Islamic Laws for Women


Qur'an- 4:34 "Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient.


Qur'an- 4:34 "As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to their beds apart (stop having sexual relations with them), and beat them."

The above verse was revealed in connection with a women who complained to Muhammad that her husband slapped her on the face, which was still marked by the slap. At first Muhammad said to her "Get even with him", but then added 'Wait until I think about it". Later on the above verse was revealed, and Muhammad added,

'We (He and the woman) wanted one thing, Allah wanted another. In other words, God blessed a man slapping around his wife. Zamakhshari, Jalalan and Baydawi also support this.

The Arabic is much stronger that the words "beat them". It actually says "scourge (whip) them". Muhammad Pickthall correctly translates it this way in his version of the Qur'an."

Another Muslim scholar (Imam al-Mawawi, in Riyad al-Salihin, ("The Orchards of Righteous Men"), p 107-108) addresses this issue by relating a story from early Islam:

"Umar Khattab came to Muhammad saying, 'Women have dared to disobey husbands.' He (Muhammad) allowed their husbands to scourge them. Many women approached Muhammad complaining against their husbands because Muhammad received a verse for the Qur'an which commands their husbands to scourge them."

In addition to this Zamakhshari writes "Muhammad said 'Hang up your scourge (whip) where your wife or wives can see it'", (BTV, p81). This is meant to remind the wife that disobedience will bring physical punishment.

Asma, Abu Bakr's daughter said, "I was the fourth wife of al-Zabayr Ibn Awwam. Whenever he became angry at any of us he struck us with a hook rod until it was broken". Zabayr was one of Muhammad's special 'companions'.


A man gets more of an inheritance than his sister gets. Qur'an 4:11, 176- "A man shall inherit twice as much as a female". Following vs. 11, the next verses detail percentages of who receives what. Again, men come out on top.

Some Muslims say that men inherit more than women because the male is the bread winner, and the women is to be supported by her male relatives. But there are circumstances possible where the sister would be in more need of finances than the brother. What if the sister is married to a poor man and has many children, and her brother is wealthy? Why does Islamic law deny women an equal share in the inheritance? Why does the woman have to trust her male relative's discretion? What if he squanders the money? In this case, women are at a disadvantage.


A man can fulfill his sexual desires with a variety of women.

Qur'an- 23:5 "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave girls for these are lawful to them)...

In other words, men can have up to 4 wives, and he can also have sexual relations with as many slave girls as he owns. Muhammad had at least one captured female who he had sex with - Rayhana. Muhammad had massacred 800 Jewish male captives. He then sold the women and children as slaves. He kept at least one female for himself - Rayhana. He wanted to marry her, and she refused, so he kept her as a concubine. (Sirat, p466). Mariyam was also his concubine, until she gave birth to a son- Ibrahim. After that, Muhammad married her. (KTK, p151)

It was okay for a man to use his female slaves for his personal sexual pleasure. However he was not allowed to make her a prostitute.  Arabs used to wait for one period cycle before having sex with their slaves so as to make sure that they are not pregnant.


The Qur'an also treats women like a pieces of property for men. The ease of divorce accommodates the man, but not the women (in most cases she needs her husband's permission).

Ref. 4:20 - "If you wish to replace a wife with another, do not take from her dowry... that would be unfair".

If a man has divorced his wife three times she may not remarry him, until she has married another man, and consummated that marriage, then divorced the other man. ref. 2:230. Islamic law calls this other man 'Muhalil'. This is supported by Bukhari 7, p136, and the commentators Jalalan, Baydawi, and Soyuti. (BTV, p102)

Women can be divorced by their husbands with or without cause, but she can only seek divorce from her husband with her husband's consent, (HDI, 'Women')


A woman's legal testimony is worth half of a man's, (only except in the event that she is accused of adultery).

Qur'an- 2:282 "...and call in to witness two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witness as you approve of, that if one women errs the other will remind her."


In the Hadith Muhammad also said a variety of negative things about women. Here is the Hadith:

"Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then 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 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 your intelligence. Isn't it true that a women can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said: "This is the deficiency in your religion." Bukhari, volume 1, #301, and vol. 3, #826:

Some Muslims say that there is no comparison with men here. "Deficient in intelligence...? Deficient compared to who or what? What or who is the standard? The context and reference of the quote will give us the answer.

Let's take a look at the sentence in question: "I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you (the women he was talking to)." He's calling them 'deficient in intelligence'. Deficient means "lacking, defective, insufficient, inadequate". Muhammad is saying that women's intelligence is all these things. Are women deficient when compared to children? To dogs? To donkeys? To God? What is Muhammad's standard?

