During the era of pre-Islamic ignorance in Arabia, a custom called "Ila (الإيلاء)" existed, which enabled men to exert control and manipulate their wives.

"Ila" involved a husband taking an oath to abstain from sexual relations with his wife for a minimum of four months. If he honored the oath, the marriage would be dissolved; failing to do so would keep the marriage intact.

Ila was essentially a tool wielded by husbands to manipulate their wives into complying with their demands. Women were treated as mere possessions, devoid of the autonomy to decide for themselves, and were entirely subject to the desires of their husbands for their future.

Given the absence of a higher divine authority and considering that Muhammad himself was the source of the revelations, coupled with his adherence to the prevailing customs of Arab culture during that era of ignorance, he incorporated Ila into Islamic Sharia law, thereby compromising justice.

Quran 2:226-227:

Those who swear to keep away from their wives (with intent of divorcing them) have four months of grace; then if they reconcile (during this period), surely God is forgiving and kind. And if they decide on divorce - then indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing

Islamic Sharia imposes oppressive measures on women through Ila, which include:

  • Subjecting the wife to a form of solitary confinement, where she is compelled to remain within her husband's household for a period of 4 months without receiving any love or attention.

  • Allowing a husband to inflict punishment on his wife by keeping her uncertain about her future for the entire 4-month duration. During this time, the wife remains unaware of whether her husband intends to continue their marriage or evict her from their home once the 4 months pass.

  • Ila effectively functions as a tool enabling husbands to blackmail their wives into complying with their demands.

  • Even if the husband is entirely at fault or has malicious intentions, and seeks to exploit Ila to manipulate and coerce his wife, she is left defenseless against this form of blackmail. Islamic Courts are not empowered to intervene and safeguard the wife from such manipulation by her husband.

  • If the husband decides to divorce his wife after the 4-month Ila period, the woman then faces additional hardships during the 'Idah (waiting period), which extends for an additional 3 months (or 3 menstrual cycles). Throughout this period, she once again experiences a form of isolation and is burdened by numerous restrictions, further highlighting the one-sided challenges placed upon women (Please read our article on ‘Iddah for details of these one-sided hardships upon the women). This implies that a husband has the potential to subject his wife to these restrictions for a total duration of 7 months if he chooses to punish her in this manner.

In contrast to the wife, Islam provides the husband with the following privileges:

  • While the wife is confined in a situation akin to solitary confinement and is denied the right to experience love and attention, the husband himself is granted the complete freedom to enjoy his life, engage in intimate relations with his other wives, and even have sexual relations with his dozens of slave girls.

  • Additionally, Islam affords the husband the unrestricted right to reclaim his wife within a span of 4 months and engage in sexual intercourse with her, even if it goes against her wishes. This effectively denies her the autonomy to make choices about her own life, perpetuating a form of control and coercion.

  • Furthermore, Islam permits a husband, as a means of punishment, to "prolong" his wife's suffering by repeatedly employing the practice of Ila. This involves engaging in sexual intercourse with his wife before the initial 4-month period concludes, followed by a subsequent vow to abstain from physical contact for another 4 months. As atonement for each instance of Ila, the husband is only required to either provide food for 10 needy individuals or observe fasting for a duration of 3 days.

No JUSTICE (Arabic: 'Adl عدل) is needed to handle multiple wives

When Allah (i.e. Muhammad) allowed men to have four wives, then it was conditioned with doing JUSTICE to all of them. 

Quran 4:3

فَٱنكِحُوا۟ مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَٰثَ وَرُبَٰعَ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا۟ فَوَٰحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُكُمْ

... then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be able to do Justice (Arabic:تَعْدِلُوا۟) with them, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses (i.e. slave women).

But later Allah (i.e. Muhammad) abrogated this condition of Justice, and gave a license to men to usurp the rights of any of their wives in the name of "settlement". 

(Quran 4:128-129) And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them (i.e. woman agrees upon leaving some of her rights) … And you will never be able to do Justice (Arabic: تَعْدِلُوْا) between wives, even if you should strive [to do so].

For more details, please read our article: Muhammad's journey from 4 marriages to 9 marriages with the help of Revelation

Question: Why did the divine Allah not eliminate the regulation of Ila?

  • Ila is inherently irrational and oppressive, originating from a period of societal ignorance.
  • Yet, why did the divine Allah adhere to this antiquated custom?
  • Furthermore, considering the immense wisdom of divine Allah, why was the practice of Ila not abolished?
  • Did Allah fear Sahaba (i.e. companions of Muhammad) that if he abolish the ruling of Ila, then they would rebel against him?

Muslims assert that Islam, unlike the Western concept of 'equal rights,' bestowed women's rights rooted in 'justice

However, this assertion by Muslims lacks validity. The divine Allah they worship did not bestow women with equitable rights, nor did it establish these rights on the foundation of justice. Consequently, women remain vulnerable to the tyranny and manipulation of their male counterparts, without adequate safeguards.

In contrast, the Western world, driven by human intellect, recognized women as equal beings to men. It bestowed women with parallel rights, including the crucial right to divorce, thus thwarting any potential for malevolent individuals to exploit and blackmail them. This approach from the West ensures comprehensive protection for women against all forms of oppression and coercion.