Books and Documents

Islamic Society (01 Aug 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)


  • Nawaz saheb,
    I have summarized what my understanding of progressivism is. The philosophy behind it is inherent in the definition itself and can be understood as a desire to maximize rationality and to have beliefs which are fully consonant with the times while remaining faithful to Islam's fundamental affirmation of righteousness.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/25/2018 12:34:07 PM

  • Dear Mr.Mohyiuddin.
    Thank you for your response.I wanted to know from you the philosophical ans socio-cultural  basis of your divide and not any self-styled  definition. Thanks

    By Kazi Wadud Nawaz - 8/25/2018 6:07:30 AM

  • Nawaz sahib,
    Progressive Muslims reject obscurantism and promote rationality. They are not afraid of modernity and science. They support gender equality and respect the belief systems of others.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/24/2018 10:19:02 PM

  • Dear Mr. Mohiyuddin,
    Can you please tell me what is the basis of such divide among the Muslim Community-
    " progressive"and "Reactionary" Muslims?

    By Kazi Wadud Nawaz - 8/24/2018 5:50:26 PM

  • Shaheen Sb,

     Without religion, we would have been without a standard of right and wrong. Over a period, moral values given to us by religion, permeated society and became part of our laws. So, it is not surprising that we find many people who may not be outwardly religious, but are kind, honest, just etc and many displaying outward piety who are scoundrels.

     Belief for many people is simply cheap talk or worse hatred for others who do not believe as they do, and often irrelevant to what makes one "righteous". "Religions are, for the most part, bad– but religion is not." So, please do not confuse religion with the nonsense that goes with it but try to understand religion in its essence. It is religion which has given even the atheists the criterion of right and wrong and without religion, we are without an anchor and will drift into ways that will spell our destruction. The role that religion has played, is examined in the following article: Science and Religion

     Who is to blame when the Quran endorses several religions and paths, but our scholars have developed a theology of exclusivism? The Quran endorses even Buddhism which is agnostic about the existence of God but has a strong moral code. Who is to blame when the Quran values deeds above beliefs, but our scholars place mere verbalising of beliefs once in our lifetime as guaranteed to make us enter Heaven?  So, there is a religion of the Book (which is all that is good) and a religion of the people and what they have made of it which is for the most part bad. The part that is good will always guide those who seek guidance, and these will be successful in this life and the Hereafter. The world is a place of testing to find those who are best in their deeds and this test is not a simple one except for those who have a heart that is sound/pure.

     إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ 

     (26:89) "But only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart.

     There is an impulse for good and an impulse for evil and those who respond to the impulse for good and resist the impulse for evil are those who will believe and strive on the path that is steep. This is true for everyone irrespective of their religion.

     I have argued before, that if we believe that Islam is the best religion, then all other things being equal, a muqallid Mushrik is superior to a muqallid Muslim, because inspite of following Islam, the Muslim is only equal to a Mushrik in his deeds. So, who is better, depends on who is better in his deeds, and who has made progress on the path of purifying his heart and his beliefs.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/9/2018 12:40:03 AM

  • Bringing common sense, rationality, humanity and modernity into religions is not a waste of time. However making false claims in the name of religions as well as attempts to generate hate against religions are both  equally reprehensible.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/8/2018 11:53:26 AM

  • You are right Naseer Saheb: religion can only do so much "only polish the diamonds but cannot turn brass into gold. ...."
    But then the question arises: what is the value of religion? Aren't even unpolished diamonds good enough? What is needed is to turn brass into gold. And religion cannot do that. Quran itself states this explicitly, as you point out.
    No wonder, anecdotally speaking, the few really nice people one meets in daily life, the tolerant, the pluralistic,  the gentle, the honest, are the irreligious, the secular, the atheist, the deist, etc.  Of course, not all the secular are nice, nor are all the religious bad. Basically, religion would appear to be irrelevant in terms of human conduct, in terms of a civilsational input. Diamonds can polish themselves. It's the brass we mostly deal with and there is no way to turn them into gold. Should we make so much of religion then? The amount of energy we expend as humanity on studying and following and fighting for and against religions would appear to be stupid if this is the case. We should probably stop making such a big deal of religions, giving them so much weight and time-space in our minds.

