Islamic Authorities to Remove Sexist Hadith

July 16, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

On July 16, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "'Women are imperfect in intellect and religion.' 'The best of women are those who are like sheep.' 'If a woman doesn't satisfy her husband's desires, she should choose herself a place in hell.' 'If a husband's body is covered with pus and his wife licks it clean, she still wouldn't have paid her dues.' 'Your prayer will be invalid if a donkey, black dog or a woman passes in front of you.' In a bold but little-noticed step toward reforming Islamic tradition, Turkey's religious authorities recently declared that they will remove these statements, and more like them, from the hadiths -- the non-Koranic commentary on the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad. Hadiths are serious stuff. More than 90 percent of the sharia (Islamic law) is based on them rather than the Koran, and the most infamous measures of the sharia -- the killing of apostates, the seclusion of women, the ban on fine arts, the stoning of adulterers and many other violent punishments for sinful behavior -- come from the hadiths and the commentaries built upon them. Eliminating these misogynistic statements from the hadiths is a direct challenge to some of the most controversial aspects of Islamic tradition. Modern Muslim intellectuals have long argued that the hadiths should be revised, but this is the first time in recent history that a central Islamic authority has taken the dramatic step of deciding to edit them. The media and intellectuals of Ankara and Istanbul largely welcomed last month's decision, which the Turkish government supported. And although there were rumblings of discontent from ultraconservative commentators, they didn't amount to a protest.