Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Yes, Mohammad Tawhidi, Islam Has to be a Religion of Men

by Silas


In August of 2019 the online blog, The Times of Israel, published an article by Mohammad Tawhidi, “Islam Doesn’t Have to Be a Religion of Men”, in which he argues that Islam is not necessarily a religion of men, i.e. one that favors men over women.1

Mr. Tawhidi2 began his argument by acknowledging that Muslim societies today are structured to favor men and that the Quran prefers males over females and gives them a superior position.  However, he attributes this favoritism to pre-Islamic Arab culture:

The masculinization of Muslim societies stems from the masculinization of Arabian societies in pre-Islamic Arabia, where culture continues as an essential part of life alongside religion.

The Koran, on the other hand, addressed the early Muslims in a manner that they would comprehend, and therefore preferred masculinity over femininity when shedding light on the position of males and females, the social relations between them and their role in society, as well as legislative aspects of their lives – such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and personal status.

I appreciate his honesty and candor.  He admits what readily can be seen by any student of Islam:  men are preferred over women.  In Islamic theology men are given power over women because they are superior to women.  As such, they are responsible to manage their wives and the wives are required to obey their husbands.

He then asks if the Quran actually supports a male dominant culture and quotes 49:13 as if it somehow supports equality of the sexes.  Here is the verse from Pickthal’s Quran:

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.

Imam Tawhidi’s comment:

In this respect, we Muslims need to ask ourselves: By the Koran recognizing the dominant male culture, does that mean that it supports it? Or do the solutions it proposes mean that it should disappear from Muslim/Arab societies after the revelation of the aforementioned verse?

49:13 does not support his argument, it merely states that different tribes, races, nations, etc. have different characteristics and that these differences are not a cause for bigotry.

Tawhidi does acknowledge the “superior male” principle and states that there are additional verses which place men in authority over women.  However he claims that those verses are legislative and not doctrinal:

Thus, there is no superiority between male and female in this particular verse, which speaks regarding one of the purposes of creation. However, other verses which clearly state that men have authority over women are open to interpretation, as they are legislative in nature and not strictly doctrinal. 

That is an odd comment by Imam Tawhidi.  The Quran’s verses are first doctrinal and then legislative.

More important is the impact that these verses have on the day to day lives of women in Islam.  The men have the rights, they have the authority to command, their word counts in court, they get the money (inheritance) and thus the power, they allow or forbid what a woman can do, i.e. if and when she is allowed to leave the house.  So, when and how does a supposed theoretical “doctrinal equality” translate into daily life so that women can “feel” their supposed worth?  In an abstract way women have some worth, but practically the men have all the rights.  So the value and worth of women is somewhere in Neverland.  Men can easily live with “equal rights” of women that never come to bear on anything in this life.

Imam Tawhidi can see clearly that the equal rights do not exist in reality in today’s Islamic world. He also sees they did not exist in reality during and after Muhammad’s time.  To his credit he seeks to correct that and that tells me that he loves his people, but he veils his eyes and refuses to see that those rights don’t exist because of the Quran, not despite the Quran’s teachings.  A woman’s inferior status in Islam is part of Islam’s DNA.  There is far too much material in the Quran, hadith, and sira that allows for any other meaningful interpretation.

Islamic women’s rights only exist in imagination.

Imam Tawhidi ends his argument by recognizing the dilemma for a backwards and oppressive religion existing in a more moral and more civilized world:

When religion develops into a ‘Religion of Men,’ then the issue no longer becomes an issue of prioritizing between political or religious reforms, because either way, the outcome will result in the continued suppression and oppression of women, and their treatment as second- or even third-class citizens.

Islam cannot convince developed nations that it is a universal religion when it fuels a culture that favors one gender over the other. As Muslims, we must address our challenges through modern-day practices, and not through historical experiences of past generations. The greatest challenge we face is Muslims trying to connect historic scripture with today’s reality.

Tawhidi’s observation that the current and dominant version of Islam makes women into 2nd or 3rd class citizens is correct.  The more “Islamic” a society is the more it subjects its females.



Is Islam a ‘male-centric’ religion?  Is it a man’s religion made by and for men?  Or does Islam view men and women equally and considers them as spiritual equals?  Let’s examine the Islamic source materials: the Quran, hadith, (since Imam Tawhidi is Shia we’ll use a Shia tradition (hadith) compilation), and the historical/biographical information on Muhammad’s life, (sira).  I will also quote from a Shia commentary (tafsir).

