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Also available: Parts 1-2, Part 3, Part 4a, Part 4b

Please find the original article this essay refutes here.

Treatment of Women

1. Polygamy

"In Islam, a man can have up to four wives at the same time (Sura 4:3). In addition, a man can beat his disobedient wife (Sura 4:34, Bukhari 8:68). An example of Muhammad himself beating his wife is documented in the Sahih Muslim Hadith, number 2127. (Note, the Arabic word for beat is the same word as how you would treat a slave or a camel.)"

Polygamy is perhaps one of the most culturally recognized aspects of Islam thanks to a great deal of media on the subject. The specific quote that introduces this concept in the Quran is Surah 4:3, which the article above cites:

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. - Surah 4:3

The somewhat odd precedent to the clause on marriage, regarding orphans, is a contextual time-marker for this verse. This verse is timed after the battle of Uhud. The Battle of Uhud was the first major conflict of the Muslim Meccans and non-Muslim Medinian Quraysh. The battle resulted in heavy losses for the Muslim side, and left a significant number of widows and orphans in its wake. The suggested solution in this verse, that those of marriageable age be married to care for these war widows and orphans, may seem unenlightened today, but about 1,400 years ago, with much fewer support systems for single-mothers in place, this was a common solution to ensure families received the support they needed.

Modern Islamic feminists often cite the context of this verse, to care for those unable to otherwise care for themselves, as the true spirit of this text. The other popular context cited is the stress on justice, and the ability of the men to whom this verse was addressed to deal justly with their wives. “…but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them),” and “that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice,” can both be read as suggesting men, being human, are not infallible when it comes to staying fair towards their spouses. So in this case, the text suggests that having a single spouse was the fairest possible solution, although the allowance for up to four wives (again regarding the timeline in which this verse was placed) existed.

To date, polygamy is still a pervasive standard of many of the Middle-Eastern and African Muslim nations. The particularly forced style of polygamy seen there is a cultural issue more than it is a religious one, though the adaptation of religion to culture and vice versa makes the separation difficult. Islamic philosophy does not call for forced marriages of any sort. Arranged marriages were permitted, but a consultation with the woman whose hand was sought was always required, and in the case of polygamous situations, the permission of earlier wives was necessary before an additional marriage could take place. The corruption of these points in favour of cultural ones is a choice of the individual cultures, for which Islam is a means by which the culture justifies its cause. This makes the culture, not Islamic philosophy, accountable for their actions.

Polygamy was a cultural norm, and still is, in a range of very diverse cultures. Historically, polygamy was common throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas. This practice predated the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths. Polygamy became less rampant only within the last two centuries, when the globalization (more accurately the Europeanization) of moral philosophy and a growing worldwide middle-class culture rendered this practice inconvenient.

Even within Islamic communities, polygamy has been losing ground. The growing affluence of many Islamic nations has promoted a higher level of education among its younger generations. Exposure to global trends, the increasingly powerful middle-class and the rising cost of raising a family within that middle-class lifestyle, have all prompted a direct questioning of polygamy’s relevance in modern life. Nothing in the Quran compels a Muslim man to marry the maximum of four wives, and as a cultural icon, the idea has, again, been slowly shifting towards obsolete.

2. Wife Battery

The article also raises the issue of wife battery under Islam, which it claims is justified by verse 4:34. One translation of that verse follows:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear 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): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). – Surah 4:34

The translation offered here comes from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's The Meaning of the Holy Quran the translated Quran used for the bulk of this essay. As we shall see, differences in the cultural, linguistic and political background of the interpreter can determine, literally, the difference between a call to physically punish a spouse and to divorce her.

A very good comparison of three different translations of the same verse, including the one above, can be found here. The translators’ footnotes are well worth the read: they give a clearer indication how connotations within the original Arabic can be interpreted according to the scope of the translator. Also, a brief historical overview for the context of verse 4:34 can be found here.

Women's rights, as an issue of interpretation by cultural and political norms, is a major issue for Islamic scholars, and they fall primarily into three camps.