    By Sultan Shahin - 8/8/2018 7:43:11 AM

  • It is to the eternal credit of the Muslims, that they never took slaves from among the Meccans who remained free even after the fall of Mecca to the Muslims. In previous battles, the prisoners of war were let off on payment of ransom or even without ransom if they could not afford to pay it. No prisoner of war from among the Meccans, was ever killed or enslaved. Neither were the Meccans looted or deprived of their property  when the Muslims returned triumphant.

    The prophet never took any revenge or destroy the idols. It is the people who accepted Islam who destroyed their own idols as they had no further use for the same.

    It wasn't booty that attracted the people to fight against the oppression. On the contrary, the people were quite reluctant to fight. The fact is that every battle took place near Medina and not near Mecca which establishes the Meccans as the aggressor. The last major battle was the siege of Medina itself by a large army of the Meccans and their allies. The city was saved by digging a trench around it, impeding the progress of the enemy and holding them off in a stalemate. How the Islamophobes lie!

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/7/2018 11:51:02 PM

  • Hats Off is using this article as an opportunity to vent his intense animus towards  Islam. Such hateful spurning of Islam may be permissible on an apostate site but it does not belong here.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/7/2018 11:04:17 PM

  • the pre-islamic tribes of arabia tolerated a presumptuous man with auditory hallucinations who kept up a constant stream of abuse, denigration and humiliation against the religion and practices of the arabian tribes for more than ten years.

    that his abuse was tolerated for so long before they took action goes to prove how peaceful the tribes were.

    when his abuse of their religions became unbearable, they thought the only way to get rid of his constant abuse is to turn him out of town.

    nothing could have justified the prophets constant tirade of abuse and humiliatuion meted out to the practices and idols and dieties of the tribes.

    the prophet had his revenge when he destroyed all the idols in the kaba. and got still more revenge by raiding caravan parties and looting their wealth. he used to retain 1/5 of the loot and distributed the rest among the others no wonder people were making a beeline to the new religion which made it mainstream and respectable to raid caravans, take sex slaves and generally have a wonderful time.

    must have been a totally peaceful dude.

    By hats off! - 8/7/2018 5:31:43 PM

  • The state of jahiliya before Islam, refers to ignorance of the religion of Allah among the pagan Arabs, but does not refer to the Jews and the Christians simply because they are the people of the Book. This definition is beyond debate. It does not refer to the state of the accomplishments of the people in any field, be it the arts, or the sciences.

    The people who became Muslims, came from among the people of Jahiliya mostly. The sterling character of persons such as Umar bin Khattab and Abu Bakr Siddiq or the villainous character of people like Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab is common to all people. People like Umar bin Khattab, Abu Bakr Siddiq and other Vanguard Muslims, were attracted to Islam because of their inherent good qualities which Islam polished further to make them what they became. A religion can only polish the diamonds but cannot turn brass into gold. This limitation is explicitly stated in the Quran. There are people “who will not believe” no matter what, and every person in whom God finds any good, will be made to listen to the message (8:23).  The others are as if their hearts are sealed and they are deaf and blind. (45;23) “Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight. Who, then, will guide him after Allah (has withdrawn Guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?”

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/7/2018 12:52:14 AM

  • Jahiliya means ignorance and the article is based on the author’s ignorance. Sample the following:

    “For example, hajj was made possible every year because of the tribal mores that forbade killing within that month. Before the pilgrimage was Islamised as the ‘hajj’, the society therein had evolved some laws which they put into practice.

     Kaba was built by Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS) and the hajj was ordained by Allah and was practiced since the day the Kaba was built. The rituals and practices were also as prescribed. The four-month period of Hajj during which all violence and killing was prohibited or also goes back to the practice since the days of Ismail. Kaba was a place of sanctuary ever since it was built.

     The people later paganised the kaba. Religion followed the familiar path of commercialisation and pandering to the people’s weaknesses. “Shirk” is the greatest and most unforgivable sin because in its purest form, it is pandering to one’s own desires and lusts or paying obeisance to anything that promises to satiate one’s desires and dreams without a thought to what is right.  The attractiveness and commercial value of a place of pilgrimage is maximised following the very familiar model of successful marketing. To sell successfully, the customer must be provided with a wide variety of choice and merchandise advertised as guaranteed to fulfil the desires and dreams of the people in this world itself.

    Muhammad (pbuh) restored the original position of Kaba as a place of worship for the One and only God. There was no need to alter the practices that did not change since the days of Ibrahim and Ismail. If the author had read the Quran, or had some knowledge of it, he would have known this.

