Forever young.

"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."

Reading For Gender From The Qur’an

2 weeks ago, Musawah did a tweet seminar based on the teachings of Amina Wadud during her live seminar held in Kuala Lumpur on May 2013.

What is Musawah?

    Musawah (‘equality’ in Arabic) is a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. It was launched in February 2009 at a Global Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia attended by over 250 women and men from some 50 countries from around the globe. Musawah is pluralistic and inclusive, bringing together NGOs, activists, scholars, legal practitioners, policy makers and
    grassroots women and men from around the world.

    (Excerpt taken from official website. Read more about Musawah here: http://www.musawah.org/about-musawah)

Who is Amina Wadud?

    Amina Wadud (born September 25, 1952) is an American scholar of Islam with a progressive focus on Qur’an exegesis (interpretation). As an Islamic feminist, she has addressed mixed-sex congregations, giving a sermon in South Africa in 1994, and leading Friday prayers in the United States in 2005. These actions broke with established Islamic law, which allows only male imams (prayer leaders) in mixed-gender congregations, and thus she triggered debate and Muslim juristic discourse about women as imams.

    (Excerpt taken from Amina Wadud’s Wikipedia page. Read more about Amina Wadud here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amina_Wadud)

I was one of those who followed the tweet seminar (which can be read by tracking the tag #femquran) and needless to say, I did learn a lot. Though most of all, I am intrigued and in awe of Amina Wadud’s integrity and passion towards gender equality in Islam. She conveys her message in such simple-to-understand terms, and no one else could have phrased it better than she did.

The seminar lasted for around 3 hours, but an insightful 3 hours it indeed was. In this article that I’m writing, I’m going to elaborate some of her points wherever I can. A note that I am not as prestigious as Amina Wadud herself, for she is a highly respectable and intellectual woman. I do, however, aspire to be as courageous and clever as she is one day.

Since the seminar was posted in many lines due to Twitter’s 140 character limit, I have decided to compile them all into one paragraphs for easy reading. The seminar went as followed:

@musawah: Welcome all. We are just now beginning the tweet seminar ‘Reading for Gender from the Quran’ based on the teachings of Amina Wadud.

Part of taking agency with our own belief is engaging with Qur’an. This is an eternal relationship with the Divine. After the knowledge shared here, know that nobody can use the words of the Qur’an against you.

Sharing a resource: the book ‘Ulum Al-Quran’ is a very good introduction to Quranic exegesis. Quran continuously chastises 7th century Arabia. Prophet located then. Might it not be possible that Quran addresses that culture? The Prophet (PBUH) was an ordinary person. With an extraordinary experience. Within one year of the Prophet’s death, the revelations were compiled into one large manuscript with the leadership of Abu Bakr. The manuscript went to Umar, next Caliph, and on to Hafsa bint Umar, and then to Uthman, the next Caliph after Umar. What we have today is the perfect revealed text – the original text is as it is. It is the primary source of Islam.

Just because you grew up speaking Arabic does not mean you can give an authentic interpretation of the Quran. Just because you are a ‘Quran specialist’ does not mean you are the only one who has the understanding.

Sunnah as normative behaviour of Prophet is related to the 7th century context, not just in his relationship with Allah. Sunnah = living embodiment. God speaks in meta language, through the stories in the Quran. Metaphors are used to communicate the revelatory experience. Arabic is a prerequisite science to understanding the Quran. But it is a classical Arabic that nobody speaks.

Earlier verses of Makkah period are emphatic about the Oneness of God, of the Divine. Later verses of Madinah period are more practical, and meant for 7th century Arabia. Idea that Madinah verses have more authority than Makkah verses has been refuted. Earlier verses are more universal. In the Quran, the use of gender-neutral language virtually impossible because Arabic language has gender markers. Moving from gender markers in Arabic language is a real challenge. In the Quran, Allah refers to Himself, Herself and in the plural.

Grammar is literal, not an ideology. Nowhere in Quran nor does the Prophet say that the leader of prayer has to be male. Where does that come from? We have been duped. Doesn’t the female have a relationship with God? There are consequences to leaving the female out. We need to interrogate this. Quran mentions 35 prophets by name; they happen to be male. But it also mentions there were thousands other. The thousands of other prophets could have included women. Why can’t we imagine this to be a possibility?

Quranic language ascribes the masculine form neutrality. This was a matter of linguistic convenience, not gender privilege. When someone says this is what the text means, you have to ask how they came to know that. It is your job to question. All gender inequalities in the text refer to 7th cen. Arabia and what Quran was trying to achieve at that time. Justice is relative.

How to resolve contradictions between verses? Resolve on side of justice. Then you’ll be an active participant in meaning-making. Accept contradictions in the Text. They are context-specific. They are not universal, not intra-Quranic, not Divine. Be dynamic, be passionate. Be an active participant in meaning-making. Consider all angles, all nuances. You are relating with the Divine. Quran is a revolutionary text. There’s more text about social justice and women than any other. We let it fall behind, to dis-use.

A living, dynamic eternal text, the Quran’s trajectory is towards greater and greater social justice. The Quran is not a conditional text. It does not give conditions. It is jurists that imposed conditions through law. Men don’t hit women bcos there is a verse in Quran. Men hit women bcos they have issues with self-control and violence. Problem starts when men who hit women go back to Quran to justify their actions. Whither the intrinsic spirit of justice in Quran? We need to look at not just Quranic tafsir but also at fiqh to understand what certain terms in the Text mean. Fiqh is man-made.

Many meanings to term ‘darab’. Laleh Bakhtiar found over 30 meanings to ‘darab’. Who actually decides what meaning, what impact? Take a ‘conscientious pause’ (first coined by Khaled Abu El Fadl). It is a requirement of true faith, a moral responsibility. If you hear or see anything and cannot in your heart keep faith in Allah, you must observe a conscientious pause. If you feel you are not comfortable with something in your faith, observe a conscientious pause. It is not lazy, not an excuse. You don’t get to say ‘I don’t like that!’ An emotional response is not what is being sought, but a moral response. A conscientious pause is a moral phase because you are going to actively seek a greater, fuller understanding.

If Quran is for ALL times and places it must respond to our time and place right now. Whatever the case, Allah KNOWS our realities. How do you seek greater understanding? From traditions, texts, contexts, lived experiences. We’re experts of our lived realities. Our lived realities/life experiences are not separate from the sources. Our lives become evidence on how we should apply the Text. Allah is just even though interpretations may not be. We become the measure of whether or not the Text is fulfilling its goals. When women accept the responsibility of evaluating and re-evaluating assumptions about knowledge, they become owners of truth. Appreciate the differences among even experts. Nothing is fixed. The search for truth is a never-ending process of construction. Truth-making is a moral responsibility, of knowing. This ethical location becomes the standard of measurement.

Islam is mine, is yours. We make it as we live it. It is not out there. It is where you are living, where I am living. As a passionate learner/knower you are aware of the inner workings of the mind. You stretch boundaries of consciousness. The self is an instrument of understanding objectively but also weaves passion and intellect into a whole. A passionate learner/knower has empathy, capacity to work with people who have different understandings – to arrive at justice.

As a passionate learner/knower you feel what you feel but still care about differing opinions. Fear of others’ opinions absent. The passionate learner/knower is patient, open, aware, intimate, listens, feels, encourages others to speak, is caring, attentive. The passionate learner/knower is a competent communicator, dispenses new knowledge for benefit of others, is open to vulnerability. Couple of last pointers on the passionate learner/knower: real, genuine talk is not dominating. It is reciprocal, cooperative. On the passionate learner/knower: he/she aspires to empower others, to improve their quality of life.

On feminism: Feminism may be historically rooted in the West, but it had its limits. It faced many challenges inevitably. Diverse global cultural contexts required a redefinition, even debunking of accepted version of feminism introduced by the West. When it came to Islam and human rights, it was always from the perspective of either/or. Either Islam. Or human rights. So we see this historical trajectory, and that is Islamism —> secularism —> Islamic feminism.

Islamic feminism is a modern innovation. It came to us in late 1990s. It is modern, it is now because we are living in the now. Islamic feminism uses gender as a category of thought, as a tool to interrogate ideas, concepts, goals, etc to decipher truth. False premises lead to false conclusions, i.e. choosing EITHER Islam OR human rights is false. How we define ‘the human being’ must be true for all human beings. To define ‘the human being’ as ‘male’ is problematic. To define the human being as male is to exclude women or make them somehow deficient, be an ‘other’, be deviant. To define the human being as male is to make women out to be other than fully human. The process of including everybody when making a definition becomes problematic. There are inevitable consequences. If you understand the Prophet to be receiver of knowledge and therefore the parameter, how to deal with issues of menstruation? Whether conscious or unconscious, blanket definitions are problematic, exclude, divide, have consequences that are dangerous. Such definitions should say something to you about the SPEAKER. Such definitions are NOT ultimate human reality/realities.

