Islam, Jihad and Sakina

الإسلام والجهاد وسكينة

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  1. Introduction
  2. Jahiliyah: Arabia before Islam
  3. Allah's Daughters and the Satanic Verses
  4. Genocide at Medina and Sakina
  5. Cutting out the Tongues
  6. The Prophet's Nine Women
  7. Martyrdom, Jihad and Black-Eyed Virgins
  8. Monotheistic Monolith
  9. Stoning and Burning Female Flowers
  10. Law of Desire
  11. The Veil of the Shadow of Death
  12. The Sunna Mutilation
  13. Enslaving the Concubine
  14. Defenders of Islam
  15. The Sufi Martyr
Flags of many Muslim countries bear the ancient astral symbolism
that preceded Islam, from Nabatea Astral moon Goddess with zodiac (R245)
and Sabean lunar astral symbols (Pritchard R555, Doe R170) see also (Zehren R776).
See also:

Related Articles

  1. Sakina Ka'aba
  2. A Fatwa on Purdah: Unveiling Niqab, Burqa, Chador and Hijab - A Scientific, scriptural and legal unravelling of the Muslim requirement for veiling and sequestering, for violent punishments for adultery, and women being allowed to see only through one eye, for fear that two female eyes will be so attractive they will turn men into beasts.

    This article is a fatwa to unveil the veil and liberate the world from violent and lethal punishments for adultery. It is designed to be explanatory, for Muslims, and non-Muslims alike, on the status of the veil, and its more oppressive forms.
  3. Current Research Updates
  4. The Fatwa and the Shulamite Includes many previous references on issues of treatment of women in Islamic cultures.
  5. The Trouble with al-Llah The perils of unswerving belief in one God.
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STOP PRESS: A compassionate warning to women. Do not join IS! Do not marry them! IS not only beheads innocent people and commits genocide against whole communities, enslaving the women and girls, it treats its own women abysmally and violently, using them as fodder to sexually satisfy fighting men and as mere baby machines for the cause.

  1. How Khadija went from a school teacher to an ISIS member and then Escaped
  2. Video Interview with Khadija YouTube
  3. A Woman's Life in Raqqa YouTube
  4. Why are Western women joining Islamic State?
  5. Islamic State seeks to justify enslaving Yazidi women and girls in Iraq in what it praised as the revival of an ancient custom of using women and children as spoils of war. Yazidi women tell of horrific abuse gang-raped in public by fighters and tortured by their captors, according to distressing accounts of their ordeals. A girl of nine abducted by IS was raped by ten men and arrived pregnant. She risks dying if she tries to deliver the baby and even a Caesarian would be very dangerous. Workers say returning sexually violated Yazidi women and girls is intentional on the part of IS to inflict humiliation and shame on the Yazidi people.
  6. Broken Dreams how a Syrian woman doctor had to flee IS when the Khansaa Brigade for female jihadists was formed.


In the early 19th century holy wars of Islamization in Nigeria relegated the political power of Hausa women, who had been able to hold political positions, become rulers and own land to that of minors who must remain in the home. Female power was pushed underground where it remains as a spiritual guerilla movement. The Hausa creation myth tells the story:

A few hundred years ago Allah made the universe from his own dung, and later made humans and animals from the earth's dirt. The first people were Adam and Eve, who were told by Allah to produce many children to present to him. As their offspring increased, Eve suggested to Adam that Allah might destroy all of their children when they were presented. She decided to hide one half of the children. When Allah called for their presentation, he said: 'You have hidden one half of your children. I did not tell you to do this, but since you have hidden them they shall remain so forever'

Eve's children, banished by Allah to invisibility, play an important part in Hausa life. As the 'Bori spirits' they are central to the Bori cult, controlled mainly by women. Bori spirits have clandestine power for they: 'inflict illness on hidden or unknown evil doers; they are the fountains of fortune and misfortune, wealth and poverty, happiness and sorrow.' Through Bori and spirit possession, women wield lost power. Because the spirits are beings of great force and must be treated with submissiveness and subservience, possessed women can defy not only the domestic authority of their husbands but also that of political authorities. By this means indigenous female power was consolidated and maintained during the years of Islamization. Today it remains a conduit of female liberation (Sanday R609 35).

Jahiliyah: Arabia before Islam

The ancient Arabian high God al-Llah, like El, simply means 'God'. Muhammad first bowed to Jerusalem and only later turned the centre of 'God's energy' from the Jewish spiritual capital to Mecca. The Qur'an is strewn with unique detail of Jewish history from targum, midrash and folklore. al-Llah can be no other than Yahweh and El before him, the ancient father God of paternity as we see acknowledged ibn the Qur'an:

"Say: We believe in Allah and [in] that which had been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Musa and Isa, and [in] that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit" (2.136).

"We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and what was given to Musa and Isa and to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit" (3.84).

O children of Israel! call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you; and of Me, Me alone, should you be afraid (2.40 ).

However the deep association with astral worship is still represented by the star and crescent of Islam, the astral symbols prefigured in the perennial ubiquitous symbolic relationship between the crescent moon of Nannar or Sin the moon god and Venus the evening star of Inanna, Ishtar and al-Uzza, who is also a moon goddess, spanning much of Mesopotamian and Arabic culture and history. The source of these traditions originates in two 'high' cultures, one in Southern Arabia, and the other in what is now Jordan.

The South Arabian culture of the Sabeans runs back far in history to before the time of Solomon and his visit by the Queen of Saba [Hebrew Sheba]. South Arabian cultures had a pantheon of astral deities of which the moon god and sun goddess are prominent. The national god of each of the states was the moon god: 'Ilumquh of the Sabaeans, 'Amm by the Qatabanians, Wadd by the Minaeans, and Sin by the Hadramis. The term 'God is Love' is characteristic of Wadd (Briffault R76 v3 85). 'the Merciful' ascribed to Allah is also South Arabian (Pritchard R555). The sun-goddess was the moon's consort; she was perhaps best known in South Arabia as Dhat Hamym, 'she who sends forth strong rays of benevolence'. In the centuries preceding Muhammad there was a gradual breakdown of Sabian culture, partly as a result of the fracture of the Marib Dam and a return to nomadic life and partly through a series of genocidal wars between evangelical Jews and Christians in the peninsula. In 522, King Dhu Nawas Yusaf "Lord of Curls", the last elected Himyar king, descendent of a Jewish hero, made war on the Christians who had a stronghold at Naryan, an ancient pagan pilgrimage spot. He offered the citizens the choice of Jewry or death. When they refused he burned them all in a great trench. Afterwards Naryan was named "the trench". In response, the Ethiopians overcame them and Abraha made Sabian San'a a Christian pilgrimage point which rivalled Mecca. An expeditionary force of Christians was at one time dispatched to try to destroy the Ka'aba. In turn Persia invaded and for a short time the country became a Persian satrapy. This confused situation in the period of jahiliyah laid the seeds for the emergence of Islam.

Nabatea a prominent Arab culture, speaking Arabic written in Aramaic script, sprang up from southern Sinai around 600 BC and from around 400 BC in the land of the Edomites in Jordan. They had a close relationship with the Edomites. Each claim a female line of descent from Ishmael (Browning R92 32). The Nabateans originally were tent-dwelling shepherds renowned for eschewing houses, planted crops, or wine (Negev R500 101), a sentiment shared by Muhammad, who looked with contempt upon the Kuryshites and Ansari "for they employ themselves with sowing seeds" ... "The divine glory is among the shepherds, vanity and impudence among the agricultural peoples" (Briffault R76 v3 111). Agricultural settlement brought changes and the Greek period resulted in a hybrid culture.

Nabatean inscriptions in Sinai and other places display widespread references to names including Allah, El (god) and Allat (goddess), with regional references to al-Uzza, Ba'al and Manat (Negev R500 11). Allat is also found in Sinai in South Arabian language. Allah occurs particularly as Garm- 'allahi - 'god decided' and Aush-allahi - 'gods covenant'. We find both Shalm-lahi 'Allah is peace' and Shalm-allat, 'the peace of the goddess'. We also find Amat-allahi 'she-servant of god' and Halaf-llahi 'the successor of Allah'. Allah is thus an ancient deity who preceded Muhammad and Islam. The Nabateans had two principal gods in their pantheon, and a whole range of djinns, personal gods and spirits similar to angels. These two deities were Dhu Shara, or Duchares and al-Uzza. It is said that when Allat (which simply means goddess as al-Llah means god) became the goddess of the Nabateans, she became al-Uzza the 'mighty one' as she evolved from a local deity of small rural shrines into a patron of an expanding culture (Browning R92 47). Al-Uzza is also referred to in connection with the Bedouins at Harran (Green R264 59,157). Segal (R632 145) mentions a Christian claim that a bedouin chief seized 400 virgins and sacrificed them to the goddess during a time of retaliatory wars. Duchares means Lord of Shera (Seir Genesis 33:14), a local mountain and thunder god who was worshipped at a rock high place as a block of stone. Dhu Shara is described on a dam inscription as 'Dushara the god of Gaia' (R500 107). He was celebrated as a god of immortality celebrated by a Dionysian tragic mask of death, in which its wearer became united with him, thus escaping the limitations of the mortal span (Glueck R245 242). In the Greek period al-Uzza became identified with Atargatis-Aphrodite and Dhu Shara with Dionysus. Rich food in plenty and strong wine without stint helped bring the deities and their worshippers into fervid relationship (Glueck R245 166). Herodotus says of the Arabs: "They deem no other to be gods save Dionysus and Heavenly Aphrodite ... they call Dionysus Orotalt and Aphrodite Alilat" (Negev R500 101).

In Mecca, Allah was originally paired with his 'daughters' - the banat al-Lah. Briffault notes: "This Arabian goddess was triune, being also known as the three Holy Virgins". The Manat consisted of al-Lat "the goddess", Q're (possibly Kore) the Virgin, and al-Uzza the 'powerful one'. Al-Uzza was the moon. Manat was bringer of good and bad luck, just as the fates, and the Arabic term mana. He claims al Uzza was also worshipped at Mecca:

"Al-Kindy says that Al-Uzza was the moon, her chief shrine being the Ka'aba at Mecca, where she was worshipped in the form of a sacred stone, ... the very stone which the pilgrims to this day visit Mecca to kiss. In doing so the pilgrims recite Caliph Omar's warning declaration: 'I know well that you are a stone that can neither do good nor evil, and unless I had seen the prophet, on whom be prayer and the blessings of god kiss you, I would not kiss you'."( R76 v3)

Occhigrosso (R511) affirms the astronomical basis of the black stone:

Before Muhammad appeared, the Ka'aba was surrounded by 360 idols, and every Arab house had its god. Arabs also believed in djinn (subtle beings), and some vague divinity with many offspring. Among the major deities of the pre-Islamic era were al-Lat ("the goddess"), worshiped in the shape of a square stone; al-Uzzah ("the mighty"), a goddess identified with the morning star and worshiped as a thigh-bone-shaped slab of granite between al Taif and Mecca; Manat, the goddess of destiny, worshiped as a black stone on the road between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was connected with the Black Stone of the Ka'aba'. The stones were said to have fallen from the sun, moon, stars, and planets and to represent cosmic forces. The so-called Black Stone (actually the color of burnt umber) that Muslims revere today is the same one that their forebears had worshiped well before Muhammad and that they believed had come from the moon.

The hajj was originally an Autumn rite apparently persecuting the dying sun to bring on the winter rains. Pilgrims would rush in a body to the hollow of Muzdalifa, the abode of the Thunder God, make an all-night vigil on the plain by Mt. Arafat, hurl pebbles at the three sacred pillars of Mina and offer an animal sacrifice" (Armstrong R21 62). Hurling the pebbles at the pillar of the Shaitan is still one of the most dangerous phases of the hajj. In 2004 at the time of writing, 244 people died in a stampede. A tradition of sexual freedom on the hajj predates Islam in more anceint fertility rites. Briffault (R76 v3 221) states:

At the immemorial shrine of al-Uzza at Mecca, it is a practice for women to offer themselves to the holy pilgrims. With Shi'ites it is the custom to form temporary unions during the period of the holy pilgrimage. It is stipulated at a fixed date all relations must cease, and the parties of such unions do not give signs of recognition if they subsequently meet. Any children of such unions are regarded as a blessing in the family and are looked upon as divine children or saints.

