Saturday, October 17, 2009

Watershed Post

So this is one of those “watershed” posts that took me a while to write, and that really comes from deep down. I hope that everyone can spare some time to read it, and I would love comments, advice, criticism, and discussion. Insha’Allah. And I hope you like the new layout! It was designed by one of the most amazing people I know. Thanks AC.

I just began reading “On Being a Muslim” by Farid Esack, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Islam, particularly post-modern Islam. It is such an inspiring book! Not only did it make me get emotional several times, but it changed the way I saw this blog. I realized that more often than not, I blog about the negatives in Islam, because those are the things that occupy me the most. To me, Islam is such a perfect religion and the Qur’an is such a perfect text, that it really bothers me when people twist what is in it. But what’s the point? What am I changing or accomplishing by only writing about the negative aspects of Muslims and Islam? Wouldn’t it be better for others, and for me, to blog about the multitude of beautiful and inspirational things to be found in Islam?

Yes! So i’A from now on, there will be more positive thoughts. Of course I’ll still vent and rant every now and then (let’s face it, we Muslims are facing a lot of problems) but I also want to write about things in Islam that make me happy and inspire me.

Since this is my last post before I start “blogging-positively”, I have one final rant.

Farid Esack is definitely a feminist, and I love this the most about him. In 1997 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to be head of the Gender Commission in South Africa. His chapter “on being with the gendered other” is phenomenal, despite the fact that it was very hard for me to swallow. This part in particular: “How do women seeking gender justice really derive support and inspiration from a tradition whose icons are either all men or isolated women who inevitably draw their “legitimacy” from their relationship to males: wife, daughter, narrator of traditions, mother of a prophet. Is there really any place for gender justice within a theology rooted in a seemingly ahistorical and stable text such as the Qur’an, which is inescapably patriarchal?” Esack also points out that the Qur’an for the most part, appears to address men.

There are times when I wonder whether there is a “women problem” in Islam at all, or whether I am blowing it out of proportion. Most of the time, though, I know there is a huge problem, and that we need to deal with it.

“There are many sensitive women who simply cannot, with any self-respect, live alongside the idea of a God who reduces them to half of men. For them, and for the men who identify with them, it thus is very much a question of faith, and a very personal and deeply held one too.”

He managed to sum up, in one paragraph, what I have been trying to say on this blog since I started it. He also points out that we cannot go on pretending that the only injustice done to women is by Muslim men. Rather, there are also problems with the Shari’ah. “While in a few areas of life Islamic legal thinking has kept up with human progress and produced new insights, in many others, including gender justice, it hasn’t. The religious landlords among us - all male - have aborted the process set in motion by the Prophet: we have betrayed the prophetic injunction of justice and equality for all of Allah’s people.”

On women preaching in mosques (a la Amina Wadud), he quoted this Christian minister:

“I refuse to preach in a church which does not allow women to preach there. In effect, they are telling me that I am OK because of something between my legs which women do not have and, frankly, I do not think that that is enough reason for me to qualify to preach!”

The day I hear a sheikh (especially an Arab one) say this, is the day I know that we are going somewhere. Esack writes,

“We need to ask what exactly it is that we are afraid of; is it really women speaking in mosques? Is it the loss of our own faith at the hands of “modernists”, the uncertainty as to where all of these “new ideas” will lead? Is it the loss of power that we as males exercise over women? Is it the loss of authority that we as religious leaders exercise over people? Is it our own sense of masculinity that is being threatened? If it is, then is it not more rewarding to look deep into ourselves and personal histories and study this hunger for power, this desire for authority and our own deep-seated sexual insecurity?”

Another subject he wrote about was the idea that Muslims should not befriend Jews or Christians, or non-Muslims in general. He gave this touching example:

“In South Africa there are a number of Muslims who have spent various periods in prison with Nelson Mandela, who comes from a Methodist background. Can these Muslims simply ignore the Qur’anic text that says “Do not take the Jews and the Christians as your friends; they are friends unto each other” (5:51)? If they want to remain Muslims and at the same time remain true to the experience of a shared comradeship in the jails of apartheid then they have seriously to rethink many things connected to this text. What is the context of this verse within the rest of the text? What is the context of its revelation? Who were the specific Jews and Christians referred to in this verse? Under what historical circumstances was this revealed? What are the different meanings of awliya (allies)? What is the sense of this verse in the light of other such verses and how do they qualify or amplify each other? What does this verse mean in the light of the basic spirit of the Qur’an which is one of justice and compassion?"

