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the issue of women in islam, is topic of great misunderstanding and distortion due partly to a lack of understanding, but also partly due to misbehavior of some muslims which has been taken to represent the teachings of islam. we speak here about what islam teaches, and that is that standard according to which muslims are to be judged. as such, my basis and source is the quran--the words of allah, and the sayings of the prophet, his deeds and his confirmation. islamic laws are derived from these sources. to facilitate our discussion we can discuss the position of women from a spiritual, economic, social, and political standpoint.





from the spiritual aspect, there are seven points to remember:





according to the quran, men and women have the same spirit, there is no superiority in the spiritual sense between men and women. [noble quran 4:1, 7:189, 42:11]





the quran makes it clear that all human beings (and the phraseology doesn't apply to men or women alone, but to both) have what you might call a human; he





"breathed some of my spirit into divine touch. when god created him"(or her in this sense). [noble quran 15:29 see also 32:9]





some of his spirit here means not in the incarnational sense, but the pure, innate spiritual nature that god has endowed her or him with.





the quran indicates again that one of the most honored positions of human, is that god created the human, and as i referred to surah 17 earlier, it means both sexes, as his trustee and representative on earth. there are many references in the quran that reaffirm this.





nowhere in the quran do we find any trace of any notion of blaming eve for the first mistake or for eating from the forbidden tree. nowhere, even though the quran speaks about adam, eve, and the forbidden tree, but in a totally different spirit. the story is narrated in 7:19-27, and it speaks about both of them doing this, both of them are told that both of them disobeyed, both of them discovered the consequences of their disobedience, both of them seek repentance and both of them are forgiven. nowhere in the quran does it say woman is to be blamed for the fall of man. furthermore, when the quran speaks about the suffering of women during the period of pregnancy and childbirth, nowhere does it connect it with the concept of original sin, because there is no concept of original sin in islam. the suffering is presented not as a reason to remind woman of the fall of man, but as a reason to adore and love woman or the mother. in the quran, especially 31:14, 46:15, it makes it quite clear god has commanded upon mankind to be kind to parents and mentions,





"his mother bore him in difficulty or suffering upon suffering." [noble quran 31:14, 46:15]





the quran makes it clear again to remove any notion of superiority and i refer you again to 49:13. i must caution you that there are some mistaken translations, but if you go to the original arabic, there is no question of gender being involved.





in terms of moral, spiritual duties, acts of worship, the requirements of men and women are the same, except in some cases when women have certain concessions because of their feminine nature, or their health or the health of their babies.





the quran explicitly, in more than one verse, 3:195, 4:124, specified that whoever does good deeds, and is a believer and then specifies "male or female" god will give them an abundant reward.





in the area of economic rights, we have to remember that in europe until the 19th century, women did not have the right to own their own property. when they were married, either it would transfer to the husband or she would not be able to dispense of it without permission of her husband. in britain, perhaps the first country to give women some property rights, laws were passed in the 1860's known as "married women property act." more than 1300 years earlier, that right was clearly established in islamic law.





"whatever men earn, they have a share of that and whatever women earn, they have a share in that." [noble quran 4:32]





secondly, there is no restriction in islamic law that says a woman cannot work or have a profession, that her only place is in the home. in fact, by definition, in a truly islamic society, there must be women physicians, women nurses, women teachers, because it's preferable also to separate teenagers in the volatile years in high school education. and if she chooses to work, or if she's married with the consent of her husband, she's entitled to equal pay, not for equal work, but for work of equal worth.





thirdly, when it comes to financial security, islamic law is more tilted in many respects towards women. these are seven examples:





during the period of engagement, a woman is to be on the receiving side of gifts.





at the time of marriage, it is the duty of the husband, not the bride's family. he is supposed to pay for a marital gift. the quran called it a gift, and it is exclusively the right of the woman. she doesn't have to spend it on the household, she doesn't have to give it to her father or anyone else.





if the woman happened to own any property prior to marriage, she retains that property after marriage. it remains under her control. also, in most muslim countries, the woman keeps her own last name, and her own identity.





if the woman has any earnings during her marital life, by way of investments of her property or as a result of work, she doesn't have to spend one penny of that income on the household, it is entirely hers.





the full maintenance and support of a married woman is the entire responsibility of her husband, even though she might be richer than he is. she doesn't have to spend a penny.





at the time of divorce, there are certain guarantees during the waiting period and even beyond for a woman's support.





