Islam and sexism

Why are Muslim men so judgmental about what a woman wears?

This is a topic that really gets on my nerves but I need an insight from a males perspective. Why is it Muslim men are the first ones to criticise Muslim women? Whether it be about how's she's dressed or how her hijaab is worn. I just feel that the majority of men do it as a control thing.

That is not really about religion but about good manners. You will never find a devout middle class Iranian or Egyptian man or middle class European convert to Islam who has a disrespectful attitude toward women. Their families have brought them up to have good manners.

But when it comes to Muslim men who have never learned good manners, for them religion often becomes an arena for what we might call “virtue signalling”, where outward appearances of faith make up most of what matters to them. To such men it is “obvious” that there is something wrong with a woman who fails to engage in the virtue signalling that they think is so important, and so they criticize her.

And it is not just a problem with men. I have often heard Muslim women criticize other women in a similar manner. Generally if a man is the type of person to do that, the women in his family will also do it. The problem is with the entire family’s manners.

Dealing with sexist hadith narrations as a woman

There are endless of hadiths that ridicules us woman. That says that we aren't rational, intellectual etc. Many of them are of sahih. For instance the hadith in which asmaa bint Yazid was talking to the prophet sws and he and his companions were amazed that a woman could express herself as she did (which means that they normally doubt woman's intellect). Then you got the straightforward ones that says woman are stupid, inferior etc...

Our conceptualization of Islam comes from the Quran. The Quran is our program and our guide in life, and it doesn’t contain any of the things you describe.

As for hadith, hadith exists on a second tier, it is there to provide us with an example of the Prophet’s efforts to follow the Quran. Everything in hadith is considered z̧anni, meaning of doubtful certitude. Imam Malik and Abu Hanifa recommend skepticism toward hadith, including authentic ones, whenever they deviate from the Quran or from well-established practices of the Sunna. Therefore, for example, Imam Malik refuses to act by various hadith narrations even though they were considered authentic, because the narrations go against the well-established practices of the people of Medina (see The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan Amal by Yasin Dutton).

Imam al-Bukhari himself rejects an authentic hadith because it contains a prophesy that does not come true (the Prophet says this thing will happen, but 200 years have passed and it has not happened, so al-Bukhari concludes the hadith is false). For more examples of scholars rejecting authentic narrations see the (freely available) paper How We Know Early Ḥadīth Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It’s So Hard to Find by Jonathan Brown.

There is an authentic narration (in Sahih Muslim) that says if a woman, black dog or donkey passes in front of a person praying, their prayer is invalidated. In a different narration, also in Sahih Muslim, it is recorded that when Aisha (wife of the Prophet ), may God have mercy on her, hears this hadith (this is after the Prophet’s death), she angrily retorts “You have compared us to dogs!” Instead of sitting quietly and accepting the hadith, she challenges it because she finds it ridiculous and insulting.

You can do the same. Instead of submitting to other people’s visions about what Islam should be, do your own research and build your own vision of Islam based on a wide variety of sources. If someone uses some random hadith to belittle you, challenge them using the Quran’s principles, or research the hadith and you will usually find that there are other hadith narrations that contradict it.