Monday, December 20, 2010

Zakir Naik's Views on Women: Part I

Pre-script: This post, and Zakir Naik's personality and "scholarship," should explain to many Muslims why I am a feminist and why I'm worried about Muslim women, especially those who follow Zakir Naik and his likes like he's a prophet or something. I'm truly sorry for all such women ... although knowing that men, too, follow him doesn't help 'cause those men, after listening to Naik, go home only to put women in a lower position! For instance, a husband might tell his wife, "You can't work anymore because Zakir Naik said the woman shouldn't work." Or "I have the right to beat you up because verse 4:34 tells me I can." Like, yo, what's this guy doing to the future generations?! And, mind you, he often gets his Quranic verse numbers wrong . . . Yep. Of course, I verify him each time he mentions a surah/verse number, and he's wrong many times. I just wonder why no Muslims actually notice that. Does anyone ever, EVER bother to verify the information he spoonfeeds them? Wake up, folks!!! Oh, and ... not that anyone should be surprised, but he also makes up names of all these random nobel-prize winning "scientists" (such as those who don't believe in evolution... 'cause, oh you know, that is proof that evolution indeed is not true!). It's adorable, really. Oh ... this is still the pre-script. Sorry, I'll continue to the actual post now. 

Zakir Naik, giving a lecture on women's "rights" in Islam

So, as many of my readers know, I'm writing my honors thesis on Zakir Naik and his views on women. I've written a chapter of it so far (it was for my Gender and Sexuality in Islam course), and I'm learning that as I write more, more and more ideas come to me about how to interpret his talks/lectures! In this one chapter, I argue that his views subtly put women in an inferior position, despite his insistence that "women and men are EQUAL in the eyes of God." More on this later but for now ... 

Needless to say, it's complete torture -- TORTURE, folks, TORTURE!!! -- to hear and listen to Naik's lectures and analyze them and critique them. ~cries desperately~ Imagine hearing Quranic verse 4:34 as the ONLY reason for virtually everything -- from why you can't work unless you are absolutely *required* to, why God never send female prophets, why you can't have certain jobs (or any jobs, rather, because the responsibility is solely the husband's), to why you have to sit in the back of his lectures, why your husband has the right to beat you up or discipline you (yes, he's comparing women to children, you see, children who need to be beaten and disciplined by their parents. Clearly, women aren't intelligent or wise enough and therefore NEED men to discipline them. Sickness, I tell you!), and oh yes why YOU don't have the right to initiate a divorce and your husband can divorce you any time HE feels like it. It's disparaging to say the least! I don't know what kind of a woman accepts such stuff as "authentic" or "Islamic." Sure, we know how things SHOULD be in the ideal Muslim world, but he doesn't at all address those situations in which things are not what they're supposed to be. But I'll give you examples of this in future posts. Patience. For now, lemme just complain about what all I have to go through listening to someone many Muslims see as a "scholar"!

Often, I have to listen to each one like 50 times 'cause each time I listen to him, I hear him differently, and a new interpretation of his seemingly feminist ideas come to my mind. And, of course, Qrratugai has GOT to respond to those! The one thing that pushes me to keep going is that ... if I don't introduce him to the academia, no one will. This is my way of reminding Muslims that there are more than one way to read what he's feeding you, and there are miserable consequences for the sorta information he forces down your throat without your realizing it. I plan to distribute this paper if it's accepted by the department.

So, I'm reading his book titled Women's Rights in Islam: Modern or Outdated? As one would expect, it's nothing more than an attack on the west. No, wait - it's not an attack on the west; it's an attack on America alone. At these random times, he'll say things about America and American women and their treatment to make it seem like women are just so, oh so degraded in America but so, oh so respected in "Muslim" countries! Sure, it goes both ways. But who looks at that?
Lemme introduce the guy first. Zakir Naik is a 40-year-old Indian televangelist / preacher deemed a "scholar" by many Muslims, especially Muslims of South Asian background. It's disturbing, folks, it's disturbing. You can look him up. He's all over the net. And you can even follow him on Facebook, like I do, and check his status and try so OH SO hard to control yourself from responding to his comments (status messages) because you know that your message/comment will be hidden within minutes.
The reason I chose to write my thesis on him and not anyone else (e.g., Ahmed Deedat) is as follows.

