As the curtain of political correctness stifles the free discussion of Islam not just in the Muslim world but also in the West, it inevitably spawns a radical reaction. When those with reservations about Islamic ways cannot acceptably broach their thoughts, they sometimes abandon the constraints of polite society altogether so as to let loose with their uncensored views. Hekmat, identified only as "a distinguished" university professor living in the United States, clearly fits this description; his book offers an informed, harsh, and relentless critique of the status of women in Islam. His is a book that could not appear in a Muslim language or a majority Muslim country.
Relying on a mix of Arabic texts and secondary sources, he argues that "millions of Muslim females, under rigid and inexorable Islamic laws, have been deprived of their fundamental rights." As his title suggests, Hekmat believes this status results not from the vagaries of history nor from the demands of the economy but from the Qur'an itself. As he sees the Qur'an not as the word of God but the invention of Muhammad, he in effect ascribes the problems he describes to the personal habits of the man revered by so many as God's final messenger. The bulk of the book consists of tying women's conditions over the centuries-with regard to polygyny, purdah, wife-beating, punishments for adultery, and divorce-to Muhammad's personal habits and passions. While Hekmat's arguments are generally familiar, the appearance of so polemical book with such contents at this time constitutes a new kind of challenge for pious Muslims.