if the widow or divorcee has children, she's entitled to child support.





in return for these listed securities, it is clear why the islamic laws pertaining to inheritance give men a higher share. from the social standpoint, as a daughter we find that credit goes to islam for stopping the barbaric practice of pre-islamic arabs of female infanticide. these ignorant people used to bury female daughters alive. the quran forbade the practice, making it a crime. surah 81 additionally, the quran condemned the chauvinistic attitudes of some people who used to greet the birth of a boy with gladness, but sadness in the case of a girl.





the duty, not the right, the duty of education, as the prophet said, is a duty on every muslim, male and female.





as far as treatment of daughters is concerned, prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "anyone who has two daughters, and did not bury them, did not insult them and brought them up properly, he and i will be like this," holding his two fingers close together. another version adds, "and also did not favor his sons over daughters." one time the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was seated. a companion was sitting with him. the companion's son came. he kissed his son and put him on his lap. then his daughter came, and he just sat her by his side. the prophet told the man, "you did not do justice," meaning he should have treated the daughter equally, kissed her and put her in his lap also. indeed, whenever the prophet's daughter fatimah came to him, in front of everyone, he stood up, kissed her and let her sit in his favorite place where he'd been sitting.





from the marital standpoint, the quran clearly indicates in surahs 30:20 and 42:11 that marriage is not just an inevitable evil, marriage is not somebody getting married to his master or slave, but rather to his partner.





"among his signs is this, that he created for you mates from among yourselves, that they may dwell in tranquility with them, and he has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect." [noble quran 30:21]





there are numerous verses in the quran to the same effect.





secondly, the approval and consent of the girl to marriage is a prerequisite for the validity of marriage in islam. she has the right to say yes or no.





husbands' and wives' duties are mutual responsibilities. they might not be identical duties, but the totality of rights and responsibilities are balanced. the quran says:





"women have the same rights (in relation to their husbands) as are expected in all decency from them, while men stand a step above them." [noble quran 2:228]





this only specifies the degree of responsibility, not privilege, in man's role as provider, protector, maintainer, and leader of the family. the same surah speaks about divorce, about consultation between husband and wife, even in the case of divorce. when there are family disputes, first the quran appeals to reason and the consideration of positive aspects of one's spouse,





"dwell with your wives in kindness for even if you hate them, you might be hating someone in whom god has placed so much good." [noble quran 4:19]





if that appeal does not succeed, and problems between the husband and wife continue, there are measures that can be applied. some of these measures are done privately between husband and wife. some of them might appear harsh, but there are qualifications to restrict excessive or abusive use of these measures. these measures are considered an attempt to save a marriage rather than break a family apart. if the situation does not improve, even with the limitation and prevention of excesses, the next step is a family council. one arbiter from his family and one from her family should sit together with the couple and try to resolve the problems.





if a divorce becomes necessary, there are many detailed procedures in islamic law that really knock down the common notion that divorce in islam is very easy and that it is the sole right of man. it is not the sole right of man alone and neither is it true that all you have to say is: "i divorce you three times," and that's it. islam also has laws regarding custody of children. i was very surprised to see newspapers making the false claim that in all cases custody goes to the father. custody involves the interest of the child, and laws often favor the mother of young children.





polygamy has become so mythical in the minds of many people that they assume being muslim means having four wives. this is a false notion, of course. a very renowned anthropologist, edward westermarck, in his two-volume work, "history of human marriage," notes that there has been polygamy in virtually every culture and religion, including judaism and christianity. but the point here is not to say, "why blame islam?" actually, islam is the only religion even among abrahamic faiths, that specifically limited the practice of polygamy that existed before islam and established very strict conditions for guidance. the question, "how could any man have two wives? that's terrible!" reflects ethnocentrism. we assume that because we're living in the west and it seems strange, and we assume it must apply to all cultures, all times, under all circumstances. this simply isn't true. let me give you one current-day example. in the savage attack on afghanistan, genocide was committed on the afghani people. it is estimated that 1-1.5 million people lost their lives, a great majority of whom were men of a marriageable age. now, with a great shortage of men, what will happen to their widows, their orphans and their daughters of marriageable age? is it better to leave them in a camp, with a handout? or better a man is willing to take care of his fallen comrade's wife and children?





it is obvious that monogamy is the norm for muslims. if we assume that having four wives is the norm, then we assume a population of 80% female and 20% male, which is an impossibility on the aggregate level. the only verse in the quran that speaks about polygamy, speaks about limiting not instituting polygamy. the verse was revealed after the battle of uhud in which many muslims were martyred, leaving behind wives and children in need of support. this verse shows the spirit and reason of the revelation.





the quran placed obedience to parents immediately after worship of god.