     Take the relationship between Hazrat Khadija and Muhammad (pbuh). Hazrat Khadija was the first to accept Islam, the foremost among its supporters and one who gave all she had to Islam. She was a wife in the best of Islamic traditions, who honoured her husband and had implicit faith in him more than he had in himself. It was Khadija who reassured him that he was a true prophet when he was in doubt. The regard for Khadija continued after she died, and she remained the most loved one amongst all his wives. Now to speculate in the manner the author has done on the relationship, is to expose himself as an ignoramus at best, or as just another Islamophobe.

     It was George Bernard Shaw who said that marriage is legalized prostitution. A person of similar bent of mind is likely to say that “Mehar” is the “vulva price”. Such notions are not derived from the Quran and are a product of profane minds. What if the profane mind belongs to some Maulana and what he says, finds itself into the Books of the Muslims? The test of whether Islam teaches the same is whether such notions are found in the Quran.

     Ghulam Mohiyuddin Sb is quite right. There is nothing original in the author’s article or in the comments of Mr Hamza. They say what the anti-Islam Christian Missionaries have been saying for the last 200 years and what the Islamophobes among the atheists have since picked up from the same sources.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/7/2018 12:07:43 AM

  • Hats Off's analysis is a bundle of fanciful lies. 

    If pre-Islamic societies were so tolerant, why did the Prophet and his followers have to flee Mecca to save their lives? 

    All reputable Western historians acknowledge Islam's contribution to the advancement of women's rights. The fact that we did not keep moving them forward is unforgivable and begs to be corrected right now.

    The warlike nature of Arab tribes cannot be blamed on Islam. There is no evidence that these tribes were more peaceful before.

    And the burning of female newborns is not a big testimonial to the humane conditions in Jahiliyya.

    This topic is of interest only to those who want to besmirch Islam and who have made spreading anti-Islam hate their life's main mission.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/6/2018 11:33:15 PM

  • Arshad Alam's article is a good effort at dispelling the idea of jahilliya among Muslims. Of course, evils and social ills had plagued the region as they had plagued other continents of the world in those years but at the same time, the language and literature of Arab was very rich and developed in pre Islamic days. This could not have been possible if it was really a period of jahillia in every sphere of life. Social ills were there because of any religious force prevalent in the period in Arab in those years. Not only Hadhrat Khadija but also there were many women personalities in various fields in pre Islamic periond. However, it is also true that Islam brought a system in Arabs' life. It is also true that Hadhrat Khadija lost her enterpreneurial status gradually after accepting Islam because she devoted more time now to her husband's mission rather that expanding her own business and contributing to the growth of the economy of Arab world.
    By arshad - 8/6/2018 10:30:36 PM

  • jahiliyya is a tool designed to denigrate all pre-islamic cultures, tribes and peoples en masse.

    the inherent intolerance, violence and oppression that is apparent in almost all islamic countries is proof that pre-islamic societies were not only better, but also inherently tolerant of people sucgh as the prophet who made a practice of denigrating all other pre-islamic religions.

    if is lam gave rights to women, just look at the women in any islamic country.

    lies cannot ever pass off as arguments.

    another thorn on the flesh if moderate liars is the ridda wars.

    if islam gave freedom of religion why the need to slaughter all those who wanted out of the oppressive sword enforced "new" religion?

    in any case islam is just judaism v.3. just as discriminatory, violent and intolerant as the v.1

    By hats off! - 8/6/2018 6:04:34 PM

  • I endorse Naseer and Ghulam Mohiyuddin saheban

    Naseer Ahmad sb:  “The article is utterly nonsensical. It is based on loose conjecture rather than facts and God knows to what purpose!”

    Ghulam Mohiyuddin sb: “As I said before, denial of Jahiliyyah is very important to those who are carrying on a vile campaign of hate against Islam.”

    In order for the writer to note the important point is that Hazrat Khadeeja (may Allah be pleased with her) remained a successful business woman even after the advent of Islam.  She was not denied of participation in business; and thus she became a role model for all Muslim women to come—and this is how the Muslim scholars deduce the ruling of Islam allowing women participation in business. If any Muslims feel pride in this right given by Islam, I think this should not be thought with the specs of supremacism. I think Muslims do not deny that Hazrat Khadeeja was a successful business woman even before the announcement of Islam in Arabia. If there is anything as such, the writer should have produced evidence.

