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What is the Status of Women in the Quran and the Hadith? Three Factors to Consider

woman fully covered in black burqa outside by a lake

What does Islam teach about the status and role of women? Here are three items from the Quran and the Hadith that heavily influence the attitudes toward females in the Islamic culture.

1. The Quran teaches that women are inferior to men.

Take a look at Surah 4:34: "Men have authority over women because God has made one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them." In the same passage, the Quran goes on to tell men to beat their wives: "As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, and forsake them in beds apart and beat them. Then, if they obey you, take no further action against them" (Surah 4:34).

In the Yusuf Ali translation it says to "beat them (lightly)." Notice how the translation added the word "lightly" in parentheses. The word is not there in the Arabic. I have often wondered how you could beat someone ... lightly. No, the phrase is simply "beat," and here is a passage in the holy book of Islam that actually commands men to beat their wives. You cannot find such a command anywhere in the Bible. Apparently, wife-beating is something Allah approves of.

The Bible teaches that men and women are intrinsically equal because God created them all equal, and Christ died for all equally: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Lately, Muslim women have been quietly protesting against this intrinsic status of inferiority. For example, it is commonly understood among many Muslim legal scholars that a rape victim needs four male eyewitnesses to prove that she was raped. However, many Muslims tragically argue that the Quran teaches no such thing.

However, I must ask, "If the Quran and Islamic tradition does not teach one needs four eyewitnesses to prove rape, very well. But where have Muslim scholars and legal experts been getting this idea for hundreds of years?" That Muslim women have a hard time proving rape certainly is a problem in Islamic-dominant countries. Consider this New York Times article about how rape victims are considered criminals in Pakistan.

Here is a similar article from PBS.

2. The Quran condones sex slavery.

The Quran clearly allows and even condones keeping sex slaves. Surah 23:5-6 says that the faithful abstain from sex, "except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them..." The Quran and the Hadith repeat these injunctions for Muslim warriors to have sex with female captives. The documentation from the Quran and Hadith is provided here, here, and here.

ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda did not just make up out of whole cloth this idea that it's fine with Allah to have sex slaves. They know that the concept is clearly taught in the Quran, and they want to consistently live it out in their war of conquest against the infidels.

3. Muhammed had a SIX-YEAR-OLD wife.

The Quran does not tell us this, but the Hadith (Muslim tradition about Muhammed) does. Muhammed acquired a "bride" named Aisha when she was only six. According to numerous passages in the Hadith, Muhammed, a man in his 50s, consummated the marriage with Aisha when she was only nine years old. (What do you call a middle-aged man who has sex with a nine-year-old child?) Here is the documentation from the Hadith to confirm this.

Now, Muslim apologists today try to sweep this away by saying that this is just Aisha's testimony, and Muslims are free to disregard these stories from the Hadith. Some also claim that Aisha was twelve when she had sex with the 54 year old prophet of Islam (that makes it better?). Or maybe she was in her late teens or early twenties. Sure.

If Muhammed did not have a nine-year-old child bride, why do so many Islamic countries hold up this episode in his life as an example to follow (or allow) today? Many Muslim countries and communities around the world endorse having child brides as young as six or seven. The "islamophobic" Washington Times accurately reported on the nation of Turkey approving of nine year old child brides.

Al Jazeera decried Pakistan's failure to outlaw child brides (thank God there are those within Islam who see the evil in having child brides!).

Notice in this Washington Post story that it is the Muslim CLERICS who resist ending child brides in their land. Why the resistance from these men who read the Quran and the Hadith all the time and want to consistently follow it? Apparently their interpretation of their scripture allows for it.

Thank God for those Muslim men and women who do see something intrinsically wrong in a belief system or interpretation that sees women as an inferior commodity that can be owned, used, and abused. Here's hoping for greater enlightenment for all to treat women as valued, equal creations of God.