First, there are the modernists, who view the Quran with an eye for historical context and how to appropriately apply ancient text to modern situations. Their interpretations range from moderate to liberal, and they tend to agree that Islam accords equal rights to both men and women.

Secondly, there are the moderate conservatives, who may question the historical context of certain Islamic traditions but tend toward literalism. They are not in conflict with women's rights on a personal level, but stop short at full equality between the sexes, as they consider men to be naturally endowed with more physical skills and thus naturally responsible for the maintenance of what they view as the "weaker sex". They agree, however, that both men and women are equally responsible and accountable for their own spirituality.

Finally, we have the stalwart traditionalists who are very literal in their interpretations. They tend to assume that men, by possessing a physical advantage over women in material life, are fully responsible over women, both for their physical and moral wellbeing. Where the responsibilities of men conflict with women's rights on a personal level, men are usually given the advantage. While they may agree that women are accountable for their own individual spirituality, they consider it the duty of men to mould that spirituality.

The subject of wife battery in the Quran centers on three words in verse 4:34: qawwam, nushuz and wadribuhunna.

Qawwam refers to a person in an administrative role, here the husband. Traditionalists interpret this as complete domination of the wife by the husband; moderates interpret this as guardianship of the wife's physical and moral well-being; liberals interpret this as maintenance of the family's economic well-being.

Nushuz defines the sort of misbehaviour the wife is to be punished for. Taken literally, nushuz means “rebellion” (The Message of the Quran, Muhammad Asad). However, the connotations regarding what sort of rebellion this refers to again differs. Traditionalists view it as refusing to follow the husband’s orders, where these orders do not conflict with Islamic laws; moderates view it as a wife’s ill will towards her husband, defined in modern legal terms as “mental cruelty”; liberals take it to mean an adulterous wife.

Wadribuhunna describes the action to be taken by the husband (qawwam) after the alleged misbehaviour (nushuz). The word carries multiple meanings, and their application depends upon the view of the interpreter. Traditionalists interpret this as physically beating the wife; moderates see it as verbal admonishment; liberals as divorce.

The differing interpretations are a constant source of debate for Muslim legislators and advocacy groups. As with all religious modernists working from a static
religious text, the issue here is not so much that the text fails to suit the modern environment (and should be changed), but again, how to interpret the
text to new challenges. However, it is clear that the issue of whether or not Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives is not set in stone.

The article further mentions a narrative from Sahih Muslim, citing this as proof that Muhammad had in fact beaten his wife:

Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you (for he did not come to you), as you were not fully dressed. I thought that you had gone to sleep, and I did not like to awaken you, fearing that you may be frightened. He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi' (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you. - Sahih Muslim, Book 4: The Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat), Number 2127

This narrative, attributed to Muhammad b. Qais as was narrated to him by Aishah bint Abu Bakr (third wife of Muhammad), tells the story of how Aishah once caught Muhammad sneaking out of their home at night. Following him in secret, she watched him pray for the dead at a cemetery before returning home. Once home, he confronted her about following him (as he’d realized long before he’d been followed). As the narrative says, he struck her on the chest and asked if she’d thought he would cheat on her: “Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?” Directly after that, he explains that he visited the cemetery only to offer prayers for the dead and goes on to further explain the exact prayer he invoked for the dead.

Key to this hadith’s controversy is the statement that Muhammad struck Aishah on the chest, which she then states caused her pain. Certainly, traditionalist Muslim scholars have used this quote to reinforce justification for wife battery in Islam before (the main point of reference always being the Quran first, then the hadiths; see discussion on Quranic interpretations above).

Some additional points to consider are the contexts of the quote within the Sahih Muslim hadiths itself. Muslim’s hadiths are divided into forty two volumes. Each volume covers a specific topic stated in the volume’s title. The quote above comes from Book 4, the Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat). The chapter the quote is derived from, within the Book of Prayers, is titled, “Chapter 203: What is to be Said While Visiting the Graveyard and the Supplication to be Offered for the Dead Lying in the Graves.”