    If something was done in front of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and he did not forbid it, it was and is still taken as valid and lawful practice. Indeed Muslim women of this age should follow Hazrat Khadeeja as a whole and not only for business. The way she spent her life in obedience to Allah and His beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) should also be followed by today’s women.  

    The second point for the writer is that when any Muslim scholars say “girls were burnt alive in pre-Islamic era”, they do not mean all girls were burnt alive. Instead they refer to some tribes which in pre-Islamic era used to burn their daughters alive, the historians and muhaddetheen unanimously agree with the view that the tribe of Tameem used to burn girls alive while there is some disagreement over the names of other tribes. When Islam came and spread it laid a great impact on stopping such a vile practice of tribe of Tameem.

    Arshad sb may accept non-Muslim historians, if not Muslims. If it is so, then he should see “Lammens, Henri (1987) [1929]. Islam. Belief and Institutions. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. p. 21” which also authenticates the view that the tribe of Tamim used to burn its daughters alive, while there is disagreement about the names of other tribes.

    By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصدیقی - 8/6/2018 12:57:08 AM

  • Poor Hats Off is reduced to regurgitating his endless venom against progressive Muslims! He has no agenda other than promoting hatred against Muslims, especially progressive Muslims.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/5/2018 12:01:13 PM

  • Mr. Hamza,
    Words and phrases in your quotations such as "at least, theoretically," and,  "there are also records that indicate that," suggest that the evidence that you have adduced is theoretical or anecdotal and highly motivated. In any case this is not as fruitful an area of inquiry for us as the question of what should be done now to advance the rights of women, to achieve gender equality and to progressively make all our laws and practices as fair and just as possible.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/5/2018 11:57:52 AM

  • so mr. ghulam mohiyuddin has hard archaeological evidence for whatever he says, but mr. hamza is not allowed to quote other authors and therefore has no evidence.

    if mr. ghulam mohiyuddin is a moderate god bless us!

    unfortunately what is meant by moderate islam has just degenerated into meaning bare faced lying and the deliberate smearing of - anyone who disagrees - as an islamophobe. like peevish self-centered spoiled ill-brought up brats.

    no wonder extremists are winning and moderates are whining. extremists seem mild in comparison to the smooth-faced lying brazenly practiced by some of the oh!-so-moderates commenting here.

    however these 'moderates' will immediately scurry under the safety of false accusations of islamophobia whenever their lies are called out.

    what a shameless sense of entitlement, obnoxious superiority, and sheer chutzpah! if that is moderation we are better off with anything else.

    By hats off! - 8/5/2018 8:44:31 AM

  • “Women did not have such rights anywhere in the world in those times, let alone in pre-Islamic Arab societies.”

    Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/4/2018 11:43:51 PM

    Legal rights of women in history

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Egyptian law

    In Ancient Egypt, legally, a woman shared the same rights and status as a man – at least, theoretically. An Egyptian woman was entitled to her own private property, which could include land, livestock, slaves and servants, etc.[2] She had the right to inherit whatever anyone bequeathed to her, as well as bequeathing her belongings to others. She could divorce her husband (upon which all possessions belonging to her – including the dowry – were reverted to her sole ownership), and sue in court.

    Athenian law

    Women in Classical Athens did have the right to divorce, though they lost all rights to any children they had by their husband upon divorce.

    In pre-Islamic Arabia

    While generally men held the right to divorce women in pre-Islamic time, there are also records that indicate that women dismissed their husbands with an equal right:

    ‘The women in the pre-Islamic time, or some of them, had the right to dismiss their husbands, and the form of dismissal was this. If they lived in a tent they turned it round, so that if the door faced east it now faced west, and when the man saw this he knew that he was dismissed and did not enter.’

    By Abdul Rehman Hamza - 8/5/2018 8:20:43 AM

  • Mr Hamza, you need to understand the important differences between matrilineal societies also called matriliny and patriliny and not compare apples with oranges.

    Even in a patriliny, "matrilineal arrangements" become a necessity for the sex workers. This does not mean that every woman in a matriliny is a prostitute. It does however mean that since the father is not important to determine lineage, sexual mores for the women are relaxed so much so that matriliny is often associated with or accompanied by polyandry. Haya or modesty is not a virtue in these societies and the women play a far more aggressive role.

    Matriliny predated patriliny and represented an earlier evolutionary stage. Accordingly, patrilineal systems were also considered more “civilized” and advanced than matrilineal systems.

