Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Abul Kasem, an ex-Muslim who is the author of hundreds of articles and several books on Islam including, Women in Islam. He was a contributor to the book Leaving Islam – Apostates Speak Out as well as to Beyond Jihad: Critical Views From Inside Islam.
FP: Abul Kasem, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Kasem: Thank you Jamie. I am glad to be back.
FP: We’re here today to discuss how women are considered to be domestic animals in Islam and are to be treated as such.
Let’s begin with the origins of this value system in connection to women in Islam.
Muhammad’s last instruction to Muslim men was to beat women and treat them as domestic animals, correct? Can you tell us about this last instruction and its context?
Kasem: Sure Jamie. In AH 10 (Islamic calender), that is, in 632CE Muhammad made his formal pilgrimage to Mecca. This was the only, the first and the last Haj Muhammad had
done. Having taught his followers the rituals of haj, and having performed them himself, in the valley of Arafat, Muhammad addressed them in an impassioned speech. This was his last speech, and accordingly, in the Islamic annals it is recorded as the farewell (Hajjtul wida) speech. Sourcing a long chain of narrators, Tabari, the most eminent Islamic historian writes (the full text):
Ibn Humayd—Salamah—Ibn Ishaq—‘Abdallah b. Abi Najih:
Then the Messenger of God proceeded to perform his pilgrimage, showing the people its rites and teaching them its customs. Then he addressed them in a speech and elucidated [certain things]. After he had praised and glorified God, he said, “O people, listen to my words. I do not know whether I shall ever meet you again in this place after this year. O people, your blood and your property are sacrosanct until you meet your Lord, just as this day and this month of yours are sacred. Surely you will meet your Lord and he will question you about your deeds. I have [already] made this known. ‘Let he who has a pledge return it to the one who entrusted him with it;’ all usury is abolished, but your capital belongs to you. Wrong not and you shall not be wronged.’ God has decreed that there will be no usury, and the usury of ‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib is abolished, all of it. All blood shed in pre-Islamic days is to be left unavanged. The first such claim I revoke is that of Ibn Rabi’ah b. al-Harith b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib, who was nursed among the Banu Layth and was slain by the Banu Hudhayl. His is the first blood shed in the pre-Islamic days with which I shall set an example. O people, indeed Satan despairs of ever being worshipped in this land of yours. He will be pleased, however, if he is obeyed in a thing other than that, in matters you minimize. So beware of him in your religion. O the unbelievers, O people, ‘Intercalating a month is an increase of unbelief whereby the unbelievers go astray; one year they make it profane, and hallow it another, [in order] to agree with the number that God has hallowed, and so profane what God has hallowed, and hallow what God has made profane.’ Time has completed its cycle [and is] as it was when the day that God created the heaven and the earth. ‘The number of the months with God is twelve: [they were] in the Book of God on the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred, the three consecutive [months] and the Rajab, [which is called the month of] Mudar, which is between Jumada (II) and Sha’ban.”
“Now then, O people, you have a right over your wives and they have a right over you. You have [the right] that they should not cause anyone of whom you dislike to tread your beds, and that they should not commit any open indecency (fahishah). If they do, then God permits you to shut them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not severely. If they abstain from [evil], they have the right to their food and clothing in accordance with custom (bi’l-maruf). Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals (‘awan) with you and do not possess anything for themselves. You have taken them only as a trust from God, and you have made the enjoyment of their persons lawful by the word of God, so understand and listen to my words, O people. I have conveyed the Message, and have left you with something which, if you hold fast to it, you will never go astray: that is, the Book of God and the sunnah of His Prophet. Listen to my words, O people, for I have conveyed the message and understand [it]. Know for certain that every Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, and that all Muslims are brethren. It is not lawful for a person [to take] from his brother except that which he has given him willingly, so do not wrong yourselves. O God, have I not conveyed the message?” It was reported [to me] that the people said, “O God, yes.” And the Messenger of God said, “O God, bear witness.”
