Recently a Christian missionary by the name of “Lazarus” published the results of an e‑mail dialogue with a misleading title of “Is Islam Women-Friendly ?”. A plethora of wild imagination and false interpretations form the nuclei material for the above “dialogue”. Most of what was addressed have been dealt with before.
However, what we are concerned with here is the blatant twisting of one particular hadith by the Christian missionary. In an attempt to “show” that there is little difference in treatment of a dog with a woman in Islam, the missionary stated as follows :
Please explain exactly what facts we have twisted by quoting Muhammad’s wife Ayesha [sic] who said :
Narrated ‘Aisha : Do you make us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys ? (Sahih Bukhari 1.486, cf. Sahih Bukhari 1.490, Sahih Bukhari 1.493, Sahih Bukhari 1.498)
—-, I hope that you can see that we are not here to mislead or to deceive but rather because we love the truth and desire for Muslims to find and to know this truth.
It is interesting to note here that the missionary have purposely not reproduced the whole hadith from Bukhari which he had referenced. The following is the actual full citation of the hadith partially quoted by the missionary :
Volume 1, Book 9, Number 490 :
Narrated ‘Aisha :
The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people).” I said, “You have made us [i.e., women] dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away for I disliked to face him.”
Does it require too much intelligence to understand this hadith ? There was a discussion between ‘Aishah, the wife of the Prophet(P), with some Muslims who were not knowledgeable about religious maters on the issue of what would nullify the salat (the Islamic ritual prayer). She told them that she was knowledgeable about such rules. They remarked that when a woman or a dog, or a donkey passed in front of a praying person, the latter’s prayer was nullified. She corrected their wrong understanding with sarcasm (by saying that they are equating woman with dogs) and said that when the Prophet(P) prayed his tahajjud (midnight voluntary prayers) in her room, her bed (where she lay) was right in front of him. Hence, those Muslims were wrong in their understanding of the rules of nullification of salat : a salat is not nullified if a woman is in front of a praying person.
Other ahadith that closely follow in Bukhari further collaborates the matter.
Volume 1, Book 9, Number 491 :
Narrated ‘Aisha :
The Prophet used to pray while I was sleeping across in his bed in front of him. Whenever he wanted to pray Witr, he would wake me up and I would pray Witr.
Volume 1, Book 9, Number 492 :
Narrated ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, “I used to sleep in front of Allah’s Apostle with my legs opposite his Qibla (facing him); and whenever he prostrated, he pushed my feet and I withdrew them and whenever he stood, I stretched them.” ‘Aisha added, “In those days there were no lamps in the houses.”
Volume 1, Book 9, Number 494 :
Narrated ‘Aisha : (the wife of the Prophet) Allah’s Apostle used to get up at night and pray while I used to lie across between him and the Qibla on his family’s bed.
We wonder why this simple issue was so hard for the Christian missionary “Lazarus” to understand. The fact that he had to offer a distorted interpretation of hadith #490 (when this and other ahadith 491 – 7 plainly contradicted him) by equating women with dogs certainly speaks for itself. One has to be intellectually dishonest or have a diminutive lack of comprehension to assert from the hadith #490 that a woman is as impure as a dog and a donkey !
It would be a useful point at this juncture to look at how some Western observers have viewed the status of women in Islam. To quote Henry Bayman :
The people of the Middle East where Islam originated belonged to a male-dominant culture. The period before Islam, referred to as ‘the Age of Ignorance’, was replete with the ill treatment of females. A woman was a vehicle for sexual satisfaction and little else — lacking, in many cases, even the legal protection of a marital arrangement. Little girls were disposed of by burying them alive. Very few women had the means to become prominent and powerful members of society. Women could be gambled on and given away in bets ; they could be inherited like a household object.
Henry Bayman, The Meaning of the Four Books, p. 138 – 9
This dismal situation of women however was later changed when Islam came into the picture.
Against this backdrop, Islam introduced almost every right that women enjoy in the 20th century. The right of women in France to exercise property rights independently of their husbands was granted only at the beginning of the 20th century. In Italy, the right to divorce had to wait until the last third of the 20th century. God’s instruction to the Prophet to accept the allegiance of women (60:12) has been interpreted by Moslems as the right to vote ; in the USA, women could not vote until 1920. Today, at the end of the 20th century, universal suffrage still does not exist in Switzerland. In Germany, a woman could not hold a bank account until 1958, in France until 1965. The true emancipation of women in Europe is the matter of a scant fifty years.
Writing about the contribution of Muhammad(P) in improving the status of women of his age, Stanley Lane-Poole states that :
No great lawmaker has ever made such significant changes as Mohammed did on the subject of women. Rulings concerning women have been outlined in the Koran (Qur’an) in great detail. This is the point at which Mohammed’s greatest reforms have occurred. Although these reforms may appear insignificant to a European, they are actually tremendous. The restriction placed on polygamy, the recommendation of monogamy, the introduction of degrees of prohibition in place of the appalling collectivism and intermixing of Arab marriages, the limitations on divorce, the duty of a husband to take care of his ex-wife for a certain period even after they are divorced, the severe rulings to ensure her livelihood, the introduction of the novelty that women are legal heirs “even if at half the rate of men” so that children may be properly looked after, and the ability of a widow to receive her dead husband’s inheritance?all these constitute a programme of far-reaching reforms.
Cited in Henry Bayman, The Meaning of the Four Books, pp. 142 – 3
Laura Veccia Vaglieri contrasts the situation of women in Europe with the Islamic world and says that :
Even though woman has risen to a high social status in Europe, she has not, at least until recently, attained in many countries the independence and liberty enjoyed by a Moslem woman in the face of the law. In reality, the woman in Islam possesses the right to share in inheritance, even if to an extent less than her brothers ; the right to marry according to her own choice and not to tolerate the ill treatment of a brutish husband ; but further, the rights to receive dowry payment from her husband, to have her needs met by her husband even if she is rich, and to be absolutely independent in the disposal of her inherited property.
ibid., p. 143
Writing in the 19th century, Gaudefroy-Demombynes stated that :
The rulings of the Koran, which are amazingly in favor of woman, provide her, even if theoretically, with a status better than present [19th century] European laws allow. The Islamic woman has the right to a separate fortune in financial matters. She owns her share, her property received through donation or inheritance, and her labor’s dues to the end of her life. Although it is difficult for her to make practical use of these rights, her sustenance, shelter and other requirements are guaranteed in accordance with her standing.
These testimonies of well-known historians and Orientalists reveal that the discoveries of Western research in this field have not yet become common knowledge, and especially to the likes of “Lazarus”. He who likes to pick and choose parts of the hadith or the Qur’an to conform to his views, without looking into the context, can make a totally opposite case of the very intention for which such statements were made. The missionary “Lazarus” tried to do just that but failed miserably in convincing anyone other than equally-demented bigots.
To recap, we quote again the missionary boast :
Please explain exactly what facts we have twisted by quoting Muhammad’s wife Ayesha[sic]…I hope that you can see that we are not here to mislead or to deceive.
Based on the facts we have presented above, we can easily attest that the claim of the missionary “not here to mislead or to deceive” is certainly most doubtful. Now that the missionary has seen for himself the facts that he had twisted, it remains to be seen what his next excuse for this purposeful twist will be to conceal his bigotry and extreme hatred of Islam.
And only God knows best.