One of the more fundamental Quranic verses regarding the relationship status of men and women is 4:34.  Here are two versions of that verse:

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.3

Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.4

This verse could be described as the “wife beating verse” because Allah commands men to beat their disobedient wives.  This “beating” command is not an option!  Many people focus on that harsh aspect of the verse and understandably take offense.  Yet another derogatory tenet of this verse is distinct and stated clearly:  men are superior to women because Allah created them as superior.

One Shia commentary on 4:34 states this:

… A number of Jews came to Rasool-Allah and asked him certain questions, and from what they asked him was, ‘What is the excellence of the man over the woman?’

So the Prophet said: ‘Like the excellence of the sky over the earth, and like the water over the earth, for the water revives the earth, and by the men, the women are revived. And had it not been for the men, Allah would not have Created the women. Allah is Saying Men are guardians of the women due to what Allah has Made some of them to excel others and because they are spending from their wealth [4:34]’.

The Jew said, ‘By which thing is it like this?’ So the Prophet said: ‘Allah Mighty and Majestic Created Adam from clay, and Created Hawwa from its remnant, and the first one who obeyed Adam was the woman. So Allah Mighty and Majestic Made them descend from the Garden, and Explained the excellence of the man over the woman in the world. Have you not seen the women how they menstruate and it is not possible for them to worship due to the filth, and the men are not affected with anything from the menstruation?.

The Jew said, ‘You have spoken the truth, O Muhammad’.5

Muhammad said that men are superior to women like the sky, and water, are superior over the earth.  Earth is barren and useless without water.  Further, women cannot be as spiritual as men because they menstruate.  [There are many Sunni hadith which say the same thing.]

During Muhammad’s “Farewell” address he commented on this “men are superior” topic:

"You have rights over your wives, and they have rights over you. You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not with severity. If they refrain from these things and obey you, they have right to their food and clothing with kindness. Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are your wards having no control of their persons."6

Women are "wards" under men’s control because they cannot control themselves. The Islamic definition of "ward" means a person who has been legally placed under the care of a guardian or court, or a person who is under the protection and control of another. Muslim wives are placed under their husband’s control.  Muhammad’s words above bring “honor” into the discussion as well.  If a women is “unseemly” the man can take physical action against her.  Although these words are not from the Quran, they are from Muhammad; they are not just Arab cultural words.

The Shia Muslim scholar Ali Dashti translates the fourth sentence from the above passage and comments:

Look after women kindly! They are prisoners, not having control of themselves at all". The passage's word in Arabic "awan" translated as "ward" or "prisoners" implies that women are in-between slave and free. In other words, because women are unable control their emotions, men are given authority over them.7

Based on the Quran, hadith, sira, and Shia tafsir we can conclude that Allah created men as superior beings.  Women are inferior to men in terms of intellect, strength, and self-control.  In life, children are minors and are unable to function as adults; they are wards of their parents.  In Islam, women are in-between child and adult and are not able to function in the same way as an adult male; they are wards of their husbands.



Let’s approach this topic from a different perspective:  Allah’s rewards for those in paradise.  Allah will reward the men and women who believed in and obeyed him, e.g. 33:35, 16:7.

When a manager is focused on the actions of his people he’ll reward them usually with things they want.  People who perform well get monetary bonuses.  In older times Kings would reward their most valued subjects with rewards like land, wealth, possessions, etc.  If he knew their heart’s desires he would often reward them accordingly.  He appreciated them and extended his love and kindness to them.

In Islam, Allah does the same.  He promises his believers rewards.  But when it comes down to what he says about those rewards there is a great disparity between what he says for men and women.  What did he say about his rewards and who was the focus of those rewards?  His focus indicates his favor.  His largesse indicates his favor.

From the Quran to the sira these accounts frequently mention perpetual sexual satisfaction for men.  Normal men like, if not love, having sex.  Muhammad was a man and he loved having sex. It’s a natural male thing. Muhammad created Islam after his own image, consequently, his vision of heavenly rewards naturally includes lots and lots and lots of sex.

