours, you shall treat them as family members.” GOD knows the righteous and the wicked. Had GOD willed, He could have imposed harsher rules upon you. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise. Do Not Marry Idol Worshipers [2:221] Do not marry idolatresses unless they believe; a believing woman is better than an idolatress, even if you like her. Nor shall you give your
214 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam daughters in marriage to idolatrous men, unless they believe. A believing man is better than an idolater, even if you like him. These invite to Hell, while GOD invites to Paradise and forgiveness, as He wills. He clarifies His revelations for the people, that they may take heed. Menstruation [2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.” [2:223] Your women are the bearers of your seed. Thus, you may enjoy this privilege however you like, so long as you maintain righteousness. You shall observe GOD, and know that you will meet Him. Give good news to the believers. Laws of Divorce [2:226] Those who intend to divorce their wives shall wait four months (cooling off); if they change their minds and reconcile, then GOD is Forgiver, Merciful. [2:227] If they go through with the divorce, then GOD is Hearer, Knower. [2:228] The divorced women shall wait three menstruations (before marrying another man). It is not lawful for them to conceal what GOD creates in their wombs, if they believe in GOD and the Last Day. (In case of pregnancy,) the husband's wishes shall supersede the wife's wishes, if he wants to remarry her. The women have rights, as well as obligations, equitably. Thus, the man's wishes prevail (in case of pregnancy). GOD is Almighty, Most Wise. [2:229] Divorce may be retracted twice. The divorced woman shall be allowed to live in the same home amicably, or leave it amicably. It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her. However, the couple may fear that they may transgress GOD's law. If there is fear that they may transgress GOD's law, they commit no error if the wife willingly gives back whatever she chooses. These are GOD's laws; do not transgress them. Those who transgress GOD's laws are the unjust. Do Not Throw the Divorcees Out Onto the Streets [2:231] If you divorce the women, once they fulfill their interim (three menstruations), you shall allow them to live in the same home amicably, or let them leave amicably. Do not force them to stay against their will, as a revenge. Anyone who does this wrongs his own soul. Do not take GOD's revelations in vain. Remember GOD's blessings upon you, and that He sent down to you the scripture and wisdom to enlighten you. You shall observe GOD, and know that GOD is aware of all things.
Appendix 1 | 215 [2:233] Divorced mothers shall nurse their infants two full years, if the father so wishes. The father shall provide the mother's food and clothing equitably. No one shall be burdened beyond his ability. No mother shall be harmed on account of her infant, nor shall the father be harmed because of his infant. (If the father dies), his inheritor shall assume these responsibilities. If the infant's parents mutually agree to part, after due consultation, they commit no error by doing so. You commit no error by hiring nursing mothers, so long as you pay them equitably. You shall observe GOD, and know that GOD is Seer of everything you do. [2:235] You commit no sin by announcing your engagement to the women, or keeping it secret. GOD knows that you will think about them. Do not meet them secretly, unless you have something righteous to discuss. Do not consummate the marriage until their interim is fulfilled. You should know that GOD knows your innermost thoughts, and observe Him. You should know that GOD is Forgiver, Clement. Breaking the Engagement [2:236] You commit no error by divorcing the women before touching them, or before setting the dowry for them. In this case, you shall compensate themâ€”the rich as he can afford and the poor as he can affordâ€”an equitable compensation. This is a duty upon the righteous. [2:237] If you divorce them before touching them, but after you had set the dowry for them, the compensation shall be half the dowry, unless they voluntarily forfeit their rights, or the party responsible for causing the divorce chooses to forfeit the dowry. To forfeit is closer to righteousness. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. GOD is Seer of everything you do. [2:239] Under unusual circumstances, you may pray while walking or riding. Once you are safe, you shall commemorate GOD as He taught you what you never knew. [2:241] The divorcees also shall be provided for, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous. No Compulsion in Religion [2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient. What to Give [2:267] O you who believe, you shall give to charity from the good things you earn, and from what we have produced for you from the earth. Do not pick out the bad therein to give away, when you yourselves do not accept it
216 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam unless your eyes are closed. You should know that GOD is Rich, Praiseworthy. Anonymous Charity Better [2:270] Any charity you give, or a charitable pledge you fulfill, GOD is fully aware thereof. As for the wicked, they will have no helpers. [2:271] If you declare your charities, they are still good. But if you keep them anonymous, and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and remits more of your sins. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do. God is the Only One Who Guides [2:272] You are not responsible for guiding anyone. GOD is the only one who guides whoever chooses (to be guided). Any charity you give is for your own good. Any charity you give shall be for the sake of GOD. Any charity you give will be repaid to you, without the least injustice. Write Down Financial Transactions [2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. No scribe shall refuse to perform this service, according to GOD's teachings. He shall write, while the debtor dictates the terms. He shall observe GOD his Lord and never cheat. If the debtor is mentally incapable, or helpless, or cannot dictate, his guardian shall dictate equitably. Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all.* Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so. Do not tire of writing the details, no matter how long, including the time of repayment. This is equitable in the sight of GOD, assures better witnessing, and eliminates any doubts you may have. Business transactions that you execute on the spot need not be recorded, but have them witnessed. No scribe or witness shall be harmed on account of his services. If you harm them, it would be wickedness on your part. You shall observe GOD, and GOD will teach you. GOD is Omniscient. *2:282 Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. It is a recognized fact that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men. [2:283] If you are traveling, and no scribe is available, a bond shall be posted to guarantee repayment. If one is trusted in this manner, he shall return the bond when due, and he shall observe GOD his Lord. Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart. GOD is fully aware of everything you do.
Appendix 1 | 217 You Shall Not Make Any Distinction Among God’s Messengers [2:285] The messenger has believed in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and so did the believers. They believe in GOD, His angels, His scripture, and His messengers: “We make no distinction among any of His messengers.” They say, “We hear, and we obey.* Forgive us, our Lord. To You is the ultimate destiny.” *2:285 One of the major commandments is: “You shall not make any distinction among God’s messengers” (2:136, 3:84, 4:150). The believers react by saying, “We hear and we obey,” while the idol worshipers argue back to justify their insistence upon mentioning Muhammad’s name next to God’s, to the exclusion of all other messengers. The corrupted Muslims mention Muhammad in their profession of faith (Shahaadah) and during their Contact Prayers (see 72:18). The Most Important Commandment* [3:18] GOD bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise. *3:18 The proclamation of faith (Shahaadah) that is decreed by God is: "There is no god except God," in Arabic "La Elaaha Ella Allah" (see also 37:35, 47:19). The corrupted Muslims insist upon adding a second "Shahaadah" proclaiming that Muhammad is God's messenger. This is by definition "Shirk" (idolatry) and a flagrant defiance of God and His messenger. Additionally, it violates the major commandments in 2:136, 2:285, 3:84, & 4:150-152 prohibiting any distinction among God's messengers. By proclaiming that "Muhammad is a messenger of God," and failing to make the same proclamation for other messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Saleh, and Jonah, a distinction is committed and a major commandment is violated. Submission: The Only Religion [3:19] The only religion approved by GOD is "Submission." Ironically, those who have received the scripture are the ones who dispute this fact, despite the knowledge they have received, due to jealousy. For such rejectors of GOD's revelations, GOD is most strict in reckoning. [3:31] Proclaim: “If you love GOD, you should follow me.” GOD will then love you, and forgive your sins. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [3:32] Proclaim: “You shall obey GOD and the messenger.” If they turn away, GOD does not love the disbelievers. [3:37] Her Lord accepted her a gracious acceptance, and brought her up a gracious upbringing, under the guardianship of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered her sanctuary he found provisions with her. He would ask, "Mary, where did you get this from?" She would say, "It is from GOD. GOD provides for whomever He chooses, without limits." The Birth of John [3:38] That is when Zachariah implored his Lord: "My Lord, grant me
218 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam such a good child; You are the Hearer of the prayers." Mary and Jesus [3:42] The angels said, "O Mary, GOD has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you from all the women. [3:52] When Jesus sensed their disbelief, he said, “Who are my supporters towards GOD?” The disciples said, “We are GOD’s supporters; we believe in GOD, and bear witness that we are submitters [muslims].” Only One Religion Approved by God [3:85] Anyone who accepts other than Submission as his religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be with the losers. [3:92] You cannot attain righteousness until you give to charity from the possessions you love. Whatever you give to charity, GOD is fully aware thereof. [3:194] "Our Lord, shower us with the blessings you promised us through Your messengers, and do not forsake us on the Day of Resurrection. You never break a promise." God Responds [3:195] Their Lord responded to them: "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female - you are equal to one another. Thus, those who immigrate, and get evicted from their homes, and are persecuted because of Me, and fight and get killed, I will surely remit their sins and admit them into gardens with flowing streams." Such is the reward from GOD. GOD possesses the ultimate reward. Grounds For Polygamy* [4:3] If you deem it best for the orphans, you may marry their mothers you may marry two, three, or four. If you fear lest you become unfair, then you shall be content with only one, or with what you already have. Additionally, you are thus more likely to avoid financial hardship. *4:3 See Appendix 30 for a detailed discussion on polygamy. [4:4] You shall give the women their due dowries, equitably. If they willingly forfeit anything, then you may accept it; it is rightfully yours. Women's Inheritance Rights [4:7] The men get a share of what the parents and the relatives leave behind. The women too shall get a share of what the parents and relatives leave behind. Whether it is a small or a large inheritance, (the women must get) a definite share. If No Will Is Left* [4:11] GOD decrees a will for the benefit of your children; the male gets twice the share of the female.* If the inheritors are only women, more than two, they get two-thirds of what is bequeathed. If only one daughter is left, she gets one-half. The parents of the deceased get one-sixth of the inheritance
Appendix 1 | 219 each, if the deceased has left any children. If he left no children, and his parents are the only inheritors, the mother gets one-third. If he has siblings, then the mother gets one-sixth. All this, after fulfilling any will* the deceased has left, and after paying off all debts. When it comes to your parents and your children, you do not know which of them is really the best to you and the most beneficial. This is GOD's law. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise. *4:11 Generally, the son is responsible for a family, while the daughter is taken care of by a husband. However, the Quran recommends in 2:180 that a will shall be left to conform with the specific circumstances of the deceased. For example, if the son is rich and the daughter is poor, one may leave a will giving the daughter everything, or twice as much as the son. [4:16] The couple who commits adultery shall be punished.* If they repent and reform, you shall leave them alone. GOD is Redeemer, Most Merciful. [4:19] O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit what the women leave behind, against their will. You shall not force them to give up anything you had given them, unless they commit a proven adultery. You shall treat them nicely. If you dislike them, you may dislike something wherein GOD has placed a lot of good. Protection for Women [4:20] If you wish to marry another wife, in place of your present wife, and you had given any of them a great deal, you shall not take back anything you had given her. Would you take it fraudulently, maliciously, and sinfully? [4:21] How could you take it back, after you have been intimate with each other, and they had taken from you a solemn pledge? Incest Forbidden [4:23] Prohibited for you (in marriage) are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, the sisters of your fathers, the sisters of your mothers, the daughters of your brother, the daughters of your sister, your nursing mothers, the girls who nursed from the same woman as you, the mothers of your wives, the daughters of your wives with whom you have consummated the marriageâ€”if the marriage has not been consummated, you may marry the daughter. Also prohibited for you are the women who were married to your genetic sons. Also, you shall not be married to two sisters at the same timeâ€” but do not break up existing marriages. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [4:24] Also prohibited are the women who are already married, unless they flee their disbelieving husbands who are at war with you. These are GODâ€™s commandments to you. All other categories are permitted for you in marriage, so long as you pay them their due dowries. You shall maintain your morality, by not committing adultery. Thus, whoever you like among them, you shall pay them the dowry decreed for them. You commit no error by mutually agreeing to any adjustments to the dowry. GOD is Omniscient,
220 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Most Wise. [4:25] Those among you who cannot afford to marry free believing women, may marry believing slave women. GOD knows best about your belief, and you are equal to one another, as far as belief is concerned. You shall obtain permission from their guardians before you marry them, and pay them their due dowry equitably. They shall maintain moral behavior, by not committing adultery, or having secret lovers. Once they are freed through marriage, if they commit adultery, their punishment shall be half of that for the free women.* Marrying a slave shall be a last resort for those unable to wait. To be patient is better for you. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. *4:25 This law proves that the punishment for adultery could not possibly be stoning to death as stated in the laws of corrupted Muslims (see 24:2). Men and Women Endowed With Unique Qualities [4:32] You shall not covet the qualities bestowed upon each other by GOD; the men enjoy certain qualities, and the women enjoy certain qualities. You may implore GOD to shower you with His grace. GOD is fully aware of all things. Do Not Beat Your Wife* [4:34] The men are made responsible for the women,** and GOD has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is GOD’s commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. GOD is Most High, Supreme. *4:34 God prohibits wife-beating by using the best psychological approach. For example, if I don’t want you to shop at Market X, I will ask you to shop at Market Y, then at Market Z, then, as a last resort, at Market X. This will effectively stop you from shopping at Market X, without insulting you. Similarly, God provides alternatives to wife-beating; reasoning with her first, then employing certain negative incentives. Remember that the theme of this sura is defending the women’s rights and countering the prevalent oppression of women. Any interpretation of the verses of this sura must be in favor of the women. This sura’s theme is “protection of women.” **4:34 This expression simply means that God is appointing the husband as “captain of the ship.” Marriage is like a ship, and the captain runs it after due consultation with his officers. A believing wife readily accepts God’s appointment, without mutiny. Marriage Arbitration [4:35] If a couple fears separation, you shall appoint an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family; if they decide to reconcile, GOD