The Book of Prayers concentrates on the means and forms of prayer that Muhammad was known to have conducted in his lifetime. As we’ve seen, quote 004:2127 from Sahih Muslim deals with the issue of what prayer to invoke for the dead.

The point of chapter and volume titles carries weight because they are so specific. Among the other volumes in the Sahih Muslim collection are the Book of Menstruation (Kitab Al-Haid), the Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), the Book of Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq), the Book on General Behaviour (Kitab Al-Adab) and the Book Pertaining to Punishments Prescribed by Islam (Kitab Al-Hudud).

Had it been recommended, it would have been elsewhere. If it was recommended, why wasn't it elsewhere?

But yes, he hit her. Muhammad was the exemplary man for all Muslims, but we see in the Quran (and the hadiths) that he did make mistakes and he did disagree with God at times. Some may argue that this is why he was the ideal: he was the everyman who struggled to live by God’s will but was ultimately as human as the rest of us. This idea of a prophet is not alien to any of the Abrahamic and Mosaic faiths.

On the other hand, beating wives and children was and still is a norm in a diverse range of cultures. Up until the middle of the last century, family abuse was still considered a “family issue”, and was not considered a chargeable offence in many countries. Religion was often used to justify these cultural and social norms, usually to reinforce social unity. However, in recent years, society has shifted its gaze to value the individual as well as or over the group, and with this change came the recognition of spousal and child abuse as a crime.

3. Muhammad's Polygamy & Captives of War

“Muhammad himself actually had sixteen wives, two concubines/slaves, and four women of uncertain relationships. Of note, a Sura conveniently appeared to give Muhammad an exception to the 4-wife rule (Sura 33:50). One of his wives was but nine years old when he married her.”

The exact number of wives Muhammad married actually differs between Islamic historians. Historians cite anywhere from eleven to twenty two marriages, not inclusive of slaves and concubines. Most sources agree Muhammad married at least eleven wives. There is also agreement that he had at least two additional concubines or slaves, Mary the Copt (a Christian) and Raihanah bint Zaid An-Nadriyah (a Jew).

All the wives were married to him before Surah 33:50 was revealed. Islamic history holds that after Surah 33:50 was revealed, Muhammad did not marry additional wives, though he did gain Mary the Copt (above) as a handmaiden.

Islam does allow the keeping of handmaidens, or slaves, with cohabitation as one of their assumed functions. The Quran assumes the practice as normal to the culture of its audience, true of Saudi Arabia 1,400 years ago. This is in line with its role as a historical record of Saudi Arabia at the time.

Like polygamy, slavery was a mainstay of a wide variety of cultures that predates the Judaic-Christian-Islamic faiths. Slavery as a practice has dramatically diminished in many cultures over the last few centuries for a number of strong humanitarian and economic reasons. Where slavery is still prevalent in Islamic communities, it is the community’s refusal to apply modern relevance to ancient text that is the crux of the problem. In other words, another case of the
religion used to justify a cultural norm.

The Quran makes clear that slaves and captives of war were to be treated fairly, that captives (of war) were by no means a possession of the captor (as in a thing), but wards under the victors of a battle’s care with very specific circumstances. Slaves had the right to buy themselves out of captivity. The slave had the right to request a contract be written between master and slave, setting down the terms and period of service (Surah 24:33). The master was obligated not only to provide this contract at the slave’s request, but to aid the slave in acquiring the monies towards his/her freedom (Surah 9:60). Freeing slaves voluntarily was stated as a high virtue (Surah 2:177, 90:7-20).

Specifically on the subject of taking a female slave for sex, Surah 24:33 states:

Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them). – Surah 24:33

Not only is the master forbidden to force a female slave into sexual service, but all slaves (male and female) have the right to request a written document to specify the terms of their service.

