Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mohammed gives women more trouble.

I am presently reading through the Quran from beginning to end for the first time.  I have taught on Islam (shortly, in the context of world religions), and I have read many books on Islam, so it is past time that I finally grappled with the source of Muslim teaching in its totality. 

It has so far been an enlightening, which does not always mean exciting, ride.  The book is very repetitive.  Sometimes it gains a kind of low-key poetic majesty, in which the very repetitions feature as a useful device.  The overwhelmingly dominant themes are:

(1) An overriding call to believe in and worship the One God, and to trust his Messenger.

(2) Rich rewards in this life and especially the next for doing so (the refrain "with waters below and gardens above" repeated dozens of times to describe paradise.

(3) Terrible punishments (described with apparently relish) for those who refuse to believe and live "righteously," again repeated dozens of times.

(4) Answers to Mohammed's critics.  These critics "cry lies" (again this is repeated again and again) by (a) denying that God really spoke to the prophet; (b) demanding miraculous signs, like those given to Moses; (c) accusing Mohammed of sorcery.  He replies by (d) pointing to creation itself as proof of God's reality; (e) occasionally pointing to the Quran as evidence; (f) reminding his hearers that people are inherently stubborn, so even with miracles, they often fail to repent (the story of Moses is repeated numerous times); (g) explaining again and again that God will send everyone to hell to be tortured (involving scalding water, etc) AND probably overthrow their cities, if they fail to believe the Messenger.

(5) Moral teachings for the new Muslim community. 

The latter is our focus here, and in my first post on this subject.  More specifically, we are exploring how Mohammed taught Muslims to treat women. (The readers of the Quran are all assumed to be men, which was probably a pretty fair assumption, at first.) 

I pointed out in my earlier post,  "Karen Armstrong kisses up to Mohammed (and throws her sisters under the camel-train)" that Mohammed was clearly writing to justify the male (including his own) libido.  The first quarter of so of the Quran (which is what I had read to that point) is of, by, and for men, not women.  Mohammed instructs his followers to manage the affairs of women, marry several wives if they can afford it, take slave girls whenever they like, and beat their wives if they don't obey.  His rules against incest are not particularly weird, though he does strangely allow one to marry their father's former wife (not their mother) "if it be a thing of the past."  Women are also spiritual beings, and will be judged by God in equal terms with men, apparently.  But in this world, the men definitely have the upper hand. 

Now let us move the story forward, and see where the story takes us over the following few hundred pages.  (The earlier sutras have a bit more to say on the subject, especially of course "Women," so we can cover more ground in this post.)

As we'll see, there are some sensible comments in the Quran on this subject.  But some of the later comments are like hand grenades.

V. ("The Table")

Mary was a "just woman." (79)

God asks if Jesus told people to "take me and my mother as gods, apart from God?"  No, that's their mistake.  (And, obviously, Mohammed's, for getting confused about Mary's status in Christianity -- though some Christians may also be partly to blame.) (117)

VI. ("Cattle") 

"And they say, 'What is within the bellies of these cattle is reserved for our males and forbidden to our spouses; but if it be dead, then they all shall be partners in it.'" (140)

Apparently Mohammed is rebuking polytheists for ascribing this rule to God. 

VII. ("The Battlements")  "And Lot, when he said to his people, 'What, do you commit such indecency as never any being in all the world committed before you?  See, you approach men lustfully instead of women . . . " (78)

The Pharaoh promises to slaughter the Jewish men and "spare their women."  124, also 137.  This appears to be a mere observation as regards women, Mohammed is not editorializing on his actions towards women, but towards men. 

A glancing reference to Adam and Eve, and the comfort she brought him, and something about her childbirth.  (188)

The main novelty here is that it seems that homosexuality is considered a gross perversion in Islam. 

XI.  ("Hood")  Mohammed tells the story of Sarah's laughter when told she would give birth.  (73-5)  He then repeats the story of Lot and his daughters: "O my people, these are my daughters; they are cleaner for you.  So fear God, and do not degrade me in my guests." 

Mohammed gives the reply of the would-be rapists:

"Thou knowest we have no right to thy daughters, and thou well knowest what we desire."

He also mentions the fate of Lot's wife, not for the last time.