When I first heard of Zakir Naik in 2006, I was impressed with his “logic” and teachings. I remained his acolyte for approximately two years, until I began to note contradictions and double standards in his explanations to questions asked of him. I therefore empathize with those who support him and deem him an authority on Islam. He continues to influence many of my Muslim friends, particularly those from a South Asian background, to such an extent that when I mention that I am pursuing Islamic Studies, the first thing I am asked is, “What do you think of Zakir Naik?” as though my opinion of him will determine whether or not I am studying the “right” Islam: If I do not think highly of him, I am being taught the “western” and “modern” Islam against which Zakir Naik preaches; if I think well of him, I am on the “right” path.
I'd have to have a long, long blog post for each comment he makes, but here's what you may expect: His views on female prophets, women leading their families (he says that if a woman is forbidden in Islam to lead her own FAMILy, then how can she lead an entire nation? I'm convinced!), women in politics, women on the battlefield (he says Islamic history tells us that women healed the wounds, serving as nurses, so Muslim women are ALLOWED to be on the battlefield -- but they're forbidden to fight in the war, unless there are absolutely no men around), and his views on non-Muslims' right to practice and preach their religion in a Muslim land.

I like the last one first, even though it doesn't have anything to do with women. It's just to introduce you to him so you know what to expect from his views on women, so you know what sort of "logic" he uses, so you understand why I felt the utter need to write on him in the academic world (while Ahmed Deedat is written on constantly, Zakir Naik is absolutely unheard of in the scholarly world).

Enjoy the video I'm about to share! Much more to come later.You might also want to take a look at this video: Zakir Naik and Women's Rights in Islam.


  1. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your thesis. I'm only somewhat familar with Zaid Nakir, and I remember from what I read/saw/listened to of him, I vehemently disagreed. I think it may have been his apologia dealing with why an apostate should be killed.
    And really, sadly, you could do research on almost any Muslim scholar and women and come out with some very disturbing conclusions.

  2. sad. but then i think this comes with being a 'scholar' - you tend to become so steeped in your convictions, that you refuse to believe or at least try to understand another point of view.
    also, i don't think this phenomenon would be unique to islamic scholars. this is human psyche after all, so would be found across, irrespective of religion or region.
    which brings me back to the question i always think of - who does one look up to in times like these? your own self seems to be the most logical conclusion.

  3. Pa khairuno, Asip Gwala!
    Manana for dropping by and commenting!

    It's not at all exclusive to Muslim "scholars." Christians in particular are just like the Muslim televangelists we know today. In fact, the term was coined in reference to Christian ones. I'll gladly share something from them from my thesis as well, ka khair wee, when it's done.

    Exciting stuff! :D

  4. OH! Sorry, Asif! I thought you were a different Asif and hence the Pashto phrases :) Apologies!

  5. hey i just dropped my and read a few lines! i am short of time hence could not complete reading the whole post! will read it properly and thoroughly and then comment!

    as for now, the new look of your blog is really pretty, so fresh!

  6. Thanks, Sepo! I like this them, toooo! :D

    Steph, I absolutely agree with you that it's an apologetic response to apostasy and Islam. There's nothing in the Quran that supports apostasy, but this guy takes the hadiths more seriously than he does the Quran, and so he defends almost all of his claims through hadiths, not through the Quran. Which makes sense for someone who's had no training in Islamic Studies and lives his life only to convert people to Islam. I've yet to find an intelligent Muslim who listens to this guy or takes him seriously. That, my friends, says a lot.

  7. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Someone needs to give him more numbers to add up i've had it with his 2+2!!!

    Please publish your thesis when you're done, and distribute it all over India!

  8. LOL, Hina! Tell me about it!! And do you note how CONFIDENT he is? As if it makes PERFECT sense that I'm write because *I* believe I'm right and OTHERS are wrong because *I* believe they're wrong?! What's so logical about this? And he talks about logic 24'7 :| Says, "When you wanna convert an atheist, you must use logic with them." lol. Right. Teach me how.