    In a patriliny, since lineage flows from the father, sexual mores for the women are tighter. Haya or modesty is a great virtue in these societies forcing the women to take a less aggressive role. The positive aspect is that the man takes responsibility for the upkeep of his family and the woman takes the role of the homemaker. This division of responsibility paved the way for increased fertility of women and the resultant demographic dividends.

    In modern society, the women are back to playing a more aggressive economic role accompanied by a fall in fertility rates. This change is facilitated by technology freeing the women from laborious household chores leaving her ample time to pursue a career and not by any economic necessity.  The sexual mores have become more relaxed and we may be forced to go back to matriliny. Progress therefore comes back full circle from matriliny to patriliny and now perhaps back to matriliny.

    If this happens, men can go back to a life of sloth, without responsibility and getting drunk in the evenings. Such has been the life of the male in matrilineal societies. 

    Sample the following from a matrilineal society:


    Keith Pariat heads the 25-year-old Synkhong Rympai Thymmai (SRT), the most visible among the groups that want to tweak the matrilineal system — in favour of men. His organisation believes that the native male lacks a sense of responsibility because he has no customary claim over the welfare of his children (since they take their mother’s surname, they belong to the mother’s clan) and has little rights to lay claim on inheritance. Pariat believes that the local Khasi male’s way of life is “wayward”, “loose”, making him prone to drug addiction and alcoholism and, eventually, an early demise.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/5/2018 4:11:28 AM

  • Mr. Hamza says, "women in the pre-Islamic Arab society had almost equal rights in matters like divorce."
    Women did not have such rights anywhere in the world in those times, let alone in pre-Islamic Arab societies.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/4/2018 11:43:51 PM

  • First of all , Let me make it clear that “matrilineal arrangements” was not the only and focal point of my comment. Second, in this arrangement, women are not necessarily commercial sex-workers or  polyandrous. It still prevails in some traditional societies and cultures in a number of countries including  Muslims and the Tamils in eastern Sri Lanka. There is no evidence that women in these soceities are prostitutes. The focus of my comment was on other more important spheres of life where women in the pre-Islamic Arab society had almost equal rights in matters like divorce. Marriage and  social roles they played as  priests, soothsayers, prophets, participants in warfare, fearlessly outspoken, defiant critics of men; authors of satirical verse aimed at formidable male opponents; keepers, in some unclear capacity, of the keys of the holiest shrine in Mecca; rebels and leaders of rebellions that included men; and individuals who initiated and terminated marriages at will. Bridal price (Mahr or Sadaq i.e. ‘the vulva’s price’ as explained in the Islamic Fiqh books like Hidayah and radd-ul- mukhtar being taught in Deobandi and Bareilvi madrasas all over India as well as in the book of Islamic laws named‘ 'Majmooa-e-Qawaneen-e- Islami' published by the Indian  muslim personal law board, continued and still continues as it was before Islam.

    By Abdul Rehman Hamza - 8/4/2018 9:31:45 PM

  • Mr Hamza says :“while Islamic law establishes ‘descent through the male line’, pre-Islamic Arabia also recognized ‘matrilineal arrangements

    If in the society, sexual norms are relaxed, it does not make sense to establish descent through the male line. “Matrilineal arrangements” are also a necessity for the commercial sex-workers and if that is seen to be a sign of progress by certain people, they are welcome to their heaven. Indeed the people fought to preserve their Jahiliya and Jahiliya is still attractive to many.

    A society that establishes ‘descent through the male-line’ is by law intolerant of casual sex and adultery. On the positive side, it makes the men responsible for the upkeep of the women and the children. It protected even the slave women from being forced into a relationship with two men at the same time. The right to have multiple sexual partners for women is less important than protecting them from being sexually abused by several men which is what happens in societies that allow polyandry and matrilineal arrangements.

    Haya or modesty then becomes a virtue and more so for the woman. A virtue when taken to extremes, becomes a problem. The Quran strikes the right balance but man is for ever prone to extremes.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/3/2018 11:50:26 PM

  • Islam bashers are coming out of the woodwork! Suddenly sketchy and anecdotal tidbits about women's status in pre-Islamic times are advanced as gospel truths!
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/3/2018 12:13:50 PM

  • “The age of Jahiliyyah (ignorance), as it came to be called was very nearly a period of darkness. And just as Enlightenment delivered Europe into modernity through the dark ages, Islam delivered geography and its people through darkness into a new dawn. …… Just as the Europeans convinced us that colonialism was good for us, Islamists are out to prove that Islam will be good for the entire world. The claim rests on the assertion that Islam brought humanity to the Arabs and one measure of that humanity was its treatment of women.”