The women question him on this; they are wondering why he said that. They ask, "Muhammad, how are we defective, insufficient, lacking and inadequate in

intelligence?" Muhammad answers with some words similar to those in the Qur'an: "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" He cements women's deficient intelligence by pointing out to them that their testimony is worth half of a man's. These women, knowing his teaching agree. Muhammad then points out "This is the defectiveness in your intelligence." Muhammad references men when justifying his statement that women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men.

Muhammad uses the testimony of men as the comparison. Women are being compared to men, there is no doubt about it. Muhammad elaborated on his 'inadequate in intelligence' statement by tying their 'deficiency in intelligence' with the Quran's verse of 2:282. In effect, Muhammad says to them, "You women are somewhat stupid, so much so that your testimony is worth only half of a man's.

Here is the pertinent part of 2:282 - "Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man, and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses, so that if either of them commit an error, the other will remind her."

The Qur'an also implies that women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men. It does not explicitly say "women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men", but when the Qur'an says "men are superior to women" (4:34), "and the testimony of two women equals one man's" (2:282), it implies women are of inferior intelligence (when compared to men).

But why do you need two women's testimonies for one man's? Why couldn't one be good enough? The bottom line is that women don't equal men in this testimony.

Muslims point out that in cases of adultery, a women's testimony is more valid than a man's (refer to Qur'an- 24:6-9). But that is only for the case of adultery. These Qur'anic verses related to this deal explicitly with un-chastity. It is not the other way around. What the verses say are that in the case of a women being accused of sexual sin, her testimony is just as valid as her husband's. Perhaps because Muhammad thought the women should know if she committed sexual sin, so he gave women the benefit of the doubt.

Muslims try to say that the context of 2:228 relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and loaded with business jargon. What Muhammad meant is that women were deficient in intelligence because at the time they were not familiar with business related issues.

This sounds like an easy out, but it isn't. Muslim's believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God. What the Qur'an lays down as law, they must follow. Why would the Qur'an lay down a law like 'you must have two women's testimony, to account for one man's testimony'? If it were only a case of local custom or culture, would it have become Qur'anic law? No, Allah is making a point, establishing a precept for future Muslims to follow: "Two women's testimony for one man's."

Further, didn't Khadijah (Muhammad's first wife) own a business? Was she so financially inept that she couldn't deal in business? Were all the women back then so ignorant and backward? I don't think so.

Let's examine some Muslim writings related to this. Here's a contemporary one. Recently, a female Muslim writer commenting on the two for one witness law wrote:

"Women were made to bear and feed children, therefore they are very emotional. And she is forgetful, for if she did not forget how it is to give birth she would not have another child. That is why she will not be as reliable a witness as a man". (Taken from "The Age", Life behind a veil of Islam, 3/3/1992, p11.

A quote from a contemporary Muslim - Dr. Aly Farrukha, Director of Islamic Studies in Chicago says:

"The issue of a woman's testimony in court is a divine order which necessitates that a woman who is a witness should be accompanied by another woman in order to remind her if she forgets and to correct her is she makes an error." (So they are saying that a woman’s memory is also poor)

This Muslim scholar states that woman's testimony is worth half of a man's in all legal issues. I will add except for the charge of un-chastity.

Now, from the Jalalan (p79), a great Muslim Qur'anic commentary: "Men have been given authority over women to discipline and control them by the merits of


Finally, let me quote from the Muslim writer Ali Dashti (in "23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad", p113, 114)

"According to the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, the superiority of men lies in intelligence, knowledge and administrative ability. Zamakhshari, Baydawi, and several other commentators go into more detail and construct metaphysical theories; they liken men's authority over women to that of rulers over subjects, and maintain that prophethood, prayer-leadership, and rulership are reserved for men because men are stronger, more intelligent, and more prudent."

Sounds pretty clear to me. Islam teaches that men are superior to women in intelligence. (I should be happy with this as I am a man but what about Equality, women's rights!)


Islam, teaches the husband to be responsible for his wife and household as indicated in 4:34. It is his role as 'qawwam' or manager. In the Hans-Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary, p800: 'Qawwam' means: manager, director, superintendent, caretaker, keeper, custodian, guardian". Islamic men do indeed manage their women.

But there is another part of 4:34.... "Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient.........Then if they (the women) obey you (the men), take no further action against them." So, Islam also requires women to submit to men.

As a final reference, examine Muhammad's farewell address. I quote from Guillaume's translation, page 651:

"Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons".

You can see that men do more than 'maintain' women. They indeed are women's managers.

4.2) Women are deficient with respect to men in piety.

4.3) Women are deficient in gratitude when compared to men. Continuing with Bukhari, vol. 1, #28:

"Women are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good deeds done to them. If you have always been good to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, "I have never received any good from you.""

 Back to Home Page