Many Muslims have adopted the Judeo-Christian ethic whichviews women as the source of human tragedy because of heralleged biblical role as the temptress who seduced Adam intodisobedience to his Lord. By tempting her husband to eat theforbidden fruit, she not only defied Allah, but causedhumankind’s expulsion from Paradise, thus instigating alltemporal human suffering. Those misogynists who support thisBiblical myth, dredge from the archives of pseudo-Islamicliterature such as false and weak hadiths.
This Old Testament myth is a widely circulated belief in theIslamic community despite the fact that Allah in the Qur’anstresses that it was Adam who was solely responsible for hismistake. In 20:115 it is stated: “We had already, beforehand,taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot; and we found onhis part no firm resolve.” Verse 20:121-122 continues: “Inresult, they both ate of the tree…thus did Adam disobey HisLord, and fell into error. But his Lord chose for him (FromHis Grace): He turned to him, and gave him guidance.”Therefore, there is nothing in Islamic doctrine or in theQur’an which holds women responsible for Adam’s expulsionfrom paradise or the consequent misery of humankind.However, misogyny abounds in the pronouncements of manyIslamic “scholars” and “imams.”
The result of such misinterpretation of hadiths and spreadingnegativity is that entire societies have mistreated their female members despite the fact that Islam has honoured andempowered the woman in all spheres of life. The woman inIslamic law is equal to her male counterpart. She is asliable for her actions as a male is liable. Her testimony isdemanded and valid in court. Her opinions are sought and acted upon. Contrary to the pseudo hadith: “Consult womenand do the opposite,” the Prophet (SAW) consulted his wife,Um Salama on one of the most important issues to the Muslimcommunity. Such references to the Prophet’s positiveattitudes toward women disprove the one hadith falselyattributed to Ali bin Abi Talib: “The woman is all evil, andthe greatest evil about her is that man cannot do withouther.”
The promotion of such negativity against women has led many”scholars” and “imams” to make the unsubstantiated rulingabout female speech. They claim that women should lowertheir voice to whispers or even silence except when shespeaks to her husband, her guardian or other females. Thefemale act of communication has become to some a source oftemptation and allurement to the male.
The Qur’an, however, specifically mentions that those seekinginformation from the Prophet’s wives were to address themfrom behind a screen (33:53). Since questions require ananswer, the Mothers of the Believers offered fatwas to thosewho asked and narrated hadiths to whomever wished to transmitthem. Furthermore, women were accustomed to question theProphet (SAW) while men were present. Neither were theyembarrassed to have their voices heard nor did the Prophetprevent theirinquiries. Even in the case of Omar when he was challenged by a woman during his khutba on the minbar, he did not deny her. Rather, he admitted that she was right and hewas wrong and said: “Everybody is more knowledgeable thanOmar.”
Another Qur’anic example of a woman speaking publicly is thatthe daughter of the Shaykh mentioned in the Qur’an in 28:23.Furthermore, the Qur’an narrates the conversation betweenSulayman and the Queen of Sheba as well as between her andher subjects. All of these examples support the fatwa thatwomen are allowed to voice their opinion publicly forwhatever has been prescribed to those before us is prescribedto us, unless it was unanimously rejected by Islamicdoctrine.
Thus, the only prohibition is the female talking softly and flirting in a manner meant to excite and tempt the male. This is expressed in the Qur’an as complacent speech whichAllah mentions in 33:32: “O consorts of the Prophet! Ye arenot like any of the other women: If ye do fear Allah, be nottoo complaisance of speech, lest one in whose heart is adisease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speechthat is just.”
What is prohibited then is alluring speech which enticesthose whose diseased hearts may be moved with desire andthat is not to say that all conversation with women isprohibited for Allah completes the verse: “…but speak yea speech that is just.” (33:32)
Finding excuses to silence women is just one of theinjustices certain scholars and imams attempt to inflict uponwomen. They point to such hadiths as narrated by Bukhariabout the Prophet which says: “I have not left a greater harmto men than women.” They assume that the harm implies thatwomen are an evil curse to be endured just as one must endurepoverty, famine, disease, death and fear. These “scholars”ignore the fact that man is tried more by his blessings thanby his tragedies.
And Allah says: “And We test you by evil and by good way oftrial.” (21:35). To support this argument Allah says in theQur’an that two of the most appreciated blessings of life,wealth and children, are trials. Allah says: “And know yethat your possessions and your progeny are but a trial.”(Anfal 28) A woman, despite the blessings she bestows on herrelations, can also be a trial for she may distract a man from his duty toward Allah. Thus, Allah creates awarenesshow blessings can be misguided so that they become curses.Men can use their spouses as an excuse for not performingjihad or for eschewing sacrifice for the compiling ofwealth. Allah in the Qur’an warns: “Truly among your wivesand children are enemies for you.” (64:14)
The warning is the same as for the blessings of abundantwealth and offspring (63:9). In addition, the sahih hadithsays: “By Allah I don’t fear for you poverty, but I fear thatthe world would be abundant for you as it has been for those before you so you compete for it as they have competed forit, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them.” (Agreed upon) This hadith does not mean that the Prophet (SAW)encouraged poverty.
Poverty is a curse from which the Prophet sought refuge fromAllah. He did not mean for his Ummah to be bereft of wealthand abundance for he said: “The best of the good wealth is for the pious person.” (narrated by Ahmed and Al-Hakam) Women are also a gift for the pious person for the Qur’an mentionsthe Muslim men and women (the Muslimat), the believing men(Mumins) and women Muminat as aids and comforts for each other here and in the hereafter. The Prophet did not condemnthe blessings Allah provided for his Ummah. Rather theProphet wished to guide the Muslims and his Ummah away fromthe slippery slope whose bottomless pit is a mire of callousness and desire.