Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Quran and Women

To whoever, male or female, does good deeds and has faith, We shall give a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions. Quran 16:97
Whoever does evil will be repaid with its like; whoever does good and believes, be it a man or a woman, will enter Paradise and be provided for without measure. Quran 40:40
Allah provides guidance to the Prophet about women throughout the Quran. In some cases Allah talks about women in general, but in others he provides specific advice on how to deal with specific situations. Outside of those specific situations, Allah continually stresses equality between men and women. As 16:97 and 40:40 point out, Allah promises to reward all Muslims based on their actions; in this life and the next. Allah continually refers to men and women in the Quran as equals ( 3:195, 4:122-124, 9:71-72, 33:35, 33:73, 49:13, 57:18, 85:10 ). Not only does Allah view men and women as equal, he sharply criticizes those who do not. Allah condemns fathers who favor sons over daughters, and promises to condemn them to Hell for contemplating filicide:

When one of them is given news of the birth of a baby girl, his face darkens and he is filled with gloom. In his shame he hides himself away from his people because of the bad news he has been given. Should he keep her and suffer contempt or bury her in the dust? How ill they judge! Those who do not believe in the Hereafter should have the contemptible image, and God should have the highest one: He is the Mighty, the Wise...Without doubt it is the Fire that belongs to them: they will be given priority there! Quran 16:58-62, similar 43:16
Understanding how strongly Allah feels about gender equality, it is no surprise that Allah intervened on behalf of specific women in Medina to insure that they were treated with justice by a notoriously misogynist society.

The Prophets Wives

The first few cases I want to discuss come from the household of the prophet and his wives. The first is the notorious case of Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy accusing Aisha bint Abu Bakr (wife of the Prophet) of having an affair with a nomad named Safwan. Ibn Ishaq reported that even Aisha's parents were unwilling to defend her when asked by the Prophet about her fidelity (Sirat Rasul Allah pg 496 and confirmed in Sahih Bukhari 6:60:281) The scandal threatened to bring several of the Medinan clans to war with each other. Allah angrily reacted to the scandal, explaining that if Aisha was guilty she should be harshly punished. but if her accusers could not provide witnesses, then they should be lashed. Allah then determines that the accusers are liars:
It was a group from among you that concocted the lie—do not consider it a bad thing for you [people]; it was a good thing—and every one of them will be charged with the sin he has earned. He who took the greatest part in it will have a painful punishment. When you heard the lie, why did believing men and women not think well of their own people and declare, ‘This is obviously a lie'? And why did the accusers not bring four witnesses to it? If they cannot produce such witnesses, they are the liars in God’s eyes. Quran 24:11-13
Later, during the marriage of the Prophet to Zainab bint Jahsh, several guests lingered in the Prophet's house too long. Allah then created a set of rules for Muslims to follow when in the company of the Prophet's wives and the Prophet's house to give them more personal space. While giving the rules, Allah reminds us about the Aisha scandal, and explains that these rules only apply to the Prophet's wives to prevent future accusations against them:
Believers, do not enter the Prophet’s apartments for a meal unless you are given permission to do so; do not linger until [a meal] is ready. When you are invited, go in; then, when you have taken your meal, leave. Do not stay on and talk, for that would offend the Prophet, though he would shrink from asking you to leave. God does not shrink from the truth. When you ask his wives for something, do so from behind a screen: this is purer both for your hearts and for theirs. It is not right for you to offend God’s Messenger, just as you should never marry his wives after him: that would be grievous in God’s eyes. God has full knowledge of all things, whether you reveal them or not. The Prophet’s wives are not to blame [if they are seen by] their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, or their slaves. [Wives of the Prophet], be mindful of God. God observes everything. God and His angels bless the Prophet—so, you who believe, bless him too and give him greetings of peace. Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating torment for them— and those who undeservedly insult believing men and women will bear the guilt of slander and flagrant sin. Quran 33:53-58