To me, believing that we cannot interact with non-Muslims means that we are reducing our complex identities to just being “Muslim” and nothing else. What about my identity as a woman, as a student, as Egyptian, as Dutch, as Zambian, as a sister, as a daughter? Should I cut all of that out if it involves interacting with non-Muslims? My mother is not Muslim, some of my best friends are not Muslim, many of my professors are not Muslim, and about 95% of Holland is not Muslim. What does that mean for me? I’m sorry, but I cannot and will not reduce myself to such a narrow interpretation of the Qur’an, because it does not seem logical to me that God would want me to reduce my identity to being only one thing. Like Tariq Ramadan said in his debate with Hirsi, “don’t reduce me to being only a Muslim.”

The questions above that are in bold are key for me. I think if we use them to understand the Qur’an in general, then we can probably reach a better and more enlightened understanding of the text than if we just believe whatever the ulama say. The ulama have a role, but so do we. And I think those questions will especially help me tackle the gender aspects of the Qur’an, especially those regarding polygamy, “beating”, inheritance, and bearing witness.

“You should really visit our area the next time you come. You’d be delighted to know how alive Islam is there; you won’t find a single woman on our streets!” Esack’s guide in Uzbekistan.

“We are terrified of our own weakness. Most of us feel so terribly inadequate as persons that we require another species to feel superior to. It is, of course, unfashionable, at least in public, to feel superior to the Blacks, the Berbers, the Bushies, the Pathans, the Miabhais or the Kashmiris. Thank heavens, women will always be around! (If not, we’ll always have the Jews to fall back on of course.) Unable to assume responsibility for our vulnerabilities, we blame women and they end up carrying the burden of both their own fall - after being pushed by us - and our fall.

And then we say that women are the weaker sex?” Farid Esack (my new hero!)


NoortheNinjabi said...

MashaAllah, very thought provoking post. I posted a response on mine. JazakaAllah khair sweetheart!

Umm Omar said...

First of all, I LOVE the layout. very nice! Secondly, I'm feeling this new approach of yours. I struggled a bit with the same issues when I started blogging and came to the same conclusions you're coming to now. And finally, about the rest of the post...I really liked the example here about taking Jews & Christians as friends and the questions that need to be considered when reading such a verse. There are plenty of ayat in the Quran that are immediately understood; their meanings are explicit, and there are other verses like this one where we are expected to look a little closer & think a little harder. I see this balance as one of the blessings of the Quran; we need to be able to immediately access the Quran at times and other times, we need to be able to employ our reasoning/logic/skills/resources.

I don't believe there is a woman problem in Islam. I do believe that we look at everything through a Western eye (whether we live in the West or not) and with all of the associated stigma/preconceived notions/conditioned beliefs. And on the other hand, I feel that the Muslims who enforce/promote injustice towards Muslim women look at everything through a very rigid/black & white perspective. Imagine if we could all remove ourselves from humanity and become flies on the wall. How would we look at all of this then? What would our measuring sticks by which we judge be made of? What realities would be made clear to us?
Well, these are just some of my thoughts. You gave us so much to think about. Hope I made some sense!

Ikram Kurdi said...

I have some problems with this post but unfortunately I don't yet have the wisdom to present a good reply.

I read an article by a woman who said she didn't want to give khutbas. That she didn't need to compare herself to men because her standard was Allah, not men.

I don't deny the fact that many Muslim imams are cowards who can't speak against abuse against women.

Below the 1900's nobody seems to have ever hard a problem with the way women were viewed as inferior beings. Allah has taught the Muslims a great deal of lessons by the West in the last century.

marzuki said...

Hey there Cairo,

Firstly, e layout: I like e clean feel and graphics. However, I think it'll be great if u could widen e space where e text are by narrowing e white spaces at e sides. Your blog's as wordy as mine so it'll be easier to read sthg wider.

You said, "What am I changing or accomplishing by only writing about e negative aspects of Muslims and Islam? Wouldn’t it be better …… to blog about e multitude of beautiful and inspirational things … in Islam?" I say, (:

Re Eseck's qns on women preaching in mosque: I dun see a concern for it. At least where i come from, no one's stopping women frm preaching.