All forms of violence were forbidden in Mecca for four months during the hajj. The Ka'aba was holy ground and a measure of the holiness was its religious tolerance. All the faithful could assemble to honour a time-immemorial tradition. Worshippers of al-Llah, al-Lat and even the Christian Arabs could all come together there.

Al-Lat had a shrine at Taif, which was in a cooler and more fertile part of the Hijaz, and al-Uzza had one Naklah to the south east of Mecca and that Manat, the fateful one had her shrine at Qudayd on the Red Sea coast (Armstrong R21). Just as Mecca had the Ka'aba, so these places were also centres of pilgrimage, as described in detail by al-Kalbi (Faris R199).

"The banat al-Llah [daughters of Allah] may well simply have been 'divine beings'. They were represented in their shrines not by a personalized statue or portrait but by large standing stones, rather like the fertility symbols used by the Canaanites which are so often described in the Bible. When the Arabs venerated these stones they were not worshipping them in any crude, simplistic way but were seeing them as a focus of divinity. It has also been suggested that these three goddesses were related to the Semitic fertility goddesses Anat and Ishtar, so their cultus may have begun before the Arabs adopted the nomadic life, while they were still farmers and living on the land. The Arabs may not have worshipped al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat in a personalized way, but ... they felt very passionate about the shrines of the banat al-Lah" (Armstrong R21).

Allah's Daughters and the Satanic Verses

al-Llah's daughters, the banat al-Lah were overthrown by Muhammad, along with other pagan deities. Tabari quotes an early tradition 70 years after the prophet's death. ...

"As long as he preached the cult of al-Llah, with its concern for the poor and needy, everybody in Mecca had been ready to accommodate this reformed cult of the old High God. But once he affirmed that the worship of al-Llah must preclude the worship of all the other ancestral gods, the Quraysh 'rebutted him with vehemence, not approving what he said, and aroused against him those who had followed him, except those whom God kept safe and they were few in number'. Overnight, Islam became a despised minority sect." (R21)

The historians Ibn Sa'd and al Tabari describe the origin of the 'Satanic Verses'. The prophet is approached by the Quraysh and persuaded to utter the verses in return for promise of admission to Mecca's inner circles. He tries to find a place for the goddesses without compromising his monotheism. "When the apostle saw that his people had turned their backs on him and he was pained by their estrangement from what he brought them from God, he longed that there should come to him from God a message that would reconcile his people to him. One day, Tabari says, while he was meditating in the Ka'aba, the answer seemed to come in a revelation that gave a place to the three 'goddesses' without compromising his monotheistic vision (Armstrong R21 113).

"Have you then considered the Lat and the Uzza, And Manat, the third, the last?
these are the exalted birds [gharaniq] whose intercession is approved"

Muhammad meets Gabriel on his night journey (Mi'raj-nameh Turkey 15th c redrawn from Cook)

According to this version of the story, the Quraysh were delighted with the new revelation, which in al-Kalbi's words was the traditional invocation made by the Quraysh to the goddesses as they circumambulated the Ka'aba (Faris R199 17). The gharaniq were probably Numidian cranes which were thought to fly higher than any other bird. Muhammad, may have believed in the existence of the banat - al-Llah as he believed in the existence of angels and djinn, was giving the 'goddesses' a delicate compliment, without compromising his message. ... The Quraysh spread the good news throughout the city: 'Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid fashion. He alleged in what he recited that they are the exalted gharaniq whose intercession is approved' (Armstrong R22 112).

It is said that Muhammad later removed these verses because he was later told by the angel Gabriel they were "Satan inspired". The rejection of the Manat led to the historic conflict with the Qura'sh which resulted in the flight to Medina.

"Have you then considered the Lat and the Uzza, And Manat, the third, the last?
What! for you the males and for Him the females! This indeed is an unjust division!
They are naught but names which you have named, you and your fathers;
Allah has not sent for them any authority.
They follow naught but conjecture and their low desire." (53.19).

This comes straight after the Prophet's report of his night journey on the axis Mundi, possibly under the inspiration of isfand. Rudgley (R597 52) suggests the Prophet had a vision on the sacred plant which led him to perceive the idols as mere wood and stone .

He disclaims female angels despite the houris the black-eyed virgins of paradise:

"And how many an angel is there in the heavens
whose intercession does not avail at all
except after Allah has given permission to whom
He pleases and chooses.
Most surely they who do not believe in the hereafter
name the angels with female names" (53.26).

A hint of the reversal of the satanic verses can be gleaned in the following denial:

"We sent not ever any Messenger
or Prophet before thee, but that Satan
cast into his fancy, when he was fancying:
but God annuls what Satan casts, then
God confirms his signs."

Left: Veil Saudi-style. Center: Pilgrims passing the 'black stone' in the Ka'aba, a remnant of pre-Islamic worship. Right: Women touching the black stone. The Haj predates Islam as a pagan pilgrimage. (Time, BBC, Stewart).

The guardians of the Ka'aba are still called the Beni Shaybah, or sons of the old woman (Briffault R76 v3 80). Popular tradition relates how Abraham, when he founded the Ka'aba brought the ground from an old woman to which it belonged. She however consented to part with it only on the condition that she and her descendents should have the key of the place in their keeping" (Briffault R76). The Hajira or 'sudden departure', although applied to Muhammad's sudden exit, bears the name of Hajira (Hagar), who discovered the spring of Zam Zam flowing by Ishmael's foot searching for water for him after the 'sudden departure' of Ibrahim (Shad R634 48), again a symbol of the sacred feminine.

Muhammad then mounted a singular rejection of the daughters of al-Lah. Muhammad was offered a pact of mutual religious toleration between Allah and Allat which was entirely in keeping with the holy place it was: "the Muslims could go on worshipping al-Llah in their religion, and the others could go on worshipping al-Lat al-Uzza and Manat. In response Muhammad recited the Sura of Rejection:

"Say O unbelievers, I serve not what you serve and you are not serving what I serve,
Nor am I serving what you have served. To you your religion and to me my religion!" (109 )

The attitude of the critics is frankly portrayed in the Quran:

"And the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said: 'He is nothing but a mortal like yourselves who desires that he may have superiority over you, and if Allah had pleased, He could certainly have sent down angels. We have not heard of this among our fathers of yore: He is naught but a man bedevilled'." (23.24)

Circumstances deteriorated. A ban was imposed which led to much hardship. Khadja, the merchant woman who adopted Muhammad as consort, to whom he was devoted, died. Muhammad was asked a difficult question by Abu Lahab: "Would Muhammad's father have gone to hell because he was a pagan?" (Armstrong R21 136). Muhammad ended up having to retreat to Medina. Of the pilgrims to Mecca from Medina in 622, 73 of the men, but only 3 of the women were followers of the Prophet (Armstrong R21 149).

Depiction of the genocide at Medina
(Traditional illustration from Fitna - The Movie)

Genocide at Medina and Sakina

The subsequent rise of jihad after the Pledge of War at the hajj of 622 resulted in the notorious genocide in the souk of Medina in which 700 Jews were beheaded, only to end without war because Muhammad would, if reluctantly, accept the peace of sakina in the compromise of Hudaybiyah and enter Mecca without war. Thus the beheading of 700 Jews was unnecessary and jihad was not fulfilled. The Jews had not actually betrayed Muhammad's followers to the Quraysh but had merely parleyed, nevertheless there was a fear they could have opened the gates of Medina to the enemy. This has historical precedents in the genocide of Jericho and similar immolations by the Prince of Curls of the Christians in Southern Arabia, but what is signal here is a frank act of genocide by a religious leader and 'final prophet'.

"The Jews are said to have asked Abu Lubabah what Muhammad intended to do and he touched his throat, tacitly telling them that they had been sentenced to death. He was then so overcome by remorse that he bound himself to a pillar of the mosque for fifteen days until Muhammad released him. If he had told the Jews of their fate in this way, it does not seem to have affected their decision, so it has been suggested that he had perhaps indicated that he would honour his old allegiance to Qurayzah. The next day, the Qurayzah agreed to accept Muhammad's judgement and opened their gates to the Muslim army, presumably trusting in the support of their former confederates in the tribe of Aws. Indeed, the Aws begged Muhammad to be merciful; had he not granted the Bani Qaynuqa their lives at the request of Ibn Ubbay, a Khasrajite? Muhammad asked them if they would accept the decision of one of their own leading men and they agreed. During the siege, Sa'd ibn Muadh had received a fatal wound, but he was carried to the territory of Qurayzah on a donkey. His fellow chiefs urged him to spare their former allies, but Sa'd would have realised that this could be the thin end of the wedge that would bring chaos back to Medina. Should an old loyalty take precedence over commitment to the umma? Sa'd judged that all the 700 men should be killed, their wives and children sold into slavery and their property divided among the Muslims. Muhammad cried aloud: 'You have judged according to the very sentence of al-Llah above the seven skies!' The next day Muhammad ordered another trench to be dug, this time in the souk of Medina. Some individuals were spared at the request of the Muslims, but the rest were tied together in groups and beheaded; their bodies were thrown into the trench" (Armstrong R22 206).

"It is probably impossible for us to dissociate this story from Nazi atrocities and it will inevitably alienate many people irrevocably from Muhammad. But Western scholars like Maxime Rodinson and W. Montgomery Watt argue that it is not correct to judge the incident by twentieth-century standards" (Armstrong R22 206).

Only one woman was executed, for throwing a millstone on one of the Muslims during the siege of the tribe. Aisha remembered her vividly:

"She was actually with me and was talking with me and laughing immoderately as the apostle was killing her men in the market when suddenly an unseen voice called her name. 'Good heavens,' I cried, 'what is the matter?' 'I am to be killed,' she replied. 'What for?' I asked. 'Because of something I did,' she answered. She was taken away and beheaded. Aisha used to say, I shall never forget my wonder at her good spirits and her loud laughter when all the time she knew that she would be killed" (Armstrong R22 206).

His first attempt to return to Mecca was met with stiff opposition for which he displayed prophetic forbearance. He agreed to reconciliation, not war at Hudaybiyah. He displays his considerable knowledge of Jewish tradition when he invokes the Sakina or Spirit of Tranquillity - Armstrong says: "The sakina it will also be recalled, seems to be related to the Hebrew Shekhinah, the term for God's presence in the world" (Armstrong R21 224)

"It is He who sent down the sakina into the hearts of the believers,
that they might add faith to their faith." (48.4)

The peace treaty was for 10 years, but 2 years later, when his forces were stronger and the Meccans were living securely and off their guard, he marched into Mecca. Although Muslims claim the treaty was technically broken by skirmishes from allies of the other side, Hudaybiyah symbolizes 'trick or treaty'. In Islam, takiya - means the right to fake peace when you are weak (R546), so as to defeat your enemy when you are stronger.

Muhammad's second return to the Ka'aba was the Lesser Pilgrimage negotiated through the treaty at Hudaybiyah. "The huge crowd of pilgrims in their white garments filed slowly into their holy city, led by Muhammad riding on Qaswa, and the valley resounded with their cry: 'Here I am at your service, 0 God!' When he reached the Ka'aba, Muhammad dismounted and kissed the Black Stone, embracing and stroking it, and then began to make the circumambulations followed by the whole pilgrim body" (Armstrong R21). The eventual compromise was that Mecca would retain the ancient hajira pilgrimage, a centre of its energy, but would embrace Islam. Briffault (R76 v3 78) notes:

"When Muhammad overthrew the old religion of Arabia, he was not strong enough to defy and offend the immemorial sentiment of the Arab people. The divine mission of the prophet was reconciled with the old religion by Islam receiving the sanction of the immemorial deity".

Muhammad and Ali destroy the idols in the Ka'aba

Cutting out the Tongues

On his next return to Mecca, he came in triumph. "He rose, performed the ritual ablutions and offered the prayer. Then he rode round the Ka'aba seven times, touching the Black Stone each time and crying 'al-Llahu Akbar!' The shout was taken up by his 10,000 soldiers and soon the whole city resounded with the words that symbolised the final victory of Islam.

Next Muhammad turned his attention to the 360 idols around the shrine: crowded on to roofs and balconies, the Quraysh watched him smash each idol while he recited the verse: 'the truth has come, and falsehood has vanished'. Inside the Ka'aba the walls had been decorated with pictures of the pagan deities and Muhammad ordered them all to be obliterated, though it is said that he allowed frescoes of Jesus and Mary to remain. Eventually Islam would forbid the use of all imagery in its worship, because it distracts the mind from God by allowing it to dwell on purely human symbols of the divine" (Armstrong R21).

