History of the Middle East Database
"’Abudiat al-Mara" (The Slavery of Women)
Are people amazed at my demand to grant freedom to women, and with my assessment of their condition as slaves? If they understand the meaning of freedom they will not take odds with our view...I say that a woman in the opinion of Muslims as a whole is not a woman in full, and that the Muslim man considers that to him belongs the right to rule over her and conducts himself in his dealings with her according to this understanding...
It is not due simply to custom in many families that women do not receive the hand of men upon being greeted, nor is it due merely to custom that women do not sit with men, nor because of custom do they eat with them. I have often seen the man sitting at the dining table while the woman stands driving the flies away from him, and his daughter brings water to him...The man who forbids his wife from leaving her house for no reason other than his wish that she not go out is restricting her freedom. She is, from this point of view, a slave, more than this, a prisoner in her own house and worse off than a slave...They count it among their most glorious achievements when it can be said that the woman never left her house except to be carried to her tomb!
There is no doubt that the man’s decision to imprison his wife contradicts the freedom which is the woman’s natural right...
It cannot be said that the conditions of the man and the woman are equal. Because of the fact that he does not know his wife before they marry, the man can end the matter at any time by divorcing her as he wishes, or, marry in addition to her a second, a third, or a fourth. However, the woman who is afflicted with a man who does not satisfy her with his companionship has no escape. That a woman may be given in marriage to a man she does not know who forbids her the right to leave him and forces her to this or that and then throws her out as he wishes: this is slavery indeed!
The woman who is forbidden to educate herself save in the duties of the servant, or is limited in her educational pursuits is indeed a slave, because her natural instincts and God-given talents are subordinated i deference to her condition, which is tantamount to moral enslavement. The who is completely veiled - arms, legs, body - so that she cannot walk, ride, breathe, see, or speak except with difficulty is to be reckoned a slave.
In short, the woman from her birth to the day of her death is a slave because she does not live by herself and for herself. Instead, she lives for the man. She is dependent upon him in every way...
Qasim Amin, Al-Marat al Jadidah (Cairo, 1900), pp. 30-34. Translated by Ted Thornton, NMH Middle East Resource Center.