Women as Seen in Islam


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Women and Relgious Oppression

Woman as Seen

"Women Pushing the Boundaries"




By Omid Zareian

There are many theories, which attempt to explain the subordinate position of women throughout history and in the age of Capitalism. The subordination of women in Islam and in Iran exemplifies the inequality of women and how it is deeply rooted in the philosophy of Islam. In conjunction with this, there is a strong resistance of women under oppression of Islam.

Inequality and subordination of women is the most basic pillar of Islam. Islam is special because most of the issues related to the rights and position of women are legislated by the Koran and by a later addition embodied in the Hadith (a record of actions and sayings of prophet). The Koran is also the most important source for the Islamic canon law. It has many verses, which not only perpetuate the subordination of women but also claim that subordination is by God's design. For instance, the Koran said, "men are in charge of women, because Allah (God) has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their property" [Koran Nesa Verse#2] . Imam' Ali (in Islam there is one prophet and twelve Imams and Ali is the first Imam in Shi'i) has characterised women as having three deficiencies; deficiency in religion due to menstruation, deficiency in share of her heritage due to her share being equal to one half of the share of male family members, and deficiency of intellect, inferred from the fact that two female witness were considered equal to one male" [Brill EJ, Tathi A, (eds.). Women and the Family in Iran. 1995].

According to Islam and its philosophy, women are a manifestation of evil as Adam was kicked out of Eden because of Eve's evil soul. Women are dangers based on their sexuality and they must be controlled. It is the women who must dress properly (covering themselves with the veil, the hijab), to avoid titillating a man's sexual lust and the madness which leads to promiscuity of intercourse. One contemporary Islamic Ayatollah states that it is harram (sin) for a woman to leave the home without a reason because when a woman is prevented from going outside the home, society is protected form immorality [Ibid]. And if a woman is disobedient to her master, the Koran has special rules which, "… as far those (women) whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you no future action..." [Koran. Bagara Verse#228]. For women, lifelong virginity was the most desirable state so that they might devote themselves totally to God. In Islam women earn God's grace by obeying their husbands. Women are subject to the sexual enjoyment of men, their primary duty being reproduction. The message is clear: men dominate, women obey.

Iran, after the revolution (1979), witnessed the mass emergence of women's movement for equality, in which there is an every day battle to resist the Islamic law. The Islamic regime for more than 20 years has tried to keep women in the home by laying off women, and implementing sexual apartheid in the entire society. From 1979 until present day, many occupations are prohibited for women. In schools, universities, public transportation, and all public buildings, people are segregated according to their gender.

Women are not even allowed to enter many of such places. For example, on April 22 1998, "Iran's parliament … gave initial approval to a law requiring hospitals to full segregation all health services offered to men and women in according with strict Islamic regulation" [Kayhan. Iranian newspaper. April 22, 1998]. According to the regime's own statistics, each year more than 100,000 women are arrested for not strictly observing the Islamic dress code. However, according to statistics and the government itself, shows that, they have not been successful in enforcing Islamic code [Ibid. 1994]. Each year, many young couples are charged with engaging in sexual relations outside marriage, and without exception the woman has been stoned to death. Kheirollah Javanmard, Ali Mokhtarpour, Pa Danesh, Massumeh Einy and Marziyeh Falah were stoned in public in Khazar rviz Hassanzadeh and Fataneh Abad, near the Caspian Sea, after a court found them guilty of adultery and prostitution [Salam newspaper. 2000].

This follows the stoning of a 20-year-old woman, back in August, in the Western town of Bukan, after she was convicted of similar charges. In that incident, reported by Kayhan newspaper, the woman survived after she was mistakenly assumed to be dead and left at a morgue. "In the punishment of a stoning to death, the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could not be defined as stones" [Law of Hodoud and Qesas. Article 119. Majlis (parliament). 1999]. This demonstrates the cruelty and the other articles of the Hodoud and Qesas law, shocks any concerned human being.

The other current laws contribute to the broad system of discrimination against women in Iran. Iran's parliament voted to amend a law that prohibits women from studying abroad without the permission of a male guardian [Law passed in Majlis (parliament), January 7, 2001]. But this reformist move was overturned a few days later by the twelve-member Guardian Council, religious scholars and lawyers loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei [Kayhan newspaper January 2001]. The continued resistance against these laws is punished by the government in the form of torture and death. 

For more than 20 years, the Islamic regime has tried to implement religion into all of society, but there has been a strong resistance against Islam and the Islamic regimes right from the beginning, and movements have also been rising in Egypt, Pakistan, and many Islamic regimes in the Middle East against all forms of Islamic codes and laws.

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people" [Tucker Robert C (ed.) The Marx-Engels Reader. W.W. Norton Company Inc. New York. 1972]. Religion is a manifestation of an upside-down world; that is, the alienation of human beings finds itself in an illusion not within true reality. The emancipation from religion, and the emancipation of women, is possible through social movements, resistance against oppression, and ultimately through radical social changes within the society. When the society is in complete freedom, the status of women is higher.