But the black stone remained. Briffault (R76 v3 79) comments:

"When he abolished the idols, of the old religion, Muhammad, whose dominating ideal was to, unite all Arabian tribes into a single political body bound by a common cult, felt it to be undesirable or impracticable to do away with the most sacrosanct object or symbol of the old religion"

In "The Naked Face of Eve", Nawal el Sadaawi (R189) notes the immediate murder of Sarah:

"Sarah was a famous slave singer who aimed her barbed words against the Moslems. She was among those whom Mahomet ordered to be executed on the day of his victorious entry into Mecca. In the region of El Nagir, it was recounted that some women had rejoiced when the Prophet died and Abu Bake, the first of the Caliphs, ordered their hands and feet to be cut off. Thus women who dared to give voice to their protest or opposition could be exposed to cruel punishment. Their hands might be cut off, or their teeth pulled out, or their tongues torn from their mouths. This last form of punishment was usually reserved for those who were singers. It was said of these women that they used to dye their hands with henna, brazenly display the seductions of their beauty, and beat time with their fingers on tambourines and drums in defiance of God, and in derision towards the rights of God and his Prophet. It was therefore necessary to cut off their hands and tear out their tongues".

According to al-Tabari's Alseera Al Nabawiya - The Prophetic biography (Volume 2 p463) Muhammad had already murdered Om Kerfa (Mother of Kerfa), one of the most revered Meccan matriarchs who was torn in half by camels at the age of 90 for writing poetry ridiculing him:

"She is Fatima daughter of Rabia son of Badir son of Amru al Fazari. Mother of Kerfa married a prince of the tribe of Hathifa and bore for him 13 children the first of whom was Kerfa by whom she is surnamed. All her children became leaders of their tribes. She was the dearest of all Arabs, and an example of honor and pride to them.. It was said if two tribes fought and Mother of Kerfa sent her scholl on a spear that was displayed to both parties, then they would reconcile out of respect for her. She used to annoy the prophet with her poetry so in the sixth year of the Hijra (638 AD) he sent Zaid son of Haritha on a military expedition to kill her in the most heinous of ways. For he tied her legs with ropes and tied each of the ropes to a camel so that she was split in two. She was an old woman when this happened and her head was severed as proof to all that she had died. "

Each temple was demolished or burned to the ground, and the priests and priestesses put to the sword. When the banu-Umahmah were slaughtered and the women raped for defending dhu-al-Khalasah which stood half way to San'a, a woman cried (Faris R199 31):

"The banu-Umamah, each wielding his spear,
Were slaughtered at al-Waliyah, their abode;
They came to defend their shrine only to find
Lions with brandished swords clamouring for blood.
The women of Khath'am were then humiliated
by the men of Ahmas and debased".

It is thus said by al-Bukhari that the Prophet himself said:

"This world shall not pass away until the buttocks of the women of Daws
wiggle [again] around the dhu-al-Khalasah and they worship it
as they were want to do [before Islam]"
(Faris R199 32).

Brooks (R81) comments about further atrocity against women:

"Not everyone mourned the passing of Islam's prophet. In the southern Arabian region of Hadramaut, six women decorated their hands with henna, as if for a wedding, and took to the streets beating tambourines in joyful celebration of Muhammad's death. Soon, about twenty others joined the merry gathering. When word of the celebration reached Abu Bake, he sent out the cavalry to deal with 'the whores of Hadramaut.' When his warriors arrived, the men of the settlement came to their women's defense but were defeated. As punishment, the women had their henna-painted, tambourine-playing hands severed at the wrists. Who knows what motivated the women to make their rousing and reckless celebration? To them, at least, it must have seemed that Muhammad's new religion had made their lives more burdensome, less free".

She then notes a sea change for the worse in patriarchal conservatism against women:

"And much worse was coming. Repression of women was about to be legislated into the religion on a large scale by Abu Bakr's successor as caliph, the violent misogynist Omar. That Aisha supported Omar's bid for leadership shows the depth of her loathing for Fatima's husband, Ali. Her opinion of Omar was not high. Knowing his cruelty to the women of his household, she had cleverly helped foil a match between him and her sister. Omar cracked down on women in ways that he must have known flouted Muhammad's traditions. He made stoning the official punishment for adultery and pressed to extend the seclusion of women beyond the prophet's wives. He tried to prevent women from praying in the mosque, and when that failed, he ordered separate prayer leaders for men and women. He also prevented women from making the Hajj, a ban that was lifted only in the last year of his life".

Within the history of Islam, there has been great diversity of tradition from liberal to fundamentalist. In the golden early ages of the cultural flowering of Islam, there was a diversity of outlook from the rationalist Faylsufs (Armstrong R22 199) through the metaphysical Kalam (R22 195) theological discoursers, the mystical Shi'ite genealogies of the Imams, the gnostic archons of al-Farabi (R22 204), the gnostic hidden (batin) inner interpretations of the Ismailis (R22 208. Green R264 141), the blended science and illumination of Suhrawardi in the Hermetic tradition of Idris (R22 268), the 'prophetic spirit' of al-Ghazzali (R22 221) and the visionary inner garment of the Sufi way, the transpersonal epiphanies and Sophia of Ibn al-Arabi (R22 272) to the trasformative knowledge of the Shi'ite Mullah Sadra (R22 301). However this diversity has later become unraveled through return to narrow moral prescriptions in the Qur'an and Sharia in the closing of 'the gates of ijtihad'.

The Prophet's Nine Women

Muhammad took nine wives and a concubine after Khadja, more than the four plus slave concubines he permitted in the Qur'an, as eloquently described in "The Prophet's Women" in "Nine Parts of Desire" (Brooks R81) summarized here by (Occhiogrosso R511 403):

"At age 50, Muhammad married again, this time exercising the Arab option of taking several wives, which he had not done while married to Khadja. In Mecca he wed the widow Sawda and was engaged to Aisha, the 6-year-old daughter of Abu Bake. He later married her in Medina at age 9, although the marriage was not consummated until she reached the age of womanhood in Arabic culture. Next he married Hafsa, the daughter of Umar, a notable Companion, as the circle of Muslims closest to Muhammad came to be called. Muhammad's marriage to Zaynab, the wife of his adopted son Zayd required some thought and several revelations. Zayd assured the Prophet that his marriage to Zaynab was not a happy one, and though Islamic law permitted yet disapproved of divorce as well as marriage to one's son's relations, Zayd and Zaynab were divorced and Muhammad married her. As the Prophet's revelations granted permission for his marriages, the outspoken Aisha remarked (according to oral tradition), "It seems that God is hastening to satisfy your desires"-demonstrating Aisha's remarkable freedom as a woman. Muhammad then married Umm Salama and two Jewish women, Raihana and Safiya, followed by Umm Habiba, a daughter of Abu Sufyan, a famously idolatrous opponent of Islam, and Maimuna, sister-in-law of his uncle and the aunt of Khalid, the great Quraysh military leader. Besides these 9 official wives, Muhammad took as concubine-over the objections of Aisha and his other wives-Mariya, a Coptic Christian slave girl who was a gift from the ruler of Egypt."

Other forthright women offered themselves freely to Muhammad in marriage and some demurred having sexual relations with him, indicating women were assertive in his time:

"this woman had offered herself in marriage to the Prophet himself, and it is said that she was not the only one to do so. This is proof of the magnetism Muhammed must have had for those around him. It is also evidence of a self-confidence on the part of women in Ancient Arabia totally lacking ... among Muslim women of later centuries. There are reports of other women who were married to Muhammed but who, when he came to them in the bridal chamber, said: 'I take refuge from you in God.' At this, so it goes, he had them sent back to their families without delay. This, too, shows Arab women at the time of Muhammed were assertive enough to make no secret of their desires or disinclination" (Walther R725).

Under Wahabi law a couple can even be forcibly separated by in-laws:

Fatima al-Timani is near the end of her sixth month in prison in the Saudi town of Damman. Her only crime is to refuse to be separated from the man to whom she had been happily married for four years and with whom she has two children. Fatima is the latest victim of a growing practice of forced divorce, where relatives have used hardline Islamic courts to dissolve matches against the will of the married couple. The plight of 34-year-old Fatima, who was pregnant when court proceedings began in 2005 and is now in prison with her 1-year-old son, Suleiman, has drawn widespread public sympathy.

To his credit, Muhammad tried to keep to the Quran's instruction that a man must treat his wives equally. His practice was to see each of them, every afternoon, in a brief private meeting, but to dine and spend the night with one at a time, in strict rotation. However he still accepted the patriarchal views of dominant cultures of his day, setting women to be clearly lesser than men - half the value - and subject to defined paternity rights and beatings (NZ Herald 18 Feb 2007).

Martyrdom, Jihad and Black-Eyed Virgins

"Those who are slain in the cause of Allah are not counted among the dead.
They are living in the presence of their Lord and are well provided for." (Qur'an R249)

Islam means 'submission' to God. Jihad means 'struggle' or 'striving'. It can be taken metaphorically or even mystically, but in raw physical terms it means a state of holy war, involving killing, and preparedness to die as a martyr, which is described as a painless trip to heaven to see the face of al-Llah, partly in the belief that Jesus did not die a painful death on the cross, but was 'taken up' by God. Islam is unique for combining martyrdom with intentional violence. The fundamental tennet of Islamic faith Shadadah - 'there is no God (reality) but al-Llah and Muhammad is his prophet' also means sacrifice, or martyrdom (p 282). In Muslim apocalyptic vision, the world is divided between Domain of Islam and the Domain of War - Dar al-Harb - invoking a utopian agenda of violent world conquest.

Apologists for Islam as a supposed religion of peace often quote the following:

Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clear from error (2.256).

But the Koran includes many abrogated verses, called mansukh, and abrogating verses, nasikh; the latter cancel the former, rendering them invalid, though they nevertheless remain in the Koran and are deceptively quoted, for Western consumption, as though they still represent genuine Islamic beliefs. Of the Qur'an's 114 suras, only 43 are without abrogated or abrogating verses.

The Qur'anic verses that preach tolerance and peace and prohibit compulsion in religion, are among the earliest of Muhammad's revelations and are thus liable to abrogation, whenever Allah felt the inclination to revoke his immutable word. Muhammad was thus able to impose upon his followers the implausible belief that the inerrant Muslim God had routinely changed his mind.

The early Qur'an invoked religious tolerance because Islam had not yet acquired the power to compel conversion: The Apostle had not been given permission to fight or allowed to shed blood ... he had simply been ordered to call men to God, endure insult, and forgive the ignorant (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah).

But when Islam became powerful, Islam could now call people by the sword - that is, compel conversion - and accordingly verses of the sword were conveniently revealed to the Prophet, verses that sanction and command conversion of the Infidel by armed violence, which historically would become Islam's preferred method.

Those that make war against Allah and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter (5.33).

The following is particularly addressed at promoting terrorism:

Muster against them [i.e. non-Muslims] all the men and cavalry at your command, so that you may strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them who are unknown to you but known to Allah (8.60 ).

Jihad in the Qur'an is striving, the 'strivers' are mightily rewarded, death is mentioned in the same breath, and those dying in the cause of al-Llah have a special reward in paradise:

"O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them;
and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination" (9.73).

"and Allah shall grant to the strivers above the holders back a mighty reward" (4.95).

"Do you think that you will enter the garden while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard from among you, and (He has not) known the patient. And certainly you desired death before you met it, so indeed you have seen it and you look (at it)" (3.142).

"and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish. He will guide them and improve their condition. And cause them to enter the garden which He has made known to them" (47.4).

Muhammad stated that Jesus (Isa - after Esau is his Arabic name) did not die a death of agony on the cross, but was taken straight up to heaven:

"And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise" (4.157).

Faithful men entering paradise are greeted by houris (Arabic hawra) female angelic 'virgins' who exist to offer pleasure to those who have merited eternal bliss while on earth. Numerous references to the houri in the Qur'an describe them as "purified wives" and "spotless virgins." Each new man arriving in Islamic heaven is given seventy-two houris who fulfill his every want or desire, each of whom he may cohabit once with for each day he has fasted in Ramadan and once for each good work he has performed. The houri, meanwhile, is rewarded in this union by becoming a virgin after each night's enjoyment. The Arabic word 'hawra' contrasts the clear white of the eye to the blackness of the iris.

