Between Ethical and Legal Answers

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Between ethical questions and legal answers: a critically contextualised approach to textual readings concerning gender relations in Islam

Amina Wadud(b1952), a scholar of the Quran, Islamic studies and a Muslim feminist declares a ‘gender jihad’ (Esposito,(2010),121) which challenges those literalists who construe the Quran as a misogynistic text by their reading of Q4:34. She advocates a holistic re-reading of all Quranic verses that specifically deal with rights of women and infer them in their correct historical and social context. It appears that in such an approach, some of these literalists make others perceive the Quran as an austere scripture and Islam as an overtly patriarchal religion, thereby alluding to the Quran’s alleged advocacy of gender discrimination. This dissertation does not deny that the Quran at times can be subjectively read, thus leading to gender relations that in the eyes of some observers can appear patriarchal in nature or that repressive cultural norms found in many Muslim societies often stem from an uncritical fidelity to what are presumed to be islamically endorsed strictures and norms. Rather, it will discuss how the risks attached to this subjectivity can be lessened via a contextualized reading of the Qur’an. For this dissertation I will focus on verse 34 of Surah Nisa (probably one of the most contentious verses in the Qur’an) to sustain my argument and as an example of application of contextualization as an epistemological method. This particular verse is essential to any discussion of gender equality in Islam and probably represents one of the greatest obstacles that face some feminist scholars. The verse is related to two separate but associated issues. The first part of the verse is concerned with the authority of men over women while the second part of the verse is concerned with the endorsement of physical discipline against women. The Quran is the centre point of Islam from which all flows (Williams,( 1994),7) and this why it needs to be clear from the onset that the Quran for the Muslims is a sacred text, the literal word of God and that they believe that it has an established meaning in accordance with divine revelation. On this premise Muslim feminist scholars are not challenging the Quran per se but are challenging the male monopoly of authority in interpreting the Quran (Bayes,( 2001),49)and they challenge the authenticity of the interpretations of the maleUlama (scholars) of which they argue that it is important to re-read the Qur'an because the 'male-oriented' readings of early and modern scholars and theologians are biased against women. ...(Saeed,(2006),31). One of the many responses to this could be a thematic approach to the Quran and an obvious example is that of the Fazul Rahman (1911-88), probably one of most learned of the major Muslim thinkers in the second-half of the twentieth century, in terms of both classical Islam and Western philosophical and theological discourse(Ekbal,(2009,133). He had rather forceful opponents among Muslim scholarly circles. His detractors referred to him as “the destroyer of hadiths” because of his insistence on judging the weight of hadithreports in the light of the overall spirit of the Quran (Jackson,(2007),66). He is known for being one of the first to apply the hermeneutical method to the Qur’an. As Fernhout points out in his book Canonical texts bearers of absolute authority under the chapter on Crises and Re-conceptualization, “Fazul Rahman challenged the traditional definition of the Qur’an in its conception as recited revelation from Archangel to Prophet”(Fernhount,(1994),231). Rahman argued that there was a subjective aspect to the revelation on the part of its recipient, and that this aspect was what Muslim academic research had thus far failed to appreciate.In his classic work Major themes of the Qur'ān, Rahman unravels the Qur’an’s complexities on themes such as God, society, revelation, and prophecy. A thematic interpretation of the Quran is that, after selecting a theme such as eschatology or one of the prophetic stories and identifying the verses relating to that theme, these verses need to be arranged in logical order, correlated and compared.( Campanini,(2011),125). Another response could be the contextual approach to the interpretation of the Quran. The contextualapproach, is the reading of verses holistically in the political, socio-historical, and social context in which they were revealed in seventh-century Arabia as well as the contemporary context of Muslims today, so that one can unveil a liberal objective thereby emancipating Muslims from the shackles of literal reading. Many contemporary scholars have expressed the view of the importance of independent, critical thinking in Islamic scholarship. Charles Kurzman(b.1960), who is a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Caroline and author of Liberal Islam, identifies three liberal approaches to the Sharia. He defines them simply as Islamic Law. According to his third approach, liberal-interpreted Shari’a, even the