Again, this does not appear to be a direct comment on the status of women.  But it does seem to reflect Mohammed's own failure to update and improve his thinking on the matter: he seems to take it as a matter of course that sure, it's better to hand the daughters over to be raped, than one's honored (angelic) guests.  And this story also probably does reflect Mohammed's disapproval of homosexuality. 

XII. ("Joseph")  Mohammed tells the story of Joseph, including how Potiphor's wife tried to seduce him.  He adds the interesting forensic footnote that she tore his shirt from behind, proving that he had been leaving, not trying to come on to her as charged.  Joseph calls this "your women's guile."  The women in town spread gossip about how the governor's wife tried to seduce the young man, and when they saw him, they fell in love with him.  ("This is no mortal, he is no other but a noble angel.")  In the end, the wife confesses to her crime.  (52.) 

Later in the sutra, Joseph takes his father and mother into his arms.  (100)

Again, there is no direct teaching on gender relations in this sura, though it seems to reflect general suspicion of women with its additions to the Genesis account. 

XIII. ("Thunder") God assigns wives to his messengers (38). 

XIV ("Abraham")  Again, it is pointed out that the Pharaoh killed the Jewish men, but spared their women -- not to make him look good. 

XV. ("El Hijr") The sordid story of Lot, his daughters and his stay-behind wife is repeated. 

XVI. ("The Bee")  This sura contains a strange passage about idolaters who "assign to God daughters," and who, when they hear that they have given birth to a daughter, "his face is darkened, and he chokes inwardly," though why is not clear. (59-60)  Perhaps this is a criticism of female infanticide.  If so, score one for Mohammed. 

God appoints wives for men (74). 

People will be rewarded for doing good, "be it male or female." (99)

This sura may reasonably be cited as evidence that Islam was not an unmitigated disaster for women.  Muslims can join Christians and other enlightened persons at least in fighting against the evil of female infanticide, which brings the further evil of gender imbalance.  (And a psychology of hoarding females with it.)  Furthermore, again it is made clear that women are also spiritual creatures.  On that score, and in promoting female dignity (Mohammed would not have approved of Miley Cyrus, at least not outside his tent), Islam can even be said to stand ahead of some forms of secularism. 

XVII. ("The Night Journey")   Be good to parents of either sex. (23)  Don't kill your kids because you're poor, also avoid fornication. (34)  It is "monstrous" to accuse God of taking wives from among the angels. (42)

XVIII. ("The Cave")  "Wealth and sons are the adornment of the present world." (44)

This is the first suggestion I have found so far that, even if one need not mourn at the birth of daughters, sons are to be preferred.

XIX. ("Mary") God approaches Mary through an angel:

"then We sent unto her Our Spirit that presented himself to her a man without fault."

Mary says she has been chaste, but after childbirth, she is accused of "a monstrous thing," presumably fornication. (28)  Jesus explains (from the cradle) that he is God's servant and that he has been called to pray, give alms, a "cherish my mother." (33)

XXII. ("The Pilgrimage")  When an earthquake (judgment?") strikes, "every suckling woman shall neglect the child she has suckled, and every pregnant woman shall deposit her burden." (2)

Again, there is no general comment on the status of women in this sura. 

XXIII. ("The Believers")  Believers should be humble in their prayers, avoid idle talk, give alms, "and guard their private parts save from their wives and what their right hands own then not being blameworthy (but whosoever seeks after more than that, those are the transgressors)." (5)

"Are we clear?"  Colonel Jessup asked in A Few Good Men.  Keep your pants on around women who are neither wives nor slave girls.  As for those, toss them as you will.  

This strikes me as grand incentive for the massive trans-continental slave-trading industry that Muslim empires fostered well into the 20th Century, even the 21st Century.  If there is a shortage of women in your neighborhood -- as there will be, with rich men stockpiling them -- go on jihad, or send away for a mail order bride from Russia, Ethiopia, or the southern Sudan.  The more havoc is wreaked along the way, the fewer male competitors you will have to deal with.

