Recently I debated the Imam Moustafa Zayed for the second time. This time the topic was, “Does Islam Guarantee Women Equality of Rights with Men?” After this one, even poor Zayed’s fellow Islamic supremacists threw him under the bus — and usually they claim victory no matter how badly they were bested. So grab some popcorn and watch the fun.
David Wood of Answering Muslims just kindly sent me this transcript of the debate from the Betwixt blog. David says he cannot vouch for its complete accuracy, so if you spot any errors, please let me know and I will fix them here as well as pass them on to the source, to whom I am most grateful for doing this.
The issue of whether women have rights and equality in Islam is a matter being debated around the country today. Some scholars say that women do have equality of rights while other scholars say the contrary. Which should we accept?
Thank for joining us this evening on Debate Night on ABN Live. I’m Chris Conway, your moderator of the evening.
We have two experts debating this motion: Islam Guarantees Women Equality of Rights with Men. I’m honored to introduce Mustafa Zayed who argue on the affirmative of the motion. Mustafa Zayed is a member of the Scientific Board of Qur’an and Sunnah Research in Cairo. He speaks widely in interfaith settings with devotion to bridging peace between major religions and in communities. Zayed is the author of several books, including The Lies About Muhammad.
I’m also honored to introduce Robert Spencer, who argue on the negative of the motion. Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, an organization dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world and to correcting popular misconceptions about the role of jihad in religion in modern-day context. He is the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades.
We’ll hear from each of the debaters an opening statement, rebuttals, crossfire, and a closing statement.I’ll notify each debater when there are only 30 seconds left on the clock. We will then conclude the formal part of the debate and open the phone lines for you, the audience, to call in. The number here at the studio is 248.416.1300. Again, the motion of tonight’s debate is, Islam Guarantees Women Equality of Rights with Men.
At this time, I’d like to turn over to you, Mustafa, for your opening statement. You have seven minutes.
MUSTAFA ZAYED: OPENING STATEMENT (7 minutes)
Thank you for having me.
Before we speak about the specificity of the topic of women rights in Islam, in generality, dealing with any human being in Islam is included in Islamic Law or Shari’a Law. Shari’a Law is not a law that is made by the limited comprehension of men at a certain period of time in a certain geographical area and then trying to impose that upon all humans worldwide in any time. This is the law of God, and God is just and He forbid injustice upon himself in any topic and forbid it for his worshipers and creations. So when we say “women rights in Islam,” we need to understand that it is the law of God, protecting and making sure that women and men are having the [prospective in (3:18)] equal rights.
Two things before we get into the rights of women in Islam and the position of Islam: The first thing is that in Islam, men and women are not in competition. They’re not roommates competing for who pays a bigger or small portion of the bill or, you know, splitting whatever cost somewhere. They are to complement each other. They are different in physiology. They are different in emotional structure, and Islamic Law [came (3:41)] that they enjoy the best of their life according to their own structure and needing each other and depending on each other and completing each other—complementing each other. That’s number one.
Number two, specifically when it comes to the rights of women, a woman, the female in Islam, is your potential mother. And it’s not that females are half of, you know, humanity and they deserve rights, and so on and so forth. No, females are the mothers of the next generation who are to shape and sculpture the character of all men and women, the entire next generation to come. So Islam and Islamic Law made sure to guarantee their protection, their financial sustenance, their stability, so they can perform the best and the most decent job that a human being can do, which is again raising the next generation.
When [you (4:30)] took a position, I would say, hopefully objective position, in looking at the condition of women and the rights and obligations before Islam and after Islam, the difference couldn’t be more stark. It’s the difference between a day and a nightmare. Before Islam, for example, in parts of India, according to Hinduism, a woman was to be burned alive if her husband passed away. She’s just there for me. He dies, there’s no need for existence. A matter of fact, in other places when they got some progression, she’s not even supposed to get married again. Little newborn babies were burned alive. The horrendous mistranslation in the Bible about the concept of Original Sin, that it is through our mother, Eve, our father, Adam, was deceived out of Paradise into earth. When Islam comes in, all that was rectified. And our mothers, our daughters, our sisters were relieved when Allah (Subhan’Allah) in the Qur’an said, [speaks in Arabic]. It is the devil that deceived them both out of Paradise into earth. Women had now inheritance rights that in America today, women do not have–guaranteed inheritance rights.