most historically accepted and/or orthodox scholarship is open to contestation; moreover, within this type of approach is often the contention that the Quran can and must be reinterpreted according to the new knowledge and new exigencies of a new social context. (Habib,(2010),256) The contextual approach is under the umbrella of liberal Islam and thus promotes the notion that the Shari’aendorses liberalism, gender equality and human rights. As Tariq Ramadan1(b.1962) has observed, the universal principles of the Shari’a need to be actualized, and reason can be active and creative in interpreting those principles. The Shari’a could well be liberally constructed in such a way as to both remain within the principled Shari’a framework of reference, and compatible with universal human rights standards. (Foblets,(2010),198) The verse in question is usually translated as follows: “Men are the protectors and maintainers (qawwamun)of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them”) The verse begins with "men are qawwamunover women". Qawwamunis from the root2 q-w-m. The triliteral root qāf wāw mīm (ق و م) occurs 660 times in the Quran, in 22 derived forms. Qawwamun is the intensive form of qa’im – the usage of this word in the Quran is often with the sense of establishing the religion or the prayer (Salah) (Q2:43, Q2:3, Q2,83, Q4.77, Q5:33). A correlated word is qa'im which has the meaning of "one who stands or makes something stand". Qawwamis an intensive form of qa'im. Therefore when the focus is on an activity itself, starting before and continuing up to or beyond a particular point of time, rather than referring to completed actions, this form is used as a present continuous verb. In other words, it means one who is continuously standing over someone or something, an example of which would be maintaining one’s responsibility. Qawwam3 can be used to mean to undertake, act as custodian, support, tend to , be in charge of, guard, keep up, preserve, watch over, take care of, attend to, look after ,watch over, direct. (Wehr,(1980)798)The qawwam is also understood in the Qur'an to be characterized by fairness. In Q4:134 "O you who believe! Be qawwamin with fairness” also in Q5:8: "O you who believe! Be qawwamin for God as witnesses to fairness..." The Qur'anic exegesis of classical Islam, more commonly known as tafsir (Saleh,2004,1), occupies a revered place among traditional Islamic studies. In the same way that the study of Prophetic tradition, jurisprudence, and the linguistic disciplines were all separately defined traditions of learning, tafsir carved out an exclusive niche for itself among the traditional religious sciences. (Imber,(1997),38) Historically, some of the earliest forms of tafsirs were first encouraged by efforts to preserve and enshrine the sacred text; this attempt was carefully broached through reference to features of the Qur’an’s distinctive language. There has been a wave of criticism from some modern scholars regarding the monopoly of the linguistic approach to the Quran by the classical scholars. An example, of this is the text-linguistic approach to the Quran of the Egyptian literary scholar, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (b1943, d2010). He laments and questions the monopoly of the scholarly religious establishment which claims to be the sole competent source of religious knowledge.(McAuliffe,(2006)) Abu Zayd's denial of the divinity of the Quran constituted proof of his lack of commitment to Islam. (Hirschkind,(2006),134) His writings were subject to a wide variety of criticisms for this and many other reasons. His approach resulted in him becoming exiled in Europe from his homeland Egypt. Abu Zayd argues, that it is essential to concentrate on the historical context of the revelation if we want to differentiate between its historical meaning and its broader, enduring importance.However, since the linguistic apparatus of the Qur'an itself concentrates on the first generation of addressees, that is the audience of seventh-century Arabia, a consciousness of the historicity of the Quran is particularly significant if we are to be able to appreciate its message in a twenty-first century context. After making such a bold claim, Abu Zayd is unable neither to state who is qualified to interpret the Quran, nor to clarify what the prerequisites for his text-linguistic approach actually are. The need to draw out and contextualize the text’s content consequently witnessed the development of broader and more all-inclusive explanatory treatments of the Qur’an. Critically, methodologies and strategies aimed at regulating such activity were shortly devised by a tafsir4 movement. Muslim historians record that the tafsir science was developed by the end of the third/ninth century. (Saeed,(2006),10) A significant amount of literature, which set out principles and guidelines for the study of tafsir, had become prolific. (Welch,(1980),631) A tafsīr can vary in its methodological approach, sometimes focusing on the occasion of revelation, jurisprudence, theology, or the inter-dimensions of verses. It may also be a verse-by-verse commentary, or focus