The article next cites Surah 33:50 as justification for Muhammad exceeding the Quranic limit of four wives at the same time:

O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of they maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makkah) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her – this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large): We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess – in order that there should be no difficulty for Thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. - Surah 33:50

During his reign, Muhammad saw fit to partake in political marriages to strengthen his position. Islamic history records that clan feuds were rife in the early days of the Islamic empire. Tribal customs of that period forbade relatives from attacking each other, however, and it was in this tradition that Muhammad chose his brides (from differing tribes) to prevent clan feuds.

The cultural norms at the time of Muhammad did not bar polygamy. The religious text records the practice because polygamy was, again, a cultural norm to the Saudi Arabians (and largely still is). The Quran put a specific halt to the number of wives a Muslim man may marry to four at the same time. When Surah 4:3 became known, Muslim men with more than four wives promptly divorced their extraneous number of wives. This suggests that abusively large harems were not unusual in Muhammad’s time pre-Surah 4:3, and in such a culture, the limit of four was the oddity.

Muhammad’s extraordinary case, from the standpoint of historical literature, suggests that the larger number of marriages he had were deemed necessary enough to his political alliances (and the peace of the early Islamic empire) that they had to be justified in writing. If nothing else, it sets a clear example as to how religion can be used to justify a cultural norm.

4. The Minimum Marriageable Age for Muslim Women

The article then raises the subject of Muhammad’s youngest wife, 'A'ishah. There is some argument regarding 'A'ishah’s age when she entered the household of Muhammad. According to the hadiths of Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim, she was betrothed to Muhammad at age six and consummated her marriage with him at age nine. Other scholars, notably Maulana Muhammad Ali, calculate her age based on accounts in the biographies of Muhammad, the Quran and hadiths as being ten years old when she was betrothed to Muhammad and sixteen years old when her marriage was consummated.

Certain Islamic communities use these disparate ages as a yardstick for the legal age of consent in their policies. There are legal systems that would justify the marriage of a girl below twelve in Islamic history, where 'A'ishah’s case is neither singular nor profound. Islamic law defines marriageable age as the age of maturity, which factors in more than simply the physical aspects of puberty.

The standards that define a matured person vary considerably according to the culture that interprets them. Where living conditions are particularly harsh, and the life expectancy low, the age of consent and child-bearing are also much earlier than in places where the opposite conditions are true.

Many of us are unable to consider a living environment where children barely out of toddler age are required to care for younger siblings, where the same children one or two years older would be required to help their parents eke out a living by hard labour. Because people from these environments were lucky to survive to their thirties, they were married much younger, raised families much younger, and died at much younger ages than many of us would find natural in our own environments.

Yet, well into the present day, these difficult living conditions are true for millions of people on virtually every continent. It is impossible to compare the maturity of a child of twelve from this scenario with a child of twelve from our own pampered, insulated sphere, and under the circumstances, probably insulting to do so.

Up until half a century ago, marrying a girl off at sixteen was not unusual, and a woman in her mid-twenties could be ostracized as an old maid. It is illogical to judge the living conditions of 1,400 years ago by modern sensitivities. Likewise, it is worth asking if it is logical to apply the living conditions of 1,400 years ago
to modern living standards, where there may be few similarities between then and now.

5. Adoption

“Also of interest, Muhammad married his daughter-in-law Zainab (Bukhari 9:516-518). He arranged for his adopted son Zaid to divorce Zainab so he could marry her. The divorce was prompted by the prophet's admiration for Zainab's beauty. Faced with the refusal of Zaid to dissolve his marriage, Muhammad had another convenient revelation from Allah, which not only commanded Zaid to give up his wife to Muhammad, but also decreed that there was no evil in a father-in-law taking his daughter-in-law away from his own adopted son (Sura 33:36-38).”

Zaid bin Haritha was a slave of Muhammad he later freed and adopted as his son. Zainab bint Jahsh was a daughter of a prominent family and a cousin of Muhammad. Islamic history records their arranged marriage as an unhappy one.