    By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

    01 August 2018


    “Islamic civilization developed a construct of history that labeled the pre-Islamic, that construct was ideologically serviceable, successfully concealing, among other things, the fact that in some cultures of the Middle East women had been considerably better off before the rise of Islam than afterward” (Leila Ahmed, 1992; p. 37)  and projected Islam as the sole source of all that was civilized – and used that construct so effectively in its rewriting of history that the peoples of Middle East lost all knowledge

    In the quote provided above, Leila Ahmed, a Harvard Divinity School scholar of Islam, in her article titled, “"Women and the Advent of Islam." Signs 11.4 (Summer, 1986): 665-691.highlights the reasons for the filtered version of the history of women of pre-Islamic Arabia.

    She writes:

     To show that Islam bettered the lives of Muslim women, a parallel history had to be created of women in pre-Islamic time where women: “were treated like slaves or property. Their personal consent concerning anything related to their well-being was considered unimportant and unnecessary to such an extent that they were never even treated as a party to a marriage contract. They had no independence, could not own property and were not allowed to inherit. In times of war, women were treated as part of the loot. Simply put, their plight was unspeakable…The practice of killing female children was rampant. The pagan Arabs used to bury alive their daughters.

    More recently, several Muslim women have begun to research the lives of women in pre-Islamic Arabia. This is by no means an easy task since as when Muslims spread from Medina they categorically destroyed the old ways of life: temples, pagan poetry written on animal skins, idols of gods and goddesses etc, and Islamic history has practically no records written by women. What little we know are reports in Islamic texts, which are narrated to establish the new order, and a few archeological finds. The result is that we have pamphlets, web links and books that preach women that “Islam truly liberated women” while there is no justification for the existence of women like Khadija bint Khuwalid, Hind bint Utbah, Asma Bint Marwan, Lubna bint Hajar, Arwa umm Jamil amongst others, if the general condition of Arab women was not more than mere chattel.

    Reading all the sources now available, one can see that, in the absence of a single law before Islam, lives of men and women in Arabia depended on which tribe they belonged to. Islam did lay down comprehensive law and while some women may have enjoyed more rights under Islamic law, it is certainly true that the rights of others were severely curtailed. The resultant picture that emerges is that of a deeply patriarchal form of religious law rather than one that could have been more balanced, just and equal.  Leila Ahmed writes in her book (1991, p. 60):

    while Islamic law establishes ‘descent through the male line’, pre-Islamic Arabia also recognized ‘matrilineal arrangements’ which allowed women to choose who they wished to marry and have children with (2003, p.129-131). Muslims claim that ‘Islam gave women the right to choose their husband’, but there are instances where Muslim girls were married off by their guardians/fathers, examples of which include: Aisha being married off to Muhammad as a child (presumably without her knowledge), al-Musayyab ibn Najaba giving his newborn daughter’s hand in marriage to his cousin’s son, Muhammad arranging his cousin, Zainab bint Jahsh’s (apparently against her will prompting the revelation of 33:36, see tafsir of al Jalalaya.  marriage to his adopted Zayd ibn Harithah. Thus we see that if male guardians generally married off women in pre-Islamic time, the practice did not stop with the coming of Islam.

    Another area where Islam changed power balance between men and women is divorce. While generally men held the right to divorce women in pre-Islamic time, there are also records that indicate that women dismissed their husbands with an equal right:

    ‘The women in the pre-Islamic time, or some of them, had the right to dismiss their husbands, and the form of dismissal was this. If they lived in a tent they turned it round, so that if the door faced east it now faced west, and when the man saw this he knew that he was dismissed and did not enter.’”(Isfahani in Hoyland, p. 130).

    The above report dismisses the claim that it was Islam that gave women the right to divorce, which is also factually untrue since a Muslim woman cannot divorce her husband, but has to ask to be divorced by him. An option of equality would have been to make ‘divorce through arbitration’ the law for both men and women. Instead men have the full right to dismiss a wife independently even through oral pronouncement, while a woman has to ‘ask’ her husband for divorce through third party intercession (called Khul):

    “Islam further restricted women’s divorce rights by leaving it only to the husband to decide on divorce. Although the practice of foregoing one’s mahr for a divorce continues to exist in Muslim countries up to now, it no longer guarantees the wife a divorce: the husband has the right to refuse a divorce even if the wife is prepared to forego her mahr. Only very limited circumstances (such as disappearance of a husband over four years, or extreme physical deformities leading to sexual impotence etc) entitle a wife to ask an Islamic judge for a divorce. The final decision is left to the judge, however.