instead on themes. According to Andrew Rippin5(b.1950), tafsir, an Arabic word meaning interpretation, is itself used only once in the Qur'an - Q25:33. However there is much discussion in various Arabic sources concerning the exact meaning of this term and its relationship with other technical words such as ma‘ani, ta’wil and shar‘, all of which denote "interpretation" in some way. (Rippin,(1987),236) The early classical tafsir movement(Leaman,(2008),629) was assiduous in persevering and taking full monopoly of the linguistic approach to the Quran. This could have been out of their concern for preserving their religion. Compared to the classical , modern and contemporary tafsirs generally dwell more on the ethical issues in culture, society, politics, and economics and less on points of theology or aspects of language (grammar and rhetoric). (Esposito, Haddad,(1998),33) It is argued that some of the early commentators were under the influence of medieval ethos and used this verse as a proof of divine sanction for male superiority. Ibn Kathir6 (1301–1373), probably one of the best-known historians and traditionists of Syria under the Bahri Mamluk dynasty (Singh,(2004),399) is a good example of this; he was of the opinion, that men have authority over women because they are inherently better than women, and hence prophecy has been limited to men. Therefore, there are some tasks that women are incapable of doing - for instance, women cannot be rulers. (Ibn Kathir,(2009),242) However, he does add that on this premise a man should be a woman’s maintainer, caretaker and leader who can discipline her if she rebels. Within modern Qur’a nic exegesis, MuhammadAsad (1900-92), a noted modernist commentator, translates the verse in his commentary The Message of the Qur'an; The expression qawwam is one who is responsible for" or "takes care of" a thing or a person. Thus,qama 'ala l-mar'ah signifies "he undertook the maintenance of the woman" or "he maintained her" (see Lane VIII, 2995). “I have rendered this phrase "men shall take full care of women.”(Asad,(2008),145) Probably one of the most interesting interpretations is of Muhammad Shahrours, born in 1938 in Damascus. He is an Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering. His 1990 book, The Book and the Quran: A contemporary Reading, earned him both popularity and controversy. (Kamrava,(2007(,143) Perhaps one the most creative aspects of Shahrur’s reading of Q4:34 is that he goes further than the conventional feminist scholars. Shahrur does not subscribe at all to the men-women or husband-wife polarity that this verse seems to suggest. He argues that the key subject matter of the verse is al-qiwama, that is, leadership not the relationship between spouses. In order to prove his approach he reads al-rijal and al-nisa" not as ‘men’ or ‘women’ respectively. Instead, he reads them as gender neutral nouns and proposes that both in fact mean men and women. He ties to hold his ground by taking the reader to al-rijal in Q24:37 and in rijalan Q2:239; Q22:27 to prove his point. Shahrur says, “The point we want to make is that the terms rajul-rijal(sing.-pl.) are semantically not exclusively restricted to denote maleness. The generic sense of the term is ‘to walk’ or ‘to go on foot’ which is in neither case a prerogative of the male sex.” (Shaḥrūr, Christmann,(2009),272) Shahrur goes on to define the noun al-nisa according to his interpretation: “Similarly, the term al-nisa" does not only mean ‘women’ but also expresses an ungendered notion of delay, deferral, or postponement. He further adds that, “The Arabs say ‘the delivery has been postponed’ or ‘Zayd is late’, both expressions using the related term al-nisa" (connoting deferment), as does Q9:37 ‘Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) ( al-nisa) is an addition to unbelief...’”( (Shaḥrūr, Christmann,(2009),272) Shahrur’s interpretation is daring, radical, and refreshing. Yet it also leaves a number of questions unanswered. One of these concerns Shahrur’s choice of the sources that he accepted and asks how he was selectively critical of the sources that he rejected. There are seventy verses in the Quran in which the word rijal is used to denote the male sex and it is not always possible to bend or twist the meanings to accommodate Shahrur’s meaning of the word. For examples, in Q27:557, Q33:408 the meaning of the words clearly denotes ‘men’, not both genders and therefore highlights the inconsistency of his interpretation. If the word is to mean both genders, why does it not work in this example as in many others? This leaves a sense of the seemingly arbitrary nature of the manner in which he has applied this meaning. As for the physical disciplining of women, this part of the verse outlines the nature of the relationship between men and women within the family unit and addresses the critical point when this relationship is threatened by rebelliousness or disobedience (nushuz) of a wife. Though the verse is thematically associated to the following one9, it has received a mixed response both from classical and contemporary scholars. As for contemporary scholars, they