Q. I was talking to a Muslim brother and he mentioned two things that got my attention. The first is he claimed that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w) said that any nation that elects a woman as a leader is doomed to failure, and the curse of Allah is upon that nation. Is this true?

The second thing is that the Prophet said that kufr must be eradicated from the Arabian Peninsula. He said that this means any people who are non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews. Can you explain why?

A. The hadith is a joke and beautifully refuted by Fatima Mernissi in her book "The Veil and the Male Elite," even though her overall knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence is questionable. It seems that the pluralistic and tolerant view of Islam was totally forgotten by the later Muslims who sought to vouchsafe their new narrow mindedness by putting words into the mouth of the Prophet. Apart from Mernissi's stellar work on the hadith about women, the fact is that in the Qur'an, the Queen of Saba is indicated as being particularly sagacious, and her only transgression of her tribe and her was polytheism. She is asked only to submit to God, not to give up her leadership of her tribe. Considering that God has told us in the Qur'an that whatever is forbidden is clearly stated, I think that only a forgetful God would have neglected to include this in the Book.

As far as the Prophet goes, no matter which way the hadith is interpreted, it is impossible to attribute it with any certainty to the Prophet. He did not know the future, and could not predict what would happen on the morrow, which gives the lie to all the ahadith predicting about the signs to come. Next, here is a man who by the evidence of the book he brought, tries to elevate women, and then suddenly we are asked to believe that in one catastrophic swipe of chauvinist asininity, he destroys the goal that he has so diligently tried to achieve? Muslims who stand by this hadith are saying that Muhammad was a liar, and disobeyed his Lord.

As Mernissi showed, Abu Bakra was in a position of having to choose sides. He probably sought the most erudite excuse to avoid being drawn into action, and in the field of religion, nothing has more sanctity than to attribute it to the Prophet(s). It is possible too, that the entire episode was put into the mouth of Abu Bakra, for if the hadith can lie about the Prophet, then it is quite possible that lying about a companion would be less problematic for the forgers of hadith.

Now for the second part of your question, regarding the hadith on kufr, it is noteworthy that the Muslim brother does not know the text. The text states that "two millas cannot unite in the peninsula." This was enforced after the Prophet's death, supposedly by Umar (r.a), on the basis of that hadith. The question is: "What was the Prophet, according to the hadith, doing borrowing money from a Jew, which had to be paid when he was on his death bed if this order was in place? Also, why did Umar have to resort to this hadith to put out the Jews? Why did the Prophet not do it? And what about reports that mention the Prophet's overtures and kindness to non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians?" It should be crystal clear to any believing Muslim that such aggression is against the very essence and peaceful nature of the Qur'an and Islam.

Posted February 2, 1999