I can't help but think this probably also contributes to the terrible abuse that maids suffer in Saudi Arabia.  The abuse got so bad that Indonesia and the Philippines both now prevent women from working there, and the Saudis have had to turn to poverty-stricken Ethiopia for domestic help.  If Mohammed himself treated the help as sex partners who can't say "no," who are Saudi men (or their sometimes violent wives) to be any nicer?   

XXIV.  ("Light.") 

This sutra has a great deal, of future importance, to say about women and sex. 

"The fornicatress and the fornicator -- scourge each one of them a hundred stripes, and in the matter of God's religion let no tenderness for them seize you if you believe in God and the Last Day; and let a party of the believers witness their chastisement.  The fornicator shall marry none but a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress -- none shall marry her but a fornicator or an idolator; that is forbidden to believers. 

"And to those who cast it up on women in wedlock, and then bring not four witnesses, scourge them with eighty stripes, and do not accept any testimony of theirs ever . . . And those who cast it up on their wives having no witnesses except themselves, the testimony of one of them shall be to testify by God four times that he is of the truthful, and a fifth time, that the curse of God shall be upon him, if he should be of the liars.  It shall avert from her the chastisement if she testify by God four times that he is of the liars, and a fifth time, that the wrath of God shall be upon her . . . " (2-10)

So having supplied himself with numerous wives, and his followers up to four, also having given Muslim men warrant to have sex with any slave girl they like (no hint that her permission is required), Mohammed makes it clear that men who have no wives will not be allowed to mate.  And none of the girls in his harem are allowed to find other lovers, lest their flesh be ripped off their bones. 

Again, epistemology rears its head.  How does one know that the man or woman has gone off the reservation?  Four witnesses, Mohammed says.  Witnesses of what?  Sex is usually not conducted in public, except maybe on trains in Hong Kong. 

At least in theory, Mohammed allows either husband or wife to simply deny emphatically that they have cheated, and get out of punishment that way. 

"Corrupt women for corrupt men, and corrupt men for corrupt women; good women for good men, and good men for good women . . . " (26)

"Say to the believers, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts . . . And say to believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts, and reveal not their adornment save such as is outward; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment save to their husbands . . . . fathers . . . grandfathers . . . sons . . . step-sons . . . .etc . . . or such men as attend them, not having sexual desire, or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts; nor let them stamp their feet, so that their hidden ornament may be known . . . "

"Marry the spouseless among you, and your slaves and handmaidens that are righteous; if they are poor, God will enrich them . . . And let those who find not the means to marry be abstinent till God enriches them of his bounty . . . And constrain not your slave-girls to prostitution, if they desire to live in chastity . . . "

So keep your clothes on, ladies, be modest in public. 

If you're poor, you're . . . well, a crude expression came to mind, but actually it would not only be rude, it would be the opposite of the truth.  Go take a hot shower.  Make it a long one, men, since most of the women are stashed in Mohammed's tent.  Or go to war and win some for yourself.  

What about slave girls, then?  Beyond the occasional flouncing by their masters, their further fate appears to lie at their owner's discretion.  He can just have them, if he wants.  He can also marry them, if he likes, or lacks funds for a free woman.  But he may not sell them on the open sex market . . . that is, if they desire to live in chastity.

What does that mean?  If they have a fling with the guard, then you can sell them to a brothel? 

The answer is not entirely clear.  And since two of the three things that men need the least excuse to rationalize about are sex and money, this seems like a dangerous passage, indeed, for young slave girls.  (Who cannot, of course, read the passage for themselves, and take fair warning.) 

But here's an even more mystifying passage:

"O believers, let those your right hands own and those of you who have not reached puberty ask leave of you three times -- before the prayer of dawn, and when you put off your garments at the noon, and offer the evening prayer -- three times of nakedness for you.  There is no fault in you or them, apart from these, that you go about one to the other . . . "

Apparently this means that the staff should cough, yell "I'm coming in!" or something, when the master is changing clothes. 

So Light sheds further light on Islam and women.  Men and women should be whipped for adultery, but one needs four witnesses -- to what exactly, is unclear.  Even so, in theory they can get out of it by solemnly and repeatedly denying the crime.  Then leave the punishment to God. 

