The Muslim Art of Vilification

Of Women, Dogs & Islamic Prayer

Sam Shamoun & Jochen Katz

One of our email correspondences has caught the attention of Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (MENJ), the founder of the Muslim website Bismikaallahuma. Lazarus, a member of our correspondence team, had responded to an email which contained the claim / question whether the large number of women who convert to Islam is not proof enough that Islam is friendly to women. In order to fully understand the original argument and the answer given, one should read the exchange itself.

Apart from displaying his high level of scholarship by the use of insults like "demented bigots", MENJ accuses Lazarus of deceit and distortion for not quoting the entirety of a specific narration that contains a claim that women, much like dogs and donkeys, nullify the prayers of a Muslim. It seems that MENJ is one of those Muslims who have a hard time discussing any issue in a calm and factual way, but who constantly seek to emotionalize the debate and vilify those whom they disagree with, charging them not only with error but also with evil motivations.

After dealing quickly with MENJ’s absolutely misguided attack, we will take the occasion to discuss in detail the matter raised by him in his article, i.e. we will give an overview of the teachings found in the hadith in regard to nullification of prayers by women.

MENJ's polemical smokescreen

MENJ makes these accusations:

However, what we are concerned with here is the blatant twisting of one particular hadith by the Christian missionary. In an attempt to "show" that there is little difference in treatment of a dog and a woman in Islam, the missionary stated as follows:

Please explain exactly what facts we have twisted by quoting Muhammad's wife Ayesha[sic] who said:

Narrated 'Aisha: Do you make us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys? (Sahih Bukhari 1.486, cf. Sahih Bukhari 1.490, Sahih Bukhari 1.493, Sahih Bukhari 1.498)

----, I hope that you can see that we are not here to mislead or to deceive but rather because we love the truth and desire for Muslims to find and to know this truth.

It is interesting to note here that the missionary have[sic] purposely not reproduced the whole hadith from Bukhari which he had referenced. The following is the actual full citation of the hadith partially quoted by the missionary:

Volume 1, Book 9, Number 490:

Narrated 'Aisha:

The 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 (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away for I disliked to face him."

Does it require too much intelligence to understand this hadith? There was a discussion between `Aishah, the wife of the Prophet(P), with some Muslims who were not knowledgeable about religious maters on the issue of what would nullify the salat (the Islamic ritual prayer). She told them that she was knowledgeable about such rules. They remarked that when a woman or a dog, or a donkey passed in front of a praying person, the latter's prayer was nullified. She corrected their wrong understanding with sarcasm (by saying that they are equating woman with dogs) and said that when the Prophet(P) prayed his tahajjud (midnight voluntary prayers) in her room, her bed (where she lay) was right in front of him. Hence, those Muslims were wrong in their understanding of the rules of nullification of salat: a salat is not nullified if a woman is in front of a praying person.

RESPONSE:

MENJ conveniently forgot to inform his readers that Lazarus wasn’t the one who claimed that women nullify prayers, the Muslim emailer did! The Muslim who sent in his email was addressing one of the entries in our Index to Islam where it was allegedly stated that women were equal to dogs. It was this accusation which prompted Lazarus to respond. Since there are a couple of misunderstandings intertwined, i.e. that the Muslim inquirer did not understand our statement in the Index entry, and MENJ did not understand Lazarus’ response — maybe because he was in such a hurry to accuse us of evil intentions — we have to untangle the mess of misunderstandings step by step. Our Index entry on WOMEN has an alphabetical list of key words, one of them being this subpoint:

The first absolutely crucial observation is this: There is a question mark at the end of the statement, "equal to dogs and donkeys?" This entry does NOT make the claim that women are equal to dogs and donkeys. It simply reports that in the Muslim traditions there is an argument whether women are equal to dogs and donkeys. The hadith that we provided as documentation is quoted in full, not leaving out even one letter of it. Everyone can verify that very easily by simply clicking on the first link provided in the references leading to the Muslim hadith database from which this text was copied.

We have no need to distort. Usually our claims are meticulously documented with references, so that everyone can verify our statements. Sure, we are humans and occasionally we make errors, but this is not one of them. The above quoted section of the Index entry on women is absolutely accurate.