"we commanded mankind to be kind to his parents" [noble quran 31:14]





and then speaks of the mother. in a very succinct statement, prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "paradise is at the feet of mothers." once a man came to him and asked, "o, messenger, who among mankind is worthy of my kindness and love?" the prophet answered, "your mother." "who next?" "your mother." "who next?" "your mother." only after the third time he said, "and your father."





as a sister in faith, in blood, we find the quran speaks about men and women, that they should cooperate and collaborate in goodness. surah 9:71 speaks about men and women as supporters and helpers of each other, ordaining the good and forbidding the evil, establishing prayers and doing charity. prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) echoed what the quran said, "i command you to be kind to women." in one of his last commands in his farewell pilgrimage before his death, he kept repeating, "i command you to be kind and considerate to women." in another hadith, he said, "it is only the generous in character who is good to women, and only the evil one who insults them."





on the question of attire, the quran and the sayings of the prophet did not say women must adopt a particular dress of a particular country. it only gives basic boundaries, and for a committed muslim woman, she doesn't follow this simply because her father or husband tells her, but because allah already stated that as a requirement in the quran, and was explained through revelation given to prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that this was not to restrict woman, but to provide a virtuous society where sexual attraction is not the main obsession of everyone. this forces everyone to respect the woman for what she is as a human being, as an intellectual and a spiritual being, rather than being diverted to her sexuality.





finally, a few words about political involvement. the verse quoted earlier, surah 9:71, which speaks about men and women being supporters and helpers of each other was taken by some jurists to mean that it involves also public life. how could they ordain the good and forbid the evil without women being active in the affairs of their society? according to the quran, i'm not talking about the practices of muslims, in surah 60:12, we read about muslim women making "bayy'ah" to the prophet. bayy'ah as an islamic term is somewhat analogous, to a degree, to what we would call an election, or oath of allegiance. and that was given in his capacity not only as a prophet, but as a head of state, as he was already the head of state in medina.





during the rein of 'umar, women participated in law making. 'umar made a proposal of a certain regulation concerning marriage. a woman in the mosque stood up and said, "'umar, you can't do that." 'umar did not tell her, "shut up, you are a woman, you have nothing to do with politics, etc." he asked, "why?" she made her argument on the basis of quran. in front of everybody, he stood up and said, "the woman is right and 'umar is wrong," and he withdrew his proposal. that was the spirit in the early days of islam.





in the most authentic collection of hadith, hadith bukhari, a section is devoted to the participation of women, not only in public affairs, but in the battlefield, too, and not only as logistical support. women carried arms, and when there was great danger to the muslims, they volunteered to participate even in the battlefield.





the problems presented here are not the problems of islam. they are problems of a lack of commitment, lack of application, or misapplication of islamic teachings by muslims themselves. the topics i have tried to cover here represent and exemplify the big gap that exists between the true teachings of islam as derived from its original sources and its projected image in the west and the way some muslims behave in the disregard of those noble teachings.





there's no question that the western media has played an important role in perpetuating these misconceptions. but in fairness, we should not blame the media alone. western culture, in writings about other religions, in particular islam, have distorted images. from books, novels, even in the academic circle, and sermons from the pulpit in places of worship, these kinds of prejudices are perpetuated.





there are fair and honorable people in the media who are receptive to correction of inaccuracies, and who present the facts, when the facts become manifest, as we have seen in the coverage of the barbaric and cruel treatment of the palestinians n the occupied territories. what i would suggest to the media is instead of depending on the distorted information about islam, they should keep in touch with educated muslims, and remember, the u.s. has between 5 and 6 million muslims. only through correct representation and open communication with muslims in america can the media give a fair analysis of current events, given the background of those conflicts, and provide a great service to society.





