Reason for writing a response to “Joys of Muslim Women”
What you see below is a snippet from an email entitled “Joys of Muslim Women” attributed to former-Muslim Nonie Darwish. This email has been circulating around for quite a while. I myself received it few times from non-Muslim friends. But it was only recently that I took the matter more seriously. This is when I was about to participate in an Islam panel at some college when I realized that some professors were opposing the panel and citing this email as a reason why Islam should not be given a voice! It was then that I realized that what we may consider outrageous and absurd may constitute undisputable facts for others.
Now, I also know that there are doubts whether Darwish wrote the article herself (though she may not disagree with a big part of it). Regardless, the identity of the author is irrelevant since the purpose of my writing is to expose the false claims in the email rather than attack the person behind it.
Here is the snippet from “Joys of Muslim Women” that I wish to address:
In the Muslim faith, under Shariah law, a Muslim man may marry a child as young as 1 year old and have sexual intimacy with this child, consummating the marriage by the age of 9. A dowry is given to the family in exchange for the girl who virtually becomes his slave, with the use of her as his sexual toy. Even though a Muslim woman is abused, she cannot obtain a divorce. To prove rape, a woman must have four (4) male witnesses. Often when a married woman has been raped, she is returned to her family and the family must return the dowry. The family then has the right to execute her (an honor killing) to restore the honor of the family. Husbands may beat their wives 'at will' and the man does not have to say why he has beaten her. The husband is permitted to have 4 wives, plus a temporary wife for one hour (prostitute) at his discretion.
Here is a brief response to many of the claims made above. I do acknowledge that some of the claims would require more elaborate answer. Inshaa'Allāh, I will attempt that in later posts.
First the author contradicts herself by saying that a man can have a sexual intimacy with a child as young as one, but marriage is consummated at 9. I say it's a contradiction because in Islam there absolutely is no sexual intimacy before marriage!! Sexual initmacy is only allowed after marriage is consummated.
As far as marriage, it can only be done with the consent of the woman. It is narrated by so many authentic hadith sources that the Prophet said that the young woman should be consulted and her permission obtained before marriage. In one narration, it says that a woman came to the Prophet and complained about her father that he forced her into a marriage she didn't like, and the Prophet gave her the option to either stay or leave:
أن جارية بكرا أتت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فذكرت أن أباها زوجها وهي كارهة فخيرها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
الراوي: عبدالله بن عباس المحدث: الألباني – المصدر: صحيح أبي داود - الرقم: 2096
Abdullah ibn Abbas narrated that a young woman came to the Prophet and mentioned that her father forced into a marriage she didn't like and the Prophet gave her the option [to stay or leave]. Recorded by Abu Dawud, Hadith #2096.
Islam did not set any specific age for marriage. Instead, it left it to the customs of time and place we live in. In 7th century Arabia, marriages used to happen at an earlier age because people used to mature at an earlier age. The one rule Islam put is to forbid any sexual activity before the age of puberty. This is very well established in Islamic law and no Muslim would dispute that.
The Nature of the Relationship between a Husband and a Wife in Islam
As far as this talk about a woman being a slave or a sex toy of man, then I'm not sure where this came from! The Qurʾān describes the relationship between a man and a woman in the most beautiful terms such as:
ومن آياته أن خلق لكم من أنفسكم أزواجا لتسكنوا إليها وجعل بينكم مودّة ورحمة
And from His signs is that He created for you, from among yourselves, spouses so that you may find solace and comfort as you settle with them, and He created between you love and mercy. [30:21]
and the Prophet defined the relationship between the two genders in general in the following authentic narration:
إنما النساء شقائق الرجال
صحيح أبي داود كتاب الطهارة رقم 234
Indeed, women are the brethren of men [Abu Dawud, Hadith #234]
What a Woman can do in Case of Abuse
If a woman is abused, she has various ways of exiting her marital relationship. One way is to request al-Fas'kh (which literally means to break the marital agreement). This usually takes place in an Islamic court where a woman requests al-Fas'kh if any of her rights are violated. For example, if the husband stops spending on his wife, or becomes unable to do so, then a woman can go to court and nullify the marriage contract. This is more powerful than divorce since such nullification is considered final whereas divorce is not.
Another way is to seek Khul'a (literally means discharge). A Khul'a is defined in Islamic Law as a woman terminating her marital status by paying back her dowry or any amount the two parties agree on. A woman can obtain a Khul'a anytime she feels that she no longer can live with her husband. A woman doesn't have to be abused to request Khul'a. If a woman develops a valid dislike for her husband, then that's enough a ground to request Khul'a.
What about Rape?
If it's a case of a husband raping his wife (forcing her into sex against her will), then there are several preventive and corrective measures to be considered. As discussed above, a marriage should not be consummated without the consent of both husband and wife. If later, a woman develops a dislike for her husband, then she has the options to terminate her marriage. Above all, we should remember that in Islam marriage is a delicate balance between the rights and responsibilities of both the husband and wife. Consider the following verse from the Qurʾān:
ولهن مثل الذي عليهنّ بالمعروف
They [wives] have rights similar to their responsibilities, according to what's recognized to be fair [2:228]
In fact, it's more the responsibility of the man to provide the best companionship:
Live with them in a companionship that's fair and kind [4:19]
I don't believe a marriage where a husband is forcing sex on his wife can be described as a companionship, let alone a fair and kind relationship!
As for rape outside marriage, Islam reserves the punishment to the man who committed the crime. If it's committed with a weapon, the punishment could reach the death penalty. In many cases, it's up to the judge to decide the penalty, after studying all the circumstances (called Ta'zeer in Islamic Law). In short, all Islamic jurisprudence schools agree that it is the rapist who is to be punished not the victim. For example, imām Malik, the founder of one of the four mainstream jurisprudence schools in Islam, has a chapter in his book al-Muwatta' about forced adultery. He narrates a case where Omar (RA) punished a man for adultery but not the woman because she was forced to have intercourse [Muwatta', Hadith #702, the Shaybani version].
… And Beating
As for beating, then there is a number of narrations that speak to its ugliness. Aisha (RA) narrated from the Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) that he said, “Does not one of you feel ashamed of hitting his wife like he hits a slave? He hits her in the beginning of the day and sleeps with her at the end of the day?” So here the Prophet is saying that this act is not even logical, besides it being impermissible. It's also narrated that the Prophet never hit a woman or a child in his entire life and he said, “the best of you are the best to their families [i.e. wives] and I'm the best to my family.”
As to temporary marriage or al-Mut'ah, then it's forbidden by the vast majority of Muslim jurists [except for Shia Islam of which I'm not an expert]. But Sunni Muslims have authentic narrations that the Prophet himself forbade it:
عن عليّ بن أبي طالب: نهى رسول الله عن متعة النساء يوم خيبر
عن سبرة الجهني أنّ رسول الله نهى عن المتعة وقال: ألا إنها حرام من يومكم هذا إلى يوم القيامة
From Ali bin Abi Talib that the Messenger of Allāh forbade temporary marriage on the Day of Khaybar.
From Sabra al-Juhani that the Messenger forbade al-Mut'ah and said, “it's prohibited from this day till the Day of Judgment.”
Both narrations and more are found in Sahih Muslim, the Chapter on Temporary Marriages