Mohammed sets some guidelines for modesty and to avoid adultery.  The problem is, given rampant polygamy sanctioned and practiced by the prophet himself, this leaves poor men completely in the lurch, and lonely extra wives, and even more slave girls, in grave danger if they do seek love for themselves.  Worst case scenario, the slave girl could be sold as a prostitute. 

XXV. ("Salvation")  Servants of God do not fornicate (67), but do say, "Our Lord, give us refreshment of our wives and seed . . . " (75)

XXVI. ("The Poets") Repeats the story of Lot, Sodom, and Lot's wife, again. 

XXVII.  ("The Ant")  The story of the Queen of Sheba, with some odd additions involving rational birds and ants.  Lot shows up yet again. 

XXVIII. ("The Story") Pharaoh and his preference for killing Jewish men, again.  Moses goes to Midian, and helps two sisters draw water from a well.  They invite him home, "walking modestly." (25)

XXIX. ("The Spider") Lot accused "his people" of "such indecency as never any being in all the world committed before you," in "approaching men."  This appears again to be a critique of homosexuality per se, rather than homosexual rape.  Lot's wife is again mentioned for tarrying.

XXX. ("The Greeks") "Spouses" with whom one can find "love and mercy" are among God's "signs." (20+)

XXXI. ("Lokman") His mother bore Lokman in weakness.  A believer should honor his parents, but follow Islam even if his parents don't. (13-14)

XXXIII ("The Confederates") 

This is one of the most important suras for understanding the status of women in Islam, and indeed for understanding Islam itself.  (At least, it has been for me.) 

"The Confederates" tells part of the story of how Mohammed stole the beautiful wife of his adopted son Zeid, who acquiesced.  He claimed that God told him to take the man's wife, and who is he to argue with God?  To cover himself, and protect his comely new booty, he then invented, or should we say was given, some new rules about marriage. 

This sura helps me understand Islam because before I arrived at this point, I asked some like-minded Christians the following question, in sincere uncertainty:

What was Mohammed thinking? I'm reading straight through the Quran for the first time now, and am finding it hard to peg him. The hymns to God often seem sincere. But there's also a pervading undercurrent of self-justification, a repetitive drum beat of, "Listen to God's messenger or burn forever.". . . Do those who know something of psychology and / or Islam, think he was a straight con man, as Joseph Smith probably was? A sociopath could probably pull that off, and I do see some evidence for that.   Or did he really believe in God and in his own purported revelation?

The Confederate wreaks of insincerity, however, and pretty much settles the question, for me.  Maybe he really did believe in God, but certainly he purposefully made crap up and put it in God's mouth, for his own pleasure and profit. 

To save myself trouble typing, I'll copy the long relevant passages from another translation, which mostly seems to agree with this one, then analyze.  This version is translated by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, and is available here.  It uses "Allah" in place of "God;" I'll also include the verse numbers as noted here, which are clearer than the other version, and the textual explanations, however accurate they may be:

4. Allah has not put for any man two hearts inside his body. Neither has He made your wives whom you declare to be like your mothers' backs, your real mothers. [Az-Zihar is the saying of a husband to his wife, "You are to me like the back of my mother" i.e. You are unlawful for me to approach.], nor has He made your adopted sons your real sons.

28. O Prophet (Muhammad)! Say to your wives: If you desire the life of this world, and its glitter, Then come! I will make a provision for you and set you free in a handsome manner (divorce).

29. But if you desire Allah and His Messenger, and the home of the Hereafter, then verily, Allah has prepared for Al-Muhsinat (good-doers) amongst you an enormous reward.

30. O wives of the Prophet! Whoever of you commits an open illegal sexual intercourse, the torment for her will be doubled, and that is ever easy for Allah.

31. And whosoever of you is obedient to Allah and His Messenger, and does righteous good deeds, We shall give her, her reward twice over, and We have prepared for her Rizqan Karima (a noble provision Paradise).

32. O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honorable manner.

33. And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah wishes only to remove Ar-Rijs (evil deeds and sins, etc.) from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet), and to purify you with a thorough purification.

34. And remember (O you the members of the Prophet's family, the Graces of your Lord), that which is recited in your houses of the Verses of Allah and Al-Hikmah (i.e. Prophet's Sunnah legal ways, etc. so give your thanks to Allah and glorify His Praises for this Qur'an and the Sunnah). Verily, Allah is Ever Most Courteous, Well-Acquainted with all things.