Some misconceptions about women in Islam





islam gave women rights and privileges at a time when only barbaric manners and values dominated.





yet, some people argue that islam has alienated women in some domains. in fact, this belief is a misconception. people who say so, may have read about it in a magazine or seen it on tv. a quick examination of the issues judged as unjust to women will certainly correct the misunderstanding.





man as the head of the household:





some people believe that a woman in islam is regarded as inferior to man since allaah says (what means): {men have one degree above women.} [quran 2: 228]





in fact, to understand this quranic verse, you should see another one, related to the issue in question. it reveals the wisdom behind this concept.





allaah also says (what means): {men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because allaah has given the one more than the other and because men support them from their means.}[quran 4:34]





this verse implies that it is a man's duty to support his wife, and not the reverse, but this, in no way, makes him superior to her.





in fact, the rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical. since men and women are not created identical, they have different physical and emotional qualities, jobs and privileges. this does not mean that women are inferior.





on the contrary, women are considered crucial members of society in islam since they are assigned the job of bringing up future generations. people today tend to look down at housewives but, in fact, raising children is one of the most important and difficult tasks. the way a mother brings up her child determines the way he will behave in the future. this duty, which requires patience, love, understanding and wisdom was significantly assigned to women in islam because her nature suits this job.





allaah the exalted, in his wisdom, has assigned a role for each member of the family so that there would be no arguments concerning who should do what. if a sailboat has two leaders, each will want to follow a path, leading ultimately to chaos and even a crash. in the same manner, how many times have your parents fought over some decision because each had their own point of view and wanted to apply it? this is precisely why it is preferable to have one leader for each household. however, this does not give the leader the right to be a dictator, or to neglect the role of his companion. this does not make him superior to other members of his family. it just gives him a larger duty.





inheritance:





some people claim that islam is unjust towards women because it entitles them to inherit half of what men get. in fact, those people only know one side of the truth.





first, the principle of women inheriting half the money is only applicable in 45 percent of the cases. in the other 55 percent, women inherit the same amount or sometimes even more. for example, a mother and a father each inherit the sixth of their son's property when they are not the only inheritors.





in addition, the laws of inheritance in islam are proportional to the duties of spending. indeed, a man in islam has the responsibility of supporting his family, his brother's children (when his brother dies), his parents (when they retire and do not have an income), his children from his previous marriage (if he has them) and his household, including his wife and children. a woman, on the other hand, does not bear this responsibility. she has the freedom to use the money she collects from her dowry or work as she pleases.


you might object here, saying that women today are working and helping their husbands pay the expenses, which entitles them to share equality with men. in fact, you should know that women's economic assistance to their husbands, which has become the norm today, is only an answer to the females’ wishes. islam does not oblige women to spend on their households. it is a free choice many women have themselves taken today to feel more liberated, so it does not entitle them to a bigger portion of the inheritance.





polygyny:





polygyny is one of the most questioned principles that islam grants men and women. indeed, many people wrongfully accuse islam of injustice because it allows a man to have up to four wives. nevertheless, like every instruction in the quran, polygyny has a reason. you see, islam is a practical religion that acknowledges the needs and temptations of human beings and provides laws that deal with them, thus preserving harmony and morality.





·         polygyny might be the solution for a couple if the wife is barren, the husband wants children of his own and the option of separation does not appeal to both parties.





·         if a woman is chronically ill and is unable to perform her marital duties. polygyny may also be the solution when the couple does not want divorce.





·         polygyny is the religion's answer to cases where some men have excessive sexual needs that cannot be fulfilled by one wife. this in no way means that men should abuse this right and use it whenever they fancy a woman. it is rather a chance islam has provided to prevent men from committing adultery. many people who condemn polygyny cheat on their wives, calling this phenomenon a 'swift affair.' islam, at least, has offered the second woman the option of being called 'a wife' rather than 'a mistress', especially in some countries where women remarkably outnumber men.





·         polygyny may settle the problem of an increased number of unmarried women, especially during wars.





however, polygyny has some limits and conditions to be met. indeed, the quran instructs the man to be fair with his wives on all levels, including treatment, money, house, etc. the only level where the man may have an uneven stance is the level of the feelings that he cannot control:





allaah says (what means): {you will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them [by giving her more of your time and provision] so as to leave the other hanging [i.e. neither divorced nor married]. and if you do justice, and do all that is right and fear allaah by keeping away from all that is wrong, then allaah is ever-forgiving and all-merciful.} [quran 4:129]





finally, it is worth knowing that islam gives a woman the right to refuse polygyny for her husband by setting it as a condition during the marriage procedures. if this condition is set, then the woman is granted divorce if her husband marries another while he is still married to her.





