The obsession of a large number of our brothers (and sisters) in faith over absolute control over strangers’ vaginas recently reached a new climax in Egypt. The demand by the Egyptian parliamentary deputy Elhami Agina that all female university candidates should be subjected to tests that prove their virginity has sparked a debate that extended beyond national borders. This requirement is bordering on insanity and symbolically signifies a disease that affects tens of Muslim communities around the world.
Act of Violence
Firstly, the implementation of such an abstruse draft law would be equivalent to an act of violence, which constitutes a blatant and traumatizing intrusion on the privacy and physical integrity of women. Imagine embarking on the beginning of your studies, and in addition to receiving a notepad and a pen with the university logo, being grabbed by the crotch in the truest sense of the word.
Beyond such considerations, from a purely medical point of view, attempting to determine the virginity of a woman based on her physical characteristics is impossible. It is now common medical knowledge that not every woman is born with a hymen and that the hymen can often tear before the first act of sexual intercourse. In addition, women’s sexual activities do not have to involve their hymen. How we would define virginity in such cases is an entirely different matter of debate. This type of inquiry into the private parts of women can easily be rejected from an Islamic-theological perspective. The Quran itself stipulates a testimony of no less than four trustworthy persons as evidence for extramarital sexual intercourse. The principle behind this rule is clear: Only the witnessing of the act itself can serve as proof of a breach of the commandment, rather than any secondary conclusions derived from physical characteristics of a woman.
Furthermore, it is not mentioned in any Hadith collection that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ever instructed anyone to analyze the genitals of his followers. There are no examples throughout the history of Islam of any Islamic jurists of the various schools of law ever prescribing to attest to the “virginity” of the female population through a physical intrusion of their intimate parts. When considering Islamic divorce law, which permits getting remarried after divorce for both men and women, then one can deduce the worth of a woman in respect to her marriageability is not directly tied to any physical attributes of purity such as virginity.
Selective Moral Police
Apart from such admittedly theoretical considerations, what arises is a pragmatic question: Why do the moralizers who are constantly claiming to defend and protect the “purity” and the “honor of woman” focus solely on female chastity whilst entirely ignoring male chastity? Why does the virginity of the man hardly concern anyone? Does the Quran not take an egalitarian stand on chastity?
What is happening in the mind and heart of a Muslim man who has had premarital sexual intercourse with about 15 women and has the audacity to tell me that God entitles him to take just a virgin as his wife?
How is it possible that a Muslim acquaintance, in the presence of his Muslim wife, tries to convince me that the Quran allows men to be sexually active before marriage and yet strictly forbids the same for women? How is it possible that during these situations, where men may even make fictitious Quranic references to legitimize patriarchal and sexist ideologies, none of the women present spoke up?
It is hardly surprising that those raised in households that perpetuate these ideas quickly succumb to them and end up becoming part of the problem. For instance, when no one in the family asks where the son is going, who he is going with and when he is returning home. The daughter, on the other hand, has to show up punctually at the door at 8 PM. Not to mention she has to be meticulously careful to avoid being sighted in public with a working colleague or classmate by some mother-in-law of a fifth cousin that is thirsty for good gossip and has a penchant for defaming other women. Otherwise, her pristine reputation is quickly destroyed and, in the words of a friend: “The chance to marry a decent boy,” may vanish.
Where Are We?
Are we already so blinded to let this wolf in sheep’s clothing under the guise of Islam encircle our herd? Are our hearts already so dead that such an injustice does not matter to us?
We find ourselves full of passion and motivation to protest loudly against intolerant and inflammatory comments made by dubious political figures like Trump, brainwashing supremacist campaigns and even transgressions of celebrities, but when it comes to this bigotry, we are unable to even mutter a word?
Injustice within our own community cannot be eliminated overnight. That much is clear. But without a doubt, everyone can make a personal contribution towards justice.
No matter where in the world we live, the next time we get confronted with misogynist statements and misconceptions that distort our religion – we can offer the truth through divine verse. Let God’s words become our strongest argument and best weapon against this kind of obsession and religious illiteracy: