Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who is more moral: Satan or Allah?

There are numerous verses in the Quran that have gained much attention and debate for dealing with the issue of the status of women in Islam. Few examples are the infamous verse 4:34 which allows the beating of wives, verse 2:282 which decrees that the eyewitness testimony of a woman in front of a judge is worth half that of a man, and verse 24:31 which is interpreted as a call for women to wear hijab (veil). Islamic scholars offer a multitude of responses to these verses. The majority accept the literal interpretation of the verses. This group of scholars truly believe that the role of a woman in society is as mother and a home keeper only. They accept that God has ordered women to cover up their faces and has allowed men in certain situations to beat their wives as punishment. They do not admit that such views are degrading to women, but rather justify these views as God's special rules to protect women for their own good. Moderate and progressive scholars on the other hand come up with elaborate interpretations to lessen or subdue the harsh message of these verses (though as discussed in an earlier article, I personally believe that no interpretation no matter how smart it is can justify verse 4:34 when considering that it is spoken by a deity).

The subject of this article are
verses 53:19-53:22 of the Quran which reveal God's great contempt for women in a pure philosophical and abstract sense, such that even the most moderate and enlightened Islamic scholar would not be able of defending the views conveyed in these verses. I have to mention here that verses 53:19-53:22 have gained much attention for all the wrong reasons. They are at the heart of the satanic verses story, which claims that the original version of verses 53:19-53:22 was inspired by Satan before Muhammad acknowledged his mistake and replaced them with the proper (Godly) version. First, let's examine verses 53:19-53:22 as they appear in the Quran today (i.e. the Godly version not the unofficial satanic version):

أفرأيتم اللات والعزى
ومناة الثالثة الأخرى
ألكم الذكر وله الأنثى
تلك إذا قسمة ضيزى

and the English translation:

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-Uzza
And Manat, the third, the other?
Are yours the males and His the females?
That indeed were an unfair division!

Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat are three Goddesses worshiped by Quraysh (the prophet's tribe) and believed to be the daughters of God. We know for sure that they were highly esteemed Gods of Quraysh as evident from the pre-Islamic names (e.g. the name of one of  the uncles of the prophet was Abdul-
Al-Uzza, meaning slave of Al-Uzza). In these verses, God seems to take offense with worshiping of the three Goddesses specifically because of the claim that God has daughters (as opposed to the men of Quraysh who have sons).

I will argue that these verses are even more demeaning to women than
verse 4:34 that allows the beating of wives. This is because all the issues surrounding lives of women whether beating of a disobedient wife or allowing polygamy can be understood in terms of the cultural habits of the time. This is not the case with verses 53:19-53:22, in which turning the subject of the worship of the three Goddesses into a gender issue was totally unwarranted. To further highlight this Godly blunder consider the first and most important pillar of Islam: to believe in one and only one God that neither was born to anyone nor had children (He begetteth not nor was begotten). Claiming that God has three daughters (or sons) is sufficient to make one a kafir (Infidel). God indeed did not need to turn this into a gender issue. However, it really seems that God was so fixated on demeaning women that he forgot about the first pillar of Islam and went out of his way just to declare how unfair it is for one to have daughters as only children. The sad thing is that the Arab world today (1400 years after the birth of Islam) still follows in the footsteps of their God by favoring sons over daughters in every aspect of life.

Now for the sake of comparison, let's examine the unofficial satanic verses which are considered by some Muslims to be the work of the devil:

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-Uzza
And Manat, the third, the other?
These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries)
Whose intercession is to be hoped for.

The claim here is that in a moment of weakness Muhammad acknowledged the special status of the three Goddesses and approved of praying to them. Muslims are embarrassed by this version of the verses and many refute the basis of the satanic verses story altogether. I see a rather different picture. Here we have a God who is embarrassed by the claim that he has daughters and a devil who encourages praying for female Goddesses. I would pick the devil any day over such a sexist God! Who would you pick?