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jonn: On islam being a message for all places and times

Reader comment on item: Resisting Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: about women

Submitted by Plato (India), Apr 15, 2008 at 22:43


After reading and replying to posters like Mansoor, Bilawal and some other Muslims, you are a refreshing change and I think a decent debate can be conducted. You have certainly given me some information that I appreciate about women in Muslim, especially Arab Muslim culture/religion. But there are some points I take issue with. You wrote:

> >The woman's testimony is equal to the man's testimony except in one case only, the financial transactions. This is according to 2:282;….

Islam is a message for all places and all times. While many of us who read and write on the Internet live in highly urbanized societies, where the majority of women work outside the home and are constantly involved in commercial and legal transactions, the majority of women in the world, even today, do not live this way; in the past, very few did….

Women also live in intermediate conditions. My mother, a distinguished…<<

jonn, I have italicized one sentence from your post Islam is a message for all places and all times.

After writing it you go on to say exactly the opposite!

1. You claim that in the past women were not involved in commercial and legal transactions but admit that women today (including your mother) are more and more involved with such activities. You can now foresee a time when they will be involved even more in such activities. This shows that this particular ruling was not for all time as women begin to enter the economies of all countries in large numbers.

>>Even in American today, studies show that husbands make the majority of decisions about major purchases: homes, cars, large appliances, vacations, etc.<<

2. You forget one little statistic, that there are more and more single parent families with women heading the majority of them in the West. They make all the economic decisions themselves. This means that Islam being a message for all places also does not stand up.

This ruling on women being poor at witnessing financial and legal transactions can be construed as a failure on the part of Allah to account for changes occurring as time passed and different socio-economic and cultural scenarios in different societies.

This is one reason for Muslims insisting that a woman's place is at home. That is the only way they can make sense of this Koranic ruling. Keep them out of normal social and economic activities and then claim that they are weak intellectually.

The women of the jahiliya were free to do business (Khadija, Abu Sufyan's wife, the tribal queens etc).

The ruling of two women does not make any sense at all. If one woman is incompetent to witness how does two or three or a hundred make a difference. Many zeroes do not add up to anything.

Let us try to analyse this ayat a little more: [ 2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. ........ Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all….

This ayat is not calling into question women's intellectual as much as it questions their honesty because it says further: "Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her…."

Being biased is a matter of being dishonest about ones attitude towards a person or event. The Koran is stating clearly that there is a 50% probability that a woman will lie as a witness.

You also wrote: >>They spend their time at home, with their families, and have very little to do with law and commerce. Even if they fish or farm, they do not usually take part in complex legal transactions with strangers.<<

A witness to a loan or any other legal document does not need to know complex legal and commercial matters. All he or she has to do is witness that the two contracting parties put their signatures to the document in front of them. They need not know anything of what is in the document. Only their honesty in accepting that they witnessed the event and that the signature is theirs is required.

Considering the prophet's time even many of the men witnessing would have no clue about financial and legal issues contained in the document being signed.

>>There is another benefit to this. Not all women want to be part of the commercial world. Now, and in the past, many women prefer to leave legal matters to men. This rule makes it clear that women are allowed to witness financial transactions, but not required to do it. We have a choice.<<

Do men not have a choice in witnessing legal documents? What is the value of a man's witness if it is forced? You don't have a choice. The Koran has told you that women are biased (or deficient in intelligent) so no believing woman would want to spoil things for Muslim men by trying to horn in on their territory and if they do the men will tell them to keep their place in the scheme of things Allah has decided upon. For believing Muslims this is how things should be for all places and times. If you think this is a benefit, of course you can choose to think so.

>>By the way, in other types of legal situations, for example, criminal investigations, a woman's testimony is equal to that of a man.<<

Allah seems to have things upside down. What is merely witnessing a loan deed which requires no great knowledge of the world as compared to being a witness in a criminal trial and legal situations where intimidation by the criminal and his lawyers is a constant threat? How will a woman cope with this having been cocooned at home with little knowledge of the ways of the world.

>> In fact, there is a situation in which a wife's testimony always has more weight than her husband's. If he is accusing her of adultery, and she swears she is innocent, the judge will accept her testimony over his, and end the marriage, so that she will not have to live with a man who accused her falsely.<<

This is probably a result of Aysha and the lost necklace incident. But if this is the ruling in Arab countries it is good sign. They have some how or the other overcome the Koranic ruling in this situation.