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. (44.51)

The chastity of the black-eyed is not violated by man nor jinn, and every virtuous man has seventy two wives in heaven:

And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are two gardens. Having in them various kinds. In both of them are two fountains flowing. In both of them are two pairs of every fruit. Reclining on beds, the inner coverings of which are of silk brocade; and the fruits of the two gardens shall be within reach. In them shall be those who restrained their eyes; before them neither man nor jinni shall have touched them. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny? (55.46)

Narrated through al-Khudhri, who heard the Prophet Muhammad (Allah's blessings and peace be upon him) saying, 'The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy two wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.

Clearly this is a polygynous paradise. An Australian Muslim asked: "If men [in Paradise] get the black-eyed, what do the women get?" The answer, provided by the deputy director of Al-Azhar's Center for Islamic Studies, Sheikh Abd Al-Fattah Gam'an, read:

"Most of 'the black-eyed' were first created in Paradise, but some of them are women from this world, and are obedient Muslims who observe the words of Allah: 'We created them especially, and have made them virgins, loving, and equal in age.' ... when the women of this world are old and worn out, Allah creates them [anew] after their old age into virgins who are amiable to their husbands; 'equal in age' means equal to one another in age. At the side of the Muslim in Paradise are his wives from this world, if they are among the dwellers in Paradise, along with 'the black-eyed' of Paradise. If a woman is of the dwellers in Paradise but her husband in this world is not, ... she is given to one of the dwellers in Paradise who is of the same status... Regarding the woman who was married to more than one man in this world, and all her husbands are dwellers in Paradise ... [The Prophet] answered: 'She... chooses the best of them, saying, Oh Allah, this is the best of them that was with me in this world, marry me to him'... Thus it is known that the women of Paradise also have husbands. Every woman has a husband. If her husband in this world is of the dwellers in Paradise [he becomes her husband in Paradise], and if her husband in this world is an infidel, she is given to one of the dwellers in Paradise who is suited to her in status and in the [strength] of his belief"

The several accounts of the Qur'anic creation story (2.28, 7.11,15.26) come right out of Genesis. al-Llah, in the 'Elhoistic plural, "and certainly We created you", makes the angels out of fire and Adam out of dust or black mud. Then al-Llah, now Yawistic "your Lord", as in the Edenic account, breathes "my spirit" into him and tells the angels to make obeisance. But Iblis (Shaitan) would not, saying "I am better than he: Thou hast created me of fire, while him Thou didst create of dust". God thus casts out Satan for hubris. Satan asks for respite in the day of judgement. al-Llah replies mercifully "Surely you are of the respited ones." But Iblis, disappointed, says he will lie in wait for mankind: "I will certainly cause them all to deviate ... Thou shalt not find most of them thankful". Satan is more of a figure of rebellion, and a 'tester' as in the original Jewish concept, rather than a dark force on a par with God. al-Llah then drives him out and curses all 'deviators' who follow him "whoever of them will follow you, I will certainly fill hell with you all ... It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them."

Adam is then told, again in the 'Elhoistic plural not to eat of the tree of the unjust:

"And (We said): O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden; so eat from where you desire, but do not go near this tree, for then you will be of the unjust" (7.19).

But Shaitan deceives them into eating the fruit, causing them to have 'evil inclinations':

"Your Lord has not forbidden you this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals. Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they tasted of the tree, their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden; and their Lord called out to them: Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Shaitan is your open enemy?"

In the Hadiths women are condescendingly doomed to be the 'bent rib' (Walther R725, Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton R562):

"Treat the women well, for woman was created from a rib,
and the most curved part of the rib is the top part. Should you try to bend it straight,
you will destroy it, but if you leave it as it is, it remains curved. So treat the women well!"
The woman is like a rib; if you try to straighten her, she will break.
So if you want to get benefit from her, do so while she still has some crookedness

Adam and Eve appeal to God's mercy and he gives humankind the Earth for a time as mortals until the resurrection:

They said: Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers. He said: Get forth, some of you, the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time. He (also) said: Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised.

Clothing is advocated for beauty and to guard against sexual shame and evil, suggesting this was started by their original clothing having been pulled off by Satan:

O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty and clothing that guards (against evil), that is the best. This is of the communications of Allah that they may be mindful. O children of Adam! let not the Shaitan cause you to fall into affliction as he expelled your parents from the garden, pulling off from them both their clothing that he might show them their evil inclinations, he surely sees you, he as well as his host, from whence you cannot see them; surely We have made the Shaitans to be the guardians of those who do not believe.

Islam incorporates and end of days, coupled with an apocalyptic vision, like Christianity of the Day of Judgement amid signs of lunar eclipse and cosmuc tumult:

He asks: When is the day of resurrection? So when the sight becomes dazed,
And the moon becomes dark, And the sun and the moon are brought together,
Man shall say on that day: Whither to fly to? By no means! there shall be no place of refuge!
With your Lord alone shall on that day be the place of rest (75.6).

Isa is surely a knowledge of the hour of the day of judgement and the followers of the book Christians, Jews and the hanif, or sabians of Harran, are the only exceptions.

"He [Isa] is surely a knowledge of the hour. ...
And when Isa came with clear arguments he said: I have come to you indeed with wisdom,
and that I may make clear to you part of what you differ in" (43:61).

"And there is not one of the followers of the Book but most certainly believes in this before his death, and on the day of resurrection he [Isa] shall be a witness against them" (4.159).

The infidels will be thrown into hell and the believers will rest in the garden of paradise in some versions surrounded by black eyed virgins. This sexually implicit vision is a prime motivator for Islamic martyrdom:

"Surely. as regards My servants, you have no authority ,over them except those who follow you of the deviators. And surely Hell is the promised place of them all: It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them. Surely those who guard (against evil) shall be in the midst of gardens and fountains: Enter them in peace, secure" (15.42).

Islamic art indicates the faith penetrating as a jewel into the celestial sphere. However this comes at the cost of a death-sentence for representing the sacred in any form of image following the Pentateuch edicts against idolatry. Thus the language of edict becomes the new idol worshipped in the place of life itself. Iblis, himself the shaitan, is given a light sentence for his hubris, while Salman Rushdie (R600) and Taslima Nasrin are given death fatwas for making a critique of religious hubris.

Monotheistic Monolith

Islam sets up a triple monolith of religion, law and state expressed in the Qur'an, Sharia and the Islamic state - the 'legacy of the prophet'. This has an explicit danger that all the forces shaping society are combined into one monolithic totalitarian block, contrary to the very principles of freedom, and of true religion, however much it may have been originally designed with the welfare of the people as a society in mind (Armstrong R22 298).

"'Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution,
Jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah its most sublime belief,' ...
How could they participate in a secular legislative system
when all good Muslims knew that the Koran
was the only legitimate constitution and source of divine law?"
(Ninety-nine Names of God)

Karen Armstrong (R22 297) notes this danger became a reality: "In the fifteenth century, the Sunni ulema of the Madrasas, the schools of Islamic studies, decreed that 'the gates of ijtihad (independent reasoning had been closed'. Henceforth Muslims should practice 'emulation' (taqlid) of the great luminaries of the past, especially in the study of the Shariah, the Holy Law" - adding "It was unlikely that there would be innovative ideas about God in this conservative climate, or indeed anything else". Although early Islam had a freer and more tolerant tradition in which reinterpretation of the law, philosophy, science and mysticism flourished a fixed tradition now claimed that legal prescriptions had been determined for all time, casting Islamic law into a permanent medieval mold on the Deuteronomic model. Ibn Taymiyah while intending to provide clarity for the people of Islam, not a "repressive discipline" (R22 298) condemned the dimensions of diversity of Islam from the Falsafah (philosophical) and Kalam (metaphysical discourse on God) and his disciple al-Jawziyah similarly condemned the Sufis (R22 298). Although interpretations of Sharia vary and Shi'ite tradition has been protestant and more progressive, this century has seen fundamentalistic interpretations manifested alike in both traditions.

The Qur'an is not the only source of Muslim law. Soon after the death of Muhammad, it was noticed that the prescriptions in the Qur'an were not sufficient for the shaping of a life which would be pleasing to God. And so his followers began by collecting narratives (hadith) of what Muhammed did, said, or tacitly approved of in certain situations. Another authority was needed, and this was found in the ijma', the 'unanimous consensus', the concurrent opinion of all Muslim scholars alive at the same time in a certain period on a given problem. The fourth and final source of Islamic law is analogies (qiyas). In Sunna the universe is divided into dark and light just as left is to right:

"The aim was to shape one's own life according to Sunna or 'custom' the 'fine example' of the Prophet, in other words. This even included such details as Muhammed's pronouncement that it was better to eat and drink with one's right hand, since the left was used by the Devil" (R725).

In Iran, the supreme leader is appointed for life and overrides all other authorities. He appoints half of the unelected Guardians' Council who then vet parliamentary candidates and laws (p 434). Laws passed by parliament can be circumscribed by the clerics, so democracy is subject to theocracy Despite Khatami's landslide win, he remaned relatively powerless and has since been replaced by a militant conservative partly due to failure of confidence in the reformists to bring about real change (NZ Herald).

Islam also has a tradition of issuing death fatwahs inciting the killing of those it deems have crossed the lines of blasphemy or apostasy or any infringement of whatever moral code a given mullah chooses to interpret as such, including any image, or representation. Islamic law ordains death for apostasy. Like the laws governing adultery this is a reflection of Deuteronomic law (17:2). It is the only religion still issuing such death orders.

"Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve,
then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.
Announce to the hypocrites that they shall have a painful chastisement: ...
surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites and the unbelievers all in hell" (4.137).

Taslima Nasrin was the victim of a death fatwah for suggesting Sharia should be modified:

"I guess what I remember most about my life in hiding was the dark. I stayed in a dark room all the time. I moved ten times in two months, but all the rooms were small and dark. My friends used to lock the door, the window shades were drawn. I had no books, no pens or paper, no radio, no phone only darkness. I wanted to see my family, - my friends refused. I couldn't sleep at night or during the day. I used to hear the chants of the fundamentalists outside on the street 'Kill Tastima! Kill Taslima!' I was terrified. I was sure they would find me and chop me into pieces with their swords and knives. "Did you say that the Koran should be revised?" "No, I said that Shariat law should be revised. I want a modern, civilized law where women are given equal rights. I want no religious law that discriminates, none, period - no Hindu law, Christian law, no Islamic law. Why should a man be entitled to have four wives? Why should a son get two-thirds of his parents' property when a daughter an inherit only a third?"

"What was it about Mymensingh that so caused Taslima to rebel?" "Women are sold here for take, for money!" her father Dr. Ali responded. "Men are encouraged to beat their wives. We had a relative, a pir, a learned Sufi holy man, who issued fatwas to prevent our women from leaving the house, fatwas against his own family for years. He declared me an apostate who would burn in Hell, along with my entire family, including Taslima. She was only nine years old" (New Yorker):

"[The pir] was mad," she said. "An Old Testament religion is what he preached. My mother used to take me to his house. He used to sit in a very comfortable place. His supporters surrounded him, reading their religious books. Women were behind a partition, a screen. There were many young women there; he always liked young girls. He would tell us that we should never get married, that the world would be destroyed and we would go on to a new life - that we would go before God, and he would punish us. Religion was punishment - sanctions."

Stoning and Burning Female Flowers

You see in the book what is written, it says girls are like flowers
exposed in front of the sunshine they will wilt.
It's so beautiful, it's poetry. And it's a bad thing that these bad things
are written in such a poetic way because you believe they must be right
Samira Makhmalbaf, producer of 'Apple' (Guardian Wkly 3 Jan 99 19)

Oppose Stoning

The Arabic word zina' that is often translated by the word 'adultery' really means something more than that - any sexual relations between a woman and a man who are not bound to each other by a legal marriage (from adultery to rape), and as long as slavery existed, intimate relations between a man and a slave who did not belong to him or was married to another. The Qur'an does not prescribe stoning to death for adultery. Nevertheless, in many Islamic countries to this day, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Saudi Arabia women are regularly stoned to death. Sharia uses the precedent of Hebrew law to kill women for what is often only nominally 'adultery'.