Its worth noting that many Muslim scholars attempt to turn this ruling meant for the Prophet's wives into a requirement of seclusion (purdah) and veiling (hijab) for all Muslim women. Based on the context and wording of these verses, it is hard to conclude that these requirements apply to all women (This is dealt with extensively by Leila Ahmed at the Harvard Divinity School in her book 'Women and Gender in Islam'). Its also worth noting that neither Ibn Ishaq nor Ibn Sa'd mention any hijab or purdah requirements outside of the Prophet's wives in their authoritative biographies of the Prophet. As previously mentioned, this verse was revealed to deal with Muslims lingering in the prophet's house during his wedding, and is independently confirmed in 2 different books of hadeeth:
Anas b. Malik (Allah be pleased with him) reported: I was the best informed among the people pertaining to Hijab (veil and seclusion). Ubayy b. Ka'b used to ask me about it. Anas (Allah be pleased with him) thus narrated: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) got up in the morning as a bridegroom of Zainab bint jahsh (Allah be pleased witt her) as he had married her at Medina. He invited people to the wedding feast after the day had well risen. There sat Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and there kept sitting along with him some persons after the people had stood up (for departure) ; then Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) stood up and walked on and I also walked along with him until he reached the door of the apartment of 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her). He then thought that they (those who had been sitting there after meal) had gone away. So he returned and I also returned with him, but they were still sitting at their places. So he returned for the second time and I also returned until he reached the apartment of 'A'isha. He again returned and I also returned and they had (by that time) stood up, and he hung a curtain between me and him (at the door of the apartment of Hadrat Zainab, where he had to stay), and Allah revealed the verse pertaining to veil. Reported in Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:65:375 and Sahih Muslim, 8:3334
A weaker hadeeth also confirms this reading, with one of the Prophet's companions explaining its application to one of the Prophet's wives:
Narrated 'Aisha; The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place to answer the call of nature at night. 'Umar used to say to the Prophet "Let your wives be veiled," but Allah's Apostle did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam'a the wife of the Prophet went out at 'Isha' time and she was a tall lady. 'Umar addressed her and said, "I have recognized you, O Sauda." He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of "Al-Hijab." Reported in Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:4:148
Those who believe that 33:53-58 apply to all women, base it on the following hadeeth:
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin; Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. Reported in Abu-Dawud, 32:4092
This hadeeth is widely seen as problematic as Abu-Dawud himself labeled the hadeeth unreliable (mursal) because of an incomplete narration chain and a notoriously unreliable narrator (Sa'eed bin Basheer).

Hijab and Niqab

Understanding that the above dress codes only apply to the Prophet's wives, it is worth noting that Islam does have dress requirements for both Muslim men and women. In typical Quranic fashion, the requirement is given for both men and women. The guidance is to cover one's privates, with women having the additional requirement of covering their breasts. The commandment is so uncontroversial that early Quran commentators neglected to even offer analysis of it:
Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments—this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed. Quran 7:26
[Prophet], tell believing men to lower their glances and guard their private parts: that is purer for them. God is well aware of everything they do. And tell believing women that they should lower their glances, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what [it is acceptable] to reveal; they should let their head-scarves fall to cover their necklines and not reveal their charms except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their womenfolk, their slaves, such men as attend them who have no sexual desire, or children who are not yet aware of women’s nakedness; they should not stamp their feet so as to draw attention to any hidden charms. Believers, all of you, turn to God so that you may prosper. 24:30-31
Although early commentators were silent on the issue, we have two contradictory hadeeth with the same narrator (Aisha) providing reaction. One of the traditions must be wrong and given the context, the Abu-Dawud version is much more plausible than the Bukhari version.
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: May Allah have mercy on the early immigrant women. When the verse "That they should draw their veils over their bosoms" was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them. Reported in Abu-Dawud, 32:4091
'Aisha used to say: "When (the Verse): "They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms," was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces." Sahih Bukhari 6:60:282
The Bukhari version of this hadeeth is easily rejected because it refers to covering faces which is never mentioned in the verse. As ibn Kathir mentions in his commentary (shown later) Meccan women commonly exposed their breasts which the verse does talk about. This example shows the peril of relying only on hadeeth without Quranic basis. It is only by comparing this hadeeth with its corresponding Quran verse that we can see that it is obviously wrong. Its rare that we actually have a smoking gun confirming the illegitimacy of a hadeeth, but in the case of this Bukhari hadeeth we do thanks to the Abu Dawud hadeeth. Despite all of this, a minority of scholars still use Bukhari 6:60:282 to impose niqab (face veils) on women.