“It is well known that Aishah used to address people whenever there was a need to do so in order to clarify an issue or pass on a valuable piece of information. Thus when she heard that, following Abu Bakr’s death, some people were criticizing him for some of his policies, she gathered them and addressed them covering all of e points they had raised. She then asked them, whether they still had any question, to which all of them remained quiet, for they could not but be convinced of her presentation.

Thanks to e legacy of Aishah, Umm Salamah and others, Islam produced hundreds of women scholars, who were known for their expertise in various fields such as hadith and fiqh. Even some of e greatest imams such as Imam Shafi, Ibn Taymiyya, Dhahabi, and Ibn Hajar had women scholars as teachers. Dr. Akram Nadvi has brought out a multi-volume work on women scholars in Islam.” []

On befriending Jews and Christians, perhaps that quote is purely contextual and applies to some specific context back then. Not too sure about taking it too literally but here's something i found:

...."In actual fact, e word 'auliya' has several meanings in Arabic including friend, helper, protector or ally. The meaning depends on e context of e particular verse in question. In e verse above [5:51], 'auliya' refers to a moral alliance that is, forbidding Muslims to prefer of e way of e life of e Christians and Jews to e Muslim way of life. However, we must be clear that a prohibition of moral alliance with non-Muslims does not constitute an injunction against normal, friendly relations with those who treat Muslim well and with respect.

In e Quran, it has been mentioned that Muslims are not commanded to fight e non-Muslims or having sense of enmity towards them. "As for such [of e unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does no forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably"(60:8)

Islam also commands that justice be upheld even towards one's enemies. Mercy is at e heart of e Islamic call - a totally different message to what e terrorists are sadly imparting to humanity. "O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witness to fair dealing, and let not e hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-aquainted with all that ye do"(5:8) ... []

You know I'm of e view that if a lady thinks she's capable of moving mountains, why not?

However, a friend brought this up that might show that men are the stronger gender:

Men are e protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given e one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore e righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (e husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their, beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (34) Surah An-Nisa

I guess what one may lack can most probably be found in e other. He created us in pairs afterall.

Anonymous said...

First, I hope you don't stop ranting and raving.. We have to talk about the negative, it has it's place, it should not be ignored or denied.. Not talking about it is, in a sense, giving it power over us..

I agree though, it must be balanced with the positive, otherwise we are no better than the hatemongers we despise for being prejudice against Islam.

Women have always had a special place in the realm of oppression, because it is so close to us. Our partners, brothers, fathers, sons, family and community. Race can at least be divided, separated, but gender is so much more complex.

Women the weaker sex? Ha! I can remember the point I became a feminist. I had grown up with my mother always doing everything for me.. I never learned to cook, didn't have to clean, and basically was free to act and be as I pleased. It wasn't until I married and was asked "when are you going to start cooking?" that I realized the role that is expected of all of us.. this is also when I realized and embraced the strength of women worldwide, and the similar struggle we all share. Some more than others.

Since my conversion to feminism from freedom/ignorance, I have come upon the conclusion that patriarchy, conservative religion, has a direct and immediate effect on women. How we are raised, taught, and how we learn to think. In a sense, we are taught not to be ourselves, but instead to be the image that pleases, the servant.

Do some Islamic texts, rules, rituals, etc.. teach women this exact same stereotypical role? Yes! I can remember asking my husband why I can't lead prayer, in order for him to hear me out loud and see if I was pronouncing correctly.. He went through a careful explanation of why women cannot lead prayer.. this was hard for me.. Not because I am one who feels the need to lead, but because of the recitation we are supposed to say when declaring our intention.. "I pray fard Isha AS FOLLOWER in the name of Allah most high." Ok, not so bad, or crazy, or whatever.. But what I think about a lot, and possibly too much, is the effect that must have on a woman's thinking when she is always the follower in her household, and every day, 5 times a day, she is repeating these words. Just one thing I think about. I can't make myself use those words, I refuse.

What impact does this have on our girls? How does this small thing change their thoughts about who they are? Maybe it makes no impact... Still, I think about it. Being single, this doesn't really come up, but as a wife, I find I am faced with repeating this over and over again... As Follower...