Second step: The Muslim inquirer wrote regarding this entry:

… I find some of your references right down misleading. For example, if you go to the index of Islam and look up women, you find the entry labeled "equal to women and dogs. The only reason the wife of the prophet(RA) was on the floor because he was praying facing the middle of the bed and no muslim (man or woman) Is allowed to be in front of any other muslim (man or woman) praying…

Lazarus responded:

Please explain exactly what facts we have twisted by quoting Muhammad's wife Ayesha who said:

Narrated 'Aisha: Do you make us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys? (Sahih Bukhari 1.486, cf. Sahih Bukhari 1.490, Sahih Bukhari 1.493, Sahih Bukhari 1.498)

----, I hope that you can see that we are not here to mislead or to deceive but rather because we love the truth and desire for Muslims to find and to know this truth. …

This is a piece of genuine correspondence. The Muslim made a claim that we had represented something in a misleading way. Lazarus simply asked him to clarify his accusation. He did not make any claim of his own. In particular, Lazarus did not claim that Islam teaches that women are equal to dogs. He simply asked the Muslim in what way we distorted or what facts have we twisted by QUOTING a statement of one of Muhammad’s wives. Asking this question, he wanted to achieve two goals: First, he wanted to understand why this Muslim thought that a mere quotation of a Muslim tradition — without any interpretation of our own — amounts to twisting or distorting or deceiving. Second, being convinced that there is no distortion in this case, he simply asked him to explain what exactly was distorted. If this Muslim were serious in his dialog, he would then be forced to look up the tradition and would certainly realize that we did nothing but accurately quote it, thus discovering that his charge of misleading the readers was without substance. Again, this is a piece of email correspondence and not an article about the topic of "women and dogs". So there was no necessity to give a detailed discussion on our interpretation of this hadith.

The first duty of a diligent researcher is to study the original context of a statement. Since the inquirer referred to an entry in our Index to Islam, MENJ should have read carefully not only the email correspondence that he reacted to but also the mentioned Index entry in order to understand where the discussion originated. It is obvious that MENJ failed to carefully examine the texts before he exploded in his rage.

To summarize: Our Index entry was absolutely correct in reporting that there was an argument about this question in the Muslim sources. Moreover, Lazarus did not make any claims of his own but simply requested that the Muslim please explain why he thought we had distorted anything.

Now it is our turn to ask MENJ: What exactly is so reprehensible about that? What evidence does MENJ have to accuse us of a "plethora of wild imagination and false interpretations" and "the blatant twisting of one particular hadith" and even say:

The fact that he had to offer a distorted interpretation of hadith #490 (when this and other ahadith 491-7 plainly contradicted him) by equating women with dogs certainly speaks for itself. One has to be intellectually dishonest or have a diminutive lack of comprehension to assert from the hadith #490 that a woman is as impure as a dog and a donkey!

The missionary "Lazarus" … failed miserably in convincing anyone other than equally-demented bigots. … it remains to be seen what his next excuse for this purposeful twist will be to conceal his bigotry and extreme hatred of Islam. (bold emphasis ours)

Since neither the Index entry nor Lazarus gave an interpretation of the quoted hadith, how can those non-existent interpretations be false or distorted? What does MENJ refer to when he accuses Lazarus of "wild imaginations" and "blatant twisting"? What exactly was "intellectually dishonest" in asking the Muslim correspondent the question to substantiate his accusation?

Moreover, since both the Index entry and the email by Lazarus contained this line of references, (Sahih Bukhari 1.486, cf. Sahih Bukhari 1.490, Sahih Bukhari 1.493, Sahih Bukhari 1.498), it is clear that the quotation was taken from hadith number 486. The readers were simply given the hint that it would be good to compare (cf.) this hadith also with the tradition numbers 490, 493 and 498. How did Lazarus assert anything "from the hadith #490" when he only quoted from #486, let alone "assert from the hadith #490 that a woman is as impure as a dog and a donkey!" when he did not make any assertion about any of these hadiths beyond quoting a part of it?

Seeing MENJ making all those incredible charges that have absolutely no basis in the article that he attacks, it is quite amusing to find also this formulation in MENJ’s diatribe, that "one has to be intellectually dishonest or have a diminutive lack of comprehension" to do all these horrible things. Apart from the fact that "a diminutive lack of comprehension" is a self-defeating expression (MENJ probably wanted to say an enormous lack of comprehension, not a diminutive one), it rather seems to be MENJ who suffers from a lack of comprehension, and certainly not a diminutive one.

We will not accuse MENJ of purposefully misrepresenting Lazarus’ statement, but one can hardly avoid the impression that it may have been his "extreme hatred of" Christians that so utterly blinded him that he could not see nor comprehend what was actually said, and what was not said.

Now that we have seen that all of the accusations of MENJ have collapsed and evaporated into absolute nothingness — that they were smokescreens without any substance —, let us turn to an examination of what the Islamic sources say about MENJ’s topic of choice, i.e. the impact of women on a Muslim’s prayer.

Can women nullify a Muslim's prayer?