The Case of Ma'iz ibn Malik

Later, Medina had a rash of young men looking for non-believers to engage in sex with. As explained by the commentators al-Dahhak and al-Suddi:
[Said al-Dahhak]: This verse was revealed about those adulterers who used to roam the streets of Medina and follow the women who come out at night to relieve themselves. When they saw a woman, they approached her and winked at her. If the woman did not say anything, they followed her; but if she rebuked them, they left her alone. Actually, these adulterers were only after slave girls. But at that time, freewomen were not distinguishable from slave-girls. All women used to go out wearing a chemise and a headscarf. The women complained to their husbands who mentioned the matter to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse....Said al-Suddi: “The houses of Medina used to be narrow. [For this reason,] women used to wait until nightfall in order to go out to relieve themselves. The corrupt of Medina also used to go out at night. Whenever they saw a woman with a cover, they said: 'This is a freewoman', and they left her alone. But whenever they saw a woman without cover, they said: 'This is a slave', and tempted her to commit adultery. Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse about this matter.” Asbab Al-Nuzul, 100 years after the verse, compiled by Wahidi 450 years after the verse
Allah, of course, did not approve of the harassment, and called for swift justice to the harassing men. He also called upon Muslim women to distinguish their dress from non-Muslims to prevent the harassment. The dress alteration is clearly connected to the harassment, and expired with the arrest of the offending men. It is also noteworthy that Allah placed all blame for the harassment on the offending men, and not on the women or their choice of dress:
Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and women believers to make their outer garments hang low over them so as to be recognized and not insulted: God is most forgiving, most merciful. If the hypocrites, the sick at heart, and those who spread lies in the city do not desist, We shall rouse you [Prophet] against them, and then they will only be your neighbours in this city for a short while. They will be rejected. Wherever they are found, they will be arrested and put to death. This has been God’s practice with those who went before. You will find no change in God’s practices. Quran 33:59-62
Abu Dawud's hadeeth gives us the immediate reaction to the verse:
Narrated Umm Salamah, Ummul Mu'minin: When the verse "That they should cast their outer garments over their persons" was revealed, the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments. Reported in Abu-Dawud, 32:4090
Ma'iz ibn Malik eventually confessed and was punished for the crime by stoning to death with varying accounts of the confession and reasoning behind the punishment (Sahih Muslim 16:4205, Sahih Bukhari 8:82:806, 810, 812-14 and Abu Dawud 33/38:4407,4412,4413,4420). Some versions of the story have the Prophet intentionally ignoring the confession multiple times, others have the Prophet question Ma'iz to ascertain if he was married, others have the Prophet establishing if penile penetration occurred, while others have the woman punished as well after giving birth to his child. The accounts also differ on if the Prophet prayed for Ma'iz after the stoning. One interesting account indicates that despite his multiple confessions, Ma'iz didn't understand his impending punishment for the crime (Abu Dawud 33/38:4406) saying "My people killed me and deceived me; they told me that the Apostle of Allah would not kill me." Regardless of the outcome, it is clear by the numerous and divergent accounts that the people of Medina understood the seriousness Allah placed on adultery after the episode, and that the primary sinner was the man.