Appendix 1 | 221 will help them get together. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant. Major Commandments [4:36] You shall worship GOD alone—do not associate anything with Him. You shall regard the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, the related neighbor, the unrelated neighbor, the close associate, the traveling alien, and your servants. GOD does not like the arrogant show-offs. What Nullifies Ablution [4:43] O you who believe, do not observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) while intoxicated, so that you know what you are saying. Nor after sexual orgasm without bathing, unless you are on the road, traveling; if you are ill or traveling, or you had urinary or fecal-related excretion (such as gas), or contacted the women (sexually), and you cannot find water, you shall observe Tayammum (dry ablution) by touching clean dry soil, then wiping your faces and hands therewith. GOD is Pardoner, Forgiver. Nothing Bad Comes From God [4:79] Anything good that happens to you is from GOD, and anything bad that happens to you is from you. We have sent you as a messenger to the people,* and GOD suffices as witness. *4:79 Muhammad was not given any proof of prophethood. Hence the expression “God suffices as a witness” (29:51-52). The gematrical value of “Muhammad” is 92, and 92+79=171=19x9. Proof of Divine Authorship [4:82] Why do they not study the Quran carefully? If it were from other than GOD, they would have found in it numerous contradictions.* *4:82 Although the Quran was revealed during the dark ages, you cannot find any nonsense in it; another proof of divine authorship (see the Introduction and Appendix One). You Shall Be Courteous [4:86] When greeted with a greeting, you shall respond with a better greeting or at least an equal one. GOD reckons all things. [4:102] When you are with them, and lead the Contact Prayer (Salat) for them, let some of you stand guard; let them hold their weapons, and let them stand behind you as you prostrate. Then, let the other group that has not prayed take their turn praying with you, while the others stand guard and hold their weapons. Those who disbelieved wish to see you neglect your weapons and your equipment, in order to attack you once and for all. You commit no error, if you are hampered by rain or injury, by putting down your weapons, so long as you remain alert. GOD has prepared for the disbelievers a shameful retribution. The Contact Prayers [4:103] Once you complete your Contact Prayer (Salat), you shall remem-
222 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam ber GOD while standing, sitting, or lying down.* Once the war is over, you shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat); the Contact Prayers (Salat) are decreed for the believers at specific times. *4:103 Your god is whoever or whatever occupies your mind most of the day. In order to belong in God’s kingdom, and enjoy His grace and protection, the Quran exhorts us to remember God “always’’ (2:152 & 200, 3:191, 33:41-42). This profound fact explains the numerous verses asserting that “most’’ of those who believe in God are going to Hell (12:106, 23:84-89, 29:61-63, 31:25, 39:38, 43:87). See Footnote 3:191 and Appendix 27. [4:104] Do not waver in pursuing the enemy. If you suffer, they also suffer. However, you expect from GOD what they never expect. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise. [4:124] As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice. Divorce Discouraged [4:128] If a woman senses oppression or desertion from her husband, the couple shall try to reconcile their differences, for conciliation is best for them. Selfishness is a human trait, and if you do good and lead a righteous life, GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do. Polygamy Discouraged* [4:129] You can never be equitable in dealing with more than one wife, no matter how hard you try. Therefore, do not be so biased as to leave one of them hanging (neither enjoying marriage, nor left to marry someone else). If you correct this situation and maintain righteousness, GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. *4:129 See Appendix 30, entitled "Polygamy." [4:130] If the couple must decide to part, GOD will provide for each of them from His bounties. GOD is Bounteous, Most Wise. You Shall Not Bear False Witness [4:135] O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether the accused is rich or poor, GOD takes care of both. Therefore, do not be biased by your personal wishes. If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do. [5:5] Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture is lawful for you. Also, you may marry the chaste women among the believers, as well as the chaste women among the followers of previous scripture, provided you pay them their due dowries. You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers. Anyone who rejects faith, all his work will be in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be with the losers.
Appendix 1 | 223 Ablution [5:6] O you who believe, when you observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), you shall: (1) wash your faces, (2) wash your arms to the elbows, (3) wipe your heads, and (4) wash your feet to the ankles. If you were unclean due to sexual orgasm, you shall bathe. If you are ill, or traveling, or had any digestive excretion (urinary, fecal, or gas), or had (sexual) contact with the women, and you cannot find water, you shall observe the dry ablution (Tayammum) by touching clean dry soil, then rubbing your faces and hands. GOD does not wish to make the religion difficult for you; He wishes to cleanse you and to perfect His blessing upon you, that you may be appreciative. Mathematical Proof Supports Quranic Justice [5:38] The thief, male or female, you shall mark their hands* as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as an example from GOD. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise. *5:38 The practice of cutting off the thief's hand, as decreed by the false Muslims, is a satanic practice without Quranic basis. Due to the special importance of this example, God has provided mathematical proof in support of marking the hand of the thief, rather than severing it. Verse 12:31 refers to the women who so admired Joseph that they ``cut'' their hands. Obviously, they did not ``cut off'' their hands; nobody can. The sum of sura and verse numbers are the same for 5:38 and 12:31, i.e., 43. It is also the will and mercy of God that this mathematical relationship conforms with the Quran's 19-based code. Nineteen verses after 12:31, we see the same word (12:50). [5:39] If one repents after committing this crime, and reforms, GOD redeems him. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. Honoring Previous Scripture [5:44] We have sent down the Torah,* containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD's scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the disbelievers. The Gospel of Jesus: Guidance and Light [5:46] Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran: The Ultimate Reference [5:48] Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD's revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and
224 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny all of you - then He will inform you of everything you had disputed. Minimum Requirements For Salvation [5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in GOD and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. [5:90] O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed. Witnessing A Will [5:106] O you who believe, witnessing a will when one of you is dying shall be done by two equitable people among you. If you are traveling, then two others may do the witnessing. After observing the Contact Prayer (Salat), let the witnesses swear by GOD, to alleviate your doubts: "We will not use this to attain personal gains, even if the testator is related to us. Nor will we conceal GOD's testimony. Otherwise, we would be sinners." [5:107] If the witnesses are found to be guilty of bias, then two others shall be asked to take their places. Choose two persons who were victimized by the first witnesses, and let them swear by GOD: "Our testimony is more truthful than theirs; we will not be biased. Otherwise, we will be transgressors." [5:108] This is more apt to encourage an honest testimony on their part, fearing that their oath may be disregarded like that of the previous witnesses. You shall observe GOD and listen. GOD does not guide the wicked. Animals and Birds: Submitting Creatures* [6:38] All the creatures on earth, and all the birds that fly with wings, are communities like you. We did not leave anything out of this book.** To their Lord, all these creatures will be summoned. *6:38 Animals were among the creatures who took advantage of God’s offer to repent after committing the original sin (see the Introduction). **6:38 All information relevant to our eternal life of the Hereafter is contained in the Quran. The true believers accept, without hesitation, God’s assertion: “We did not leave anything out of this book.’’ The importance of this statement, and similar statements, is reflected in the fact that each of them consists of 19 Arabic letters (Appendix 19). Greatness of God [6:95] GOD is the One who causes the grains and the seeds to crack and germinate. He produces the living from the dead, and the dead from the living. Such is GOD; how could you deviate! [6:96] At the crack of dawn, He causes the morning to emerge. He made
Appendix 1 | 225 the night still, and He rendered the sun and the moon to serve as calculation devices. Such is the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. [6:97] And He is the One who made the stars to guide you during the darkness, on land and on sea. We thus clarify the revelations for people who know. [6:98] He initiated you from one person, and decided your path, as well as your final destiny. We thus clarify the revelations for people who understand. [6:99] He is the One who sends down from the sky water, whereby we produce all kinds of plants. We produce from the green material multitudes of complex grains, palm trees with hanging clusters, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranate; fruits that are similar, yet dissimilar. Note their fruits as they grow and ripen. These are signs for people who believe. Zakat Must Be Given “On The Day Of Harvest”* [6:141] He is the One who established gardens, trellised and untrellised, and palm trees, and crops with different tastes, and olives, and pomegranate—fruits that are similar, yet dissimilar. Eat from their fruits, and give the due alms on the day of harvest,* and do not waste anything. He does not love the wasters. *6:141 Zakat charity is so important, the Most Merciful has restricted His mercy to those who give it (7:156). Yet, the corrupted Muslims have lost this most important commandment; they give Zakat only once a year. We see here that Zakat must be given away “on the day we receive income.” The proportion that came to us through Abraham is 2.5% of our net income. [6:153] This is My path—a straight one. You shall follow it, and do not follow any other paths, lest they divert you from His path. These are His commandments to you, that you may be saved. [6:155] This too is a blessed scripture that we have revealed; you shall follow it and lead a righteous life, that you may attain mercy. [6:156] Now you can no longer say, “The scripture was sent down to two groups before us, and we were unaware of their teachings.” Mathematics: The Ultimate Proof* [6:157] Nor can you say, “If only a scripture could come down to us, we would be better guided than they.” A proven scripture has now come to you from your Lord, and a beacon, and a mercy. Now, who is more evil than one who rejects these proofs from GOD, and disregards them? We will commit those who disregard our proofs to the worst retribution for their heedlessness. *6:157 The role of the Quran’s mathematical code is evident from the fact that the sum of the verse number (157) plus the gematrical value of “Rashad Khalifa” (1230), through whom the code was revealed, gives 1387, or 19x73.
226 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Requirements For Attaining God’s Mercy / The Importance of Zakat Religious Sects Condemned [6:159] Those who divide themselves into sects do not belong with you. Their judgment rests with GOD, then He will inform them of everything they had done. [6:162] Say, "My Contact Prayers (Salat), my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted absolutely to GOD alone, the Lord of the universe. [6:163] "He has no partner. This is what I am commanded to believe, and I am the first to submit." [6:164] Say, "Shall I seek other than GOD as a lord, when He is the Lord of all things? No soul benefits except from its own works, and none bears the burden of another. Ultimately, you return to your Lord, then He informs you regarding all your disputes." [7:19] "As for you, Adam, dwell with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom as you please, but do not approach this one tree, lest you fall in sin." [7:20] The devil whispered to them, in order to reveal their bodies, which were invisible to them. He said, "Your Lord did not forbid you from this tree, except to prevent you from becoming angels, and from attaining eternal existence." [7:21] He swore to them, "I am giving you good advice." [7:22] He thus duped them with lies. As soon as they tasted the tree, their bodies became visible to them, and they tried to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. Their Lord called upon them: "Did I not enjoin you from that tree, and warn you that the devil is your most ardent enemy?" [7:27] O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe. Lot: Homosexuality Condemned [7:80] Lot said to his people, "You commit such an abomination; no one in the world has done it before! [7:156] “And decree for us righteousness in this world, and in the Hereafter. We have repented to You.” He said, “My retribution befalls whomever I will. But My mercy encompasses all things. However, I will specify it for those who (1) lead a righteous life, (2) give the obligatory charity (Zakat),* (3) believe in our revelations, and *7:156 The importance of the obligatory charity (Zakat) cannot be over emphasized. As instituted in 6:141, Zakat must be given away upon receiving any
Appendix 1 | 227 income—2.5% of one’s net income must be given to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the traveling alien, in this order (see 2:215). [7:157] “(4) follow the messenger, the gentile prophet (Muhammad), whom they find written in their Torah and Gospel. He exhorts them to be righteous, enjoins them from evil, allows for them all good food, and prohibits that which is bad, and unloads the burdens and the shackles imposed upon them. Those who believe in him, respect him, support him, and follow the light that came with him are the successful ones.” *7:157 Muhammad is prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 and John 14:16-17 & 16:13. [9:24] Proclaim: "If your parents, your children, your siblings, your spouses, your family, the money you have earned, a business you worry about, and the homes you cherish are more beloved to you than GOD and His messenger,** and the striving in His cause, then just wait until GOD brings His judgment." GOD does not guide the wicked people. *9:24 Since the odds are overwhelming against any human being to actually believe and devote the worship to God alone (12:103, 106), it is virtually impossible to see a whole family believe. Thus, most believers have been faced with the choice: "Either me or God and His messenger." This choice is consistently stated by spouses of the believers, or their parents, their children, etc. Consistently, the believers made the right choice. This is a mandatory test for all believers (29:2). **9:24 The Quranic, mathematical evidence points specifically at God's Messenger of the Covenant. By adding the gematrical value of "Rashad" (505), plus the value of "Khalifa" (725), plus the verse number (24), we get 505+725+24=1254=19x66. The Winners [9:71] The believing men and women are allies of one another. They advocate righteousness and forbid evil, they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and they obey GOD and His messenger. These will be showered by GOD’s mercy. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise. [9:83] If GOD returns you to a situation where they ask your permission to mobilize with you, you shall say, "You will never again mobilize with me, nor will you ever fight with me against any enemy. For you have chosen to be with the sedentary in the first place. Therefore, you must stay with the sedentary." [9:84] You shall not observe the funeral prayer for any of them when he dies, nor shall you stand at his grave. They have disbelieved in GOD and His messenger, and died in a state of wickedness. [9:119] O you who believe, you shall reverence GOD, and be among the truthful. The Importance of Religious Education
228 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam [9:122] When the believers mobilize, not all of them shall do so. A few from each group shall mobilize by devoting their time to studying the religion. Thus, they can pass the knowledge on to their people when they return, that they may remain religiously informed. [10:84] Moses said, “O my people, if you have really believed in GOD, then put your trust in Him, if you are really submitters [muslims].” [12:31] When she heard of their gossip, she invited them, prepared for them a comfortable place, and gave each of them a knife. She then said to him, “Enter their room.” When they saw him, they so admired him, that they cut their hands. They said, “Glory be to GOD, this is not a human being; this is an honorable angel.” [13:12] He is the One who shows you the lightning as a source of fear, as well as hope, and He initiates the loaded clouds. [13:13] The thunder praises His glory, and so do the angels, out of reverence for Him. He sends the lightning bolts, which strike in accordance with His will. Yet, they argue about GOD, though His power is awesome. The Importance of Being Appreciative [14:6] Recall that Moses said to his people, "Remember GOD's blessings upon you. He saved you from Pharaoh's people who inflicted the worst persecution upon you, slaughtering your sons and sparing your daughters. That was an exacting trial from your Lord." Appreciative vs Unappreciative [14:7] Your Lord has decreed: “The more you thank Me, the more I give you.” But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe. Guaranteed Happiness / Now and Forever [16:97] Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world, and we will surely pay them their full recompense (on the Day of Judgment) for their righteous works. An Important Commandment* [16:98] When you read the Quran, you shall seek refuge in GOD from Satan the rejected. *16:98 Our salvation is attained by knowing God's message to us, the Quran, and Satan will do his utmost to keep us from being redeemed. Hence this commandment. [16:99] He has no power over those who believe and trust in their Lord. Muhammad: A Follower of Abraham* [16:123] Then we inspired you (Muhammad) to follow the religion of Abraham,* the monotheist; he never was an idol worshiper. *16:123 This informs us that all religious practices, which came to us through Abraham, were intact at the time of Muhammad (see 22:78 and Appendix 9).