>>The hadith you cite was from a speech Prophet Muhammad …… when the nascent Muslim community was under continual military attack. Since there was no system of taxation, the only way Prophet Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace) could obtain money for defense of the community was through donations.<<

Baldly put, what you are saying is that Muhammad was intimidating the women with hell to help his war effort.

>> He was speaking to a group of women who, so far, had contributed little to the cost of their own defense. <<

The poor Muslim women were being offered paradise for giving up their valuables for the war effort.

>>The word translated as "intelligence" implies knowledge, experience, and the use of logic. The women he was addressing certainly had little knowledge and experience of life outside their own families, and he was exhorting them to take an interest in affairs with which they had previously not had to concern themselves.<<

You are now saying that the prophet himself was exhorting women to come out of their homes and take interest in affairs of the world i.e. the important affairs of men like going on raids and capturing booty.

This is all so confusing. Previously you were claiming that women have been fitted out for staying at home and keep out of men's way. But you now claim that the Prophet himself wanted women to be more involved with the affairs of men!

>> The fact that Prophet Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace) did not mean that women were naturally devoid of intelligence is proven by the fact that he chose his young wife Aisha to be the pre-eminent scholar of Islam after his death, saying to the community, "Take half of what you know of me from her…."<<

In the previous passage you claimed that : "intelligence" "implies knowledge, experience, and the use of logic" and since women had little knowledge and experience of life beyond the home they did not have this kind of intelligence. Now what is the special kind of intelligence Aysha had that made her an Islamic scholar? She was also confined to the home from her doll-playing age.

>>For the rest of her life, Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, was the scholar to which the leaders of the Muslim community turned when they had a dispute which they could not resolve themselves. She had a prodigious memory; she memorized the Holy Qur'an…<<

You say scholars depended on Aysha for her prodigious memory. But scholars today also suspect the accuracy of her statement when she said that she was six and playing with her dolls when the prophet married her. These scholars seem to think that Aysha was mistaken in thinking that she was six when she married and could have been, by Arabian standards, an old maid of 19. This really makes things worse for she could not be wrong about her age when she was 19 could she? Who is right, and if Aysha was wrong what reliance can you place in her hadith.

>>As for the deficiency in religion, it refers to the fact that women do not offer salat, the formal Muslim prayer, during menstruation. It does not mean that women are less pious, less knowledgeable, or less reliable than men.<<

Now you are again contradicting what you said before about two women being required to witness a financial deed. You are now claiming that women are as knowledgeable and reliable as men!!

>> It only means that, because they miss some of the salat, they do not get credit for the same acts of worship that do men, who must offer salat five times every day of their lives.<<

Allah imposes the pain and duty of child-bearing and rearing on women. He inflicts them with menstruation during which He bans their praying to Him and for this they are denied credit which men accumulate. Justice thy name is Allah!!

>>However, Prophet Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace) said that women had other natural advantages in religion. For example, he said that, "Heaven lies at the feet of mothers." There is no equivalent promise related to fathers.<<

A mothers' children (male children, that is) will go to heaven if they do the right thing by her. But what about the poor mother herself? She is told in the hadith quoted that she will probably end up in hell.

Allah has inflicted women with the monthly menstrual ‘disease' which makes them impure and so not allowed to pray and get brownie points. He has also imposed labour pains on them. He has created them so they cannot excel men (against all real evidence of course) but paradise which they will find difficult to attain, is at their feet.

Inscrutable (diabolical?) are the ways of Allah!

>>Islam frowns on divorce. It is easy for a Muslim to get married and difficult for one to divorce. Divorce, when initiated by the husband, takes at least four months, and he has to live in the house with his wife and support her until it is final. The effect of this is that usually the husband changes his mind, and cancels the divorce.

When a woman initiates a divorce, she goes to a judge. The whole thing can be settled in five minutes. She does not have to wait a single day, much less a third of a year.<<

This is wonderful news, if true. You have given us a diametrically opposite view to what marital discord meant to Muslim women.

The rest of your post is also revealing. It is very different from what happens to Muslim women and their children from where I come from. Or in the vast majority of Muslim countries.




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