The Invention of Hijab

One can see the invention of the Hijab requirement evolving over time in various Muslim texts. Al-Dahhak and al-Suddi clearly explained within 100 years of the verse's revelation that 33:59-62 only referred to a specific incident ("Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse about this matter.”). 700 years after the revelation ibn Kathir got many of the details of the story right and 900 years after the Prophet, al-Suyuti gives a very abbreviated version of the story, but both removed the original emphasis that the verse was meant to deal with a specific situation:
Here Allah tells His Messenger to command the believing women -- especially his wives and daughters, because of their position of honor -- to draw their Jilbabs over their bodies, so that they will be distinct in their appearance from the women of the Jahiliyyah and from slave women. The Jilbab is...Muhammad bin Sirin said, "I asked `Ubaydah As-Salmani about the Ayah:(to draw their Jalabib over their bodies.) He covered his face and head, with just his left eye showing.''(That will be better that they should be known so as not to be annoyed. ) means, if they do that, it will be known that they are free, and that they are not servants or whores." Tafsir ibn Kathir, 700 years after the verse
[33:59] other words, let them pull part of it [also] over their faces, leaving one eye [visible], when they need to leave [the house] for something. That makes it likelier that they will be known, to be free women, and not be molested, by being approached. In contrast, slavegirls did not use to cover their faces and so the disbelievers used to pester them. And God is Forgiving, of any occasion in the past when they may have neglected to cover themselves, Merciful, to them in His veiling them. Tafsīr al-Jalālayn, 900 years after the verse
So in the 600 years between al-Dahhak/al-Suddi and ibn Kathir, the interpretation of the verse changed from a specific ruling to a broader commandment. Ibn Kathir's misinterpretation probably came from his heretical teacher Ibn Taymiyya (as described by the Caliph and many of his contemporaries) who had a well documented obsession with applying the practices of the salaf in all situations. It's also worth noting that ibn Kathir was born right after the destruction of the Great Library of Baghdad and probably only had limited access to previous scholarly works. Ibn Kathir allowed his abbreviated knowledge of 33:59 to create a novel interpretation of 24:30-31. He gets the first half correct when he interprets the dress code for women to be:
...and to draw their veils all over their Juyub, means that they should wear the outer garment in such a way as to cover their chests and ribs, so that they will be different from the women of the Jahiliyyah, who did not do that but would pass in front of men with their chests completely uncovered... Tafsir ibn Kathir
but then injects his incorrect interpretation of 33:59 to add more requirements to the dress code:
...and with their necks, forelocks, hair and earrings uncovered. So Allah commanded the believing women to cover themselves, as He says in 33:59... Tafsir ibn Kathir
In the 20th century the de-contextualization of the verse has become comical with the Pakistani scholar Abul Ala Maududi's misogynist social commentary:
Let us pause here for a while and try to understand what spirit of the social law of Islam is being expressed by this Qur'anic becomes obvious that the intention of the Command for the woman to cover herself well with the sheet here is to conceal her adornments from others. And, evidently, this purpose can be fulfilled only if the sheet or the outer-garment itself is simple; otherwise wrapping up oneself with a decorated and attractive sheet will defeat the purpose itself. Besides, Allah does not only command the woman to conceal her adornment by covering herself with the sheet, but also enjoins that she should let down a pan of the sheet over herself. No sensible person can take any other meaning of this Command than that it requires to conceal the face along with the concealment of the adornments of the body and dress. Then, Allah Himself states the reason for enjoining the Command, saying: "This is an appropriate way by adopting which the Muslim women will be recognized and will remain safe from trouble." Evidently, this instruction is being given to those women who regard flirtation and stares and evil advances by men as annoying and troublesome and not as enjoyable, who do not want to be counted among ill-reputed, immodest society girls, but wish to be known as chaste and modest domestic women...The woman who applies herself to make-up and does not step out of the house until she has fully embellished and decorated herself with every adornment cannot have any other intention that to become the center of attention of all the men, whom she herself allures. After this if she complains that the greedy looks of the people cause embarrassment to her, and she does not wish to be known as a "society woman" and a "popular lady", but wants to live as a chaste house-wife, it will be nothing but a fraud. Tafhim al-Qur'an, 1400 years after the verse
Unfortunately most scholars continue to repeat Ibn Kathir's obvious mistake with 33:59, while more extreme elements and many Pakistanis follow the comical rants of Abul Ala Maududi.