you might ask, why could not there be polyandry (a woman having more than one husband)? the answer is simple. islam did not allow it because allaah is all-aware that it will create a problem of kinship. this means that the child may not know who is actually his father (it could be anyone of the four husbands). in addition to the psychological damage it may cause, this problem also complicates the issue of inheritance. even birds and animals do not allow polyandry.





divorce





islam considers marriage a basis for the islamic family, since it develops bonds of love and caring and a secure atmosphere for the growth and progress of the human race. this, in turn, produces a sound society. this is why the prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, (may allaah exalt his mention) taught us in a narration, that although classified ‘weak’, has a valid and important meaning. he, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:"the most detestable of all lawful things in the sight of allaah is divorce." however, this does not mean that divorce is prohibited. on the contrary, it can sometimes be the best alternative. divorce is a right for both women and men if their problems cannot be solved. two french legislators, planoil and ripert, have said: "divorce is a mischief. however, it is a measure that cannot be avoided for the welfare of the community, because it is the only remedy for another harm which may be more dangerous, i.e. murder."





the above statement applies to cases where the husband and wife have lost their love for each other and where harmony in the marriage is over. indeed, any other alternative will make them unhappy and will affect their children in the long run.





in these cases, islam advises the couple to try to reconcile their differences in the presence of some immediate relatives belonging to both sides. if they are unable to do so, they are instructed to seek counseling through a third party, such as friends or other relatives. if there is still no solution, then they should seek a solution through a judge.





the judge will advise the couple to be patient and think of the children. however, if the problem remains unsolved, the family life becomes unbearable and the children are affected, then divorce becomes the only alternative, to enable them to have other spouses.





when it is inescapable, divorce is neither harmful to men nor to women. it is also definitely not unjust to women.





 first, the couple must seek divorce in an amicable way. they are instructed to separate without hard feelings towards each other. they should keep a minimum of understanding that will secure the children's situation after the divorce.





the quran says (what means): {divorce is twice. then [after that], either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with good treatment. and it is not lawful for you to take anything of what you have given them unless both fear that they will not be able to keep [within] the limits of allaah, and then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself. these are the limits of allaah, so do not transgress them. and whoever transgresses the limits of allaah -- it is those who are the wrongdoers [i.e. the unjust].}  [quran 2: 229]





in islam, the woman is not neglected after the divorce. indeed husbands are instructed to provide housing to the divorced wife until her waiting period is completed, as in the saying of allaah (which means): {lodge them (during their waiting period (referring to wives whose divorce has been pronounced) [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them (so that they would be forced to leave or to ransom themselves). and if they should be pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth. and if they breastfeed for you, then give them their payment and confer among yourselves in the acceptable way; but if you are in discord, then there may breastfeed for him [i.e. the father] another woman.} [quran: 65:6]





finally, although it is true that only men are allowed to pronounce divorce, yet a woman has the right to ask for a divorce, which is called ‘khul’. in this case, she has to return the dowry given by the husband, so that he utters the divorce.





attestations





in islam, one male witness equals two females: the quran says (what means): {and get two witnesses out of your men. if there are not two men, then a man and two women such as you choose [maybe in place of two men as the witnesses]; so that if one of the women errs, the other one will remind her...}[quran 2:282]





here again, many people tend to denounce islamic principles as unjust to women. they tend to interpret this requirement as proof of men's superiority over women. again, this assumption is not true. in fact, various psychological and biological studies conducted on the psyche and hormonal functions of women, have proved that men generally tend to react more rationally and less emotionally, than women.





in cases of crime, for example, torn bodies and pouring blood are more likely to spur an emotional reaction among women than among men. this reaction is alone capable of distorting the female's perception and/or memory.


on the other hand, men are also bound by rules concerning their testimony. for instance, they must not be parents, friends or enemies of the accused. can we then conclude that, if it was the case for women, that male parents and friends of the accused must be considered inferior too? of course, they are not





finally, one should note that there are matters where a woman is the only witness required. these are related to areas where women are the experts, for example, in issues of breast feeding, bringing up children and the question of kinship (who is her child's father).





the veil


how many times have you seen an educated veiled woman, working and acting normally on television ? very, very rarely. on the other hand, how many times have you seen a veiled woman being hit by her husband, in tears or fighting and rioting along with fundamentalists?





just think: what does a black 'hijaab' veil evoke in your mind? certainly not the image it is meant to evoke -- religious commitment and peaceful, deep-rooted faith. how many times have you seen a veiled young girl and said: "haraam! poor thing! she has not seen the world yet..." is all this just a coincidence?