Possibly, coming from a secular public AND personal life (until I converted) I don't place as much weight on rituals, certain texts, etc.. because these are not things that were ingrained in my mind as a born Muslim would have experienced.. I think the book you are reading sounds like it is really teaching something important.

I agree about religion being patriarchal, it is why we must search for our own role models, such as Asra Q. Nomani.. Many Muslims call her a fake, non practicing, but to me she is an inspiration.. She delves into the women of Islam's history, specifically Hajar, and proclaims to the world the kind of Muslim she is.. She is a single mother, and she refuses to be ashamed. She is also a practicing Muslim.
Anyways, I bring her up because she was the one who told me Islam can be mine. Her book was what taught me that there is not just one rigid interpretation of religion.

I think turning my back on non Muslims would be to turn my back on my heritage. My entire family is non Muslim, so as a convert, I know that these parts of the Quran are based in a certain time period, geared toward a certain situation and historical event.

I lean towards love, tolerance, and acceptance.. I follow this over ritual and rule and what others tell me is proper.

But that is just me.

Hicham Maged said...

This is an excellent thought-provoking post. I encourage you to go for blogging about the bright side but I want to mention a note regarding the negativs.

In my opinion, they are not of 'Islam' but of 'Muslims' because it's only Muslims who apply their interpretation for Islam either right or wrong so Islam itself is pure and bright.

Anyway I am glad to find your blog and looking forward to reading more of your future posts, Cairo-Lusaka-Amsterdam :)

SarahC said...

I always get something positive from your posts. You do paint the Islam you believe in beautifully and you come across as really strong in your faith. But I also look forward to reading your new more positive angle!

I read a book by Farid Esack a while back and I was impressed by him.

I think I'm a little bit more old-fashioned than you about the roles of men and women. I think a lot of western women are attracted to the traditional feminine role in Islam. Not just Islam but Catholicism too (in which women can't be priests). I think it's possible to think like that without feeling inferior or subordinate to men... but all the repressive cultural stuff (you touched on some of it) unfortunately just blurs the lines and puts a bad spin on gender differences, for sure.

ellen557 said...

I must say, I will miss your posts talking about negative aspects... don't forget to do that from time to time, because these issues can't be forgotten about.
I agree with you re women preaching - Fatima (a.s.) the daughter of the Prohpet, for example, is very famous for a sermon that she gave and also for teaching others about Islam. I haven't studied Aisha's life but it seems to me that she also gave a lot of her time to relating hadiths about her husband.
I think a lot of men who think that woman should not be educating are not in the right frame of mind because most of those men would use hadiths narrated by Aisha and then maybe they would quote Fatima's (a.s.) sermon! So they accept women from the Prophet but then cannot take his example and accept their own family members doing such things.

And I don't really think there's a "women problem" in Islam, BUT with Muslims, then yes there certainly IS a problem. We can't forget that. I can go on and on about the Prophet's daughter (a.s.) and his wives and his female descendents, e.g. the role of Zainab (a.s.) but in the end, Muslims today haven't embraced the role that women filled back then. I can't understand why - when there are such clear examples of the things that women used to do then why can't men just acknowledge them??
I really think that many Muslim men are more comfortable believing in hadiths that have been proved wrong as opposed to what actually happened.

If you haven't yet, I'd recommend checking out Amina Wadud's books :)

Nzingha said...

I converted some 19 years ago and I've asked the same questions you are now. I've grown, as a Muslim and as a woman and I think that has aided me in my understanding of some of these issues.

There are some quotes I would disagree with Esack on.. "or isolated women who inevitably draw their “legitimacy” from their relationship to males: wife, daughter, narrator of traditions, mother of a prophet."

I don't necessarily agree with this. For one i don't think all of our female examples are dependent on men. I do believe however that they are 'legitamised' by men with their connection to men. This is a historical happening vs it being an inherit aspect of the issue. For instance.. Mary holds her own devoid of male dependency. That she was chosen to birth Isa pbuh was in connection with who she was as an individual woman. They are in fact on their own dependent women.. it is those who seek to define them by men that do so.. it isn't a necessary point of them as female figures outside of the reader. Get what I'm saying??

there are other things I would say.. but I've run out of time :) Interesting post

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor: thanks for your sweet comment and for your post. It really made me think!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Umm Omar: I love what you said about some ayat in the Qur'an being immediately clear, and some needing more understanding and research.

