Women in positions of power

This is the subtitle of the chapter Position of Woman in the Islamic Shariah in Wahiduddin Khan’s book Woman between Islam and Western Society.  Khan writes:

Even the modern world still finds it unimaginable that a woman should be given a high government office. In a poll taken in 1972, the majority of American voters said that they would rather have a black man than a woman as president. The idea of a woman president was ridiculed. Someone joked: “When the lady president delivers her child, the hospital bulletin will have to announce that ‘the President and baby are doing well.'”

The Persian emperor Chosroes died during the life of teh Prophet. His courtiers crowned Chosroes’ daughter queen. On hearing this news, the Prophet said, “A nation which makes a woman its ruler will not progress.”

The researchers of modern age now testify to the truth of this time-honored principle laid down by Islam. Fourteen hundred years ago, Islam held that a woman was not fit for so high a position as that of a sovereign. While until recently this could have been regarded as a mere assertion made a very long time ago, today it is accepted as a scientific fact. What the Prophet had said as a matter of inspiration has now been established, after a long period of study and research, as a reality. This is clear proof that Islamic principles are based on facts of nature and not just on supposition and conjecture.

I thought this was timely since just recently I had posted on Muslim women and politics. Now that I have come out of my initial shock at Khan’s ideas regarding women and positions of power, I can point to the sources of my horror:

1.  What does he mean by “researchers of modern age now testify to the truth of this time-honored principle”? Who are the researchers? What was their study? What is all this about?

2. Is there a “time-honored principle laid down by Islam” that women are absolutely unfit “for so high a position as that of a sovereign”?

3. Is it a “as a scientific fact”? Really?

4. Isn’t whatever Khan has written actually unsupported “supposition and conjecture” which he presents as an Islamic principle?

5. Is women having babies a joke that should be ridiculed? Does it make woman “unfit”?

So now you know why I have been chewing on my furniture lately!


16 thoughts on “Women in positions of power

  1. susanne430 says:

    I guess this is another one of those scientific facts of the Quran that prove it is from God! Only God could have known women are not fit to lead before scientists actually proved it in modern times. Ha, ha!

    Move over and let me have a chew on that furniture!

    • Metis says:

      Yes, but Khan missed the point that Quran doesn’t say anywhere that women can’t lead! His statements are very general and sweeping and he is putting too much emphasis on a hadith that some think is weak although it is in Sahih Bukhari.

      Sorry Susie, I finished the last leg! But next chair I’ll share with you, promise.

  2. mariam says:

    this story has a bug ,successor of Khosrau II was Kavadh II not his daughter. Purandokht and Azarmidokht ( daughters of Khosrau II ) ruled Iran for a short time and ofcourse those who have read pre-Islam history of Iran know exactly that fall of Sassanid Dynasty was not because of having two female leader for a short time( 630-631AD).those who narrate such fake stories like Wahiduddin Khan are both anti woman and anti Iran.

    • Metis says:

      WA, Mariam. Wow! That was some valuable history lesson. But you know that bit exists in the hadith too? Oh my! I will have to go through all of it now that you have made me so curious. Thank you so much. This was precious. It could prove that perhaps the hadith is weak!

  3. sarah says:

    The problem is that there is a political sphere and a religious sphere. The clerics in many Islamic countries are usually trying to hold onto or increase their influence and power. I think a female political leader shows them that their authority is limited because someone over whom they have religious authority (women cannot lead men in prayer for example) has the authority to limit their activities or make decisions about their activities. Perhaps this is a slap in the face for them which is why they keep supressing female participation in politics.

    • Metis says:

      Sarah, that is an interesting point. Your point made me think that it is all the more difficult with Muslims because there is no separation of the church from the state at least in theory of early Islam. Religion grew out of politics in Medina and politics was an integral part of religion in that city. This is something non-Muslims, especially Christians, can’t understand where in religious theory the church is separate from the state. I’ll have to munch on this some more.

  4. sarah says:

    I am not sure that I agree 100% on your assessment that religion grew out of politics. I think that any religious message has political ramifications in that every new prophet came as a challenge to their contemporary authorities and while I personally think that there are some aspects of governance in Islam it is at heart not a political ideology. It is the spread of Islam and khalifate that the two became more intertwinned.
    Perhaps a case study of Pakitsan and Saudi Arabia – new nation states having to forge their own identity – and the power balance between clerics and politians- would make an interesting case study.

    Are the ‘old’ Islamic countries such as Syria, Jordan, Turkey different from the new nations in the way women recieve rights and/or participate in politics? Are former monarchies different from old colonized countries such as the levant? It would be interesting to see if there are any corelations between the position of women and the historical political development.

    • Metis says:

      Sarah, by “religion grew out of politics in Medina” I don’t mean that politics alone shaped the religion but that it was the main tool for spreading Islam. When Muslims lived non-political lives in Mecca there were just over a hundred Muslims who migrated to Medina even after 13 years of preaching Islam in Mecca. But by the Hijri 3, there were over a thousand Muslims even though the opposition forces were also increasing. At the conquest of Mecca there were 10,000 Muslims who marched towards Mecca but there were more who were left behind.

      There are numerous narrations in which early Muslims are reported to have said that there were two things that attracted them to Islam initially: war booty, and the victory at Badr (the latter because they could feel the Hand of God in making the Muslims victorious). In those times politics was believed to be divinely motivated and managed. That is why Abu Sufyan gave up on his goddess and declared that “Allah is indeed greater” because Al-Uzza (?) had let him down while Allah had always made Muslims victorious and prosperous. I think religion and politics have always been intertwined or so it is believed because clerics even give political reasons to the Prophet’s marriages.

  5. Sara says:

    “On hearing this news, the Prophet said, “A nation which makes a woman its ruler will not progress.”

    First of all, this hadith has been disproved by Fatima Mernissi – she shows it to not be sahih, even though it was one of the most famous (of course -__-).

    Khan’s “logic” is representative of what happens with so many Islamic scholars – they go from their own interpretations to “scientific fact” before you know what’s happening lol. Seriously! When did they become scientists?

    • Metis says:

      Abou Fadl, my hero, believes it is not sahih as well. Wonder how it made it into Bukhari. It just makes one so wary, doesn’t it?!

  6. Sara says:

    Metis…chew on carrot cake! A whole one if needed. No one will judge you, least of all me 😀

  7. Lat says:

    All that chewing is making me hungry! 🙂

    Again the hadith is a very Arab thing! Indonesians don’t seem to have a problem with a female president! Come to think of it,muslim nations have given rise to more female political power personlities than secular nations of before.And most of all I don’t believe in that hadith! It’s either false or not meant for generalisation.Thanks to Mariam too for that history bit!

    “…‘the President and baby are doing well.’”” What’s wrong with this? So women are good enough to give birth for men but not good enough to rule over them? Scandalous!

    • Metis says:

      “muslim nations have given rise to more female political power personlities than secular nations of before.”

      Yes! So true.

      I don’t what Khan found so funny. I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying the President and the baby are doing well. It would be funny if it were Khan and baby are doing well! 😀

  8. Sumera says:

    I dont really see where Khan’s argument comes from, it seems like he pulled it out of the air!

  9. luckyfatima says:

    Grrr, I hate Wahiduddin Khan’s writings. That stuff is tortuous to read. Still, a lot of people think like him.

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