veiled women today are either associated with alienation or fundamentalism. they are either looked upon with pity or fear. have people ever asked the question: where is the woman's will to surrender to god in this? where is her choice of protecting her dearest possession, her body?





when islam ordered women to wear the veil, it did it to privilege her, not constrain her:





allaah says (what means): {o prophet! tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw upon them their over-garments. that is more appropriate so that they may be recognized and not molested.} [quran 33: 59]





the above verses show that islam aims to protect women from being considered sexual objects. it instructs women to uncover their faces in front of their husband, close relatives whom she cannot marry (mahaarim) and other women. in front of strangers, she must conceal everything but her face and hands.





why does one need to show a semi-clad woman in a car's advertisement? why do we not see a veiled woman? in the first case, because the advertisers are trying to sell the image of the woman with the car. unconsciously, you buy the car wishing it will provide you with such a "babe." in the second case, the woman has refused to be treated as an object for trade and has worn the veil, a sign of dignity rather than humiliation.





Clarification on Female Circumcision - al-Khitaan





Main Points 





I have always condemned Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM. Moreover, I have unequivocally voiced both orally and in written form the condemnation of all harmful forms of Female Genital Cutting FGC, justifiably known as FGM. Furthermore, I have taught that nothing in Islamic Law and religious texts supports such a heinous crime. In fact, it is repugnant to Islamic principles and values to inflict such trauma and suffering on any female. The severest forms of this practice are akin to killing in Islamic Law





. What is Stopping the World from Stopping FGM? 





The statements I have made, that have now being unfairly distorted against me, are those regarding a subtype of Female Genital Cutting FGC, a harmless procedure called the ritual nick. This subtype doesn’t involve any form of clitorectomy. It is merely an incision (or a minimal excision, as explained in the details below) of part of the clitoral hood, the counterpart to the foreskin in males, and does not remove any part of the clitoris. This opinion is scientifically irrefutable and shared by many American non-Muslim pediatricians. It is the position expressed by the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. [Pediatrics Vol. 125 No. 5 May 1, 2010 pp. ‎‎1088 -1093‎.], which noted: “





This [the ritual nick] is no more of an alteration than ear piercing. A legitimate concern is that parents who are denied the cooperation of a physician will send their girls back to their home country for a much more severe and dangerous procedure or use the services of a non–medically trained person in North America.” “However, the ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting.





There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries…” As for the usage of “makrumah” (translated by some as “honorable” or “virtuous”) in the context of female circumcision, I was quoting the various opinions of religious scholars of the past regarding this minimal form of female genital cutting FGC, which is not considered mutilation as explained in the policy statement by the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. [Pediatrics Vol. 125 No. 5 May 1, 2010 pp. ‎‎1088 -1093 





A better translation of the word “makrumah” may be “advantageous” since the word infers that the procedure is of benefit for the person undertaking it. The claim that I said, “Female genital mutilation is an honor” is so repugnant. The statement sounds to me like an intractable conflict. However, my opponents have used against me every other logical fallacy in their campaign, such as generalization, poisoning the well, straw man, etc. Therefore, it does not surprise me that they ascribed such statement to me. Despite my acknowledgment of the harmlessness of the ritual nick, I have unwaveringly discouraged all people from having it done because of its illegality in the US.





I have never advised, suggested or encouraged any of my patients or their families to undertake any type of female circumcision, including the ritual nick. Whenever I have addressed the topic as a speaker or writer, I have warned that although studies show its harmlessness, the ritual nick is a criminal offense in the U.S. and other Western countries and should not be performed. Beyond that, as a Sharia Law professor, I have taught that FGM is an immoral practice and a grave offense against Islamic principles and values. Some people may wonder why I should defend the harmlessness of an illegal procedure.  





The answer to this is because it is harmless, and it is not illegal for an eighteen year old to have it if she desired to do so, and lastly, because I am entitled to defending the teachings of my religion and clearing any misconceptions about them, even if they are controversial and the clarification is inconsequential. The smear campaigns against me are unfounded in that they are based on religious bias, ignorance and misconceptions of my real positions and actions on the issues at hand.