What the Quran says about the Creator: is unique, not gendered. Allah is One (qul huwa Allahu ahad). Allah is United (la ilah ill-Allah). Allah is Unique (lays ka mithlihi shay’un). Imagine God is a circle, the center of which is everywhere, and the circumference of which is nowhere (quote from St Augustine). What Quran says about the ultimate human being – all levels of existence occur in duality, i.e. yin yang. There is no hierarchy. What our Sacred Text says about the Ultimate Human Being: there is NO hierarchy. The ultimate human being is both male and female (min kulli shay’in khalaqnaa zawjayn). As a man or a woman, we are trustees of the Divine Will. As a human being, you become a moral agent on earth.

Islam is about upholding ethics, justice. And that consciousness (taqwa) leads to a certain type of behaviour judged only by Allah. Quran is explicitly gender-inclusive in all stages of life, death & afterlife. The umbrella term to encompass all this is Tawhid. Tawhid therefore includes elements of oneness, unity, uniqueness. Tawhid is not a method. It is the foundation of social justice. If Tawhid is the theological basis, then a system of ethics (Maqasid of Shari’ah) becomes the methodological basis. Islam is emphatic that there is NO intermediary between Allah and you (woman or man). Islam is emphatic about the fact that there is horizontal reciprocity between woman and man. Tawhid requires move from binaries to unity for human rights. Justice means applying Maqasid of Shari’ah on a case by case basis.

It is strategic, it is wise to decide on a case by case, issue by issue, nation by nation, etc basis. All citizens have same rights with respect to implementation of any law. All citizens have same rights with respect to the reform of any policy that denies, prohibits or limits equality. Buddhist principle of transcendence will also help understand Tawhid. We can understand this through other faiths.

For deconstructing use/application of hadith, refer book ‘Speaking in the Name of God’ by Khaled Abou El Fadl.

Today there are many who claim women’s roles at home (private sphere) are equally important as men’s as leaders (public sphere). If women’s roles in the home are so important, why isn’t everyone clamoring for that role? Why isn’t there more competitiveness? The complementarity model is unequal. It is vertical, cannot be exchanged, people’s roles become fixed. Equality isn’t about sameness.

To read an ethical analysis of the Qur’an’s treatment of women, get a copy of “Qur’an and Woman” by Amina Wadud.

To learn about more arguments for gender inclusiveness in Islam, get a copy of “Inside the Gender Jihad” by Amina Wadud.

And that concluded the end of the tweet seminar. Some extremely brave and bold statements, I must say. I personally admire Amina Wadud’s courage and integrity. I love the way she puts my thoughts into simple sentences, and not to mention, I also learned quite a few new things in this tweet seminar as well, which now I’d like to break down some of the most important points (in my honest opinion).

Quran continuously chastises 7th century Arabia. Prophet located then. Might it not be possible that Quran addresses that culture?

While the moral values found in the Qur’an is something that can be applied any day at any time, we also have to keep in mind that most Qur’anic verses found in the Book were meant for the Prophet (PBUH) and also the people of Arabia during his time. Knowing that the Qur’an was a revelatory text meant for pre-Islamic Arabs is important in Islamic studies as it plays a key role in the development of Islam. It is important to identify what the revelations were aiming to change, and what Islam was trying to achieve.

One of the most well-known pre-Islamic Arabian cultures was female infanticide. Islam sought to seek justice for the innocent female babies that were murdered and also to stop this cruel practice, thus the verses 16:57-59 were sent down from God to the Prophet (PBUH).

    And they attribute to Allah daughters – exalted is He – and for them is what they desire. [16:57] And when one of them is informed of [the birth of] a female, his face becomes dark, and he suppresses grief. [16:58] He hides himself from the people because of the ill of which he has been informed. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the ground? Unquestionably, evil is what they decide. [16:59]

Polygamy was also commonly practiced among pre-Islamic Arabs, and Islam was the first religion to ever put a limitation to how many wives a man can marry. Many Qur’anic verses were revealed to overcome the mentality of men that prevented them from accepting women as their equals in society, as pre-Islamic Arabs looked down on women as lesser beings and they were treated unfairly.