From Sahih Bukhari Vol. 9, Book 953, Numbers 516-518 (cited in the article above):

Narrated Anas: Zaid bin Haritha came to the Prophet complaining about his wife. The Prophet kept on saying (to him), "Be afraid of Allah and keep your wife." Aisha said, "If Allah's Apostle were to conceal anything (of the Quran he would have concealed this Verse." Zainab used to boast before the wives of the Prophet and used to say, "You were given in marriage by your families, while I was married (to the Prophet) by Allah from over seven Heavens." And Thabit recited, "The Verse:-- 'But (O Muhammad) you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest, you did fear the people,' (33.37)
was revealed in connection with Zainab and Zaid bin Haritha."
–Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 93, Number 516

This narrative begins with Zaid complaining to Muhammad about Zainab, his (then) wife, with the explicit intent to divorce her. Muhammad tells him to keep to the tenets of his faith and shun divorce wherever possible, to “keep your wife”. At that point, a verse is released that instead orders Muhammad to have Zaid divorce his wife so that Muhammad may marry Zainab instead:

Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: “Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah.” But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zayd had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), we joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with
them. And Allah’s command must be fulfilled.
– Surah 33:37

According to the Bukhari narrative, Aisha (Muhammad’s third wife) states that Muhammad was unsettled by the commandment, enough to hide its orders from the general public. Verse 33:37 repeats that Muhammad was afraid of the public outcry that would ensue if he married his daughter-in-law. However, he fulfilled the commandment, Zaid divorced Zainab, and Muhammad eventually married her.

The context of Surah 33:37 was the dissolution of adoption as a cultural practice among Muslims. Islamic philosophy bars the adoption of orphans where the orphan is considered equal to the adoptive parents’ own children. It does not prevent a Muslim from caring for an orphan.

Orphans are guaranteed specific rights under Islam, among them the right to retain their family name. The family name was important in Arab culture to establish inheritances, marriages and all other social bonds. Specifically regarding inheritance, knowing and retaining an orphan’s family name ensured that irresponsible guardians could not claim what the orphan’s family had left for him/her for themselves (Surah 4:5-10).

Another reason for retaining the family name stemmed from an ancient Arab custom whereby freed slaves were called the “son” of their masters in lieu of their own surnames. This caused disputes when the time came for inheritances to be divided between blood relatives and adopted children, as they were both considered of equal standing. By preventing adopted children from claiming what rightfully belonged to blood relatives, the rights of blood relatives with regards to their inheritance was preserved.

Orphans could inherit property from their legal guardians, provided their guardians left a bequest (Surah 2:180-182).

By marrying Zainab, Muhammad was dissolving the idea that an adopted child was equal in marriage and inheritance rights to a blood relative. Islamic law states that a father cannot marry his son’s wife, even if his son divorced that wife (Surah 4:23-24). He married the wife his adopted son divorced, which set down the law that the adopted child was not considered a blood relative of the adoptive parent. This appeared to be the major purpose for marrying Zainab.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Verse of Al-Hijab (veiling of women) was revealed in connection with Zainab bint Jahsh. (On the day of her marriage with him) the Prophet gave a wedding banquet with bread and meat; and she used to boast before other wives of the Prophet and used to say, "Allah married me (to the Prophet in the Heavens. - Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 93, Number 517

This narrative suggests that Zainab was not at all against the idea of marrying Muhammad, rather, she was boastful of the fact she married him, especially to Muhammad’s other wives. This is in keeping with the idea that she was incompatible with Zaid.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "When Allah had finished His creation, He wrote over his Throne: 'My Mercy preceded My Anger.' - Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 93, Number 518

This narrative precedes a narrative regarding the Islamic concept of Heaven. It is uncertain as to why the article chose to cite this along with the other narratives regarding Zainab bint Jahsh.

Also, it’s worth noting that Sahih Bukhari Vol. 9, Book 93, Numbers 516-518 do not state that Zainab’s divorce was prompted by Muhammad noticing her beauty, or what Zainab looked like at all.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
So...basically, the scriptures *do* say that you can marry little girls and then beat them, but modernists and moderates tend to ignore both. I'm not sure where the article you're arguing against was wrong, then.