As already indicated above, MENJ conveniently forgot to inform his readers that Lazarus wasn’t the one who claimed that women nullify prayers, the Muslim email correspondent did! Read again what this Muslim wrote:

… I find some of your references right down misleading. For example, if you go to the index of Islam and look up women, you find the entry labeled "equal to women and dogs. The only reason the wife of the prophet(RA) was on the floor because he was praying facing the middle of the bed and no muslim (man or woman) Is allowed to be in front of any other muslim (man or woman) praying

Please notice that this person agrees that women, as well as men, nullify prayers and tries to reconcile that with the narrations that say Muhammad prayed with Aisha before him. Lazarus was simply responding to this person by asking him to explain in what way did we distort Bukhari’s hadiths which do not mention men but do single out women, dogs and donkeys as objects that nullify prayers. MENJ thinks he has the answer and can explain in what way we distorted the statements from the hadith. We will be examining his answer here to see if he has successfully achieved his goal.

More importantly, had MENJ spent only a little time searching the site regarding the keywords of women, dogs and prayer, he would have discovered our response to Dr. Jamal Badawi where we had quoted the following narrations:

Abu Dharr reported: THE MESSENGER OF 'ALLAH (may peace be upon him) SAID: When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle that covers him and in case there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, HIS PRAYER WOULD BE CUT OFF BY (passing of an) ASS, WOMAN, AND BLACK DOG. I said: O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog? He said: O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1032)

Abu Huraira reported: THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH (may peace be upon him) SAID: A WOMAN, AN ASS AND A DOG DISRUPT THE PRAYER, but something like the back of a saddle guards against that. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1034)

'Urwa b. Zubair reported: 'A'isha asked: What disrupts the prayer? We said: THE WOMAN AND THE ASS. Upon this she remarked: IS THE WOMAN AN UGLY ANIMAL? I lay in front of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) like the bier of a corpse and he said prayer. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1037)

Interestingly, Urwa ibn Zubair was Aisha’s nephew!

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Qatadah said: I heard Jabir ibn Zayd who reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas; and Shu'bah reported the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) as saying: A menstruating woman and a dog cut off the prayer. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 2, Number 0703)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas, saying: I think the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, A DOG, AN ASS, A PIG, A JEW, A MAGIAN, AND A WOMAN CUT OFF HIS PRAYER, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone's throw. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 2, Number 0704)

In this same article I even said the following right after citing the Bukhari hadith commented on by Lazarus, and right before I cited the above narrations:

There are some Muslims who try to say that these hadiths which place women on the level of dogs and asses were not narrated from Muhammad, and therefore do not represent the view of Muhammad. It simply reflects the views of certain Muslims of that time. The following traditions clearly demonstrate that these Muslims were actually deriving their opinions from Muhammad himself:

Taking MENJ’s criticism for granted we must conclude that Ibn Abbas, Abu Dharr, Abu Huraira and Urwa b. Zubair "were not knowledgeable about religious matters on the issue of what would nullify the salat (the Islamic ritual prayer)" and that "these Muslims were wrong in their understanding of the rules of nullification of salat." But since MENJ cites Ibn Taymiyya who hailed Ibn Abbas as a great scholar of Islam and who also said that the companions should be consulted in order to understand the Quran:

When you do not get any help from the Qur'n or the Sunnah, turn to the words of the companions. For they know the Qur'n better: they have witnessed its revelation, and passed through the situations in which it was revealed: and know it and understand it fully. This is particularly true of the scholars and leaders such as the Four Righteous Caliphs and `Abdullh ibn Mas`d. Imm Abu Ja`afar Muhammad ibn Jarr al-Tabar reports: Abu Krayb narrated to us, saying: Jbir ibn Nh informed us that: al-A`mash informed us from Abu Dh: from Masrq that `Abdullh ibn Mas` d said: "By the one besides whom there none having the right to be worshipped, there is no verse in the Qur'n about which I do not know in whose case and at what place was it revealed. If I were aware that anyone knew the Qur'n more than me, and I could reach him, I would certainly have gone to see him."[4] Al-A`mash has also reported through Abu W`il that Ibn Mas`d said: "When anyone of us learned ten verses of the Qur'n, he did not proceed further unless he had known what they meant and what action they demanded."

Another great scholar is `Abdullh ibn `Abbas(R), the nephew of the Prophet(P) and the commentator of the Qur'n. He attained that stature in virtue of the Prophet’s prayer: "O Allh! Give him knowledge of Islam and teach him the meaning of the Qur'n."[5] Muhammad ibn Bashshr narrated to us, that Wak` informed us, that Sufyn informed us from al-A`mash: from Musim (ibn Sabh Ab Duh) from Masrq: that `Abdullh ibn Mas`d(R) said: "What a good interpreter of the Qur'n Ibn `Abbas is!" Ibn Jarr has also reported this hadth through Yahya ibn Dawd, from Ishq al-Azrq, from Sufyn, from al-A`mash, from Muslim ibn Sabh Ab Duh, from al-Masruq with slightly different words: "What a good interpreter Ibn `Abbas is of the Qur'n!" He has also reported the same words through Bundar, from Ja`far ibn `Awn from al-A`mash. These words are, therefore, the actual words of Ibn Mas`d(R) which he said about Ibn `Abbas(R). Ibn Mas`d(R) died, most probably, in 33 A.H. Ibn `Abbas(R) lived for thirty six years after him, and added a lot to the treasury of Islmic knowledge. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

This means that Aisha must be at fault and is the one in error. We will have more to say about this point a little later.