    @nedoud: Can you give examples where it’s only meant for 7th century Arabia!?
    @aminawadud: @musawah @nedoud Oh prophet tell your wives they CANNOT MARRY after you die. Is that universal? No just for them…STILL the Qur’an is 4all

With this is mind, we now know that while the moral codes of the Qur’an is universal, most of the revelations were meant to address the culture of 7th century Arabia.

The Prophet (PBUH) was an ordinary person. With an extraordinary experience. Sunnah as normative behaviour of Prophet is related to the 7th century context, not just in his relationship with Allah.

This is something a lot of Muslims get confused over. They look to the Prophet (PBUH) as Heaven-sent, and sometimes it’s almost as though they worship him over God Himself. It is important to realize that Islam is the religion of God, not the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) was a normal human being, with an extraordinary experience, who was made a messenger by God. That was his sole purpose; to spread the message of Islam. He is not a representation of the religion itself.

    The duty of Our Messenger is only to convey the Message. [5:99]
    […] upon you is only the [duty of] notification, and upon Us is the account. [13:40]
    So, if they turn away, then We did not send you (O Prophet,) as a supervisor over them. You are not responsible but for conveying the message. [42:48]

However, some Muslims have gone to the extent of worshipping him, and following his every last move, all the way down to brushing their teeth with a miswak (teeth-cleaning stick). The Prophet (PBUH) is a normal human being, not free of any sin as he was also reprimanded in the Qur’an. The Prophet (PBUH) is also not allowed to issue any other religious rulings; his message is only the Qur’an.

    And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in Our name, [69:44] We would have certainly seized him by the right hand, [69:45] and then severed his life-artery. [69:46]

Many people have said that as a Muslim, it is important for us to obey and respect the Prophet (PBUH). While this is true, many Muslims also think that obeying the Prophet (PBUH) means to obey his every word like irrefutable truth, sometimes even superseding God’s words, and follow his footsteps (sunnah), when in fact, we should obey the Prophet (PBUH) by obeying what he upheld, which was the Qur’an.

    […] “I have submitted My whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me.” … [3:20]

Sunnah is not only in relation to the Prophet’s (PBUH) relationship with God, but it was also his normative behaviour. Note that the Qur’an addresses 7th century Arabia, thus the behaviour of the Prophet (PBUH), brushing teeth with miswak etc. were merely things the Prophet (PBUH) did during that time, and was no religious duty in any way. Some Muslims get confused, and think that by following the Prophet’s (PBUH) every last move, they will be rewarded by God, even if it is following the amount of times he chews (Yes, I have heard this one!).

However, even though the Prophet (PBUH) is a normal human being, he is a highly respectable man, for his faith in God is never swayed and he is submissive to the One and Only. Not to mention, he has been given the extraordinary and honourable role of being the messenger. We should respect and follow the Prophet (PBUH) by being as strong as him in his beliefs in the Qur’an and God, and to try establish a close relation with God as the Prophet (PBUH) did; by submitting ourselves entirely to Him and the Qur’an.

Arabic is a prerequisite science to understanding the Quran. But it is a classical Arabic that nobody speaks.

As Amina Wadud has mentioned in the seminar “Just because you grew up speaking Arabic does not mean you can give an authentic interpretation of the Quran”, what she is trying to emphasize here that since the Qur’an chastises 7th century Arabia, it is important to interpret the Qur’an using classical Arabic. It is known knowledge that language changes with time, thus it is important to know the word in its original form to understand the real context of the verse. Classical Arabic is also known as Qur’anic Arabic. Amina Wadud mentions that nobody speaks classical Arabic anymore, to which someone rebutted:

    @nedoud: I disagree! You mean not enough people speak it, there are many many who do speak it. It’s absolutely not like Latin!

Though it is indeed very rare to find people who speak and understand classical Arabic fluently, it is not impossible to find someone who knows it like the back of his hand. However, what Amina Wadud meant was that there is no one currently who speaks the true and untarnished classical Arabic. To study the Qur’an deeply, knowledge of classical Arabic is important, thus learning of the language is still ongoing until now.

    “Many meanings to term ‘darab’. Laleh Bakhtiar found over 30 meanings to ‘darab’. Who actually decides what meaning, what impact?”

