Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Towards Gender Equality: Muslim Family Law and the Sharia, Part 1

Who is to say…

“What if the key that unlocks the cage might not be hidden inside the cage?”

This article examines the conceptions of gender equality in the Islamic legal thoughts and practices and the challenge that it presents to the construction of an egalitarian Muslim family laws from within.

I ask two prime questions:

  1. If justice and equality are intrinsic values in Islam, why are women treated as second-class citizens in Islamic jurisprudential texts?

  2. If equality has become integral to the conception of justice in modern times as many Muslims now recognize, how can it be reflected in Muslim family laws?

For approach and conceptual framework, I proceed to examine rules and opinions regulating marriage and its termination as formulated by the classical Muslim jurists (fuqaha).

I choose this focus for two reasons. First, it is through these rules that the control and subjugation of women have been legitimated and institutionalized throughout the history of the Muslim world. Secondly, it is through these rules that gender inequality is sustained in the contemporary world.

In the course of the twentieth century, many Muslim states, following the colonial enforcements or Western influence, put aside Islamic legal theories in all areas of law, except in family matters, namely marriage, divorce, inheritance etc. (which is purely cruel and unethical), which they selectively reformed, codified and grafted them into modern legal system.

By highlighting the theological, philosophical and jurisprudential assumptions that informed the classical jurists’ construction of marriage, I aim to explore the genesis of gender inequality in Islamic legal traditions. In light of the relevant twentieth-century developments, we should consider confronting these traditions, which challenge the advancement of an egalitarian construction of gender rights within an Islamic framework. Some suggestions towards these constructions of an egalitarian Muslim family law should be implemented in practical forms in today’s world.

There are three elements to this argument:

First, there is neither a unitary, nor a coherent, concept of gender rights in Islamic legal thoughts, but rather a variety of conflicting concepts, each resting on different theological, juristic, social and sexual assumptions and theories. This, in part reflects a tension in Islam’s sacred texts between ethical egalitarianism as an essential part of its message and the patriarchal context in which this message was unfolded and is implemented. This tension has enabled both proponents and opponents of gender equality to claim textual legitimacy for their respective positions and gender ideologies.

Secondly, we should argue that Muslim family laws are the products of socio-cultural assumptions and juristic reasoning about the nature of relations between man and woman. In other words, they are ‘man-made’ juristic constructs shaped by the social, cultural and political conditions within which Islam’s sacred texts are understood, practiced and turned into laws. The idea of gender equality, which became inherent to conceptions of justice only in the twentieth century, has presented Islamic legal thoughts with a challenge it has yet to met and  probably never will.

Finally, we should argue that many elements in these laws are neither defensible on Islamic grounds nor tenable under contemporary conditions; not only are they contrary to the spirit of egalitarianism, they are invoked to deny Muslim women justice and dignified choices in their daily lives...

To be continued in part 2

Lennard James is a Pakistani-born writer.

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Name: Truth Detector
Date: Thursday May 07, 2009
Time: 12:06:44 -0400


Lennard James, I can answer your first question: You ask why Muslim women are treated as second class citizens in the Muslim world. ANSWER: The Muslim male is Neanderthal, brutish, usually not very well educated. In fact, most of the Muslim males are illiterate and generally very stupid, and because they want to exert their power like a true Neanderthal, they take it out on the weaker sex, who are women. If women were stronger than Neanderthal Muslim males, the Neanderthal Muslim male wouldn't act brutish, and dominant. Also, the Neanderthal Muslim male acts brutish because he is Islamic. These Neanderthals think that they have to emulate the false prophet, pedophile, child molester, wife beater, murderer, slave owner Muhammad. The brutish behavior of the Muslim Neanderthal explains the wife beating, honor killings, the Muslim perverts forcing little girls to "marry" them against the child's will, then raping these little girls, that take place in the Muslim world. There are many more Muslim atrocities that occur in the Muslim world, and they do, whenever the Muslim male animal instincts kick in. But there is hope. It has been a slow process, but I still believe that some day the Muslim male Neanderthal will grow a human brain, then, evolve into a decent human being, to a point that they'll treat women as equal in justice.

Name: Archpagan
Date: Thursday May 07, 2009
Time: 12:27:20 -0400


If a wife can be legally divorced simply by uttering talaq, talaq, talaq, I think one attains the rights to rape any woman by uttering nikah, nikah, nikah. Any comments Jonab?

Date: Thursday May 07, 2009
Time: 23:41:42 -0400


fine post... what you say about islam and women applies equally to judaism..all those are cultural and tempoaral overtones, it is also found different cultures(chinese etc..) but when a religion claims such gendre differences, than the problem becomes very serious, because now ,the ignorant religious people are stuck in a time warp,if it of non religious source ,than change becomes possible and further evolution is made towards more humane society. so the crux of the problem, is all relgions, where moronic assumptions are made that this is the will of god. all religions are profound nonesense !!!

Name: to Archpagan
Date: Friday May 08, 2009
Time: 11:41:00 -0400


Nikah literally in Arabic means penetration of penis in vagina.Hence a Muslim can say to a woman:I fuck you,I fuck you ,Ifuck you three times and it makes legitimate for him to fuck a woman and likewise get his wife,mother ,sister or daughter fucked.How moral our Muslim friends?

Name: jenn
Date: Friday May 08, 2009
Time: 23:42:34 -0400


Mohammad one day exposed himself to allah's wife and allah kicked his ass

Name: To Jenn
Date: Saturday May 09, 2009
Time: 05:09:59 -0400


Jenn, we know you have strong feelings but your silly comments are so immature. Any chance of avoiding some of the childish comments?

Name: balam to Jenn
Date: Sunday May 10, 2009
Time: 09:28:12 -0400


I realise how greviously and deeply, you have been hurt and stung by the snakes of Islam.You are not the only one.The deceptive Muslims have destroyed the innocent lives of so many Non-Muslim women because they take pride in humillating the others especially the Chrisian women.It shows how much they hate the Christians.Islam is the ditch,deceit and death but certainly not THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.Please let me know if I can do any thing for you. May God bless you and give you peace and keep allah away from you for ever.Allah is the most evil demonic spirit. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom On the contrary, the fear of allah is the beginning of Ignorance.

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