have recognised the issues raised by the verse of wife-beating, especially in Islam’s encounter with the Western world, where notions of a gender equality regime have emerged, identifiable by its norms, principles, legal instruments and compliance mechanisms. An alternative approach is voiced by these scholars, especially some of them who are suspicious of certain hadiths10related by Abu Huraya (Rhouni,(2010)220) and Umar ibn al Khattab11. They question why the verb daraba12must be understood as beating or hitting in this context. They argue that the same verb (daraba) has been used in a number of places in the Quran with different connotations. Furthermore, they add that the Quranic depiction of women in other verses as full human beings and partners in the relationship of marriage cannot be reconciled with scriptural permission for physical chastisement. (Leaman,(2008),392) This alternative approach promotes that daraba (to beat) has many connotations in Arabic, and advocates a substitutemeaning that is devoid of the standard, aggressive words such as beat, hit, smack, etc. A spectrum of fresh alternative interpretations is given by these scholars. For example Abdulhamid Sulayman, a contemporary researcher,notesthat the most accurate meaning of daraba is “to separate.”( Ahmed,(2009),35) In a new widely published translation of the Quran The Sublime Quran, the American Muslim feminist Laleh Bakhtiar13 renders the verse as "… go away from them,"(Spencer,(2009),171) based on the same usage ofdaraba 'anhu in Lane's Lexicon. Her translation is based on the notion that every verse of the Qur'an was embodied by the Prophet. Since there is no tradition that states that he ever hit any of his wives but only separated from them for a period of time during a domestic dispute, Bakhtiar argues that this must be his living example of what the verse means. This interpretation is appealing, but it is open for a grammatical debate. Grammatically, her interpretation is inaccurate since daraba is a muta’addin or “transitive” verb, that is it requires a direct object. Also, the preposition ‘an, is required (from) which is absent in the verse. This is pointed out by Jeffrey Lang in his book Losing My Religion: A Call for Help: Daraba acquires the meaning of "to separate" in combination with baina, and the meanings of "to turn away from", "to leave", "to avoid", and "to shun" in combination with 'an. In the passage in question (4:34), daraba is not combined with either of these prepositions. ”(Lang,( 2004), 429) Traditionally, while Muslims do locate verses within the “situation of revelation”(asbab alnuzul) to help illuminate their meaning and context (Bennett,(2009),9), this was on the notion that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in stages over a period of 23 years, and not as a complete book in one single act of revelationand hence many verses were a direct response to the Prophet’s circumstances. However, some Quranic scholars argue that some chapters do not require knowledge of the original context. Their content, they say, is unrelated to particular circumstances and makes clear sense without contextualization. (Bennett,(2009),9) As a contemporary example of a contextual approach of this verse and maybe an appropriate case of the use of a Qur’anic verse being conditioned by social context and time, is the work of the Tunisian scholarMuhammad al-Tahir ibn ‘Ashur’s (1879 -1973). In his Tafsir Ibn 'Ashur he comments on verse Q4:34, that “it was revealed in a society and a period when wife-beating was acceptable especially amongst the desert Bedouin. It was not seen as transgression, even by the women of that society.” He goes on to emphasize that in present times, the verse is abused by men, who have a violent disposition and are aggressive towards their spouses and they justify their ill behaviour by referring to this verse. Therefore, he argues that the government would be within its rights to make domestic violence a crime and punish any man who beats his wife.”(Ibn ‘Ashur,(2000),39-42) However, the responses by classical scholars to the physical disciplining of women have concentrated more on the severity of the physical disciplining than the permission of hitting per se. One of them is Al-Dahhak Muzahim, an early commentator of the Quran. His exegesis is one of the first exegesis to come from Balkh, northern Afghanistan. The exegesis was heavily used by later exegetes. Al-Thalabi used four recensions of his work. (Saleh,(2004),247) Al-Dahhak stressed that hitting must not be violent or cause any agony . This is the same stance taken by al Tabri, Razi and the Andalusian scholar Abu Hayyan Muhammad bin Yusuf bin Ali, best known as Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi. In the modern era, the Egyptian reformer Muhammad 'Abdu (1849-1905)who was greatly influenced by Jamal ud-Din al-Afghani, the founder of the modern pan-Islamic movement (Haddad, Voll, Esposito,(1991),4)and his student Rashid Rida argue in their Quranic energies Tafsir al-Qur'an al-hakim (Commentary on the Wise Qur'an) usually referred to as Tafsir al-manar,( Dudoignon, Komatsu, Kosug,(2006),10) that