With the exception of two verses directed at wives of the Prophet, the Quran never speaks directly to women. Women are referred to in the third person in the Quran. They are either addressed through “men and women,” or “your wives, your daughters, your mothers” etc.
Men and Women
There are verses that discuss people as a whole. In these verses, both men and women are mentioned in the third person.
Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.
[It was] so that Allah may punish the hypocrite men and hypocrite women and the men and women who associate others with Him and that Allah may accept repentance from the believing men and believing women. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.
And [that] He may punish the hypocrite men and hypocrite women, and the polytheist men and polytheist women – those who assume about Allah an assumption of evil nature. Upon them is a misfortune of evil nature; and Allah has become angry with them and has cursed them and prepared for them Hell, and evil it is as a destination.
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor letwomen ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
These verses provide urgent warnings to people regarding immorality and defiance of Allah’s word. Men and women are held to equal moral standards in these verses. Fair enough.
There are countless verses which speak directly to women but only as a man’s possession. Try these verses:
O you who have believed, indeed, among your wives and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them. But if you pardon and overlook and forgive – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
Prohibited to you [for marriage] are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your [milk] mothers who nursed you, your sisters through nursing, your wives’ mothers, and your step-daughters under your guardianship [born] of your wives unto whom you have gone in. But if you have not gone in unto them, there is no sin upon you. And [also prohibited are] the wives of your sons who are from your [own] loins, and that you take [in marriage] two sisters simultaneously, except for what has already occurred. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.
And if you have lost any of your wives to the disbelievers and you subsequently obtain [something], then give those whose wives have gone the equivalent of what they had spent. And fear Allah , in whom you are believers.
Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.
These verses do not warn us that they are meant for men. They go right to the point. In all these verses you will see a consistent tone of women as possessions of men. Women are addressed as “your wives, your mothers, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters” etc. The verses even mention “your children” and “your sons.” We can speculate from this that the verses address family patriarchs.
There are few times the Quran speaks to women directly:
If you two [wives] repent to Allah , [it is best], for your hearts have deviated. But if you cooperate against him – then indeed Allah is his protector, and Gabriel and the righteous of the believers and the angels, moreover, are [his] assistants. Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you – submitting [to Allah ], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling – [ones] previously married and virgins.
O wives of the Prophet, whoever of you should commit a clear immorality – for her the punishment would be doubled two fold, and ever is that, for Allah , easy. And whoever of you devoutly obeys Allah and His Messenger and does righteousness – We will give her her reward twice; and We have prepared for her a noble provision. O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah , then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech. And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance. And establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet’s] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification. And remember what is recited in your houses of the verses of Allah and wisdom. Indeed, Allah is ever Subtle and Acquainted [with all things].
These are the only verses in the Quran that addresses women directly. Guess what? They only speak to the Prophet’s wives. And it’s about warning them not to make his life difficult (or he can substitute them for better wives) and advising them to stay away from men they’re not related to in order to prevent sexual tension.
The Quran does not speak to women directly at all. It was a book meant for the male followers of the Prophet.
A Muslim believer might argue “the Quran was meant for all of humanity. Those specific verses you highlighted addressed men for their specific responsibilities.”
To that I’ll respond: why does the Quran need to distinctively and exclusively provide a disclaimer that specific verses were for Prophets’ wives, and disclaimers like “O Men” don’t exist for men? Where are the verses that speak directly and exclusively to women and treat men as their relatives instead? Does the Quran ever say “Your husbands, sons, uncles, grandfathers, nephews?” No. Those verses don’t exist. It speaks specifically to men regarding their women, not vice versa.
The believing Muslim then may bring up cultural relativity, and how those times were different from now with different gender roles in that specific community. To that I will say: “Then is the Quran really a universal document meant for all of humanity to describe and dictate all of existence? Is it applicable to today if today’s women are more individualistic?”
No. It’s not.
While this pattern within the Quran isn’t its most outright form of misogyny; it does enforce this subconscious misogyny in Islam and its devout adherents.
Picture this: a young Muslim girl reads this under the assumption that it is the absolute word of God. She sees verses speaking about her as either “men and women” or as “your wives and sisters.” After seeing that Allah only speaks to her through men, she internalizes the notion that she will be defined as someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother her entire life.
Now imagine a young Muslim boy reading these same passages. He will feel like the Quran is speaking to him, and feel a subconscious form of possession over the women close to him in his life.
How does that trickle into their lives and daily interactions with the opposite sex? Should the obsession over policing Muslim women’s expressions in Muslim communities really be surprising to us if the Quran only speaks to them through men?
We have made great strides and progress in women’s rights in today’s world. Women can vote, work, manage/own businesses, speak in public, choose who they date/marry etc. Should the modern woman subject her entire life’s guidance to a book that doesn’t even address her because of her sex organs?
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