. Details Some websites known for their Islamophobia have been waging a campaign against me because of statements I made regarding female circumcision, known as female genital cutting. Many of them unjustifiably insist on calling all of its forms, female genital mutilation.[1]





The War of Terminology and Female Genital Cutting 





Some of those individuals behind the campaign may themselves be victims of an atmosphere of conflict and mistrust that has been created and promoted by people who have an interest in its existence. They may be feeling threatened, because they were told that the six million Muslims in America (Pew says 2.6) are here to destroy America from within and change their way of life forever. It is hard to imagine how six million people of diverse ideological orientations, many of whom are recent emigrants working hard to make a living, can force their way of life on more than three hundred million people with all the power in their hands. It is also hard to imagine how vicious human beings can become against someone they have never had any contact with, because of his position regarding a subtype of a medical procedure or an ethnic practice. I feel it is necessary to explain my position to the public





 Background and chronology About seven years ago I worked on my PhD thesis in Islamic law entitled ‎‘The Impact of Medical Advancements ‎on Religious Edicts and Judgeship.’‎ One of the issues to be discussed in my thesis was female circumcision. Around that time, there was a concerted campaign to condemn, criminalize and demonize all forms of female genital cutting, by generalizing that all subtypes of the practice are also called female genital mutilation. I had known that the permissibility of some form of this practice was agreed upon within Islamic orthodoxy of the past, so this made me set out to research the form that is sanctioned and the science behind this campaign. I didn’t find a shred of evidence that the form sanctioned by Islam, which I will call here ‘ritual nick,’ was proven by any science to be harmful. Around the same time, I received several questions from concerned Muslims about this practice and its position in our religion.





It was expected that I would answer them with my convictions about the matter from the Islamic and scientific angles. However, I didn’t stop there. Knowing that the practice is illegal in America and other Western countries, I discouraged the enquirers and audience every time I spoke about the issue from having it done. After all, the practice is not obligatory according to the vast majority of Muslim scholars, and nowhere is it emphasized like male circumcision. Also, it is not practiced in many conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi-Arabia. I couldn’t stay out of this discourse, being a medical doctor with a PhD in Shari’a (Islamic law), who is aware of the issue from its theological and medical angles. I felt obliged to make the truth known, and to clear the name of my religion. 





 addressing the above from five angles: scientific, theological, ethical, professional, and legal:





Scientifically, the one form of circumcision that is sanctioned in Islam, according to the position of the vast majority, as detailed in my thesis, has never been proven to be harmful. The part that is cut in this form is the counterpart of the male foreskin, and the procedure is comparable to it though less extensive. [2] To spare you the details of the scientific discussion, I will say that there was not a single study that meets any scientific standard, which looked separately at this type of circumcision, let alone proved its harm. - 





The WHO Study on Female Genital Mutilation The harm is also not conceivable, and there have been some potential benefits mentioned by some physicians [3] and sexologists. However, as I indicated in my thesis, their claims are not supported by studies that meet the scientific standards of today, so I wouldn’t count on them. Nonetheless, the irrefutable fact is that no harm can be ascribed to this form of circumcision, to the extent that the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that the ritual nick is “no more of an ‎alteration than ear piercing.” ‎[4] 





They also clearly said, “Most forms of FGC are decidedly harmful, ‎and pediatricians should decline to ‎perform them, even in the absence of any ‎legal constraints. However, the ritual nick ‎suggested by some pediatricians is not ‎physically harmful and is much less ‎extensive than routine newborn male ‎genital cutting.” [5] I had also indicated that a minimal excision of part of the hood has never been proven harmful. I challenge the opponents to prove the contrary with credible studies that examined this sub-type separately. I even explained the quoted hadeeth to mean, “Make the slightest cut possible.” In the video recording from 4/2010, I explained that the word used in the hadeeth comes from the root “shamma” (smelled), which indicated that the cutting was likened to smelling, since it shouldn’t reduce the mass of what is cut in any significant way, just like smelling wouldn’t reduce the mass of what is smelled.





Theologically, the position I chose is that of the vast majority who expressly indicated the permissibility of the procedure, and that it is to an extent, recommended as well. The permissibility is an irrefutable consensus. - 





The Greatness of Sharia and Female Circumcision





Ethically, I must begin by saying that ethics are to be seen within certain frames or contexts, including cultural ones. According to the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The American Academy of Pediatrics ‎policy statement on newborn male ‎circumcision expresses respect for ‎parental decision-making and ‎acknowledges the legitimacy of including ‎cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions ‎when making the choice of whether to ‎surgically alter a male infant’s genitals.” [6] It is noteworthy that for the Chinese, male circumcision, which they don’t practice, may also be called male genital mutilation. Will those who practice it in the West approve of this characterization? I think that when there is no medical harm, people of various cultures may decide what to do to their bodies.





