Dispelling the Allegation of Misogyny


Critics often employ contextomy to misrepresent the views of the Promised Messiahas. Here we refute a false allegation of misogyny raised against him.


FEBRUARY 6, 2021

Misinformation does not require one to say anything themselves. Sometimes, it is enough to present one part of a person’s statement, while conveniently ignoring other parts so as to give an entirely different account of their perspective. This is the chief tool used by some ex-Ahmadis in their efforts to defame the person of the Promised Messiahas.

Criticism

Quoting a passage from one of the books of the Promised Messiahas, some ex-Ahmadis have tried to prove that the views of the Promised Messiahas are, God forbid, misogynistic. The passage, which is taken from the book Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam goes as follows:

Likewise, a man can be forced by other factors and compelling reasons to take more than one wife. For instance, if a wife becomes unattractive because of age or some illness, then the affecting faculty of the man, on which the woman’s performance depends, becomes useless and ineffectual. However, if a man is unattractive, this does not affect the woman because man has been physically endowed so as to be the active participant and he is the one who satisfies the woman. However, if the man is impotent, then the woman can take divorce as per the Quranic injunction.[1]

Refutation

The statement under discussion is from an announcement published by the Promised Messiahas, and is a part of his book, Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam[2]. In this statement, the Promised Messiahas is referring to an allegation raised against the provision of polygamy in Islam, which appeared in the Christian newspaper, Noor Afshan.

Responding to the allegation, the Promised Messiahas mentioned the reasons which allow a man to marry again in the presence of a wife. It is in this context that the Promised Messiahas made the above statement.

Is wife’s becoming unattractive a justification for second marriage?

The Promised Messiahas himself provides a convincing explanation to this in the very same passage. The points can be summed up as follows:

Firstly, when a woman becomes unattractive or unappealing, the man experiences a lack of interest towards her, and “the affecting faculty of the man becomes useless and ineffectual”.

Secondly, if a man fails to fulfil his desires, it will consequently affect the satisfaction of the woman. The Promised Messiahas says, “man has been physically endowed so as to be the active participant and he is the one who satisfies the woman”. This will lead to a scenario where the man will not be fulfilling his responsibilities towards his wife and will be becoming a source of harm to her. Hence, their marriage will face many difficulties and both husband and wife will remain bereft of the benefits of marriage.

Thirdly, the Promised Messiahas states, “research will prove how this blessed institution has benefitted man and safeguarded him”.

What does research prove?

The question if there exists any gender difference in sex drive has always been a topic of research. Most of the psychologists always agreed to the fact that men have a stronger sex drive than women, i.e. men, on average, desire sex more strongly and more frequently than women; a fact now established by new studies. Research also shows that in most cases, it is men who initiate sex and stimulate the sex drive of their partners[3].

Hence, the words of the Promised Messiahas that “man has been physically endowed so as to be the active participant” is corroborated by scientific research[4]. However, it is important to remember that the existence of gender differences does not imply gender superiority of any kind.

Given the above facts, it is evident that men’s low sexual desire will not only affect them but will also have its adverse impact on women.

Is there a gender difference in physical attraction?

Research convincingly proves that men are more attracted to the physical appearance and outward beauty of women than vice versa. Women, in general, value indicators of social status in men.[5]

As a part of an experimental study, when some men were asked to express their likeness after observing images and voices of different women, it was found that they preferred physical attractiveness, facial beauty and other physical characteristics of women.

However, when the same experiment was conducted on women, they based their likeness on qualities such as trustworthiness, physical strength and deep masculine voice.[6]

Moreover, in similar experiments, men and women were asked about the factors that attracted them towards their opposite sex, especially in the context of marriage.

While the majority of men expressed their preference for women’s outward beauty, women on the other hand were attracted to the social status of men and sought trustworthiness and emotional security in them.

Research also showed a decline in men’s sexual attraction towards their wives or partners with ageing. However, this decline was comparatively lower in women. Rather, the majority of women found their husbands or partners more attractive in their middle ages. There were only a few who admitted to experiencing a lack of attraction towards their partners because of ageing or decline in physical appeal.[7]

Hence, modern scientific research attests to the fact stated by the Promised Messiahas that women’s physical appearance is a major factor affecting men’s attraction towards them.

It should be noted here that men are in a way prevented by Islam from divorcing their wives if they become unattractive, and are given the permission to marry again so that the first wives may remain in their wedlock. But, if it is women who find no satisfaction in their husbands, they can divorce them.

Marital infidelity and promiscuity

Extramarital relations: Research and studies conducted on sexual inclinations of men and women prove that men have higher levels of extradyadic behaviours and are more likely to show interest in women outside of their marriage.[8]

When surveys were conducted, the majority of such men admitted to having established physical relationships with women other than their wives. While some of those men visited prostitutes, a large number of them admitted to having been in long-lasting relationships with one or more women other than their partners.

Serial monogamy: There were also a large number of such men who married only one at a time considering polygamy to be an unnatural inclination, but soon divorced the first wife, and married another, and kept on continuing this process. This tendency is known as serial monogamy.[9]

Studies show that men engage in such activities because they experience a decrease in physical attraction towards their partners.