Maybe I should clarify what I said in my post. I think there is a problem with Muslims and women, not with Islam (the Qur'an, the religion) and women. It's about interpretations and laws more than the actual text or Sunnah.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ikram: I'm sure there are many women that do not want to lead prayer, but there are some that do, like Amina Wadud. The question is why should she not be allowed to? I was talking to a friend yesterday and we were wondering where the support for women not leading prayer comes from? Is it a Hadith? I'm going to try and do some research on this.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Marzuki: about the layout, I also wanted a much wider space for the text, but then I'd have to choose a diff. template and the background colour would have been green. I'm going to look again to see if I can change it.

Thank you so much for the link to that work on women scholars, and for the info about Aisha. It's true that so many women were scholars, so why can't they also lead prayer, I wonder.

I think God sees men and women equally. I would never argue that men and women should do exactly the same things or have the same roles. I'm arguing 1) for choice, and 2) for equal value.

Thanks for your comment, it was enlightening as always :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: the problem is with interpretations of religion, as these are more often than not patriarchal. I don't see sexism in the Qur'an, I see it in interpretations of the Qur'an. A favourite scholar of mine wrote that we should not confuse Islam with interpretations of it. Very true!

I like Asra Nomani, although I haven't read any of her books. I saw her on the Doha Debates, and I can see why many Muslims don't agree with her. I really liked her opinions though.

"I lean towards love, tolerance, and acceptance."
Love this!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Hicham: you're right, I should have clarified that in my blog. I don't see a woman problem with Islam, I see it with Muslims.

Thank you for visiting and hope to see you back soon :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah: you're right. We're often made to think we need to do the exact same things men do to be equal, and I don't agree with that at all. What I agree with is equal value for different things (or the same if one chooses that).

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ellen: that's what I meant, there is a women problem with Muslims, not Islam itself. That's why it's confusing to read the Qur'an and see equality, and then read the ulama's writings and see oppression and inequality.

Thanks for posting about Fatima, that was really interesting. There are so many women figures to draw from in Islam, we need to do that more often.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ohh and by the way Ellen, I have read one of Amina Wadud's books, "Woman and Qur'an" and I LOVED it!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nzingha: thanks for visiting and commenting :)

I think for man Muslim men, they only listen to these female figures because of their relationship to important men. I don't think many Arab men would respect Aisha so much had she not been the Prophet's wife. Maybe that's the point Esack is trying to make. For me, as a woman, I have no problem respecting these women on their own terms. But many men may have a problem with it.

Nzingha said...

I can only go on the quote you provided but it continues off with "Is there really any place for gender justice within a theology rooted in a seemingly ahistorical and stable text such as the Qur’an, which is inescapably patriarchal?"

see his claim is that the Qur'an is partriarchal rather than blame being at the feet of mankind. And I know many women who won't give a toot about certain women if it were not about family connections so it isn't strictly a male thing. This is representative of a tribal mind.. and yes a patriarchal one.

But than going back to the statement.. if we use the same example of Isa pbuh if the Qur'an is a patriarchal writing than he wouldn't be without a father. There are many lessons in his story.. and one I believe is, that his lack of an 'unknown' father lineage is quite significant especially in a patriarchal society.

I believe there to be several examples of women in the Qur'an that are not dependent upon men for the legitimacy

Perhaps a good read on your book list is Believing women in Islam by Asma Barlas

I'll be back to comment more after homework time :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nzingha: that's a good point, Esack does seem to some extent(with that quote) to see the Qur'an as patriarchal. I personally don't support that view, like I said in other comments I think the woman problem is a problem with Muslims, not Islam.

One argument I've heard a few scholars make is that since the Prophet was addressing a patriarchal society, some of the Hadith, Sunna, and maybe even some of the Qur'an have thus taken that audience in mind and this may account for any patriarchal leanings we see in these texts. While I have seen some Hadith that can be described as patriarchal, I don't see the Qur'an as patriarchal. Where the problem for me comes in is with scholars' interpretations of it. Like I said before, we should distinguish between Islam and interpretations of Islam. But that's very difficult since the minute we interact with the texts we are interpreting them too!

A professor just recommended Asma Barlas to me last week! She (Barlas) will be giving a lecture in Holland soon, and I'm hoping to go. Until then I'm going to try and find her book in the library. She sounds interesting.