Al-Tabari, Abu Ja’far Muhammad b. Jarir. The History of al-Tabari. Vol.IX: The Last Years of the Prophet. Translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawala. State University of NewYork Press, Albany, 1990. (Pages 112-114. Bold emphasis is mine)
FP: Well I don’t really see how there can be any confusion over interpretation here, it appears pretty clear.
Kasem: Well yes, in the few words above, the most hallowed speech by Muhammad, he had clearly described women as domestic animals, and instructed their husbands to beat them if they suspect that their wives’ behavior are not to their satisfaction. Please note that those were Muhammad’s last decrees to Muslim husbands. Every Muslim husband is duty bound by those instructions of Muhammad.
FP: What have Muslim scholars said about these words?
Kasem: Let’s tale a look at what ibn Ishaq, the most authentic biographer of Muhammad, wrote about Muhammad’s last words on women during his farewell speech:
You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them but not with severity. If they refrain from these things they have the right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control- of their persons. You have taken them only as a trust from God, and you have the enjoyment of their persons by the words of God, so understand (T. and listen to) my words, O men, for I have told you. I have left with you something which if you will hold fast to it you will never fall into error—a plain indication, the book of God and the practice of His prophet, so give good heed to what I say.
Know that every Muslim is a Muslim's brother, and that the Muslims are brethren. It is only lawful to take from a brother what he gives you willingly, so wrong not yourselves. O God, have I not told you?
Reference: Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad b. Yasr, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated in English by A. Guillaume. First published by Oxford University Press, London in 1955. Fifteenth reprint by Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 2001. (p.651. Bold emphasis is mine.)
FP: So what are we to gather from all of this?
Kasem: What we are to gather is that there is not much difference between Tabari’s version and Ibn Ishaq’s. In Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad considered women to be prisoners in the hands of men, quite similar to domestic animals who are prisoners in the hands of their owners.
Those words of Muhammad should not surprise us. In a few ahadith we note that Muhammad likened women to dogs, camels, asses…and so on, all domestic animals.
FP: Some examples?
Kasem: Here are a few sample ahadith:
Aisha complained that Muhammad’s followers made women like dogs and asses…Sahih Muslim, 4.1039
If there is a bad luck in anything then it is horse, the abode and the woman… Sahih Muslim, 26.5528, 5529
A prayer is annulled by a passing woman, a dog and a monkey...Sahih Bukhari, 1.9.490, 493,498
Women, houses and horses are evil omens...Sahih Bukhari, 7.62.30, 31, 32
An ass, a woman and a black dog annuls a prayer…Sunaan Nasai, 1.753
A menstruating woman and a dog cuts off a prayer...Sunaan Abu Dawud, 2.0703
Either a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian and a woman cuts off a prayer...Sunaan Abu Dawud, 2.0704
Women, slaves and camels are the same; must seek Allah's refuge from all these...Sunaan Abu Dawud, 11.2155
A house, a horse and a woman is an evil omen; a mat in a house is better than a barren woman…Sunaan Abu Dawud, 3.29.3911
A black dog is satan; a black dog or a donkey or a woman cancels a prayer…Sunaan ibn Majah, 2.952
Beat your wives if they commit sinful acts; women are captives of their husbands…Sunaan ibn Majah, 3.1851
A woman is a property; a righteous woman is the best property…Sunaan ibn Majah, 3.1855 (Please note: a pregnant camel during Muhammad’s time was the best property)
Seek refuge from a woman, a servant and cattle—they are evils…Sunaan ibn Majah , 3.1918
Muhammad’s final sermon—beat women…Sunaan ibn Majah , 4.3074
Women are your prisoners, treat them well, if necessary beat them but not severely…Tirmidhi, 104
FP: I think it becomes clear what the roots are to the violent oppression of women in Islam. We welcome readers to watch our film on this depressing phenomenon.
Abul Kasem, thank you for joining us today and for revealing to us some of the historical roots to Islamic gender apartheid.
Kasem: Thank you Jamie.