"A woman, Noorjehan Begum was, by most accounts, the daughter of a landless peasant - a twenty-one-year-old who, in January, 1993, after her first marriage was dissolved, married again. The local mullah, giving no reasons, declared that a second marriage was contrary to Islamic law. A few weeks later, just after dawn, she was led to an open field in a small village in the district of Sylhet a stronghold of the fundamentalists - where a pit had been dug overnight. She was lowered into the pit and buried waist deep. Then, slowly and methodically, she was stoned - a hundred and one times."

Zarghona 15 lies in a Peshawar shelter, burned by her father-in-law, who said she had not cleaned her husband's clothes properly (Time). Such burnings also occur on a huge scale in patriarchal Hindu India, where dowry burnings may account for 25,000 deaths a year.

Women are also burned , and beheaded and thrown down wells, whether or not they have actually committed adultery:

"The last case was a 17 year old - the father knowing that she lost her virginity - they took her to two doctors - both gynecologists told him that she lost her virginity - so he ended up taking her at night and throwing her head [down a well] - cutting her head totally - separating the head from the body" Palestinian woman doctor.

Hundreds of women in Pakistan are killed each year by relatives for offending family honour or Islam. Over 4000 between 1998 and 2004. In Jordan a quarter of murders are honour killings of women, whether or not they have committed a sexual act. In 2003 Jordan's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed law imposing harsher punishments for men who kill female relatives in "honour killings". Islamists and conservatives said it would encourage vice and destroy social values:

"A woman is like an olive tree. When its branch catches woodworm, it has to be chopped off
so that society stays clean and pure."
(Tribal Leader on Honour Killings)

Jordan: A man took his two teen-age daughters, 16 and 17, for exams when he heard from neighbors that both were dating. Though the two were found to be virgins, two weeks later both were killed by their father and two brothers - they refused to believe the girls hadn't had sex. Back in Zarqa after serving one year for murder, Ahmad recalled the childhood good times with his sister Haneen. "We used to have fun when we played football together, but I always won because I am a man," he said. " Any regrets?" "I am not sorry. She was wrong. Had she been alive and committed the same mistake, I would have killed her again."

Turkey: A father, brother and uncle killed a 14-year old girl who had been abducted and repeatedly raped. The alleged rapist claimed in the media they had been having an affair and wanted to marry. Her father said "We wanted to marry her off first. Some relatives opposed the idea. So I decided to kill her. She begged as I strangled her ... but I didn't take any notice of her cries."

Women marrying for the first time are expected to be virgins no matter their age. Hymen restorations complete with a sachet of blood are necessary for many women's survival:

"In Jordanian society, some things remain the same. A Jordanian woman marrying for the first time, no matter what her age, must be a virgin. And if she isn't, it is a simple matter to become one again. Hymenorrhaphy, or hymen restoration, is a medical procedure offered in countries throughout the Islamic world. It takes just a few minutes, in Amman costs $300, and is done on an outpatient basis and without anesthesia. 'It is quite common in Jordan,' said Dr. Efteem Azar, one of the country's leading obstetrician/gynecologists. 'It is a very simple procedure and quickly done. Anesthesia isn't necessary because if you work with a very fine needle it is less painful than an injection of painkiller would be. Hymenorrhaphy must be done three to seven days before the wedding, because the tissue is simply pulled together and the procedure doesn't last.'" (Goodwin R249)

Another service gynecologists in Muslim countries are called on to supply is post-wedding night verification that the bride was a virgin before the event:

"It is not uncommon for a gynecologist to find in his office a blushing young bride surrounded by a whole horde of male relatives demanding that she be examined," says Dr. Azar. "She did not bleed during sexual intercourse on her wedding night, and the men all want to know why. You always have to favor the girl, because if you don't, she'll be killed by her family. Sometimes, if the girl has the opportunity, she'll beg you to cover for her. They are very frightened, they know they will be killed. So you tell the male relatives the bride had an elastic hymen, which many women do anyway, and in such cases she wouldn't bleed." (R249)

The Qur'an prescribes confinement to death for indecency, but allows for mercy:

"And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women,
call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you;
then if they bear witness confine them to the houses
until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them" (4.15).

"And as for the two who are guilty of indecency from among you,
give them both a punishment; then if they repent and amend, turn aside from them;
surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful" (4.16).

And for adultery, flogging a hundred times, not death:

"[As for] the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, [giving] a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah, if you believe in Allah and the last day, and let a party of believers witness their chastisemen. The fornicator shall not marry any but a fornicatress or idolatress, and (as for) the fornicatress, none shall marry her but a fornicator or an idolater; and it is forbidden to the believers" (24.3).

Technically four witnesses are required, although this can backfire on the victim in a case of multiple rape, where the accused men can become the accusers:

"And those who accuse free women then do not bring four witnesses, flog them,
(giving) eighty stripes, and do not admit any evidence from them ever;
and these it is that are the transgressors" (24.4 )

Left: Burying for stoning. Right" A woman stoned dead in her hole (Mazar-i_Sharif)

However the prescription in Sharia is stoning a woman to death for adultery.

The penalty for adultery under Article 83 of the penal code, called the Law of Hodoud is flogging (100 lashes of the whip) for unmarried male and female offenders. Married offenders may be punished by stoning regardless of their gender, but the method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (article 102). The law provides that if a person who is to be stoned manages to escape, he or she will be allowed to go free. Since it is easier for a man to escape, this discrimination literally becomes a matter of life and death. Article 104 provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury. This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain on the victim, in a process leading to his or her slow death. 

"In Muslim law the punishment of lapidation is only inflicted for adultery. Under Jewish law idolaters or bearers of false witness were also stoned. It is founded not upon the Qu'ran where the only punishment Sura 24:2 is one hundred stripes but upon the traditions where Muhammad is related to have said 'Verily God hath ordained for a man and a woman not married to one hundred lashes and expulsion from their home town for one year, and for a man and a woman having been married one hundred lashes and stoning'." When a woman is to be stoned, a hole or excavation should be dug to receive her as deep as her wallet ... The purpose of the hole is to conserve 'decency' for the female. Neither boulders nor pebbles may be used, so that death is neither mercifully quick nor endlessly prolonged" (Hughes - Dictionary of Islam).

"In November 1991 a thirty year-old woman named Zahra, who managed to scramble out of the pit in which she'd been buried, had her death sentence commuted: the judiciary felt that her escape must have been the will of God". Others are not so fortunate: "On August 10, 1994, in the city of Arak, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning. According to the ruling of the religious judge, her husband and two children were forced to attend the execution. The woman urged her husband to take the children away, but to no avail. A truck full of stones was brought in to be used during the stoning. In the middle of the stoning, although her eyes had been gouged out, the victim was able to escape from the ditch and started running away, but the regime's guards recaptured her and shot her to death."

"Those who have recently witnessed stonings describe all-male crowds, different from the mixed groups who attend beheadings. The mood is commonly one of rage and blood lust. Part of the ritual of the Hajj-the holy pilgrimage to Mecca-is the stoning of pillars meant to represent Satan. Witnesses say the woman being executed somehow becomes as dehumanized as those pillars-an outlet, perhaps, for the men's guilt at their own uncontrollable sexuality. Yet the stones in this case hit soft flesh. Because of the way she is buried, each impact snaps her neck backward in a series of excruciating whiplashes. Death often comes when her head is knocked completely off. It is hard to imagine a worse way to die.

Yet the punishments set down for homosexual sodomy are designed to be even more cruel. If the partners are married men, they may be burned to death or thrown to their deaths from a height. If they are unmarried, the sodomized partner, unless he is a minor, is executed, the sodomizer lashed a hundred times. The variation in the penalty reflects the Muslim loathing of the idea of a man taking the feminine role of the penetrated partner. Lesbian sex, if the women are single, draws a hundred lashes. Married lesbians may be stoned. 'Why is Islam so severe in matters of adultery, homosexuality and lesbianism?' asks Mohammed Rizvi. 'If the Islamic system had not allowed gratification of sexual urge by lawful means without associating guilt with it, then it would be alright to say Islam is very severe. But since it has allowed fulfillment of sexual instincts by lawful means, it is not prepared to tolerate any introverted behavior'."

Geraldine Brooks (R81) affirms the continuing severity of this code against women:

"For both Sunnis and Shiites, whatever license their faith allows comes walled around with ghastly penalties for sexual transgression. The limits on sexual freedom in Islam are drawn strictly around the marriage bed, be it temporary or permanent. Extramarital sex and homosexuality are prohibited, and both offenses can draw the most horrific punishments in the Islamic legal code. While the death penalty, in Islamic law, is optional for murder, it is mandatory for any convicted adulterer who could have satisfied his or her sexual urge lawfully with a spouse. The sentence is commuted to a hundred lashes if the adulterer is unmarried, or if the spouse was ill or far away when the adultery was committed. In Iran, stonings, or, as the Iranians prefer to translate the word, lapidations, are still carried out in cases of adultery. Saudi Arabia also specifies stoning as punishment for married adulterers".

Stoning has a history of being a trick Muhammad played on the Jews to exact a dire punishment for them which then became a standard Islamic penalty:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Umar: The Jews brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from among them who had committed illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet said to them, "How do you usually punish the one amongst you who has committed illegal sexual intercourse?" They replied, "We blacken their faces with coal and beat them," He said, "Don't you find the order of Ar-Rajm (i.e. stoning to death) in the Torah?" They replied, "We do not find anything in it." 'Abdullah bin Salam (after hearing this conversation) said to them. "You have told a lie! Bring here the Torah and recite it if you are truthful." (So the Jews brought the Torah). And the religious teacher who was teaching it to them, put his hand over the Verse of Ar-Rajm and started reading what was written above and below the place hidden with his hand, but he did not read the Verse of Ar-Rajm. 'Abdullah bin Salam removed his (i.e. the teacher's) hand from the Verse of Ar-Rajm and said, "What is this?" So when the Jews saw that Verse, they said, "This is the Verse of Ar-Rajm." So the Prophet ordered the two adulterers to be stoned to death, and they were stoned to death near the place where biers used to be placed near the Mosque. I saw her companion (i.e. the adulterer) bowing over her so as to protect her from the stones.

The key problem here is the fundamentalistic association of scripture, law and state. Although the Deuteronomic law specifies stoning for adultery, and for apostasy, even in Biblical times it was very uncommon and mitigated by many conditions, and is now never used. Even Hammurabic laws were not invoked in the inflexible way Sharia is. The Qur'anic invocations are less severe, but are combined with Sharia and interpreted literally, without any freedom of choice, instead of being recognized as spiritual poetry.

The expression "naqisatan 'aqlan wa dinan" (deficient in intelligence and religion) is one of the bywords and axioms of life on the lips of the masses in Arabic countries (Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton R562). Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr. He passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion."

To the present, based on the Qur'an, a man shall have twice the inheritance of a woman and it takes the evidence of two women to equal that of one man. In Iran, when a husband dies without other heirs, the state takes half the endowment that would go to the wife:

" Allah enjoins you concerning your children:
The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females" (4:11)

"call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses" (2: 282).

A hadith narrated by Abu Said al-Khudri and Sahih Bukhari explains the connection:

"The Prophet said, 'Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?'
The women said, 'Yes.' He said, 'This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind'."

al-Llah prefers men and permits women to be beaten into submission in the bed chambers:

"Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred the one over the other ... Those whose perverseness you fear, admonish them and remove them into bed chambers and beat them, but if they submit to you then do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great" ( 4:34)

Bukhari and Imam Suyuti make clear the full significance of this in the hadith showing how far inequality goes in terms of female human worthlessness (R562):

"It is a noble sacrifice for a man to share his life with the woman; she being deficient in mind, religion, and gratitude. It is condescension on the part of the man to spend his life with her. She can not repay this favour, no matter what sacrifice she makes."

"If blood, suppuration, and pus, were to pour from the husband's nose and the wife licked it with her tongue, she would still never be able to fulfil his rights over her."

Geraldine Brooks (R81) notes in 'Nine Parts of Desire':

"When the Koran sanctions wife beating and the execution of apostates, it can't be entirely exonerated for an epidemic of wife slayings and death sentences on authors."

Muhammad's statements in hadith express extreme ambivalence about women (Walther):

"I have left behind no temptation more harmful to my community
than that which women represent for men."