Appendix 1 | 229 [17:23] Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship except Him, and your parents shall be honored. As long as one or both of them live, you shall never say to them, “Uff” (the slightest gesture of annoyance), nor shall you shout at them; you shall treat them amicably. [17:24] And lower for them the wings of humility, and kindness, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, for they have raised me from infancy.” [17:26] You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the traveling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant. [17:27] The extravagant are brethren of the devils, and the devil is unappreciative of his Lord. [17:32] You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behavior. Crucial Advice [17:36] You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them. Treat Each Other Amicably [17:53] Tell My servants to treat each other in the best possible manner, for the devil will always try to drive a wedge among them. Surely, the devil is man's most ardent enemy. The Noon Prayer [17:78] You shall observe the Contact Prayer (Salat) when the sun declines from its highest point at noon, as it moves towards sunset. You shall also observe (the recitation of) the Quran at dawn. (Reciting) the Quran at dawn is witnessed. [17:80] And say, "My Lord, admit me an honorable admittance, and let me depart an honorable departure, and grant me from You a powerful support." Divine Revelation: The Source of All Knowledge [17:85] They ask you about the revelation. Say, "The revelation comes from my Lord. The knowledge given to you is minute." Remembering God Every Chance We Get [18:23] You shall not say that you will do anything in the future, [18:24] without saying, “GOD willing.”* If you forget to do this, you must immediately remember your Lord and say, “May my Lord guide me to do better next time.” *18:24 This important commandment gives us daily opportunities to remember God. There is a Good Reason for Everything [18:78] He said, "Now we have to part company. But I will explain to you
230 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam everything you could not stand. [18:79] "As for the ship, it belonged to poor fishermen, and I wanted to render it defective. There was a king coming after them, who was confiscating every ship, forcibly. [18:80] "As for the boy, his parents were good believers, and we saw that he was going to burden them with his transgression and disbelief.* *18:80 Adolf Hitler was a cute and seemingly innocent child. Had he died as a child, many would have grieved, and many would have even questioned God's wisdom. We learn from these profound lessons that there is a good reason behind everything. [18:81] "We willed that your Lord substitute in his place another son; one who is better in righteousness and kindness. [18:82] "As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city. Under it, there was a treasure that belonged to them. Because their father was a righteous man, your Lord wanted them to grow up and attain full strength, then extract their treasure. Such is mercy from your Lord. I did none of that of my own volition. This is the explanation of the things you could not stand." [19:95] All of them will come before Him on the Day of Resurrection as individuals. [20:14] â€œI am GOD; there is no other god beside Me. You shall worship Me alone, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) to remember Me. [20:117] We then said, "O Adam, this is an enemy of you and your wife. Do not let him evict you from Paradise, lest you become miserable. [20:118] "You are guaranteed never to hunger therein, nor go unsheltered. [20:119] "Nor will you thirst therein, nor suffer from any heat." [20:120] But the devil whispered to him, saying, "O Adam, let me show you the tree of eternity and unending kingship." [20:121] They ate from it, whereupon their bodies became visible to them, and they tried to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. Adam thus disobeyed his Lord, and fell. The Myth of Intercession [21:28] He knows their future and their past. They do not intercede, except for those already accepted by Him, and they are worried about their own necks.* *21:28 The myth of intercession is Satan's most effective bait (see Appendix 8). [22:18] Do you not realize that to GOD prostrates everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the animals, and many people? Many others among the people are committed to doom. Whomever GOD shames, none will
Appendix 1 | 231 honor him. Everything is in accordance with GOD's will. [23:9] And they observe their Contact Prayers (Salat) regularly. Adultery [24:2] The adulteress and the adulterer you shall whip each of them a hundred lashes. Do not be swayed by pity from carrying out GOD's law, if you truly believe in GOD and the Last Day. And let a group of believers witness their penalty.* *24:2 Social pressure, i.e., public witnessing of the penalty, is the basic punishment (see also 5:38). The lashes shall be symbolic, not severe. [24:3] The adulterer will end up marrying an adulteress or an idol worshiper, and the adulteress will end up marrying an adulterer or an idol worshiper. This is prohibited for the believers. Dress Code for Believers* [24:30] Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything they do. [24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to GOD, O you believers, that you may succeed.* *24:30-31 Dressing modestly, therefore, is a trait of the believing men and women. The minimum requirements for a womanâ€™s dress is to lengthen her garment (33:59) and to cover her chest. Tyrannical Arab traditions have given a false impression that women must be covered from head to toe; Such is not a Quranic or Islamic dress. Encourage Marriage to Discourage Immorality [24:32] You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor. GOD will enrich them from His grace. GOD is Bounteous, Knower. [24:33] Those who cannot afford to get married shall maintain morality until GOD provides for them from His grace. Those among your servants who wish to be freed in order to marry, you shall grant them their wish, once you realize that they are honest. And give them from GOD's money that He
232 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam has bestowed upon you. You shall not force your girls to commit prostitution, seeking the materials of this world, if they wish to be chaste. If anyone forces them, then GOD, seeing that they are forced, is Forgiver, Merciful. God [24:35] GOD is the light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory of His light is that of a concave mirror behind a lamp that is placed inside a glass container. The glass container is like a bright, pearl-like star. The fuel thereof is supplied from a blessed oil-producing tree, that is neither eastern, nor western. Its oil is almost self-radiating; needs no fire to ignite it. Light upon light. GOD guides to His light whoever wills (to be guided). GOD thus cites the parables for the people. GOD is fully aware of all things. [24:41] Do you not realize that everyone in the heavens and the earth glorifies GOD, even the birds as they fly in a column? Each knows its prayer and its glorification. GOD is fully aware of everything they do. You Shall Dress Modestly [24:60] The elderly women who do not expect to get married commit nothing wrong by relaxing their dress code, provided they do not reveal too much of their bodies. To maintain modesty is better for them. GOD is Hearer, Knower. [25:68] They never implore beside GOD any other god, nor do they kill anyone—for GOD has made life sacred—except in the course of justice. Nor do they commit adultery. Those who commit these offenses will have to pay. [25:69] Retribution is doubled for them on the Day of Resurrection, and they abide therein humiliated. [25:70] Exempted are those who repent, believe, and lead a righteous life. GOD transforms their sins into credits. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [25:74] And they say, "Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous." The Quran Must Be Translated [26:198] If we revealed this to people who do not know Arabic. [26:199] And had him recite it (in Arabic), they could not possibly believe in it. [26:200] We thus render it (like a foreign language) in the hearts of the guilty. [27:22] He did not wait for long. (The hoopoe) said, “I have news that you do not have. I brought to you from Sheba, some important information. [27:23] “I found a woman ruling them, who is blessed with everything, and possesses a tremendous palace. Back in Sheba
Appendix 1 | 233 [27:29] She said, “O my advisers, I have received an honorable letter. [27:30] “It is from Solomon, and it is, `In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.’ * *27:30 The ‘Basmalah’ included in this verse compensates for the ‘Basmalah’ that is missing from Sura 9, 19 suras earlier. This restores the total occurrence of ‘Basmalah’ to 114, 19x6. See Appendix 29 for details of a vast and profound miracle attached to this ‘Basmalah.’ [27:31] “Proclaiming: ‘Do not be arrogant; come to me as submitters.’” [27:32] She said, “O my advisers, counsel me in this matter. I am not deciding anything until you advise me.” [27:33] They said, “We possess the power, we possess the fighting skills, and the ultimate command is in your hand. You decide what to do.” [27:34] She said, “The kings corrupt any land they invade, and subjugate its dignified people. This is what they usually do. [27:35] “I am sending a gift to them; let us see what the messengers come back with.” Lot [29:28] Lot said to his people, "You commit such an abomination, no one in the world has ever done it before you. The Contact Prayers (Salat) [29:45] You shall recite what is revealed to you of the scripture, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), for the Contact Prayers prohibit evil and vice. But the remembrance of GOD (through Salat) is the most important objective.* GOD knows everything you do. *29:45 Your god is whatever occupies your mind most of the time (see 20:14 & Appendix 27). [30:21] Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. More Proofs [30:22] Among His proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable. The Second Commandment [31:14] We enjoined the human being to honor his parents. His mother bore him, and the load got heavier and heavier. It takes two years (of intensive care) until weaning. You shall be appreciative of Me, and of your parents. To Me is the ultimate destiny. [33:52] Beyond the categories described to you, you are enjoined from
234 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam marrying any other women, nor can you substitute a new wife (from the prohibited categories), no matter how much you admire their beauty. You must be content with those already made lawful to you. GOD is watchful over all things. Dress Code for Women [33:59] O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [36:6] To warn people whose parents were never warned, and therefore, they are unaware. [36:7] It has been predetermined that most of them do not believe. [36:8] For we place around their necks shackles, up to their chins. Consequently, they become locked in their disbelief. [36:9] And we place a barrier in front of them, and a barrier behind them, and thus, we veil them; they cannot see. [36:10] It is the same whether you warn them or not, they cannot believe.* *36:10 Everyone is already stamped as a believer or a disbeliever. See Appendix 14. God's Messenger of the Covenant* [34:46] Say, "I ask you to do one thing: Devote yourselves to GOD, in pairs or as individuals, then reflect. Your friend (Rashad) is not crazy. He is a manifest warner to you, just before the advent of a terrible retribution." *34:46 By placing the gematrical value of "Rashad" (505) next to the value of "Khalifa" (725), then the sura number (34), and the verse number (46), we get 5057253446=19x266171234. Signs of God [36:33] One sign for them is the dead land: we revive it and produce from it grains for their food. [36:34] We grow in it gardens of date palms, and grapes, and we cause springs to gush out therein. [36:35] This is to provide them with fruits, and to let them manufacture with their own hands whatever they need. Would they be thankful? [36:36] Glory be to the One who created all kinds of plants from the earth, as well as themselves, and other creations that they do not even know. [36:37] Another sign for them is the night: we remove the daylight therefrom, whereupon they are in darkness. [36:38] The sun sets into a specific location, according to the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient. [36:39] The moon we designed to appear in stages, until it becomes like an old curved sheath.