the beating must not be harmful. However, paradoxically on the one hand, Abduh wrote part of a treaties entitled The Liberation of women ,with his student Qasim Amin (Murphy, Spear,(2011),165), that called for women’s reform. On the other hand, he claimed that it is neither contrary to reason nor unnatural to beat women, but he added that this is a measure that can only be justified under exceptional circumstances, especially when the moral apparatus of society is seriously under-mined. (Rida,(1963),76) Mawdudi(1903-1979)was seen by some as the greatest architect of the contemporary Islamic revival and was considered by many to be the most outstanding Islamic thinker and writer of our time. Mawdudi, who was influenced by Hasan al- Banna (Lane, Redissi, Ṣaydāwī,(2009),258), explains that the husband may rebuke hiswife. If this is ineffective, he may escalate to sexual deprivation, to be followed by a physical beating, controlled to avoid physical harm or disfigurement. (Shehadeh,(2003),34) He further asserts that “there are some women who do not mend their ways without a beating.”(Barnett,(2005),342) In the contemporary context, Yusuf al-Qaradawi is widely regarded as one of the most respected and authoritative of contemporary scholars. He represents an independent scholar who created his own concept of Islamic law (ʻIzz al-Dīn,(2004),145). In his most acclaimed book, 'The lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, he writes that a man is “entitled to the obedience and cooperation of his wife, and that if he does not receive this, as a last resort, he can “beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument which might cause pain and injury.”(Qardawi,(1997),200) The dissertation will now concentrate on a contemporary Muslim feminist and her approaches to Q4:34. Amina Wadud is an African-American scholar of Qur'anic exegesis. (Saeed,(2008),225) She earned a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan in 1988. After completing her Ph.D., she taught at Qar Younis University in Libya, the International Islamic University in Malaysia. (Stange,Oyster,Sloan,(2011),1533) She is now a professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Wadud caused a stir in 2005 when she led a mixed-gender prayer service in Manhattan. The service was held at an Episcopal church after three mosques refused to hostit. (Marshall,Shea,(2011),276) In her book ‘Quran and Women’ Wadud embarks on a “gender jihad” in order to improve gender-related norms in the Muslim world and bring them into harmony with Quranic ideals. To attain this objective she says, “I propose a hermeneutics of tawhid (unity)to emphasize how the unity of the Qur'an permeates all its parts.” (Wadud,(1999),12) In her choice of approach Wadud is influenced by Fazul Rahman’s idea of a Quranic Weltanschauung (world-view). (Ashrof,(2005),269)She argues that she hopes to “explicate certain underlying hermeneutical assumptions about the significance of female inclusive exegesis, which ultimately will need to be incorporated into the main corpus of Qur'anic exegesis.” (Wadud,(1999),12) Wadud further emphasizes the focus of the language and its contextual usage.She draws the attention to how the “relationship between universals and particulars would also bear on our understanding the Qur'an's usage of particular terms. ” (Wadud,(1999),13) If one were to apply a contextual analysis to what Wadud is alluding to, it can be seen that she demonstrates that, “language is relevant to the issue of women in that the text establishes a trajectory of social, political, and moral possibilities.”(Wadud,(1999),13) Wadud argues that the Quran, through many of the gender reforms it set in motion in seven-century Arabia, starts a trajectory of gender revolution that Muslims must continually develop. As an example of continually developing on a reform, Wadud highlights the Muslim abolition of slavery, even though the Quran does not overtly advocate the eradication of an institution which is clearly applicable to patriarchy and male dominance. She writes: “Clearly, we were able to stop the institution of slavery and never charged ourselves with violating the text.”(Rhouni,(2010),265) In other words, if the interpretive communities had kept to their literal reading of verses dealing with slavery, “following only the explicit references in the Qur'an would never have led to the eradication of it as an institution.” (Wadud,(1999),13) It seems, that Wadud’s approach is the task of analyzing the place of women in the Quran in order to show how this text is still relevant once reinterpreted. She wrote that if the Quranic concept of women “had been fully implemented in the practical sense, then Islam would have been a global motivating force for women's empowerment.”(Kirk-Duggan, Kassam, Eason,(2010),150) Now we will look at how Wadud applies her Weltanschauung to a contextual reading of verse Q4:34: Wadud and feminist scholars such as Asma Barlas, Maysum Faruqi, Riffat Hassan all argue that Q4:34reflects an ameliorative Qur'anic response to very particular and contextually based seventh-century Arabia gender norms. (Maguire,(2007),73) However, Wadud takes a different stance from the majority of exegetes in her reading of nushuz. They read it as a wife’s disobedience to her husband. Wadud argues that “it cannot mean 'disobedience to the husband,” (Wadud,(1999),75) “since the Qur'an uses nushuz for both the male and the female.”