35. Verily, the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam) men and women, the believers men and women (who believe in Islamic Monotheism), the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful (in their speech and deeds), the men and the women who are patient (in performing all the duties which Allah has ordered and in abstaining from all that Allah has forbidden), the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakat, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast) (the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the optional Nawafil fasting), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, lying, etc. for more than 300 times extra over the remembrance of Allah during the five compulsory congregational prayers) or praying extra additional Nawafil prayers of night in the last part of night, etc.) Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).

36. It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error.

37. And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah; the freed-slave of the Prophet ) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad too) have done favor (by manumitting him) "Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah." But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah's Command must be fulfilled.

38. There is no blame on the Prophet in that which Allah has made legal for him.  That has been Allah's Way with those who have passed away of (the Prophets of) old. And the Command of Allah is a decree determined.

There's more to come, but let's summarize to this point. 

"Ladies, gather round.  I have a Word from the Lord, and you know He only speaks through me.

"Now this Zaid fellow, he was not my real son, you know that.  And you girls can pack up and leave the richest palace in Mecca, and the good will of Allah, and incidentally heaven, if you want.  Though where you'll go, before you go to hell, if you leave -- well, that's the question, isn't it?  (I'll explain more about that in a minute.)  I'll even throw in some severance pay.  Plus my women get twice the rewards in heaven if they obey me, and twice the punishment in hell if they don't.  Just saying. 

"I know there's been some female chatter about that new addition to the harem.  But hey, Zaid was my slave, before I generously set him free.  And God just wanted to establish a clear and beneficial rule, by having him divorce her as I suggested, so could marry her: if an adopted son divorces his wife, the adopted father can marry her.  And really has to, since remember, God is telling me to take this comely lady to bed.  Did I mention that I'm the dictator of Mecca and the voice of God whom you have to obey to avoid everlasting torture in hell?" 

"Oh, and by the way -- in future, Mohammed's women will kindly stay in Mohammed's house.  You don't want to go for a walk in the desert and get caught in a sand storm, or something." 

Mohammed then reverts to his "believers, remember God" mode, including the following crucial self-description:

"Mohammed is not the father of anyone of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets . . . "

This is the first time I've seen this phrase "seal of the prophets" in the Quran.  Is it possible it was trotted out specifically to ward off the Zaid sex scandal?  What a cad. 

But Mohammed has a full sermon to preach, and he's only hit midstride.  He goes on:

49. O you who believe! When you marry believing women, and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no 'Iddah [divorce prescribed period, see (V.65:4)] have you to count in respect of them. So give them a present, and set them free i.e. divorce, in a handsome manner.

50. O Prophet (Muhammad )! Verily, We have made lawful to you your wives, to whom you have paid their Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), and those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses - whom Allah has given to you, and the daughters of your 'Amm (paternal uncles) and the daughters of your 'Ammah (paternal aunts) and the daughters of your Khal (maternal uncles) and the daughters of your Khalah (maternal aunts) who migrated (from Makkah) with you, and a believing woman if she offers herself to the Prophet, and the Prophet wishes to marry her; a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) the believers. Indeed We know what We have enjoined upon them about their wives and those (captives or slaves) whom their right hands possess, - in order that there should be no difficulty on you. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

51. You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive whom you will. And whomsoever you desire of those whom you have set aside (her turn temporarily), it is no sin on you (to receive her again), that is better; that they may be comforted and not grieved, and may all be pleased with what you give them. Allah knows what is in your hearts. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, Most Forbearing.

52. It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this, nor to change them for other wives even though their beauty attracts you, except those (captives or slaves) whom your right hand possesses. And Allah is Ever a Watcher over all things.

53. O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet's houses, except when leave is given to you for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation. But when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without sitting for a talk. Verily, such (behavior) annoys the Prophet, and he is shy of (asking) you (to go), but Allah is not shy of (telling you) the truth. And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not (right) for you that you should annoy Allah's Messenger, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him (his death). Verily! With Allah that shall be an enormity.