Appendix 1 | 235 [36:40] The sun is never to catch up with the moon - the night and the day never deviate - each of them is floating in its own orbit. Follow the Word of God [39:18] They are the ones who examine all words, then follow the best. These are the ones whom GOD has guided; these are the ones who possess intelligence. [39:44] Say, "All intercession belongs to GOD." To Him belongs all sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then to Him you will be returned. The Best Deal [40:40] Whoever commits a sin is requited for just that, and whoever works righteousness—male or female—while believing, these will enter Paradise wherein they receive provisions without any limits. [41:11] Then He turned to the sky, when it was still gas, and said to it, and to the earth, “Come into existence, willingly or unwillingly.” They said, “We come willingly.” Perfect Happiness: Now and Forever [41:30] Those who proclaim: “Our Lord is GOD,” then lead a righteous life, the angels descend upon them: “You shall have no fear, nor shall you grieve. Rejoice in the good news that Paradise has been reserved for you. [41:31] “We are your allies in this life, and in the Hereafter. You will have in it anything you wish for; you will have anything you want. Language is Irrelevant [41:44] If we made it a non-Arabic Quran they would have said, "Why did it come down in that language?" Whether it is Arabic or non-Arabic, say, "For those who believe, it is a guide and healing. As for those who disbelieve, they will be deaf and blind to it, as if they are being addressed from faraway." Only One Religion Monotheists vs Idol Worshipers [42:13] He decreed for you the same religion decreed for Noah, and what we inspired to you, and what we decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: "You shall uphold this one religion, and do not divide it." The idol worshipers will greatly resent what you invite them to do. GOD redeems to Himself whomever He wills; He guides to Himself only those who totally submit. [42:38] They respond to their Lord by observing the Contact Prayers (Salat). Their affairs are decided after due consultation among themselves, and from our provisions to them they give (to charity). Which Hadith?* [45:6] These are GOD's revelations that we recite to you truthfully. In which Hadith other than GOD and His revelations do they believe? *45:6-7 God condemns "Hadith" by name, and informs us that it is a blasphemous fabrication.
236 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam 40: The Age of Decision* [46:15] We enjoined the human being to honor his parents. His mother bore him arduously, gave birth to him arduously, and took intimate care of him for thirty months. When he reaches maturity, and reaches the age of forty,* he should say, "My Lord, direct me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Let my children be righteous as well. I have repented to You; I am a submitter." *46:15 God knows full well who deserves to go to Heaven and who deserves to go to Hell. It is His law that whomever He puts to death before the age of 40 shall go to Heaven. God's immense mercy is reflected in the fact that most people have difficulty accepting this divine mercy; they argue: “Put them in Hell!” See Appendix 32. Study the Quran [47:24] Why do they not study the Quran carefully? Do they have locks on their minds? [47:31] We will certainly put you to the test, in order to distinguish those among you who strive, and steadfastly persevere. We must expose your true qualities. Believers Set the Example [49:11] O you who believe, no people shall ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you mock one another, or make fun of your names. Evil indeed is the reversion to wickedness after attaining faith. Anyone who does not repent after this, these are the transgressors. The Only Criterion For Distinguishing Among The People [49:13] O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant. [50:16] We created the human, and we know what he whispers to himself. We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [52:20] They relax on luxurious furnishings, and we match them with beautiful spouses. [55:1] The Most Gracious. [55:2] Teacher of the Quran. [56:35] We create for them mates. [56:36] Never previously touched. [56:37] Perfectly matched. [56:79] None can grasp it except the sincere.* *56:79 The insincere who are not satisfied with the Quran alone are divinely prevented from understanding the Quran. This concept is repeated throughout the
Appendix 1 | 237 Quran (17:45-46, 18:57). Consequently, they cannot understand this verse. For example, compare this translation of 7:3, 17:46, 41:44, and 56:79 with other translations. [58:1] GOD has heard the woman who debated with you about her husband, and complained to GOD. GOD heard everything the two of you discussed. GOD is Hearer, Seer. [59:23] He is the One GOD; there is no other god beside Him. The King, the Most Sacred, the Peace, the Most Faithful, the Supreme, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the Most Dignified. GOD be glorified; far above having partners. Important Commandments to All Believers [62:9] O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat AlJumu’ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of GOD, and drop all business. This is better for you, if you only knew. [65:6] You shall allow them to live in the same home in which they lived with you, and do not make life so miserable for them that they leave on their own. If they are pregnant, you shall spend on them until they give birth. If they nurse the infant, you shall pay them for this service. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. If you disagree, you may hire another woman to nurse the child. The Myth of Intercession Shattered [66:10] GOD cites as examples of those who disbelieved the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were married to two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them and, consequently, they could not help them at all against GOD. The two of them were told, “Enter the Hell-fire with those who deserved it.” Examples of the Believers: Pharaoh’s Wife [66:11] And GOD cites as an example of those who believed the wife of Pharaoh. She said, "My Lord, build a home for me at You in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his works; save me from the transgressing people." Mary [66:12] Also Mary, the Amramite. She maintained her chastity, then we blew into her from our spirit. She believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures; she was obedient. [69:40] This is the utterance of an honorable messenger. [69:41] Not the utterance of a poet; rarely do you believe. [69:42] Nor the utterance of a soothsayer; rarely do you take heed. [69:43] A revelation from the Lord of the universe. Muhammad Forbidden from Issuing Any Religious Teachings [69:44] Had he uttered any other teachings.
238 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam [69:45] We would have punished him. [69:46] We would have stopped the revelations to him. [69:47] None of you could have helped him. [72:18] The places of worship belong to GOD; do not call on anyone else beside GOD. [73:2] Meditate during the night, except rarely. [73:3] Half of it, or a little less. [73:4] Or a little more. And read the Quran from cover to cover. Muhammad Forbidden from Explaining the Quran [75:16] Do not move your tongue to hasten it. [75:17] It is we who will collect it into Quran. [75:18] Once we recite it, you shall follow such a Quran. [75:19] Then it is we who will explain it. [76:30] Whatever you will is in accordance with GOD's will. GOD is Omniscient, Wise. [83:1] Woe to the cheaters. [83:2] Who demand full measure when receiving from the people. [83:3] But when giving them the measures or weights, they cheat. [83:4] Do they not know that they will be resurrected? [96:1] Read, in the name of your Lord, who created.* *96:1-19 From 96 to 114 is 19 suras. The first revelation (96:1-5) is 19 Arabic words, 76 letters (19x4). The sura consists of 19 verses and 304 Arabic letters (Appendices 1 & 23). [96:2] He created man from an embryo. [96:3] Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted. [96:4] Teaches by means of the pen. [96:5] He teaches man what he never knew. [96:9] Have you seen the one who enjoins. [96:10] Others from praying? [96:11] Is it not better for him to follow the guidance? [96:12] Or advocate righteousness? [96:13] If he disbelieves and turns away. [96:14] Does he not realize that GOD sees? [96:15] Indeed, unless he refrains, we will take him by the forelock. [96:16] A forelock that is disbelieving and sinful. [96:17] Let him then call on his helpers. [96:18] We will call the guardians of Hell. [96:19] You shall not obey him; you shall fall prostrate and draw nearer.
JAppendix 2K The Quran’s Women One of the most powerful ways of combating the concept that women are unequal in Islam is to look at the verses where specific women are mentioned. There are many individual women mentioned in the Quran, both believers and disbelievers. A review of the verses about these women makes it clear that women, as well as men, are judged on their righteousness alone. Please note that all of these verses are from Rashad Khalifa’s translation because I find it much easier to read.
Adam’s Wife Though the Bible names Adam’s wife Eve, the Quran never mentions her by name. However, it does speak of her: We said, “O Adam, live with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom generously, as you please, but do not approach this tree, lest you sin.” But the devil duped them, and caused their eviction therefrom. We said, “Go down as enemies of one another. On Earth shall be your habitation and provision for awhile.” (Quran: The Final Testament 2:35-36) The Quran does not lay the blame for Adam’s fall on Eve, as the Bible does. Rather, Satan duped both Adam and Eve into disobeying God. Another narration of this same incident, in Quran 7:19-25, tells us that both Adam and Eve repented: They said, “Our Lord, we have wronged our souls, and unless You forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers.” (Quran: The Final Testament 7:23)
240 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Throughout the Quran, God is very even handed with Adam and Eve, making it clear that both were equally duped by Satan into disobedience: O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe. (Quran: The Final Testament 7:27) Satan duped both, and we need to take care that we do not fall into the same trap!
Noah’s Wife & Lot’s Wife The wife of Noah is mentioned in the Quran only once: God cites as examples of those who disbelieved the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were married to two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them and, consequently, they could not help them at all against God. The two of them were told, “Enter the Hellfire with those who deserved it.” (Quran: The Final Testament 66:10) Right after this verse God cites the wife of Pharaoh and Mary as examples of believers. These verses make it clear that it does not matter who you are married to, be it a messenger of God or an enemy of God like Pharaoh, each one of us is individually responsible for our own belief. Lot’s wife is mentioned in several other verses in the Quran, always indicating that she was doomed with the transgressors. Here is an example of such a verse where the angels were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: (The angels) said, “O Lot, we are your Lord’s messengers, and these people cannot touch you. You shall leave with your family during the night, and let not anyone of you look back,
Appendix 2 | 241 except your wife; she is condemned along with those who are condemned. Their appointed time is the morning. Is not the morning soon enough?” (Quran: The Final Testament 11:81) The frequency with which the doom of Lot’s wife is mentioned seems noteworthy. It occurs eight times in the Quran, almost every time the story of Lot is told. This frequency seems to highlight again the fact that it doesn’t matter who you are married to; each individual is totally responsible for his or her own belief.
Abraham’s Wives Neither of Abraham’s wives is mentioned by name in the Quran. Nor is their story told in any real detail. This probably indicates that the general story as given in the Bible is fairly accurate. Ismail’s mother Hagar is not referenced in the Quran except as part of Abraham’s family: Recall that Abraham said, “My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols. “My Lord, they have misled so many people. As for those who follow me, they belong with me. As for those who disobey me, You are Forgiver, Most Merciful. “ Our Lord, I have settled part of my family in this plantless valley, at Your Sacred House. Our Lord, they are to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), so let throngs of people converge upon them, and provide for them all kinds of fruits, that they may be appreciative. ” (Quran: The Final Testament 14:35-37) Isaac’s mother, Sarah, is mentioned twice. Both times are in reference to Isaac’s birth. The Quran does not give her name. Here is one of those references: When our messengers went to Abraham with good news, they said, “Peace.” He said, “Peace,” and soon brought a roasted calf. When he saw that their hands did not touch it, he became suspi-
242 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam cious and fearful of them. They said, “Do not be afraid, we are being dispatched to the people of Lot.” His wife was standing, and she laughed when we gave her the good news about Isaac, and after Isaac, Jacob. She said, “Woe to me, how could I bear a child at my age, and here is my husband, an old man? This is really strange!” They said, “Do you find it strange for God? God has bestowed His mercy and blessings upon you, O inhabitants of the shrine. He is Praiseworthy, Glorious.” (Quran: The Final Testament 11:69-73) Thus, Sarah was blessed miraculously with a child. This narration is comforting to me, for her human response to God’s blessing reminds me that all of us can have doubts about those blessings at times, and still be righteous.
The Women In Joseph’s Story Joseph was Abraham’s great grandson. His father, Jacob, had two wives. The envy and animosity among the sons of those different women is a good example of the difficulties that can arise in polygamous situations. Joseph’s story is also a good example of the way in which God controls even the bad situations in His servants’ lives for their ultimate good. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt: The one who bought him in Egypt said to his wife, “Take good care of him. Maybe he can help us, or maybe we can adopt him.” We thus established Joseph on earth, and we taught him the interpretation of dreams. God’s command is always done, but most people do not know. When he reached maturity, we endowed him with wisdom and knowledge. We thus reward the righteous. The lady of the house where he lived tried to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “I am all yours.” He said, “May God protect me. He is my Lord, who gave me a good home. The transgressors never succeed.”