(Wadud,(1999),75) So Wadud laments, that it does not imply that a good wife means that she is obliged by a Quranic injunction to be an obedient wife. Wadud argues her point by stating that “the Qur’an never orders a woman to obey her husband.” (Wadud,(1999),77) She further alludes, “It never states that obedience to their husbands is a characteristic of the 'better women.'” (Wadud,(1999),77) Wadud takes us back to her approach and wants us to look through her lens by stating that “such an interpretation has no universal potential and contradicts the essence of the Qur’an and the established practices of the Prophet.” (Wadud,(1999),77) Yet although Wadud confidently mentions, “contradicts… established practices of the Prophet,”she somehow fails to present a single Prophetic tradition to support her stance. Whereas, it could be argued that the hadith corpus is plentiful of traditions that call upon wives to be obedient to their husbands.14Paradoxically, Wadud argues - somewhat ambiguously - that this verse means that the wife’s obedience to her husband is only to be understood on the premise that “in marriages of subjugation, wives did obey their husbands, usually because they believed that a husband who materially maintains his family, including the wife, deserves to be obeyed.” (Wadud,(1999),74) Wadud analyses the word daraba linguistically, applying thereby both her notion of a forward trajectory and her contextualized approach. It seems difficult for Wadud to run away from the meaning of the verb daraba. She is left with no choice but to accept its definition. Wadud says, “It cannot be overlooked, however, that verse Q4:34 does state the third suggestion using the word daraba, 'to strike'. (Wadud,(1999),76) However, she argues, like other commentators, that the severity of the strike needs to be analysed within a linguistic context. The verb daraba used in Q4:34 is of form one, not the intensified second form. 15 Wadud says, “It is, however, strongly contrasted to the second form, the intensive, of this verb—darraba: to strike repeatedly or intensely. (Wadud,(1999),76) With her Weltanschauungof the Qur’an in mind Wadud argues that the three steps: verbal discussion, separation, and only as a last resort physical discipline, were a severe restriction to the existing praxis of unchecked violence against women (Samoleit,(2008),17) that is, if the “cooling-off period” (Wadud,(1999),76) fails, the verse does not endorse unchecked domestic violence. This final stage is only applied after all other measures fail and furthermore she adds, “the nature of the ‘scourge’ cannot be such as to create conjugal violence or a struggle between the couple because that is ‘un-Islamic. (Wadud,(1999),75) In her argument, she stresses that verse Q4:34 is actually a liberation of women from pre-Islamic Arabic. A critical analysis of Wadud’s approach shows that her reading of Q4:34 is somehow a projection of issues close to her heart in a 21st century context. She argues that, “my analysis tends to restrict the meaning of many passages to a particular subject, event, or context. These restrictions are based on the context of the verses or on application of general Qur'anic concepts of justice towards humankind, human dignity, equal rights before the law. ” (Wadud,(1999),63) Wadud’s approach presents a theological flaw. It seems that her reading is more subjective and somehow challenges the Quranic worldview. So if the Quranic worldview contradicts her approach then somehow she feels qualified to say “no to the Quran.” Wadud argues in her book Inside the Gender Jihad that, “ I have always felt positively inspired by the Quranic worldview and this inspiration incites me in addressing these challenges and in researching the works of other scholars. This scholarly transfertilisation is instrumental in helping unveil possible paths through the Quran as consolidated utterance – or fixed text – as well as an utterance or text in process. One important aspect of this challenge confronts the possibility of refuting the text, to talk back, to even say no.” (Wadud,(2006),191) In conclusion, there still lies a fundamental dilemma in the claim that one is substituting one incorrect reading for a correct one. What can be said is that contextual reading is a useful methodology in reconciling some of the more challenging verses from a modernist or feminist perspective and an aid in dismantling the apparatus of a 'male-oriented' reading. However, the contextual approach does leave some questions unanswered. A critique of the approach could pose some questions. For example, one could throw into question the fact that leading scholars and thinkers were not exclusively but predominantly male during the Abbasid period as in any other period, even to our present time. Even if this is true, how is it significant? If those