In this Lecture, Vivienne Stacey explores how the Hadith (Muslim traditions) addresses Muslim women in Islamic traditions. These lectures were given at Columbia International University in partnership with the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center was founded in 1979 and exists to offer comprehensive courses on Islam, facilitate research, foster dialogues, offer seminars, conduct training, and provide resources for effective witness and ministry among Muslims. We also have a course study guide for these lectures that you might find helpful.

The two books referenced in this lecture are:
Inside the Community: Understanding Muslims through their Traditions by Phil Parshall
Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretations by Barbara Stowasser

For more by Phil Parshall, consider taking his course, Approaches to Muslim Evangelism on Pathwright.


Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Vivienne Stacey’s Lecture on Muslims Women in the Hadith:


Thinking about women in the Hadith, and I think that you will have read, Phil Parshall’s, chapter 16 in his book. The name of the book? Inside the Community. Inside the Community and the subtitle? Understanding Muslim when you hear their traditions?


Understanding Muslims through their traditions, And so we’re looking at the chapter on women, and then we will look a bit at Stoa’as’s book, women in the Quran, traditions and interpretation. So our focus is on traditions, and so just a word about traditions, you’ve come across the word Sunnah, s u double n a h. The Sunnah and the traditions are basically the same. The word sunnah means the custom, habit, and usage of the prophet. This includes his behaviour, how he did things, his sayings and declarations.


These form a body of rules and examples to be followed in detail. For example, a man should trim his beard exactly as Mohammed trimmed his. There are all sorts of rules, and in the traditions, practically everything you could possibly think of is covered. And so this is so that, Muslims may walk in the the right way doing the right things. But the emphasis in the traditions is on what Mohammed did and what he said.


The traditions or hadith, as they’re called in Arabic, are the collections of the works and actions of of the words and actions of Muhammad, and sometimes included are those of his companions, the words and actions of his companions, his close band of followers. The word hadees, actually, in Arabic means piece of information, account, narrative, and record. Mohammed is regarded as the ideal man, the example, so it’s very important to know exactly how he spoke and acted. In Surah 33 and verse 21 it is written, verily, in the messenger of Allah, ye have an good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the last day and remembereth Allah much. So Mohammed was not the perfect man as Jesus is and was, Muhammad is the ideal man.


He is the pattern, but somewhere he prays for forgiveness for sin, And, in the Quran, it is so written, I think. So he is not considered perfect. He might be perfect in the generalities, but, he erred and strayed in some things. So he’s still he’s the example but not the perfect man. There are also traditions which are called hadith, Qudsi.


I don’t know if you’ve come across these, but it’s hadith like this, h a I t d I t h, and then kudsi, q u d s I. And these are special. They are words that are not written in the Quran which God spoke to Mohammed. So that’s, for example, one well well known hadith Qudsi is Allah has said, ask from me through mentioning my names. Ask from me through mentioning my names.


This is a hadith. This is a something that Mohammed received from God and is not incorporated in the Quran. Well I think that’s a probably yes we should mention the reliability of the traditions and I have already explained perhaps that each tradition has a text what I what is actually written that’s there’s the text, and you can write it, in English either m a t a n or m a t n, mutton. And, then that’s the actual text. This is what Mohammed is recorded as having said and but there is the chain, Isnad.


Isnad, I s n a d, is the stage the so and so Mohammed said it and actually you start up here in the end of the chain. So so and so heard from so and so who was told by so and so, that so and so said and so on right the way down till you come back to Mohammed. I’ll read it this way. It will go it will go like this. I heard a, a companion of Muhammad.


We’re saying a. He’s called a. Well, let’s say put it this way, the chain of Hadiths will be like this, f told me now a is just I’m using a f and a b c d, sorry, F told me saying E said, D had informed him saying E mentioned that he heard B relate, and this is what he heard b relate, I heard a, a companion of Muhammad, say to the apostle of God. And so then it goes, and then you get the text. But it goes through generations.


There were hundreds of thousands of hadith, hundreds of thousands of traditions. Those that were regarded as authentic were collected into 6 compilations during the 9th early 10th centuries. These there were other collections, but these 6 formed the canonical Sunnah. And then there’s the the ones that we all come across and that you could find easily, I think you’d find them in the library here at least some of them, you’ll find the Sahi, Sahi means genuine, of Al Bukhari. Al Bukhari, Al, and then Bukhari, b u k h a r I.


You would find the Jami, that’s the collection of Al Timidhi, Tirmidi, t I r m I d h I. There are others. There’s Muslim, not a Muslim, but his name is Muslim, m u r musli. He did a collection. And there is Al Nasai.


Yeah. Oh, yes. Here, I was talking about Eve, there’s the narrated by Abu Hurairah. The prophet said, were it not for Eve, no woman would ever betray her husband. See, that that is not according to Islamic theology because there shouldn’t be a spin off.