Appendix 2 | 243 She almost succumbed to him, and he almost succumbed to her, if it were not that he saw a proof from his Lord. We thus diverted evil and sin away from him, for he was one of our devoted servants. The two of them raced towards the door, and, in the process, she tore his garment from the back. They found her husband at the door. She said, “What should be the punishment for one who wanted to molest your wife, except imprisonment or a painful punishment?” He said, “She is the one who tried to seduce me.” A witness from her family suggested: “If his garment is torn from the front, then she is telling the truth and he is a liar. And if his garment is torn from the back, then she lied, and he is telling the truth.” When her husband saw that his garment was torn from the back, he said, “This is a woman’s scheme. Indeed, your scheming is formidable. “Joseph, disregard this incident. As for you (my wife), you should seek forgiveness for your sin. You have committed an error.” (Quran: The Final Testament 12:21-29) In the verses that immediately follow these, we learn that Joseph was in the household of the governor, and it was the governor’s own wife who tried to seduce him: Some women in the city gossiped: The governor’s wife is trying to seduce her servant. She is deeply in love with him. We see that she has gone astray.” When she heard of their gossip, she invited them, prepared for them a comfortable place, and gave each of them a knife. She then said to him, “Enter their room.” When they saw him, they so admired him, that they cut their hands. They said, “Glory be to God, this is not a human being; this is an honorable angel.” She said, “This is the one you blamed me for falling in love with. I did indeed try to seduce him, and he refused. Unless he does what I command him to do, he will surely go to prison, and will
244 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam be debased.” He said, “My Lord, the prison is better than giving in to them. Unless You divert their scheming from me, I may desire them and behave like the ignorant ones.” His Lord answered his prayer and diverted their scheming from him. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. Later, they saw to it, despite the clear proofs, that they should imprison him for awhile. (Quran: The Final Testament 12:30-35) While in the prison Joseph interprets the king’s dream and: The king said, “Bring him to me.” When the messenger came to him, he said, “Go back to your lord and ask him to investigate the women who cut their hands. My Lord is fully aware of their schemes.” (The king) said (to the women), “What do you know about the incident when you tried to seduce Joseph?” They said, “God forbid; we did not know of anything evil committed by him.” The wife of the governor said, “Now the truth has prevailed. I am the one who tried to seduce him, and he was the truthful one. “I hope that he will realize that I never betrayed him in his absence, for God does not bless the schemes of the betrayers. “I do not claim innocence for myself. The self is an advocate of vice, except for those who have attained mercy from my Lord. My Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” (Quran: The Final Testament 12:50-53) The governor’s wife tempted Joseph, and ultimately it might be said that she was the cause of his imprisonment. Yet, God used that very imprisonment to Joseph’s great benefit. The governor’s wife also obviously benefited from the whole test by repenting and turning wholeheartedly to God. Her comments on the self and the schemes of the betrayers show a great growth in righteousness and wisdom.
Appendix 2 | 245 The Women In Moses’ Story Women played a critical role in Moses’ life. The Quranic story starts with his mother, his foster mother and his sister: We inspired Moses’ mother: “Nurse him, and when you fear for his life, throw him into the river without fear or grief. We will return him to you, and will make him one of the messengers.” Pharaoh’s family picked him up, only to have him lead the opposition and to be a source of grief for them. That is because Pharaoh, Hamaan, and their troops were transgressors. Pharaoh’s wife said, “This can be a joyous find for me and you. Do not kill him, for he may be of some benefit for us, or we may adopt him to be our son.” They had no idea. The mind of Moses’ mother was growing so anxious that she almost gave away his identity. But we strengthened her heart, to make her a believer. She said to his sister, “Trace his path.” She watched him from afar, while they did not perceive. We forbade him from accepting all the nursing mothers. (His sister) then said, “I can show you a family that can raise him for you, and take good care of him.” Thus, we restored him to his mother, in order to please her, remove her worries, and to let her know that God’s promise is the truth. However, most of them do not know. (Quran: The Final Testament 28:7-13) We see here examples of three quite remarkable women. Moses’ mother was able to overcome her natural fears and follow God’s inspiration to throw her baby into the river, even knowing that Pharaoh would pick him up. Then God rewarded her by returning her son to her. Moses’ sister, a young girl who probably knew nothing about Pharaoh except the horror stories she was bound to have heard, had the courage to follow her baby brother and to speak up to bring him back to his family.
246 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Pharaoh’s wife must have been quite a woman to have been able to convince Pharaoh not to kill the baby Moses, but raise him as essentially an Egyptian prince. We do know that she was a wonderful believer, because in another section of the Quran God cites her as an example of the believers: And God cites as an example of those who believed the wife of Pharaoh. She said, “My Lord, build a home for me at You in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his works; save me from the transgressing people.” (Quran: The Final Testament 66:11) Though we do not know too much about Moses’ wife, we do know that God used her and her sister as a means of giving Moses a safe refuge in Midyan: He fled the city, afraid and watchful. He said, “My Lord, save me from the oppressive people.” As he traveled towards Midyan, he said, “May my Lord guide me in the right path.” When he reached Midyan’s water, he found a crowd of people watering, and noticed two women waiting on the side. He said, “What is it that you need?” They said, “We are not able to water, until the crowd disperses, and our father is an old man.” He watered for them, then turned to the shade, saying, “My Lord, whatever provision you send to me, I am in dire need for it.” Soon, one of the two women approached him, shyly, and said, “My father invites you to pay you for watering for us.” When he met him, and told him his story, he said, “Have no fear. You have been saved from the oppressive people.” One of the two women said, “O my father, hire him. He is the best one to hire, for he is strong and honest.” He said, “I wish to offer one of my two daughters for you to marry, in return for working for me for eight pilgrimages; if you make them ten, it will be voluntary on your part. I do not wish to make this matter too difficult for you. You will find me, God willing, righteous.”
Appendix 2 | 247 He said, “It is an agreement between me and you. Whichever period I fulfill, you will not be averse to either one. God is the guarantor of what we said.” (Quran: The Final Testament 28:21-28) Thus, we see that throughout Moses’ formative years, God used women as an integral part of His protection and guidance of Moses.
Queen of Sheba We mentioned the Queen of Sheba earlier in the book as an example of a wise female ruler. The significance of her example should not be lost here. She clearly had the support of her people and ruled with consultation rather than dictatorship. She was a peacemaker, not anxious to endanger her people for her own glory. And when presented with the truth, she accepted it. Her story starts with the hoopoe bird’s report to Solomon: ...(The hoopoe) said, “I have news that you do not have. I brought to you from Sheba, some important information. “I found a woman ruling them, who is blessed with everything, and possesses a tremendous palace. “I found her and her people prostrating before the sun, instead of God. The devil has adorned their works in their eyes, and has repulsed them from the path; consequently, they are not guided.” They should have been prostrating before God, the One who manifests all the mysteries in the heavens and the earth, and the One who knows everything you conceal and everything you declare. God: there is no other god beside Him; the Lord with the great dominion. (Solomon) said, “We will see if you told the truth, or if you are a liar. “Take this letter from me, give it to them, then watch for their response.” She said, “O my advisers, I have received an honorable letter.
248 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam “It is from Solomon, and it is, ‘In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.’ “Proclaiming: ‘Do not be arrogant; come to me as submitters.’ ” She said, “O my advisers, counsel me in this matter. I am not deciding anything until you advise me.” They said, “We possess the power, we possess the fighting skills, and the ultimate command is in your hand. You decide what to do.” She said, “The kings corrupt any land they invade, and subjugate its dignified people. This is what they usually do. “I am sending a gift to them; let us see what the messengers come back with.” When the hoopoe returned to Solomon (he told him the news), and he responded (to Sheba’s people): “Are you giving me money? What God has given me is far better than what He has given you. You are the ones to rejoice in such gifts.” (To the hoopoe, he said,) “Go back to them (and let them know that) we will come to them with forces they cannot imagine. We will evict them, humiliated and debased.” He said, “O you elders, which of you can bring me her mansion, before they arrive here as submitters?” One afrit from the jinns said, “I can bring it to you before you stand up. I am powerful enough to do this.” The one who possessed knowledge from the book said, “I can bring it to you in the blink of your eye.” When he saw it settled in front of him, he said, “This is a blessing from my Lord, whereby He tests me, to show whether I am appreciative or unappreciative. Whoever is appreciative is appreciative for his own good, and if one turns unappreciative, then my Lord is in no need for him, Most Honorable.” He said, “Remodel her mansion for her. Let us see if she will be guided, or continue with the misguided.” When she arrived, she was asked, “Does your mansion look like this?” She said, “It seems that this is it.” (Solomon said,) “We knew beforehand what she was going to do, and we were already submitters.” She had been diverted by worshiping idols instead of God; she
Appendix 2 | 249 belonged to disbelieving people. She was told, “Go inside the palace.” When she saw its interior, she thought it was a pool of water, and she (pulled up her dress,) exposing her legs. He said, “This interior is now paved with crystal.” She said, “My Lord, I have wronged my soul. I now submit with Solomon to God, Lord of the universe.” (Quran: The Final Testament 27:22-44) When the queen of Sheba submitted and accepted the truth, her people followed her.
Mary & Her Mother The Quran has a great deal of information about Mary. There is more about Mary than about most of the messengers God tells us about. He tells us that Mary is an example of the believers: And God cites as an example of those who believed the wife of Pharaoh.... Also Mary, the Amramite. She maintained her chastity, then we blew into her from our spirit. She believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures; she was obedient. (Quran: The Final Testament 66:11-12) Even before she was born, Mary’s mother dedicated her to God: God has chosen Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Amram (as messengers) to the people. They belong in the same progeny. God is Hearer, Omniscient. The wife of Amram said, “My Lord, I have dedicated (the baby) in my belly to You, totally, so accept from me. You are Hearer, Omniscient.” When she gave birth to her, she said, “My Lord, I have given birth to a girl”—God was fully aware of what she bore—“The male is not the same as the female. I have named her Mary, and I invoke Your protection for her and her descendants from the
250 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam rejected devil.” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:33-36) God accepted the dedication from Mary’s mother. Her guardian, Zachariah, was so impressed by her that he prayed for such a good child: Her Lord accepted her a gracious acceptance, and brought her up a gracious upbringing, under the guardianship of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered her sanctuary he found provisions with her. He would ask, “Mary, where did you get this from?” She would say, “It is from God. God provides for whomever He chooses, without limits.” That is when Zachariah implored his Lord: “My Lord, grant me such a good child; You are the Hearer of the prayers.” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:37-38) As Mary grew, God continued to guide her. He sent His angels to her: The angels said, “O Mary, God has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you from all the women. “O Mary, you shall submit to your Lord, and prostrate and bow down with those who bow down.” This is news from the past that we reveal to you. You were not there when they drew their raffles to select Mary’s guardian. You were not present when they argued with one another. The angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news: a Word from Him whose name is ‘The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be prominent in this life and in the Hereafter, and one of those closest to Me.’ “He will speak to the people from the crib, as well as an adult; he will be one of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a son, when no man has touched me?” He said, “God thus creates whatever He wills. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. “He will teach him the scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the
Appendix 2 | 251 Gospel.” (Quran: The Final Testament 3:42-48) And God then bestowed on Mary the honor of bearing a child through virgin birth—a child who was a prophet from birth: Mention in the scripture Mary. She isolated herself from her family, into an eastern location. While a barrier separated her from them, we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being. She said, “I seek refuge in the Most Gracious, that you may be righteous.” He said, “I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son.” She said, “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I have never been unchaste.” He said, “Thus said your Lord, ‘It is easy for Me. We will render him a sign for the people, and mercy from us. This is a predestined matter.’ ” When she bore him, she isolated herself to a faraway place. The birth process came to her by the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “(I am so ashamed;) I wish I were dead before this happened, and completely forgotten.” (The infant) called her from beneath her, saying, “Do not grieve. Your Lord has provided you with a stream. “If you shake the trunk of this palm tree, it will drop ripe dates for you. “Eat and drink, and be happy. When you see anyone, say, ‘I have made a vow of silence; I am not talking today to anyone.’ ” She came to her family, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have committed something that is totally unexpected. “O descendant of Aaron, your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother unchaste.” She pointed to him. They said, “How can we talk with an infant in the crib?” (The infant spoke and) said, “I am a servant of God. He has
252 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam given me the scripture, and has appointed me a prophet.” (Quran: The Final Testament 19:16-30) Thus Mary was saved from the Torah’s punishment for adultery: stoning to death. The fact of her giving birth while still a virgin was proven by the miracle of her son speaking as a newborn. Given all that God tells us about Mary, the virgin birth, the honor of being the mother of a prophet from birth, etc., it is easy to see her as someone extra special. But God gives us her example as the example of a believer. This means that any believer can attain the same status with God that Mary has. Anyone can be as devoted to Him, anyone can worship Him as completely. It is something that all of us can and should strive for: The Messiah, son of Mary, is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! (Quran: The Final Testament 5:75) Before you say to yourself, well, Mary was a saint, and I can never be that good, read this next verse: Those who obey God and the messenger belong with those blessed by God—the prophets, the saints, the martyrs, and the righteous. These are the best company. (Quran: The Final Testament 4:69) We all have the capability of being among that “best company” if we choose to strive to be one of the righteous!