MENJ proceeds to quote certain narrations that show Muhammad praying while Aisha slept in front of him and then concludes:

We wonder why this simple issue was so hard for the missionary "Lazarus" to understand. The fact that he had to offer a distorted interpretation of hadith #490 (when this and other ahadith 491-7 plainly contradicted him) by equating women with dogs certainly speaks for itself. One has to be intellectually dishonest or have a diminutive lack of comprehension to assert from the hadith #490 that a woman is as impure as a dog and a donkey!

Like Sahih Al-Bukhari, both Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abu Dawud also contain a number of traditions attributed to Aisha complaining that women were being placed on the same level of dogs and donkeys. They, too, narrate the same thing that Muhammad prayed while Aisha was in front of him. What are we to make of this? Obviously, the Hadith literature contains two very contradictory views regarding whether or not women nullify a person’s prayers.

This isn’t the only instance where Aisha contradicts the position or statements of other Muslim companions of Muhammad. Here is another example:

Narrated Masruq:
I said to 'Aisha, "O Mother! Did Prophet Muhammad see his Lord?" Aisha said, "What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar: Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar." Then Aisha recited the Verse:

'No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. He is the Most Courteous Well-Acquainted with all things.' (6.103) 'It is not fitting for a human being that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil.' (42.51) 'Aisha further said, "And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar." She then recited:

'No soul can know what it will earn tomorrow.' (31.34) She added: "And whoever tells you that he concealed (some of Allah's orders), is a liar." Then she recited: 'O Apostle! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord…' (5.67) 'Aisha added. "But the Prophet saw Gabriel in his true form twice." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 378)

Narrated Masruq:
'Aisha said, "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him.' (6.103) And if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the Unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: ‘None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allah.’" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 477)

Aisha explicitly denies the claim that Muhammad had seen Allah in any shape or form (this is the implication of the Quranic citation which states that no vision can grasp Allah). Aisha’s position contradicts the opinion of Ibn Abbas and a few others:

Chapter 78: THE MEANING OF THE WORDS OF ALLAH:" HE SAW HIM IN ANOTHER DESCENT" (AL-QUR'AN, LIII. 13). DID THE APOSTLE (MAY PEACE BE UPON HIM) SEE HIS LORD ON THE NIGHT OF HIS JOURNEY (TO HEAVEN)?

It is narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he (the Holy Prophet) saw (Allah) with, his heart. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0334)

It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the words: "The heart belied not what he saw" (al-Qur'an, Iiii. 11) and "Certainly he saw Him in another descent" (al-Qur'an, Iiii. 13) imply that he saw him twice with his heart. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0335)

Narrated AbdurRahman ibn A'ish
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: I saw my Lord, the Exalted and Glorious in the most beautiful form. He said: What do the Angels in the presence of Allah contend about? I said: Thou art the most aware of it. He then placed HIS PALM between my shoulders and I felt its coldness in my chest and I came to know what was in the Heavens and the Earth. He recited: `Thus did we show Ibrahim the kingdom of the Heavens and the Earth and it was so that he might have certainty.' (6:75)
Darimi reported it in a mursal form and Tirmidhi also reported. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 237– ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Narrated Mu'adh ibn Jabal
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) was detained one morning from observing the dawn prayer (in congregation) along with us till the sun had almost appeared on the horizon. He then came out hurriedly and Iqamah for prayer was observed and he conducted it (prayer) in brief form. When he had concluded the prayer by saying As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah, he called out to us saying: Remain in your places as you were. Then turning to us he said: I am going to tell you what detained me from you (on account of which I could not join you in the prayer) in the morning. I got up in the night and performed ablution and observed the prayer as had been ordained for me. I dozed in my prayer till I was overcome by (sleep) and lo, I found myself in the presence of my Lord, the Blessed and the Glorious, IN THE BEST FORM. He said: Muhammad! I said: At Thy service, my Lord. He said: What these highest angels contend about? I said: I do not know. He repeated it thrice. He said: Then I saw Him put HIS PALMS between my shoulder blades till I felt the coldness of HIS FINGERS between the two sides of my chest. Then everything was illuminated for me and I could recognize everything. He said: Muhammad! I said: At Thy service, my Lord. He said: What do these high angels contend about? I said: In regard to expiations. He said: What are these? I said: Going on foot to join congregational prayers, sitting in the mosques after the prayers, performing ablution well despite difficulties. He again said: Then what do they contend? I said: In regard to the ranks. He said: What are these? I said: Providing of food, speaking gently, observing the prayer when the people are asleep. He again said to me: Beg (Your Lord) and say: O Allah, I beg of Thee (power) to do good deeds, and abandon abominable deeds, to love the poor, that Thou forgive me and show mercy to me and when Thou intendst to put people to trial Thou causes me to die unblemished and I beg of Thee Thy love and the love of one who loves Thee and the love for the deed which brings me near to Thy love. Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: It is a truth, so learn it and teach it.
Transmitted by Ahmad, Tirmidhi who said: This is a hasan sahih hadith and I asked Muhammad ibn Isma'il about this hadith and he said: It is a sahih hadith. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 245– ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Still other narrations suggest that he may have or may have not seen his lord, depending on how one interprets them:

