Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Are Women and Men treated the same in Islam? Part I

Women will be treated differently in heaven (will have to to watch their men having perpetual erections while enjoying multiple virgins), while they have to stick to her husband

Many Muslim apologists are really not interested in seriously considering what the Holy Bible teaches about the issue of gender equality, but simply take out passages, without considering the immediate and greater contexts. This may score cheap debate points with Muslims readers who, for the most part, may never even pick up the Holy Bible to examine what it actually teaches about this subject. Many Muslim readers will never read the Holy Bible, and they may not even have access to one, to determine for themselves whether the Muslim authors have quoted the passages accurately, whether enough contexts has been presented to determine if the conclusions these polemicists have arrived at are actually correct.

In light of this observation, we will provide an in depth analysis on what Islam teaches regarding gender equality. We will see what Islam says about men and women and their relationship. Do they teach that men and women are genuinely equal in essence and dignity, although different in design and function, or is there oppressive discrimination between the sexes? Are women honored and dignified or degraded and discriminated against? It will be our specific purpose in these series of writings to answer these crucial questions.

We start off our examination by looking at the Islamic view of women and begin by addressing some of the passages often used by Apologists to try to convince people that the authentic teachings of Islam dignify and honor women.

For instance, the following two verses deal with the rewards of believers and are often used by Muslims to demonstrate gender equity:

And their Lord answers them: ‘I waste not the labour of any that labours among you, be you male or female -- the one of you is as the other….. S. 3:195 Arberry

And whoso doeth good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone. S. 4:124 Pickthall; cf. 16:97

Muslims often appeal to these texts to show that Allah treats men and women fairly since he equally rewards them both for their righteous deeds. The problem with the above claim is that women do not receive the same kinds of rewards which men do, nor are they treated as equal partners when it comes to other matters such as inheritance, intelligence, witness etc.

The above verses promise male and female believers that they will both be admitted into the garden, but that is where it ends. What will they get once they are inside the garden? For instance, men will be wedded to young virgin women with swelling breasts:

Surely those who guard (against evil) are in a secure place, In gardens and springs; They shall wear of fine and thick silk, (sitting) face to face; Thus (shall it be), and We will wed them with Houris pure, beautiful ones. S. 44:51-57 Shakir

Therein are maids of modest glances whom no man nor ginn has deflowered before. Then which of your Lord's bounties will ye twain deny? As though they were rubies and pearls. S. 55:56-58 Palmer

In them maidens best and fairest!… Bright and large-eyed maids kept in their tents… Whom no man nor ginn has deflowered before them. S. 55:70, 72, 74 Palmer

Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age, and a cup overflowing. Therein they shall hear no idle talk, no cry of lies, for a recompense from thy Lord, a gift, a reckoning, S. 78:31-36 Arberry

These verses specifically address the men. The problem is that there are no matching verses for the women. Unless one wants to assume that even women will be wedded to these maidens (i.e. Allah promises women lesbian relations in paradise), women obviously do not receive equal or the same rewards as the men do.

There are a couple of references that mention young, fresh boys who serve believers in heaven in Paradise:

Round about them will serve, (devoted) to them, Youths (handsome) as Pearls well-guarded. S. 52:24 Y. Ali
There wait on them immortal youths With bowls and ewers and a cup from a pure spring. S. 56:17-18 Pickthall
There wait on them immortal youths, whom, when thou seest, thou wouldst take for scattered pearls. S. 76:19 Pickthall

A Muslim may want to posit the view that believing women will be wedded to immortal boys much like the men will be wedded to firm breasted maidens. There are a couple of problems with this. First, the text does not say they are there for the women. Although their beauty is mentioned, it does not use clearly sexual or erotic words (wed, deflower, firm breasted, etc.) as in the earlier verses regarding the houris for men. The classical Muslim commentators never understood these youths to be intended as sexual partners for women, so this claim would be contrary to the established meaning. In fact, it appears that these youths are for the men as well. Second, it is clearly established principle in Islam that men may enjoy sexual relationships with multiple females (wives and concubines) but women can never have more than one husband. See for instance Surah 4:3. There is no indication that this will be different in paradise.

The fact is that Allah is not just to women when it comes to eternal rewards. He does discriminate between the sexes, allowing men to continue their degradation and abuse of women in heaven by wedding them to specially created maidens so as to have perpetual sex. As New York Times Columnist Judith Miller stated in relation to the assassination of Egyptian writer Farag Foda:

"… Abdel Hamid Kishk, a blind sheikh who constantly attacked both the government and its official religious establishment. Kishk had been telling his audience that Muslims who entered paradise would enjoy ETERNAL ERECTIONS and the company of young boys draped in earrings and necklaces. Some of the ulema, the religious scholars at al-Azhar, the government's seat of Islamic learning had disagreed. Yes, they said, men in paradise would have erections, BUT MERELY PROTRACTED, NOT PERPETUAL. Other experts disputed the possibility of pederasty in paradise. ‘Is this what concerns Muslims at the end of the 20th century?’ Foda asked in a column in October magazine. ‘The world around us is busy with the conquest of space, genetic engineering and the wonders of the computer,’ while Muslim scholars, he wrote ‘in sadness and pain,’ were worried about sex in paradise. In a column published just before he was killed, Foda reported that the Tunisian government had videotaped militant Islamic leaders on their prayer rugs, unwilling to await paradise, making love to beautiful women here on earth. Meanwhile, Egyptian militants in Assyut were ordering believers not to eat eggplants and squash because of their resemblance to sexual organs. ‘The Group of Darkness are obsessed with sex,’ he wrote." (Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names [A Touchstone Book, published by Simon & Schuster, 1997], pp. 26-27)


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