The idea was that Adam and Eve are were totally responsible for their own sin, and, it doesn’t there is not an original sin. There is a weakness, Mary and Jesus were the only people not touched at birth by Satan, according to Islamic tradition, another tradition. Everyone else was touched at birth, which results in being men and women being created weak, Not sinful, but weak. Under miscellaneous treatment, it’s interesting to see Abu Hurairah, he said he says, the prophet said a woman is married for 4 things, her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So there seem that’s a it’s not entirely encouraging I find, And then there’s the story narrated by Abdullah bin Umer, I heard the prophet saying, an evil omen is in three things, the horse, the woman, and the house.


So and, the translator of this tradition, translating from the Arabic, he says, superstition is disliked in Islam, but if one should think that there are things of bad omen, one may find such a bad omen in a horse that is obstinate and not used for Jihad, Jihad, a woman that is sterile or discontented or impudent, a house that is not spacious or far from a mosque, that is not spacious, or far from a mosque, and near a bad neighbor. So the question might be how does a woman feel about being told she’s an evil omen? And you have below the account of Aisha who objected and that the Hadith is written, things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey, and a woman if they pass in front of the praying people. I said, you have made us, women, dogs.


And, so there was, she was quite she was very young, she was 18 when her when Mohammed died, but she didn’t mind speaking up, and so she argued the the toss on this one. And then there’s a whole matter in the Hadith, which say that, many women will be found in hell. Many women will be found in hell. There is a hadith, and I can’t locate it, but for every 100 for every 1 no. For every 1,000 men in paradise, there will only be 1 woman, and for every one man in hell, there will be a 1,000 women.


And here’s another so I can’t tell you where it comes from when it’s from the hadith, but I can tell you here, I can read from a quote from Phil Parshall where he talks about, what was said by Abu al Khudri. Once, Allah’s apostle went out to the masala to offer prayer. He went out to the prayers, or he went out to offer prayer of al Fitr prayer. That’s the feast. Then he passed by the women and said, oh, women, give alms, as as I have seen that the majority of dwellers of hell fire were you, women.


They asked, why is it so, oh Allah’s apostle? He replied, you curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. Ingratitude is a great sin in Islam. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious, sensible man could be led astray by some of you.


The women asked, oh, Allah’s Allah’s apostle, what is deficient in our intelligence and religion? He said, is not the evidence of 2 women equal to the witness of 1 man? They replied in the affirmative. He said, this is the deficiency in your intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?


The woman replied in the affirmative. He said, this is the deficiency in your religion. So so we’ve got here then the prophet then further explains why the majority of dwell dwellers of hell are women. They are there because of their lack of intelligence, evidenced by the fact that their testimony in a court of law is only worth half of that of a man, and in religious matters, they are deficient because they cannot pray or keep fast during the time of their monthly period. They’re also declared worthy of hell because of their cursing and ingratitude to husbands.


And, well, this is, this is the hadith. The Hadith have got it a bit more loaded against women than, than and the Quran is, much more fair, I would from my perspective, and men and women are spiritually equal according to the Quran as we saw yesterday. The Hadiths have got some good things to say about women, but there’s some very bad things about women, and some of the feminists, as we’ll see next week in Islam, Muslim feminists, they’re not all women, but most of them are women. They, argue that, some of them argue, that the Quran, if we followed the Quran it would be okay for women, but if we, look at the Hadith then, some people only do look at the Hadith and or that somehow they hear it and they don’t read and they get these stories in the Hadith, but some of them rather funny and some of them, quite interesting. They get familiar with it and so they have the perspective of the Hadith on the position of women.


And so people like Fatima Miernesi, well she’s, she doesn’t hold with some of these traditions. For example, she, considered and she wrote a book which I’ll show you today or some other day called Forgotten Queens of Islam. Because she was showing that there were outstanding women rulers, queens, people who held political power of some sort or another, and, but she thought she’d tried out on her grocer. I think it was probably when Bayn Nazir became prime minister of Pakistan. So she went when she went to her grocer, she said, what do you think about a woman ruling a country, being the ruler of a country, what about Baynazir?


I don’t know if it was that time or not, but anyway she she asked him to see what he was gonna say. So he quoted a hadith, the country that is ruled by a woman, will never prosper. So, end of story I suppose, but, it’s not actually. And the Quran, is quite, clear about possibilities for women to have some leadership at least. Mohammed is said to have consulted his, wives and especially some of them, one of them or sometimes and several at other times, on on working matters.


He brought his work home, if you like. He he, he discussed it with his wives sometimes, he got their input, and we can see more about this. So we’ll, conclude then, think our thinking about women in the Hadith, and in the next session we’ll go on well we will continue it because we’re gonna think about the wives of Muhammad, Muhammad’s wives. So in a sense it’s still women in the Hadith or because they are mentioned in the Hadith, some of them. So that’s where we’ll leave it now.