Most women are not as into sex as men and many Muslim women do not fantasize about near-constant intercourse in Paradise.  However, the Islamic source materials spend a lot of text describing the heavenly pleasures of sex for men.  Not too much is specifically written about pleasures for women, rather at best it’s a generalized “what your heart desires.”  Based on the written words it is clear that Allah is far more concerned about fulfilling men’s lusts while the women’s rewards are generalized.  Here are some of Muhammad’s words about the sexual pleasure that await men in Paradise.

The Quran, sira, and hadith on sex in Paradise

There are a number of verses about heavenly sexual pleasures for men.  Men are promised numerous “houris” as sexual partners.  These are beautiful virgin female creatures with dark eyes and large breasts, and whose virginity is renewed each day. 

(See 44:54, 55:70-77, 56:36, 78:31, 52:20, 56:22-24.)

Ibn Sa’d’s “Book of the Major Classes,” (sira) says that in Paradise, Allah will give men the ability to have sex 80 times in one day.8, 9

Clearly the emphasis is on men getting their lust fulfilled.  Many Muslim women have sacrificed just as greatly for their faith, yet Allah didn’t seem too concerned with addressing their specific rewards.  Men were favored.



Similar to the type above, Allah places women at men’s service on earth.  Here are some quotes from Al-Kafi’s hadith collection10 on a women’s place in Islam.

Volume 5 Chapter 19 – What is reckoned from the marriages of the women during their puberty, and fortifying them with the marriage:

…‘Beware of consulting the women, for their opinion leads to the annihilation, and their determination leads to the weakness,  …

Volume 5 Chapter 151 – What is Obligated upon the women from obedience to the husband:

(It has been narrated) from Abu Ja’far having said: ‘Rasool-Allah went out on the day of the sacrifice (10th Zilhajj), to the back of Al-Medina upon a bare camel. So he passed by the women, and he paused above them, then said: ‘O group of women! You should give charity, and obey your husbands, for most of you would be in the Fire’.

So when they heard that, they wept. Then a woman from them stood up to him and said, ‘O Rasool-Allah! In the Fire along with the disbelievers? By Allah, we are not with disbelievers, so we should come to be from the inhabitants of the Fire’. So Rasool-Allah said to her: ‘They are the ones who denied the rights of their husbands’.

Clearly Islam depicts women as inferior to men.  They are weak, unreliable, and are designed to obey and sexually service their husbands.



The Islamic source materials state that men are superior to women clearly.  Islam teaches that women are inferior beings to men, just as children are inferior to their parents and as slaves are inferior and subject to their masters.  Imam Tawhidi is hopeful that Islam can be re-fashioned into a fair and equitable faith, however, that was never Muhammad’s intent, and certainly not part of Muhammad’s viewpoint.  Muhammad’s view is Islam’s view, and Muhammad viewed women as inferior and subject to men.

Allah is focused on rewarding men; they have the male lion’s share of his focus and described rewards.  Women are kept in the background just as they are in many Islamic societies today.11



You are intelligent, have integrity, an possess a sense of fairness.  You wish to reform Islam as many other good Muslims wish to do.  Sadly, Islam cannot be reformed and attempts to do so are often characterized as “innovation” and are condemned. 

It may take some effort and courage to find out that faith in Christ is not only in this aspect more compatible with your inner convictions, but that it even makes more sense in many other respects, doctrinally, culturally, scientifically, etc.

Please, for the sake of your fellow Muslims, please acknowledge that Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, is not fair.  You certainly understand the fraud in this.  Serve your people well and choose truth over falsehood, choose Jesus Christ the Son of God.


2 Imam Tawhidi is a Shi'ite Muslim cleric living in Australia; you can find more of his writings in his own blog section at The Times of Israel.

3 Dawood, N. J., “The Koran”, Penguin, London, 1995

4 Pickthall, M., “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953

5 Tafseer Hub-e-Ali on Sura 4:34

6 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, Oxford, 1955, page 651

7 Dashti, Ali, “23 Years: A Study in the Prophetic Career of Mohammad”, Mazda, Costa Mesa, CA, 1994

8 Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society.

9 One Sunni tafsir states that they will have the ability to have sex 100 times a day!  That’s a climax every 15 minutes!  With that much sex, men will have little time for much else.

11 To understand this from a Sunni perspective please see this article on Wife Beating in Islam.

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