Chapter 79: PERTAINING TO HIS (PROPHET'S) WORDS: HE IS A LIGHT; HOW COULD I SEE HIM? -AND HIS WORDS: I SAW THE LIGHT

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr: I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him): Did you see thy Lord? He said: He is a Light. How could I see Him? (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0341)

Abdullah b. Shaqiq reported: I said to Abu Dharr: Had I seen the Messenger of Allah, I would have asked him. He (Abu Dharr) said: What is that thing that you wanted to inquire of him? He said: I wanted to ask him whether he had seen his Lord. Abu Dharr said: I, in fact, inquired of him, and he replied: I saw Light. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0342)

The above narrations do not necessarily imply that Muhammad didn’t see Allah. They may be stating that when Muhammad supposedly saw him he could only see his light, or saw Allah manifest as light. In either case, these narrations contradict the ones from at-Tirmidhi which say that Allah allegedly appeared in a visible manner.{1}

Here is another instance where Aisha was in conflict with others, in this case with the rest of Muhammad’s wives, regarding a specific issue:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that he was asked about the suckling of an older person. He said, ''Urwa ibn az-Zubayr informed me that Abu Hudhayfa ibn Utba ibn Rabia, one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who was present at Badr, adopted Salim (who is called Salim, the mawla of Abu Hudhayfa) as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, adopted Zayd ibn Haritha. He thought of him as his son, and Abu Hudhayfa married him to his brother's sister, Fatima bint al-Walid ibn Utba ibn Rabia, who was at that time among the first emigrants. She was one of the best unmarried women of the Quraysh. When Allah the Exalted sent down in His Book what He sent down about Zayd ibn Haritha, 'Call them after their true fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. If you do not know who their fathers were then they are your brothers in the deen and your mawali,' (Sura 33 ayat 5) people in this position were traced back to their fathers. When the father was not known, they were traced to their mawla.

"Sahla bint Suhayl who was the wife of Abu Hudhayfa, and one of the tribe of Amr ibn Luayy, came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Messenger of Allah! We think of Salim as a son and he comes in to see me while I am uncovered. We only have one room, so what do you think about the situation?' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Give him five drinks of your milk and he will be mahram by it.' She then saw him as a foster son. A'isha umm al-muminin took that as a precedent for whatever men she wanted to be able to come to see her. She ordered her sister, Umm Kulthum bint Abi Bakr as-Siddiq and the daughters of her brother to give milk to whichever men she wanted to be able to come in to see her. The rest of the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, refused to let anyone come in to them by such nursing. They said, 'No! By Allah! We think that what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, ordered Sahla bint Suhayl to do was only an indulgence concerning the nursing of Salim alone. No! By Allah! No one will come in upon us by such nursing!'

"This is what the wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, thought about the suckling of an older person." (Malik’s Muwatta, Book 30, Number 30.2.12)

For a detailed discussion on the issue of nursing adults, see this article.

The purpose for quoting these contradictory narrations is to show that Muhammad’s companions and even his wives disagreed and contradicted one another.

With the foregoing in mind, for MENJ to cite specific narrations from Aisha where she denies that Muhammad stated that women nullify a person’s prayers, placing them on the level of dogs, donkeys etc., or that he used to pray while she was asleep in front of him, hardly prove anything.