54. Whether you reveal anything or conceal it, verily, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything.

55. It is no sin on them (the Prophet's wives, if they appear unveiled) before their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their brother's sons, or the sons of their sisters, or their own (believing) women, or their (female) slaves, and keep your duty to Allah. Verily, Allah is Ever All-Witness over everything.

56. Allah sends His Salat (Graces, Honours, Blessings, Mercy, etc.) on the Prophet (Muhammad) and also His angels too (ask Allah to bless and forgive him). O you who believe! Send your Salat on (ask Allah to bless) him (Muhammad), and (you should) greet (salute) him with the Islamic way of greeting (salutation i.e. As-Salamu 'Alaikum).

57. Verily, those who annoy Allah and His Messenger Allah has cursed them in this world, and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating torment.

58. And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin.

59. O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Reading the above list of the categories of women available to this busy prophet, one wonders just how big a tent he owned. 

So God allows Mohammed to choose which women he takes, and which he leaves alone, at his apparent sole discretion.  How kind of the Almighty.  However, Mohammed probably has enough wives, now, though he can always grab the Filipino maids, I mean slave girls, if he gets that hankering for fresh delights. 

And girls, not only can't you leave the compound, you need to veil up around anyone who is not a close relative.  And don't annoy the prophet -- he can make life hell for you, and then God will make hell your life afterwards.  (You'll look back fondly on the days he was just beating you, or cheating his own adopted son out of his comely beloved.) 

And this is the Word of God, the perfect Quran, itself the greatest and final sign that Mohammed is the Seal of the Prophets and the final true message for all the world. 

What did Karen Armstrong say again about Mohammed being one of those rare men who really, truly enjoys the company of women?  And her quaint pictures of him darning his own socks?

This is like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone, one of those episodes that haunts your dreams afterwards, about being stuck in a house with a demonic child who can read your thoughts and punish you horribly if you disobey. 

This sura alone fully explains much of the abuse of women in the Muslim world today. 

Summary: Quite a few passages in this long, central stretch of the Quran -- we have just covered some 400 pages -- seem pretty straightforward and unobjectionable.  Mohammed likes to repeat the stories of exotic women from the Old Testament -- Lot's wife, Sarah, Potiphor's wife, the Queen of Sheba, heroines and villainesses.  He comes out in favor of modesty and against fornication, the latter of which earns harsh punishment, at least in theory. 

Some sutras add fresh difficulties for women, however.  It seems that sons may be preferred over daughters, according to one passage.  The story of Lot is told numerous times here, sometimes including how Lot was willing to give his daughters to be raped, to save his male guests danger from the local mob. 

Even more troubling ideas are mooted.  First, there's the idea that under some ill-defined circumstances, slave owners may not just rape their comely slaves, but sell them as prostitutes.  And second, with many women hoarded and sexually exploited by rich men, and strict penalties for adultery and strictures against fornication and immodesty, what is a poor young man to do?  The obvious solution: go to war, capture a few slaves, and have your way with them. 

This may go a long ways towards explaining the history of Islamic expansion.

Then in a sura entitled "The Confederates," Mohammed reveals the genuinely tyrannical nature of his rule over women, and men, in a ghastly manner.  He spies the beautiful wife of his adopted son and determines to have her to add to his already bloated collection.  As Jay Budziszewski often explains, sexual sins lead to cover-ups and more sins, and to exploitation as well. 

Mohammed makes God his sock-puppet to justify his evil deeds.  Furthermore, he makes it clear that his other women will lose their homes and the hope of heaven if they complain or bother him about it at all.  He will cast them out into the street, yes with some cash, and they can expect double punishment in hell for their sin.  (Mohammed is not all that creative, or he might have come up with some other figure.  Why not make the fire seven times hotter?) 

And then as the "Seal of the Prophets," he announced that henceforth, Mohammed's women will have to cover from head to toe, and also stay at home. 

And that, of course, is why women can't drive in Saudi Arabia.  And why their men feel free to chase  maids imported, when other poor countries have said "no," from Ethiopia, and no doubt why their stir-crazy wives abuse the poor girls, as well. 

Clearly, Mohammed himself, and the Quran he wrote, is largely to blame for the low status of women in Muslim countries around the world. 

There's no need to blame God. 

And here's my concluding analysis of the Quran and women

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