Sam said...

Regarding Farid Esack, I have not read his book so I cannot comment on his writings but here is an excellent review of one of his writing by a well versed Muslim scholar.

I have seen him in interviews but what I found strange about him was that he was always trying appease liberals or present Islam in a picture than conforms to Western ideology. For example, he was discussing how he was researching homosexuality in Islam and was trying to find a way to rationalize it but he admitted that it was a difficult task. His point of reference always seemed to be the West or Christianity. His manner was always apologetic about certain verses in the Quran that condemn the Christians.

With regard to woman giving khutbah in the masjid I see nothing wrong with it but leading in prayer is not part of the Sunnah.

With regard to befriending Christians and Jews, that verse is mistranslated, which goes to show you why it is important to learn arabic.
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّخِذُواْ ٱلۡيَہُودَ وَٱلنَّصَـٰرَىٰٓ أَوۡلِيَآءَ‌ۘ بَعۡضُہُمۡ أَوۡلِيَآءُ بَعۡضٍ۬‌ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمۡ فَإِنَّهُ ۥ مِنۡہُمۡ‌ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهۡدِى ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

5:51 O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

This verse in the Quran is often translated wrong. It is often translated as to not take Jews and Christians as friends. The word Aliyah comes from Wali which really means a guardian, governor, overseer etc. So it is telling the muslims not to let a non-muslim govern their affairs or control their lives. This verse is so prophetic looking back at history. In the 1900's when the Arabs sided with the British to rid themselves from the Ottomans what is the result? A carefully carved out Middle East with various nation states competing against each other, discriminating against neighboring citizens, pandering to the West for protection of their illegitimate rule and material wealth, oppression and wealth expropriation of its citizens, etc.

Remember when the Quran was revealed, Allah is all-knowing and all-seeing. He knows what is best for us humans more than any Western intellectual or tradition. Sometimes we get caught up in various Western traditions and that starts to be our point of reference. We then try to rationalize and shape Islam so that conforms and fits into Western liberalism. Rather our point of reference should be the Sunnah and the Sahaba. We should study it and them closely and try to shape the West and society so that it conforms to Islam.

Nzingha said...

sara: "One argument I've heard a few scholars make is that since the Prophet was addressing a patriarchal society, some of the Hadith, Sunna, and maybe even some of the Qur'an have thus taken that audience in mind and this may account for any patriarchal leanings we see in these texts."

And this I would counter with the woman (no good with names sorry I don't even remember my kids names lol) who asked this very question to Muhammad pbuh.. why does the Qur'an appear to address men and not women? Ayat were revealed "for the believing men and for the believing women..." Thus I believe Allah making it clear that all the believers, men are women, are addressed in equal form. Unless there is something specifically relating to one gender or another. So as I see it Allah is equally addressing both genders, both who stand before Allah as a single individual, equally judged, and we are both equal to hold to the laws set down by Allah. it is our inner weaker selves.. or nafs as some would say.. that read into what Allah has told us.. rather than hearing it for what it is exclusively.

I wish I could go to see her too :) I so enjoyed her book. I'm sure you will too.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sam: I agree that some Muslims try and bend Islam to make it fit liberal Western traditions. But feminism and human rights are not liberal Western traditions, since they existed before the modern West and in fact the Prophet supported both. So when Muslims try and find a way to interpret the Qur'an in a gender-friendly manner, that doesn't mean they are changing it to make it fit a Western ideal. Rather they are not happy with the often sexist interpretations done by Muslim scholars. That's my experience anyway.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nzingha: interesting comments :) I really enjoyed reading them! I agree that the Qur'an is addressing both men and women. The scholars I quoted before were just an example and I don't agree with them. This is why I think the problem is with (some) Muslims, not the Qur'an.

G said...