Since the alleged sound narrations of Islam contradict each other regarding the point of women nullifying prayers, MENJ must choose from the following options:

  1. Aisha lied in order to save women from embarrassment.
    (Note that Aisha is apparently the only one of Muhammad's many wives who reports about Muhammad praying facing her bed while she is in it.)
  2. Men such as Ibn Abbas, Abu Dharr, Abu Huraira etc., lied and put words in Muhammad’s mouth in order to degrade not just women, but Jews and Magians as well.
  3. Both groups lied. One group forged narrations to make women look bad with Aisha responding in kind and forging hadiths to refute them.
  4. Despite some of the narrations being found in collections deemed authentic by Sunni Muslims, these hadiths are nothing more than forgeries since Muhammad’s companions and wife never said such things.
  5. Perhaps only one set of narrations is forged while the other set is sound, despite them both appearing in collections deemed authentic by Sunnis. The question then arises, who decides which of these so-called sound narrations are truly authentic and which are the forgeries?
  6. Muhammad was being inconsistent since he said one thing in front of his followers but did the opposite in the privacy of his home in the presence of his favorite wife Aisha. This wouldn’t be the first time that Muhammad failed to do the very thing he commanded others, see this article. (Again, that Muhammad prayed (prostrated) in front of the bed of a wife is reported only by Aisha, not by the other wives, so he may have done so only with Aisha, if it is true at all, see option 1.)
  7. Assuming that all narrations are true and Muhammad was consistent, one could attempt to harmonize the traditions in one of the following ways:
    1. Muhammad’s point regarding women nullifying prayers may be referring to congregational prayers, or to prayers performed outside or in the mosque. It does not apply to private prayers performed at home.
    2. One of the above quoted narrations explicitly refers to "menstruating women" and may suggest that this is what Muhammad had in mind, i.e. that praying before a menstruating woman nullifies the prayer. Muhammad may have prayed before Aisha only when she was not menstruating. That would resolve the contradiction in a somewhat contrived way since it is arguing from silence and an attempt of harmonizing one aspect in those narrations that are contradictory in many ways. There is a similar issue with the question whether it is dogs in general or only black dogs that are the problem. Some hadith say a dog (without further qualifying what kind of dog, i.e. it would refer to all dogs), others insist that it is only a black dog that nullifies the prayers. Moreover, we doubt that MENJ would be really happy with this solution since the implication would then be that although women are not always on the same level with dogs and donkeys, they would still be equated with them during their periods, i.e. for 5-8 days of every month, or roughly 20% of the time.
    3. Aisha’s statement, "I lay in front of the Messenger of Allah like the bier of a corpse and he said prayer" (Sahih Muslim, Book 4, #1037), allows another way of harmonizing some of the conflicting traditions: A woman only nullifies the prayer when she moves, but not when she lies motionless like a corpse. After all, the translator of Sahih Al-Bukhari added this parenthetical explanation to his translation of hadith #490: ... "Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)." This also suggests that Aisha would have annulled Muhammad’s prayer if she had moved. This harmonization would still leave us with the conclusion that women, just like dogs and donkeys, nullify the prayers of a Muslim unless these creatures remain absolutely motionless. (However, this scenario would still conflict with some of the other narrations.)
    4. Most of Aisha’s hadiths refer to the night time (sleeping, lying in bed), one of them even stating explicitly that it was dark in the house since there were no lamps (Bukhari 1.492). Maybe the issue is visibility. If a Muslim can see the woman in front of him, it nullifies his prayer, but if it is so dark that he cannot see her, then it is permitted.

Whatever option MENJ chooses, this one fact remains. There are narrations attributed to men such as Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira on the authority of Muhammad which explicitly state that women, much like dogs and donkeys, nullify one’s prayers. Some of these hadiths are even found in Sahih Muslim, deemed the second most authentic and authoritative collection of narrations by Sunni Muslims.

MENJ championed a number of hadiths narrated by Aisha. Leaving aside all those other hadiths narrated by other people that contradict the ones chosen by MENJ, we have to ask how credible these hadiths are. Should not at least those hadiths originating with one person reporting about her own experience be consistent? The problem for MENJ's case is not only that Aisha contradicts Ibn Abbas, Abu Dharr, Abu Huraira but the narrations attributed to her also contradict each other.

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet used to pray while I was sleeping across in his bed in front of him. Whenever he wanted to pray Witr, he would wake me up and I would pray Witr. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 9, Number 491)

Narrated 'Aisha:
the wife of the Prophet, "I used to sleep in front of Allah's Apostle with my legs opposite his Qibla (facing him); and whenever he prostrated, he pushed my feet and I withdrew them and whenever he stood, I stretched them." 'Aisha added, "In those days there were no lamps in the houses." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 9, Number 492)

'Urwa b. Zubair reported: 'A'isha asked: What disrupts the prayer? We said: The woman and the ass. Upon this she remarked: Is the woman an ugly animal? I lay in front of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) like the bier of a corpse and he said prayer. (Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 1037)

