he Qur’an, Islam, and Islamism are the greatest stumbling blocks in women’s emancipation.” – Maryam Namazie.
Women’s rights in Islam have long been a subject of controversy in our media outlets. It is no longer a surprise to hear of conversion among Muslim women – the only awe that has left us in shock is what they endured before finally unraveling their stories. Many educated voices are now confronting the political, social, and legal restrictions imposed on Muslim women that have infringed their rights and freedoms.
Now more than ever, statistics reveal a rising peak in Muslim conversion to religion and Christianity. But why were most ex-Muslim women compelled to no other option than renounce their religion?
What does Islam require of women?
To understand a problem, you must first know its causes. Therefore, it is important to understand gender equality as portrayed in the Qur’an.
According to the Noble Qur’an, women are subordinate to men. “Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that, they expend of their wealth…” – Qur’an 4:34 Many claims that Sharia law has taken a distorted perception of demeaning women in society.
Sharia is a combination of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad. However, it is subject to different interpretations by Islamic scholars, governments, and cultures. For instance, what Moroccans apply as Sharia differs from how the Taliban apply it. This is due to the growing number of conversions among Middle Eastern countries. It has been used as a tool of restriction in these countries.
Yasmine Mohammed, a women rights activist and author of ‘Unveiled’, has been open about the concerns related to the Muslim doctrine of how women should be treated. Although Mohammed has brought to the forefront many issues Muslim women face, one particular opinion she exposes is that women must wear a hijab. “
Hijab is forced on women by extremist men who are also viciously misogynist. They preach that a woman must cover herself so as to not tempt men to harass her. That is called victim-blaming, a toxic mindset that excuses men for their crimes.,” said Mohammed.
She adds, “Imran Khan of Pakistan made that clear when he blamed the exponential number of rapes of women in Pakistan on the victims themselves instead of the criminal men– he said that these rapes happen because women are not observing hijab properly. This idea that women are responsible for the actions of men is irrational and disgusting. Barbaric men harass and rape girls and women regardless of what the women are wearing. They even harass women in Hajj- in Allah’s house. As long as their crimes are excused and blamed on their victims, they have no reason to do any introspection or any progress of their mindsets. It allows them to continue to control women.”
So what does the Sharia law say about women’s rights?
Ideally, Sharia is a religious law that governs the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects of any Muslim’s life. It groups man’s daily acts into five major categories: obligatory, recommended, permitted, discouraged, and forbidden.
It is Sharia for both men and women to dress modestly. The Qur’an states that women should not reveal their beauty to men beyond their families. Many Islamic jurists interpret this as Muslim women are not allowed to expose their hair, faces, and parts of their body (arms, legs, etc.). This serves to justify the mistreatment of women, who expose their skin and hair and are therefore considered immodest.
Additionally, Sharia encourages faithful and fair trade (regardless of gender) that is free from gambling and involves equal risk sharing. It is also a Sharia decree that women, like men, have the financial and legal rights to own and run businesses and inherit wealth.
Khadijah, the Mother of Believers and first wife of four marriages by Prophet Muhammad, is the epitome of an ideal Muslim woman whose success in business allowed her to oversee trade in one of the most popular caravan trade routes at the time. Her wealth, wistfulness, and support allowed Muhammad to focus on his revelations.
Despite her iconic figure, some countries limit a woman’s right to inheritance and consider her testimony half of a man’s testimony. This is backed by the Qur’anic verse, which says, “…if there are not two men (available), then bring a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses.”
Because women have less business experience compared to their male counterparts, their credibility was less validated. Therefore, only the presence of two could equal one man. Their inheritance is also limited because it is presumed that men have greater responsibility to support their families. Such interpretation has left women feeling excluded and undermined by their religious boundaries and laws.
How have Muslim women reacted to this undeserving interpretation of Islamic law?
Questioning Islamic messages is often considered ungodly. Therefore, one could only criticize the message as a non-believer.
Many Muslim women have reverted to abandoning their Islam faith and become human rights activists and critics of the Islamic faith. Educated ex-Muslim women have joined forces to drive campaigns and form foundations and programs whose mission is to protect Muslim women from discrimination and violation of their rights.
Yasmine Mohammed, for instance, is a prominent human rights activist and critic of the Islamic faith. She has raised awareness of the AHA Foundation, which advocates for women’s rights. With about 3.5 million Muslims in the US, 100,000 Muslims renounce Islam every year, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.
But are there repercussions of abandoning Islam?
Those who dare to speak ill of their faith have been cut off by their families, and most live in fear of being executed, especially if they come from Middle Eastern countries. A report from BBC News unveiled a woman sentenced to death by hanging in Sudan after marrying a Christian man and abandoning her Islamic faith. These cases are common in Islamic states and countries whose majority of their population is Muslim.
A documentary unveiling the testimonies of six women leaving Islam portrays similar consequences. Fauzia Ilyas was denied seeing her daughter once she finalized her divorce. Halima Salat, who had been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), was exorcised after her efforts to prevent a little girl from undergoing FGM were known.
While these were just some stories that went public, many have remained behind the curtains. It takes courage to publicly declare yourself an ex-Muslim.