THE POSITION OF WOMEN’s SEXUALITY IN ISLAM
(By Francesco Maggio)
In Islamic society, contrary to what has happened in Western society, no cultural change has taken place in the realms of sexuality and sex. Women have never been thought of as being endowed with the will or ability to move and think for themselves. They have never been seen as autonomous beings able to contribute to the progress of society. Women continue to be dominated by the male culture.
And religion has reinforced this view, even to the point of terrorizing them. The Qur’an says: ‘Men have been placed above women, because Allah has chosen some beings above others.’ (Surah 4.34) Womanhood has been reduced to the status of a field for men to cultivate ( Surah 4:3)
It says: ‘However, men are one step higher, and Allah is powerful and wise’. Quran 2,228. This verse reveals the contempt in which women are held. They are literally under someone else. This physical position indicates dominion; women are just there to be dominated and possessed. The woman has been reduced from a being created in the image of God to a pin-up on the cover of Playboy magazine. That’s extremely unfair.
Even today the general conception in everyday life is that it is the man who gives and the woman who receives. The former is active, the latter is passive. In the Arabic language today, as far as I know, there are no equivalent terms to “sexism”, “male chauvinism” or “misogyny”. Because the problems just not exist.
Thee woman is viewed as being passive from a sexual point of view. The pleasure is all and only for the man. The fact that a daughter is obliged to remain a virgin until marriage means that she is always considered to be an object of man. Sometimes mothers are repudiated when it turns out that their daughters have lost their virginity. Once a mother living in a traditional context in which sexuality is subject to a code is repudiated, she finds herself without a man, and thus without the possibility of having sexual relations. So the extra-marital or pre-marital pleasure enjoyed by her daughter can lead to the loss of such enjoyment for the mother.
Tabari comments on this verse by stating that a man can take and enjoy a woman without even uttering a word. When this is put into practice the woman may feel she has been raped. The rape of women as a punishment appears in a book that has some authority in the field of religious studies. The Arabic language has not evolved. The term ‘ adhrà ‘ (virgin) is used only in the “feminine” form, as if the man had no personal history of his own. He is born a man, he doesn’t become one… This shows that parts of islamic society has not evolved. The woman is obliged to be the “field” in which man can realize himself and his every desire. The woman is therefore nothing but a tool to satisfy the active male.
In Morocco, some women have begun to turn to associations to report marital rape. Women are becoming aware that they are often the playground where their husbands can realize their craziest fantasies, their wives being reduced to the role of mere objects. However in Arabic there is no term for “marital rape”.
This means that in order to report marital rape, sexism or male chauvinism, a Western language has to be used. A wonderful, rich language like Arabic is suddenly poor when it comes to male-female relationships within Arab society today or maybe this is due to lack of innovation on the part of the Arabs. How can you create a modern society when the language has not evolved?
And what if these terms are struggling to make any headway through fear of religious censorship?? The so-called Arab revolutionaries, rather than talk about such things as freedom, rights and improvements in living conditions for women, have laid stress on the subjection of woman for the pleasure of man. At present the best-selling book in the Arabworld, written by a Saudi Wahabi, teaches that the happiest woman is the one who gives proof of her complete submission to rules and thus to her husband. This extremely archaic description harks back to the original foundations of Islam and the religious Division of the sexes and sexuality. Women’s pleasure, sex’s enjoyment remains for some a major taboo. The subject is not to be brought up; men’s sexuality is the only thing that counts. Some Muslims have a deeply religious mentality. Mental and psychological makeup is religious, deeply imbue
d with concepts of domination, power and success. The woman finds herself caught up in this whole system with no glimmer of hope and no way of escape.
It is well known that for the Wahhabis women’s independence is the ultimate threat to men. Within Arab society individuals cannot communicate freely with those who are different from themselves. They do not adopt democratic dialogue or exchanges of views. Only violence reigns. In such a climate, an emancipated woman is seen as one who protests and openly expresses her dissent. But this is not allowed. In the man’s eyes a woman should behave as someone who does not think.
What we must consider is man’s forgetfulness of history. It is a well known fact that Algerian women participated in their country’s independence struggles. Yet they did not receive the recognition they deserved. None of the prominent women of the 20th century (such as May Ziade, Huda Sha ‘ ràwi, and many others) received adequate recognition for their role in the liberation movement of their country. Even the most committed women remain on the fringes and their writings are not handed down or taught. Only men are spoken about, even when women are involved. Yet there have been female writers, singers and actresses. The East is overflowing with great women. The Arabs have forgotten them. It seems that Arabs reject ‘ intelligent and clever women ‘.