Hijab and Misconceptions





Hijaab is Worn when the Woman Gets Old





when the woman reaches a certain age and all her children are married, she starts paying attention to herself, performs hajj, and adheres to the worship of her lord. it is as if she knows in advance when she will die! it is as if she is certain that during that period she will be able to perform acts of worship that she was not used to performing before! it is as if she is certain that she will be able to do what she did not do before. how true is this proverb which says: "what has always been, always will be.





Hijaab Prevents the Woman from Finding a Suitable Job





many institutions refuse to employ veiled women as employees. when an employee wants to wear the veil, she exposes herself to dismissal. even if this practice takes place in some institutions and by some persons who look for the opportunity to take advantage of an employee's charms, a muslim woman who wants to wear the hijaab must be certain that hijaab does not prevent the sustenance provided by allaah the almighty. there are many women who do not wear the hijaab but they cannot find jobs.





it is the responsibility of men to financially support women. if a woman is in dire need and has to work to support herself or her children, then the delay in finding a suitable job is from the fate of allaah the almighty and his divine decree and a trial from him to know how sincere that woman is. when a woman is patient, she will ultimately find a suitable job in a suitable place. an employer who looks for a veiled woman is actually looking for an efficient employee whose lifestyle is in consonance with his own values.





Hijaab Stands as an Obstacle before a Woman who is Looking for a Husband





according to popular belief, most suitors prefer a woman who exposes her adornment over the woman who is veiled. even if the suitor is somewhat observant, he hopes to urge his fiancée to wear the hijaab after marriage so that he would attain the reward. however, this is not a general rule, even if it occurs in some cases. a woman who looks for a husband should know that "birds of a feather flock together." when she abandons the hijaab, those who propose to her will not have the required level of religiousness and piety. in a hadeeth (narration), the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: "when a person proposes to you (matrimonial guardians to marry women under your guardianship) and you approve of his religiousness and morals, you should marry him; otherwise, there will be a temptation on earth and widespread corruption." [at-tirmithi] 





Did Hijaab Originate with Islam?





some people claim that hijaab (islamic covering) was introduced after the advent of islam and that it did not exist in arabia or outside of it before the call of prophet muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.





anyone who reads the old testament and the new testament easily recognizes that the hijaab was known among the hebrews since the time of ibraaheem (abraham), may allaah exalt his mention, throughout the eras of their prophets, until after the advent of christianity. there is repeated reference to the hijaab in many books of the old and new testaments.


·        the book of genesis, [24:64, 65] says: “rebekah also looked up and saw isaac. she got down from her camel and asked the servant, "who is that man in the field coming to meet us?" "he is my master," the servant answered. so she took her veil and covered herself.”


·        the fifth song of the songs of solomon, a woman says: “tell me, you whom i love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. why should i be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?”


·        the book of isaiah [3:16-24] says:


16 the lord says, "the women of zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.


17 therefore the lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of zion; the lord will make their scalps bald."


18 in that day the lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces,


19 the earrings, the bracelets and veils,


20 the head dresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 


21 the signet rings and nose rings,


22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses


23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.


24 instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth: instead of beauty, branding.


25 your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.


·        the book of genesis says: “then said judah to tamar his daughter in law, remain a widow at thy father's house, till shelah my son be grown: for he said, lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. and tamar went and dwelt in her father's house and she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself…”


·        in the first epistle to the corinthians, paul the apostle says that the veil honors women. christian women used to veil their faces when meeting strangers and take it off when they were in their homes wearing mourning clothes.


therefore, religious scriptures of the jews and christians (which preceded the noble quran) mention the veil and headdresses.


the romans used to enact laws that forbade women two hundred years before jesus, may allaah exalt his mention, not to appear with their adornment on roads. lex oppia was a law that forbade women to exaggerate in adornment even inside their houses.


concerning the pre-islamic era, the reports of arab women adhering to hijaab are just as numerous as reports of women unveiling. in fact, the violation of women’s concealment was the reason behind the second day of the first war of fijaar. some young men from quraysh and banu kinaanah saw a beautiful woman from banu ‘aamir in the 'ukaath market. they asked her to unveil her face, but she refused. therefore, one of them humiliated her and she sought help from her people. pre-islamic poetry frequently refers to the hijaab of arab women. 



 



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