    Islam also continued the practice of ‘bridal price’ (called Mahr or Sadaq) making Islamic marriage a ‘marriage of authority.’ Mahr or Sadaq is explained in Islam (as was understood before Islam as well) as the price a man pays a woman to have sex with her (amusingly called ‘thaman al bud’a’ – ‘the vulva’s price’, see  Leila Ali, 2006, p. 4). However, before Islam, some women were able to contract marriages with men who were obligated to live in the woman’s house. The offspring produced in such a marriage would remain with the woman and her family and the husband did not receive inheritance from the wife upon her death. Some early biographers of Muhammad claim that Khadija paid four thousand dinars to Muhammad upon their marriage which makes scholars like Robertson and Leila Ahmed to speculate that the pre-Islamic type of marriage between the two obligated Muhammad to live in Khadija’s house and remain monogamous as long as she was alive (he also received nothing in inheritance upon her death). After Islam, men were no longer required to be monogamous and allowed up to four wives and as many concubines as they can afford.

    This is not pointed out in modern Islamic discourses, which have started to call Mahr/Sadaq a ‘sweet gift’ rather than “vulva’s price.” Mahr is interchangeably used with Sadaq in Islamic discourses although the former was paid, in pre-Islamic time, to the male guardian of the bride, while the latter was given to the bride. After Islam, although it remains as the payment that gives a man “the right to enjoy the women’s private parts” (Sahih Bukhari – Volume 7, Book 62, Number 81), Mahr or Sadaq is directly given to the bride and becomes her property.  However, because a man buys a woman’s vulva through Mahr (Quran, 4:24), she must remain monogamous and faithful to her husband; if she is not, he can take the Mahr back (Quran, 4:19). If he no longer wants her, he may divorce her and let her keep the Mahr since he has already ‘gone into’ what he paid for (Quran, 4:20-21).  If a woman wants a divorce, she returns the Mahr so she can be “released/freed” (“The word used for this in Quran is tasrīḥun” – Quran, 2:229).  This is a clear model of patriarchal marriage of authority where the woman’s vulva is purchased and she must request to be “released”, which Islam established as the standardized model bringing it from pre-Islamic time while abolishing all other models, some of which placed women at an equal footing or in a more favourable position.

    Being wives and mothers was not the only roles women played in pre-Islamic time.  Women commissioned inscriptions, made offerings to their gods in their own right, acted as administrative officers, took up their deceased husbands’ overloardship, and constructed public buildings and tombs (Hoyland, p. 132; also see Hatoon Ajwad Al Fassi, 2001, p. 48-55) leading historians to claim that the last activity indicates a ‘considerable degree of financial independence (Ibid).’  Ahmed also explains that, “Jahilia women were priests, soothsayers, prophets, participants in warfare, and nurses on the battlefield. They were fearlessly outspoken, defiant critics of men; authors of satirical verse aimed at formidable male opponents; keepers, in some unclear capacity, of the keys of the holiest shrine in Mecca; rebels and leaders of rebellions that included men; and individuals who initiated and terminated marriages at will, protested the limits Islam imposed on that freedom, and mingled freely with the men of their society until Islam banned such interaction” (1992, p. 62).

    The Saudi woman Hatoon Ajwad al-Fassi, author of "Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia: Nabataea" and  the outspoken rights advocate argues women in the pre-Islamic period enjoyed considerable rights in the Nabataean state, an urban Arabian kingdom centred in modern Jordan, south Syria and northwest Saudi Arabia during the Roman empire.


    Furthermore, Muslims claim that in pre-Islamic time during “times of war, women were treated as part of the loot. Simply put, their plight was unspeakable[13].”  But that very well continued into Islam:

    Narrated Buraida: The prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus ([one fifth] of the booty) and I hated Ali, and Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave girl from the Khumus). I said to Khalid, “Don’t you see this (i.e. Ali)?” When we reached the prophet I mentioned that to him. He said, “O Buraida! Do you hate Ali?” I said, “Yes” He said, “Do you hate him, for he deserves more than that from the Khumus.” (Sahih Bukhari 5:59:637). Also see Sahih Bukhari 7:62:137; Sahih Bukhari 5:59:512; Sahih Bukhari 5:59:459.)