    And, um... if you swear to give me the protection I'll be in much need of when I publish my thesis in response to Naik's views on women, then heck yeah I'm willing to do it ;) I iz scared for my lifes, Hina Jaan, I iz scared for my lifes! His fans are gonna butcher me, and I'm too young to let that happen :O

  9. This guy is pure bull and in fact presents Islam in a bad light. Islam is definitely not so insecure as to not allow other religions to co-exist. The insecurity lies in these arses. Take a poll of the Muslims around the world about how many would like to live and grow up in Saudi - he would get the answer. Just like truth, God needs no support. And will always have a perspective.

  10. This guy is a joke! A disgrace to Muslims!

  11. Thanks, WM and Rehana for your feedback :)

  12. O GOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDDDDD I remember I so used to adore him when I had my extremist phase, now I can't stand him AT ALL! Does he NOT know that Umar refused to pray in a church, aware that in doing so it would be taken as an excuse to turn it into a mosque?!

    The majority of my friend totally adores him, he reminds me of that German preacher Pierre Vogel, a convert to Islam and extremist "scholar", he and his followers have some really disgusting ideas concerning women and non-Muslims... O_0

  13. LOL! I know! I was SUCH a staunch supporter and fan of his for some six months or so! There's something about him that attracts people, and I think it's his seemingly pro-women approach in discussing women's Islamic rights! That's what attracted me to him.

    That's a good point about Umar's unwillingness to pray in a Church! Umar is an interesting figure, and I hope to figure him out as I continue studying Islamic history! Do you know anything about the Pact of Umar? Now, THAT is something disturbing, and I can't come to terms with it :S (It's all about dehumanizing the non-Muslims.) Scholars aren't sure if it was the same Caliph Umar who wrote/ratified it, or if it was some other Umar, but there's some historical Umar that the pact is attributed to, and it's no good. One of my own teachers doesn't believe it's Umar's, and another one is like, "Well, it's hard to tell when Umar has shown signs of male/Muslim chauvinism in certain authentic hadiths while at the same time showing pure tolerance to non-Muslims, like the Jews."

    I do appreciate him (Umar) for what you said above as well as for the fact that he allowed the Jews back into Jerusalem after severe persecution. So, yeah, he's certainly a mysterious figure!

  14. Yup he is, also his unwillingness to sleep with his wife(majority says he preferred fasting and the prophet had to remind him of his obligations in marriage), I assume you know what I'm talking about?

    There is so much things with which I have problems e.g. the incident of a woman who committed adultery and supposedly asked to be stoned to death? Is there any authentic reference given?

  15. Gosh it is a relief to read this post and all the comments. I have always felt this guy sounds like a maniac and will put people off of Islam and drive away non-Muslims with any curiosity in Islam. He talks pure gibberish. But pretty much everyone I know LOVES him, every one is his die hard number one pankha :-) so I usually have to keep my thoughts to myself.

  16. OhmyGod, I KNOW!
    You must be very patient and kind to keep your thoughts to yourself. I try hard to keep shut, but... it's often a big fail :) So me and close friends of mine who are die-hard fans of his have agreed to just never talk about him, LOL.

  17. I still admire dr.zakir naik. Sometimes he may make mistakes. He admits and use to say so in several occasions openly. That doesn’t mean all his views are wrong, as I can’t take your view on Islam, you do so to his views, lakum deenukum valiyadeen.
    Whatever research you are doing about his definitions about Islam, let him read it and correct his mistakes, I respect your feelings and understanding about Islam whatever way you chose to and follow. But your outright rejection of this master Muslim who helped me bringing to Islamic fold is not fair. Your opinion on Islam may differ, that doesn’t mean I must follow your opinion or you follow his. This thought came into my mind as you did to his views.
    Nobody is perfect in religion. I have corrected many misinterpretations and questions by gaining scientific and logic answers through him.
    I also found his mistakes in some speeches and debates etc.. But most of the time his answers and debates helped millions of people come closer to Islam or cleared their doubts by knowing real teachings of Islam.
    Let me repeat, dr zakir’s views made me come closer to Islam, not as you and some comments say he is pulling Muslims out of religion.
    As said 1400 years ago, there is going to be several sects in Islam, I assume your sect and his sect is two of them.

  18. Hi, Anonymous!
    Welcome to my blog, and thank you very much for your feedback!

    Actually, I don't believe that he's taking *all* Muslims or all of his listeners away from Islam. But I also recognize the fact that he's bringing some in while taking some out. You, having come closer to Islam because of Naik, are just as important as someone who has either left Islam entirely because of Naik or has become more progressive and tolerant and respectful after rejecting Naik entirely.

    Since Naik is such a huge deal in the Indian Subcontinent and since my thesis shows why he's important to so many Muslims, a section of the thesis is dedicated to the different reasons he is revered by his followers. And one of those reasons is that he's very much into "converting" people to Islam ... and you know how many of the Muslims of the subcontinent are: We think that anyone who "converts" someone to Islam is nothing less than worthy of being worshiped.

    Thanks again for your comment!

  19. I am following your thesis chain keenly and regularly,Nazo..Qasam day ,My favourate area you choosed..Naik is an ideal example of Narcissism...You are preserved in history,because,you brought Naik into the court of ''taaqiloon,tafakkaroon,tadabbaroon'' intelligencia....

  20. Aaaaaah...thank you! Thats all!

  21. Aaaaaah...thank you! That's all! Ive never been so excited for anyone else's PhD!

  22. Salaam

    Was wondering why no one has done this before. I don't mean tear him to pieces like you've done. I've always wondered if his verse numbers are correct or just random. Like you say we are just too lazy to check. I had stopped listening to his lectures a long time ago. But people from other countries keep asking me about him. All I say is, he's no "Scholar of Islam". But credit is due to him for what he does or at least tries to do. As much as I hate preachers driving people away from Islam by spreading their own versions, I can't judge him.

    All I can do is try to tell people he's just another human and makes mistakes and explain why I say so.

    Regarding Umar, there were two Umar's in early Islamic history. One was Umar ibn al khattab one of the four righteous caliphs and then there was Umar abd al aziz, a later caliph who's also considered very righteous. I can't believe any of these Umars could have ratified a pact that's against the principles of Islam. Do you have the details of the pact??

  23. Thank you guys so much for your comments!
    Pri, this is only a start :) I hope to do more with the study with time (this was my bachelor's thesis, but everyone's suggesting I expand it and continue working on it).

    Baaashaaaa! Awwww - I was hoping no one would read it as my effort to "tear Naik into pieces," shucks. Well, yeah, I do that a bit here, I guess, but in the study, I'm not allowed to do that since my advisers said it has to be as objective as humanly possible, and then they read it several times and I had to re-write the entire thing (cause it wasn't initially objective! Go figure!), and now the tone and style are much better.

    Anyway, so, about the Pact of Umar, here, take a look:

    Thanks for your interest and I hope to see you around more often :)

    Thanks again, y'all!

  24. well done for highlight this...looking forward to more info!
    Muslim Feminist (Shaista Gohir)

  25. I can emphasize with those who loved and listened to him in a mind numbing fashion before, because outside of the West we are not really taught to THINK when it comes to religion.

    I am sure even Mr Naik does not see the contradictory position he is holding!

  26. salaams, very interested in reading your final thesis, I really dislike so many statements ZN has made I am uncomfortable with how he denigrates other religions and often makes completely illogical statements....I'm sure you have seen him answering a question about the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, it was so nonsensical I cried....his chauvinism is actually very harmful for women in the sub-continent, his anti-contraception stance,( he came across so heartless in one of his lectures he said people don't have too many children because they think they will starve to death then he laughed is this funny?) his views that women should only work in segregated workplaces (tell that to the poor women that clean houses or work in construction etc) anyway maybe you would like to read following exchange about ZN i was involved in..keep up the good work...:)

  27. Hey, this is great stuff! I remember my faith in Naik being shaken when he said marital rape was a western idea...I, too was convinced by his 'infallible'logic!

  28. Zakir naik is one of the most childish, ignorant, unscientific, illogical muslim scholar(or so he claims to be scholarly in some things) that I have ever come across.

  29. I was shocked when I heard him comparing unmarried woman to 'Public property'.How sick a man can be!


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