"The whole world is delightful, but the most delightful thing in it is a virtuous woman."

"If a man and a women are alone in one place, the third person present is the devil."

"I stood at the gates of Paradise, most of those who entered there were poor,
I stood at the gates of Hell, most of those who went in there were women".

Law of Desire

If the veil is to protect women, the 'mut'a' or temporary marriage has surprising contradictions to this. In Iran fleeting 'temporary marriages,' are endorsed by the clergy. One particular respect in which Shi'ite and Sunni branches of Islam differ is in the institution of temporary marriage: "A major difference in custom is the Shia practice of mut'a, or temporary marriage. An ingenious expedient created by Shiites to resolve the tension of momentary lust without resorting to either dishonor or sexual repression, mut'a may last only a few hours, but it legitimizes any offspring of the union. Sunnis disavow such a concept, even though their treatment of women is considerably less generous than that of the Shiites when it comes to family inheritance and participation in religious ritual" (Occhiogrosso R511 432). These are marriages in name only, not least because men have the right to deny their responsibilities for any children born of the temporary liaison. This controversial law allows men to fornicate, so long as they register their intentions with a religious Sharia, court where they fill out a form specifying how long they intend to 'enjoy' their partner. Dr. Mahran Doltchahi comments: "The enjoyment marriage is nothing but a legal cover for prostitution. How can anyone in the world claim that a marriage for 10 minutes is a legal act?" The real victims of the Law of Desire are women from deprived socio-economic backgrounds.

Desire under a thin red veil.

Jan Goodwin (R249) in "Price of Honour" provides a colourful cultural vignette of mut'a:

"'You probably had your chador on the wrong way around,' my friend explained. 'That's one of the signals women use if they're looking for sigheh.' Sigheh, or mut'a agreed between a man and woman and sanctioned by a cleric, can last as little as a few minutes or as long as ninety-nine years. Usually the man pays the woman an agreed sum of money in exchange for a temporary marriage. The usual motive is sex, but some temporary marriages are agreed upon for other purposes. When sex is the motive the transaction differs from prostitution in that the couple have to go before a cleric to record their contract, and in Iran, any children born of the union are legitimate. Otherwise, sigheh is free of the responsibilities of marriage: the couple can make any agreements they like regarding how much time they will spend together, how much money will be involved and what services, sexual or nonsexual, each will provide. Shiites believe Muhammad approved of sigheh. Sunnis, the majority branch of Islam, don't agree. Even in Shiite Iran, sigheh had fallen from favor until Rafsanjani encouraged it after the Iran-Iraq War which ended in 1988. In a 1990 sermon, he argued that the war had left a lot of young widows, many of them without hope of remarriage. Such women, he said, needed both material support and sexual satisfaction. At the same time, plenty of young men who couldn't afford to set up house for a bride were postponing marriage. Sexual tension needed healthy release, he said, and since sigheh existed for that purpose within Islam, why not use it? His remarks sparked a heated debate among Iranian women, some of whom bitterly opposed the practice as exploitative. They argued that the state should provide for war widows adequately, so that they didn't have to sell their bodies in sigheh. But others spoke out in its favor. Sigheh, they said, wasn't just a matter of money. Widows and divorcees had sexual needs and a desire for male company, and the sigheh "husband" was a welcome male presence for the children in their homes. Iran's satirical weekly magazine, Golagha, ran a cartoon lampooning the likely effects of Rafsanjani's argument. It showed two desks for marriage licenses, one for sigheh and one for permanent wedlock. The clerk at the permanent desk had no customers; the queue for sigheh stretched out the door." (Goodwin)

Shahla Haeri, authoress of "Law of Desire" (R275), says conservative clergy are behind a campaign to preserve enjoyment marriages. She cites one of Iran's leading imams, Jafar El Sadek, as declaring 'partners in enjoyment in marriages are especially blessed. When they bathe, every drop of water turns into seventy angels who will testify on their behalf on the Day of Judgment': "Khomeini was alone among senior clergy in condemning the law and the hypocrisy of those who were in favour. Still remembered on the streets of Tehran is the Persian story he once quoted on television "A religious leader said to a prostitute 'You are drunk and every moment you go and visit someone different'. She replied 'Oh Sheik! What you say about me is correct. But what you pretend about yourself, is that true too?"

"The Shi'a doctrine projects a double image of women through the contractual laws of temporary and permanent marriages. We may ask here, What is a woman from a Shi'i perspective? Is she a precious commodity that may be owned, bought, or leased? Is she a person created like a man who can be in charge of her own life, negotiate contracts, control their outcome, and exchange gifts? Is she a decision-making adult or a minor? Looking at the women's status developmentally, and through a discussion of the different forms of Shi'i marriage contracts, I have shown that at any given point in her life cycle a Shi'i Muslim woman may be perceived to be all or some of the above simultaneously. Such legal ambivalence is reflected in a variety of vastly popular binary images of women. Images of women as controller/controlled, seducer/ seduced, cunning/gullible, and pious/adulterous, all hive wide currency in the Perso-Islamic literature. In one of the most fascinating literary treasures of the Middle East, the tales of A Thousand and One Nights, the superimposition of many of these binary images is elegantly portrayed. indeed, the whole story is based on one such dominant binary opposition: that of order/disorder. Through the cunning of an adulterous queen, society is brought to the brink of disorder. But the mediation of another woman, Shahrzad, restores order to society and sense to the king. The underlying ambivalence toward women is not reflected just in literature and folklore. The Qur'an itself conveys this ambivalence toward women as well. In the Holy Book women are sometimes depicted as objects to be treated kindly or harshly, and at other times as persons created of the same material as men (compare suras of Women 34 and the Cow 223 with the Private Apartment 13). Many hadiths and sayings of the Prophet, the imams, and other Muslim leaders further underscore this ambivalence. For example, the Prophet Muhammad is frequently quoted as having said: 'Women are the trappings of Satan' (cited in Burhan-i Qat' 1951 63, 2:681; Razi 1963 68, 350). In another context, however, he is alleged to have stated: 'From your world I do not like anything but women and perfume' (quoted by Ayatollah Mishkini 1974, 118). Such ambivalence finds its resonance in the following popular adage in Iran: 'Women are a pain, bala. May no house be without it.' A sigheh woman especially is a target of cultural and legal ambivalence. Personally, she might be more mature and experienced than other women (because she has married at least once and divorced), and legally, she is freer than married and virgin women to negotiate on her own behalf, choose her male partner(s), and exercise her own decision-making power. She is her own person, as it were. A divorced woman's status is the closest that a Shi'i Muslim woman can come to having legal autonomy. Autonomy, however, is not a trait socially approved of for women in Iran. Although some men may welcome it, and even be fascinated by the alluring autonomy of women, as is apparent in the 'sigheh myth,' they are at the same time fearful of the arbitrariness implied in it: just as they may be selected for a treat, they may be let go unceremoniously. Because temporary marriage is a contract of lease and its objective is sexual enjoyment, sigheh women are seen not only as objects of exchange (indeed, they are referred to as the object of lease) but also as temporary sexual partners. There is thus a close structural association with prostitution. Consequently, the custom of temporary marriage and its propriety involve cultural questioning and conflicting feelings, and women who make use of it are also perceived with moral ambivalence. Much to women's disappointment, temporary marriage often bestows them neither with the masculine protection nor with the social prestige they so earnestly seek." (Haeri R275)

But Khomeni also reduced the age of marriage, permitting girls as young as nine to marry. Muhammed himself married his favorite wife A'isha, the daughter of Abu Bake, one of his closest associates, when she was six years old. Muhammad was 52 and Aisha was 9 year old and still played with dolls when they sexually consummated their marriage.  Muhammad followed an Arab custom in marrying a child who had had her first menstrual cycle. The legal marriage age for girls in Iran was only in 2002 increased from 9 to 13.

"Khomeini lowered the marriage age for females from eighteen to thirteen, but permitted girls as young as nine, even seven in some cases, to be married if a physician signs a certificate agreeing to their sexual maturity. 'In his book Tahrir Al' Vassilih, Khomeini writes about the legal requirement for having sex with children,' explained a woman lawyer who is concerned that child brides are dying since this ruling was instituted. 'In villages where child marriage is most common, doctors often don't even see the girl,' she told me. 'They just take the family's word that she is physically mature enough to marry. Consequently, we have had very young girls badly injured and when they have had what amounts to forced intercourse. Infection sets in and they have died.' 'Only with girls under seven did the Ayatollah say that sex was forbidden." (R249)

Khoneini has gone so far as saying sex with infants is acceptable:

"A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However, he should not penetrate. If he penetrates and the child is harmed then he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl, however would not count as one of his four permanent wives. The man will not be eligible to marry the girl's sister."

The complete Persian text of this saying can be found in "Ayatollah Khomeini in Tahrirolvasyleh, Fourth Edition, Darol Elm, Qom".

Child marriage Afghanistan Roshan Qasem, 11, will joing the household of Said Mohammed, 55, his first wife; their three sons, and their daughter, who is the same age as Roshan.

Man slaughtered his 14-year-old wife - Mohammad Agha district of the central Logar province. Nasrin was banned from meeting any one outside the four walls of her house. Revealing the ordeal of her teenaged daughter, the dejected mother said Dad Mohammad (the accused) used to tie her (Nasrin's) hands and feet and beat her severely.

Contrast the severe legal punishments for women with a statement on men and mut'a:

"No one can deny that most, if not all married men have had sexual relations, legitimate or illegitimate, with other women. Is it wise then to forbid married men from having relations with other women? Is such a law just and in accordance with human nature? Of course not. Such law has not been practical and will not be so! A A Muhajir "Polygamy and Mut'a (Haeri R275 153).

This is consistent with Muhammad's approval of polygyny, including marriage to slaves. Islamic law requires a man to provide each of his wives with a household of her own. Thus marital polygyny was usually the privilege of the prosperous (Walther). However, in addition to four wives, men could also select any number of slave concubines:

marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course (4.3).

The quranic passage on marriage accodring to Shiites also spells out the conditions for mut'a in which 'as to whom you profit by' means 'among them whom you have enjoyed':

And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise (4.24).

The parties to a marriage contract are not the bride and groom, but the groom and the bride's male relative. Marriages can thus be forced (Walther R725):

The parties to the contract are the bridegroom and the bride's guardian ... her closest male relative, usually her father or brother or, if need be, even the judge himself. Two free male witnesses, or one male and two female witnesses, must be present. The Sunna recommends that the bride should not be married without her consent. However, silence is sufficient indication of agreement in the case of a virginal bride, since she is considered to be too shy or timid to speak for herself. When the girl is a minor, her guardian can also force her into marriage, but she has the right to annul this as soon as she is of age. The Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali [schools of Sunna] even permit an adult woman to be forced by her guardian to contract marriage.

An important part of the marriage contract is the fixing of the dowry (mahr or saddq, in Arabic), which is a form of 'bride price', not an endowment for the bride's welfare from her family. However, the mahr was not a purchase price, but a compensation the bridegroom had to give the parents of the bride for the loss to the tribe of the sons the woman would bear. The mahr was not paid when the girl married her cousin on her father's side; that is, when she remained in the tribe. This is still true among Bedouins today. The saddq was the wedding gift the girl received. As early as the time of Muhammed, a distinction was no longer made between these two terms (Walther R725).

Wiebke Walther (R725) notes: "In the context of divorce, the Koran says that they (women) have the same right as is exercised over them, though the men have a rank above them". In fact, husbands are given free reign in matters of separation and divorce:

"You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you please, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most proper, so that their eyes may be cool and they may not grieve, and that they should be pleased, all of them with what you give them" (33.51).

Under the triple talaq a husband merely has to repeat the oath of divorce three times for it to have immediate effect.Walther further notes that Islamic law permits every man in a healthy mental state to repudiate his wife (talaq) without having to give any reason for it and without consulting a judge. There are only a limited number of ways in which a wife can free herself from her husband. The khul', or redemption, was adopted from heathen practice and consists in the wife's purchasing her freedom from her husband by the payment of a certain sum - frequently equivalent to the dowry. It is laid down in the Koran that after the divorce the husband must provide for a wife who is suckling a child until it is weaned this can extend to a period of two years. The mother has the right of custody for girls until they are of age or until they marry and for boys until puberty or the age of seven years. However, the father is the legal guardian of the children; only when they are poor he is obliged by law to maintain them. Thus the mother usually returns to her family, which maintains her, with the children she has to look after. A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim, but a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Jewish or a Christian woman. After a divorce, a woman must wait three months before remarrying. Men, however, are permitted to remarry immediately. (2:234) Muhammad introduced the waiting period in order to determine whether the woman was expecting a child, so that the paternity could be established without any doubt. If the woman was pregnant, she could only re-marry after the birth of the child.