The polygamy stuff, who cares? Christians and Jews can't explain at all why or when exactly that practice became a no-no for them, and their older heroes (and Islam's) were pretty much all partial to the practice. No Christian should ever be able to criticize Muhammad with a straight face and still hold David up as "after God's own heart."
Jul. 30th, 2005 01:50 pm (UTC)
I put on paper the points the article raises but fails to cover in full. It's not my place to say "this religion" or "that religion" has the upper hand. It's up to the readers what to make of it.

The part about minimum marrigeable ages was to point out that what we consider "little girls" are to some cultures considered mature and marriageable adults. I point out that these cultures exist, and wife battery as an accepted culture exists. Whether this is correct behavior or whether it is relevant in the present time are questions the readers will colour in themselves.

The polygamy stuff, re:"who cares", is just another such question.
Jul. 30th, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC)
"It's not my place to say "this religion" or "that religion" has the upper hand."

I'm not really sure how that relates to what I said...you called this a "refutation" of the original claims, was my point. Except for one or two of your bullet points concerning actual errors in the original article, what you've written isn't a refutation. It's mostly a series of rationalizations, basically boiling down to three: (a) not all Muslims believe X, (b) well, it's not like Muslims are the only people who do Y and (c) remember, this was all written way back in the time of Z.

The article in question sounds sloppy, carries (as I pointed out earlier) a heavy pot-kettle-black load, and the conclusion you quoted is particularly (and hilariously) stupid--yep, Christianity, the historic champion of women's rights. But your much better written response and more thorough quotation fail to counter the author's primary claim, that an Islamic fundamentalist male can support via doctrine vastly more wretched behavior toward women than a fundamentalist Christian can.
Jul. 30th, 2005 04:36 pm (UTC)
I'm calling it a refutation of misquoting or pulling out of context bits of the Quran, chucking together some ill-researched opinions that don't differentiate between religion and culture for Islamic history but does for Christian history to justify pot-calling-kettle-black, mixing it up as an actual complete view of Islam and comparing that with Christianity to evangelicize the Christian religion.

I'm not saying: "the article is completely without basis for some of its claims." In fact, I stated right at the start of writing this essay that the article itself raised some good points of its own. My first purpose for writing this essay was filling in the gaps that the article missed or skimmed over in preference for a very selective read of Islamic history (to evangelicize) for someone who's coming in without the background knowledge of Islam.

I'm not countering the article on its better-than-Islam. I point out the full quotations, condense the range of opinions about certain subjects that Muslims have and point out historical context. Those are there so people can read a little more about what the article is citing and make more informed decisions about how to compare Islam and Christianity. This is also why I said it's not my place to say "this religion" or "that religion" has the upper hand. It's not the intent of the essay to counter (or reinforce) the article's claims of Christianly supremacy at all.
Jul. 30th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC)
Heya, Afi. I appreciate these essays as a thoughtful introduction to a more complex view of the belief systems encompassed by Islam. It's easy for me to see the range, both historically and in the present, among Christians, and to a lesser extent Judaism, but it takes writing like this to break down my more uninformed, and thus monolithic, impressions of the religious culture you werre brought up in. Thanks.
Jul. 30th, 2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading. :)

One of the entire problems with writing this essay was trying to keep the larger range in mind. I've tried hard to avoid too much personal opinion wherever possible -- at heart, this would make the essay much more cynical than it must be. Because it's really not my place to point fingers, my intent was to throw out the range, and let people read into it what their own backgrounds influence.

Having been brought up in the culture didn't help there -- it's because I've seen some of those ranges in practice that writing this essay, especially the section on women, has been very hard. On the other hand, having been brought up in the culture is what allows me to seperate the culture from the religion. So I guess it balances out.
Jul. 31st, 2005 05:50 am (UTC)
wow...up until now I only had a minimal understanding of these aspects of Islam. Thanks for all these essays - threy're really opening up my eyes.
Jul. 31st, 2005 05:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you as always for reading.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )