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  • ivanildotrindade 7:14 pm on April 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aisha, Arabia, feminism in islam, khadija, , muhammad's favorite wife, muhammad's wives, muslim feminists, wife-beating in koran, women in islam   

    Was Muhammad a Wife-beater? 

    Today I continue my series on women and Islam. The question today is: Was Muhammad a wife-beater?

    I don’t believe he was. Look, it is no secret that 7th century Arabia was a hostile place for women. Women were considered the property of the men in their lives. They had no rights and could be disposed of as one disposed of an animal. In light of that, some of Muhammad’s actions toward women are remarkable.

    Muhammad criticized men for being too harsh on their wives. Women played a prominent role in his life and religion. His favorite wife, Aisha, became his spokesperson in many matters of religion. His daughter, Fatima, was an influential force after his death. He remained in a monogamous relationship with his first wife, Khadija, as long as she lived, and only took on other wives after her death, and even then, in the majority of cases, his marriages sealed political alliances or extended benevolence to poor widows . Under Muhammad, women were assured the rights to divorce their husbands and own property.

    Muhammad allowed men to marry up to four wives only after the battle of Uhud (626), when scores of men were killed, leaving behind orphans and unprotected widows. Even as permission was granted, the language is such that it discourages it. A man was supposed to do that only if he was capable of treating each woman equally. That, of course, opened the door for abuse as no man who ever lived could possibly do that.

    But there are some things that would make it hard to turn Mohammad into a poster boy for feminism even by 7th century Arabia’s standards.

    Here are some examples:

    1. In one of the hadiths, (“traditions”) of the prophet, according to his favorite wife, Aisha, in at least one occasion, Muhammad struck her and it wasn’t with a pheasant feather either. This episode refers to a time he thought she was asleep, quietly slipped out of bed and walked to another place. She followed him against his knowledge and then returned to her bed. Upon coming back, he asked her: “Why is it, O ‘Aisha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain…” (my emphasis). I am, of course, aware of the many attempts to make “struck” mean something else in this hadith, but many respected Muslim scholars do not buy it. In all fairness, though, Aisha also said in other places that Muhammad never struck a child, woman or animal, except when threatened in battle.

    2. In some other hadiths, Muhammad clearly gives permission for husbands to beat their wives and does not prohibit them from doing so. On one occasion a woman wearing a green veil came to Aisha and showed her a green spot on her body caused by beating. Aisha complained to Muhammad: “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!” This is important because she is stating that the women outside of Islam were being treated better Muslim women. On another occasion Muhammad allowed the fathers of two of his wives to strike them in his presence without any protest on his part.

    3. It is at least peculiar that Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad when she was 6 or 7 and he was already past 50. She became his wife when she was 9 or 10. I would never call this child abuse, as some have, but I would say that coming from a prophet of God, I imagine this took a lot of finagling with the Almighty. One can see how such practice, though common in those times, would later be cause for criticism against the prophet. Another controversial marriage was the one to the divorced wife of his adopted son. Even Muhammad was conflicted about that at first, and several of his relatives called it incest.

    4. Though Muhammad allowed only four wives to Muslim men, he himself married 10-12, a special dispensation accorded him by Allah. Oh, the joys of prophethood! Yes, 7th century Arabia may have been harsh for women, but at least one man was already living in “paradise” and he didn’t even have to die a martyr to enter it.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

  • ivanildotrindade 7:20 pm on April 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , muslims, Old Testament, , wife-beating, women in islam   

    Is Wife-beating in the Koran? 

    This week I address several issues related to women and Islam. My purpose is to state facts not interpret them; to clarify, not defend or attack anyone. Today I want to answer this question: is wife-beating present in the Koran?

    The answer to this question is an unmistakable YES. Just like parts of the Old Testament are embarrassing to some Christians, this admission also troubles some Muslims. The responses, as expected, usually fall into four categories: a) ignore that it is there; b) explain it away by attributing a different meaning to the text; c) acknowledge that it is there but soften its blow; d) admit it and try to defend it in today’s world (a not so enviable task).

    Now to the text in question: “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.” (Dawood’s translation of Sura (chapter) 4:34).

    In this text Muhammad gives two reasons why men are “superior” to women: because God made them so and because money made them so! He goes on to say that the signs of a virtuous woman are her obedience to her husband and her adherence to modest dressing. Finally, he gives a three-step approach to dealing with a wife suspected of “disobedience”: a) verbal rebuke; b) sexual deprivation (which for some women might be no punishment at all!) and c) physical punishment (“beating”).

    For those who try to make “disobedience” only refer to adultery or other immoral acts, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that the best translation is “disobedience.” Also, the whole context deals with obedience vs. disobedience. For those who want to say that “beating” means something other than beating, like making a verbal pronouncement, for example, this does not explain the three-step process, each step being a little “harsher” than the previous one. A verbal pronouncement would be the same as a verbal rebuke. Again, most scholars translate the word as “beating” and that is how that word is translated the vast majority of times it appears in the Koran.

    Later, silly notions such as “beating” them with a big toothpick or a folded handkerchief arose, no doubt to try to make the whole idea more palatable to westerners. No matter, the fact remains that even though Muhammad in other occasions admonished husbands not to treat their wives too harshly, even though he defended the rights of women to divorce and own property, even though he went to great pains himself to please his multiple wives, by letting that slip into the Koran, he gave comfort to the men who were already up to no good when it came to their views of women. The rest is history and it is not a pretty one.

    I am giving you the facts. Pure and simple. Tomorrow: Was Muhammad a wife-beater?

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

  • ivanildotrindade 9:15 pm on March 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Acid throwing, Fakhra Younus, Pakistan, Tehmina Durrani, women in islam   

    Something more important than the Final Four 

    Careful. News of the Final Four may fool you. Yes, it is an exciting tournament, but life is not simply an NCAA event. Caution. News of Augusta, Georgia and Tiger Woods return may take your eyes off events that really matter. Yes a man in the U.S. got the most extensive face transplant ever and is doing well. President Obama made an off the cuff remark to Russian President Dimitry Medvedev that give some voters pause and Iran announced that they are developing a new drone. But don’t get sidetrack by these events.

    In my opinion, the news that matters now is coming from Sanford, Florida. And the trends that matter have to do with reaction from fans who were sorely disappointed, after watching the movie, when they discovered that the little girl they loved so much and cried for when she died in the book Hunger Games  is black.

    And the news that really really matters globally comes from Italy, where 33-year-old Pakistani woman Fakhra Younus jumped from the sixth floor of a building in Rome, where she was continuing her treatment for severe disfigurement on her face and other parts of her body from acid that was poured on her when she was sleeping, allegedly done by her former husband, Bilal Khar, the son of a powerful politician in Pakistan, who was eventually acquitted of the charges.

    After 13 years undergoing surgeries (39 to be exact), Ms. Younus finally gave up the fight. It was reported that her body had no more skin to graft. Her face had completely melted from the brutal attack and she walked in pain and agony every moment of her life. Her suicide note said it all. She said she was committing suicide over the silence of law on the atrocities and the insensitivity of Pakistani rulers.

    Amazingly, Tehmina Durrani, the former wife of Ms. Younus’ father, took up Ms. Younus’ cause, giving interviews side by side with her and putting pressure on Pakistani authorities to let her go overseas to get treatment. Mrs. Darrani wrote a book, My Feudal Lord, which became a bestseller. In it, she described the horrors she experienced at the hands of her former husband and exposed some very serious issues related to how women are treated under Islam. Needless to say, she is a much hated figure in Pakistan today as she continues to work to help women who have been brutalized by family and relatives recover.

    I am going to put a picture of Ms. Younus at the bottom of this post but I warn you: it will be graphic.  I do this for two reasons: 1. Women like her continue to suffer under the evil hands of terrible regimes that continue to treat women like property; 2. I very much doubt that you may have seen pictures of Ms. Younus before or even heard her story; 3. I want all of us to wake up to the fact that we don’t have the luxury of closing our eyes and pretending that after the Final Four we only have to worry about whether Tiger is going to win The Masters and after that come the Summer Olympics in London.

    Ms. Younus could easily be one of our own and if you care about those with no voice, she is.

  • ivanildotrindade 11:58 pm on September 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , shaima jastaina, women in islam   

    Driving While Female 

    I am outraged. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women can be guilty of this unique crime: DWF (Driving While Female). Both local and foreign women are are banned from driving there. Though there is no specific law, religious tradition dictates it. They say that giving more freedom to women would make them more vulnerable to sins. Really? What about men? Driving wouldn’t have the same effect on them? Oh wait, men are the ones making these decisions and apparently they want to keep their women subjugated forever.

    Two days ago King Abdullah made a speech announcing that women will be allowed to vote in the municipal elections of 2015. After that Shaima Jastaina was sentenced by the courts to 10 lashes for driving a car back in June. Pronto the King pardoned the woman and she will not be publicly humiliated in this painful manner. What is going on here? Is the King playing a tug-of-war with the moldy mullahs of Saudi Arabia?

    What is it about men and religion that when they mix, sometimes, this spells trouble for women? And why is the most conservative Islamic country in the world so hard on women anyway? I am telling you, if I were a Muslim, I would be deeply troubled by this. I would be on the streets protesting and I would probably be encouraging my wife to drive in defiance to a this tradition (actually, she wouldn’t need my encouragement!). No matter how they to masquerade it, this practice is nothing but blatant discrimination against women.

    I made a statement a couple of days ago that shocked some of my peers. I said that if you want to reach the family in our part of the world, you should reach the women. Surprise, surprise. Why didn’t I say men? I wish I could say without equivocation that I have full confidence that as the men go so goes society. I believe women are more influential. They are the ones on the forefront of the education of their children, they are the ones who are most in touch with the pulse of their communities and they are the force behind churches and other volunteer organizations.

    In my church women are the bulk of the volunteers that make the church alive. They teach Bible studies, lead choirs, affinity groups, and are the key people behind every crucial ministry (except, of course, the top leadership tier). In addition to all that, many women are the sole reason that men even come to church. I have met guys who have been “dragged” by their wives and girlfriends to any number of things — from Valentine banquets to Bible reading groups. I have also met guys who wandered away from God for many years and became at worst abusive and at best distant from the women they once loved. But these dear women persevered in praying for their men and with time they saw them come back first to God then to their love lost and recovered. Many women have the gift of “staying.” In fact, some of them should leave when they keep on staying — for their own sanity and physical integrity.

    Of course, I am not saying abandon the men.  I am just saying that the way I see it, when it comes to influencing families in our world of Wayne County today, it is the women who have the edge whether we like it or not.

    And that’s the reason I honor the courage of women like 30-year-old Shaima Jastaina. Because of women like her Saudi Arabia may yet be saved from total irrelevance and obscurity. Or we may just have to wait until all the old men die off…

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

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