Muhammad’s Wives For centuries Muslim women have looked to the Prophet’s wives as role models. It is through his wives that a great many of his sayings, or Hadith, were supposedly originally transmitted. Many Muslims have come to revere them. But what do we
Appendix 2 | 253 really know about them? Actually, very little, and much of what we think we know is probably inaccurate. However, the Quran does mention them several times. They are to be respected: The prophet is closer to the believers than they are to each other, and his wives are like mothers to them. The relatives ought to take care of one another in accordance with God’s scripture. Thus, the believers shall take care of their relatives who immigrate to them, provided they have taken care of their own families first. These are commandments of this scripture. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:6) God tells us that the Prophet’s wives are like our mothers. What does that mean for women who have been dead for over a thousand years? How do you treat your deceased mother (or in truth great, great… great grandmother whom you never met)? We have seen that God tells us to honor our parents (2:83, 6:151, etc.). Clearly there can be no personal interaction, so how can we honor women who are dead? I believe by respecting them and not attributing anything to them that they would not have done! The Prophet’s wives were very close to all the issues of early Islam. They knew, as few others did, the dangers of idolatry. They also knew what Muhammad really taught. It seems to me very disrespectful of them to believe that they would have gone against the clear teachings of the Quran to take anything but the scripture as a source of guidance. Therefore I do not believe that they would have intentionally begun the transmission of Hadith. Of course, as humans, they were bound to have shared from the experiences of their lives, speaking of their deceased husband as any woman would. But it is very different to recall events or discuss mutual memories and to relate the words or actions of the Prophet as a source of religious guidance. Would we take the words of our own mothers about our deceased fathers as religious guidance? I hope not!
254 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam The wives of the Prophet were in a special position in the early days of Islam. Their actions and words could easily reflect negatively on the message. As a result, they were required to take extra precautions in their dealings with other people: O prophet, say to your wives, “If you are seeking this life and its vanities, then let me compensate you and allow you to go amicably. “But if you are seeking God and His messenger, and the abode of the Hereafter, then God has prepared for the righteous among you a great recompense.” O wives of the prophet, if any of you commits a gross sin, the retribution will be doubled for her. This is easy for God to do. Any one of you who obeys God and His messenger, and leads a righteous life, we will grant her double the recompense, and we have prepared for her a generous provision. O wives of the prophet, you are not the same as any other women, if you observe righteousness. (You have a greater responsibility.) Therefore, you shall not speak too softly, lest those with disease in their hearts may get the wrong ideas; you shall speak only righteousness. You shall settle down in your homes, and do not mingle with the people excessively, like you used to do in the old days of ignorance. You shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and obey God and His messenger. God wishes to remove all unholiness from you, O you who live around the Sacred Shrine, and to purify you completely. Remember what is being recited in your homes of God’s revelations and the wisdom inherent therein. God is Sublime, Cognizant. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:28-34) As mothers to the believers, their responsibility was greater, as well as their reward. Given the Arab attitude toward feminine sexuality, it makes great sense that the prophet’s wives should have set themselves apart from the people rather than risk endangering the reputa-
Appendix 2 | 255 tion of the prophet, and the spread of the message. But the above verses make it clear that this was for wives of the prophet: “O wives of the prophet, you are not the same as any other women, if you observe righteousness.” Because the prophet’s wives were in such a delicate position, the believers were required to treat them with care: O you who believe, do not enter the prophet’s homes unless you are given permission to eat, nor shall you force such an invitation in any manner. If you are invited, you may enter. When you finish eating, you shall leave; do not engage him in lengthy conversations. This used to hurt the prophet, and he was too shy to tell you. But God does not shy away from the truth. If you have to ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a barrier. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts. You are not to hurt the messenger of God. You shall not marry his wives after him, for this would be a gross offense in the sight of God. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:53) Even given all of the special circumstances of the wives of the prophet, they clearly were not kept totally sequestered from the rest of society. This is clear from the Quranic verse 33:33, as quoted above, where the wives are told not to mingle excessively with the people. Obviously they could mingle, just not excessively. The fact that they did still interact with the people is also illustrated by the following verse: O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:59) If they were never seen outside of their own households there would be no need for them to worry about being insulted.
256 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam God tells us that the prophet and his wives were like parents to the believers. He also makes it very clear that they were fallible human beings. The following verses illustrate this: O you prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, just to please your wives? God is Forgiver, Merciful. God has decreed for you the laws dealing with your oaths. God is your Lord, and He is the Omniscient, Most Wise. The prophet had trusted some of his wives with a certain statement, then one of them spread it, and God let him know about it. He then informed his wife of part of the issue, and disregarded part. She asked him, “Who informed you of this?” He said, “I was informed by the Omniscient, Most Cognizant.” If the two of you repent to God, then your hearts have listened. But if you band together against him, then God is his ally, and so is Gabriel and the righteous believers. Also, the angels are his helpers. If he divorces you, his Lord will substitute other wives in your place who are better than you; submitters (Muslims), believers (Mu’mins), obedient, repentant, worshipers, pious, either previously married, or virgins. (Quran: The Final Testament 66:1-5) These verses illustrate that there were difficulties within the prophet’s marriages, as in any marriage. The prophet and his wives were only human. There is one other set of verses that illustrate the prophet’s human fallibility in reference to his wives. This has to do with his reticence to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son: Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by God, and blessed by you, “Keep your wife and reverence God,” and you hid inside yourself what God wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only God. When Zeid was completely through with his wife, we had you marry her, in order to establish the precedent that a man may marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. God’s commands
Appendix 2 | 257 shall be done. The prophet is not committing an error by doing anything that is made lawful by God. Such is God’s system since the early generations. God’s command is a sacred duty. Those who deliver God’s messages, and who reverence Him alone, shall never fear anyone but God. God is the most efficient reckoner. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:37-39) There is one last set of verses having to do with the wives of the prophet that we should look at. They give us a glimpse at the society of the time: O prophet, we made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their due dowry, or what you already have, as granted to you by God. Also lawful for you in marriage are the daughters of your father’s brothers, the daughters of your father’s sisters, the daughters of your mother’s brothers, the daughters of your mother’s sisters, who have emigrated with you. Also, if a believing woman gave herself to the prophet—by forfeiting the dowry—the prophet may marry her without a dowry, if he so wishes. However, her forfeiting of the dowry applies only to the prophet, and not to the other believers. We have already decreed their rights in regard to their spouses or what they already have. This is to spare you any embarrassment. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful. You may gently shun any one of them, and you may bring closer to you any one of them. If you reconcile with any one you had estranged, you commit no error. In this way, they will be pleased, will have no grief, and will be content with what you equitably offer to all of them. God knows what is in your hearts. God is Omniscient, Clement. Beyond the categories described to you, you are enjoined from marrying any other women, nor can you substitute a new wife (from the prohibited categories), no matter how much you admire their beauty. You must be content with those already made lawful to you. God is watchful over all things. (Quran: The Final Testament 33:50-52)
258 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam From these verses it is clear that it was an honor to be married to the prophet. A woman might forfeit a dowry in order to be so honored, but the prophet might not wish to marry her. If that forfeiture were then to be generalized to anyone who would then chose to marry the woman, the prophet might feel compelled to marry her rather than having her lose her dowry. These verses prevented that situation from coming up.
Abee Lahab’s Wife One of the last chapters of the Quran is devoted to one of Muhammad’s uncles and his wife. They were leaders of the persecution against the believers: Condemned are the works of Abee Lahab, and he is condemned. His money and whatever he has accomplished will never help him. He has incurred the blazing Hell. Also his wife, who led the persecution. She will be (resurrected) with a rope of thorns around her neck. (Quran: The Final Testament 111:1-5) Thus we see that women can be among the best of the best, like Mary and Pharaoh’s wife. Or they can be among the worst of the worst like Lot’s wife and the wife of Abee Lahab. Let us strive to be among the best of the best!
JAppendix 3K The Quran’s Mathematical Code Most of the following information is contained in Rashad Khalifa’s translation of the Quran. (Please see Quran: The Final Testament, Appendix 1, pages 375-403.) This appendix is reproduced from my earlier book JESUS: Myths & Message, Universal Unity, 1992, pp. 195-202.
SIMPLE FACTS There are 114 chapters in the Quran, or 19 x 6. The total number of verses in the Quran is 6346, or 19 x 334. When you add the 30 different numbers which are mentioned in the Quran’s text: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 19, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 99, 100, 200, 300, 1000, 2000, 3000, 5000, 50000 and 100000 (i.e. one God, two brothers, etc.), the total is 162146 or 19 x 8534. The first statement in Quran, “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” consists of 19 Arabic letters. Known as the ‘Basmalah,’ it prefaces every chapter except Chapter 9. Though missing from Chapter 9, exactly 19 chapters later the Basmalah occurs twice. Chapter 27 has this statement at its beginning and in verse 30. This makes the total number of times the Basmalah occurs in the Quran 114, or 19 x 6. It follows that since there are 19 chapters between the missing Basmalah and the extra one, that the sum of those chapter numbers is a multiple of 19. (The sum of any 19 consecutive numbers is a multiple of 19.) But the total, 342, is also the exact number of words between the two occurrences of the Basmalah in Chapter 27. This number, 342, is 19 x 18.
260 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam Each word in the Basmalah occurs in the Quran a number of times that is a multiple of 19. The first word ‘Ism’ (name) occurs 19 times. The second word ‘Allah’ (God) occurs 2698 times or 19 x 142. The third word ‘Al-Rahman’ (Most Gracious) occurs 57 times or 19 x 3. The fourth word ‘Al-Raheem’ (Most Merciful) occurs 114 times or 19 x 6. The first revelation that came to the prophet Muhammad, was 19 words. The total number of letters in the 19 words of the first revelation is 76, 19 x 4. Although they were first in order of revelation, these verses are placed at the beginning of Chapter 96 in the final order of compilation. This chapter is atop the last 19 chapters. Chapter 96 consists of 304 Arabic letters, or 19 x 16. And those 304 letters make up 19 verses. The last chapter revealed (Chapter 110) has 19 words, and its first verse is 19 letters. As mentioned above, the word ‘Allah’ (God) occurs 2698 times (19 x 142). If you add the numbers of the verses where this word occurs, the total is 118123 or 19 x 6217. The main message in the Quran is that there is only ‘One God’. The number of times that the word ‘Wahed’ (one) is used to refer to this concept of One God is 19. At the time of the revelation of the Quran letters were used as numbers, in the same way that the Romans used their letters, now known as Roman numerals. The importance of the concept of One God is underscored by the fact that if you take the numerical values assigned to the letters of ‘Wahed’: W = 6, A = 1, H = 8, D = 4, the total is 19. These values are known as the gematrical value of the letters. It is very interesting that the gematrical value for the Hebrew word ‘one’ or ‘Vahed’ is also 19.
Appendix 3 | 261 The word ‘Quran,’ in all of its grammatical forms, occurs in 38 different chapters (38 is 19 x 2). When you exclude any occurrences where it refers to a Quran other than the actual Quran which we have (for example, one excluded verse refers to a hypothetical non-Arabic Quran), and add the chapter and verse numbers for those occurrences, the total is 4408, or 19 x 232. The total number of times ‘the Quran’ is mentioned is 58 times, but one of them refers to “a Quran other than this” which the disbelievers demanded. So the actual number of references to the actual book the Quran is 57 or 19 x 3. Within the 114 chapters of the Quran, 29 of them are prefixed with certain letters of the Arabic alphabet, or ‘Quranic Initials.’ Intermixed between the first initialed chapter (Chapter 2) and the last initialed chapter (Chapter 68), there are 38 non-initialed chapters, or 19 x 2. In this same group of chapters, from Chapter 2 to Chapter 68, there are 19 alternating sets of initialed and non-initialed chapters. The total number of verses making up this group of chapters is 5263, 19 x 277. Within this group of chapters there are also 2641 occurrences of the word ‘Allah’, or 19 x 139. Of course, that leaves 57, or 19 x 4, occurrences of that word outside of this group. If you add the chapter and verse numbers of the 57 occurrences of ‘Allah’ outside the initialed section, the total is 2432 or 19 x 128.
QURANIC INITIALS Twenty-nine chapters of the Quran begin with letters of the Arabic alphabet. These are sometimes called the Quranic Initials. Rashad Khalifa’s search for an explanation of these Quranic Initials while he was translating the Quran led to the discovery of the code imbedded in the Arabic text of this scripture. These
262 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam initials exhibit many aspects of the code, when looked at as individual sets and when looked at all together. Let us begin by looking at the initials that use a single letter. The first one we will examine is the initial that has the English transliteration of ‘Q’. THE INITIAL ‘Q.’ (Qaaf) There are several special phenomena having to do with the initial Q. Perhaps it can be seen as standing for Quran. This is especially so since there are two Q-initialed chapters, each with 57 (19 x 3) Q’s in them. Thus the total of Q’s in both chapters is 114 (19 x 6), the same number as the number of chapters in the Quran. The fact that both Q-initialed chapters contain exactly 57 Q’s is quite remarkable because the first one of them (Chapter 42) is more than twice as long as the second one (Chapter 50). There is another remarkable phenomenon in the sum of the number of each chapter with the number of verses in that chapter. Chapter 42 has 53 verses; 42 plus 53 is 95, or 19 x 5. If we look at the other Q-initialed chapter, 50, it has 45 verses; 50 plus 45 is also 95. Dr. Khalifa’s idea that Q might stand for the Quran is strengthened by discoveries made after his death (SUBMITTERS PERSPECTIVE, Masjid Tucson, December, 1990). When you look at the chapters between and inclusive of those Q initialed chapters (Chapters 42 and 53) there are some interesting facts. First of all, the total number of Q’s occurring in that group of chapters is 456, or 19 times 24. Also, if you add the total number of verses in these 9 chapters you have 403. This number added to the sum of the chapter numbers, 414, is 817, or 19 times 43. Then, if you look at the gematrical value of the initials in the initializing verses for those chapters, the total is 570 or 19 times 30. (See the discussion of gematrical value earlier, in the section on the simple facts.)
Appendix 3 | 263 Finally, let us examine the chapter numbers and verse numbers for the six occurrences of the word ‘Quran’ in those chapters (42:7; 43:3 & 31; 46:29; 47:24 and 50:1). When you add just the chapter numbers: 42 + 43 + 46 + 47 + 50, the total is 228, or 19 times 12. Likewise, when you add the verse numbers: 7 + 3 + 31 + 29 + 24 + 1, the total is 95, or 19 times 5. THE INITIAL ‘N.’ (Noon) This initial prefixes only one chapter, number 68. Chapter 68 is the last initialed chapter. In the case of this one initial only, the letter’s name is spelled out in the ArabicNoon Wow Noon. The total number of occurrences of N in this chapter, including the two occurrences in the initial’s name, is 133, or 19 x 7. Please note that not all Qurans have this letter’s name spelled out, but it is in many older Qurans. THE INITIAL ‘Š.’ (Saad) Š prefixes three different chapters, 7, 19 and 38. The total occurrences of Š in these three chapters taken together is 152, or 19 x 8. In modern copies of the Quran the Arabic word ‘Bastatan’ is written with a ‘Saad’ rather than the Arabic letter ‘Seen.’ This would increase the count of ‘Saad’ by one, and it would no longer be divisible by 19. But the oldest available copy of the Quran, the Tashkent copy, writes ‘Bastatan’ with a ‘Seen.’ Rashad Khalifa includes a reproduction from that Tashkent copy in his translation (QURAN: THE FINAL TESTAMENT, 1989, p. 614). In most cases, the initials occur together in sets. Next, we will examine some of these sets. THE INITIALS ‘Y.S.’ (Ya Seen) These two initials are found at the beginning of Chapter 36. The number of times that these two letters appear in this chapter is 285, or 19 x 15.
264 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam The Quran uses two different forms of ‘Y’ one of which is very subtle for non-Arabic readers to distinguish. Rashad Khalifa’s book QURAN: Visual Presentation Of The Miracle (Islamic Productions, 1982) shows every ‘Y’ and ‘S’ marked in the Arabic text of Chapter 36. THE INITIALS ‘H.M.’ (Haa Meem) This set of initials is found initializing the seven consecutive chapters 40 through 46. The total occurrence of these two in all of these chapters is 2147, or 19 x 113. THE INITIALS ‘Á.S.Q.’ (Ayn Seen Qaf) Chapter 42 is the only chapter with a set of initials (H.M.) in the first verse and another (Á.S.Q.) in the second verse. Of course, the H’s and M’s figure in the counts for ‘H.M’ as mentioned above. The number of times the letters of the second set of initials, Á.S.Q., are in Chapter 42 is 209, or 19 x 11. THE INITIALS ‘A.L.M.’ (Alef Laam Mim) ‘A’ is the most common letter in Arabic, ‘L’ is the second most common, and ‘M’ is the third most common. This combination of initials prefixes six chapters: 2, 3, 29, 30, 31 and 32. In every one of those six chapters, the total occurrence of A’s plus L’s and M’s is divisible by 19. Of course this means that when looking at all six chapters together, the grand total of all these initials is divisible by 19. THE INITIALS ‘A.L.R.’ (Alef Laam Ra) These initials prefix Chapters 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15. Again, in each of those chapters the total number of A’s plus L’s plus R’s is divisible by 19. INITIALS ‘A.L.M.R’ (Alef Laam Mim Ra) This group of initials prefixes only Chapter 13. Their total combined frequency in that chapter is 1482, or 19 times 78.
Appendix 3 | 265 INITIALS ‘A.L.M.Š.’ (Alem Laam Mim Saad) Chapter 7 is the only chapter prefixed by this combination of initials. The total occurrence of these combined letters in this chapter is 5320, or 19 times 280. Note that the initial Saad also interacts with the Saads of Chapters 19 and 38 to produce a total of Saads that is divisible. (See the discussion of the Initial Saad above.) INITIALS ‘K.H.Y.Á.Š.’ (Kaaf Ha Ya ‘Ayn Saad) This longest set of initials begins Chapter 19. The joint total of these initials in that chapter is 798, or 19 times 42. INITIALS ‘H.’ (Ha); ‘T.H.’ (Ta Ha); ‘T.S.’ (Ta Seen); and ‘T.S.M.’ (Ta Seen Mim) These remaining four groups of initials interact in an interlocking and overlapping relationship which produces a combined total of 1767 which is 19 times 93. MATHEMATICAL PROPERTIES OF THE INITIALED CHAPTERS AS A WHOLE Half of the Arabic alphabet, or 14 letters, are combined in various different ways to make up 14 different sets of initials. These 14 sets initialize 29 different chapters. If you take the gematrical values of each of the 14 different letters occurring as initials and sum them, you get 693. Add to that 29 for the number of chapters and you get 722, or 19 times 19 times 2. Also, if you add the gematrical values of each initial (693 again) to the chapter numbers where each first occurs (totaling to 295) you get 988, or 19 times 52. For example, ‘Alef’ has the gemetrical value of 1 and first occurs in Chapter 2; ‘Ha’ has the gemetrical value of 5 and it first occurs in Chapter 19...those numbers for all 14 initials give you the total of 988. You will find more of these relationships in Rashad Khalifa’s appendix, along with tables illustrating them. There is one
266 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam more that is so remarkable that it must be included. For each initialed chapter take the chapter number, add the number of Quranic Initials which prefix it and then add the number of verses containing initials (this number will be 1 for all chapters except 42, which has initials in two verses). As an example, the first initialed chapter is Chapter 2; it has 3 Quranic Initials that occur in 1 verse. When we add 2 plus 3 plus 1 we get 6. Let us call this total the chapter total. When you sum all of the chapter totals for the initialed chapters you get 931 or 19 times 49. This in itself is amazing enough, but there is more. If you multiply the chapter number by the number of initials instead of adding them, and then add the number of verses containing initials, you still get a grand total which is a multiple of 192052 or 19 times 108! You can illustrate for yourself how remarkable this is by trying to duplicate it. You will see that this definitely is not a mathematical property, and clearly indicates divine arrangement. In fact, you can try to duplicate just a few of these phenomena in a piece of literature. You will soon find how impossible it is to make sense and still adhere to the mathematical properties. FURTHER READING: Appendix 1, QURAN: The Final Testament, Rashad Khalifa translator, Universal Unity, 1992, pages 375-403. BEYOND PROBABILITY: God’s Message In Mathematics, Abdullah Arik, Monotheist Productions International, 1992. QURAN: Visual Presentation of the Miracle, Rashad Khalifa, Islamic Productions, 1982. THE COMPUTER SPEAKS: God’s Message To The World, Rashad Khalifa, Renaissance Productions International, 1981.
Glossary Abee Lahab: Leader of the opposition for the early Muslims. He was an uncle of the prophet Muhammad. Abraham: The prophet who originally called the believers “Muslims.” He is known as the father of Islam, and it was through him that all of the practices of Islam came. Muhammad was a follower the religion of Abraham. Adultery: In the Quran, this refers to any sexual relations outside of one’s own marriage. It applies to both married and unmarried offenders. Al-Fatehah: The first chapter of the Quran. This seven-verse chapter is recited in each unit of the Muslim Contact Prayers. Al-Quran: See Quran. “Al” is an Arabic article, meaning “the.” Thus, Al-Quran is “the Quran.” Allah: The Arabic word for God. Arab: While the popular understanding of an Arab is anyone who speaks the Arabic language, in the Quran this word refers to an individual of the Bedouin tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. While most Arabs follow the religion of Islam, most Muslims are not from these tribes, so are not Arabs in the Quranic sense. Arafaat: The knoll near Mecca where Muslim pilgrims spend one day meditating on God during the performance of the Hajj pilgrimage. Asr: The afternoon Contact Prayer. Bedouins: The once nomadic tribes of the area now known as Saudi Arabia. These are the Arabs referred to in the Quran. Contact Prayers: The prayers that Muslims perform each day. There are five Contact Prayers, each done during a specific
268 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam time of the day. Please see the chapter on the Contact Prayers for further details. Culture: The customs, thought patterns, language, way of life, etc., of a distinct group of people. Dhur: The noon Contact Prayer. (Also spelled Zuher.) Fajr: The dawn Contact Prayer. Friday Prayer: The congregational prayer that Muslims attend around noon every Friday. Gospels: The first four books of the Christian New Testament. Hadith: What has been understood to be the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. These sayings were not collected until generations after the death of Muhammad. In general usage, this word can refer to an individual saying, or a collection of them. Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must make at least once if he/she can afford it. Haraam: The Arabic word meaning “forbidden” or “unlawful.” Haram: The Arabic word meaning “sacred.” For example AlMasjid Al-Haram is the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. Harem: The women living in the women’s quarters of a Muslim household where the tradition of having the women live in a separate part of the house is followed. Hijab: Literally translated from the Arabic as “a barrier.” In this book it refers to the traditional garments put on by Muslim women (usually over their normal clothes) when going out in public. Hoopoe: A crested bird with a long curved bill and distinctive plumage. Found in Africa and Eurasia. Ihram: The ritual state of purity that every Muslim pilgrim must enter and maintain during his or her Hajj.
Glossary | 269 In Shã Allah: The Arabic for “God willing.” Intestate: If someone dies intestate they die without having made a will. Isha: The night Contact Prayer. Islam: The religion of submission to God. Normally thought of as the organized religion originated by the prophet Abraham and taught by the prophet Muhammad. The Quran, however, makes it clear that all of the prophets taught the same religion to their followers. The practices of Islam were given to the prophet Abraham. Muhammad was a follower of the religion of Abraham, and was the man through whom God revealed the Quran. Ismail: Also spelled Ishmael. Abraham’s first son. His descendents were the Bedouin Arabs. Isaac: Abraham’s second son. Isaac’s descendents were the Jews. Jacob: Abraham’s grandson. Juma prayer: See Friday Prayer. Jumu’ah: See Friday Prayer. Kaaba: The shrine Abraham built and dedicated to God. It is now housed in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This is the focal point towards which Muslims turn when they pray and to which they make their pilgrimage. Koran: Alternate spelling of Quran. Khutbah: Each of the two short talks given during the Friday Prayer. Each khutbah substitutes for one unit of the normal Contact Prayer that is said during the Friday Prayer. Last Day: The Day of Resurrection. Christians sometimes know this as the Last Judgment. Mã Shã Allah: Can be translated “This is what God has given me.” Maghrib: The evening Contact Prayer.
270 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Masjid: Another term for mosque, or the formal place of worship for Muslims. Mecca: The city in Saudi Arabia where the Kaaba stands. Mohammed: Alternate spelling of Muhammad. Monogamy: Marriage to only one person at a time. Mosque: The formal place of worship for Muslims. Muhammad: The prophet through whom the Quran was revealed. He was born into the strongest of the nomadic Arab Bedouin tribes in 570 A.D. and died in 632 A.D. He was a follower of the religion of Abraham, Islam. Muslim: A submitter. Generally thought to be a follower of the religion of Islam. However, in the Quran, anyone who submits his or her will to God is considered a Muslim. Obligatory Charity: A specific charity that must be given to those in need, whenever income is received. Please see the chapter on the Obligatory Charity for details. Ottoman Turks: Refers to the Ottoman Empire (c. 1300-1900) when the Turks controlled much of southeast Europe, southwest Asia and northeast Africa. Polygamy: The practice of one man having multiple wives at the same time. Prophet: In a traditional Muslim context this title generally refers to the prophet Muhammad. Quran: The holy scripture of Islam. Quran was revealed through the prophet Muhammad over 1400 years ago. Qur-an: A variation on the spelling of Quran. Quranic Islam: The practice of Islam based totally on the Quran, rather than the traditions ascribed to the prophet Muhammad, or any other source. Quraish tribe: The Bedouin Arab tribe into which the prophet Muhammad was born.
Glossary | 271 Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic calendar throughout which Muslims observe a complete fast from the earliest light of dawn to sunset. Safa & Marwah: The two knolls adjacent to the Kaaba. Part of the performance of the pilgrimage includes walking or trotting between them. Sacred Masjid: The large mosque that surrounds the Kaaba. Salat: The Arabic word for the Contact Prayers. Salat Al-Jumu’ah: The Friday Prayer. Sectism: The setting up and following of sects. Seyam: The Arabic word for fasting. Shahada: Literally “bearing witness.” Refers to bearing witness to the fact that there is no god but God. Shia Muslims: One of the major Muslim sects. Sunna: What has been understood to be the practices of the prophet Muhammad. Sunni Muslims: One of the major Muslim sects. Talaaq: Translated as “I divorce you.” Many traditional Muslims believe that if the husband pronounces this three times in succession the couple is irrevocably divorced. Tayammum: Dry ablution in preparation for the Contact Prayers. This is preformed when water is not available, or if one is ill. Torah: The first five books of the Jewish Bible. Urdu: The official language of Pakistan. Wudu’: The normal ablution in preparation for the Contact Prayers. Zakat: The Arabic word for the Obligatory Charity. Zujir: Alternate spelling for the noon Contact Prayer.
