Does Islam View Women Equal to Men?

I’m mystified how often I hear people claim Islam views women as equal to men. Within a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Oprah Winfrey had Queen Rania of Jordan on her show to tell the American public “Islam views women as full and equal partners to men, so women's rights are guaranteed by Islam.”

Queen Rania, a Muslim, may have full rights as a woman, but it’s not because of Islam.

The Qur’an, Islam’s holiest book, condones the beating of disobedient wives: “As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)” (surah 4:34). Note, the phrase “lightly, if it is useful” is not in the original Arabic.

The Qur’an also teaches that men can have four wives (surah 4:3) while women can only have one husband, women can only inherit half of what men inherit (surah 4:176) and other principles that lead you to think Islam views women as inferior to men.

Practitioners of Islam demonstrate these verses are not taken out of context.

Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, the Imam of a Mosque in Spain, actually wrote a book where he explains how to beat your wife without leaving marks on her body. His advice; “The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body.”

Mohammed himself married at least a dozen women (one as young as six). The Qur’an conveniently made an exception (surah 33:50) for Mohammed, allowing him to marry more than four women. It clarifies, however, that this exception is “only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large).”

Furthermore, look at both public policy and private practice of any non-secularized Islamic state. Women are treated more like property than royalty in Muslim cultures.

So while I applaud Queen Rania’s pursuit to bring equality to women, I’d suggest she abandon attempting to justify women’s rights within the Islamic worldview.

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Alan Shlemon