Women have equal pay rights. They have the right to own, to speak their mind, to debate, to run businesses. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) only wife for a quarter century, Khadija, may Allah (Subhan’Allah) be pleased with her, was a businesswoman. In England, ’til 1882, the end of the 19th century, a woman did not have any right to own a property in her own name. It has to be the brother, the husband, or the son. She could not even stand in court as a legal entity. At the end of 19th century, that right was mandated to, given to Muslim women in the 7the century. So it’s not even equal to or similar to or better to. No, that was better rights in the 7th century.
Islam mandated the education of women in the middle of 7th century. In a a correct hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari, even for a war captive that is now entrusted to a Muslim man that he, even though, she’s not a Muslim, he needs to treat her well and educate her. And the authentic hadith says there, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would release a war combatant that might turn around and come and kill Muslims, if he taught Muslims how to read and write, and the similar thing for Muslim women, how to read and write.
A woman is not an object of desire anymore, is not a vessel for procreation. She is judged for her character and her mannerism. And the word, “religion”, in Islam in the language of the Prophet, means character. So you can pursue a woman for marriage for her beauty, for her money, for her social status. The Prophet said, no pursue the one with the character, the only thing that she is actually in control of. She has no control if she was born beautiful or rich or from a good family, but she is in control of her character. She is not an object of desire anymore.
A woman, in Islam, is someone who is equal in so many things that you cannot begin to imagine or even available in the 19th century. She have the right of futya; she can give legal opinions, and many women had that legal opinion. The first commerce secretary that is a female in the history in all of mankind was [Ashafat — (7:37)] who was the commerce secretary at the time of [Omar — Al-Khatab (7:43)]. He gave her [— (7:43)], and she used to rule in the matters of the market between men and women. The first political party that is [led] by a feminist, well I would say a feminist party, that is led by a woman was Asma bint Yazzid Al-Ansari when she came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), she said, I represent so many women that have the same opinion that I have and saying what I’m saying and here’s what we want, here’s what we’re asking. And Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) responded to her, The only holy scripture in the world, that when it speaks to the believers, speak to them in female and male terms, is the Qur’an, not the Bible, not any other holy scripture. Believing men, believing women, righteous men, righteous women, and so on and so forth. [Reads a verse in Arabic] Whoever do a righteous deed, male or female, we would [— (8:30)] well and so on and so forth. The only chapter in any holy scripture, the gospels in the Bible or gospels that are outside of the Bible, that is named after a woman is in the Qur’an and which woman she might be. She’s the greatest woman that ever lived and will ever live, that’s Virgin Mary (PBUH). And in Islam, she is such a pious woman, that’s why she was blessed to be the mother of a great, mighty prophet of God. The only chapter in all holy scriptures, that is Chapter An-Nisa (The Women), that is almost a manifesto of unprecedented women’s rights now and then.
Islam is not defending the rights of women. Islam, and I represent that position, shows the rights of women that is unprecedented today. That is in Islam. Watch Robert Spencer now coming to you with extreme examples of rural areas of ten villages somewhere and try to generalize them over the entire population of 1.6 billion. Watch him bring in twisted and, you know, misinterpreted and total omissions and mistranslation of books that only God knows where he got their translations from. Watch the circus.
ROBERT SPENCER: OPENING STATEMENT (7 minutes)
I think that I’m not going argue this point. I’m going to let the Qur’an do it, and the Qur’an says, “Men have authority over women, because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.” Now I would ask the learned imam, Mustafa Zayed, if that’s a mistranslation or taking out of context… What is the context that would justify such a statement. “Men have authority over women, because God has made the one superior to the other.” The question before us is, “Islam guarantees equality of men and women.” Obviously, that flatly contradicts the Qur’an, and so I assume the Imam Mustafa, as a believer in the Qur’an, believes that God has made men superior to women.