To be absolutely clear, the notion that the women of Medina covered their hair beyond the stoning Ma'iz ibn Malik is without any support. We know from Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (761 CE) that the women of Medina did not cover their hair. An example from the conquest of Mecca, where a woman from Medina was leaking information to the Meccans by hiding letters under the pleats of her hair. Alas, if women were required to abide by purdah, Ali would have never found her correspondence:
She placed the letter on her head, plaited her hair over it, and departed. But Allah told His apostle of the letter and he sent Ali after her. Ali overtook the woman in al-Khulayqa and made her dismount; he examined her baggage, but found nothing...When she saw that he was in earnest she loosed the plaited hair, took out the letter and gave it to Ali. Sirat Rasul Allah 808
Divorce, Inheritance, and a Woman's Right to Property

The next case I want to discuss comes from a hasty divorce. Khaulah Bint Tha'labah complained to the Prophet about her husband initiating a de-facto divorce from her by declaring that she was 'like his mother's back.' Allah swiftly rebuked the husband:
God has heard the words of the woman who disputed with you [Prophet] about her husband and complained to God: God has heard what you both had to say. He is all hearing, all seeing. Even if any of you say to their wives, ‘You are to me like my mother’s back,' they are not their mothers; their only mothers are those who gave birth to them. What they say is certainly blameworthy and false, but God is pardoning and forgiving. Those of you who say such a thing to their wives, then go back on what they have said, must free a slave before the couple may touch one another again—this is what you are commanded to do, and God is fully aware of what you do— but anyone who does not have the means should fast continuously for two months before they touch each other, and anyone unable to do this should feed sixty needy people. This is so that you may [truly] have faith in God and His Messenger. These are the bounds set by God: grievous torment awaits those who ignore them. Quran 58:1-4
In another case, an unnamed man from Taif died leaving his parents, children, and wife. As explained in Asbab al-Nuzul, Allah wanted to make sure that the wife was cared for while the children inherited their father's wealth:
"I have related from Muqatil ibn Hayyan regarding this verse: a man from Ta’if went to Medina. This man had children: men and women, and he also had with him his parents and wife. This man later died in Medina and his matter was reported to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gave reasonably to the man’s parents and children but did not give anything to his wife. However, he ordered them to spend on her from her husband’s bequest for a year”. Asbab al-Nuzul
Although Allah did not award the wife inheritance, the verse makes it clear that she is to be taken care of. The verses are also noteworthy for declaring that divorced women must also betaken care of:
If any of you die and leave widows, make a bequest for them: a year’s maintenance and no expulsion from their homes [for that time]. But if they leave of their own accord, you will not be blamed for what they may reasonably choose to do with themselves: God is almighty and wise. Divorced women shall also have such maintenance as is considered fair: this is a duty for those who are mindful of God. In this way God makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may grow in understanding. Quran 2:240-242
The issue was revisited in the case of Umm Kujjah and her failure to inherit the estate of her husband after he died as explained by Al-Qurtubi and in Asbab al-Nuzul:
This verse was revealed in relation to Aws ibn Thaabit Al-Ansaari, may Allah be pleased with him, who died and left a woman called Umm Kujjah, may Allaah be pleased with her, and three daughters. Two men, Suwayd and ‘Arfajah, who were cousins of the deceased and his trustees, seized his estate and did not give any money to either his wife or daughters. In the pre-Islamic era, women and little children were not given any share of the inheritance under the pretext that only those who fought on horseback with spears and swords and gained booty were exclusively entitled to inheritance. Umm Kujjah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported her case to the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who consequently summoned these two men. They said, “O Messenger of Allah, her children cannot ride a horse (to fight), nor can they help the poor and destitute, nor can they ward off the enemies.” Therefore, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Go until I see what Allah will ordain regarding them.” Tafsir al-Qurtubi
This was narrated by Bukhari...and also by Muslim...“A woman came to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, with her two daughters and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! These are the daughters of Thabit ibn Qays, or perhaps she said Sa'd ibn al-Rabi', who was killed fighting on your side at the Battle of Uhud. Their uncle has taken possession of their fortune and inheritance and did not leave anything belonging to them except that he took it to himself, so what do you think, O Messenger of Allah? For by Allah, they will never get married unless they have some money'. The Messenger of Allah said to her: 'Allah will judge for you concerning this'. Asbab al-Nuzul