Part 1:

Firstly I miss you deeply. Secondly the new layout is amazing!! Great work by your friend. It is really mesmerizing I couldn't stop staring at it!
Okay, so about the post: I totally feel you. My experience with Islam is different than yours as you know. I started out believing and implementing everything I heard/was taught, then I felt stifled and revolted by it so gave it up all together. Now though I am slowly delving into Islam again. I noticed that before this new found "re-learning" of Islam, I was actually focusing on the negatives. "Haram, haram, haram, don't do this, don't do that, don't look there, don't talk to him/her, don't eat this, don't drink that, don't befriend him, don't wear that, don't read this, don't enjoy that...etc" I felt extremely stifled.
I think this really was the main reason I turned away. Another one was I felt obliged to follow mainstream Islam blindly, especially after my education in the Gulf. I wasn't even allowed to debate, discuss or ask questions in Islamic Studies. If I did the answer would be: "because Allah said so, so just do it." Needless to say it was extremely unsatisfying and I felt like I had to be a mindless sheep.
I was on the verge of a full conversion to another religion when I started following your blog. You kind of opened my eyes to the fact that there are critical thinking and modern Muslims that actually exist, ask questions and are willing to follow what their hearts say is right. I really like the way you think so thoroughly about things.
With this new mindset I ordered an amazing translation of the Quran. It is by M.A.S Abdel Haleem and published under Oxford World's Classics by the Oxford University Press. The more I read, the more I understand that the people that made me hate Islam are idiots. Seriously, I finally understand the Quran I am reading and the messages I am getting are not as hateful as I got from others who claim to be "very religious".

G said...

Part 2:

The verse that you mentioned about befriending non Muslims, actually made me think of this. In this translation it is translated as:
"You, who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies: they are allies only to each other." He then explains in a foot note that allies here means "those who are against the Muslim camp, as is clear from the following verses, up to verse 59" He then refers back to Verse 4:144 " You who believe, do not take the disbelievers as allies and protectors instead of the believers: do you want to offer God clear proof against you?"
Keep in mind also verses such as 2:62 "The (Muslim) believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians- all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good- will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve."
So history wise, it is my belief this verse that is mentioned is due to specific circumstances where Allah did not want Muslims to form allies with Christians and Jews over other Muslims. The Umma was starting to be formed, trust in your Muslim brothers and sisters were of extreme importance. It was important to follow the common ideology and vision of Islam and the Prophet. In that sense it was obvious that you needed to have your strongest allies as Muslim so that you can start forming your Umma. Am I making sense?
In this translator's introduction he talks about the importance of taking the context into consideration. He has amazing examples. I will scan those 2 pages and send them to you, if you like 'em you can share on your blog :P
Back to the point though, I like this new outlook you are going to take. And I think you raise important questions that EVERY MUSLIM SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES ANYWAY! I'm loving this. CONTINUE IT!!!
Lots of Love!!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

G: your comments always make me really happy! The translation you ordered sounds amazing, I'm gonna order it soon i'A! Have it right here on a post-it from when you first told me about it.
I love what you wrote about the verse re. Jews and Christians. If we just stop and think/do some research we can find so many alternative explanations to what literalist Muslims would have us believe.
Can't wait for the scanned pages!

Nzingha said...

For Muslims not taking Christians and Jews as friends one need only ask a few things..

1. If this is true why is it permitted for a man to marry a Christian or a Jew? Here a man is given the go ahead to take a non muslim to the closet point one can get.. a mate, a spouse, one whom we turn our trust to, one that we depend on, to help us, aid us, guide us. One that we have babies with, procreate in the world.. and those same ones will help raise these children, teach them, guide them, and instill in them lessons of life. How logical is it for some (and not all) Muslims to suggest that a Muslim can not befriend a non muslim knowing this?

2. The King of Abyssinia... the one who Muhammad pbuh told Muslims to run for refuge, a Christian, who he knew to be fair. Muhammad pbuh put the lives of Muslims into the hands of a non Muslim.. yet we can't befriend them? Make sense? Even if one says this was before Muhammad's pbuh hijrah.. can one explain the allowance of Muslims to continue to live under this mans kingship? Or how it is reported that Muhammad pbuh prayed for him on news of his death.. and spoke nothing of good of him.

There is more.. but these are basic and well known. Considering such how can one suggest we can't befriend a non Muslim? not only odd but totally contradictory.. sometimes when things just don't seem right, it is because they aren't :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nzingha: masha'Allah, those are GREAT examples! Hadn't thought of them, but of course they are 100% true. Especially the fact that a man can marry a Christian or a Jew...
Thanks for posting those!

Sara said...

That was a very interesting post to read! I especially liked the part where you/he talk(S) about befriending non-Muslims

Mina said...

Sounds like a very interesting book, and such a wonderfully written post sis...

I think i might get myself copy, and I love the new design of your blog!