There are many different definitions to a single word, and due to this, many interpretations of the Qur’an has popped up and it is impossible to know which interpretation is the authentic and irrefutable translation.

In the Quran, Allah refers to Himself, Herself and in the plural.

I was confused about this line, which then Amina Wadud promptly elaborated, so I just thought I should put it here to clear doubts from anyone.

    @aminawadud: in other words I don’t take “HE” as literally meaning MALE if they don’t take “WE” as literally meaning plural God is 1

As she had stated in her seminar, “man” has been used as neutrality in the Qur’an. God has referred to Himself as “We” in the Qur’an, though He is only One. Since the term “we” was not used literally as “many”, Amina Wadud also applies the same thing to the word “He”, whereby “He” does not literally mean “male”, but used only for neutrality and convenience. Allah has no gender, and He is only One.

Nowhere in Quran nor does the Prophet say that the leader of prayer has to be male. Where does that come from? We have been duped.

For those who do not know, Amina Wadud once stirred controversy for leading Friday prayers at a congregation in 2005.

    2005 prayer leadership
    More than a decade later, Wadud decided to lead Friday prayers (salat) for a congregation in the United States, breaking with Islamic tradition, which allows only male imams (prayer leaders) in mixed-gender congregations. On Friday 18 March 2005, Wadud acted as imam for a congregation of about 60 women and 40 men seated together, without any gender separation. The call to prayer was given by another woman, Suheyla El-Attar. It was sponsored by the Muslim Women’s Freedom Tour, under the leadership of Asra Nomani, by the website “Muslim WakeUp!,” and by members of the Progressive Muslim Union. A small number of protestors gathered outside against the prayer. The gathering was held in the Synod House, owned by and adjoining the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, after three mosques had refused to host the service and the Sundaram Tagore Gallery withdrew its offer after a bomb threat. Wadud said while she initially wanted to host the prayer in a neutral place, but after the bomb threats, she decided on the church, not to make a statement, but because she wanted to conduct the prayers in a sacred place. She additionally stated, “I don’t want to change Muslim mosques. I want to encourage the hearts of Muslims, both in their public, private and ritual affairs, to believe they are one and equal.”

    Excerpt from “Women as imams”.

It is a generally held view in the Muslim world that women cannot lead mixed-gender prayer. This custom is pervasive and goes unchallenged. Yet, research from the Qur’an and the customs of Prophet Muhammad demonstrate that there is no prohibition precluding women from leading mixed-gender prayer. The March 18 event is an excellent opportunity to outline the importance of women’s position as spiritual equals and leaders.

Naturally, a move out of conformity and tradition received a lot of mixed reviews. Some Muslim academics and scholars, namely Gamal al-Banna, Javid Ahmed Ghamidi and Leila Ahmed, supported her leadership, complimenting her bravery and for bringing awareness to women leadership in Islam.

The hadith of Umm Waraqa is usually as defense to why it is acceptable for women to lead prayers, including mixed-gender congregational prayer. Umm Waraqa bint Abdallah knew the entire Quran and was instructed by Muhammad to lead ahl dariha, which consisted of both men and women, in prayer. The Arabic phrase means “the people of her home”, but the ambiguity hangs on the exact translation of “dar”, “home”, which can refer to one’s residence, neighborhood, or village.

    Umm Waraqah, the daughter of Nawfal reported, “When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) proceeded for Badr I said to him, ‘Messenger of Allah allow me to accompany you in the battle. I shall act as a nurse for your patients and maybe Allah will bestow martyrdom upon me.’ He replied, ‘stay at your home and Allah the Exalted will bestow martyrdom upon you.’ She read the Quran and sought permission from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to have a mu’adhdhin in her house. He therefore permitted her to do so. She announced that her slave and slave girl would be free after her death so one night they strangled her with a sheet of cloth until she died and ran away. The next day ‘Umar announced that anyone who has knowledge of them or has seen them should bring them to him. (After they were caught) ‘Umar ordered that they be crucified and this was the first crucifixion at Madinah.”
    From Umm Waraqah, the daughter of Abdullah bin al-Harith, “the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to visit her at her house. He appointed a mu’adhdhin to call Adhan for her and he commanded her to lead the inmates of her house in prayer.” Abdurrahman said, “I saw that her mu’adhdhin was an old man.” [Abu Dawud (Eng. Trans. #591 & 592)]

God affirmed the suitability of women in major leadership roles as seen in the example of the queen of Sheba in Surat al-Naml. In the category of non-Prophets, she is the Qur’anic role model for a positive leader. Pharaoh, a man, is the Qur’anic role model for negative leadership.