It is worthy of special mention here that the most authentic of all the studies mentioned above were conducted on men from the United States, Britain, Norway, France and New Zealand. It may be noted that promiscuity is not only normal in these countries, but is not even considered immoral. There are no restrictions on such activities in these countries except in the matter of age of consent.

Hence, the Promised Messiahas rightly pointed out such immoralities and said that the opponents of Islam consider it meritorious to indulge in all vile acts, but hate this blessed provision, i.e. polygamy.

Consequences of low physical attraction

Psychologist Stephen J Betchen, who is a marriage and family therapist and has extensive experience and knowledge regarding marital life and problems related to it says that couples, at a point in life, start to experience a lack of physical attraction towards each other. If partners accept this fact, they usually lead a happy life. However, if it is one of them that experiences this, then problems emerge. In general, it is men who experience a dearth of physical attraction towards their wives. In his book Magnetic Partners, Betchen specifically mentions five major consequences that can result from this loss of attraction; affairs, aversion, distance, abuse and divorce.[10]

Hence, new scientific research authenticates the words of the Promised Messiahas. But unfortunately, the critics seem to prefer rejecting the proven facts over accepting the truth.

Polygamy is no small responsibility

All that being said, it should not be understood that Islam paves a way for men to freely marry women as they wish. On the contrary, Islam lays down such stringent conditions for polygamy that a person would prefer to marry only one woman rather than to fulfil the requirements associated with polygamy.

The Promised Messiahas made the statement under discussion during those days when the issue of his proposed marriage with Muhammadi Begum was going on. At that time, he wrote a letter to Moulvi Hakeem Nooruddinra and said:

Since God Almighty has informed me of this third marriage, my heart is reluctant and hesitant. But to disobey the command of God is out of the question. Initially, I desired that this Divine command be annulled, but continuous revelations and visions show this to be an irrevocable destiny. However, this humble one has vowed to abstain until explicit command from God Almighty compels me to do this. This is because the responsibilities and obligations of polygamy are numerous and there are many difficulties in it.[11]

This is the reason that Muslims, though they accept the necessity of polygamy in certain social circumstances, only a minuscule percentage of them actually practise it.

The Promised Messiahas further states in this regard:

Apart from the degree of love one has for them, a man must treat all his wives equally, for example, in the matter of clothing, food, pocket money and companionship and even in bed. If one were to realize fully all the obligations in this regard, he would prefer to remain celibate rather than to marry.[12]

Hence, the command regarding justice applies to even sexual intercourse as it applies to other things unless the wife herself gives away her right.

Account of Hazrat Saudara

It would not be out of place here to dispel another common misconception in relation to the life of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam. The critics of Islam try to denigrate the person of the Holy Prophetsa saying that he, God forbid, intimidated Hazrat Saudara that he would divorce her because of her old age. As a result, she had to forgo her right and give her turn to Hazrat Aishara.

In a letter to the Promised Messiahas, Padri Fat’h-e-Masih referred to this allegation and reviled the Holy Prophetsa. The Promised Messiahas replied:

Those who reported such narrations did not provide any evidence as to whom the Prophetsa had expressed this intention. The fact of the matter, which is evident from the authentic books of Tradition, is that Hazrat Saudara herself feared that she had become unattractive because of her old age. She thought that the Prophetsa would feel a natural aversion to her, which may lead him to divorce her. It is also possible that she imagined some other factor as a reason for this aversion and the fear of divorce got implanted in her mind…. Hence, she herself told the Prophetsa that all she wished was to remain in his wedlock till death…. (she said), “O Prophet of God! I give away my turn to Hazrat Aishara”.[13]

Can women prevent their husbands from marrying again?

Keeping aside all the social and personal reasons that would demand a provision such as polygamy, is there any way for women to prevent their husbands from marrying again? The Promised Messiahas says:

Women have the right to lay down the condition that the husband will, in no circumstance whatsoever, marry another woman. If this condition is laid down before marriage, the husband will be guilty of breach of contract if he goes on to marry another.[14]

The critics would never want these words of the Promised Messiahas to be publicized as their only concern seems to be to misrepresent the facts and denigrate the holy person of the Promised Messiahas.

A man should prefer the comfort of his first wife and not marry again

There should be no need for women to prevent their husbands from marrying again. Instead, the decision to remain monogamous for the sake of the first wife should initiate from men themselves. The Promised Messiahas says:

A husband should have such regard and respect for the feelings of his first wife, that if he feels the need of a second wife, but is afraid that it would hurt his first wife and break her heart, in such a case, if he can exercise restraint without falling into sin, and without sacrificing his lawful needs, it would be preferable for him to forego the advantages of a second marriage for the sake of comforting his first wife.[15]

One can only wonder at the time and energy the critics have invested in their objective to defame the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as it would definitely require some effort to go through all of the writings and sayings of the Promised Messiahas and select a passage that can be distorted in order to fulfil their purpose.