    Similarly, “Muslim writers on the subject of inheritance often state that Islam instituted inheritance and property rights for women, something that they were presumably deprived of in pre-Islamic Arabia. This is simply false and in contradiction to many statements in the Muslim hadith itself[14] for we read about the wealth Khadija had inherited and owned. We even read about Sulafa and Hubba – two women who were entrusted with being the Keepers of the Key of Kaaba, something that never happened after Mecca was attacked and Muslims subsequently occupied Kaaba – women never became the successors who could become the Keepers of the Key. We now know (through the study of none other than a Meccan Muslim woman) that “women were able to inherit and also to bequeath inheritance to whom so ever they wish (sic). The fact that women were those who bestow rights to their close relatives demonstrates their legal power of ownership and inheritance” (Al Fassi, 2001, p. 55).

    Female infanticide in pre-Islamic times is another point Muslims use to claim that women were “rescued from the gloomy injustice of Pre-Islamic darkness.” It is certainly true that Quran categorically bans infanticide and ended the practice very quickly, at least in Arabia (Quran, 6:151: 17:31). However, the practice was never widespread anyway and Quran clearly bans the infanticide of boys and girls, not just girls. Tribes that practiced infanticide did not discriminate between sons and daughters. Some tribes killed their children as a way to appease their gods. Muhammad’s grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, had sworn to his highest god, Allah, that he would sacrifice a son if he had ten. He was then required to sacrifice Abdullah (Muhammad’s father) whose name was cast by divination arrows but was saved by a female soothsayer’s consultation (Ibn Ishaq, p.66-68). Poorer tribes would kill their children from fear of poverty.  There was one tribe, Tamim, in which some men would kill their daughters as they were always warring with other tribes and were afraid that their daughters would be captured and turned into concubines.  However, while Quran prohibits killing children and refers to the fear and sadness associated with the birth of a daughter (16:58-59), it never banned capture of women in wars and their subsequent enslavement and concubinage.  Strangely, renowned Muslim scholars like Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Sina justified capture of Africans as slaves commenting that “the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery” since they have characteristics that “are quite similar to those of dumb animals” (Ibn Khaldun cited in Segal, 2001: 49).  Similarly, al Idrisi is cited as commenting on a desirability of Nubian concubines: “Their women are of surpassing beauty. They are circumcised and fragrant-smelling…Of all the black women, they are the best for pleasures of the bed” (Ibid, p.50). Thus, we see that while degradation of women as enslaved concubines could have been banned by Islam, which was a fear out of which the Tamim tribe would kill their daughters, it not only continued the practice but was justified not only by the early Muslim scholars but also the modern islamists.

    Source: Arab women before and after Islam: Opening the door of pre-Islamic Arabian history By S. B. Zaki


    By Abdul Rehman Hamza - 8/3/2018 8:55:31 AM

  • There have been many women of greater wealth, political power, scholarship  and influence than Hazrat Khadija (RA)
     In modern times, both Pakistan and Bangladesh have had a woman prime-minister besides other ministers.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/3/2018 2:18:25 AM

  • As I said before, denial of Jahiliyyah is very important to those who are carrying on a vile campaign of hate against Islam.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/2/2018 11:22:11 PM

  • that a personality like khadija never again appeared in the vast muslim conquered lands is ample proof that jahiliyya was created to trivialize and humiliate those who resisted the islamic invasion.
    By hats off! - 8/2/2018 6:32:40 PM

  • The article is utterly nonsensical. It is based on loose conjecture rather than facts and God knows to what purpose!

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/1/2018 11:44:14 PM

  • The proposition that Jahiliyyah was not so jahil is a favorite argument of many enemies of Islam. There is no data to back it up. It serves no purpose. A better argument would be to ask if Islam was an improvement on prior conditions, why did it stop there? Why did the reformative zeal and the surge of wisdom not become  continuing hallmarks of Islam? Can we bring them back now?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/1/2018 12:03:06 PM

  • Arshad ji,
    Your article is quite enlightening and opens new avenues for discussion.
    Your critical perspective is inspiring. It helps in exploring women’s status in  Islam and also in an era before its advent. We need to look at such ideas more closely to understand dimensions related to gender and religion.

    By Meera - 8/1/2018 9:32:58 AM