God also addresses gender discrimination in the Qur’an by forbidding the cultural practice of female infanticide. Thus, preventing Muslim women from major religious leadership roles because they’re “not up to it” would be a form of gender discrimination.

However, the general ulama responses were similar to that of Syakh Yusuf Al-Qadarawi:

    The currently extant juristic schools agree that it is not permissible for women to lead men in the obligatory Prayer, though some scholars voice the opinion that, under certain circumstances, a woman who is well-versed in the Qur’ān may lead the members of her family, including men, in prayer on the basis that there is no room for stirring instincts in this case. Al-Qaradawi berated her actions on Al-Jazeera, calling it un-Islamic and heretical.

While it is true that the Qur’an has never addressed this issue, many have used reasoning from hadith to refute that women are not allowed to lead men in prayer.

    Ibn Majah (Kitab iqamat is- salat was-sunnati fiha) #1134, narrated through Jabir ibn Abdullah: “A woman may not lead a man in Prayer, nor may a Bedouin lead a believer of the Muhajirun or a corrupt person lead a committed Muslim in Prayer.”

The ijma of most scholars however, is that women are allowed to lead women-only congregational prayer or her children (if no qualified men are present within the household), and not mixed-gender (at at least lead the women in a mixed-gender congregational prayer). This is so that the men do not have to look at a woman ahead of them, which might make them aroused. According to Imam an-Nawawi, “If a woman leads a man or men in a congregational prayer, the prayer of the men is invalid. As for her prayer, and the prayer of the women praying with her, it is sound.”

Even though the Qur’an does not address the issue of women imams specifically in the Qur’an, in my honest opinion, I think the consensus that only men should lead prayers was due to the fact that the Qur’an emphasizes on men guiding, protecting and taking care of women. During the time of the Prophet (PBUH), women were looked down upon and mistreated, thus the Qur’an has ordered for men to take care of them and it was mostly men who were given the major religious roles.

However, in our modern day, women are more capable of these major roles usually taken up by men. Some women are even perhaps more capable than men in holding a certain position. Amina Wadud’s move was bold and revolutionary and it came as a shock to many, forcing people to think beyond the boundaries that have been deep embedded into our systems.

As for me, I would always prefer a male imam, especially in a household. To me, woman can be imams, but it does not necessarily mean they have to be. Women should be imams under conditional circumstances, where a qualified man is not present; in times of war (for congregational mixed-gender prayers), husband is working etc. So long as there is no solid basis for a woman to lead congregational prayers, I have always believed it better to place that role for a qualified man.

However, I do not disagree with what Amina Wadud had done. She has expanded our thinking capacities and made us think beyond the conformity. It brought awareness about women leadership and Islamic feminism, and has shown the world that Muslim women are not “oppressed” and “weak” like a lot of people think. Such a woman is high respectable and extremely courageous, and I am definitely in awe of her for that.

Quran is a revolutionary text. There’s more text about social justice and women than any other. […] The Quran is not a conditional text. It does not give conditions. It is jurists that imposed conditions through law.

One of Amina Wadud’s most important points, “All gender inequalities in the text refer to 7th century Arabia and what Quran was trying to achieve at that time.” When it comes to resolving contradictions between verses, Amina Wadud recommends that we resolve on the side of justice. Besides, as stated in the above quote, Qur’an upholds social justice more than anything else as Islam’s aim was to abolish the cruel practices of 7th century Arabia. The Qur’an isn’t a book of “terms and conditions”, it isn’t something you sign before joining something. The Qur’an is a guide, not a rule book, and ultimately it is still up to the person to follow through or not, no compulsions.

As a passionate learner/knower you feel what you feel but still care about differing opinions. Fear of others’ opinions absent. The passionate learner/knower is patient, open, aware, intimate, listens, feels, encourages others to speak, is caring, attentive. The passionate learner/knower is a competent communicator, dispenses new knowledge for benefit of others, is open to vulnerability. Couple of last pointers on the passionate learner/knower: real, genuine talk is not dominating. It is reciprocal, cooperative. On the passionate learner/knower: he/she aspires to empower others, to improve their quality of life.