Female sentiments are to be respected

In contrast to what has been argued by these critics, the Promised Messiahas has immensely valued the feelings and sentiments of women, such that the critics themselves can learn a lot from him. The Promised Messiahas says:

It is a great sin to hurt somebody’s feelings, and female sentiments are very delicate. Just imagine for a moment all the hopes and expectations of the girl when she leaves her parents and is consigned to the care of another man….

The law of God Almighty should not be used contrary to its purpose, nor should it be invoked to serve as a shield for self-indulgence. To do so would be a great sin. God Almighty has repeatedly admonished against yielding to carnal passions. Righteousness alone should be your motive for everything.[16]

Islam established the rights of women

The critics wish to assert the wrong narrative that Islam denies women their rights. However, in actuality, it is Islam that granted women their due rights. The current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community says:

Islam is that relgion, which from the outset guaranteed the rights of all women. It is that religion which liberated women and established their true status and honour. It is only in the past century, that those people and nations who condemn Islam, have been forced to afford some basic rights to women and yet they still try to claim moral superiority. Furthermore, in the name of ‘freedom’ they have fostered an environment in which women are treated as objects and their dignity and true status is constantly undermined.[17]

Conclusion

The high and lofty status with which the Promised Messiahas and the leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community view women is obvious from their words. Moreover, research proved that the views of the Promised Messiahas are such that they acknowledge the problems of women and establish their rights in all circumstances. But, if the critics think that gender differences in sexual inclinations imply that women are inferior, then such a thought is misogyny.

References

[1] Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, vol. 5, p. 281

[2] Announcement no. 48, Majmu’a Ishtiharat, v. 1, p. 173, dated 10 July, 1888 (included in Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam)

[3] Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive?  by Dr. Roy F Baumeister and others, University of Queensland, Personality and Social Psychology Review (August 2001)

[4] Physiology of Women’s Sexual Function by Meredith Chivers and others, Queen’s University, Canada, The Journal of Sexual Medicine (August 2010)

[5] Sexuality: Measures of Partnership, Practices, Attitudes, and Problems in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Study by Edward Laumann and others, University of Chicago, The Journal of Gerontology Series B (November 2009)

[6] Ibid

[7] Burning the Candle at Both Ends: Extramarital Sex As a Precursor of Natural Disruption by Alfred DeMaris and others, Bowling Green University, Journal of Family Issues (November 2013)

[8] Extradyadic Behaviors and Gender: How Do They Relate with Sexual Desire, Relationship Quality, and Attractiveness by Joanta Arantes and others, Frontiers in Psychology (March 2020)

[9] Walk in the Line: How Successful Are Efforts to Maintain Monogamy in Intimate Relationships? by Brenda Lee and Lucia O’Sullivan,  Archives of Sexual Behavior (June 2019)

[10] Magnetic Partners: Discover How the Conflict that Once Attracted You to Each Other Is Now Driving You Apart by Stephen J Betchen

[11] Letter no. 5, addressed to Hakeem Moulv Nooruddinra, Maktubat-e-Ahmad, v. 2, p. 15 (New edition)

[12] Malfuzat, vol. 7, p. 63

[13] Noorul Quran, Ruhani Khazain, v. 9, p. 380-381

[14] Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khazain, vol. 23, p. 246

[15] Malfuzat, vol. 7, p. 64

[16] Malfuzat, vol. 7, p. 65

[17] The Review of Religions April 2017 issue p. 20 (Address at the concluding session of the National Waqfaat-e-Nau Ijtema UK on 25th February 2017)

2 Comments

Reason on Faith · February 7, 2021 at 2:27 pm

For critical reactions and discussion of this article, see: https://reddit.com/r/islam_ahmadiyya/comments/lehhzu/anyone_see_this_ridiculous_article/

Husam Ahmed · February 9, 2021 at 8:30 am

Dear Sohail (Reason on Faith), I have to say, after going through the discussion in the above link, that you failed to address the issue, as you didn’t respond to any of the data provided.

The “ridiculousness” you are referring to is the mere fact that the Promised Messiah(as) asserts the existence of gender differences in sexuality. However, you fail to understand (perhaps through no deliberate fault of yours) that for you to deny such differences thinking that they would imply gender superiority is what is really misogynistic. Because, neither the Promised Messiah(as) nor science suggest such a thing. Hence, you are, in effect, demeaning women, while Islam acknowledges those differences and provides perfect solutions for them.

Secondly, you conveniently turn a blind eye towards the consequences resulting from not acknowledging those differences, most of which adversely affect women themselves, like serial monogamy, extra-marital affairs which causes infidelity PTSD in women, prostitution which promotes sexual exploitation etc.

Thirdly, the practice of polygamy is rare among Muslims (you acknowledge this point though). The reason for this is that the requirements associated with polygamy are so difficult and numerous for a person to fulfil. Moreover, women can lay the condition of monogamy at the time of Nikah (this right is not revoked). Similarly, the Promised Messiah(as) also admonishes men to remain monogamous for the sake of the first wife, provided that they remain faithful to her. Again, those accusing the Promised Messiah(as) of misogyny can actually learn from him how female sentiments are to be respected, because whatever the case may be, marital infidelity (or the incontinent pursuit of carnal pleasure) is never an option in Islam.

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