The contradictions are obvious: Did Aisha get up and pray with Muhammad (Bukhari 1.491), or did she stay in bed while Muhammad prayed alone (Bukhari 1.492, Muslim 1037)? If she stayed in bed, did she constantly withdraw and stretch her legs (Bukhari 1.492) or did she lie there stiff like a corpse (Muslim 1037)? As the number of discrepancies in Aisha’s story increases they also raise the probability for the first option in the above list to be true. And it is not over yet; there is still another version: Did she get up after all, but then simply slipped away without participating in the prayer as claimed in the following narration:

Narrated 'Aisha:
Do you make us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys? While I used to lie in my bed, the Prophet would come and pray facing the middle of the bed. I used to consider it not good to stand in front of him in his prayers. So I used to slip away slowly and quietly from the foot of the bed till I got out of my guilt. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 9, Number 486)

Given the many contradictions in Aisha’s statements on this issue, how credible is her story at all? Although some differences can be found also between the other narrators, these three people are a lot more consistent among themselves than Aisha alone. Interestingly, the last hadith quoted, Bukhari 1.486, has Aisha saying that although Muhammad prayed in front of the bed in which Aisha was lying, she considered this to be guilt for her, and then left the bed to get "out of her guilt". Does this not indicate that even in Aisha’s mind, something was not right with her lying in front of Muhammad during his prayers? Could that be the reason that MENJ lists several other hadiths by Aisha (#490, 491, 492, 494, and summarily refers to "other ahadith 491-7") but completely ignores #486, the one we had originally quoted?

In any case, MENJ has quite a task before him, if he wants to sort out this mess.

Finishing off with a logical fallacy ...

After citing specific sources which agree with his belief that Islam elevates women, MENJ concludes with the following attack:

These testimonies of well-known historians and Orientalists reveal that the discoveries of Western research in this field have not yet become common knowledge, and especially to the likes of "Lazarus". He who likes to pick and choose parts of the hadith or the Qur'an to conform to his views, without looking into the context, can make a totally opposite case of the very intention for which such statements were made. The missionary "Lazarus" tried to do just that but failed miserably in convincing anyone other than equally-demented bigots.

How convenient. When the Orientalists critique Islam they are nothing more than Islamophobes, Muslim-bashers and evil bigots. But when they happen to praise or agree with Islam, well now that is a different story!

Appealing to certain Orientalists who happen to ignore or gloss over all the derogatory and incriminating statements from Muslim sources regarding women is nothing more than the fallacy of appealing to authority. We are sure that MENJ would discount and disagree with the views of other Orientalists who do not conveniently overlook all the Quranic references and Islamic narrations which present women in a very bad light. He will obviously attack them and accuse them of distorting and twisting the references in question, much like he has tried to do with Lazarus.

And as our documentation here has hopefully shown, if anyone miserably failed to defend his case and is guilty of choosing specific parts of the hadith and the Quran without bothering to look into the context, it sure isn’t Lazarus.

MENJ concludes:

To recap, we quote again the missionary boast:

Please explain exactly what facts we have twisted by quoting Muhammad's wife Ayesha[sic]...I hope that you can see that we are not here to mislead or to deceive.

Based on the facts we have presented above, we can easily attest that the claim of the missionary "not here to mislead or to deceive" is certainly most doubtful. Now that the missionary has seen for himself the facts that he had twisted, it remains to be seen what his next excuse for this purposeful twist will be to conceal his bigotry and extreme hatred of Islam.

And only God knows best.

RESPONSE:

Based on the facts we have presented above, we can easily attest that the claim of our co-worker that he wasn’t trying "to mislead or to deceive" is certainly correct. Now that MENJ has been corrected and can read for himself these other narrations attributed to Muhammad which say that women, dogs and donkeys equally nullify prayers, he will perhaps begin to evaluate what he really wants to believe about the sources of his faith and why. It remains to be seen what MENJ’s next excuse for his unfounded slander and ad hominem against Lazarus and other Christians will be, and what further measures he will attempt to take to cover up Islam’s obvious degradation of women. Who knows, maybe in a future rebuttal he will try to better conceal his obvious bigotry and extreme hatred of Christians, Christianity, and the true Jesus of history who is the Christ that is accurately portrayed in God’s true Word, the Holy Bible.

That only Yahweh, the true Triune God, knows and he knows everything best.


Further reading: Equality for All in the Ummah?


Endnotes

{1} We anticipate that MENJ will attack us for what he may perceive to be a distorting of these hadiths regarding whether Muhammad saw his lord or not. In order to spare him from wasting his time and ours, we include some additional narrations and commentary from Muslim sources that acknowledge the confusion and contradiction.

