Women under Islam

As the UN’s Gender Inequality Index (see previous post) indicates, most of the worst gender gaps occur in Islamic countries. A new report on gender-based violence written by the US Hudson Institute for the World Watch List describes how a profound lack of equality between men and women in Muslim countries means that all women in these societies are structurally vulnerable to systematic violence and discrimination in their daily lives.[i]

 Adultery and Other Moral Issuesburqa

  • Iranian law reads: “The stoning of an adulterer, or adulteress will be carried on while each is placed in a hole and covered with soil—he up to his waist, and she up to the line above her breast.” Under Islamic law, if you can escape and run away you are allowed to go free. Obviously no woman can escape if she is buried almost to her neck!
  • Under Libya’s Qaddafi, girls and women who survived sexual assaults or were suspected of moral crimes were dumped into “social rehabilitation centers.” These were effectively prisons from which they could not leave unless a man agreed to marry them or their families took them back.
  • The law in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provides little redress for rape victims. Over 50 percent of women residents in the UAE who responded to a survey said they would not report a rape to police because it was the victim who was punished or threatened for having premarital sex. The assault itself would not be properly investigated.
  • In Kuwait, both married men and married women who commit adultery are punished by one to two years of imprisonment. However, men face this penalty only when they act with the knowledge that the woman is married, whereas women are punished even if they act without such knowledge.
  • 600 women and girls in Afghanistan were imprisoned for “moral crimes” in 2013, AFGHwomena 50 percent rise over the previous year and a half. These “moral crimes” usually involve flight from unlawful forced and underage marriages below 16 or domestic violence including beatings, stabbings, burnings, rapes, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and threats of “honor killing.” Virtually none of the cases had led even to an investigation of the abuse, let alone prosecution or punishment. “Running away,” or fleeing home without permission, is not a crime under the Afghan criminal code, but the Afghan Supreme Court has instructed its judges to treat women and girls who flee as criminals.[ii]
  • Amnesty International and Somali media reported in 2012 that Islamic militia in Somalia accused a 13-year-old girl of adultery after she told officials three men had raped her. She was stoned to death by dozens of men in a stadium filled with 1,000 people.[iii]

  Custody Rights

  • In Bahrain, where family law is not codified, judges have complete power to deny women custody of their children for the most arbitrary reasons. Bahraini women who have been courageous enough to expose and challenge these violations in 2003 were sued for slander by eleven family court judges.[iv]
  • In Yemen, custody of children is highly biased towards husbands, as men are considered the natural guardians of children, while women are viewed as physical custodians but have no legal rights.


  • Iran’s Civil Code, Article 1133, states, “A man can divorce his wife whenever he so chooses and does not have to give her advance notice.”
  • In Lebanon, a battered woman cannot file for divorce on the basis of abuse without the testimony of an eyewitness. A doctor’s certificate verifying abuse is not enough.[v]

 Heaven & Hell

  • “Whereas out of every thousand men only one will go to hell. Yet, out of every thousand women only one will be found in heaven.”
  • Mohammed said, “I was shown the Hellfire and that the majority of its dwellers are women.”

 The statements above are Hadiths, part of the Traditions rather than the Quran itself, but highly respected as what the Prophet is reputed to have said or done or permitted. In all writings, the delights of Paradise are mostly promised to faithful men. As a result many Muslim women live in fear of death.


  • “To the male a portion equal to that of two females.” This quote from the Quran, Surah 4:11, indicates that a daughter should receive only half the inheritance of her brother. When a woman’s husband dies she receives only a quarter of the legacy. If there are several wives they must divide the quarter portion. In the United Arab Emirates, females can only inherit one-third of assets while men are entitled to two-thirds.

Prayer & Fasting

  • Iranian girls of nine years are expected to wear hijab (Islamic dress), rise for dawn prayers and go without food and drink from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan. Boys are not required to take part in the fast until they are fifteen.


  • Husbands in Egypt and Bahrain can file an official complaint at the airport to forbid their wives from leaving the country for any reason. In Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Oman and Yemen, married women must have their husband’s written permission to travel abroad, and they may be prevented from doing so for any reason. In Saudi Arabia, women must obtain written permission from their closest male relative to leave the country or travel on public transportation between different parts of the kingdom.[vi] Nor are Saudi women permitted driver’s licenses.

 The Veil & Clothing Restrictions

·       The Quran does not require women to be completely veiled or secluded. Each Muslim culture imposes its own dress code for females, ranging from a simple headscarf to an all-enveloping head-to-toe cloak or burqa, like those worn in Afghanistan and Yemen. The most conservative women also wear gloves. Interestingly, little attention is given to modesty for men, although the Prophet Muhammed instructed that they should cover themselves “from navel to knee.”Among North Africa’s Tuareg people it is the male, not female, who veils his face to prevent the enemy from knowing what he’s thinking. Women, say these men, have nothing to hide! Most Muslims disregard the customs of this people group, however, since in Arabic, “tuareg” means “the abandoned of God.”

Women in Saudi Arabia can suffer corporal punishment from religious police if they are not completely covered. Rules for female attire are so stringent that in 2002, religious police stopped schoolgirls from fleeing their burning school building because they weren’t wearing the proper headscarves and robes. One witness said he saw three policemen beating students who tried to leave. 15 girls died in the blaze.[vii]Muslim girl

  • A number of cases have been reported of acid thrown in the faces of unveiled women by extremists in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coptic girls on Egyptian trains and buses have recently been attacked with scissors by hijab-wearing Muslim women who cut off the girls’ hair because they weren’t wearing headscarves. While many Muslim women would defend veiling, others deplore being forced to cover themselves.
  • Article 102 of Iran’s Constitution reads: “Women who appear on streets and in public without the prescribed ‘Islamic Hijab’ will be condemned to 74 strokes of the lash.”

Voting Rights

  • Kuwaiti women were finally granted full voting rights in 2005, for the first time in the country’s history.
  • The United Arab Emirates allowed the first vote for both men and women in 2006.
  • After postponing women’s suffrage in 2009 and again in 2011, King Abdullah announced in 2013 that women in Saudi Arabia would be allowed to vote, and will be allowed to stand as candidates in municipal elections in 2015.
  • Some 10 million Pakistani women are simply unregistered to vote, largely because they have not been granted identity cards.


  • In most Sharia (Islamic) courts of law, a woman’s testimony has only half the worth of a man’s; therefore two women witnesses are required in contrast to just one male. Also, the testimony of a Christian is worth half that of a Muslim.

 Other Rights

  • Kuwaiti women remain prohibited from serving as judges and joining the military, they have unequal marital rights, and they are not allowed to pass their nationality on to their children and foreign-born husbands. They also lack equal rights in laws regulating social security, pensions, and inheritance.

One thought on “Women under Islam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s