"And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation; and they have rights similar to those against them in a just manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty, Wise" (2.228).

Walther notes "Here, as in later traditions in which women are defined as mothers, sisters, and daughters, their roles are defined from a man's point of view, women are seen in their family relations and in their sociability with men":

"Amongst His signs is that He hath created for you of your own species spouses that ye may find rest in them, and hath set love and compassion between you." (30.21)

However this very apparently 'merciful' sura is cited by Qortobi as a basis for a woman to have to submit to the sexual demands of the husband on call:

"When a man calls his wife to his bed, and she refuses, the One Who is in the heaven
will be angry with her until he [her husband] is pleased with her"
(Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton R562)

Such Quranic passages are reflected in hadith where sex on demand is a holy duty:

"The prophet of Allah said: When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire,
let her come to him though she is occupied at the oven."

(Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton R562).

Muhammad imposes a taboo on women as unclean during menstruation but ordains intercourse the rest of the time under commandment of God, [as do the Jews]:

"And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a discomfort; therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge and do not go near them until they have become clean; then when they have cleansed themselves, go in to them as Allah has commanded you; surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him), and He loves those who purify themselves" (2.222).

Ever present is the role of the female as a sexual beast of burdens, light, or heavy:

"He it is Who created you from a single being, and of the same (kind) did He make his mate, that he might incline to her; so when he covers her she bears a light burden, then moves about with it; but when it grows heavy, they both call upon Allah, their Lord: If Thou givest us a good one, we shall certainly be of the grateful ones. (7.189).

As in the Decalogue, where one is taught not to covet one's neighbour's house, wife, servants, or cattle (a wife having intermediate status between cattle and property), women are equated to domesticated beasts:

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."

To al Ghazali, woman is here created as a mere plaything. She is a recalcitrant domesticated animal, valued only in her fear of her husband (Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton R562):

"In the company of women, looking at them, and playing with them, the soul is refreshed,
the heart is rested, and the man is strengthened to the worship of God...
this is why God said: 'That he might rest in her.' (Q. 7:189)"
(Essid R196).

"If you relax the woman's bridle a tiny bit, she will take you and bolt wildly. And if you lower her cheek-piece a hand span, she will pull you an arm's length ... Their deception is awesome and their wickedness is contagious; bad character and feeble mind are their predominant traits" ...

"[A man's wife] fears him, while he fears her not, a kind word from him satisfies her, where nothing of hers has importance in his eyes, it is she who must tolerate the presence of concubines, and it is she who worries when he is ill whereas even her death would leave him indifferent."

The reference to women as domestic animals is reinforced in al-Tabari's account of the prophet's last and most famous speech (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):

"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."

Despite the high price of dowry settlements to wives' families in Saudi Arabia, and the shunning of divorced women, more than twenty percent of Saudi marriages end in divorce within a year. Marriages suffer from all the usual afflictions, infidelity, incompatibility, house-hold violence - but the biggest problem is polygamy. Many Saudi husbands constantly change partners, a practice that causes constant heartache (Wright L R766).

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their houses, unable to work or girls to go to school. They were beaten or imprisoned for showing any sign of make up or even clicking their shoes, in a rigid enforcement of sura 24.31 above: "and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known" (RAWA).

The Veil of the Shadow of Death

Hamas considers the unveiled as collaborators of a kind. It is our religious duty to execute collaborators. Hamas Graffitti, Gaza (R249).

Wiebke Walther (R725) notes: "Closely connected with the veil is the exclusion of women from public life, based on a verse in the Koran which refers only to the wives of the Prophet: 'When ye ask them (i.e. the wives of the Prophet) for any article, ask them from behind a curtain; that is purer for your hearts and for theirs'' (33: 53, 55):

An Arab historical work dating from the ninth century claims this revelation originated at the marriage of Muhammed to the beautiful Zaynab Bint Jahsh the former wife of his adopted son Zayd Ibn Haritha. Muhammed had once seen Zaynab in her undergarments as he was about to enter Zayd's house and had coveted her from then on. Zayd wanted to divorce her immediately so that Muhammed could marry her, but Muhammed did not want to accept Zayd's offer. But Zaynab had been married with Zayd against her will and now displayed a clear lack of affection for him. In the end, her marriage with Muhammed took place. Toward the end of the wedding feast, the guests showed no signs of departing. This shows that Zaynab's attractiveness for her guests was considered to have been very great. Muhammad impatiently left the room several times and went out into the courtyard, hoping that he would finally be left alone with his new bride. But this was not the case. It was now that the verse quoted above was revealed to him:

"O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (33.59).

An early Arabian historian also explains that Muhammad's wives had been bothered by his opponents in Medina when they left the house at night to 'relieve themselves', because they took unveiled women for slaves (Walther). This ties in with Assyrian traditions in which unveiling was mandatory for slaves and 'available' women and veiling was a 'privilege' of the attached (p 201). It is known that noble ladies of the trading city of Mecca wore veils even before Islam. There is however no specific mention of veiling the face.

Restrictions on women's modesty are far more detailed and severe than for men:

Men: "Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do" (24.30).

Women: "And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful" (24.31).

Essentially women are regarded as sexually so provocative and sensual that unless they are completely regulated they will either entice men into fornication or they will become helpless victims of male ardour. This is confirmed by the way a woman who is no longer sexually enticing is exempt:

"And (as for) women advanced in years who do not hope for a marriage, it is no sin for them if they put off their clothes without displaying their ornaments; and if they restrain themselves it is better for them; Allah is Hearing, Knowing" (24.60).

There are fewer women in the work force in many Islamic countries than any other region on Earth (2006).

Consequently women are not only hidden by the veil to varying degrees, but also confined in their movements, expected to be chaperoned in public by their husband or male relatives and limited in their educational and work opportunities.

Zaigul looked at her three daughters, their female cousins and a woman friend down the street and wept. "It is better to die than stay alive in the house. We are like birds in a cage. She had one daughter a lawyer, another studying language and literature at Kabul university and a third at school. None of them expects to study or work again, even though the Taleban say they favour women's education and will find a way for that to continue and for women to work in complete separation from men. "They always say that, but in Khandahar and Herat for a long time now the girls there don't go to school and the women don't go to work. But the Qur'an says to seek knowledge without regard for gender" (Taliban Afghanistan).

Increasing numbers of Afghan women are committing suicide by setting fire to themselves to escape difficult lives, according to NGOs based in the country. They say women forced into marriage or suffering chronic abuse are killing themselves out of desperation. Although estimates are difficult to make, one group says cases of self-immolation in the capital have doubled since last year. Cases are said to be reported every day in the western city of Herat. In Kabul, some 36 cases of self-immolation have been recorded this year (Nov 2006).

The veil is defended by some Muslim women because it protects them from harassment. This is hardly surprising given the way they will be stared at by men used only to 'black moving objects', but it is imposed in Islam from a root fear of female sexual power. It is extended to confinement of the sight of women to their partners and immediate relatives in a way which deprives women of their rights to be seen and to enter the world freely, except when accompanied by a partner or a relative: Consequently there are fewer women in the work force in Islamic countries than any other cultures.

"Women will always be the core issue that will hinder any social progress in Saudi Arabia. We limit their roles in public, ban them from public participation in decision making, we doubt them and confine them bcause we think they are the source of all seduction and evil in the world. And then we say proudly:'We are Muslims.'" - Raid Qusti Saudi journalist (Wright L. R766)

There are some parts of Saudi Arabia where a woman never unveils - her husband and children see her face only when she dies. Female education, which was introduced in 1960 was born in controversy. Although females now outnumber males at the university level, only six percent of women in the overall population are employed, a statistic that has led religious conservatives to argue that education is 'wasted on girls' (R766).

"I am worried about the next generation, They don't see any real women at all. You don't see each others wives, daughters, sisters. Everything is masculine. And yet they are bombarded by images. They can easily see porn" (A middle-aged Saudi R766).

In 2002 a fire broke out in a girl's school in Mecca.15 girls were trampled to death and over 50 were injured. According to the al-Eqtisadiah daily, firemen confronted police after they tried to keep the girls inside because they were not wearing the headscarves and abayas (black robes) required by the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam. One witness said he saw three policemen 'beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya'. The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police - known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned 'it is sinful to approach them' (BBC).

Female genital mutilation, Egypt (Cohen R122).

The Sunna Mutilation

Islam is the only major world religion tolerating FGM (p 283). Over a hundred million women world wide especially in the Horn of Africa suffer circumcision removing the clitoris, or infibulation the literal sewing up of the labia to prevent pregnancy. Up to 75% of Egyptian women, including Nawal el Sadaawi herself are 'circumcised'. Muhammad is reputed to have said "reduce but do not destroy" when faced with this practice, but this has led to the sunna cut of the female becoming as traditional as Sunni faith itself:

"The practice of circumcising girls is still a common procedure in a number of Arab countries such as Egypt, the Sudan, Yeman and some of the Gulf states. The importance given to virginity and an intact hymen in these societies is the reason why female circumcision still remains a very widespread practice despite a growing tendency, especially in urban Egypt, to do away with it as something outdated and harmful. Behind circumcision lies the belief that, by removing parts of girls' external genital organs, sexual desire is minimized. This permits a female who has reached the 'dangerous age' of puberty and adolescence to protect her virginity, and therefore her honour, with greater ease. Chastity was imposed on male attendants in the female harem by castration which turned them into inoffensive eunuchs. Similarly female circumcision is meant to preserve the chastity of young girls by reducing their desire for sexual intercourse. . Circumcision is most often performed on female children at the age of seven or eight (before the girl begins to get menstrual periods). On the scene appears the daya or local midwife. Two women members of the family grasp the child's thighs on either side and pull them apart to expose the external genital organs and to prevent her from struggling like trussing a chicken before it is slain. A sharp razor in the hand of the daya cuts off the clitoris. During my period of service as a rural physician, I was called upon many times to treat complications arising from this primitive operation, which very often jeopardized the life of young girls. The ignorant daya believed that effective circumcision necessitated a deep cut with the razor to ensure radical amputation of the clitoris, so that no part of the sexually sensitive organ would remain. Severe haemorrhage was therefore a common occurrence and sometimes led to loss of life. The dayas had not the slightest notion of asepsis, and inflammatory conditions as a result of the operation were common. Above all, the lifelong psychological shock of this cruel procedure left its imprint on the personality of the child and accompanied her into adolescence, youth and maturity. Sexual frigidity is one of the after-effects which is accentuated by other social and psychological factors that influence the personality and mental make-up of females in Arab societies. Girls are therefore exposed to a whole series of misfortunes as a result of outdated notions and values related to virginity, which still remains the fundamental. The research that I carried out on a sample of 160 Egyptian girls and women showed that 97.5% of uneducated families still insisted on maintaining the custom, but this percentage dropped to 66.2% among educated families. When I discussed the matter with these girls and women it transpired that most of them had no idea of the harm done by circumcision, and some of them even thought that it was good for one's health and conducive to cleanliness and 'purity'. 'Have you undergone circumcision?' 'Yes.' 'How old were you at the time?' 'I was a child, about seven or eight years old.' 'Do you remember the details of the operation?' 'Of course. How could I possibly forget?' 'Were you afraid?' 'Very afraid. I hid on top of the cupboard [in other cases she would say under the bed, or in the neighbour's house] , but they caught hold of me, and I felt my body tremble in their hands.' 'Did you feel any pain?' 'Very much so. It was like a burning flame and I screamed. My mother held my head so that I could not move it, my aunt caught hold of my right arm and my grandmother took charge of my left. Two strange women whom I had not seen before tried to keep me from moving my thighs by pushing them as far apart as possible. The daya sat between these two women, holding a sharp razor in her hand which she used to cut off the clitoris. I was scared and suffered such great pain that I lost consciousness at the flame that seemed to sear me through and through.' 'What happened after the operation?' 'I had severe bodily pains, and remained in bed for several days, unable to move. The pain in my external genital organs led to retention of urine. Every time I wanted to urinate the burning sensation was so unbearable that I could not bring myself to pass water. The wound continued to bleed for some time, and my mother used to change the dressing for me twice a day.' 'What did you feel on discovering that a small organ in your body had been removed?' 'I did not know anything about the operation at the time, except that it was very simple, and that it was done to all girls for purposes of cleanliness, purity and the preservation of a good reputation. It was said that a girl who did not undergo tills operation was liable to be talked about by people, her behaviour would become bad, and she would start running after men, with the result that no one would agree to marry her when the time for marriage came. My grandmother told me that the operation had only consisted in the removal of a very small piece of flesh from between my thighs, and that the continued existence of this small piece of flesh in its place would have made me unclean and impure, and would have caused the man whom I would marry to be repelled by me.' 'Did you believe what was said to you?' 'Of course I did. I was happy the day I recovered from the effects of the operation, and felt as though I was rid of something which had to be removed, and so had become clean and pure'." (El Sadaawi R189) .