I absolutely love how Amina Wadud added this in. This emphasizes on the important of knowledge-building, and how extremely important it is to be tolerant and accepting of another person’s views. The problem with our society these days is that most of what they know is from inherited knowledge, from parents, school etc. and very rarely do people bother to cross that border and expand their mind on their own. And the worst part? They think their imprisoned thinking is the irrefutable and true mindset that everyone should have, and that anyone who doesn’t think the same as them is seen as a lower or less intelligent being.

    They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel more comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love ourself. To evolve. Erykah Badu

Many choose to not be a learner or knower, but they expect people to follow them. They choose to conform, in fear that questioning a tradition that has been deep embedded into our systems would ostracize and alienate them. More than often, these people are the ones who give absolutely emotional responses when challenged. And as Amina Wadud had mentioned, “An emotional response is not what is being sought, but a moral response.” Observe a conscientious pause when challenged, as this will give you time to evaluate and think and ultimately, you’ll have a greater understanding on that certain topic.

Here’s a writeup about “Imprisoned Thinking” by one of my favourite writers, Mohamed Ghilan.

When it came to Islam and human rights, it was always from the perspective of either/or. Either Islam. Or human rights.

This is a tragic concept. It is true that in most Islamic countries in the world, it was always a choice between Islam and human rights. For example, if a woman was raped, under Human Rights, her perpetrator would be punished. But under “Islamic law”, she would be punished for illicit sex. The Qur’an was sent down as a revolutionary text about social justice, but where is the justice in that?

That’s where a lot of people get it wrong. Islam and human rights actually intertwine. They are one and the same. The Qur’an covers topics such as gender equality and good moral values, and to always seek truth and justice. However, some people like to take into literal terms what is written in the Qur’an, when in fact the Qur’an goes beyond just written words and “rules to follow”.

One of the reasons why a lot of these “Islam or human rights” debates arise when people misunderstand the purpose of Hudud under Shariah law.

One of the crimes punishable under Hudud is zina, which is sexual intercourse outside marriage. With that, a lot of women have been punished for a crime they did not commit; rape. For an offender to get punished under Hudud law is that he either has to admit to his mistakes or have 4 witnesses testify against him. Most rape victims file a report of rape, and because there are no eyewitnesses to the crime, the woman gets punished as she has already confessed to the “crime”.

What does the “4 eyewitnesses” criteria about Hudud law mean? It basically means that Hudud law is for crimes committed in the eye of the public. The problem comes when people execute the Hudud law upon people who have sinned in silence (and people got to know through hearsay and spying) and they take it too literally, as anything done behind closed doors should be up to God and God alone to judge.

While it is true that getting raped would mean having illicit sex, but is it fair and just to punish the victim under Hudud law when she was abused, coerced and involuntary? Is this the justice Islam sought to seek? Would punishing an innocent victim be accepted by God, when God has clearly decreed to be fair? Would God be proud of our actions?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Hudud law, but is it safe to trust Islamic leaders to judge people with it? Hudud law was meant to seek justice, but people are not free from err, and most Islamic leaders misuse and mistranslate Hudud law.

Justice means applying Maqasid of Shari’ah on a case by case basis. To encompass all crimes under one rule would cause damage, as not all cases are the same. That is the problem with a lot of Islamic societies.

So should we prioritize Islam or human rights? This is a question that should never exist, as the answer is: Islam IS human rights. To be a fair Muslim would be to seek justice, as that is the moral code of Islam.

Whether conscious or unconscious, blanket definitions are problematic, exclude, divide, have consequences that are dangerous. Such definitions should say something to you about the SPEAKER. Such definitions are NOT ultimate human reality/realities.

Referring to a human being as a “he” has become a general term, but it becomes problematic when it has been translated to “male”.

    To define the human being as male is to exclude women or make them somehow deficient, be an ‘other’, be deviant. To define the human being as male is to make women out to be other than fully human.

Because of this, male has been perceived as “higher” than women in societal environments. If the male is perceived as “better” and “all-knowing” compared to the two genders, how do we understand certain concepts circling the female gender?

    If you understand the Prophet to be receiver of knowledge and therefore the parameter, how to deal with issues of menstruation?

Just because “he” has been used generally to describe a human being, it should be understood that it does not mean that male is not the ultimate human being. As Amina Wadud had mentioned, “The ultimate human being is both male and female (min kulli shay’in khalaqnaa zawjayn).”

