August 13, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7620

Former Bahraini Foreign Minister: Women In Arab Societies Suffer Discrimination; Islamic Institutions Must Promote Their Equality

August 13, 2018
Bahrain | Special Dispatch No. 7620

In an article he published on April 26, 2018 in the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Dr. 'Ali Muhammad Fakhro, Bahrain's former foreign minister and a board member of the Arab Anti-Corruption Organization, wrote that women in Arab and Muslim societies suffer discrimination due to backward Arab and non-Arab notions that were incorporated over the centuries into the Islamic legal and hadith literature and were falsely attributed to the Prophet. He called on Islamic institutions to undertake an in-depth examination of the treatment of women in Islam and to reinterpret the Islamic texts in order to promote gender equality and empower women.

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

'Ali Muhammad Fakhro (Image: Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Bahrain)

"Is it possible to speak of the empowerment of women in Arab public life without solving the problem of the cultural and religious perception of women? After all, an Arab child imbibes with his mother's milk [various] behaviors and sayings that diminish the value of the woman as a human being and her status in society. At the heart of this misogynistic culture, which children absorb at home and in school and hear day and night on many of the religious television channels and radio stations across the Arab world, is a fanatical heritage of [Islamic] jurisprudence that lags behind the spirit and values of this age. This culture is dominated by hadiths that are falsely attributed to [Muhammad], the Prophet of compassion and divine justice... The spirit of Islam, its general goals, the equality it grants to human beings, the verses [speaking of] one human spirit, and the heritage of the Prophet of Islam – none of these are compatible with [certain] statements that are attributed to the Prophet, such as 'I looked into Paradise and saw the majority of its dwellers were poor, and I looked into Hell and saw that the majority of its dwellers were women,' or ' Bad omens are to be found in a woman, a house and a horse'... or 'women are deficient in intelligence and religion,' and other crude statements of this sort that slander the Muslim woman...

"How can we speak of equality between Arab men and women in human rights and national duties, of equal opportunity in life and in [attaining] senior public positions, and of equal pay and promotion in all sectors of employment, when the legislators, politicians, and leaders were [all] raised on sayings that detract from a woman's honor and cast doubt on her intelligence and mental stability?

"We are therefore entitled to demand that the Islamic institutions and religious authorities take decisive [action] regarding the misrepresentation and humiliation of women in the jurisprudential tradition and in the so-called science of hadith. [This is because] many of the primitive practices and notions that prevailed in ancient Arab and non-Arab societies were clearly incorporated into [Islamic] jurisprudence and hadiths in order to justify their implementation, especially in the palaces of the sultans and of wealthy dignitaries...

"Arab women, who have competently and skillfully entered the field of education, from kindergarten to university and beyond, who constitute a growing portion of the workforce in various sectors... thereby gaining financial independence and becoming important providers for their families, [these women who have become] an important component of civil society institutions... and who have fought and died defending their ummah... these women are still subject to laws formulated many centuries ago by some religious scholar or other because of [ideas] that were incorporated into the study of hadith out of ignorance, political [interests] or social stupidity.

"Since Islamic heritage lies at the heart of Arab society, its thinking, behavior, legislation, and everyday practices, the reform of Arab culture, as the first step in the empowerment of Arab women in all domains of life, must be conducted through an in-depth examination of all fields of Islamic jurisprudence and the hadiths attributed to the Prophet, and through a reinterpretation of the Quranic texts. This is a duty and a privilege of all future generations...

"It is time for the Arab woman to regain her humanity, her honor and her full right to the equality, respect and appreciation she deserves as a mother, daughter, sister, wife, colleague, and citizen."


[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 26, 2018.

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