272 | Women’s Rights, the Quran and Islam
Bibliography Scriptural References Catholic Biblical Association of America. The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition: Translated from the Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources by Members of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1970. New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. [www.devotions.net/ bible/00new.htm] May, 2002. Jewish Publication Society. TANAKH; A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1985. Jewish Publication Society. THE TORAH: The Five Books of Moses; A new translation of The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text. 1st Section. The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1962. Ali, Abdullah Yusuf, Trans. The Holy Qur-an: Text, Translation and Commentary. Dar Al Arabia, Beirut, Lebanon, 1968. Khalifa, Rashad, Trans. Quran: The Final Testament, [Authorized English Version] With the Arabic Text. Translated from the Original. Islamic Productions, Tucson, AZ, 1992. Khalifa, Rashad, Trans. Quran: The Final Testament, [Authorized English Version]. Translated from the Original. Revised Edition. Universal Unity, Fremont, CA, 1992.
Other References Arik, Abdullah. BEYOND PROBABILITY: God’s Message In Mathematics. Monotheist Productions International, Tucson, AZ, 1992. Khalifa, Rashad. QURAN: Visual Presentation of the Miracle. Islamic Productions, Tucson, AZ, 1982. Khalifa, Rashad. THE COMPUTER SPEAKS: God’s Message To The World. Renaissance Productions International, 1981.
Index | 273
Index A Abee Lahab 138 Ablution 121, 124, 138-139, 157-158, 161 Abraham 120-121, 129, 138, 142, 144, 150 Abu Bakr 27 Abuse 58-59 Acts, book of 15 Adam 16, 55, 66 Adultery 17, 18-19, 71-72, 111 Afghanistan xv, 128 African Americans 198-204 Aggression forbidden ix, 44 Aisha 27 Al-Bukhari, 116, 117 Alcohol 88-89, 139, 188 Al-Fatehah 137 Ali, Yusuf 9-10, 12, 21, 31, 32, 34, 35, 51, 57, 97, 104, 113, 129, 161, 164, 168, 174 Alimony 96 Allah 169. See also God, nature of Animals 38-39 Aquila and Pricilla 15 Arabic language 17, 20-21, 33, 34, 48, 52, 116, 127, 136-137, 166-167 Arafaat 159, 160 Arbitration 93 Arranged marriages 65, 69, 71, 77-79 Azan. See Call for prayers.
B Bangladesh 173 Baptism 121 Baptists 60, 200 Bearing Witness 122-123, 127131 Bedouin Arabs 50 Beating 58-63 Bhutto, Benazir 173 Bible 1, 9, 17, 18, 34-36, 49, 55, 87, 98, 115, 166, 168. See also individual books of the Bible. Blum, Deborah 57 Bombay 77, 78 Book Of Heart-Mealting Traditions 117 Bain Sex 57 Bride price. See Dowry Bukhari. See Al-Bukhari.
C Calcutta 78 Call for prayers 123 Catholicism 1 Charity 32, 61, 121, 143-147. See also Obligatory Charity. Chest, covering of 48-49 Child custody 97 Children, raising of 185-204 Christianity 31, 34, 69, 121, 145, 150, 193, 200 Ciller, Tansu 174 Circumambulation 156, 157 Civil rights 200 Congregational Prayer. See Friday Prayer
274 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Contact prayer 22, 32, 47, 121, 124, 133-142, 157, 181, 189, 199, 202 Conversion experience 2-6, 7, 122-123, 130-131 Corinthians 14, 49 Courtesy 43, 192-193 Courtship 59, 70-72 Culture 7-9, 23, 49, 50, 56, 103, 109, 174
D Day of Atonement 150 Deborah 177 Deedat, Ahmed 123 Deuteronomy 98, 130, 144 Divorce 61, 71, 72-73, 76, 91101, 111, 124, 181 Dowry 18, 72, 74-76 Dress code 47-54, 60 ,62-63, 79
E Education 110, 180-181, 191192, 200, 202 Egypt 8, 51, 75, 99-101, 199, 201 Elliott, Jane 197-198 Employment 177-180 Engagement 70, 78, 123 Ephesians 56 Equality x, 9-22, 44, 57, 196 Eve 16, 55, 66 Exodus 18, 74
F Fasting 121, 150, 181. See also Ramadan
Financial transactions 109112, 177 Fornication 19 France 173 Freedom ix, 194-196 Friday Prayer 4, 131, 139-142, 165, 202, 205
Galatians 15 Gender differences 57, 68 Gender roles 55-63, 99, 173184 Gender, linguistic 20 Genesis 55, 56, 66 God, nature of 21, 40-42, 45, 63 Gospels 35, 145. See also individual books. Gratitude 190-191
Hadith xvi, 61, 79, 116-121, 131, 163, 170, 171, 174, 182, 200, 201 Hafsah 27 Hair, covering of 48-49, 124, 170, 183, 202 Hajj 47, 155-160, 181 Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradition 117 Harem 11, 24, 47, 173 Hebrews 66 Hijab. See Veiling Hodja. See Nasrudin Home makers 150 Homosexuality 88-89 Hoopoe, The 2-6 Human interaction 43-44
Index | 275 Hypoglycemia 153-154
I Ideal Woman in Islam 117 Ihram 157-158 Illness 138, 139, 149 Inanimate things 39-40 India 21-22, 25, 51, 75-76, 7779 Indonesia 174, 201 Inheritance 103-108 Intercession 45, 46 Intoxication 139 Iran 46, 51, 52-54, 75, 76, 141142, 151-152, 170-172, 176, 183, 201 Iraq 80, 183 Isaiah 145, 151 Islam & Submission 33-34 Islamic calendar 149 Islamic Center 201, 202
Jehovah's Witness 200 Jessel, David 57 Jesus 13, 18-19, 34, 66, 98, 115, 123, 129, 145, 151 Jewish prayer 121, 135 Jewish Shema 130 Jews xiii, 31, 34, 69, 121, 145, 150, 193 John, book of 13, 19 Joseph 17 Judges, book of 177 Judicial system 176-177, 180 Jumu'ah. See Friday prayer
Jumaa. See Friday prayer.
K Kaaba 156, 157, 159 Khadijah 27 Khalifa, Rashad 12, 20, 26-28, 31, 56, 58, 67, 73, 103, 110, 111, 115, 120, 129, 162, 168169, 171, 196, 201, 207 Khomeini, Imam 202 Khutbah 140, 205 King, Dr. Martin Luther 197 KITAB AL-RIQAQ 117
Lent 150 Leviticus 18, 115 Lightning 37 Loans. See Financial transactions. Lot's wife 86 Love vs being in love 92-93
M Malachi 98 Maria the Egyptian 27 Marriage 18, 19, 29, 55-63, 6589, 92, 122-124, 181, 201 Marriage ceremony 72, 81-89, 123 Marriage counseling Marriage prohibitions 18, 7374 Mary 86-88 Masjid. See Mosque. Mass 121, 135 Mathematical code. See under Quran. Matthew, book of 14, 66, 98, 115, 130, 145, 151
276 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Mecca 155, 159 Men, in charge 55-63, 103, 111 Menopause 113 Menstruation 22, 94, 113-115, 124, 127, 128, 139, 149, 150, 156-158 Miami University 202 Mockery 43 Modeling 35, 188, 189, 191, 192 Modesty 48, 49, 51 Mohammed. See Muhammad Moir, Anne 57 Moon 38 Mormon polygamy 23-24 Morocco 180-184 Moses 34, 41, 98, 129, 143, 190 Mosque 4-5, 63, 131, 142, 182184, 199, 201 Mothers 106, 135, 186-188 Mr. Mom 186 Muhammad 13, 27, 46, 50, 79, 119, 120, 123, 128, 138, 142, 163, 170, 202 Muhammad, Imran 117 Muhammed, Elijah 60 Mullah Nasrudin. See Nasrudin Mullahs 22 Music 170 Muslim, Sahih 117
N Nasrudin 205-207 Nation of Islam 60, 199 National leaders, women as 173-174 Nature, verses on 36-40
New York 202 Noah 129 Noah's wife 86 Numbers, book of 104 Nursing children 96-97, 100
O Obligatory charity 142, 143147, 181. See also Charity. Old Testament 19, 24 Old Testament prophets 24 Omar 27 Oppression 13, 44, 91, 116, 159, 195-196, 200 Oprah. See Winfrey, Oprah Organized Religion 2, 33, 45 Orphans 25, 27 Ottoman Turks 173
Pakistan 75-76, 127, 173, 201 Palestine 29 Pan Africanist movement 200 Paradise 12, 16, 69-71 Parents 105, 106, 107, 186-187. See also Mothers. Paul 14-16, 24, 49, 56, 66, 87-88 Paul, Elliot 5 Persian New Year 52 Personal responsibility 59, 79, 85-86, 92 Pharaoh's wife 86 Pilgrimage. See Hajj Pillars of Islam 127, 133, 143, 149, 155 Pittsburgh 202 Plants 39-40 Politics, women in 173-176
Index | 277 Polygamy 22, 23-30, 47, 60, 75, 201, 202 Pregnancy 95, 97, 150, 183, 186 Prejudice and racism 185, 197198, 198-203 Priscilla 15 Prostitution 80-81, 183 Purdah. See Veiling
Q Qiblah 32 Qum 201 Quran 9-22, 31-46 abrogation of 117, 118 aggression forbidden ix, 44 freedom mandated ix, 194196 Islamâ€™s source xiv, 116-120 mathematical code x, 123, 124-125, 141, 168-169, 171 reading 99, 113, 124, 125, 191 translation 10-11, 12, 124, 141, 166-167 terrorism condemned ix, 43-44 vs Hadith 117, 118-121 women's equality 9-22 womenâ€™s protection 56-57, 59-62, 109-111 Quran study 60-61, 141, 161172, 181
Racism. See Prejudice Ramadan 22, 52, 113, 149-154, 181, 199 Readers Digest 78
Reading 191-192. See also under Quran, reading. Reconciliation 91-92, 93 Religious freedom 193-196 Repentance 17, 18, 140 Repudiation 91, 100 Respect 44 Ridicule 43 Righteousness x, 20, 32-33, 44, 189, 194, 196 Roman Catholic 130 Romans, book of 16
S Sacred Months 156-157 Sacred Mosque 156. See also Kaaba. Safa and Marwah 159 Sahih Muslim 117 Salat. See Contact Prayer Salat Al-Jumu'ah. See Friday Prayer San Francisco 202 Satan 16, 164-165 Saudi Arabia 50, 155, 159, 182 Sects 129-130 See also Shia and Sunni Sex on the Brain 57 Sexual intimacy 72, 114-115 Shahada. See Bearing witness. Sheba, Queen of 174-176, 177 Shema 130 Shia Muslims 76, 129, 184, 201 Siddiqui, Abdul Hamid 117 Siraz 52 Slavery 19, 20, 65-66, 183
278 | Womenâ€™s Rights, the Quran and Islam Social status 43, 173-184, 196 Society, women in 173-184, 185-204 Solomon 174 Spiritual growth 67-68, 114, 115, 206-207 Submission 33-34, 42, 129 Submitter's Perspective 184 Sudan 201 Sufis 2, 3 Sukarnoputri, Megawati 174 Sunna xvi, 60, 79, 81, 118, 200, 201 Sunni Muslims 129, 184, 201 Sweden 122-125, 201 Syria 183
T Taliban xv, 13 Tehran 53 Temporary marriage 76-77, 80-81 Terrorism ix, 43-44 Testimony. See Witnessing. Thankfulness. See Gratitude. Theft 17, 20 Thunder 37 Timothy 15, 24 Titus 24 Tolerance 33, 160, 180, 193-194 Torah 9, 19, 34, 104, 115, 144, 166 Translation. See under Quran. Turkey 24, 173, 174, 205 Tyranny 44
United States of America 29, 52, 57, 79-80, 88-89, 106108, 110, 112, 130-131, 152154, 158-160, 174, 181, 198204 Unity of religions 33-34, 129 Urdu 3, 168
Values, teaching of 185-204 Veiling 5, 22, 47-54, 62-63, 124, 159, 182, 183. See also Hair, covering of. Virgin birth 87 Voting 173, 176, 180
Washington, D.C 199, 201, 202 Wensinck, A.J. 117 Widows 25, 27 Wife abuse. See Abuse. Will, writing of 105, 106-108 Winfrey, Oprah 190-191 Witnessing 109-112, 177 Women's quarters. See Harem Women's roles 11, 173-184 Wudu. See Ablution
Yaqui Indians 1
Zachariah 87 Zakat. See Obligatory Charity. Zia, Begum Khaleda 173