    Quran is explicitly gender-inclusive in all stages of life, death & afterlife. The umbrella term to encompass all this is Tawhid. Tawhid therefore includes elements of oneness, unity, uniqueness. Tawhid is not a method. It is the foundation of social justice.

Tawhid is a theology. It is the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inuiry to religious questions. There are 3 tenets to the theology, and that is Tawhid al Rubu`biya (Belief in the Oneness of the Lordship of God), Tawhid al `Uluhiyya (Belief in the Oneness of the Worship of God) and Tawheed-al-Asma was-Sifaat (Belief in the Oneness of the Names and the Attributes of God). The entirety of Islamic teaching rests upon tawhid. Why is tawhid the foundation of social justice?

The understanding of the theology is taken directly from the teachings of the Prophet with the understanding and methodology of his companions, sourced directly from the reveled scripture the Qur’an; being the main information source for understanding the oneness of God in Islam.

If one were to adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an, one would understand why it is the foundation of social justice. The Qur’an teaches to be fair, just, of gender equality and human rights. By being a sincere adherent to the Qur’an would make you a person of moral value.

The complementarity model is unequal. It is vertical, cannot be exchanged, people’s roles become fixed. Equality isn’t about sameness.

The most important part of this sentence is “Equality isn’t about sameness”. Many confuse the concept of equality with “I should have what you have” when in fact, equality isn’t about being the same. Equality follows circumstances. Equality is where every person gets an equal chance.

As Amina Wadud said, “If women’s roles in the home are so important, why isn’t everyone clamoring for that role? Why isn’t there more competitiveness? The complementarity model is unequal.” And to me, the complementarity model being unequal is actually okay. Who said women should be leaders in order for there to be gender equality? It is only unequal when a woman is NOT allowed to become a leader of society and excluded from community activities. But as long as she has an equal chance as any other person, nothing is unequal. The Qur’an made out men and women experts in different fields, and it just so happens that some were born better at the other, but the Qur’an did not exclude women from claiming leadership roles. Just because some women are better in the private sphere, it does not make her any less of a significant being. As she had mentioned, “Equality isn’t about sameness”.

More about Islamic Feminism

Islamic feminism is concerned with the role of women in Islam. It aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private spheres. Islamic feminists advocate women’s rights, gender equality, and social justice grounded in an Islamic framework. Advocates of the movement seek to highlight the deeply rooted teachings of equality in the religion, and encourage a questioning of the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic teaching through the Qur’an, hadith and Islamic law towards the creation of a more equal and just society.

Islamic feminism is not simply a feminism that is born from Muslim cultures, but one that engages Islamic theology through the Qur’an. Distinct Islamic feminism, at its core, draws on the Qur’anic concept of equality of all human beings, and insists on the application of this theology to everyday life. It may be said that the greatest task of the Islamic feminist is to separate culture and religion.

The reality of Islamic feminism is a global movement in which women turn to the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions to argue that women are fully human and equal to their male counterparts. How they express that and how far they take it is up to the women of those specific contexts. Islamic feminism aims to abolish the concept of gender hierarchy that has been embedded into Muslim societies.

    ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﻠِﻤِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﺴْﻠِﻤَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﺆْﻣِﻨِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﺆْﻣِﻨَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻘَﺎﻧِﺘِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻘَﺎﻧِﺘَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺩِﻗِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺩِﻗَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺑِﺮِﻳﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺑِﺮَﺍﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺨَﺎﺷِﻌِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺨَﺎﺷِﻌَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﺼَﺪِّﻗِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﺘَﺼَﺪِّﻗَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺋِﻤِﻴﻦَ ﻭَﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺋِﻤَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﺎﻓِﻈِﻴﻦَ ﻓُﺮُﻭﺟَﻬُﻢْ ﻭَﺍﻟْﺤَﺎﻓِﻈَﺎﺕِ ﻭَﺍﻟﺬَّﺍﻛِﺮِﻳﻦَ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪَ ﻛَﺜِﻴﺮًﺍ ﻭَﺍﻟﺬَّﺍﻛِﺮَﺍﺕِ ﺃَﻋَﺪَّ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪُ ﻟَﻬُﻢ ﻣَّﻐْﻔِﺮَﺓً ﻭَﺃَﺟْﺮًﺍ ﻋَﻈِﻴﻤًﺎ
    Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. [33:35]

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2013 by in Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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