Enslaving the Concubine

However, like all the ancient patriarchal cultures, slavery is explicitly permitted. Although slavery was supposed to be confined to apply to prisoners of war during a time of conflict and free people could not legally sell their children or become debt slaves.

"So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates" (47.4).

In conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, slavery was ended only recently (Walther R725). The Qur'an acknowledges it as integral to the social condition:

"And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing. And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace. ... " .

Slaves are allowed to become literate and slave girls should not be forced into prostitution:

"And (as for) those who ask for a writing from among those whom your right hands possess, give them the writing if you know any good in them, and give them of the wealth of Allah which He has given you; and do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, when they desire to keep chaste, in order to seek the frail good of this world's life; and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (24.33).

However female slaves 'whom your right hands possess' are free game as sexual concubines, as in the ancient world:

"And who guard their private parts, Except before their mates
or those whom their right hands possess, for they surely are not blamable" (23.5 ).

Slaves are listed centrally along with the rules for cousin exogamy:

"O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts" (33.50 ).

There are several exhortations to treat slaves compassionately, along with kin:

"And serve Allah and do not associate any thing with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful" (4.36).

In Algeria in a continuing 'civil jihad' which has claimed over 100,000 lives, women are young girls are taken as sex slaves on Islamic pretexts:

"They forced us to cook, wash and clean for them. Each evening, one of us was chosen for gang rape in a separate room. One night as we were eating, I noticed the men's eyes were on me. They kept asking, 'Have you finished eating?' and I would say 'No'. It was the longest dinner of my life. I thought they would get tired of waiting. When I did finish, one of them came to me and dragged me by the arm to a nearby room. There he ordered me to undress. I started crying and begged him not to harm me. I told him that adultery was forbidden by Islam, but he replied,' l am entitled to it because I am a holy warrior, a mujahid.' Before he forced me, he said he would marry me. Then he threw me to the ground - burned me with cigarette ends until I fainted. When I awoke, I was naked and bleeding. I realized I had lost my virginity."

Pregnant women were disemboweled, and children hacked to death:

"Survivors of Algeria's single most bloody massacre told in harrowing reports yesterday how terrorists blasted their way into village houses to hack to death children and women begging for their lives. Some pregnant women were disemboweled. Those fleeing were shot or axed and their bodies burned. Scores of young girls were taken away to provide sex for the attackers. At least 98 people were killed and 120 wounded during a four-hour nightmare in Sidi Rais, south of Algiers, according to official figures. The authorities blamed Muslim rebels for the killings. About 60,000 people have been killed" (Aug 1997).

A thousand people were hacked to death in one episode:

"They [the attackers] are not human ... How can you explain the head of a baby of six months being crushed and the body being trampled on?" "The Islamic world should not remain indifferent towards such shocking acts, especially during the holy month of Ramadan" (Jan 1998)

We can see in all these actions as reflections of jihad - permissible in 'holy war' in which 'unbelievers' are cut at the neck and woman are taken as slave concubines noted in (47.4).

Just how central slavery is to the entire concept of Islam as submission is illustrated in the following hadith. Those with the highest rewards are Jews and Christians who convert to Islam, a slave who is faithful to their master and Allah and a master of a slave concubine who 'civilizes', frees and marries her:

Narrated Abu Burda's father: Allah's Apostle said "Three persons will have a double reward:

  1. A Person from the people of the scriptures who believed in his prophet (Jesus or Moses) and then believed in the Prophet Muhammad (i.e. has embraced Islam).
  2. A slave who discharges his duties to Allah and his master.
  3. A master of a woman-slave who teaches her good manners and educates her in the best possible way (the religion) and manumits (frees) her and then marries her."

Defenders of Islam

There are many who claim that, despite these restrictive traditions, Muhammad was a 'radical, compassionate reformer who did much to liberate and protect women':

"Certainly the attitude of the Prophet as regards women has weighed heavily on Muslim civilization, for [his] examples and principles were forcibly warped by the natural tendency of men to seek their own advantage. He certainly improved woman's lot in the Arabia of his day. He prohibited infanticide and the prostitution of slave-women. He established the rights of women to inherit (a half-share). He proclaimed that ... married couples have reciprocal duties and rights, and that women ought to be educated. He limited the number of wives a man may lawfully have to four. He did not set himself up as a model. As it was, he hardly surprised his contemporaries; on the contrary they were inclined to admire his amatory prowess, and were accustomed, like the contemporaries of Solomon, to measure the power of a ruler by the number of his wives. Polygamy was only permitted if one was capable of being perfectly fair to all. Concubines could only be obtained from the holy war, not from the purchase of slaves. Daughters could not be married without their own consent, and this ought to have done away with the right of jabr (arranging marriages for minors). As for unilateral divorce which, more than the now rapidly disappearing polygamy, is the curse of Muslim family life, it is condemned in the famous but little observed hadith, "There is nothing created that God likes better than the freeing of slaves, and nothing that He hates more than divorce." -Emile Dermenghem - Muhammad and the Islamic Tradition" (Occhiogrosso R511 404).

What is difficult to ascertain is just how true these statements are about the previous Arabic society. The strength and independence of the Nabataean queens is noted on the coinage of Aretas IV and Shaqilat II (p 221). Many of these traditions should carry over to the goddess worship of Mecca and its environs. It is said that a man pronouncing divorce by recting it three times was a reversal of the rights of women before Islam (Walker R721). The modifications Muhammad made, if we compare them with the Codex Hammurabi are not revolutionary, although they may have been a little more lenient than patrarchal tribal codes following Mesopotamian traditions. The harshest aspects of Deuteronomic law were used by Muhammad himself, including stoning. Thus the claim that the social conditions of women were improved under Islam remains specious but doubtful.

The cruel repression of the women of Daws, and the women of Hadramaut who had their hands cut off for rejoicing at Muhammad's death, the singers whose tongues were cut out and Sarah, killed the day Muhammad arrived in Mecca indicate a heavy and violent hand against any form of female independence. A master had to free a female slave to marry her and her children would then be free but he could also simply claim her as a slave concubine if she wasn't married to another. A free Muslim woman clearly did not have the right to concubinage with one of her slaves (Walther R725). By the power and force-of-arms that occurs in large social systems moral and religious imperatives and controlled domestic violence (Wright R768), men have throughout the patriarchy turned the reproductive tables against women, while claiming to 'protect their interests.' Certain writers pass some of the blame to later patriarchs who themselves had reasons to sequester and veil their women, but this is merely an excuse. The problems go back to the very source:

"Many of the cultural and ethnic habits that we see in Muslims today are not derived from the original teachings of Islam, but trace their origins to the period of the corrupt Ummayad dynasty. Indeed dynastic rule itself was forbidden by Muhammad. The separation of men and women within the same house began in Damascus. There were men who wanted to have dancing girls in their palaces and so they created for the women of the household ladies' quarters, which had not existed in houses before. The mosque, which had been the center of the community where the general public met, and which was the center of economic, social, and political exchange as well as a place of worship, ceased to be so. The mosque became a place of ritualistic worship and lost its pivotal position in the life of the community. The caliph grew fat, often drank and did not want to leave his palace. Accordingly the palace became the center of power and governmental activities. In order not to have his debauchery openly exposed, the caliph separated the women and the children from himself, and thus the home was divided and fragmented." -Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, The Elements of Sufis.

Nevertheless these scriptures, if taken literally as they are in many parts of the Islamic world do not spell out freedom and protection for women, but enable men to oppress women in the name of religion and God. Muslim women who are defenders of the faith need to look more carefully at the actual history of double standards that runs right back to the source events at the founding of the faith. Veiling in its history, from Assyria to Mecca, is an expression of ownership of women by men as possessions, not modesty or privacy.

Only Sakina the spirit of tranquillity, remains in Islam, as the independent expression of the concealed feminine, unsought by Muhammad, in the 'holy' peace at Hudaybiyah which is the antidote to jihad. Armstrong (R21 224) says: "The sakina it will also be recalled, seems to be related to the Hebrew Shekhinah, the term for God's presence in the world"(p 262). Shekhinah is the abstract feminine face of God, of the Kabbalah, (Scholem R622, Waite R719) the 'indwelling' spirit of matrimonial concord, which withdrew in the Fall from Eden, reflected in the ancient marital tent of Sarah, and the eagle's wings, echoed in Revelation carrying the pregnant 'queen of heaven' to the wilderness

The Sufi Martyr

Sufism is described as the 'inner garment' of Islam, but its roots lie deeper in Gnosticism. The terms comes from the rough wool of their garments. The 'drunken Sufis' exemplified by Bistami (Armstrong R22 261) desired to become one with the beloved in annihilation ('fana): "I gazed upon al-Llah with the eye of truth and said to Him: 'Who is this?' He said 'This is neither I nor other than I There is no God but I' Then he changed me out of my identity into his Selfhood. Then I communed with him with the tongue of his face, saying 'How fares it with me with Thee?' He said 'I am through Thee, there is no God but Thou'. This was taken to its visionary conclusion by al-Hallaj, the 'wool carder'

"I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I: We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me thou seest Him, And if thou seest Him thou seest us both"
(Armstrong R22 263).

However when he preached overthrow of the .Caliphate and cried "ana al-Haqq - I am the truth" as Jesus did, he was crucified for blasphemously claiming a name of God. When he saw the cross of nails he turned and uttered a prayer (Armstrong R22 264):

"And these Thy servants who are gathered to slay me, in zeal for Thy religion and in desire to win Thy favours, forgive them O Lord, and have mercy upon them; for verily if Thou hadst revealed to them what thou hast revealed to me, they would not have done what they have done,; and if Thou hadst hidden from me what you have hidden from them, I should not have suffered this tribulation. Glory unto Thee in whatsoever thou doest, and glory unto Thee in whatsoever Thou willest".

This is 'justified' by a violent passage in the Quran stipulating crucifixion for mischief:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (5.33).

Even al-Ghazzali argued al-Hallaj had not been blasphemous but only "unwise in proclaiming an esoteric truth which could be misleading to the initiated. Because there is no reality but al-Llah, as martyrdom - shahadah maintains, all men are essentially divine. The Qur'an taught that God had made Adam in his own image so that he could contemplate himself in a mirror" (Armstrong R22 264). Itibari has the following to say in response:

"Mansur el-Hallaj was dismembered while still alive, and is the greatest Sufi martyr. But can you name the person who cut him up? Suhrawardi was murdered by the law, but what was the name of his executioner? Ghazali's books were thrown into the flames, but by the hand of whom? Nobody remembers these people's names, for the Sufis decline to reiterate the names of the infamous" (Shah R635 296)

This sense of revolution against religious confinement has never ceased:

What Must Come

To those who seek truth in conventionalized religion:
Until college and minaret have crumbled
This holy work of ours will not be done.
Until faith becomes rejection And rejection becomes belief
There will be no true believer.

Abu Said (Shah R635 239)


She has confused all the learned of Islam,
Everyone who has studied the Psalms
Every Jewish Rabbi, Every Christian priest.
Ibn El-Arabi (Shah R635 86).

Dec 2005. Left: Cartoon from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten resulted in worldwide demonstrations (Right). Muslim fundamentalists threatened to bomb the paper's offices and kill the cartoonists. The paper's editor, said the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark.