On the other end of the phone, a tentative young woman was inquiring about the townhouse my husband and I had for rent. “But before we talk further,” she said, “I need to tell you about my situation. Your previous tenant told me you’re ministers. You may not want to rent your property to me.”
I listened with interest as the timid young lady continued. “I’m a single mother, trying to escape a physically abusive husband and support my two preschool children. I really hate having to do this kind of work, but I have no education. So I’m employed as an exotic dancer.”
“Sounds to me as if you’re on a spiritual journey,” I replied.
“Yes,” she said, “I believe I am.”
“Perhaps God has sent us to help you complete your journey,” I added.
This was the beginning of our loving Delia (not her real name) into the kingdom of God. Nine months after leasing our townhouse to Delia, who is Iraqi and was reared as a Muslim, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
It was a blessing to play a role in Delia’s conversion. “I have always wanted to be a Christian,” she happily told us that day, “because the Christian God is so gentle, merciful and forgiving. Every Christian I have ever met has proven that to me. Not so with Allah. Every day of my life my dad told me I would never make it to heaven.”
Her voice then cracked with emotion: “No matter how hard I tried to be good, I always disappointed my daddy. Girls are rarely offered a place in paradise with men and Allah.”
Muslims by Circumstance, Not Conviction
Delia’s pain and disappointment with Islam is not uncommon. It is estimated that less than 1 percent of Muslim women around the world have even read the Quran or are aware of its teachings, except for what is forced on them. These women are victims more than adherents. They are Muslims more by circumstance than by conviction.
The demeaning practices and customs many Islamic women are often subjected to include:
- Arranged marriages within one year of puberty. Many times young girls are given to men who are wealthy and much older. In the case of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, he was married 11 times. His favorite bride was Ayesha, a 6-year-old. Even today, in some Islamic cultures, girls as young as 9 are given in marriage. This would be considered pedophilia by our Western standards.
- Social barriers that restrict or prohibit education or work. Afghanistan has been the most extreme example of these barriers, which are also found in much of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabian women can’t get a license or drive a car. They can work only as teachers or nurses.
- Loss of many human rights. For example, a Muslim man can marry up to four women, but a woman faces divorce or death if she even talks to a man without her husband’s permission. Also, women are not allowed to vote in any of the Persian Gulf states.
- Sexual, emotional or physical abuse by men without the right to protect themselves. The Quran teaches, “Men are superior to women; beat them if necessary” (Surah 4:34).
- Mutilation of female sex organs. Although this happens among millions of Muslims, mostly in African nations, this practice tends to be more cultural than religious.
- Forced to wear the “burqa” to cover their entire bodies. Wearing the burqa, especially the veil, hinders Muslim women from experiencing life and nature in all its beauty. According to my Iranian pastor friend, who converted from Shiite Islam to Christianity 14 years ago, “It is cruel for women to never enjoy life apart from the veil.”
Unfortunately, the abuse of women is common in many parts of the Muslim world. More often than we can imagine, they are beaten, humiliated and intimidated for no reason.