Abbasid Scholars had been predominantly women, is it to say that they would have been inherently more honest and qualified? On what premise can a contextualized approach claim to come up with the only ‘correct’ reading? If the reading is not the only correct version, why not? The Muslims did not have sophisticated methods to record dates and times. The Hadith literature and the Prophet’s life were sources used by classical Muslim scholars in order to make sense of dates of historical events. The Quran and the Prophet are silent on the dates when the Quranic chapters were revealed. The Prophet is the main character in the story of Islam, yet his date of birth is disputed by Muslim historians; so how do these modern scholars apply the contextual approach without resorting to the above sources? There is a notion that needs to be addressed within the feminist community that is “the Prophet wanted one thing and God wanted something else.” This no doubt contradicts what God says: in Q53:3-4 “He does not speak from his own desire; it is nothing less than an inspiration that is inspired to him.”They have not given a clear systematic approach on how they approach the hadith literature and how they are able to come up with historical data and hadiths that are conveniently compatible with their approach? 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2 Arabic words are based on a root that uses three consonants to define the underlying meaning of the word. Various vowels, prefixes and suffixes are used with the root letters to create the desired inflection of meaning. Each set of root letters can lead to a vast number of words, all predictable in form and all related to the basic meaning of the three root letters. 3 We read in Edward William Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, based on the classical Arabic lexicons such as Taj -al-`arus,Lisan al-`arab and Raghib's famous Mufradatof the Quran, that it means he under took her affairs, and that men are mindful of their women, act well to them, or care for them. Also, it can mean maintainer, caretaker, provider, and supporter, rather than an authoritarian or tyrannical, it implies one who stands firm in the affairs of others, protects their welfare, and looks after them.
4 The Word tafsir is derived from fasr, which means “clarification” and “exposing” what has been covered up”(Al Fayyumi,(1997),245). Jurjani says in Kitab al –Tahrifat that “Tafsir originally is ‘exposure’ and ‘making manifest’ As for the technical meaning of tafsir, Juhani explains that: “With respect to scripture it means: clarifying—the meaning of the verse, its status, its background, and the reason about which it was revealed –with an expression that indicates it ostensibly.”(Al Jurjani,(1995),63).
5 Professor of Islamic History Specialist in the Qur'an and the history of its interpretation University of Victoria, Canada
6 His Tafsir ibn Kathir is one of the most mainstream and widely-accepted of Islamic texts.
7 Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly."
8 Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah , of all things, Knowing.
9 And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things].Q4:35
10 Prophetic tradition
11 Second of the four "rightly guided" Khulafa in Sunni Islam
12 The triliteral root a-ra-baoccurs 58 times in the Quran: 13 Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has a BA in History from Chatham College in Pennsylvania, an MA in Philosophy, an MA in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Educational Foundations.
14 Somehow, the following tradition from many has been deliberately ignored by Wadud, because they probably contradict her approach or she has sincerely never come across them in her research. The following tradition is from a scholar that the majority Muslim accept. Wadud uses Ahmad’s collection of ahadith in his Musnad of The Hadith of Umm Waraqah to argue the permissibility and validity of a woman’s leading Salaah. So it odd, that she does refer to Imam Ahmad’s Musnad in the following. Ahmad narrates that the Prophet said; (1) “If a woman prays her five daily prayers, fasts her month (of Ramadan),obeys her husband and guards her chastity, then it will be said to her: ‘Enter Paradise by whichever of its gates you wish (Haythami,(1970),306)
15 The meaning of the root form is strengthened, either by making the act more final, or making it more intense and wider in application, eg. Kasara means to break in form 1. Kassara means to smash in form 2. Qatala means to kill in form 1. Qattala means to massacre in form 2.






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Muslims in Britain

According to Islamic law (Shari’ah), it is necessary for Muslims living in a non-Muslim land, such as Britain, to be honest, upright and just. Specifically, it is completely forbidden for a Muslim who is living under the security of the non-Muslim state to engage in any form of violence or terrorism against his non-Muslim neighbours, as has been stated very clearly in the famous classical manual of Islamic law, ‘ The Hidayah.

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