One Muslim source states:

The Prophet saw Allah before death as is the doctrine of the majority of Ah al-Sunna thus related from al-Nawawi by al-Qari. The evidence for this is the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas whereby the Prophet said: "I saw my Lord" (ra’aytu rabbi). Ibn Kathir cited it in his commentary on Sura al-Najm and declared its chain sound, but considered it part of the hadith of the dream cited below. Ibn Qayyim [see excerpt below] relates that Imam Ahmad considered such sight to be in the Prophet’s sleep but remains a true sight- as the dreams of Prophets are true – and that some of the Imam’s companions mistakenly attributed to him the position that the Prophet saw his Lord "with the eyes of his head."

Al-Bayhaqi also narrated the hadith "I saw my Lord" in al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat with a sound chain but with the addition: "in the form of a curly-haired, beardless young man wearing a green robe," a condemned, disauthenticated addition and concatenation with another hadith that refers to Gibril. Hence al-Suyuti interpreted it either as a dream or, quoting his shaykh Ibn al-Humam, as "the veil of form" (hijab al-sura)… (Islamic Doctrines and Beliefs: Volume 1: The Prophets in Barzakh, The Hadith of Isra’ and Mir’aj, The Immense Merits of Al-Sham, The Vision of Allah, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki, translation and notes by Dr. Gibril Fouad Haddad [As-Sunna Foundation of America 1999], pp. 137-138; bold and underline emphasis ours)

In a footnote the translator mentions another narration that says Allah appeared as a man!

… and from Umm al-Tufayl by al-Tabarani (6:158 #3385). The latter chain actually states: "I saw my Lord in the best form of a beardless young man" and was rejected by al-Dhahabi in Tahdhib al-Mawdua’at (p. 22 #22)… (P. 139, fn. 257)

How interesting. Muslims forging narrations in which they have Allah appearing as a young man!

The same source also states:

Others considered Ibn ‘Abbas’ narration to refer to a vision with the eyes of the heart, as elucidated by Ibn ‘Abbas’ other narrations in Sahih Muslim and al-Tirmidhi (hasan): "He saw him with his heart." Another narration from Ibn ‘Abbas in Muslim states: "He saw him with his heart twice," in his commentary on the verses <The heart lied not (in seeing) what it saw> (53:11), <And verily he saw him, yet another time> (53:13)…

Many sound reports show that the Companions differed sharply whether the Prophet saw Allah or not. Ibn ‘Abbas related that he did, while Ibn Mas‘ud, ‘A’isha, Abu Hurayra, and Abu Dharr related reports to the contrary, stating that the verses of Sura al-Najm and other Suras referred to Gibril, and that the Prophet said that he saw light. (Pp. 144-145; underline emphasis ours)

Finally:

Ibn al-Qayyim in Zad al-Ma‘ad said:

The Companions differed whether the Prophet actually saw his Lord that night [of isra’ and mi‘raj] or not. It is authentically narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Prophet saw his Lord, and also authentically related that Ibn ‘Abbas said: "He saw Him with his heart." It is also authentically related from ‘A’isha and Ibn Mas‘ud that they denied such vision, saying that Allah’s words <And verily he saw him, yet another time, at the Lote Tree of the Farthest Boundary> (53:13) refer to Gibril. It is also authentically related from Abu Dharr that the latter asked the Prophet: "Did you see your Lord?" and he replied: "[I saw] a huge light, how could I see Him?" (nurun anna arah?). That is: light came in between myself and His sight, as stated in the wording: "I saw light" (ra’aytu nuran). Uthman ibn Sa‘id al-Darimi said that the Companions all agreed that the Prophet did not see Him. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya – may Allah sanctify his soul! – said:

Ibn ‘Abbas’s[sic] statement that "He saw Him" does not contradict that claim, nor his statement that "He saw Him with his heart." For it is also authentically related that the Prophet said: "I saw my Lord- glorified and exalted is He!" However, the latter was not during the isra’ but in Madina, when the Prophet was occupied and could not be with the Companions at the time of the dawn prayer, after which he told them about his vision of Allah during his sleep at night. It is on that evidence that Imam Ahmad based himself when he said: "Yes, he saw him in reality (na‘am ra’ahu haqqan), for the dream-vision of Prophets are real." This is absolutely true, but Ahmad did not say that he saw Him with the eyes of his head while awake. Whoever said that he did, is mistaken. Ahmad said one other time: "He saw Him" and another time: "He saw Him with his heart." These are two statements narrated from him on the issue. The third statement whereby "He saw Him with the eyes of his head" comes from the free paraphrase of some of his companions. Ahmad’s texts are present with us, and nowhere are such words found in them. (Pp. 148-150)

The preceding citations should make it evident that the Islamic narrations are contradicting themselves whether Muhammad saw Allah or not.


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