Allah angrily responded to the injustice of a wife not inheriting the estate of her husband, expanding the precedent from 2:240-242:
Men shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, and women shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, whether the legacy be small or large: this is ordained by God. If other relatives, orphans, or needy people are present at the distribution, give them something too, and speak kindly to them. Let those who would fear for the future of their own helpless children, if they were to die, show the same concern [for orphans]; let them be mindful of God and speak out for justice. Those who consume the property of orphans unjustly are actually swallowing fire into their own bellies: they will burn in the blazing Flame. Quran 4:7-10
Allah then provided detailed instructions on the amounts of the estate to be divided between the wife, children, and other relatives. Included in the ruling is the line "Concerning your children, God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters.(4:11)"Allah then ended the ruling with the following warning, which appears very similar to the warning provided after the case of Khaulah Bint Tha'labah in 58:4:
These are the bounds set by God: God will admit those who obey Him and His Messenger to Gardens graced with flowing streams, and there they will stay— that is the supreme triumph! But those who disobey God and His Messenger and overstep His limits will be consigned by God to the Fire, and there they will stay—a humiliating torment awaits them! Quran 4:13-14
Allah then re-iterates that both men and women are entitled to inheritance, and that he awarded shares in this case based on what each individual earned:
Do not covet what God has given to some of you more than others—men have the portion they have earned; and women the portion they have earned—you should rather ask God for some of His bounty: He has full knowledge of everything. We have appointed heirs for everything that parents and close relatives leave behind, including those to whom you have pledged your hands [in marriage], so give them their share: God is witness to everything. Quran 4:32-33
In a similar vein, one of the Prophet's most trusted companions, Jabir bin `Abdullah, had no children and multiple sisters, and felt he may soon die. As related by the hadeeth:
Jabir bin 'Abdullah narrates that I became sick so Allah's Apostle and Abu Bakr came on foot to pay me a visit. When they came, I was unconscious. Allah's Apostle performed ablution and he poured over me the water (of his ablution) and I came to my senses and said, "O Allah's Apostle! What shall I do regarding my property? How shall I distribute it?" The Prophet did not reply till the Divine Verses of inheritance were revealed* Reported in Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:80:716 
*Several sources indicate that Bukhari thought this belonged with 4:11, but subsequent scholars have corrected his mistake and reassigned it to 4:176
Allah provided the following answer:
They ask you [Prophet] for a ruling. Say, ‘God gives you a ruling about inheritance from someone who dies childless with no surviving parents. If a man leaves a sister, she is entitled to half of the inheritance; if she has no child her brother is her sole heir; if there are two sisters, they are entitled to two-thirds of the inheritance between them, but if there are surviving brothers and sisters, the male is entitled to twice the share of the female. God makes this clear to you so that you do not make mistakes: He has full knowledge of everything.' Quran 4:176
This formula is distinct from the formula given to the widow from Taif in 2:240-242 and Umm Kujjah in 4:11-12, but reinforces the idea that women have a right to inheritance, an idea that the men in Medina were reluctant to accept. In all of the cases described above, Allah is intervening to provide justice. It would be a grave error to apply the specifics of these rulings to all women for all time. In the case of Aisha, Allah did not impose hijab and purdah on all women, but just the wives of the Prophet, and in the case of Umm Kujjah and Jabir bin Abdullah, Allah did not say that men deserve twice the inheritance of women, but that it made sense in those very different cases.

Closing Thoughts

When Muslim men divorce their wives with text messages, they clearly fall on the wrong side of 58:1-4 even if they are not violating the exact text of the verse. Likewise, Muslims throwing acid in the faces of women sans hijab are fundamentally misunderstanding  33:59-62 and becoming the very aggressors that Allah was protecting Medinan women from. Last, the scholars who laboriously try to reconcile the contradictory inheritance formulas of 2:240-242 with 4:11-12 with 4:176 are missing the fundamental point that these were specific solutions for specific individuals whose only commonality was to re-affirm the right of women to inherit property and widows to be cared for. The real lesson from all of these verses is that Allah calls for men and women to have the same basic rights. When confronted with the inherently unjust society of Arabia, Allah felt it was necessary to personally intervene and protect the rights of marriage, reputation, and inheritance for women. It is truly shameful that some Muslims chose to use these verses to create new forms of injustice for women today.