The passage goes on, “Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts, because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.” And beat them. The learned Imam was very eloquent in saying that the Qur’an is the only scripture, which addresses believers as both male and female. That, of course, is flatly false, but we are not here, I would remind him, to discuss the Bible or Christianity. We are here to discuss Islam and whether Islam mandates equality of rights for women and men. And so, the fact is that the Qur’an does indeed tell believers that they should be distinguished, male and female. They should understand that as being a fundamentally important distinction and does address them as such. And it does not say that women can beat a disobedient man. It says that men can beat disobedient women.
The Qur’an also has this distinction of being the only scripture that mandates spousal abuse. The reality of the spousal abuse is such that in the Islamic world, it is relatively frequent and is taken for granted. And there is a very common hadith, which I’m sure the Imam will be able to refresh us about, in which some Muslims approached Muhammad and asked him what they should beat their wives with. And as it happens, he’s brushing his teeth at the time, so he holds up his miswak, his toothbrush, and says, With this, which has been interpreted as meaning that the Muslim should only beat his wife in a symbolic way, and so as not to cause her any pain or cause her any harm. And that’s a beautiful thing, I suppose relatively. A symbolic wife-beating seems to me to be perhaps less painful but still rather an odd concept. But, unfortunately, it’s contradicted by other hadith.
For example, when Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite wife, whom he married when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was nine and he was fifty-four, she recalls a time when Muhammad “struck me on the chest which caused me pain.” That’s Sahih Muslim #2127. And so it appears that he, himself, did not just use his toothbrush to beat his disobedient wife. And, of course, Muhammad, being the excellent example of conduct, that is, unfortunately, the behavior that is sanctioned, as having the example of the prophet behind it, as something that Muslims can and should, with profit, imitate. And so we see on Saudi television, from the kingdom of the two holy places, a place where it’s very self-consciously dedicated to being obedient to every aspect of Islam. Actual television programs discussing the proper implements for wife-beating.
Now the problem here is not just wife-beating. The question before us again is about the equality of rights of women with men. In the Judeo-Christian, Western civilization, of course, while this has been a long battle and something that has many vicissitudes as the Imam pointed out, there is the fundamental idea that women and men are equal in dignity before God, and thus, should have equality of rights before the law. But in the Qur’an, it’s very different. The Imam Mustafa pointed out that women could testify in court, but he did not bother to tell you about Qur’an’s chapter 2:282, which says that “You should get two witnesses out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women such as you choose for witnesses so that if one of them forgets, the other can remind her.” And on this basis, Muhammad himself, in a famous hadith told women that he had seen a vision of hell, and there were many more women in hell than men; and the reason why, he said, when the women indignantly asked him why that was, he responded that it’s because women were deficient in religion and in intellect. And they asked him again, How is that? And he pointed to this verse in the Qur’an and said you’re deficient in intellect, obviously, because your testimony is devalued; and deficient in religion because when menstruating, you’re not allowed to pray in the mosque.
And so this was an inequality of intellect and an inequality of spirituality and inequality of rights before the law resulting from it. And so here again, the question before us is, does Islam guarantee equality of rights to women? Obviously, by the testimony of the Qur’an itself and Islamic Law and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, it manifestly does not.
Chapter 4:11 of the Qur’an.says, “Allah direct you as regards to your children’s inheritance. To the male, apportion equal to that of two females.” Let me repeat that, “To the male, apportion equal to that of two females.” How is that equality of rights? Now, I would remind you once again that I’m quoting from the Qur’an, and the Imam Mustafa may say that this is all out of context, but he cannot–at least if he has any interest in the truth, which, of course, not at all established–but if he does, then he cannot deny that these things are elements of Islamic Law to this day. And that in Islamic Law, as is the consensus, the ijma, of all the Madh’hab of the Sunnis, the schools of jurisprudence, it is agreed upon by them that a man should have greater inheritance rights than a woman, that a woman should not have the same value in her testimony as a man, and indeed is barred from testifying at all in cases of zena or sexual indiscretion, even if she is the victim. [Her] testimony is devalued altogether, and there is this mandate for inequality that manifests itself in many ways, which I am sure we will discuss. But the record of Islamic Law is clear, and so this is not the matter of some obscure village or out-of-context citations. This is a matter of the Qur’an itself as interpreted by mainstream Islamic authorities.